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Is There a PR Campaign Against Traditionalists…….. May 25, 2017

Posted by Tantumblogo in Basics, catachesis, Dallas Diocese, General Catholic, Grace, Interior Life, Latin Mass, mortification, scandals, Society, the struggle for the Church, Tradition, true leadership, Virtue.

…….or is there a resurgence in stereotypical “bad Trad” behavior in parishes that offer the TLM?

Dear reader SB, who I value so much in real life as a great sounding board to bounce ideas off, since SB has been around the TLM since ’91 (two decades more than me), sent me a link to this post at Unam Sanctam Catholicam some time ago.  I had been meaning to get to it, but then a few days ago another reader, MFG, sent me links to two other similar postings (here and here).  MFG wondered if this was perhaps part of some campaign to either give TLMers a bad name or to put them in a box, the suspicion being that perhaps this effort had something to do with the looming SSPX “reconciliation.”

Now, about these posts and the posters.  Of the three, I have total respect for Unam Sanctam Catholicam and know he’s a straight shooter duly reporting what he’s been told.  I also know there is no “agenda” there save perhaps for genuine concern about the health of TLM communities and the continued availability of the ancient Mass.  We all know Father Z and you can draw your own conclusions.  As for the final link above, it’s from the progressive-modernist Commonweal and I would treat any report by them with great skepticism.

Tying all this together for me personally was two sermons given by our pastor lately basically also imploring the faithful not to be “bad trads” by making others feel bad or engaging in much, if any, fraternal correction save in obvious or dire situations.

I won’t get into any of the particular posts but I’ll just share my own experience and my take on this sudden rash of posts seeming to say very much the same thing.  But before I do that I should share a bit about me.  Perhaps you’ve noticed but I really don’t give two shakes what anybody thinks about me.  That’s not entirely true – I’m extremely concerned what my wife, children, and other family and close friends think of me – but generally I’m not out to get people’s approval.  If they like me, fine, if they think I’m an asshole, bully for you and move on along.  I’ve also got a fairly thick skin and don’t mind sharing my opinion (obviously) nor hearing those of others, especially from those I have learned through experience to respect.  I’m generally reserved in real life but if people ask my opinion or I get drawn into a conversation then I don’t mind sharing it.  Having said that, save for close friends and family directly seeking counsel, I virtually never “correct” anyone in their behavior even if I have an issue with it.  However, I’m also perfectly willing to hear correction or exhortations to do better from others and I gladly received just such an exhortation as recently as last week.  Much depends on the source and how it is conveyed, of course.

That being said, the report I take the most seriously is the one from Unam Sanctam Catholicam (USC).  As I said, I trust the source implicitly but I’ve got to say I have rarely heard or seen any evidence of the type of behavior he’s describing – the typical trads complaining because the maniple is tied wrong or the Latin pronunciation is inexact.  I’ll take USCs word for it that he heard that from certain priests but I’m a bit skeptical that the priests were really receiving hyper-critical comments with any regularity.  There could also be a phenomenon at work where a priest going out on a limb expects a lot of praise and adulation from those he’s taking a risk for – and offering the TLM in most dioceses is hardly career enhancing and often career-threatening, so I certainly understand the expectation of praise from the faithful – which might cause even occasional negative comments to be blown out of proportion.  Now really I don’t know anything about the situation or the priests involved so I really shouldn’t comment but I’ll simply state this kind of hyper-critical behavior is, in my experience, quite rare.  It’s also so stereotypical of the “bad trad” behavior that was repeated uncritically in the conservativish Catholic press for a quarter century or more that it sort of sets off alarm bells in the back of my mind.  That’s all I’ll say about that.

Moving onto the subject of the local sermons, an exhortation to be very careful when applying fraternal correction, I thought the priest might have gone a bit far in some of his examples/verbiage but the overall point was certainly fine and well-taken.  I am certain this sermon was a reaction to reports/complaints the priest has received.  Now whether those episodes of correction that led to complaints were really malicious or simply misplaced zeal – or even people trying to assuage their own consciences that they are doing right, finding strength in number or whatever – I tend to imagine it is the latter far more than the former.

I also realize not everyone is like me.  Whereas I might hear someone extolling me to lead my family more in communal prayer as a well-meaning concern for my soul and the souls of my family, some people find this kind of talk threatening or as some kind of rebuke.  Perhaps it’s just my jerky nature but when someone goes to pieces because another person extolled the virtues of homeschooling to them (assuming decent tact and decorum) and they’re not homeschooling, well, toughen up buttercup.  That’s no reason to have a 30 minute crying jag in Father’s office.  Again, much would depend on the nature of the relationship between the people involved and what exactly was said, but I’m extremely skeptical that there is much in the way of malicious put-downs or hyper-critical correction going on – at least in the limited TLM communities I’ve been exposed to.

More often than not it’s probably just someone a little bit too on fire for a certain subject that comes on a bit strong.  I don’t see that as “bad Trad” behavior at all.  It’s probably just an error of judgment or a mild personality defect.

Really though outside relatively close personal relationships or directly-sought counsel we lay people probably don’t need to be doing a great deal of direct correcting of each other.  If you see something amiss repeatedly with someone who should no better, probably the best course of action is to quietly bring it to the attention of the competent priest and let them deal with it.  In my experience, they will generally follow through (and do a better job than we would), though it may not happen instantly as we would like.  (or am I being squishy here?  Is the crisis in the Faith so dire the times demand broad sweeping intervention into other’s business?)

At the same time I also think priests and laity should not be so delicate as to get upset about perceived correction (which may be simply a misinterpreted general exhortation).  The priests related by USC, especially, I think did not have the right reasons for offering the TLM.  Certainly there is a pastoral side to making the TLM available, but the real reason for offering ANY Mass is to render worthy honor and glory to God.  The Mass is the ONLY efficacious Sacrifice that is pleasing to God.  Since the TLM is so demonstrably superior in both form and effect every priest should be eager to offer the TLM at every possible alternative, and should not get discouraged if the faithful are not as appreciative and uncritical as he would like.  That’s probably expecting too much from frail human nature but nevertheless I think priests who stop offering the TLM because the laity are not docile enough or appreciative enough for his taste is, I think, pretty weak tea.

As to whether this is an anti-TLM PR campaign I think probably not, it’s probably just coincidence, but you know the old Hardy Boy’s formula: once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, thrice is CONSPIRACY!!  I think in this internet age, however, where people are hard up for content and want to attract attention, that formula probably needs some modification.

What do you think, or what is your experience?  Is there still a problem of mean ‘ol judgy trads wagging their fingers in innocent faces and driving people away from the TLM?  The way our local parish is growing, I’d have to say their failing if their intent is to keep people away.  Is there a problem with maybe a bit too zealous, perhaps a bit brittle and damaged trads getting too much into other’s business?  I still think my answer would be generally no (SB says she used to see this as a big problem, but not so much anymore).

Or perhaps are Trads and Trad priests maybe so set in their ways and so sure of being right they can’t take correction even when it’s well placed and deserved?



1. Baseballmomof8 - May 25, 2017

Although I attend NO, (offered very reverently) I have attended many Tridentine Rite Masses and did experience some older ladies being upset over the priest holding his hands incorrectly or not pronouncing Latin correctly. It was off putting to me, but that’s about it. Like you, I tend to be thick skinned and actually welcome those who correct me, it’s the only spiritual direction I get these days 🙂 That said, I did not like seeing priests who were, as you said, going out on a limb and doing their best to offer the TLM being criticized by the congregants. I thought it was tacky, thoughtless, uncharitable and rude.

2. Richard Malcolm - May 25, 2017

The COMMONWEAL hit job on the Oratory (in St Louis) of the Institute of Christ the King was the one that really got under my skin, since I actually attended the Oratory at the time Eric Brende was there, and I retain friends there. There were so many inaccuracies – not to say outright calumnies – that my blood was boiling by the third paragraph.

And it is hard to figure out why COMMONWEAL would print such a personal jeremiad, nearly a decade on, unless it was found useful as a way of discrediting Cardinal Burke at just the moment when his public witness against the present pontificate’s follies has achieved a special salience.

I think this is all less conspiracy than a moment of especially acute conflict, in which traditionalism has become more visible, and thus an easier target for progressives who sense it as a threat to their final effort to secure control of the Church hierarchy once and for all.

The traditional world is a diverse place, and like any social milieu it has its pathologies and problematic personalities. There are indeed, from time to time, the sort of trads who are their (and our) own worst enemies. Marginalized communities do tend to draw marginal personalities. But I agree with your sense that these stereotypes occur far less in reality than in the hostile caricatures of others. And I think Brian Williams at The Liturgy Guy and Joseph Shaw at LMSChairman have answered pretty well the allegations made by the priests highlighted at Unam Sanctum.

Tantumblogo - May 26, 2017

You are right about the Commonweal piece, and if the post already weren’t so long, I would have said a great deal more against it, but considering the source, I just discounted it.

I also did not the know backstory as you do. Thank you for sharing this.

3. The Lord's Blog - May 26, 2017

Reblogged this on Jean'sBistro2010's Blog.

4. DM - May 26, 2017

In my experience, the exact opposite is true. Things had become so lax at the diocesan TLMs I used to attend, I had to stop going. And it wasn’t anything to do with nitpicky details of how the priests celebrated Mass. I was never able to be in a proper state of mind to worship God or pray because the behaviour and deportment of the congregation was so disrespectful, immodest and irreverent, almost indistinguishable from a Novus Ordo. My disgust and scandal at this, combined with the complete lack of correction on the part of priests or anyone else, just led to things growing worse and I eventually quit going. Moving to the SSPX was probably the single best decision I’ve made regarding my faith, for a whole host of reasons.
Sorry, I place absolutely zero credence in these trad-bashing reports.

Camper - May 26, 2017

Reading your post was good. It is unfortunate that conditions at the Diocesan TLMs are so bad, but what can one expect out of hack NO bishops? Even Cardinal Burke isn’t actively criticizing Pope Francis. They are walkovers. St. Paul, in contrast, criticized St. Peter to his face.

Richard Malcolm - May 26, 2017

I think it varies, honestly.

Certainly the diocesan TLM I work with right now doesn’t exemplify those behaviors. But I will add that I have come across a parish TLM or two where the vibe is more “N.O.” I think it just depends on the parish.

Tantumblogo - May 26, 2017

Thanks for the point of view. Interesting report, I will keep it in mind.

5. skeinster - May 26, 2017

First question: no, there is not a campaign.

The subject keeps being brought up b/c it continues to be a problem. Checking my sermon notes, we have had 9 sermons on fraternal correction, sins of the tongue or Trad problems, from 9-13 to date. That averages out ot one every six months or so.

If I still had my ctngreg.org password, you could see that twenty years ago, I was a very boring advocate for not driving off visitors by being asses.

Over time, the nature of the problem has changed, though. Back in the day, it was more theological purity, adherence to the party line re: Church affairs and some criticism of Father, when he celebrated differently than folks rememberd from their childhoods in the ’30’s, 40’s and 50’s.

We didn’t have a proper parish, so we didn’t have parish activities, or a homeschool co-op or other chances for mean girl behaviours to arise- which is what, per Father’s sermon, we are seeing more of now.
( And since you don’t hang out in mom groups, that’s why you might be doubting this really is a thing.)

6. skeinster - May 26, 2017

9breaking up my wall o’text)

Been giving this some serious thought, and this is what I’ve come up with. As time passes, our young families are trying to recover Tradition from vintage books, more or less accurate recollections of their elders and the Internet. They desperately want to do the right thing for the sake of their families, but they are flying by the seat of their pants and battling an all pervasive hostile society.

So, they have cobbled together a blueprint for how to achieve this goal. And given the seriousness of the matter – eternal life- and the lack of support our there, any deviation from the Plan, no matter how slight, is cause for criticism. People are letting the side down.

(And you are quite right- some of this is simply too much enthusiasm for life-style decisions that are non-essential, but treated as if they were. And there is both simply concern for others, as well as a need for affirmation.)

Tantumblogo - May 26, 2017

Always appreciate your comments skeinster. Thank you for the thoughts.

Baseballmomof8 - May 27, 2017

Excellent comment. No matter what, old sparky looks for our Achilles heel and goes for it. He does not care how we err…. only THAT we err. He is happy to accommodate our preferences.

7. Molly Alley - May 27, 2017

I’ve never understood all the complaints about “bad trads”. There’s been a few incorrect trads (ex. thinking that only the small chasubles are traditional), but I’ve never heard anything offensive. I wear pants to a Vetus Mass every week, and if what I’ve heard is to be believed, I should be constantly surrounded by people telling me to put on a skirt, but no one has ever mentioned it to me.

Ben - May 27, 2017

Please don’t wear pants ever. It is much more important than wearing a chapel veil. Fr. Wolfe says to get scissors and cut womens’ pants up, since womens’ pants don’t fit men and vice versa.

skeinster - May 27, 2017

And yet- I’m pretty sure that if I explained to Fr. W. that my non-Catholic spouse finds skirts only weird and irritating, he’d cut me some slack in the cause of family peace.

In our enthusiasm, we sometimes elevate non-essential praxis to the level of dogma and apply it indiscrminately.
One of Fr.’s points inj his sermon that started all this was that we don’t know what’s going on in people’s lives. There might be an excellent reason why they’re not adopting All Things Traditional..

Sorry to hog the thread, but not running off innocent seekers is a subject dear to my heart.

Ben - May 30, 2017

There is nothing wrong with politely demanding that women dress decently. The objective standards for female decency were enunciated by the Cardinal Vicar of Pius XI in 1931: knees covered by a skirt, no tight fitting clothing, upper arms covered, and no neckline lower than two inches below the pit of the throat.

skeinster - May 27, 2017

Or they might be well-trained…
Look, it varies a lot. Let’s just say there’s enough of a problem for our rep to not be entirely unearned.
It is lovely that you haven’t experienced any of it..

Richard Malcolm - May 28, 2017

1. “Let’s just say there’s enough of a problem for our rep to not be entirely unearned.”

I’ll agree with that.

Mostly unearned. There are the occasional exceptions – just rarer than stereotype would make out (in my experience).

2. We are obviously seeing unprecedented numbers of (mostly young) Catholic new to tradition showing up, and a little forbearance is needed on the dress codes, especially in diocesan TLM’s. Usually new people catch on fairly soon. Not every congregation is as well trained as Mater Dei.

8. Chris Baran - May 30, 2017

From Richard Malcolm’s post: “Marginalized communities do tend to draw marginal personalities.” I agree with this analysis. I attend a Diocesan TLM, our community has struggled to maintain our TLM for many years, and we do have a few very marginal personalities in our community. I have personally never heard criticisms, yet our Sacristans have informed me that there are plenty of complaints coming to them, regarding each and every little slip our priest may make (who is new to this), while celebrating the Mass. Our current priest has little love for the TLM, and is offering it under obedience, so I can only imagine his view of our group, when receiving this sort of criticism. I wonder if he understands that the folks making these complaints are the older crowd who have been marginalized and ghettoized for so many years, always fighting for their right to this Mass. I think there is exhaustion and lack of patience, where once there was charity.

I would put money down that there are even more complainers in NO parishes, where Orthodox Catholics must put up with so many abuses to the Liturgy, when there is no TLM available to them. Yet, I’ve never seen an article addressing this situation. I certainly (and proudly) wore that mantle for years, until my soul got too weary fighting what I thought was the good fight in my own parish, and made the move to the TLM.

Richard Malcolm - May 30, 2017

Hello Chris,

Such trads do exist (though I have been fortunate not to run into them very often). You can’t control their behavior, but I would recommend making a point of expressing your appreciation to the priest in various ways, and encourage others to do so.

Hopefully, as time goes on and the Traditional Mass becomes more common, the old defensive postures and pathologies (however driven by hierarchical persecution) will ease off.

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