Traditional Catholicism

Fr Jim Tucker was gracious enough to clarify his definition of “traditional Catholicism,” and by this, except for the “old books and forms,” I could fit in:

I mean Catholicism that accepts Catholic teaching (including Vatican II!) and worships (or attempt to) according to the old books and forms (which isn’t primarily about Latin). Very many of these people have no bones with Vatican II itself, have no desire to crush the Novus Ordo, and actually consider John XXIII as one of their own.

Clearly, SSPX folks are outside of this sheepfold.

As a parish liturgist, I often have to work with people to help them discern what they want to get out of the Mass. If they yearn for better liturgy, according to old forms, what would that be? I touched on architecture as one flashpoint for post-conciliar Catholics. Music is a two-fold problem, as I understand it: repertoire and skill. (One might also mention vision.) Rare was the pre-conciliar parish that was blessed by both. All Catholics appreciate prayerful priests, unobstrusive musicians, and a sense of quality. Some Catholics can’t be bothered to pay for it, perhaps especially the ones who see their involvement at Mass as a purgation, and the only important aspect being the validity and the impact of that on their personal soul.

In their essentials, the Rites of 1962 and 1970 are the same. The latter is a result of substantial trimming of accretions that often distract from the core meaning. But it’s the same Mass, though possibly more prone to damage by apathy, indifference, hijacking, or experimentation. One friend of mine lamented (and lamented often) the disappearance of the offertory prayers. But are they essential to the thread of the Liturgy of the Eucharist? That part of the Mass is nothing more than a practicality: getting the wine and bread into the right place with a minimum of preparatory fuss. The Roman sensibility to simplify and streamline was brought into play. Was there ever anything preventing my friend from typing out the old prayers on a card and praying them as the priest and servers prepared the altar and table? Not in my parish. But does the whole Catholic Church need the old prayers? I don’t think so.

Prior to 1984-88, the problem with worshipping in Latin was finding a priest willing to do it. My friends tell me finding a 1970 Rite Mass in Latin was nearly hopeless. And still is, unless you’re in Rome. Considering that no indult was necessary, I can only assume that the clergy inclined to celebrate the Mass in Latin wanted the 1962 Rite, not the reformed one. So, yes, for these guys, it wasn’t about Latin. It was about Vatican II and about the Tridentine Rite. And their own brand of cafeteria Catholicism.

And now we have a generation conditioned to worship in a parallel format instead of a Latin reformed Rite. Is the Church better off for the exclusive choice of Latin 1962 or vernacular 1970? I don’t think so. And John Paul’s insistence that the 1962 Rite be celebrated as a whole without the conciliar Lectionary reforms? That doesn’t seem wise to me.

If the SSPX desires authentic reunion, I’ll know it if they begin to press for the “organic changes” in the 1962 Rite they would wish upon the rest of us. Until then, pardon my skepticism on what seems to me to be the Tridentine country club.

And I should clarify my sense of the talks between the SSPX and Rome. If there is a positive result that moves us toward deeper unity, I will be grateful. But if the talks continue to be a soapbox for schismatic (yes, schismatic!) posturing, then they don’t interest me at all. I might be surprised, but I think nothing will come of any of this.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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