Nearly everyone agrees the period surrounding Vatican II saw great damage done to the Catholic faith, but nearly no one understands why. Much has been said about “ambiguities” in the conciliar texts, their questionable Magisterial status, etc., all of which misses the point: people do not live in a purely abstract, rationalistic sphere of minimalist orthodoxy. Faith rather is lived in a real world of concrete institutions and networks of relations, and if the faith is not fused with that lived reality, then it will not be lived at all. The Council endeavored, in the service of aggiornamento and ecumenism, to destroy the carefully-cultivated synthesis of faith and life that had prevailed for centuries, and this was its primary error: the hubris of thinking that it could dismantle what generations of saints had built over two millennia and replace it with something engineered on the fly in under a decade without expecting disastrous consequences.
The dynamic of ignoring the practical realities to fixate on extraneous questions of doctrine has played out too with Pope Francis’ recent Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium. While some folk are functionally apostasizing over a throwaway line about the Old Covenant, the poison was baked into the cake at section 32:
Since I am called to put into practice what I ask of others, I too must think about a conversion of the papacy. It is my duty, as the Bishop of Rome, to be open to suggestions which can help make the exercise of my ministry more faithful to the meaning which Jesus Christ wished to give it and to the present needs of evangelization. Pope John Paul II asked for help in finding “a way of exercising the primacy which, while in no way renouncing what is essential to its mission, is nonetheless open to a new situation”. We have made little progress in this regard. The papacy and the central structures of the universal Church also need to hear the call to pastoral conversion. The Second Vatican Council stated that, like the ancient patriarchal Churches, episcopal conferences are in a position “to contribute in many and fruitful ways to the concrete realization of the collegial spirit”. Yet this desire has not been fully realized, since a juridical status of episcopal conferences which would see them as subjects of specific attributions, including genuine doctrinal authority, has not yet been sufficiently elaborated. Excessive centralization, rather than proving helpful, complicates the Church’s life and her missionary outreach.
He wants, in other words, to uproot the subsidiary administrative model of at least two centuries with an Orthodox-style synodal model alien to our patrimony, devolving doctrinal and presumably liturgical authority to corrupt episcopal conferences invented five minutes ago. Can you imagine these clowns with yet more power? If Francis gets his way, the forces of schism will positively explode. Worse, synodality will make it nearly impossible to undo the damage foisted on the Church through the very same central administrative organs he now wants to dismantle. I am coming to think we will never live to see things righted.
Kristor’s recent announcement that he’s moving to Rome leaves Yours Truly as the only Protestant regular contributor to this website. More generally, there appears to this writer to be a pronounced bias among Christian traditionalists toward Catholicism or (capital-O) Orthodoxy. Presumably this is because Rome and Constantinople emphasize the authority and tradition that are perhaps the defining elements of traditionalism, whereas contemporary Protestantism, as opposed to the faith of the Reformers, not only lacks this emphasis but often tends (unfortunately) toward antinomianism.
But let it be known that this author is not moving to Rome and, more generally, that traditionalism and Protestants need one another. Continue reading
Anyone who has for very long been a conservative – let alone a reactionary – will find himself from time to time buffeted about by some acquaintance who is in the grip of a physiological syndrome endemic among liberals:
Rebellion → dysfunction → weakness → fear → anger → hate → dysfunction …
As it happens, my family and I have over the last few days been weathering a barrage of slings and arrows hurled by a few outraged liberals, on account of our extremely mild but public utterances of ritually impure ruminations on the latest waves of innovation in public policy. It’s painful, and above all tiresome. But one grows accustomed to it, over time. Until the Great Awakening, there will be no alternative.
[Be sure to read the update at the bottom of the post.]
Bruce Charlton has a post in which he decries inter-denominational Christian conflict. It seems to this author that the key quotes are these:
There is a gross unrealism in the way such matters are discussed – the theological and doctrinal and other faults of other Christians are a topic of endless fascination, it seems, as if it is a realistic hope that suddenly everybody in Christendom will agree on the one proper way of doing things!
Since we are stuck with multiple denominations, Mere Christianity is the only hope; in the sense that different kinds of real serious Christians must recognize that there are many other types of real serious Christians – and this is not going to go away – so the only questions is whether we will respect each other, try to appreciate each other, and work together; or not.
While acknowledging that Dr. Charlton has a point, I want to speak up for the other side. Too much ecumenism is demoralizing, and it weakens a people. Publicly disagreeing with, even sometimes attacking, those seen as wrong is absolutely necessary for us to keep up our spirits, for a man must believe that he is in the right if he is to have the spirit to protect himself and his people. Continue reading
You can’t help but hear country music just about everywhere in Texas, so this article on its recent deterioration caught my attention. Evidently, it’s a genre in which the West’s slide into Gomorrah is being reenacted in microcosm, with a small core of traditionalists (typified by the likes of the Zac Brown Band, Kacey Musgraves, and older giants like Alan Jackson and Willy Nelson) who honor the names and customs of their elders fighting a losing battle against vulgar, impious, pornography-peddling sellouts mindlessly aping the degeneracy of the zeitgeist. This latter faction is as populous as it is protean, incorporating elements of rap, pop, and even techno that are totally alien to the genre; its unifying elements seem to be the demographic characteristics of its rulers (white frat-boy-look-alikes such as Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, and Blake Shelton, aided by youthful blondes like Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, and Kimberly Perry) and their near-universal tendency to populate their music with overwrought references to dirt roads, pickup trucks, and endless video montages of nearly-nude women dancing in the same.
The key battles of modernity are being fought everywhere, and lost everywhere.
The orthodox Catholic position regarding the Holy Father is that his authority comes from Christ, and therefore is a fact we must live with whether he is a living saint, a silly old fool, or a degenerate scoundrel. No one knew this better than St. Francis of Assisi who dealt with some of the scummiest of the scummy Popes at one of the worst times in the history of the Church, yet who resolved nevertheless to obey them in all things but sin and to make a spirituality of that obedience in order to inspire and transfigure the faithful. This authentically Franciscan orthodoxy made clear the way forward for genuinely holiness-minded Catholics living through difficult times: we need not like the man who is Pope any more than we need like the man who is our father, we may even be inclined to complain to like-minded friends about this or that injurious decision of theirs, but both remain nevertheless our fathers with a legitimate claim to our piety and our prayers, which we sin by withholding.
The modern Western Catholic, who is basically just that and in that order (modern, Western, and only then Catholic), wants and desires to be pious toward the Holy Father but, lacking even a remotely effective formation in history or spirituality or anything else, cannot conceive of such piety and obedience being offered on anything other than (essentially modern) consensual terms. So he convinces himself that he does not love and obey the Pope because he is the vicar of Christ but because he is a good man who never ever says anything stupid, and if you disagree, go to Hell with the rest of the Pharisees.
What Pope Francis is showing Catholics about Catholics is that, what they lack in St. Francis’ holiness, they make up for by being remarkably competent suck-ups.
I was alarmed when Cardinal Tauran, standing on the balcony of St. Peter’s, announced the name Georgium Marium … Bergoglio. I’d heard the name before somewhat in connection with liberals, specifically the detestable careerist Cardinal Sodano, who had supposedly advanced Bergoglio as the anti-Ratzingerian candidate in the 2005 conclave and who appeared on the balcony next to Francis with a smile that I thought bordered too much on triumphal smirking for my liking. My stomach sank. I worried and prayed for some time. Continue reading
Some time ago, I complained about an especially bad experience with sacred music at Mass. It involved a tambourine with little LED lights that lit up when struck. I tried to be in good humor about it but, really, I was appalled; afterward I wanted to weep and do penance.
A few of the commenters at the time had remarked that I should seek out a traditional Latin Mass, which of course I already had — my diocese is still recovering from the disastrous 15-year-long reign of an extremely liberal bishop and it is frankly impressive that we have the three TLMs we currently do given that none of the celebrating priests had even the option of taking Latin as an elective during their seminary formation, but all three are 90 minutes or more away from me and gasoline doesn’t rain from the sky (Deo gratias) so it’s not a regular option. At a TLM, they said, I might be able to find music less objectionable, homilies more bearable, etc. A Mass more to my liking.
It’s good prudential advice as far as it goes but it makes clear what the major problem now is in the Church — that its whole theological and devotional and liturgical heritage, which found its most perfect expression in the Mass that was for so long the one visible mark of communion among millions of Catholics the world over and which was so intimately bound up with their daily life and their entire self-understanding — that the practical faith of our fathers as it emerged from the catacombs and was forged in the crucible of the intervening centuries — has now been reduced to a matter of liking, of mere taste. And in the minds of most, to prefer having your priest ascend to the altar amidst a haze of incense while the plaintive, longing notes of Sicut Cervus echo through the nave over Fr. Flake prancing about in rainbow vestments to the brutal and invasive blast of a 16-year-old mariachi “music minister”‘s sackbut is just an irrational and arbitrary value judgment with nothing more to recommend it than might recommend your equally-interesting preference for crunchy over smooth peanut butter. A far crueler blow to the memory of those generations martyred for that faith than was dealt them on the day of their martyrdom, to say that the Mass they loved and died for was merely a diverting novelty. At best, you might get a concession that the former type of Mass is ideal but we have to meet people where they are, have to be “pastoral,” have to be realistic, and the unspoken reality is that many pigs would rather eat slop.
Such is another hard fact of life in the postconciliar Church: not only would most historical Catholics (including a few thousand saints) not be at home in it but they would be told, with all the cruel “pastoralism” that coddles the unrepentant and berates the devoted, that the visible home they loved was never more than the epiphenomena of neurons firing pointlessly in the void. This is why there is no easy way back, not in our lifetimes, because the damage is done, the attitudes and the narratives that accompany them are formed, and even if tomorrow a hypothetical Pope Pius the Fifth the Second came along and suppressed all the flimflam with fire and sword, half of the Church would grouse that they liked things better before and many of them would (with their bishops) schism on the spot and souls would perish by the millions, dying alone and far from the Sacraments. There’s no getting the worms back into the can.
Mary DeTurris relates in a two-part post (here and here) her growing disillusionment with the Catholic Church’s liturgy and her increasingly inability to put up with its foibles. There’s a lot to sympathize with and a little to criticize in Ms. DeTurris’ posts. She is bored by bad homilies (a complaint shared by a few Orthosphere writers), for instance, but it’s not the average parish priest’s fault that the Pauline lectionary stinks and has the effect of reducing the proclamation of the Word from a theophanic encounter with the Word incarnate to a dry undergraduate exegesis lecture. (Compare crummy diocesan parish homilies to the truly exceptional ones given by Traditionalist priests, who are not tied to the mast of a purely and exclusively didactic lectionary).* And she is alienated by the near-absent community life of her parish, but evidently doesn’t feel the need to take any steps to ameliorate it, as if community life is something that can only be handed down ex cathedra by the hierarchy, as if the laity are not itself members of the body of Christ. (EDIT: And one absolutely must not take seriously her suggestion to withhold support from the Church, i.e., to neglect our duties in a grave matter).
Still, she’s on to something, especially when she writes: Continue reading
The American Traditionalist Society is under construction, and part of its mission is to clarify the stance of American traditionalists toward contemporary America. Officially, contemporary America is anti-traditional, yet an American traditionalist ought presumably to look with approval on his homeland. The present essay works on resolving the contradiction.
What is the America that traditionalists love?
Traditional America, America as she was before roughly the 1950’s, a land that was Christian, mostly white, and conservative in its moral and social ideals, is gone. Vestiges remain, inspiring some and frightening others, but today’s officially-defined America is non-traditional.
And the new America is unjust, unhealthy, and probably headed for destruction. Our leaders have imposed a dysfunctional liberal order based on the rejection of both God and the wisdom of the ages, and they have imported tens of millions of incompatible and often hostile foreigners. To top it off, they have demanded that we regard this spiritual and ethno-cultural destruction as good. Why then should we American traditionalists love America? And what, more generally, should be our attitude toward America?
The basic answer is that we should love America not because she is great, but because she is ours. The former America to which we belong still exists, albeit in attenuated form, and therefore America is still our nation, the land our fathers built by their blood, sweat and toil. And since we are of her, we should love her despite her sins. Continue reading