Is “Traditional Catholicism” Controversial?

This is a continuation of a discussion which I jumped into on Catholic and Loving It (continued here), and later continued on Catholic Commentary (also here).  I am responding to the most recent post of Joe’s on the latter, but because of its length decided to post my response here instead of in his comment box.


I’m glad you decided to continue the discussion. 

1.  Frankly, I find much of your “synopsis” confusing.  I think that’s because from the outset you start talking about “traditional Catholicism”, but without having defined it.  For example you object to “traditional Catholics” defining themselves solely with reference to the EF mass, but don’t tell us to whom you are referring by that term.  If you’re referring merely to people who prefer the EF mass, then you are using the very definition you say should be rejected.

You then refer to specific people whom you consider “traditionalist Catholics”, such as some who attended World Youth Day, and some priestly orders.  But by what criteria are you including these people under the umbrella of that term?  Is it their preference for the EF mass only?  If so, then are they not merely “Catholics”?  Why do you stick the label “traditionalist” on them?

Possibly it was part of your intention, in beginning the discussion, to arrive at a definition.  But if that’s the case shouldn’t you wait until a definition has been arrived at before proceeding to make all sorts of comments about “traditional Catholicism” and traditional Catholics, what they say and do versus what you feel they ought to be saying and doing, etc.?

2.  You write, ‘As a response to the illicit ordinations, I would say that Ecclesia Dei’s direction of glance was towards those associated with the Society of St Pius X who wished to remain in communion with the Holy See, intending that they should be given every opportunity so to do.’

I disagree in part.  I think Ecclesia Dei was intended to benefit everyone who was attached to the traditional form of mass, who are not limited to SSPX members.  (I for one have never attended an SSPX mass.)

You write, ‘But Summorum Pontificum also introduced a second direction of glance, towards the Church as a whole. This is expressed in the language of “ordinary form”-“extraordinary form”; in the agenda of “mutual enrichment”; and in the consideration that there should not be an “in principle” rejection of the ordinary form. This two-fold glance is referred to in my earlier post.’

Regarding “mutual enrichment”, the Pope’s letter accompanying Summorum pontificum says only that “the two Forms of the usage of the Roman Rite *can* be mutually enriching”, and specifies in what way:  “new Saints and some of the new Prefaces can and should be inserted in the old Missal,” and says that the Ecclesia Dei Commission “will study the practical possibilities in this regard”.  It then goes on to speak of the ways in which the mass according to the Missal of Paul VI may be enriched by the freeing of the older rite, specifically that it will “be able to demonstrate, more powerfully than has been the case hitherto, the sacrality which attracts many people to the former usage”.

But let us not forget that it was the EF, not the OF, which was largely suppressed for decades after Vatican II.  The primary purpose of SP was to point out that it was never abrogated, which in my view means it should never have been suppressed:  since it was legitimate all along it should have been allowed all along.  In reading your posts one almost gets the impression that it is EF adherents who have been suppressing the OF, rather than the other way around; and now that the oppression has ended EF adherents have an obligation to take some sort of affirmative action to help the OF get back on its feet.  I mean no offense, but from the other side of the aisle your complaints of EF attitudes of superiority and exclusivity sound rather backward. 

If anything the actual oppressors should be trying to think of ways to make amends to those who have been oppressed.  Once the availability of EF masses attains to some significant fraction of that of the OF, then maybe we can start talking about how EF adherents can help out the OF.  But for now, why not let’s concentrate on helping the emaciated ex-prisoner, stumbling and blinking in the sun, get his strength back.  (Frankly I’ve heard — from bishops and others — a lot more cries of “Put him back in!” than of “Get him some food and water!”)

3.  You write, ‘post-Summorum Pontificum, I think these institutes do need to take on board the second direction of glance, that towards the wider Church . . .”, which might involve “engagement with the ordinary form in the sense of encouraging that enrichment of the ordinary form” and “engaging in a dialogue about how the celebration of the extraordinary form might develop in the light of the mutual enrichment of the two forms’ . . .

Again it’s interesting how you put the onus on the traditionalist priestly orders (“TPOs”) to reach out to the other side and get these things accomplished.  It seems to me that if anything, it would be easier and more fitting for the local ordinaries to initiate dialogue with the TPOs.  You make it sound as if the poor bishops have been trying to do so, while the TPOs have been rebuffing them.

But more importantly, if any bishop is really interested in learning how to make his OF masses more beautiful, reverent and dignified through the influence of the EF, the obvious first step would be to instruct his priests to say more EF masses.  This would give his diocese a supply of priests who are fluent in both forms of the mass, thereby enabling the kind of cross-pollination you seem to think is needed.  The miniscule numbers of additional EF masses to have been instituted since the issuance of SP clearly indicates a lack of any such interest (if not an outright hostility) on the part of most bishops.  What are the TPOs supposed to do in the face of this?

4.  You write, ‘If I take [Agellius’s] contributions as a fair reflection of the concept of “traditional Catholicism”, I still think it is defining itself in terms of affiliation to the extraordinary form and to a particular understanding of the ecclesial tradition in relation to the contemporary teaching of the Church, in particular, in relation to the Second Vatican Council.’

Would you please specify what you mean by “a particular understanding of the ecclesial tradition in relation to the contemporary teaching of the Church, in particular, in relation to the Second Vatican Council”?

You write, ‘The question of a charism that “traditional Catholicism” tries to live in the Church will, in this context, remain unanswered outside the context of the societies referred to above.’

As I define “traditional Catholicism”, a specific charism is not required.  I consider myself a Catholic, period, but one who values certain things which have been largely abandoned, and wants them restored.  That’s it.  If you believe “traditional Catholicism” needs a defined charism then you must have a different understanding of that phrase than I do.  In which case, to make our discussion more meaningful, you might want to tell me what your understanding is.

5.  You write, ‘There is a careful sense in which it should be possible to live entirely with the Catholic faith as taught by the contemporary magisterium – because it is the living expression of the “traditional magisterium”.’

I agree, it should be possible.  And I’m sure you would agree that the current Magisterium should not contradict the prior Magisterium, in which case this will never be an issue.


3 thoughts on “Is “Traditional Catholicism” Controversial?

  1. Pingback: Are all Catholics equally “traditional”? « Agellius’s Blog

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