Those “Angry Traditionalists”

Mark Shea takes aim at those he finds emotionally challenged in the reform2 crew. Predictable fallout ensues.


It is hard for any person or group who is persecuted or feels persecuted to avoid the emotion. But as the pop psychologists (and others) say, it’s more about what you do with anger than anything else. Some people find that channeling strong emotion into work is a balm for inner turmoil. Personally speaking, I can’t say I ever found it helpful from a competitive standpoint. When my high school chess team went 2-11 my sophomore year (winning only when one other team didn’t show up and another time when the opposing school double-booked a match and we played against the junior high team) it certainly spiked my anger and frustration. I spent a long spring and summer studying quietly in my room. We rose to third in the state the next two years not because of anger, but persistent effort.

Traditionalists have been hampered by the expectation that cultural salvation will be legislated from Rome. When they criticize Vatican II they reveal their lack of understanding of how the shifts in culture have left them high and dry. Were they learning chant and polyphony while the TLM was in the pipeline? Were they gathering for morning and evening prayer to pray if the clergy were unresponsive to requests for Latin Masses or more tradition? My personal experience with traditionalists has been almost entirely on the internet. I’ve known two Catholics who took a positive approach. I’ve read the names of dozens who found it easier to lobby their friends to sign off on a moratorium. Attack and insult may be de rigueur in Republican (and other) politics and media, but it does not merit you sainthood.

Anger seems to be a forthright emotion, but perhaps its long-ranging effects are very subtle. One always needs someone or something to be against. It is hard to be proactive and positive. In the system of 1962 worship, it is hard enough for lay people to take initiative–all is dependent on the clergy and authority. Taking initiative might reveal something of the spirit of Vatican II.

The choices people make show their true colors. Take this Y— flap. Count on any single internet site–go to NLM if you wish. How many Dan Schutte attackers have their own setting of Domine probasti me to suggest as an alternative to “You Are Near?” I could understand if someone said, “Oh, the Peter Phillips  setting from the late 1500’s is so much nicer.”

Instead, we have the angry Hermeneutic of Subtraction at work. Such folks are not unknown in parishes. They oppose much, but they are leery of offering their own work or suggesting alternatives. And who could blame them? With the anger trotting around in some circles, they’re as likely as anyone to get their heads bitten off. Let’s see if Mark can keep his on today at IC.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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7 Responses to Those “Angry Traditionalists”

  1. Gavin says:

    You don’t know Mark Shea, do you? I question if this is the angriest he’s gotten people, check out his comboxes for angry rants about torture, Bush, McCain, or any other Republican chattering point. And that’s why I love reading his blog – he smashes the most sacrosanct internet Catholic beliefs on a regular basis.

    I agree with you completely, but I think you neglect to extend criticism to your fellow progressives, or to any other group. In parish work, I think the ratio of people complaining to those offering to help was 20:1. For all the complaints about Latin from parishioners AND from progressives, I have never seen any approach offered (besides Taize once a year) which would satisfy Vatican II’s desire that the Latin language be retained. Bishops angry about the new translation offered no alternative, only filibustering. And I too am tired of traditionalists who do nothing but complain about their own parishes when they could have come to mine and helped.

    I will say the “reform2” group is the exception. Father Fox is a good example; when has anyone ever seen him make a complaint against this or that without enacting a solution? My former boss was the same, and if he couldn’t fix a problem by simply legislating “this is the way it is”, he would take a pastoral approach and work with the community.

    It seems if someone wants to “fix” the praxis of the OF, they’re usually willing to work. If they want more EF Masses, they’re probably not willing to do anything more than write angry and easily ignored letters.

  2. RP Burke says:

    Fr. Fox has the authority to make a change; the antiquarians feel they don’t.

    As for the bishops “filibustering” on the new text of the Mass, they don’t have control over ICEL to force a new draft, except by rejecting the old draft. Even their limited suggestions for changes to the recently authorized text — from Latin cognate “consubstantial” to the natural English “one in being”, without change in meaning — were flicked aside like a gnat. So the only way they can force a change in the draft of the propers is to reject what ICEL has proposed.

  3. Todd says:

    It is a fact that Catholics of all sorts get into the trap of complaining. And likewise, I would say the ratio of workers to complainers is one to twenty, or thereabouts.

    Where some conservatives criticize some liberals for taking undue initiative: this is where anger can be dissolved. Getting to work on something–anything!–can be a salve when inner demons threaten control.

    So yes, while there are angry progressives, many are chided within progressive circles. More isolated folks, like people who make the internet their main interaction (not parishes or associations) I would say a person of any stripe is liable to anger and giving in to it.

    I would agree with you on Fr Fox. As RP said, he’s a priest. He gets cred for innovating and he also has the power and money to get things done.

    I hope I remain careful about calling out “some” tradis and “some” reform2 folks. I’ve known kind, patient, persistent, and peaceable folks who were well-respected in their parishes who were able to lobby for change and sometimes work for it.

    That said, I also want to offer a caution about identifying anger in individuals–a very dangerous thing to do publicly. In general, we can identify misplaced anger in parishes and communities for broad symptoms like a lack of volunteerism or involvement, a general tone of communication to leadership. I try to avoid tagging somebody as being angry. Even if I’m right, they just get more mad, and that’s no solution.

  4. Mark Shea has a problem of trying to find a label to dismiss what others have to say: “leftist” “angry” etc. They may or may not be correctly used (often, they are not), but they are used to increase the frustration of the one he is “engaging” because he is not trying to engage them, but his assumptions of them, which is a different thing entirely.

  5. I am flattered by the kind comments.

    One thing: a good part of me is inclined to “bull in china shop” mode; but I’m being practical in how I propose change for the people of the parish.

    Plus, a pastor has an awful lot of concerns besides the liturgy, and it all takes effort, effort, time, time, explanation, re-explanation, patience, time…

    I consider myself “traditional,” but not all who consider themselves traditional would be happy with my approach to it; I’d probably seem too eclectic to them.

    I tend more toward “reform of the reform” approach–i.e., I’m not against the old form of the Mass, but at this point, I really agree with what then-Cardinal Ratzinger wrote in Spirit of the Liturgy, where he described the liturgy as a fresco–it had been overlaid and obscured, and the Council removed the overlay and revealed hidden beauty; but in doing so, it left it unprotected. I take that to mean: there was a need for some reform in the liturgy, even if all that came after the Council, even from the bishops and the curia, might have missed the mark.

    It fascinates me how folks get organized into “sides,” and for awhile, it was “for” or “against” the “Tridentine Mass”; I do think that is waning, and was before the motu proprio–but many of the priests may be the last to come around. Priests are a lot like politicians; if they aren’t careful, they tend to surround themselves with people who reflect their own presuppositions.

  6. Tony says:

    Spot on, Todd.

    I consider myself somewhat of a traditionalist, but more in the mold of “Vatican II less the annoying ‘spirit'”. Give me a Latin Novus Ordo, ad orientem any day.

    I’ve learned to pick my battles. When our parish was in the throes of our pastor change, and “Satan was in the building” a friend and I took it upon ourselves to pray the rosary every Sunday evening in the church, followed up by the prayer to St. Michael. Most nights it was the two of us. Sometimes one. I remember the first Easter Sunday when our pastor forgot to leave the door unlocked. I was by myself, outside, in 40 degree weather facing where I guessed the tabernacle was in the church.

    I pushed for (and finally got) the votive candle rack in the prayer chapel (formerly the Eucharistic chapel). I also lobbied successfully for the Latin chant setting for Holy Thursday (though I wish our pastor wouldn’t refer to it publicly as “the retro Mass”).

    Small successes. A Kyrie here and an Agnus Dei there. I do recharge my “traditionalist batteries” at the local Franciscan hermitage on first Fridays (it’s a “date night” for my wife and I) for the extraordinary form.

    I’m less angry and much more peaceful. The rad traddies should trust that God will reform things in His good time. In the meantime they can open their hearts, listen for the “little whispering sound” and become instruments of God’s will. There’s a time for driving the money changers out of the temple and there’s a time for “sitting down and eating with sinners”. It’s good to take the time and tru and discern which is which.

  7. Lee says:

    I suggest he be subjected to the “comfy chair.”

    Having myself run afoul of some of the folks he cites, I understand where he is coming from.

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