Monday, 10 June 2013

What is traditionalism?

Over at aCatholica Brian Coyne has posted several long posts in a thread that claims to be responding to a post of mine..

Mr Coyne's basic lines seems to be that, despite my assertions to the contrary, the bishops that have been in power in recent times represent the kind of institutional catholicism I support, that Cardinal Pell represents some kind of traditionalist hero (!), and that accordingly my brand of Catholicism has nothing to offer Australia today.

So I thought it might be helpful if I set out what I think a traditionalist bishop would or could actually do, were one to be appointed to say, my own currently vacant diocese of Canberra-Goulburn, and how a traditionally oriented diocese could actually develop over a  decade or so in Australia in 2013.

And I'll compare and contrast that with the pale imitation of Catholicism that we actually mostly experience in Australia today (even I might add, in traditionalist communities).

Before I do that though, a few introductory comments about the nature of traditionalism by way of context.

A conversation?

I have to say that I don't really expect Mr Coyne to actually listen to anything I say here.

From the very first response on the thread over there (which ascribes some views on baptism to me that are pretty much the opposite of those I actually hold) pretty much everything said over there is a fit up, an attempt to rewrite what I say and allegedly think (and the reasons I allegedly say and think it!) to fit the stereotypes the aCatholicas hold of anyone who doesn't agree with them.

Certainly Mr Coyne's several, lengthy posts claim to be in response to my own but in fact seem to be yet another rant 'at the man' (who in this case seems to be represented by Cardinal Pell) written, as he admits, under the guise of 'refining his own thinking'.

Nonetheless, I do think it is important to be clear that traditionalism as I espouse it has little in common in reality with the kind of neo-conservative Catholicism advocated by George Weigel and friends, who laud Cardinal Pell as their hero.

Yes, there are occasionally things conservatives do or say that traditionalists can agree with and applaud.  But the same is occasionally true of outright liberal bishops too (though I admit that those things might be fewer and further between)!

Traditionalism vs conservatism

There is actually a very good article that attempts to explain the difference between the two camps from a few years back by Fr Chad Ripperger, over at Christian Order.

In essence it boils down to this: the traditionalist starts from where the Church has been in the past, starts from her teachings as traditionally articulated, her rituals and practices, and assesses new developments through the lense of the past.

Conservatives, by contrast, start from the here and now, with current papal teaching.  They may, when instructed to do so by the Pope of the day, look back to the past to see what fits current needs.

But 'conservatives' (as with European 'communio' school theologians like Pope Benedict XVI, as Professor Tracey Rowland recently pointed out), are just as committed, in their own way, to 'aggorniamento' as liberal/Concilium school theologians are.

That is not to say that traditionalists will reject outright everything that is new.  The Pope-hero to many traditionalists after all is, above all, Pope Pius X, who changed the order of the reception of the sacraments, did a radical overhaul of the Divine Office, and much more.  Still, the traditionalist instinct will always be to look first to the patrimony of the Church, and to instinctively reject the idea that change is continually necessary to adapt to the times.

Let me just point to a few other key differences here.


The central and most defining feature of traditionalism, I think, is the view that the Traditional Latin Mass is to be preferred to the novus ordo mass in any form (even in Latin).

Many conservatives are now prepared to encourage or even say the Latin Mass, because Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI legislated to allow it, and even encouraged it.  A true traditionalist, however, clung to the view (whether or not they clung to the practice, or defected instead to an Eastern Rite Church or some other solution in order to remain obedient) that it was an objectively superior form of worship, one that promotes a deeper sense of the sacred and promotes orthodoxy, even when Popes were not prepared to admit that!

When it comes to the novus ordo, conservatives are the drivers of the 'reform of the reform' movement, promoting, for example, the reform of the Missal, greater use of sung 'propers' rather than hymns, and the promotion of a 'saying the black, doing the red' approach to the rubrics of the Mass.

Many traditionalists, by contrast, think that the new Mass is so hopelessly flawed in conception that no amount of reform of the reform can salvage the mess.

Now personally, I do think it is possible and worthwhile to try and do something about the worst features of the novus ordo that have promoted erroneous ideas of universal salvation (for all/for many); promote self-worship and priestly narcissism; those features that clericalise the laity; and things that undermine the sense that we are present at a sacrifice.  But such measures are, for a traditionalist, a stepping stone, not an end in themselves as they are for conservatives.

Hermeneutic of rupture?

There is similarly a difference when it comes to looking at Vatican II.

Most traditionalists, at least those who remain within the Church, are happy enough to accept Vatican II in so far as it simply restates what the Church has always taught.  Many, myself included, can find at least some positives amongst its new pastoral initiatives and insights.

Most traditionalists, I think, are, though, pretty sceptical about the intellectual underpinnings of the 'hermeneutic of continuity' Pope Benedict XVI proposed as a way of dealing with the worst excesses of 'spirit of Vatican IIism'.

Most of us are only too well aware, that as Professor Tracey Rowland set out in her talk at the recent Great Grace Conference, the documents represent a compromise between three main camps.  Some of them, she argued, rest on poor intellectual foundations indeed, and pretty much all of them can be read a number of different ways, including as major ruptures with past teaching.

Fortunately, Catholics have the concept of the Magisterium to guide us in these circumstances, and traditionalists within the Church, unlike liberals, like to try and accept it.  Pope Benedict XVI has proposed a way of attempting to resolve the problems posed by some documents which to liberals and traditionalists alike look awfully like revolutionary changes in approach.  It might be a fairly artificial device, but personally I'm pragmatic enough to be prepared to employ the concept as a theological tool to the extent that it does the job.

Back to the 50s?

Finally, it is worth saying that I don't think most traditionalists actually want to go back to the world as it was before Vatican II.

We might think that the Church was in most ways in a much healthier state back then, but most people are aware that you can never really recreate the past, and in the end, nor would you actually want to.

The reality is that many things treasured by the traditionalist movement today were actually not part of the practice of 1950s Catholicism in Australia.

When it comes to the liturgy, for example, most younger traditionalists love the promotion of beauty in vestments, music and ritual.

They have no interest in a return to the rushed and rubrically lax 20 minute Sunday Low Mass of the kind my mother attended in her youth!

But do tell me if you see it differently.

So what would a return to traditionalism in a diocese today actually look like in my view?

Coming soon, a vision and possible plan of action for an incoming bishop for my readers to ponder...


Gervase Crouchback said...

"the Traditional Latin Mass is to be preferred to the novus ordo mass in any form (even in Latin)." Yes my sentiments exactly-it was the Latin Mass that drew me out of the 'anything goes baptist church" to the Catholic Church.
once again Coyne is being mischievious

PM said...

If one can suppress the irritation, the exhange with Mr Coyne has been quite a hoot; the exponents of the hyper-infallible super-magisterium of 'I feel...' (and As One Voice 'hymns') at aCatholica accusing their opponents of being emotional, and pretending that the cocktail they serve of fifth-hand Carl Rogers and tenth-hand Harnack is the intellectual vanguard. And as for pretending they are persecuted: the real question is whehter anyone can ever break their vice-like grip on what is supposed to be a Catholic education system.

Fr Mick Mac Andrew West Wyalong NSW said...

What is often not discussed in relation to our Church, and particularly in Australia, is what was wrongly being held up in the 1940's and 1950's in Church teaching and identity that allowed for Blessed Pope John XXIII's call on the Church for a Council to unite it to face the modern world, being diverted from its rightful course to one of 'rupture'. When I was in the Seminary the least discussed Pope in all courses was Pope Pius XII, when, as a prelude to understanding how Vatican II came about, should have been the most referred to. Is this a starting point in understanding what has gone wrong rather than looking at the excesses of faulty implementation of Vatican II?
Pope Pius XII's document on the threats of NAZIism needs to read by us all today to understand that Hitler was only the first of many who would surrender the human family to evil.
Kate, you've raised many, many important issues in this piece, one other for me is that, yes, the NEW Missal is a failure, not because it isn't a faithful document, but because it is probably serving what is an unsustainable identity of Church. But where we go with this I'm sadly, as a priest who is certainly a product of Vatican II (aged 7 when the Council sat first in 1962), uncertain. It's a daily challenge for me to surrender to God to allow the revelation to the world of Jesus Christ to be seen in my service at the Altar and out and among the people. I'm very uncertain that many Catholics, let alone others, would even be able to comprehend a discussion about how we can only live under the Sacrifice of Christ and that Sacrifice has been almost forced to 'take a back seat' in all areas of Church life.

David Kehoe, Frankston North 3200 said...

'20 minute Sunday Low Mass of the kind my mother attended in her youth!'? Was that in the 1950s and early to mid 60s? In that time, all the Sunday Low Masses i attended never went for less than 40 minutes! That's why our father had to continually stop us from jiggling around! Also, how is it that the liturgies of St Pius V and St Pius X, if they were so effective in promoting holiness, did nothing to stop the development and spread of the Modernist heresies in the 19th and 20th centuries which have prevented a proper understanding of the teaching of Vaticans I and II to gain hold?
David Kehoe, Frankston North 3200

Brian Coyne said...


As I've written over many years. I have no difficulty whatsoever with all interest groups, including the so-called 'Traditionalists' or lovers of the Latin Mass (and I presume they are slightly different from what you write), being able to celebrate the liturgy in whatever way they like. I believe the Church ought be truly embracing of all liturgical styles. What I object to, and this does come through strongly in your posts and has done so for a long period of time, is when some minority seeks to impose its views and beliefs on everybody as though that minority has some exclusive insight into the mind of Almighty God.

By nature I am also conservative — they were my roots from a long time ago. I am nostalgic also at times for the liturgies of my childhood when often I would serve the Mass and have to know all the responses in Latin for a Jesuit priest in one of the side chapels at my school. I love classical music and much of the traditional music used at various phases of history during the life of the Catholic Church. I do not believe though certain styles are somehow more "sacred" or "elevated" and "pleasing to God" and therefore they should be mandatory for all people. Similarly I have no objection to the many different ethnic groups within the Church having variations in their liturgical and musical styles that make their communication with God more meaningful to their experience or cultural temperament. The way you write though you want to impose on the entire world a very narrow interpretation as to how people ought to think and how they ought to worship and pray as though you somehow are God's messenger to instruct all of us how to behave and think and you, or the small sector of Catholicism you represent, have some exclusive knowledge as to what is acceptable to Almighty God for our salvation, redemption or to access the Beatific vision of Eternal Life. I simply do not accept that.

I do not believe any of what you propose gets me to heaven, achieves salvation or redemption, or whatever you or anyone else believes is the ultimate purpose for holding a set of beliefs or behaving in a certain way or belonging to a particular church or religion. The statistical evidence that seems to be available is that it does not persuade the vast majority of the baptised either. I don't believe yourself, or George Pell or George Weigel, are going to turn around people's beliefs by shouting your agendas louder, or more often. The evidence is that it turns more people away and that is one of the reasons why the participation rate in Australia has now dropped over the last six years by a couple more percentage points to around 12% — and is now well under 10% for young people (who ought be the future for the Church).

Interesting to see David Kehoe's name on your blog. Hi, David. How is life after your experience in Perth? In the final analysis our experiences might have been similar, eh?

Fr Mick Mac Andrew West Wyalong NSW said...

"There is actually a very good article that attempts to explain the difference between the two camps from a few years back by Fr Chad Ripperger, over at Christian Order." Thanks for the link Kate, I read the article and Fr Ripperger certainly communicates, clearly and precisely, the root causes of the 'rupture' in which many of us Catholics have been viewing Vatican II. I'm now going back to your posts of a couple of weeks ago to view Rowland's deliveries at the Great Grace Conference.
As a short response to Brian Coyne, he forgets that Revelation is what is driving the greater than 90% of Catholics who don't go to Mass to still record on the Census their Catholicity. They are obviously hopeful that Revelation can also drive what is necessary within the Church to engage them in full, active participation again.

Kate Edwards said...

Thanks for the comments so far everyone. PM, agreed, I've been chortling my way through the two threads featuring my name over there!

Fr Mac Andrew - I agree more discussion of the period before v2 is needed, but I'm not actually sure the seeds of rupture theory actually lie in what was wrong back then. History shows that revolutions tend to get hijacked by extremists - look at the history of the French Revolution for example, or what happened in Russia under Stalin.

Similarly, while for a long time Anglican historians claimed the seeds of Henry VIII's severing of links with Rome lay in the corruption of the medieval church. These days, the pendulum has swung and many now argue his protestantism was something in fact imposed from above and resisted fiercely by the people.

My view is that we shouldn't kid ourselves that V2 was anything but a revolution, attempted to be imposed on the majority by a minority, led by a bunch of bishops who had been brainwashed and subjected to Stockholm Syndrome by the experience of the Council.

It could happen precisely because the Church is hierarchically constructed and laypeople, other than a certain magic circle, are largely outside the formal decision-making processes.

The result was a mass walkout rather than mass executions, but the effects no less traumatic and dire for all that, since immortal souls are at stake.

I'm not suggesting for a moment that the 50s and early 60s were unproblematic - that priest of my mother's with his 20 minute masses (unless someone came in late, in which case he would start all over again from the beginning!) probably wasn't typical but I've heard not dissimilar stories from elsewhere.

But necessary reform could surely have been effected without such a radical questioning of absolutely everything.

The problem is that it has led us with a hermeneutic of rupture that affects every aspect of our faith. Instead of Christ being seen as coming, as he said, to fulfill the law, and the seeds of the New Testament being found in the Old, he himself is now presented as arguing for a radical rejection of absolutely everything that came before, not just the excesses taken too far.

Yet our faith - our forms of worship, the male priesthood, the foundations of morality in the Commandments, and so much more if Catholicism is seen as a continuation, albeit purified and transformed, of Judaism.

Brian - firstly, could you please refrain from conducting side conversations with individuals here - stick to the issues, not people!

Secondly, what traditionalists are trying to insist on is that the Church herself has been entrusted by Christ with the teachings and traditions that get people to heaven.

When we walk away from those traditions and invent our own instead; when we reject obedience in favour of our own whims and desires we reject Christ.

You attacked me over at your place over the South Brisbane affair. I certainly don't rejoice that the priests involved ended up leaving the Church - I for one would have preferred to see them converted rather than condemn themselves.

But the Church's sacraments are a conduit of grace intended to get us to heaven, and failing to actually baptised hundreds of people, failing to actually give them that grace, and also rendering every subsequent sacrament (such as marriage and confirmation) they had thought they had received invalid is a very serious crime indeed.

I imagine that God is understanding of those who through no fault of their own did not receive the sacramental grace to which they were entitled. But I very much doubt he will be understanding to the priests themselves and those in the hierarchy who failed to act, denying people their rights and at best acting presumptuously.

And yes, the way to heaven is indeed through a narrow gate, though it is open to all.

But has Fr Mac Andrew has noted, people are still seeking truth, for God works in us, as St Augustine said, making our hearts restless until they truly rest in him.

John L said...

'I do not believe any of what you propose gets me to heaven, achieves salvation or redemption, or whatever you or anyone else believes is the ultimate purpose for holding a set of beliefs or behaving in a certain way or belonging to a particular church or religion.'


This would seem to be self-refuting, since you yourself are included in the 'anyone else' - a phrase that covers everyone who exists. It has a certain charm though, since it actually carries modernist premises about belief through to their final implications.

Anonymous said...

"I think, is the view that the Traditional Latin Mass is to be preferred to the novus ordo mass in any form (even in Latin)" - I don't think this is the central tenet at all, because it implies that traditionalists are asserting that everyone should be attending the old Mass -your use of the passive infinitive implies this. Look, I'm sure some feel that way, whereas many clearly do not, but simply prefer the old Mass to the new one and feel no need to continually to pit the two forms of the Roman Rite against each other. We can have informed and scholarly debates on the merits and differences between the two forms of the Roman Rite, but given these are not the thoughts of the Church, they can only ever be opinion. I would suggest that an alternative argeument is those who attend the ordinary form are just as much "traditional Catholics" because they are attending the normative rite of the day - just like their forebears did.

Kate Edwards said...

Anon - Please give yourself a moniker so we can distinguish who we are replying to.

But honestly, you seem to have totally missed the point.

Traditionalist is a label meant to describe a school of opinion. To try and give it to novus ordo attendees/devotees sucks the usefulness out of the term.

There are a lot of people who might attend the TLM occasionally or even regularly but who are not traditionalists in the sense I'm describing. And those who view this whole debate as about needlessly 'pitting one form of the mass against each other' are generally classic conservatives, not traditionalists.

I'm trying to describe a school of thought. It takes in more than liturgy, but liturgy is a key plank of it, and attitudes to it distinguish us from neo-conservatives and liberals.

And yes, traditionalists do ultimately think everyone should attend the TLM. That is why there are whole societies of priests and religious orders dedicated to saying the TLM alone.

Traditionalists may not think it is practical right now to expect that a Pope could come in and legislate overnight to abolish the NO - having had that done to us, we understand the trauma that would cause. But we do hope it will one day happen. And of course we do hope that one day a Pope will wake up (or be elected) and say yes, the TLM is the better form.

That is not all traditionalism is about mind you, but I think it is one key tenet.

Maureen said...

I am unashamedly a Traditionalist, and I actually agree with you that the Latin Mass now tends to be "more" than it was when I was a teenager before Vatican 2 - I have certainly experienced those 20-minute Masses!
However, I did, until recently, occasionally attend Mass at the local parish, and having read your post, I see that I am also a Conservative. Rightly or wrongly I walked out one Sunday when, yet again, the congregation was invited to raise our right arms, to confer our blessing on the First Communicants.
I had to leave - it reminded me of the Nazi salute, it has no place in the Church I am trying to love in my seventh decade. I could not help thinking of my mother, who was Jewish, and who lived through that terrible period, losing several members of her immediate family to the Holocaust.
I cannot identify with the local church, although I have tried to do so, reminding myself that it is the same Mass.
Perhaps it is, but rubrics such as that have driven me away, and for the second time in my life. I kept right away for about 30 years after Vatican 2.Then I discovered TLM again and it felt like a homecoming.The Hitler salute was the last straw. That, and the drums....

Kate Edwards said...

I'm certainly not saying a traditionalist can never attend the NO - for all sorts of reasons many have no choice but to do so (I don't think refusal to attend a valid Mass is legitimate except in the most extreme cases).

I think many of us want the novus ordo to be less of a turn off for purely pragmatic reasons - but yes, outrages like that just keep on happening.

Perhaps if all priests were also taught the EF and rubrics were more emphasized things would be better, but there seems to be something about the NO inherently encourages 'creativity'!

Peter said...

"And yes, traditionalists do ultimately think everyone should attend the TLM. That is why there are whole societies of priests and religious orders dedicated to saying the TLM alone." The first statement is simply not true, and that is NOT the reason we have groups such as the FSSP - please go read their constitution, the reasons they outline for their existence are quite different to the ones you're proposing. As for abolishing the Ordinary Form - I would suggest only a minority would subscribe to that - most would just want it celebrated properly and reverently. There are literally many orders of magnitude more Catholics attending the OF than the EF, and many of those love it (and grew up with it) just as much as the staunchest "traditionalist" might be attached to the EF. The scheme you propose is not only contrary to all the efforts of Pope Benedict XVI in the last pontificate. but contrary to common sense. No Pope is every going to say one form of the Mass is better than another -that's totally counterproductive and the Church would only lose many more good, faithful and devout Catholics. Lets not go down that path please!

Kate Edwards said...


I think you are forgetting history - for a good many years the EF was de facto suppressed and priests and monks who wanted to say it threatened with excommunication, suspended and persecuted.

And of course Popes have come out and said one form of liturgy is better than another in the past. Pius X did that when he drastically reordered the Roman Office; Pope Paul VI's Missale Romanum did just that for the Mass.

The sacrifice of the Mass of course is unchanged - but what surrounds it, the liturgy can be objectively better or worse.

It is a matter of opinion which is which!

I agree that Pope Benedict's program seems to have been motivated in part by the hope of driving a reform of the reform.

But also I think, with the hope of reconciling the SPXX and giving traditionalists some protection. He came up with what is in reality a legal fiction ('two forms of the same rite') and a claim that the EF had never been formally suppressed. We are grateful to him for finding a way through the morass but, as many others have pointed out, the reality is they are for all practical purposes different rites and the EF was in fact suppressed as far as the Vatican and the bishops were concerned until 1984!

I've said several times that I'm not proposing that anyone abolish the OF outright. I think it will ultimately whither away (see those number of Mass attendees declining every year? Meanwhile the EF grows around the world).

As for the purpose of the traditional orders and societies - conservatives such as Fr Z keep demanding that traditionalist priests learn and say both 'forms of the Roman Rite'. The FSSP and most of the monasteries have strongly resisted the notion that they should ever have to say (or even attend)the NO. Those of its members who have decided to say both forms of the Mass inevitably leave the group. Why do you suppose that is?

I repeat that there is a difference between conservatives whose jumping off point is what one or more popes have articulated as a program, and the traditionalist view which starts from the intrinsic merit of the EF Mass regardless of what Pope Benedict or any other pope thinks of it.

Brian Coyne said...

Kate, I can certainly see you would love to be a bishop controlling the Catholic agenda, as ironical as that might be. As I've suggested over on Catholica though I honestly cannot see any common ground whatsoever between the likes of yourselves and where most people are moving to today in their understanding of the Divine-human relationship. There is simply no common ground left whatsoever. I do believe, despite you're not being able to see it yourselves, that you have exerted enormous control over the institutional agenda to the very point where it has started to 'shut down' and become irrelevant in the lives of most people

You are successfully creating the "smaller, purer Church" that Benedict predicted, or perhaps hoped to bring about. I have no doubt whatsoever of your sincerity in believing the institutional propaganda or teaching that Jesus did create the Catholic Church and that he imbued its leaders with Divine insight and, provided everybody just obeys them, everyone will get to paradise. My sense is that most people are not convinced of that any more. The clerical abuse crisis, and more so its cover up, is just the latest of many signs that the shades are falling away from the eyes of mind of the many.

While I agree with the likes of Benedict that many have been sort of sucked out of the Church by consumerism, relativism, communism, atheism, secularism, feminism, etc., etc., etc., I do not believe all of them have. Perhaps up to half — 50% of the nearly 90% who have left — still believe in God and the importance of the spiritual dimension of life even if they are no longer convinced that those who took over the institutional agenda after Vatican II offer any intelligent theology or insight into this relationship we are called into with the Divine. You people though seem to have it all "wrapped up" though with your certitudes about what's gone wrong and what the solutions are. None of what you write convinces me that you have anything to offer the world other than some kind of emotional security that does appeal to a small minority in society with identifiable psychological needs. It is incapable of 'evangelising' the bulk of society or fulfilling the last command of Christ to go out and bring the 'good news' to all of humankind.

I think it fails because you have a fundamentally wrong understanding of what the 'good news' Jesus was offering actually is. You seem to interpret it as some kind of psychological 'hoop-jumping' and if you can only jump through all the hoops in the right order, singing the correct words of the chants in the right key and the right language, Almighty God will smile at your performance and give you some sort of glitter star, elephant stamp or stamp on your passport of life that grants you entry to eternal life. I did see it in those terms once upon a time so the criticism I make is as much about me and the beliefs I once held as any of you. I don't believe it today and although I don't profess to have any answers other than that the perspective I once had was seriously flawed and wrong. I don't believe Jesus came into this world to give us a whole lot of dogma and liturgical rules. Jesus is fundamentally not about dogma and rules. As I see it today he came to give us a "way" of navigating through all the rules in order to make intelligent moral choices in the particular challenges and choices that we have to navigate in our lives in order to reach the end objective. None of this is saying there are no moral rules.

This continues in a second post...

Brian Coyne said...

Continued from the previous post...

I believe it imposes a far more rigorous form of obedience on any person than some form of childish hoop-jumping or showing how faithfully you can recite all the rules and make solemn promises to never disobey any of them. The mature person still does have to know all the archetypal rules of morality. The test of our "holiness" or "fitness for eternal life" though comes not from how holy and sinless we endeavoured to be, but from our capacity to learn, over an entire lifetime, to navigate through all the moral rules, and the pulls exerted by ego and our insecurities to make the choices that God might make if God was the one occupying our shoes or mind. I believe that Eastern Father, Gregory of Nyssa came closest to encapsulating it in this simple sentence: "the goal of the virtuous life is to become like God". In other words to demonstrate a capacity for making intelligent choices — intellectually intelligent, emotionally intelligent, physically intelligent (i.e. in the choices we actually turn into actions) and spiritually intelligent. That a long way removed from trying to stand up on some stage and demonstrate that you can recite all the rules and then make some solemn oath that you wouldn't be caught dead breaking any of them. As so many of Jesus' own parables and life situations demonstrate he was big into breaking all the rules. I believe that what he was demonstrating is that to live the moral life, or to merit eternal life or resurrection, we do have to learn how to break all the rules just like he did. This is NOT some call to anarchy though, or just to show how libertarian or revolutionary we can be. It is actually a call to a much higher form of obedience than anything any of you have to offer the ordinary footslogger trying to work out 'which way is up' in this challenge we each have to navigate called 'Life'.

I submit, you are as guilty as you accuse me of being in misconstruing what my beliefs are. I don't think you at all understand what my perspective is — and I don't have any sense that you at all interested in finding out. Is that correct? If it is, that is why I think communication between us is impossible. There is a chasm between our theological perspectives that is today unbridgeable.

Cheers, Brian Coyne

Kate Edwards said...

Brian - There does indeed seem to be a chasm. Because as soon as you describe the view that Christ founded the Church as 'institutional propaganda' the game is over, you are a protestant not a Catholic.

Because if you don't believe that Christ founded the Church, then you clearly don't ascribe to the Catholic view of what Scripture means, the authority of the hierarchy or anything else much.

Catholics for example, actually believe that there is a divine law and that Jesus points us to it, not away from it.

We can still try and engage in some ecumencial dialogue of course. But we are clearly not actually members of the same religion and genuine dialogue requires recognition of that.

So why do you continue to call yourselves Catholics and expect us to take you seriously?

Dialogue, too requires some actual listening! Where, for example, have I articulated the view of morality you set out here? Nowhere! Where have I given any indication it is merely about saying the right words in the right order?

The Church does give us aids and guidance, provides a framework, and these are important. Because they were entrusted to her by Christ, and set out in the Gospel in sketch form at least, she guards them carefully.

But she also knows we are going to face more complex dilemmas and need to know to assess potential actions in terms of things like motive, end and means. The Church knows that the paths to growth in holiness are many, hence the many different schools of spirituality within the Church reflected in her religious orders and more.

If there is a commonality between traditionalists and conservatives it is because we do both actually believe in the Church and her teachings.

And if there is no common ground at all between us, that is I think because the smaller Church Pope Benedict foresaw is alas already with us, the Church just hasn't officially recognised the fact, and cut off the diseased limbs.

peter said...

No Kate.

Summorum Pontificum, Univerae Ecclesiae are
Motu Proprio's and emphatic Church teaching - they are not as you seem to think "legal fiction" or what "Pope Benedict or any other pope thinks of it." I'm astonished you would treat their substance so flippantly.

You need to clearly distinguish between your private opinion and what is the mind of the Church. If that opinion is opposed to or contradicts Church teaching, then I think you have a problem you're going to have to deal with.

Kate Edwards said...

PS I have no desire to be a bishop whatsoever.

What exactly is wrong with being a committed and engaged layperson?

Why should having an informed and considered opinion lead to accusations of that kind?

Sounds suspiciously like misogyny to me.

Or is it another manifestation of that peculiar clericalist mentality that can't actually envisage power and influence as being anything other than entirely clerically based, hence the push for women and married priests?

Strange indeed for a group that claims to advocate lay engagement!

Kate Edwards said...


You can find a useful summation of the debate on the legalities of it all here:

SP and UE are primarily pieces of pastoral legislation. As such, they can, subject to certain constraints be changed by a subsequent Pope if he so chose.

In the documents the legislator has provided some commentary on why he has acted.

Ultimately though it is the law we are bound by, not every word a Pope sets out on why he acted.

I think most trads, myself included, would happily cite those texts with agreement. But we have to distinguish between levels of authoritative teaching, between matters of faith and morals; and between pastoral decisions shaped for the times.

Brian Coyne said...

Sorry to bring you another big headache, Kate, but there's been some interesting breaking news on Rorate Caeli, Whispers in the Loggia and Vatican Insider. There seems to be a new broom in the world:

Re the Protestant accusation: I wonder why in the dickens this small canker who believe they alone are the only ones who know the mind of Almighty God haven't been the ones to depart and start their own version of "Catholicism". I simply reject your claim that you are some "authentic" voice for Catholicism. It is a laughable idea. You are a small insecure canker and you have, with the likes of Benedict and in the tradition of Alfredo Ottaviani, trampled all over the Catholic traditions and imagination in an attempt to impose on it you own minority interpretations and then run around proclaiming that yours is the majority view. It IS bizarre logic. If it gives you jollies calling us "protestants" well so be it.

Kate Edwards said...

To be honest Brian I don't understand why Rorate and friends are getting so hot under the collar about those remarks.

First the comments were made privately, they are not magisterial.

Secondly, he acknowledges that there is a gay lobby in the Vatican. Hardly earth shattering news!

Thirdly the Pope makes it clear he doesn't understand traditionalists. Again totally unsurprising. But the accusation of Pelagianism is pretty much the opposite of reality - Gaudium et Spes articulates a pelagian mentality, as Pope Benedict has acknowledged; traditionalists, I would have said are far more inclined to error in the opposite direction!

As for claiming to know the mind of God, no, I'm not doing that. I'm just pointing out that by rejecting key Church teachings you have defined yourself out of the Church.

Take a look at the Canon Law definition of full communion (Canon 205) - the faithful are joined by baptism, the profession of faith, the sacraments and ecclesial governance. Reject one or more of those and you are not a Catholic in full communion!

Peter said...

Any Motu Proprio can potentially be revoked, but whilst in force is binding. eg. Pius X's 1903 "Tra le sollecitudini" on music and the primacy of chant could potentially be changed as well.St Pius X himself had no qualms about drastically altering the centuries old Roman breviary (one can imagine Catholics of 1911not accepting that either.) This "discontinuity" in both form and practise was perhaps even sharper than the changes brought about with the introduction of the New Mass - he explicitly forbade the use of the old Breviary as well.

So the question is where you then get your anchor points - you claim from the past in interpreting the present, but this is actually a very vague statement - what encyclicals throughout history do you fully accept, what ones do you only accept 85% (say) etc I think there is a form of cafeteria catholicism at work here, and one clear example was SP in 2007. Traditionalists were very happy to accept the juridical changes with SP (and why not?), but some were not so happy to accept its central statements on the two forms of the same Roman rite, and the mutual enrichment they can offer one another - I would suggest, in doing this, these traditionalists only reveal the same cherry-picking thinking pattern as the liberals they criticize.

Peter said...

PS One wonders what St Pius X would think of this statement from Summorum Pontificum "What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful." He obviously didn't agree with it.

Kate Edwards said...

Peter - What you are arguing for is classic ultramontanism, everything a Pope says is sacrosanct. It is common amongst conservatives but it is not actually that consonant with Catholic theology which recognises different levels of authoritative teaching.

First, you have to distinguish between pastoral prescriptions which can be changed, and doctrinal ones.

In particular, we don't have to agree with pastoral prescriptions and the reasoning behind them, just to obey them.

And if we do disagree with them, there are appropriate (and inappropriate) times, places and ways of debating them with a view to change.

The reasons for allowing the older form of the Mass surely fall into this category!

Personally for example I think many of Pius X's pastoral changes have proved to be mistakes. And in practice they have already been or are being slowly or quickly rubbed out. His Roman Office revamp, for example, was judged still too burdensome for parish priests, hence the LOH. And even amongst traddies, the traditional Benedictine Office is enormously popular and its following still growing these days not least because it retains a more traditional ordering of the psalms that the Roman does not. Similarly the reordering of reception of the sacraments he introduced is being slowly turned back due to Pope Benedict's encouragement thereof.

In fact there are many encyclicals that contain pastoral prescriptions (have a look at some of the pre-Vatican 2 one's on catholic schooling for example) that can and have changed.

Accordingly, I think questions like whether the reform of the reform is enough is a debate we can legitimately have.

The second case is matters of faith and morals - doctrine. When a Pope defines a proposition on these in an encyclical, we are bound to accept that definition.

We are not bound, however, to accept the reasoning he sets out leading up to the definition as the only best or even a convincing way of getting there.

How much weight we should put on something the Pope says depends on a whole lot of factors: whether it goes to doctrine or not; the nature of the document or occasion he says it at or in; how frequently and forcefully he expresses his view and so forth.

I'm certainly not advocating cherry-picking; I am advocating to use one of Brian's favourite terms an 'adult' theological engagement.

Peter said...


This is not ultramontanism.

Article I of SP clearly and unamibgiously articulates there are two forms of the Roman Rite - it is not an argument, or even a particular form of reasoning to establish some point - it is a very clear proposition (not some ephemeral pastoral statement as you seem to think). It is a universal law of the Catholic Church (not just this Pope, but the Church as as whole). You are actually bound to accept it. It may well be revoked under a later Pontificate (or the current one), but until then, it is a law pertaining to the Roman Rite in the Church.

You say you are bound to obey such laws - I'm not sure how you can obey this law, unless you actually accept it in the first place.

Kate Edwards said...

Sorry Peter but I'm not sure what you think I'm not accepting?

All I was suggesting that the 'two forms of the one Rite' approach is something of a creative technical device to get around a legal problem.

If you had asked a liturgist before SP what constituted a 'rite' most would describe the new Mass as a new rite, so different it is from the old one, and that is all I was getting at.

Peter said...

I admire your unearthly ability to read deep inside the mind of Benedict XVI - he did not say or even remotedly suggest what you are stating about the two forms of the Roman Rite i.e. it was some sleight of hand to get around some legal issues.

Why not just believe that the Pope merely revealed the mind of Church all along here?

Kate Edwards said...

Peter - I'm not trying as you suggest to read Pope Benedict's mind, just drawing on the couple of decades of debate on the status of the EF before SP and many many informed commentaries that came out at the time and since.

In fact the then Cardinal Ratzinger was a member of the group of Cardinals asked to report on this issue, and whose conclusions were subsequently leaked (though never formally released) and he spoke on the issue on a number of occasions before coming Pope, so we do have some insights into his thinking other than SP itself to draw on.

But there is no obligation on a Pope to spell out every reason for whatever legislative decisions is making in full; indeed, potentially the legislator might think he is doing it for a particular reason, when in fact the Holy Spirit has moved him to act for quite other reasons: God moves in mysterious ways at times (not that I'm suggesting this necessarily happened in this particular case).

The bottom line is, we have to obey a legitimate law; we don't have to accept the particular rationale offered for it.

As for 'revealing the mind of the Church all along here', tell that to all the monks forced to leave their orders because they wanted to continue to say the old Mass; tell that to the monks of Fontgambault, forced for several years to revert to the 1970 Mass; tell that to all the priests suspended because they refused to say the new Mass; tell that to all the laity who hid out in Eastern Rite Churches or attended masses deemed illicit by their bishops because they clung to that Mass which is now acknowledged as part of our patrimony, but was then condemned as evil and outdated.

Peter said...

"The bottom line is, we have to obey a legitimate law; we don't have to accept the particular rationale offered for it."

Source for the latter part?

I honestly think you're playing with words here Kate. I'm not sure if its sincere self-delusion or hubris. SP is a document of the highest authority - the interpretation of the law contained in it is the Church's interpretation (not yours) and you are required to accept it, to be one mind with the Church on this issue.

Kate Edwards said...


The differing levels of consent/obedience that are required of Catholics are set out in the 1983 Code of Canon Law, 747-754.

It distinguishes between:
.things that must be 'definitely held' (ie infallible teachings);
. declarations on faith and morals that are not definitively defined, but to which we are required to give 'submission of intellect and will' (ie ordinary magisterium);
.authentic magisterium of bishops, Bishops Conferences or Councils to which 'religious submission of mind' is required;
. a requirement to 'observe the constitutions and decrees' of lawful authority.

A good commentary on the Code or a standard theological textbook will give you a rundown on the different levels of authority of different papal and other ecclesial documents, and of the differing levels of authority of different types of papal documents.

Peter said...


I'm familiar with these laws, but nowhere does it in fact support what you're suggesting.

If you believe something, but don't agree with the argument for the belief/law, it only makes one look silly.

Let's leave it that.


Kate Edwards said...

Peter - Actually it does say exactly what I just summarised.

But I'd strongly recommend you actually read the article by Fr Ripperger I recommended. I realise that many catholics bought up in the JPII era haven't been exposed to any kind of understanding of what is and isn't legitimate theological debate (since the only debate they see is mostly of the dissenting from doctrine kind), but I really do think it is time we recovered this sense.

And I'd suggest some serious reflection - for it is perfectly possible to decide to obey a law because it is legitimately promulgated without actually agreeing with it, or to support a law for different reasons than the original legislator stated.

The Church asks us to engage our intellects, not submit mindlessly and you do the Church no service to suggest otherwise.

But let us indeed leave it there.

Anonymous said...

Gary said, I just wanted to make an observance having been started in the Latin Mass, saw the 'Spirit of Vatican II' implemented, left the church, then come back after 30 years. Both forms are legitimate according to the magesterium. But an FSSP priest and several in a Latin Mass parish helped me find my way back. I attend weekday NO Masses at my local parish and EF masses on weekends in a nearby city (60 miles away). I serve at the NO mass but not at the EF mass. My experience at the NO mass is that I can watch the bread and wine be changed to Christs body and blood but at the EF mass I can feel heaven open up with the angels assisting while the bread and wine are changed to Christs body and blood. The EF causes a deeper more enduring and faith strengthening experience. Most of the folks at the FSSP parish will not go to an NO mass, not because of what the priest tells them (in fact he tells them that they sin when the miss the mass on Sunday, whether NO or EF). It appears to me that they don't choose to go to the NO when they can't go to a EF for two reasons, one they don't think it is valid or it is a painful reminder of what they went through when the EF was taken from them.

Kate Edwards said...

Gary - Can you really be sure they aren't going to a NO if they can't get to the EF?

My experience is that somewhat to the chagrin of some trad priests, in fact most do got to both forms as needed. Indeed many are in practice by-form, going to weekday masses in the OF for practical reasons.