Thursday, January 21, 2010


Well, speaking of excuses: please excuse me if this post is a little disorganized, I'm pretty much just spouting off random thoughts.

But anyway, one thing that has disturbed me about certain more moderate voices in traditionalism, even recently among some I would consider to sympathize with "renegade trad" type a variety of attitudes that I fear too often act an excuse to not take action.

These attitudes can range from some alleged theoretical commitment to gradualism ("brick by brick"), to a certain fatalism or defeatism disguised as alleged realism.

More radical traditionalists, however, do no better, their greater fire and zeal notwithstanding. Because most of them are all talk too, their own in-fighting and delusional extremism mitigating against any hope of affecting anything outside their own little fantasy world.

Though my last post attacked dithering, ineffectual many of us lay people are likewise unwilling to be activist in the Church? Too lazy or afraid to work to hold our leaders accountable and oppose gross negligence on their part? To withstand Peter to his face?

Especially among pseudo-Intellectuals (and there is no such thing as a real Intellectual, they are all pseudo-) I sense there is a certain ennui, a certain quietism born of a Post-Modern or Existentialist crisis whereby meaning is always deferred, whereby we can have no effect on the world, whereby we are spectators engaged in endless critique and discussion of the issues, but helpless to actually effect them. Where there is always another counter-point to consider against reaching any conclusion or taking any specific action. And so too much thought stifles action.

It goes back to the problem of "reactivity" found in the article I posted on No Organizations, and I hope it is not intrinsically endemic to Catholicism as a mental and emotional paradigm. People complain or lament or sigh, but don't dare put anything on the line to change things. It almost sounds sometimes like people are on the verge of giving up.

Frankly if you look at the liberals in the Church, they got what they wanted by being activist. Why aren't traditionalists and conservatives so bold? If liberals somehow are pushy enough to get liturgical dancers and puppets, why shouldn't we push more? While there is a certain idea of "taking the high ground" and "refusing to lower ourselves to such tactics" the same time one worries that such are, again, excuses for not confronting bad Authorities, either out of fear or scruples or simple laziness. If you aren't going to fight for what you believe in, then don't complain.

These days parents seem to be able to exert their influence to get what they want for their kids from many weak and easily cowed teachers. When it is the wrong thing, we look down upon this as mere strong-arming or bullying tactics...but if it is correcting an injustice, is nagging or utilizing our stronger personality really wrong? Or perhaps the problem is just that the personalities on our side are weaker and using "theoretical" disagreement with the tactics as an excuse...

If even the ADL can raise up enough of a ruckus to make the Vatican issue all sorts of retractions and "clarifications" every time something happens even remotely touching on the Jews...why don't actual Catholics do the same thing? Why don't they listen to their own followers? Doesn't what we think matter more than The World? If they were elected officials...certainly they would care more about pleasing their actual constituents than vague external forces. It can make one feel really powerless and voiceless sometimes.

And, though I myself have never dabbled with schism or near-schism...I have to admit, that I find the argument that Summorum Pontificum was released for the sake of the "good Catholics who stayed in the Church" rather than the SSPX to be increasingly laughable. However we may feel about their tactics, the SSPX, following their convictions, did successfully pressure the Church into changes through what they probably think of as "civil disobedience". I don't necessarily buy the logic of their justification, but the point is that they did buy it, and they acted on it, and perhaps it may yet turn into something of a victory if they can avoid being co-opted at this point in the game.

Now, perhaps this comes more from the "call it as I see it" side of my personality than the "moderate" side...but I think there is a mistaken notion that sanity or maturity consists in a sort of detached resignation about life. An "adult" is conceived of as someone who sits around reading the newspaper or debating the minutiae of fiscal policy over coffee, and it's only "crazy radicals" or "young hot-heads" who go out and actually protest. But I think that is not true. Real maturity and adulthood sometimes consists in know when the situation is dire enough and when the circumstances are right to take effective action. Politicians are the subject of lobbying all the time, but Catholics rarely "lobby" our bishops, and when we do it is usually always individuals, not an organized collective action.

I can't help but imagine that if the Church were a secular government, or if the traditionalist movement was a political "cause"...people would be agitating a lot more and raising consciousness. I mean, look at Civil Rights. Not to compare the issues themselves, but in terms of the process and methods. From the I Have a Dream Speech in 1963 to our First Black almost exactly as long as it has been since Vatican II. And yet, how many "reasonable" people honestly think we're within a decade of even seeing communion on the hand ended, or the Propers restored to Mass, or women covering their heads in large numbers again...let alone anything close to a restoration of the Traditional Rite? "Slowly slowly" we're told. Ha. At a certain point, incrementalism can only go so slow. At various junctures, you have to make a quantum leap.

Benedict XVI, as much as I really like this Pope, has absolutely NO "plan" to restore traditional liturgy. That's a naive thought. He's sympathetic, no doubt, and has thrown us a bone in the form of the motu proprio (mainly to entice the SSPX back, methinks). He is a conservative, and is appointing more conservative bishops and using more conservative styles in his own liturgy. But anyone who thinks he has ever imagined that the Old Rite will someday be the rite of the whole Latin Church again, or even concretely considered the end of things like communion on the delusional. This man is a theologian remember. A brilliant one, no doubt, but no Visionary. He is up in an ivory tower mentally, as are many of the curial officials (a problem when you recruit mainly from Academics). I'm sure he has abstractly "considered the question of" things like the Old Rite and communion on the hand...and could write pages and pages of brilliant "reflection" on them, from a vaguely conservative perspective...only to reach no real concrete conclusion about what, concretely, is the right answer about what should be done, what the ideal final outcome should be.

It's the same problem I fear a lot of people these days have, it's all endless reflection (or "dialogue" in the case of ecumenism)...ruminating over things, but never actually acting with a concrete plan to change the status quo. But we need decisiveness, people!!

To take one step forward isn't good enough if the opposing forces are taking two steps backward. Once again why conservatism has been an impotent philosophy, and why the "progressive" left-ward movement of history seems "inevitable" in the past few centuries with only the speed being modifiable. Because the liberals are actually moving in that direction, whereas conservatives are merely trying to stop motion. Well, a dead-weight may slow motion in one direction...but it is never going to stop it, that would take an equal motion in the opposite direction. And certainly it is never going to actually reverse things.

In a tug-of-war...if there is a side just trying to hold their ground, while the other side is actually pulling...the side that is actually positively pulling will win. We need to start actually pulling right-ward! If we don't, the best we can hope for is a stale-mate. This conservative idea of "stabilizing" things at the status quo as a first step before attempting any restoration or retrograde never going to work, because the other side is never going to agree to stop. We need to work as agressively as they do positively moving in our own direction; a direction which should not necessarily be conceived of as simply "turning back the clocks"...the past can never be restored, we must present traditionalism as an alternate vision of the future.

So, I want to hear your thoughts. Is there any effective ACTION that traditionalist Catholics could take to agitate for the Old Liturgy? Letter writing campaigns to bishops? Rosary vigils outside Cathedrals? Buying television or radio spots? Picketing? Hunger strikes? the fact that I say these things already rather tongue-in-cheek, already considering them "impossible" or "silly," actually our big problem? Is the reason the liberals have had such success because they actually are willing to consider such "crazy" ideas as at least possible, at first, and then follow through with some of them?

Is the best way really to keep working to establish the presence of the Old Rite place by place? But might that not require waiting 20 years for a certain generation to die? Or more, in some places, as not all young priests are all that willing to provide it either (especially those of the Evangelical Protestant Catholicism variety).

Frankly, without some sort of agitation, I doubt we'll ever cause a massive institutional change, as most people who might even become sympathetic...are never going to voice a positive preference against the status quo. And most traditionalists seem to take the attitude that, as long as they have the traditional liturgy...they're too comfortable in their own happy status quo to bother worrying about having it implemented on a wider scale. Certainly they refuse to risk their own comfort zone to do anything about it.

Because many people in the pews are indifferent. And winning them over would require the twofold task of 1) getting them to care about their Faith in general again, and then 2) getting them to realize how bad the liturgy is. It's not going to happen.

The "indifferents" in the Church form a huge "shield" that negligent bishops can hide behind because, they'll tell you, "there is no demand for change". But a lack of demand for change does not equate to positive demand for the Status Quo either (of which there is almost none). It is not a ringing endorsement of the status quo, it just means a huge block of people who are indifferent.

Sure, if the TLM is only offered at one parish in a dioceses...most people are not clamoring to get there. "There is not much demand". True, but why should tradition bear the burden of "demand"? If the tables were turned and the Novus Ordo were only offered at one parish while the TLM was the you think as many people would make the trek over to the Novus Ordo as do currently the TLM? Even after 40 years? I just dont get the impression there is that much positive attachment to it beyond the inertia of familiarity and the fact that it is what's closest.

Do good Catholics always just wait for change from the top down? I don't know, but I'd like to hear your thoughts. And hopefully they'll be concrete and proactive.

A dream deferred is a dream denied, and I worry we're letting the restoration of tradition be denied to us simply by accepting its deferral, by placing our trust in some vague hope of the success of incrementalism. Patient struggling is one thing, co-option or ideological neutering is another. At the same time, as the Crane Brinton model of revolutions suggests, revolutions are "are born of hope" rather then misery. They come when promised reform by the old guard does not go far enough, and the hopes of those looking forward to them are disappointed. They often emerge when the old government is under significant financial strain and is losing credibility and issues policies designed to appease both sides that in reality please neither the right nor the left.

The destruction of the liturgy happened practically over night, and thanks to the constant agitation of some very proactive liberal voices. Are we nearing the point where some sort of "catalyst" will be needed, some "spark" to cause the counter-revolution (of which much groundwork has been laid below the surface) to erupt? Where some sort of "push" will be needed to force a hesitant Vatican to act decisively in favor of tradition? That is how most change happens in history. Groundwork is laid gradually below the surface, and then suddenly things start rolling very quickly as it all comes together, in a matter of weeks or months even. How will we know when that tipping point has been reached when it comes to reforming the Church and the liturgy? And what form could such a "spark" take??

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