Monday, May 08, 2017

Are traditionalists paranoid?

Over on Unam Sanctam blog, the old canard of the 'obnoxious trad' is wheeled out. Apparently the author has met a couple of priests don't like the people who come to the Traditional Mass; one has stopped celebrating it. Hmm. Maybe these Catholics were sinners, in need of the sacraments. It seems they won't be receiving them with much good will from these priests.

It has been well answered by Brian Williams at the Liturgy Guy here. Catholics attached to the ancient liturgy are accused of 'chasing' the traditional Mass from parish to parish, and not coming to other parish events. Williams points out that this is simply a consequence of the fact that they are not having their legitimate aspirations for the sacraments in the traditional forms met in any one parish, and very often have to travel long distances to attend services and events. A priest who declines to go beyond what he describes as a 'semi-regular' provision of the EF can hardly complain about that. I don't necessarily blame the priests for not doing more: I don't know what their other committments are. But by the same token no one is in a position to criticise laity for not making multiple two-hour round trips each week for extra events at a parish which has not given them a liturgical home.

Another aspect of such complaints is the claim that Traditional Catholics are over-critical or polemical. What strikes me is the double standards this exhibits. Every parish priest has a store of tales to tell about difficult Novus Ordo Catholics. They don't usually have the luxury of closing down this or that Mass, abolishing the Liturgy Committee, and throwing out the Flower Arranging Rota, because the people involved would raise a stink. The limited number of Catholics in most places attending the Traditional Mass, and the lack of fellow-feeling from Catholics in the same parish attending other Masses, not to mention the attitude of local clergy and the bishop, make them an easy target by comparison.

It would be impossible to establish empirically who are the most annoying, at the parish level, but are the kind of Traditional Catholics who attend diocesan Latin Masses really more aggressive and downright rude than their critics, at the level of public debate? This is what the post below was about, back in July 2013. Some of the voices carping about traddies noted in it have fallen silent since then; others have not.


Are traditionalists paranoid?

If so, our paranoia is justified.

First off are the letters pages in the Catholic press. Letter writers can act as the attack dogs of a newspaper since while editors have complete freedom to choose what to publish, they can still disclaim responsibility for it. When we find obsessives attacking trads what seems like every week, this tells you a lot about what is deemed acceptable. There is the busy Martin Elsworth, mainly in The Universe (traditionalists are 'cafeteria Catholics' for preferring the EF) and Tom MacIntyre in the Catholic Herald ('The Old Rite's individualist allure has intensified with postmodern vogues for the antique, the "retro" and the exotic in religion.'), who rejoiced in 47 letters published in just 44 months

But what of feature articles? These are the real meat of the press. 

Well, there is Dr John Casey, in the pages of The Tablet, called us 'dissidents', 'rubricists', 'ideologues' and 'misogynists'.

Nice. But Casey has got all liberal in his old age, hasn't he? Isn't that kind of vituperation to be expected?

Maybe, but we we also were edified by George Weigel characterising us in terms of 'Maniples, lace albs and Latin liturgies', and John Haldane as 'nostalgic and slavish', in the same paper

That was the The Tablet, right? That would never happen in a conservative paper, would it?

Perhaps not - until, in The Catholic HeraldStuart Reid told us to 'abandon the Church and join the SSPX', and that we are 'not on [Pope] Benedict's team'. Not a loopy letter-writer, you understand, a man with a prestigious regular column.

I need hardly add the things which Mgr Basil Loftus lobs at us in The Catholic Times.

Ok, so that's journalism, it's tomorrow's fish-wrap. You'd never get that kind of attitude in a more permanent publication, from a respectable publisher like the Catholic Truth Society?

No - not until Dr Raymond Edwards said in one that we were characterised by a 'defensive "ghetto" mentality', and a 'fondness for dressing up', and are connected with 'hard right' and anti-semitic politics'. This is a booklet still in print.

Right, but that's just a little booklet, isn't it? I mean you wouldn't hear a proper academic dishing out silly and insulting comments about trads, would you?

Ok, so perhaps you would.

Audience at the LMS One Day Conference last year: nutters, every one of them.

Some of the above writers have criticised liberals alongside trads, and others lump trads and conservatives together for abuse: we get it from both directions. But it goes beyond that. In terms of intensity, frequency, and the prestige of the writer and the forum, it is open season on traditionalists in a way it never is on other groups in the Church. The Tablet has never published such an extraordinary screed, like Dr Casey wrote about us, about conservatives; nor has the Catholic Herald printed anything remotely as embittered and personal attacking liberals, as the stuff provided by Stuart Reid about trads. The same is true of the letters pages, the CTS, and academics addressing conferences. It's just not done, old boy.

One might assume this is a hang-over from the time when trads were assumed to be schismatic, but the attacks have actually intensified since Summorum Pontificum. Before then we were more often ignored. Now, it seems, we are a threat.

While this state of affairs continues, please don't accuse us of paranoia.


  1. In this Deanery, when news broke that at the request of the Diocese a TLM would be offered in this Parish every Sunday, the bile that poured forth from very senior clergy was unbelievable. I still don't understand why - it is not in their Parish; they are not being asked to (re)learn or to do it. What is the problem? What is there to fear?

  2. Tacitus explained it long ago: 'Proprium est humani ingenii odisse quem laeseris' {it is a characteristic of human nature to hate those whom one has wronged.}

  3. It’s a simple a case of “pig-headed stubbornness” having to do with an “attachment” to a dying fad that certain older folks find hard to deal with. Like the Bishop of Rome opined a few weeks back, these folks are slowly becoming aware that “their mission in the Catholic Church has come to an end”. Not only have they lost the Faith, but now they lose the real estate to boot.

  4. If we are being attacked in the Tablet, we must be doing something right.

  5. “Are traditionalists paranoid?”

    I wouldn’t know, not being a traditionalist, just an ordinary Catholic in the pews anxious to see that the ancient Catholic Mass, as from the time of St Gregory the Great and probably before, expressing the Faith of the Magisterium of the Church, continues to be available and widely so, to us ordinary Catholics.

    p.s. I would also like the New Mass, which I normally have to attend, to be returned under the “Reform of the Reform” to what Vatican II intended.

  6. Thank you for this article, Dr. Shaw. I'm really getting tired of this double-standard being perpetuated ad nauseam.

  7. “Paranoia is just having the right information,” William S. Burroughs

  8. I guess if you value experiencing The Holy Sacrafice of the Mass more than holding hands or even raising them outstretched, all after catching up on the latest gossip you ought to be labeled a threat.

  9. they attack while they are flushing themselves down the toilet. The poor lads.

  10. I've met my fair share of flakey traddies over the past 30 years. But then there's the wretched, ever-ageing souls who - commendably - turn up each week for the trash their local parish deals out, and yet come out smiling and chatting as if all's well. I know whom I feel more sorry for.

  11. As a layman I avoid having an opinion on the liturgy because I regard my opinion as an irrelevance. The issue is not about us but about the priests. I am of the view that the TLM is better as it renders the priest more evangelical. The aesthetics of the TLM v NO, from where I am sat in row 15, are unimportant.

  12. I have no doubt some hostile trads have made things difficult more than once. I also suspect more than a few parish priests seeing themselves as professionals in their trade see their inadequacy (through no fault of their own) and this makes them uncomfortable, if not reactionary. Some of this is modeled consciously or not on their own bishops and rectors by those who refuse to 'get with the program' or embrace Vatican II. Keep in mind, most of those who would be traditional were almost entirely excluded from seminaries all through the 70's and 80's and even today are now maligned as "rigid."

  13. It's never pleasant to be criticised by fellow Catholics. One response to criticism of trads would be dismiss it as a "canard" and point out that liberals can be awkward customers too. That is the approach that you have evidently opted to take. Perhaps it is the approach that any chairman of the LMS would inevitably have to take, as conceding any validity to the criticism would damage the brand. But another response would be to reflect upon the criticism and ask whether it had any accuracy and held any lessons (never mind whether liberals are guilty of stuff too).

    I love the traditional Mass, but I have known the traddie milieu for 20 years and I have few illusions about it. Yes, it's unfair to label all trads as "obnoxious", but let's remember what Chesterton said about stereotypes of gypsies: "no student ever praised them for an exaggerated respect for private property". Equally, I have never heard a mainstream Catholic praise traddies for being excessively full of evangelical joy and overly benevolent towards their fellow Christians. Perhaps there is a lesson there.

    1. If you read my post more carefully, you would find I refer to Brian Williams' discussion of why it is the case that trads are subject to certain specific accusations.

      Of course, you could dismiss this response as a canard, and accuse of not bothering to take the issue seriously, but you could on the other hand reflect on it. Perhaps there is a lesson there.

    2. I'm speaking as someone who is friendly to the traditional Mass, so please don't respond to me in a hostile manner. I'm not Basil Loftus.

      Brian Williams' post (which I read) boils down to the point that the Extraordinary Form is not widely enough available in parishes. I agree. But there is something, independently of issues arising out of inadequate parish provision, in the stereotype of the negative, chip-on-his-shoulder trad. It's unfair - but I can see where a good man like Stuart Reid has got it from. Bodies like the LMS need to address this issue more empathetically, trying to see the matter from their opponents' perspective. Then we might start to see priests like that anonymous pair rethink their views.

    3. ANd I would add that this is only going to become more important if the rumours about the SSPX's regularisation are true. I want to see the SSPX succeed in the bosom of the church, but we all know what the stereotypes are there and they're not all French ducks.

    4. I mimic the tone of your comment and you describe it as hostile. Isn't it interesting that it is easier to see a fault in another than we can in ourselves? Material for more 'reflection' perhaps.

      I have addressed other aspects of criticisms of trade here:

      And here:

    5. I agree with much of those posts, but something is missing. Reid's views on traddy fogeyism are not entirely fair, but I can understand how he came by them (it's not just Brompton). If I were the LMS chairman, I would want to go beyond a rebuttal and engage sympathetically with his position, because it's shared by a lot of people.

      Fr Z has a post about this very issue up today: I found his approach to be very honest and constructive.

    6. "I have never heard a mainstream Catholic praise traddies for being excessively full of evangelical joy"

      I think people like that have become scarce in general.

  14. Another form of Paranoia persist from Time (little taken to know ones lay or religious parishioners), Distance Traveled in miles each Sunday, the growing fear of ANTIFA like, and Criminal like possible/probable visitors in/or combination of all that makes the Trad Priest and his dedicated laity appear to not display that so-called joy of community.

    It's a sad fact, but much paranoia happens because of the physics of Time, Space, and Lack of Community in Trad Chapels. Furthermore, because Chapels are few and far between, the "joy of a Trad Community" is overshadowed by (1) conspiracy theory's (which produce no good fruit but clicks) and (2) an abundance of misdirected Hope for better things to come which in many cases is a poor show.

    Fortunately for the more solidly formed Catholics their persistence in attendance sustains the slow growth of the Chapel.

    Those parishioners who are within close proximity to the Trad Chapel become the apparent Catholic Society to which long traveled visitors are bound to acknowledge as gatekeepers, or promoters of the Catholic Faith. Sometimes these lay Catholics are almost given a religious position of honor which is used to protect the priest, not necessarily the Catholic Faith. As humans are only human in their attitudes and behaviors a certain Rigor mortis begins to take hold in some Traditional Chapels. Those Chapels that do not have a bishop as overseer suffer the most.

    The Challenge for the those who are weak in the Faith is to find someone in the Chapel who is Most Traveled and and Less a proximity guard of the Chapel with obvious exceptions. Freedom of speech exist because of Truths that the Faith Sees as Universal (catholic), and long distant Travelers tend to have more courage, and persistence in projecting the True Catholic Faith as the distance and regular attendance is the example of a Strong Catholic Faith (for the most part).