Thursday, 20 September 2012

Five years after SP: the traditionalist problem

I wanted to round off my series marking the fifth anniversary of Summorum Pontificum with a few general observations.

First a thank you.  A number of people (though some surprising gaps, particularly given the number of readers this blog has) submitted comments on their own communities.  And quite a number of people shared their own stories, reactions and intell offline.  There are good reasons why some are reluctant to comment online at times, but that doesn't mean posts aren't doing their job!

Secondly, the challenge. The first point to make is that on the face of it, traditionalism has made few if any real gains in Australia over the past few years, and if anything is going backwards.  The change in Church law that should have rendered antagonism from bishops irrelevant has not in fact had the desired effect, as dioceses such as Maitland-Newcastle, where no Latin Masses occur, illustrate.  A number of communities have either ceased to exist altogether due to the death or shortage of priests willing to offer the EF Mass.  Others (including Canberra) are shrinking in size, not growing.

And thirdly, the new head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, Archbishop Muller, apparently sees the increasing polarization between traditionalists and liberals as a threat to church unity.  Well yes, but there is a very simple solution indeed to this!

Learning from the past: transparency and accountability

One of the key issues in the Church today, in my view, is transparency and accountability.

Though we are traditionalists, we need to keep in mind that the Tradition didn't begin or end with the Council of Trent.  The pastoral prescriptions of Trent are just that: pastoral prescriptions that were a response to the particular times.

And the times we are in now, in my view, demand something more akin to that which prevailed through most of the earlier life of the Church (and much of the subsequent), which might best be described as one of, to use Pope Benedict's term, co-responsibility.

Blogs like this are one contribution to that, but there are many other ways this can be achieved.

Many, if not mos,t of Australia's traditionalist communities started as lay-led communities.  As they've acquired permanent chaplains, many have perhaps not yet achieved a proper balance between the two possible extremes.

But I think one of the key learnings from the abuse crisis is that problems - and I'm not (just) talking about sexual abuse here, but the whole range of problems that can arise in human interaction within small groups including bullying, racism, cult-like behaviour, insistence on extremist positions (those who insist that one must wear the 'proper' colour of mantilla to your status being one of my particular favourites) -  flourish where no one speaks up because they think the problem is theirs alone, or because it is just easier to go with the flow, and above all because people are not provided proper space to engage.  There is a really excellent article on this subject in The Punch today in the context of child abuse (not in the Church on this occasion), but I think the lessons go much broader.

And they are particularly important in the context small enclaves like traditionalism.   Tracey Rowland has pointed out that it is easy for Catholic groups to become become disconnected from and irrelevant to the mainstream of the institution, and end up looking like that weird Star Wars bar (and she notes, marginalized subcultures frequently tend to attract people with psychological disorders, compounding the marginalization of the community through the association with dysfunctionality).

How do we avoid or address these problems and ensure that Summorum Pontificum becomes a more effective force for positive change in the Church?  Well I think in two ways.  First we need to engage more with each other.  And secondly we need to engage more with the wider Catholic community.

What would traditionalist unity look like?

Let me suggest a few things that would be indicative of traditionalist unity, or more properly, active engagement with each other and a concern for the growth of our community.  Some of them would be relatively simple to do; others are probably pipe-dreams in the current environment.

1.  Set up a national representative body for traditionalists

Like the UK Latin Mass SocietyUna Voce America, and the Ecclesia Dei Society of New Zealand (and many more such national bodies).

Hmm, didn't we have one of those once?

2. Links between community websites (and between communities!)

There are a number of EF communities that maintain websites or blogs.  But the only two, so far as I can see, that actually include links to the other Australian communities on the web.

And while there is still the extremely successful annual Christus Rex pilgrimage, there are few if any activities these days that involve actual co-operation between communities...

3. An up-to-date listing of all EF Masses in Australia

There are no up-to-date lists, and responses to my own invitation to tell us all about your mass were, to say the least, sparse.  Lots of people read this blog; very few comment (and yes I do reject a few, but not very many).

4.  Promotion of activities offered by other groups/communities. 

Assurance that all traditionalist activities (provided they are offered by organisations or individuals recognised by the Church), such as retreats and other special events, would be promoted in all communities.

5. Support for special initiatives

When people work to put on special events or other longer term initiatives that would advance tradition in this country, all would do their best to support them.  Two Sydney women are (I believe) doing a postulancy overseas at the moment with a view to establishing a community back here.  Was their call to other women who might be interested advertised in your (non-FSSP) community?

Engage with the wider Church

It is difficult to do I know.

Even conservative priests, for example, are typically coming from a very different place than traditionalists.

But if we don't build alliances between laity and clergy, if we don't attempt to attract other catholics - particularly those who have lapsed - to our communities, and to influence the wider Church, then the Australian Church will have no future.  We need to develop a missionary mentality and use the next five years more effectively.


Richard Collins said...

I think that the UK Latin Mass Society has alienated many priests who are interested in celebrating the TLM but are put off by the prospect of losing control of their flocks.
I agree that an organisation is needed but not one that has a club ethos about it.
A start would be for an information service to be established so that all EF Masses, times and venues were logged, not just those organised by the group concerned.

Terry said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't there a saying that a leader leads by example. To the best of my knowledge, Pope Benedict XVI has not publicly celebrated the EF Mass since SP.

SPWang said...

Works are underway for a one-stop site for Australia with Mass times, locations etc etc. Can you believe that was available??



Kate Edwards said...

Excellent work SPWang!

And isn't it telling indeed that the website name was available!

Aphrahat said...

Traditionalists should ensure that they maintain connection with other orthodox Catholics who are not strictly speaking traddies. The best way to get people into TLMs is to promote them through friendship networks.

Although I am a traddie myself and do prefer the TLM alot more to the NO, the shut in atmosphere at many traditionalist churches can be a little stuffy. This may partially due to a ghetto mentality on the part of the communities but I would put more blame on the fact that more often than not traditional Masses are shoved into obscure chapels well off the beaten track, ensuring that only the die-hard traddies and the nutters you spoke of are the only ones there.

It is a shame that the Mass of the Ages is still view by many orthodox priests (neo-cons) as something daggy, extremist and subversive. May God soften their hearts and open them to the Mass of their ancestors.

Louise said...

I'd love to go to Latin Mass, but can't.

Traddies would indeed do well to get on top of such nonsense as the mantilla colour thing! Such silliness will not attract normal sensible people to the EF.

Geoff from Lake Bolac said...

Aphrahat is spot on! Well said. Trads know whats right and wrong and it's no good grumbling about how bad things are unless you have an answer to the problem. Join a parish council. Promote the older liturgy without being mad about it. Get active. Learn to be diplomatic. Love the mass. I know it sounds political but it's doable.

John L said...

It is also necessary to develop some contacts with the SSPX and its communities. This is a tricky task but has to be done.

David said...

Thank you for this timely and interesting post.

The lack of evangelical spirit amongst many Australian traditionalists is something about which I have been concerned for some time. I suspect that this lack of missionary spirit is at least in part the result of traditionalists having had to fight for their patrimony, having had to endure the scorn of modern “liturgists”, and finally, the provisions of Summorum Pontificum having been achieved, being overcome by the temptations of complacency.

The fact is that most EF communities are a scandal and a sign of contradiction for the ‘new springtime’ crowd. This morning, at the Novus Ordo Mass offered a short time after the EF, a lady “pastoral associate” led a “children’s liturgy of the word” for the two children who were apparently in attendance at that Mass ... whilst a couple of dozen children from the TLM community were at morning tea, or tearing around the parking lot, etc.

That fact in itself speaks volumes about TLM communities as opposed to our aging and barren Novus Ordo communities. No doubt it is awkward and embarrassing for those who have so much invested in the post-VII liturgical reform.

Our communities have a lot of good characteristics – vocations, orthodoxy, youth, vigour; but two things, I think, have militated against the sort of missionary zeal that Kate talks about. The first is the insularity and complacency that I referred to above. The second is that promoting our strengths to the wider Church has the effect of showing the Emperor his nakedness – for example, the banal liturgies, the aging, female congregations remembering the 1970s with misty-eyed nostalgia, the rampant heresy, and yes, the salaried liturgy ladies conducting “children’s liturgies” for two kids. A lot of vested interests have a lot invested in not doing things the way we do them, and any move by traditionalists to come out of the ghetto will be seen by some as a declaration of war.

A question for Kate and her readers – is it possible to evangelize the “mainstream” of the Church without offending the “Gaudium et Spes” crowd?

HolyCatholicApostoli said...

Q:"is it possible to evangelize the “mainstream” of the Church without offending the “Gaudium et Spes” crowd?"

A:"Be as Catholic as the Pope"

Terry said...

The suggestion of John L has just been made a whole lot more difficult. On 21/09/2012, it was announced that on 10/08/2012, a breakaway group of priests and laity from the SSPX formed a new society called the SSPX of the Strict Observance.

Fr Adrian-John said...

Dear Kate,
I am a Conventual Franciscan Friar/Priest.
I am very sad that I cannot celebrate the Holy Mass in the Extraordinary Form because I was in the seminary when Latin was not taught.
I have tried my best to learn Latin, but sadly at my age I just fail.
I love the Latin Mass but I also love the Ordinary Form and celebrate it with great respect.
I am not a liberal, and hope you don't think that all priests who do not say the Holy Mass in Latin are such.
Prayers for those who celebrate the Holy Mass in Latin are laudable, but please pray for the likes of me as well.
Thank you for your blog, I find it most uplifting.
God bless,
Fr Adrian-John

Kate Edwards said...

Dear Father,

Thanks for you kind words.

And yes, you and all those who say the OF in English with respect are certainly in my prayers (and I hope others)!

I personally think it is extremely difficult to achieve the same sense of the sacred worship in the OF in English (particularly when siad facing the people), but it is possible.

And since the vast majority of Catholics have lost their connection to Latin, promoting the 'reform of the reform' and masses said in the spirit thereof has to be, in my view, part of the strategy for mission at least in the short to medium term!

Anonymous said...

I don't think there is any need to setup another EDS Society. That sort of thinking is really pre-SP - the Church has moved on since then. Better would be to form a society that encourages the promotion of first class liturgy (both OF (needed here far more) and EF). In addition, a society for promoting high standards in liturgical music - re-introduction of the Propers, chant etc - a sister organization to the CMAA. In my mind that would be more useful than another EF-only Society because it would cut across the whole gamut of liturgy, and tackle the areas where standards have plummeted.

Rumsey said...

Time for the Pope to show SP is not a dead letter or bait for the SSPX and offer the TLM PUBLICLY or else make a statement that he is a modernist.