Saturday, 17 May 2008

On Tradition and traditions: What is a traditionalist? Part I - Introduction

A few incidents in the blogsphere over the last week or so have highlighted the different perspective of neo-conservatives (neo-cons) and traditionalists.

First there was a bit of verbal biffo over Fr Longenecker's article on apologetics and anglicanism over at Fr Z:

Then Athanasius came under attack from neo-cons at one end and sede-vacentists at the other for a blog on the small / big T distinction made in the Catechism of the Catholic Church when it came to Tradition:

And the third issue for me has been the debate going on in various places about the ideological soundness of Michael Sternbeck's Order of the Mass, criticised by some for including some of the Novus Ordo prefaces. See for example:

It strikes me that the question of whether and how we can delineate the traditionalist world-view is a really important debate to have.

We often see debate the manifestations of the debate such as those above. And I've often seen comments to the effect that the only thing traddies can agree on is that they like the Traditional Latin (Extraordinary Form)Mass. And even then they disagree on things like how much they like it (ie is one prepared to go to novus ordo mass occasionally for pragmatic reasons), should it be open to any variations in practice (such as readings in the vernacular), etc, etc.

But I think there are some common theoretical underpinnings that most of us can agree on, and that might help us gain a perspective on our differences.

I've been collecting up references and doing quite a bit of thinking about the topic ever since I started studying theology (which isn't that long!), and I've decided that the time has come to try and articulate my thinking. Let me readily admit that I'm a beginner in this area, and am hoping that others can enlighten and correct me!

I'm going to spread my posts on this over the week, because it is a complex topic, though I'll try and keep it as simple as possible!

There are, I think, three useful threads for this discussion.

The first is to try and tease out the differences in worldviews between traditionalists and neo-conservatives.

The second is to look at what the neo-con debate on the nature of Revelation and the development of doctrine is about.

The third is to consider some key propositions that effectively define neo-conservative 'dogma' on the nature of Tradition, and particularly on the relationship between Tradition and Scripture.

This week I'm just going to focus on the worldview issue.

What I plan to do is present some propositions of what I think the traditional perspective is.

I should note that a lot of this is based on Fr Ripperger FSSP's seminal article on this issue, Operative Points of View, published in Christian Order:
More tomorrow!


Stephen said...

I had a look at some of the comments and I can see that traditionalists broadly fall into 2camps, the real head-in-the-sand conspiracy theorists and the normal traditionalists.

The former are minly but not exclusively the SSPX crowd, who as well as denouncing Vatican II, argue among themselves as to what the "pure" missal is is it the 1962, the 1945, or the 1570?? Are they for or against the changes to Holy Week brought about by Pius XII. As well as rejecting the pre Vatican II changes, they reject some of the changes of Bl John XXIII, and Benedict XVI. AND of course they reject the Missal of Paul VI and will not have anything to do with it, or any of the prayers of it.

The more sensible traditionalist starts from the question of "what is the authentic tradition and what is the continuum and organic growth associated with that tradition?" More importantly there is the question of "how does this tradition dialogue with and address the modern world?"
This point of view is close to mine. I love the 1962 Missal, but I welcome selective changes such as the prayers for Jews, the possiblilty of the readings being in English, and the adoption of prefaces from the Missal of Paul VI, and I look forward to its updating to include saints created since 1962.

At his address to the Fontgombault conference, Cardinal Ratzinger (Benedict XVI) said that although he supported the older form of the Missal, (to use my words) it is not a "liturgical Jurassic Park". I object to people calling the Missal of Bl John XXIII the "old Missal" because Summorum Pontificum has restored it as an "Extraordinary Form" to be used in the present and into the FUTURE.

Terra said...

First, I'd argue that it is one thing to have a view that some of the changes to the missal and breviary that have taken place at various points in time were not ideal (because they didn't represent organic growth, seems to represent liturgical archeologism, etc etc), and another to reject the validity of them altogether.

Secondly, whatever one's preferences are, one certainly can't simply say no more changes! The Church may well see a case for things like more prefaces, vernacular readings, etc.

So, for example, one can legimitately say I don't like the Holy Week reforms, but accept them to the extent required out of obedience to the Church.

Of course, if the Church is prepared to give permission, implicitly or explicitly, for the older version to be used, no reason not to take advantage of that!

In the end, this is surely the dividing line between being a catholic and being schismatic.

Thirdly, I'd make the point that one can like the Traditional Latin Mass but not be a traditionalist in the sense I'm talking about.

In terms of liturgical principles for example, I think I would argue that dialoguing and addressing the modern world is not a fundamentally traditionalist perspective.

That's not to say a traditionalist would oppose the introduction of new saints to the calendar for example, or selective responses to modern problems, quite the contrary.

I actually thought the new version of the Jewish prayer was quite good and in any case, Rome has spoken so the matter is closed. But from a principles point of view, liturgy normally changes to meet the needs of those of the faith (for example to counter current heresies), not the needs of those who reject it!