Saturday, November 01, 2008


Traditional Catholics - we're a dying breed - or maybe Vatican II baby boomers are a dying breed. I guess it depends how you want to interpret various conflicting studies. Mass attendance is declining and 1 in 10 Americans is a former Catholic or something like that. But Catholics per capita are holding steady while Protestants are declining. Is faithful Catholicism declining faster, slower or at the same rate of faithful Protestantism? It's the younger clergy who are likely to be traditional (or so I read) and the other day I read that most young Catholics are Socialists. Whatever.

The point I'm clumsily trying to express is that trends are often difficult to discern from headlines. I'm finding myself too often caught up in trying to analyze the trends in this regard - are things getting better or worse? Lately I'm thinking they might just be staying the same.

This verse is quoted far too seldom if you ask me :
Say not, "Why were the former days better than these?" For it is not from wisdom that you ask this. - Ecclesiastes 7:10
"Trads" especially seem caught up in this myth that a generation ago, the Catholic Church was mostly populated with saints. What does it really mean to be a "traditionalist" anyhow?

Don't think I'm not sympathetic to traditionalist concerns (and as far as the label goes, I fit the bill to a T I guess). I just got back from the only MEF in Charlotte (that's "Mass in the Extraordinary Form" for you non-trads). My other "trad" credentials include starting a Gregorian schola (and seeing it kicked out of my parish by a spirit of Vatican 2 feminist music director), being rejected on various proposals to my pastor including A) to chant the propers of the mass in lieu of our horrid music program just once per month and B) inviting a willing priest to say the MEF in the chapel (again only once a month) and organizing a "Theology on Tap" knock-off to whine about these things (I say this tongue in cheek). If my wife would have it (and always when I was a bachelor), I'd even attend the Ukranian Catholic Divine Liturgy just to get my fix of raw beauty, reverence and the sacred. Hell... I'm a subscriber to The Crescat and if that don't make you a "trad", I don't know what does. (Also in good fun, Kat is a good friend of mine).

So I guess I'm a "trad" if we need to categorize ourselves. Now I don't have a problem with labels or categories and in fact, I categorize anyone who does as an idiot. And I don't have many negative things to say about the "trad" movement. I just want to remind myself in public (and readers can take it or leave it) that the MEF was the only mass available when that army of hippies so grossly and intentionally used Vatican II as a WMD against Catholic tradition. Traditionalism can't be the only answer to our woes. In fact, it can't even be the substantial portion of our answer.

Our problems are spiritual and spiritual problems aren't any different in substance now than they were 40 years ago. We're still at war against the same forces (spiritual not physical) and still have the same failures (sin not too much vernacular). Tim Jones discussed some of the peculiarities of our problem recently in his post on the "Tidal Wave of Technology". It's worth reading (though some seem to have missed his point). And I'm in total agreement with him, things are different now than they have been for various reasons - I mean the quality of our sin has remained though in some regard the quantity has increased. You probably need to read his post before you'll get what I'm saying here or how this ties in with what I'm trying to say. Now you know why I'm an amatuer blogger and not a professional writer.

So in a nutshell, some things are different these days - but essentially, we have the same problems as we always did - me and you (and those blasted liberals... I mean ya know.. especially those blasted liberals). The Church has always been full of sin, sinners, bad liturgy, hippies and feminists... just more hippies and feminists lately and new ways of sinning and particularly bad liturgy. A real "trad" is one who looks forward more than he looks back. Tradition (with a capital T) is always looking forward, is ever contemporary and is never whining.


~Joseph the Worker said...

Well, on a positive side we as Catholics are growing pretty impressively (maybe not as much as Muslims), but in areas like Africa is where I truly believe the future of the Church will lie.

Rene'e said...


Did you know about St.Ann's in Charlotte?

Latin Mass

St Ann Church
Location: 3635 Park Rd - Charlotte, NC 28209
Mass Time: Sat 8 am
Phone number: (704) 523-4641
Web site:
Priest: Fr Timothy Reid

Rene'e said...


I think you might be interested in this blog also.


Tim A. Troutman said...

Joseph - that is true.

Renee - That's where I attended yesterday and my schola has assisted at the liturgy there several times. It's a wonderful parish and Father Reid is a phenomenal priest.

I didn't know about that blog though, thanks for passing it along. I contacted the owner. We "trads" need to network you know. ;)

George Weis said...


I must say, that I simply prefer the Latin Mass to the NOM. I intend to attend a few more of those. I am eager to check out one of these Ukrainian Parishes too... sounds fascinating.

Good to hear you acknowledge these things!


J. said...

Shouldn't all Catholics be "traditionalists"? After all, Tradition is what separates us from Protestants and countless other groups. Certainly we can't (and shouldn't) just turn back the clock to 1962, but we do need to start being more interested in and respectful of the rich traditions of our Faith.

Maybe we need more than just reviving pre-V2 traditions. Maybe we need to start reviving pre-Trent traditions, like all the various liturgical forms that were scrapped in favor of the Mass of St. Gregory the Great, or lost devotions like that of St. Christopher the Dog-Headed (I'm only half-joking). Tradition needs to look backwards and forwards at the same time: always living in the light of the past, but moving boldly into the future.

I suspect that many traditionalists aren't interested in reviving old traditions, but just in having our priests be more dogmatic about a few select things, and this is unfortunate. I don't want to return to the age of soft-focus prayer card paintings. It's no good to cast off post-V2 liberalism in favor of a sentimental recreation of the past, but it is worse to cast of the past in favor of the newest toy.

Tim A. Troutman said...

J - thanks for the comments. I think in large part the VII reforms went back to some traditions which were much older than Trent - receiving in the hand/sign of peace for example. Interestingly some of these very old traditions are the ones trads have the most problem with.

I suppose there is something to be said of the argument "there was a reason the Church grew out of these customs".

I get what you're saying though and I think we're in agreement.

~Joseph the Worker said...

Even more so than that, the fact that Mass is now celebrated in the native language of the population is a "throwback" to ancient practice, something else that some "traditionalists" don't like.

J. said...

Joe -

There's nothing wrong in principle with celebrating a liturgy in the vernacular, but it is fitting for the "main" Roman Rite to be celebrated in the Roman language of Latin. If Rome were to once again allow for the restoration of the older, local liturgies, it would be proper to let them be in the vernacular; but since Latin is the language of the Church, Rome's rite ought to reflect that, and so should we when we celebrate that same rite.

Tim -

The problems with the so-called restoration of older liturgical customs are well documented. While it is true that there is evidence of the early Church giving communion in the hand, it seems that this practice ended rather quickly. The sign of peace never disappeared (I've seen it in the EO), though it was limited in the Roman rite because, well, because Rome became a bit cheerless. (I don't think our effeminate hug of peace is much of an improvement.) There's also the problem of having swept away at least 1500 years of liturgical tradition in favor of what a few scholars thought reflected the early Church. We can't say we believe in Tradition if we do something like that.

Still, whether we're campaigning to restore A.D. 1961 or 1320 or 90, that's always going to be an error something akin to Protestantism. There's no perfect era of the Church, but we need to be respectful of all eras. It may be that by Vatican II the liturgy actually did need some restoration of earlier traditions, but it needn't have been at the expense of the entire Middle Ages. If we're going to be Traditionalists, we need to accept all traditions that sprang out of a love for God and the Church. (All you haters of the Luminous Mysteries, are you listening?)

Tim A. Troutman said...

J - I'm a proponent of kneeling to receive and to receive on the tongue but the statement that the practice of receiving on the hand ended quickly seems ambiguous. Dave Armstrong has a nice discussion of the history regarding this issue and in the words of then Cardinal Ratzinger, "I wouldn't raise too much of a fuss about it". (From "God & the World")

Still, I think you're right that there is a reason it ended and we still have those same good reasons (maybe more so now) and I dont think there was sufficient reason to bring that practice back. In the above link, the traditionalist makes the point that VII intended liturgical reforms to grow out of existing forms (that is what "reform" is anyhow, otherwise it would be re-instate). I am all for eliminating receiving on the hand.

On the sign of peace, the liturgy of Chrysostom & Basil both have it listed as an optional practice in the Eastern Church I attend (occasionally) though we never do it. I'm not sure the history behind it but I believe what you say.

J. said...

I know the Maronites have their own way of including the sign of peace that's quite unique. I don't recall ever having seen it in a Byzantine liturgy.

I guess I need to read up more on Communion in the hand. Unfortunately I find Armstrong's writing style almost unreadable. Maybe I can find a book.

Carolina Cannonball said...

I'm really a hippy undercover sent by the ghost of bugnini to spy on you all.