Friday, November 18, 2016

Young trads: faddish and rigid

Dominican High Mass in Oxford with the Latin Mass Society
The Holy Father's discussion of the motivation of young people who like the Traditional Mass has been somewhat eclipsed by other news, but I wanted to come back to it. There is more than has usually been quoted; here's a bit more context from Rorate Caeli.

I ask him: "Other than those who are sincere and ask for this possibility out of habit or devotion, can this desire express something else? Are there dangers?"

[Pope:] "I ask myself about this. For example, I always try to understand what is behind those individuals who are too young to have lived the pre-Conciliar liturgy, and who want it nonetheless. I have at times found myself in front of people who are too rigid, an attitude of rigidity. And I ask myself: how come so much rigidity? You dig, you dig, this rigidity always hides something: insecurity, at times perhaps something else... [sic] The rigidity is defensive. True love is not rigid."

I insist: what about tradition? Some understand it in a rigid way.

[Pope:] "But no: tradition blooms!" he responds. "There is a Traditionalism that is a rigid fundamentalism: it is not good. Faithfulness instead implies a growth. Tradition, in the transmission from one age to the next of the deposit of the faith, grows and consolidates with the passage of time, as Saint Vincent of Lérins said in his Commonitorium Primum

One problem with understanding this is that good traditionalists have been excluded: Pope Francis is being asked about the people who don't seek out the EF because of 'devotion', which is presumably regarded by the intereviewer, Fr Spadaro, as an acceptable motivation. ('Habit' seems a bit more dubious.) The question is: why are bad traddies attracted by tradition? The way Pope Francis responds might suggest that the category of 'young trad' excludes the possibility of preferring the EF out of 'devotion', but of course we may not be getting his ipsissima verba, so we shouldn't lend too much weight to such nuances.

This is not the first time the Pope has proferred an explanation for this phenomenon, of the young attracted to Tradition. This is what he said to a group of Cezch bishops who were in Rome for an ad limina. Again, from Rorate Caeli.

[Abp. Jan Graubner speaks:] When we were discussing those who are fond of the ancient liturgy and wish to return to it, it was evident that the Pope speaks with great affection, attention, and sensitivity for all in order not to hurt anyone. However, he made a quite strong statement when he said that he understands when the old generation returns to what it experienced, but that he cannot understand the younger generation wishing to return to it. "When I search more thoroughly - the Pope said - I find that it is rather a kind of fashion [in Czech: 'móda']. And if it is a fashion, therefore it is a matter that does not need that much attention. It is just necessary to show some patience and kindness to people who are addicted to a certain fashion. But I consider greatly important to go deep into things, because if we do not go deep, no liturgical form, this or that one, can save us."

It is helpful to put the two passages side by side. They have in common the Pope's puzzlement, and his coming up with an explanation which is unflattering. But the two descriptions are mutually exclusive.

What is rigidity? It means an attachment to principles; since this is derogatory, the attachment is excessive, or the principles themselves are mistaken. It implies stubborness, an inability to change, even when one should.

What is it to be 'addicted to a certain fashion'? To fall victim to fashion is to change from one thing to another; since this is derogatory, the implication is that the change is not a good one. Fashion victims are people without inner stability, without principles, when they should have them, such as would prevent one being blown every which way when fashions sweep in.

It is very interesting that the Pope should say, one day, that Tradition is a unhealthy fashion which has swept overly impressionable young people off their feet. And then, a few months later, after further reflection, that Tradition is a refusal to follow fashion, a refusal to adapt to the times, a refusal to receive impressions from outside.

Could it in some way be both? Young traddies fail to have the right principles, so they are swept up by a fashion, and they acquire the wrong principles, which they then stick to in an unreasonable way. This diagnosis is just about possible for one person, who undergoes a surprising change of personality halfway through the process, but it couldn't work for as an explanation of a whole movement. The idea, after all, is to explain traditionalism in terms of a particular character trait which traddies have. Is that trait the trait of being impervious to fashion, or being too open to it? It really can't be both.

When one meets this kind of incoherent account of a person't personality, it is an indication that the person giving the explanation hasn't grasped something. If your explanation of why Napoleon invaded Russia is psychologically incompatible with your explanation of why he signed a Concordat with the Church, then you need a new one.

What is it that Pope Francis can't understand? I am sure it would help him in his 'digging' if he actually met some young traditionalists, spent some time with them, and listened to them. As far as I know he has never done this. What might he discover?

He might discover that young Catholics who find out about the recent history of the Church, and of the liturgy, frequently have the impression that they have discovered something rather exciting, something rather glorious, which has been hitherto hidden from them. This is not about succumbing to a fashion, and it is still less about refusing to move with the times. It is an authentic, personal response to newly available information, and a newly discovered liturgical experience.

This response, of recognising the sacrality and spiritual value of the ancient liturgical tradition, is exactly the same response as that made by Catholics of previous generations, including all the saints of the past. They all loved the Mass, they all recognised Christ in it, and it was the ancient Mass which they were loving, if we go back beyond the mid-1960s. The only difference is that the yong trads of today often discover it only after a childhood of experiencing the Novus Ordo.

This phenomenon cannot be explained by reference to a personality disorder of a minority of young people. The realisation that the ancient Mass is something distinct and interesting is going to hit every young Catholic exposed to it from now on, and at least some of them will like it. It is as simple as that, and it isn't going to go away.

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  1. «Who am I to judge them?» (Pope Francis, talking about homosexuals).

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. "I ask myself about this. For example, I always try to understand what is behind those individuals who are too young to have lived the pre-Conciliar liturgy, and who want it nonetheless." - I occasionally entertain a train of thought that the Pope is a bit Machiavellian and that his apparent vagueness and begging the question in is statements is in an attempt to create a sort of Streisand effect in order to excite interest in true Church doctrine. Basically - Shit Testing Catholics to get them back on their game (if that makes sense).

  3. Anonymous12:13 pm

    Actually, this is the common mentality of the vast majority of Catholic priests and bishops. They do not care about Catholic Tradition and Tridentine Liturgy as they do not care about asceticism, contemplative life or about heroically living the Christian virtues. The Holy Father is just expressing his own prejudices regarding multi-millennial i.e. traditional Catholicism. This type of understanding is the direct result of the adulterous relationship established with the modern world and its anti-christian values. From their point of view it is much more desirable to meet rock teenagers who pretend that they are Catholics (like in those profane "World Youth Days" events) instead of having young people who like the Liturgy of the Ages and classical Catholic spirituality. Let say the entire truth (even if we like it or not) proclaimed by Our King and Lord, Jesus Christ: "How narrow is the gate, and strait is the way that leadeth to life: and few there are that find it! (Matthew 7, 14)"

  4. It is his apparent ability to read the hearts and minds of whyole groups of people from such distance that is jaw-droppingly amazing. Who would have thunk it?

    OTOH, this could be the age-old phenomenon that is observed among narcissists: projecting their own prejudices onto other people.

  5. Your appraisal of what the Pope states is correct, but I will add the following. It is also clear that the Pope does not understand the subtle nuances of what he is talking about, and surely he has never really spoken to a youth attending the TLM.

    There are some rigid Catholics in the TLM, but it is not a phenomena exclusively linked to the Latin Mass (in fact the number of rigid Catholics in the TLM is relatively low when compared to other groups). The most rigid of Catholics are a particular strand of conservative Catholic who attends the New Mass. They have tried for a number of years to change things for the better, but have consistently failed and become extremely bitter, often forgotten who Christ is, and have ended up treating Catholicism as a jousting contest. Rigidity begins to rule the day. Christian Order and Pro-Ecclessia et Pontefice are prime examples of this. Although they 'publicly' support the TLM, many of their members still attend the New Mass, and you can hear the bitterness in their writing, and when you speak to them.

    Also, the numerous neo-conservative Catholics (found commenting on Mark Lambert' s 'We are Catholics' FB page, Clare Shorts FB page, and Fr. Heilmans page etc) are also becoming overly rigid. Rigidity is primarily a consequence of Catholics becoming increasingly bitter at their treatment. They are becoming bitter, because the people on those forums want what we have in the TLM, but are beginning to realise that they are never going to get it in their mainstream churches. However, despite this they still refuse to attend the TLM, and as a consequence become even more disillusioned, bitter, and hence rigid.

    Ironically, the most rigid TLM people are those who have just jumped over from neo-conservatism (i.e. the second generation of neo-coservatives), who haven't left their baggage at the door, and who haven't embraced traditional devotions yet (various aspects are too detailed to mention here).

    I have seen very little evidence of our young Juventutem Catholics being over rigid, but they do have great devotion in Christ.

    1. Come on, stop add fuel to the idea that "rigidity" is bad. Rigidity is good. Are we supposed to rigidly insist on holding all Catholic doctrine? I would think the answer is YES!

      So rigidity is desirable.

    2. No rigidity is not "desirable", as you put it.

      You have to keep two concepts in your head at the same time.

      Rigidity yes, but not when it is isolated from authentic devotional practices, which should be practiced daily. Without this, rigidity is futile.

  6. Well I'm sorry to say it but, having learnt (from another essay on the same subject) what the words "nostalgia" and "rigid" mean, in the context of the Pope's discourse, I have reached the conclusion that the only person who exhibits those character traits is the Pope himself. It is the Pope who displays an unreasonable attachment to the society of his early adulthood, it is the Pope who unreasonably rejects any way of seeing things that lies outside the parameter of his own vision and refuses to embrace change, it is the Pope who shows signs of insecurity; and it is the Pope, lacking introspection, projects these character defects onto other people.

  7. The young people at the Traditional Mass want the ancient Catholic Mass of St Gregory the Great and confirmed by Pope St Pius V and confirmed in Quo Primum. That is a deepening of Faith, which is proper.

    Fondness does not come into the Gregorian Mass although it does come in to the current attraction to the myriad of versions we now have of the Pauline Mass.

  8. What is funny is that far more unacceptable things are tried, crossing over to liturgical abuse territory, to attract youth. You have things like World Youth Day which most people actually may attend to just take a trip to a different country or some other questionable reason.

    But if a young person goes to attend the traditional Latin mass, the Pope gets puzzled and has nothing good to say.

  9. Anonymous7:23 am

    You have to wonder what he thinks of the Eastern Catholics and Eastern Orthodox who have the same 1500 year old liturgy.

    He has praised their liturgy in the past, but given his complete lack of understanding of TLM which shares the same core elements, you have to wonder if he's sincere. Alternately he might be a dilatant snob that thinks foreign things are good because they are "exotic" and the exact same thing locally is "crass" because they're more appreciated by the common man locally.

  10. Imagine a universe without "rigidity". With no up no down, without yes or no, real and unreal. Imagine the universe as this pope and his followers would like it to be. Bet you can't.

  11. I am not that the Pope's words need such exegesis. They are just plain rude.

  12. I think we could use some more rigidity in a society where watching pornography is almost as normal as eating and drinking.

  13. A young drug addict and pusher of my acquaintance had a mystical experience and welcomed Christ into his life. He turned up at the traditional Mass at St Bede's recently. Asked for his thoughts, he exclaimed, "I thought I'd died and gone to Heaven man. Why has no one told me about this before?"

  14. I am 55, the father of four. We go to a TLM about twice a month. It feels like a different religion--the real one. We know that Christ is present and offered at the NO, but He is not worthily welcomed there, often thru no fault of our fellow Catholics.