Sunday, June 10, 2012

The State of Trad-dom

A friend pointed out this rather fascinating thread at Fisheaters to me.

It starts out describing what sounds like a wonderfully tasteful liturgy at an Anglo-Catholic Episcopalian church, and the frustration that accompanies knowing these heretics (and not just nominally so, but in quite significant ways: the pastor there apparently supports revisionist sexual morality, etc) can somehow pull off good taste while Roman traditionalists, even though some drive for hours and have 8 kids...for some reason often have just Low Masses or poorly done Missa Cantatas on Sundays.

But, the thread unfolds into some interesting territory. Besides the misogyny question that gets thrown out there (the thread author's point, actually, merely seems to be that he thinks only [major and minor] clerics, and thus men, should be doing the work of taking care of parishes, and so lay men shouldn't really be involved ideally either...a point on which I agree), the thread could be taken as some real soul-searching in traditionalism about just what its priorities and values are.

For example, one poster (who, it is implied, may even be some sort of sedevacantist or heretic himself) is quite adamant about the point that traditionalism is about doctrine, and that liturgy is merely a reflection of that, as pro-sodomy Anglo-Catholics prove. That there may be a "high church vs. low church" divide in traditionalism is suggested, with an anecdote even about a sacristan who resigned at a trad parish once because too many High Masses made it feel too Novus Ordo!

A commenter here recently called me a Jansenist, and though I've always been very pro-Solemn Liturgy, there is a side of me which does sympathize with the puritanism of this sort of "low church" mindset. Indeed, a personal experience led me to think about this point today, about how terrible reprobates can still be into good liturgy, and I realized that sometimes these left-wing liturgical dilettantes, combined with the general right-wing trad craziness, make me tempted to conclude that "the road to Hell is paved with beautiful liturgy."

The priest at Mass today, serendipitously, preached (in what was clearly a veiled critique to the trad audience) about seeking renunciation of the world for the wrong reasons, just as basically a way to ironically express individualism and to use the subculture to feel superior. I was even tempted today just throw up my arms and embrace "conservative" Novus Ordo Catholicism again, because at least those people are obedient, unquestioningly orthodox and, if vapid, at least reasonably bland in their sanity. And maybe liturgical blandness is the price we pay for true humility (which seeks not to stand-out or express taste or preference)?

The original poster, however, argued well that if "lex orandi, lex credendi" holds, then we can't put Faith "before" its liturgical transmission somehow. That Faith primarily comes from the (liturgical) traditio, and that the formulas and administrivia are only, as it were, superstructure, and here I'd have to agree. If heretics and libertines can act out their hollow liturgies where Good Taste is worshiped rather than God, it must ultimately only be because these are not, in fact, actual liturgy, actual sources of grace (perhaps proving something of Leo XIII's point about the invalidity of their Sacraments). So the connection is complex; good liturgy has the primacy in transmitting the true faith, yes, but liturgy isn't just a certain choreography. Without the unbroken connection back to the Apostles or communion with Peter, the choreography in itself can be graceless, seen as compatible with abomination and heterodoxy, and hence the almost unquestionable damnation of the Anglo-Catholics in spite of their good taste (but empty, amounting to little more than a monument to human pride).

However, the question of practicality comes in too in this discussion. The original poster dances around advocating an end to mandatory celibacy (because that can get you banned at Fisheaters, or could at one point)...but does raise the question: if Catholic priests allegedly are celibate so they can dedicate full-time to the worship of God, how come the Anglicans (who are allowed to be married clergy) are somehow able to put on better liturgy, even in very small congregations, than the Catholic priests who dedicate 24-hours a day allegedly? Is it really just because money accomplishes everything, and Anglicans are WASPs, whereas there is something of a blue-collar demographic slant to Catholicism?

Or (as I would suggest, of course) is it because when you can have married clergy, they can also be part-time or volunteer. Or, at least, the main guy can be helped by a cadre of part-time folk who can take on one or two services a week or whatever.

But, of course, above doctrine and above liturgy, the one non-negotiable for some trads is priestly celibacy. Better an infinity of Low Masses and poor catechesis than get rid of that...


Anonymous said...

If you read HK's posts going back years it's obviously that yes, he does have some issues with womankind. He objects to women arranging altar flowers and being the church secretary for Pete's sake. He also reacts to women's voices in a way that would make a Saudi cleric proud. I'm a Trad. I love the TLM but I have to admit that some of the menfolk give us all a bad name.

A Sinner said...

From what I can tell (at least what he claims in that thread) this really does boil down to a real principled point, though, not misogyny:

Namely, the public functions of the Church should be carried out by clerics (who, outside monasteries of nuns at least, will be men).

Women are not, liturgically, supposed to be in the choir or to set foot in the sanctuary (which I assume you have to do to dress the altar). LAY men really aren't either, but at least they can put on a cassock and surplice and essentially mimic clerics for all external visual purposes.

As for "secretaries," he seems to imply that lay-men are almost as bad, since really it is deacons who are supposed to be handling administrative roles like that.

It doesn't sound like he's anti-woman, it sounds like he's pro-cleric and against the confusion of lay and clerical roles. His vision is rather purist in that regard, but I don't see anywhere where he makes the ideal the enemy of the good (except inasmuch as he is frustrated that something at least MORE ideal isn't implemented when it could be; why Catholics settle for mediocrity and the lowest-acceptable.)

I'll admit I was a bit more struck when he said women shouldn't even lead the rosary. But given his feelings about private devotions taking on a "public" role generally (which I share), and given Paul's statement about women raising their voice above a man in church, and given how trads often emphasize the headship of the father in a family...I'm not really sure why men wouldn't be seen by trads as the natural leaders of group recitations of private devotions (at least, when there are men in fact present).

Anonymous said...

How many straight men want to arrange the flower? I suppose I could do it and give the vase to an altar boy but that's not really feasable all the time. And what about chapels in convents? Again, I don't mean to be overly sensitive but this HK kid sounds like he needs to grow up a bit and be more respectful of the elderly women in his parish.

A Sinner said...

HAHAHAHAHAHA. Omg, you are too much!

As I said, I believe his objection is merely that women (or any non-clerics, frankly) should not set foot in the sanctuary, and hence cannot arrange the flowers etc.

But where on earth did you ever get the idea that these clerics would be straight?

You crack me up, Anonymous.

Michael said...

Oh Dear Lord, the problem with traditionalists is that they don't know how to be sensible and normal! Let Jesus take care of the outcome. Go out, have friends, learn how to take care of yourself, be healthy and normal. As I've said so many times before, traditionalism is a fantasy world. Stop worrying about the church and start worrying about yourselves. But no, any kind of appeal to sanity or self-care is sssssinful, dirtay, unclean. Yes, you can stand up and talk to someone at Mass. God will not smite you for it...Mingle with the sinners! Understand their problems. We're all sinners and "they" need redemption too. Have compassion. You're all going to hell for your frozen liturgy. Liturgy is HUMAN before it becomes divine!!

Amy said...

I am straight as can be, and I love arranging things for beauty's sake.

Haters gonna hate.

Amy said...

This is Tony. Not Amy. hahaha

The Harlequin King said...

Greetings. I'm not a stranger, A Sinner. I used to run the Wanton Popery! blog. I'm out of steam for blogs, but I still like to rant about things on FE.

And you have me right. I'm not anti-woman, I'm pro-cleric. I have a hot girlfriend who agrees with me entirely on liturgical matters, so I don't have issues with women. I merely like to stick to my guns on these points.

I don't think women should lead the Rosary in church if men are present and capable of doing so, because Saint Paul instructs women to be silent at church. I think common sense negates this for women singing as part of the congregation, or at convent chapels. Duh.

And yes, A Sinner, I support married clergy and have said so on FE before. It's not something I feel so strongly about that I'd fall on my sword for it, but I have no problem with the concept. I was baptized into an Anglican Use parish, which has two married Roman Rite priests.

Anonymous: women shouldn't go to the altar to arrange flowers for the same reason women shouldn't serve Mass, etc. This is just part of being traditional. Consider this description of the church of Saint Augustine, Ramsgate when Augustus Pugin (a great Victorian Catholic architect) was alive:

'"No one was ever allowed to enter the chancel of St Augustine's without wearing a cassock," says Powell; "even the organist had to wear a surplice"'.

And that obviously excludes women entirely.

And finally, I have no problem acknowledging I have room to grow, but I'm a college graduate and a veteran of the U.S. Army so I'm not exactly a kid. Just sayin'.

The Harlequin King said...

By the way, I've been tirelessly chanting the slogan, "Restore the minor orders!", for years. I'm shocked that there are trads in the world wide web that haven't heard it yet!

Some Random Guy said...


I think you'll find that sort of pageantry in places where the TLM is celebrated regularly, or, in places where its pretty much been well established for quite some time. In other parishes, people tend to settle for less. They're just happy that they can attend a TLM at all. But yeah, Solemn High Mass all the way - at least on Sundays!

"Or (as I would suggest, of course) is it because when you can have married clergy, they can also be part-time or volunteer. Or, at least, the main guy can be helped by a cadre of part-time folk who can take on one or two services a week or whatever."

Isn't that how the independent trad priests basically operate? And from what I hear they don't really do that High Mass stuff too often.

Robert said...

@Some Random Guy: "Isn't that how the independent trad priests basically operate? And from what I hear they don't really do that High Mass stuff too often."

I'm not sure what you mean by this. A Sinner envisions a world with a salaried priest and many priests in the community parish (think what a parish would be like if every permanent deacon were just bumped up a grade to priest). This way the non-salaried priests could take a "less awesome" mass/service (ex. Wednesday at 7 a.m. or a bridezilla run wedding) so that the main priest would at the very least not binate or trinate regularly. As a layman I can only tolerate to sit through one mass in a given day; I can't even imagine what it must be like for a rural priest to say the same Sunday mass and the same homily three or more times regularly--This is truly spiritually draining. If the barriers to entry were lowered I'm certain many more men would enter the priesthood and accomplish this.