Sunday, 18 May 2008

What is a traditionalist?: Part 2

OK, this continues on from my introduction a few items back, so if you haven’t read that yet, best do that first:

My basic premise here is that what makes one a traditionalist is not attachment to the TLM, but worldview.

There are lots of people who like and promote the TLM but aren’t traditionalists – blogosphere star Fr Z is a good example.

And I don’t personally think that willingness or otherwise to say or attend Novus Ordo masses is the best test. Personally, all things being equal (or even fairly unequal) I’d always take the TLM. I don’t really claim to understand the dual-form priestly societies, monasteries, etc. But then, neither do I really understand why one would choose Dominican or Carmelite spirituality over Benedictine, and I think that some degree of flexibility as to form is in the same category!

It is certainly true that someone who regularly attends the TLM is more likely to take a traditionalist view then someone who regularly attends both forms of the mass (lex orandi, lex credendi). All the same, my hypothesis is that the real defining point, what really makes a traddie, is the lens through which we look at the world.

Fr Ripperger puts it this way:

"...the fundamental difference between neo-conservatives and traditionalists is that the neo-conservative looks at the past through the eyes of the present while the traditionalist looks at the present through the eyes of the past."

The traditionalist employs a hermeneutic of continuity one might say, rather than the theology of rupture.

A hermaneutic of continuity

It seems like a no brainer really. We belong to a Church that was established by Christ and entrusted to Peter and the other Apostles, and their successors. Surely any statement, idea or practice that directly contradicts what has been taught authoritatively in the past should be rejected; and the onus on the proponent of any new idea or practice to show how it is consistent with the Church's traditions?

The traditionalist’s instinct is to look first to the history of the Church – to what the Church Fathers, the Theologians, the saints and Doctors have said down the ages. Romano Anerio's book Iota Unum, A Study of Changes in the Catholic Church in the XXth century, which carefully contrasts new trends with the historical positions of the Church, epitomises the traditionalist approach.

The Neo-Con, though, takes what the Church is saying now as his authoritative starting point, and uses that as a lens to view the past. In the theological context, it is manifested in the bagging of post-Tridentine theology that fills the pages of most textbooks these days. In the liturgy, it is reflected in proposals to use the vernacular for the Scripture readings in the Mass (because the current Magisterium emphasizes the importance of Scripture over Tradition).

So let me conclude for today with the first of five or so propositions on what I think defines a traditionalist:

Proposition 1: A traditionalist employs a hermaneutic of continuity, with the history and traditions of the Church as their guide.

More tomorrow!


Joshua said...

Why would you say Fr Z isn't a traditionalist?

He does like the old Mass, and is very Patristic, including his famous WDTPRS inquiries into the meaning of the ancient Latin orations.

Terra said...

Hopefully the difference will become clearer with the next few parts, but my theory is is it is not fundamentally about liturgical preferences, use of the Fathers, etc. Some theologicans who are certainly not traditionalists - like von Baltasar and Scott Hahn draw extensively on the Fathers for example.

The issue is from what perspective you approach the Fathers or the liturgy.

This is obviously a little oversimplified, but in essence, Fr Z and 'reform of the reformers' look to the TLM as a way of 're-enchanting' the liturgy. They also tend to look at the Fathers asking the question what can we learn from them about our current concerns.

A traditionalist, by contrast, judges the NO from the perspective of the TLM rather than the other way around.