Trautman, Ally or Obstacle?

Regarding the Bishop of Erie, the comboxes have the usual mix of fuzzy and solid thinking. This thread is worth following, certainly the solid comments of Liam, Dale, and RP.

I think there are better spokespeople for good liturgical sense. Father Paul Turner of my own diocese seems to strike a middle pose that’s scholarly and sensible in the same breath. NPM‘s latest Pastoral Music has a good article he penned on the upcoming translations.

Some loyal CS readers voice their concerns about the pictured person above. Does he have the right stuff? Is he the right person to champion good sense? The other bishops did pick him to chair the BCL. If you attach importance to the hierarchical nature of the Church, he’s the man. In the sense that this election made the NLM/Adoremus/EWTN crowd rend their garments in rage and foam at the mouth, well, that was good entertainment as far as it goes. But then you wake up the next morning.

If you really push me on it, I’d say he’s not getting the job done. At least not the way it should be getting done. I’d probably say the same thing about most of the fading generation of post-conciliar reformers, though obviously not for the same reasons some people want to close the book on these “idiots.”

I think that many of the 1962-1990 reformers failed the liturgical movement for not being adequately inclusive of the emerging generation. Liberals have called me out for opposing the mandate of standing during Communion, or opposing hand-holding (the only way you’ll extricate my hand from my wife’s or daughter’s at Mass is when I’m cold and dead) or for any number of ill-conceived and unpastoral ideas. I’ve tussled more with pastors who were the products of the 60’s than any other constituent group of the ordained. I once told a former ICEL member he was stuck doing “Vatican II in a Vatican I way” as my wife terms it. He wasn’t happy.

Naturally, I think the reform2 crew is even more fringey, but that’s beside the point.

Dale says the BCL chair needs to be a statesman, not a “bombthrower.” Liam thinks Trautman is in reaction mode, responding to what Paul Turner describes as:

… horror stories about power plays, muscle flexing, finger pointing, and heads rolling throughout this transition.  Without question, some very good and devout people were maligned.  In many respects, it has been an embarrassing chapter in the history of liturgy.  These events left many people angry and discouraged about the forthcoming missal. 

Liam’s take strikes me as sound. I’d say we’d be better off with a mostly clean slate of players, starting with the curia and working down to consultants. But how likely are we to get them? If they canned Arinze, there’d be more spittle on fiddlebacks and higher blood pressure ad orientem and maybe that’s more fun to watch than NASCAR … but as I said, then you wake up the next day and where has it got you?

Turner’s right though. This translation project has been a bloody embarassment for its delays, infighting, inefficiency, and incompetence. Exactly what Jesus said not to do: lord it over people like the Gentiles (or the Republicans). Instead of 1970 in which most everyone was happy to just have the vernacular, we have a situation today so polarized nobody is likely to be pleased. Top it off with ordinary pew people who wouldn’t know Don Trautman from Deal Hudson and are more concerned with leadership issues rather than dickering with the words they pray (their perspective) and its a recipe for disaster.

The diplomats among my colleagues (including Turner) are advising us to put a nicey-nice face on it. I think they’re shocked at the possibility of large-scale non-compliance in the pews. After all, is the tradi-priest going to stop Mass if people say “and also with you?”

Is Trautman really so bad? On one hand, any bishop who didn’t kowtow to Arinze was going to get slammed by the traditionalists no matter what. And Bishop Trautman was in a position that even a wardrobe change to the Pell/Burke School wasn’t going to convince them.

Dale criticizes him for being a partisan. That’s undoubtedly true. But where in liturgy is there a person who isn’t a partisan? I’m willing to listen to reason from tradis and conservatives and I still get banned on their web sites. Nothing short of counter-revolution would satisfy some conservatives. And I think bomb-throwing of that sort pretty much deep-sixes anyone’s influence outside their own posse.

In sum: Trautman was in a no-win situation from his election. The progressives are split on the mad-as-hell camp and the pull-together-for-the-team pep rally. Many conservatives are so entrenched in the Culture of Complaint that they will never be satisfied with anything–there will always be some flaw in the perfection so passionately sought after. If the Vatican insists on the red phone for liturgical complaint, I can tell you the liberals are disinclined to use it. Bottom line: good luck; we’re going to need it.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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2 Responses to Trautman, Ally or Obstacle?

  1. Gavin says:

    I have nothing against the bishop. I tend to shy away from criticism of church leaders (even Mahoney) because being in a position of leadership (somewhat) I know that it’s not an easy job. In short, who cares what I think of Trautmann or Mahoney or Finn? For those who whip out Christ-like labels like “fish-person” and “Maphoney”, how does your criticism help these bishops do their job better? I don’t think it does. I can disagree (legitimately or not) with their decisions or positions they take, but ultimately I trust the bishops are working for the good of the Church as they see fit. That may go against the “Culture of Complaint” (which is worse among libs than conservatives, I might add) but I just don’t see myself as holy enough to cast judgment down on a bishop.

  2. Dale Price says:

    Sure: we’re all partisans now. But in his particular case, Bp. Trautman becomes part of the message he wants to deliver. As Liam noted below, the Bishop tends to personalize it. That’s not necessarily a negative–you need passion for these issues.

    But leaving that aside, the fact that he’s the point man for complaints means that his arguments are going to be weighed by taking the messenger into account as well. In fact, I can’t help but picture Seinfeld’s scowly “greeting” of Newman. Case in point–it took me a while to agree with his absolutely-correct proposal to drop the “Christ has died” passage just because it was him proposing it.

    I don’t know enough about the American episcopal scene to be able to say, but I would think there has to be a respected bishop with liturgical street cred out there who is liked by both sides of the divide. Hire him immediately, and let him present the arguments.

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