Thursday, March 06, 2014

Radical trads spoiling it for everyone?

High Mass in Westminster Cathedral.

The favoured explanation of what went wrong in the Fisher More College affair, among those (you know who you are) who wish to support the banning of the Traditional Mass by the bishop, now seems to be that this is a case of extremist supporters of the Traditional Mass spoiling things for everyone: by linking the Vetus Ordo with extreme views, they left the bishop no choice but to prohibit it. I don't know if this is Bishop Olsen's view, and unless they have inside information on his state of mind - which they do not claim to have - neither do they. But we have all heard the argument before. Oh boy, have we. At the end of this post I will quote the locus classicus.

The policy, though familiar, is both self-defeating and hypocritical.

It is self-defeating because severe restrictions on the EF confirm the suspicions of those who think that, because there has been such a radical discontinuity in the theology of the Church with Vatican II, the theology of the Old Mass directly contradicts the official theology of the post-conciliar Church. Unwillingness to allow celebrations of the ancient Mass suggest that those in charge don't agree with it, and don't think it should be allowed to influence the way people think and pray.

This is given further support when the EF is specifically not allowed for students and young people, or in the context of religious orders which are successful and are spreading. Those who make such restrictions appear to want to stop the theological ideas implicit in the old Missal to infect new generations and new places, and are sometimes quite happy (or at least, a lot happier) to allow the Traditional Mass to be celebrated for the older generation.

This is not a wild-eyed conspiracy theory. It reflects the openly stated views of the more extreme liberals. Cardinal Ratzinger himself attributed opposition to the celebration of the Traditional Mass to a widespread rejection of the theology of Sacrifice as understood by the Council of Trent. The TLM was a 'most intolerable contradiction' of their (heretical) views. Ratzinger's call for the liberation of the ancient Mass, which he subsequently brought about at Pope, signalled that he had no problem with the theology of Trent, and that the Church as a whole has no problem with it. This was the necessary first step on what should be a process of the healing of discontinuities, real and perceived.

When bishops, religious superiors and indeed priests consider requests for the Traditional Mass, they would indeed do well to consider the effect that granting such a request will have on those supporters of the Mass who are tempted by the claims of radical discontinuity. Will refusing permission for the Vetus Ordo strengthen such temptations, or weaken them? The question answers itself.

The idea, in short, that denying people the Traditional Mass is an effective way of combatting the more extreme claims of some traditionalists is clearly false. The people making this argument simply can't have thought it through. It may be a way of punishing them - sure, and everyone else who would have benefited from the celebration. But in the Church punishments should be medicinal: they should aim at making things better. A punishment which makes things worse is just vindictive; it has no place in the Church.

Remember also that in giving permission, those exercising authority take control. They can determine who the celebrants will be. They can bring congregations out of private homes and irregular Mass centres. They can be visited by the Bishop, they will receive Episcopal letters to be read to the congregation. For a parish priest, bishop, or religious superior to prefer the Traditional Mass to be available only outside the official structures of the Church is... well let's just say it is extremely strange.

So the idea that the EF must sometimes be stopped because of 'extremists' is self-defeating. It is also hypocritical.

This is because of the obvious parallel with liturgical practices in the Novus Ordo. Think about when a bishop allows Altar Girls, Communion in the Hand, Communion Under Both Kinds on Sundays, and 'instituted' Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion: these all, remember, need the permission or intervention of the Bishop, and do so because of the dangers in them which were recognised explicitly when Rome gave permission for them. If the bishop were to ask himself: are these practices going to give comfort and support to radical liberals in the diocese who wish to undermine the teaching of the Church? the answer will very often be a very clear 'yes'.

Very little googling is needed to see liberals who want the ordination of women instrumentalising the permission for Altar Girls for their ideological ends. The connection between practices in which the Blessed Sacrament is treated with less reverence, and the undermining of the doctrine of the Real Presence, is obvious, and again these things are used by radical liberals to advance their theological agenda. It would be easy to give many more examples involving liturgical abuses which are in practice tolerated.

Do the bloggers who talk sadly about how those dreadful radical trads have made necessary the banning of the Traditional Mass in one place or another, do they go on to say that innumerable practices in the Novus Ordo have been made intolerable because of the way these are used by clearly heretical liberal extremists to further their goals? No doubt these bloggers don't entirely approve of these practices. But a sense of urgency and obviousness about how they should be immediately banned, regardless of the pastoral collateral damage, is strangely absent. They are, in short, applying different standards to traditionalists than they demand for everyone else.

But of course the parallel is not perfect. Because although banning the Traditional Mass is clearly counterproductive in opposing the claims of discontinuity used by extremists attached to the EF, banning the practices which are so useful to the projects of extremist liberals would not be counter-productive. The liberals' arguments make use of the fact that the practices in question have been officially approved. Again and again they say: Altar Girls have been officially approved, and this shows that that the traditional position on the role of women was just time-bound misogyny; any day now the Church must and will approve women priests. If Altar Girls were banned in more dioceses, this argument would lose its force.

To summarise: the argument that the official Church is today in radical discontinuity with the Tradition is strengthened by banning the TLM; the argument that soon the Church will allow the ordination of women and give up on the Real Presence would be weakened by banning the above-noted practices of the Novus Ordo which, it would seem, there is absolutely no appetite on anyone's part to ban. The claim that radical trads have to be slapped down by stopping celebrations of the Traditional Mass is, then, not only self-defeating but also hypocritical.


Here, as promised, is the classic expression of this argument, that moderate traditionalists should be punished for the misdemeanors of anyone who likes the Traditional Mass who expresses extreme views. It is from Bugnini's The Reform of the Liturgy pp295-7, talking about the very earliest days of the implementation of the Novus Ordo Missae.

'Not all traditionalist groups accepted the extreme conclusions of the most fanatical. Some [Eric de Savanthen and the FIUV] limited themselves to petitioning that "[the Traditional Mass] may have its place among the universally recognised rites for the celebration of Holy Mass." These groups regarded the Holy See's rejection of the petition as excessively harsh.'

'If there had not been the danger of seeming to approve the opposition between the Tridentine and Pauline Missals, as though the former, unlike the latter, was a symbol of orthodoxy, the Holy See would certainly have taken a more lenient attitude.'

That's right: kick the cat to punish the dog.


  1. This is an excellent commentary of our status and condition. You illustrate the unfairness and the hypocrisy we witness each day.

    But this is not news. And just as Jesus spoke of the laborers in the vineyard on Septuagesima Sunday, we should not expect fairness. On the contrary, we should know that we will be held to a standard driven by preconceived negative biases. And we must act accordingly. Continuing to support the fringe that directly challenges authority, or dismisses the validity of the NO, etc. serves only to hurt our cause - and pointing to heretical elements of the opposite fringe is a non-justification.

    This happens to be realpolitik that we face.

  2. Anonymous1:32 pm

    I'm assuming a lot of this is directed at Mark Shea, and good for you for challenging a blowhard on this.

    However, he does bring up one key point that might be material (and which the bishop never mentioned, so this may be entirely in Shea's mind): namely, that Universae Ecclesiae says this:

    19. The faithful who ask for the celebration of the forma extraordinaria must not in any way support or belong to groups which show themselves to be against the validity or legitimacy of the Holy Mass or the Sacraments celebrated in the forma ordinaria or against the Roman Pontiff as Supreme Pastor of the Universal Church.

    That may have been violated at the college in question.

    1. Vatican Council II is being interpreted with a false premise which makes the Council a break with Tradition. When the false premise, (of being able to see the dead saved in Heaven who are exceptions to the dogma on exclusive salvation in the Church, is not used the Council is traditional).The Council would then support the traditional views of the faculty at Fischer More College.

      However the Vatican Curia is interpreting Vatican Council II with the false premise. They are using the dead man walking and visible theory. So they want the traditionalists to offer the TLM using this irrationality.
      The Traditionalists need to clarify that there can be a rational and irrational interpretation of Vatican Council II, with or without the irrational premise.

    2. "I'm assuming a lot of this is directed at Mark Shea, and good for you for challenging a blowhard on this."

      Shea is hardly the only one to make this argument, but he is certainly one of the noisier (and more irrational, alas) ones.

      "That may have been violated at the college in question."

      I'm just about prepared to accept that it was, given what I have heard.

      But Dr. Shaw is right to ask: How many in a given community must hold such views to qualify for such a remedy? Why is the whole punished for the apparent transgressions of some? Are we not kicking the cats to punish the dog?

    3. Anonymous8:46 pm

      @Athelstane, we're all speculating as to whether this was even the bishop's objection (and we're trying, frankly, to retro-fit a rational cause into a seemingly irrational action).

      However, it's a good question you raise on how UE #19 is violated. It clearly was meant to apply to the SSPX and such, but it seems reasonable to me for a bishop to say it applies here. This is a college-run mass sponsored by a discrete group--the college--which seems to have drifted into ordinary form invalidites.

      What's the argument for UE #19 to NOT apply here?

    4. Hello Ryan,

      Let's go ahead and say for the sake of argument that it does apply here - that the college leadership seems to some real degree to "support or belong to groups which show themselves to be against the validity or legitimacy of the Holy Mass or the Sacraments celebrated in the forma ordinaria." Certainly that April 2013 lecture by Dr. Dudley (arguably the most senior and prominent faculty member) seems to fit that bill.

      If that is the case, however, it raises a far more grave issue about the college, and simply removing the TLM is like slapping a band-aid on a compound fracture. More to the point, it doesn't address options for offering an alternative daily TLM (by an approved priest) in close proximity (such as at St. Mary's) which is in fact what I think a lot of troubled traditionalist commentators have been urging, or asking about, this week. Because right now, any FMC students or staffers, or indeed *any* Catholic in the Fort Worth Diocese, who still want a daily TLM must now trek over diocesan lines to Mater Dei (FSSP) in Dallas, which is the better part of an hour away (sometimes longer) in rush hour traffic.

      And if you do that, you're taking the TLM off the table as an argument, leaving the focus back on the conduct of the administration. And you're providing a real pastoral response, one which will help to stave off the temptations of "claims of radical discontinuity."

  3. As for striving to be above reproach, of course traditional Catholics individually and as groups should do their best, and the Latin Mass Society has always gone the extra mile in this respect. But what exactly is being asked? That in any congregation there is not a single person whose views might be thought a little over the top?

    We are in danger here of saying that, to paraphrase Cardinal Kasper, the Eucharist is a reward for the perfect, and forgetting that it is medicine for the sick.

  4. Bishop Michael Olson could be assuming that the TLM rejects the New Revelation in Vatican Council II with the visible dead premise

  5. I sincerely hope that bishop Olsen reads this article, nay, even replies to it.

  6. We are in a period of profound division and between the forces of, what Benedict XVI called “Continuity” and those of progressive Relativism, who seek a “Secularised” Catholicism, in line with the shifting fashions of society. The bulk of the rapidly reducing laity is just carrying on, as they did when a profoundly different liturgy was introduced after Vatican II.

    Sadly, with the exception of Benedict XVI, I am not sure that recent Popes have appreciated how critical this split has become. The Relativists, were keeping their heads down under Benedict, and are now above the parapet again. They think their time has come, which may well explain the increasing restrictions on the Vetus Ordo.

    Well, we shall see. We mustn’t forget the Holy Spirit after all?

    It all hinges on the liturgy. The New Mass, while being valid, downplays the concepts Sacrifice, the Real Presence, and the Ordained Priesthood. That was intentional on the part of the ”liturgists” who designed it.

    I suspect it will be some time before this is resolved, but in the meantime, those of us who accept the ancient Mass as the True Catholic Mass, the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross for the Redemption of Mankind, must continue to also stay well above the parapet, and fearlessly defend the True Catholic Mass of Ages.

  7. Another great, incisive column, Dr. Shaw.

    Its apparent to me that there really are serious issues of governance and theology at Fisher More, ones that do require the local ordinary's urgent attention. But it's also apparent to me that the solution imposed by Bishop Olson is likely to do more than harm than good, for the reasons you give.

    Some have suggested that Pope Francis's chilly attitude toward traditionalists stems from his interaction with the large and boisterous traditional community in Argentina, which is heavily SSPX dominated, in a province where the Society has been unusually dominated by Richard Williamson. But how many traditionalists were driven to such unhealthy precincts because Argentine bishops have for over four decades adamantly refused even the smallest place in the life of the local church to tradition? How much unwitting support have they given to "claims of radical discontinuity?"

    But then perhaps for some such Church leaders, that's a feature, not a bug: to try to try to discredit tradition by driving it to the margins and thus further radicalize it. If so, however, it's not only profoundly unpastoral, it's revolutionary.

  8. Whenever people make this claim, I like to ask how many traditionalists they have for friends or talk with. Not facebook friends, not internet champ debates, but actual friends you socialize with, invite home for dinner, drinks, etc.

    The answer is almost ALWAYS zero amongst people who make this claim. It's mainly internet theorycrafting for them. For those of us who actually try to get rid of the reactionaries, we realize the exact opposite approach is required.

  9. On the subject of Universae Ecclesiae, this might be helpful:

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

  12. Anonymous1:16 am

    It's not an argument. It is wholly illogical and irrational. There can be no justification or authority for a bishop to mandate a substitution of the new Mass for the traditional Mass per se at a parish or chaplaincy. The question of possible matters at a Catholic college for which the local bishop has responsibility is an entirely different matter. The deliberate mixing of two independent matters is very disturbing; it cannot be done in good faith.

  13. Anonymous7:56 am

    I love how mild heretics keep trying to paint themselves as moderates, the true orthodox, caught between two extremes.

    It's not extremist to prefer the proper Mass and be honest about the heresy NO inspires, it's called honesty! (All the hypocritical coward "centrists" should try it some time rather than constantly attempting to come off as the adults and instead looking like borderline-heretic fools.)

  14. I think the overall point here is not the fine print of the law of UE or whatever else, but this view that somehow the Mass itself is the cause of theological problems. As if it were the Vetus Ordo that caused FMC or anyone else to hold extreme views and that a goodly does of the new Mass would solve the problems. Fact check here, heresy and schism existed long before the there was a new Mass and for the majority of the Church's history there have been heretics and schismatics. It seems quite clear that the problem is not the rite of Mass per se, but the lack of response to the grace in the Mass that leads to heresy and schism. Even supposing the, as yet unproven, gossipy, worst of FMC, its faculty and students, the fact of the matter is, it isn't the Mass that is the problem!

  15. This comment has been removed by the author.

  16. I want to bring up as a point that even before Bp. Olson's action parents were pulling students out of Fisher More because they perceived King and others pushing the school into schism; at this time, there are just over twenty students left. I stress: This was not the doing of the bishop but of the parents, parents who we're justified in presuming are traditionalists themselves.

    But moving on to William Peaden's point — the view "that somehow the Mass itself is the cause of theological problems" is the frame that Rorate Coeli and aligned blogs put it in, not necessarily Bp. Olson's. +Olson's actions become more comprehensible if the Latin Mass is being used as an instrument of advancing schismatic views. Think of it as the difference between a gun, purposely built as a weapon, and a baseball bat, created as a tool for a game but misused as a weapon. You do the same thing with the OF: you make it the cause rather than the instrument of progressivist heresy.

    Bloggers like those at Rorate Coeli go to some lengths to provide examples of liberal liturgical abuse, but as far as I can tell don't do any real follow-through to see if the respective bishops have in fact taken any action. But even where there is action, we may not hear about it because the bishops don't release press statements in these cases, and not everyone goes running to the blogosphere to yell, "Help! Help! I'm being repressed!", when their bishop slaps them down for misusing the liturgy. +Olson's letter, for example, was clearly written as a follow-up to a meeting earlier that day, and not intended for public release or consumption; how many such letters are delivered to priests and churches that misuse the OF we don't know precisely because they're private missives.

    One final thought: Your argument that Bp, Olson's action is counter-productive because it confirms traditionalist suspicions, it seems to me, indicts those traditionalist who do hold such suspicions. It says to me, "Hard-line traditionalists are under no obligation of Christian charity to give bishops the benefit of the doubt where the Latin Mass is concerned." That may not be what you're trying to say ... in which case, you may want to re-write what you in fact said so the chance of a misinterpretation is lessened.

    1. Three quick points.

      If you want to see people screeching about any and every attempt to rein in abuses in the OF, just look at Pray Tell blog.

      If the EF is irrelevant in the FMC case, why was it banned?

      Saying: 'this policy is only counter-productive because of the sins of the guys on the other side of the argument' does NOT stop the policy being counter-productive.