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Friday, July 01, 2011
Reply to Stuart Reid
(People at the book stall at the SCT Family Retreat 2011)
Stuart Reid has done me the honour of responding to my blog post 'Repentant Fogeys' in his column in the Catholic Herald. My blog post criticised the attacks made by him, Dr John Casey and Dr Raymond Edwards on traditionalists, which are (as I quote them) seriously over the top, and suggest a degree of bitterness surprising coming from people who claim to like the Traditional Mass itself.
(Blessing of roses at St Bede's Clapham Park for Laetare Sunday, after the Traditional Mass.)
So what does Reid say? He says that Dr Edwards does not 'snarl' but makes 'waspish asides'. Well, I'm not going to get into the difference between snarls and waspish asides. Reid quotes me pointing out that in an entire booklet on 'Catholic Traditionalism' Edwards does not once mention the work of the Latin Mass Society. Reid seems eager to deny this, but can't quite manage it. It is, annoyingly for him, true.
(Congregation at the Traditional Mass in Holy Cross, Leicester.)
Reid's main aim, however, is to contradict my denial that the Traditional Movement has been 'captured by fogeys wearing pith helmets'. He appeals to his experience attending SSPX Masses in London in 1976, and Masses today at the Brompton Oratory. This is not exactly a scientific sample, but he concludes that families are few, and fogeys many, in traddy circles.
(Prams choke the aisles at the conclusion of the LMS York Pilgrimage.)
I don't think anyone at the Brompton Oratory will be offended if I say that it must attract more people with fogey-ish characteristics than any other church in London - and probably the world. To go to the TLM there and declare it is full of fogeys is like going to Mass in Japan and declaring it is full of foreigners. Add to that the fact that the Traditional Mass on a Sunday in that particular church is at 9am, and without music, and it is not surprising that families are relatively scarce. This is not a family-friendly time and parents do like to take their children to Sung Mass.
(Nativity play organised by the Oxford Homeschoolers' Group.)
In point of fact, by creating an opportunity for Mass at a better time, and with music, the more traditionally-minded fathers of the Oratory have had extremely successful occasional traditional Masses aimed at families. Stuart Reid knows very well that the Traditional Mass in Reading, at 11am and with music, is packed with families: he has been to this Mass himself. Another Mass he has personally experienced is the 10.45 Sung Mass at St Bede's, Clapham Park, which is also dominated by families. Do we detect a pattern here? Why does he think these cases are less significant than his experience of the 9am Low Mass in the Oratory?
(Fr John Berg, Superior of the FSSP, blessing the new FSSP residence in Reading.)
Since he clearly reads this blog, it can hardly have escaped him that I (despite my fogeyish appearance) have had something to do with a series of initiatives within the traditional movement directed at families. We have a Family Retreat (photos): was it empty? No, we regularly have about 150 people there. We have had all sorts of home-schooling related groups over the years. Is this a waste of time in a fogey-only Traditional Catholic movement? Not at all, they have been very successful, and there are groups like this all over the country. We have had a Summer School for children every year for five years, and this too has been very successful.
(Homeschoolers visit the National Gallery with Fr Andrew Southwell, LMS Chaplain.)
These things show not only that there is demand for this kind of thing, but that there is a leadership in the Traditional movement which is eager to meet the demand. These things need organising, they soak up donations and volunteers. A movement characterised by this kind of thing is not a movement dominated by fogeys.
(First blessings at the end of a Traditional Mass in St Mary Magdalen's, Wandsworth.)
But the thing which really nails this fogey claim is the kind of young people who participate in activities aimed at, or particularly attractive to, 'youth'. Are they (young) fogeys? Well this is a matter of judgment. I will trust Stuart Reid, however, as an expert of fogeyism, to make the call himself. He can come along to the walking pilgrimages - it would be enough to attend a Mass at the beginning or the end: Reid doesn't need to walk the 70 miles from Paris to Chartres, or the 50 miles from Ely to Walsingham (photos), or even the 15 miles from Abingdon to Oxford, although it might be an appropriate penance. He can come along to the Juventutem Masses in London or elsewhere. He can judge for himself, but anyone willing to take my word for it can rest assured that the narrow social and cultural range, the extreme views, and the problematic relationship with alcohol which contribute to the stereotypical 'young fogey' do not characterise the young people at these events. I can quote Stuart Reid himself: speaking of the Mass at Reading, he wrote 'I liked the young servers I met in Reading on Sunday', and refers to a 'very agreeable young fellow with silver earrings'. A fogey? I think not.
(Young people at dinner after one of the Juventutem Masses in London.)