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In a Church in Chaos, Don’t Let Perfect Be the Enemy of Good Enough October 17, 2019

Posted by Tantumblogo in asshatery, blogfoolery, Dallas Diocese, error, foolishness, General Catholic, Latin Mass, pr stunts, sadness, self-serving, Society, the struggle for the Church, Tradition, Virtue.

An article appeared at the generally strong Federalist a few weeks ago, which surprisingly centered on a disgruntled TLM-er – or former traddie – listing the manifest failures of the TLM parish from their point of view.  It seemed to me a rather strange choice for The Federalist, as they normally do politics from a reliably right wing perspective and most often are out there excoriating Never Trumpers, and rightly so.  But, whatevs.   You should read the whole thing.  I’d appreciate your insight on it.

Now, a few things up front. I happen to know the author.  Not really, but I’ve seen him.  He’s been around pretty regularly for several years.  I think he was in one of the choirs at one point. I don’t think I’ve ever spoken to him. And, the parish he was criticizing was my own, or, at least, given that he regularly assisted there off and on for years I’d tend to think it figured largely in his thinking.   I say that out front to let you know that I have a bit of a vested interest in this matter– this is the parish I have chosen to plight my troth with and raise my children in.  I am well aware of the limitations of traditional Catholicism generally in this time of unprecedented crisis, and of the priestly fraternity that operates the parish I attend, and of the parish itself.  The author, Auguste Meyrat, repeats many of the shopworn criticisms of traditional parishes – an ostensible lack of charity, the people are “weird” or “extreme” (but that tattooed, plate-lipped RCIA instructor at Our Lady of Feelin’ Good is groovy), not enough involvement or social outlets for single people in particular, etc.

All this could be taken as a given.  Virtually any parish, anywhere, that has not been led by Saint X, has suffered general lack of virtue.  That is our human nature. Even the parishioners of St. Jean Marie Vianney were the objects of constant, stinging rebukes from that great Saint, and his people were, especially after the first few years, souls who had been formed and influenced by someone virtually all the parishioners knew would be canonized someday.  This is the nature of any moderately sized grouping of people.  Souls gonna sin.  It’s our nature.  That doesn’t mean we don’t constantly strive for improvement.  Of course we do, and we need to hear correction from time to time, especially from our priests, who know our collective and individual failings far better than any layman ever could.

But that’s not my principle problem with this piece criticizing my parish.  My principle problem is the tone, the overall nastiness of the criticisms, the sense of entitlement, and the overweening lack of gratitude present.  To take a few examples (my comments):

………….TLM parishes can sometimes become unwelcoming places that feel more like strange cults than normal Catholic communities.” [oh?  What does a “normal” Catholic community feel like?]

……….This stance often makes some traditional Catholics weird, for lack of a better word. In their minds, countless Freemasons lurk in the shadows, the South really will rise again, monarchy is the ideal form of government, all music after 1700 is sinful, and the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy is the greatest work of literature after the Bible. [Huh.  I find Tolkein boring.  Sorry.  I got 50 pages into The Hobbit and quit.  Funny the author just quoted Taylor Marshall’s Infiltration (I did not include), and now drops this remark about Freemasons.  The South will what?  Monarchy?  Music what? What the heck are you talking about?  Speaking of, the author quotes Father Ripperger lovingly, and yet Father Ripperger has a lot negative to say about virtually any 20th century music.  So which is it?]

They believe the mainstream church is a disgrace, and everything outside the church is an apocalyptic wasteland. In response, they hope to create isolated, self-sustaining communities to buffet the tides of immorality and impiety surrounding them. [Yeah. Exactly.  Seriously, that’s one of the best descriptions for why I’m a traditional Catholic. It’s like the first rule of medicine – first, do no harm.  Protect what you have.  Defend your family.  Most of us find we have more than enough to fill our time doing just that. But some of us do occasionally make efforts to convert the wider culture.]

The more normal traditional Catholics at these parishes often go to great lengths to contain the nuttiness. [Really. Explain how.] Depending on the parish and the priests running it, they may succeed, or else they may find themselves falling into the same patterns. Without occasional outside contact, there is no reality check. [We live in a time where “outside contact” is practically unavoidable.  Be it radio, TV, internet, co-workers, neighbors, family, shopping, etc, the most insulated Catholics of today probably encounter 100 times as many people in a year than the most outgoing villagers and isolated farmers – the normative Catholic of 1700 – did.  This is silly.  Note also the author siting himself with the “normals.”  In this time of rampant sodomy, four year old transvestites, baby murder, drug addiction, unconstrained usury and rapacious capitalism, etc……..is that what’s being called “normal?”]

I could go on, but I’ll desist (in fact, I left out some of the harshest stuff).  I think you have by now gotten the tenor of the piece, and why I take exception to it.  It’s painting with a very coarse brush, and does not give anywhere near the exculpation for supposedly strange Trad behaviors that people might rightly deserve – such as the trauma at seeing friends and loved ones consumed and destroyed by this culture, the hatred and vitriol directed at them by the institutional Church, the destructive errors emanating from virtually every Novus Ordo pulpit every Sunday (let alone Rome and this pope, which the author essentially ignores or downplays to a level of insouciance) that lead souls to destruction in this life and in the next.  Again, I could go on and on.  If some Trads are extreme, if they tend towards a bit of strange behavior, perhaps they could be forgiven, for the damage they’ve incurred and the treatment they’ve been exposed to.

My real riposte to Meyrat, however, would be compared to what ideal are the current afficianados of the TLM so deficient?  Compared to some other parish?  Some Novus Ordo parish, perhaps?  If that’s the case, I’d say there is much more going on here than just a bit of concern about bad attitudes evidenced from time to time.

Or perhaps the comparison is to some hypothetical ideal that exists only in the author’s mind?  I suspect that’s the more likely.  Certainly, compared to some real Catholic communities that have existed, led by exceptional souls cooperating with grace in superhuman ways that have been the ideals towards which all Catholic communities have pointed for 2000 years, every Trad parish falls short.  Of course, so does every Novus Ordo parish, and to a remarkably greater degree.   Those past communities were led by people who now have “Saint” in front of their names.  These saintly communities rarely had to deal with both a culture and a Church in such utter, deplorable crisis and moral depravity.  But, nevertheless, if this is the ideal the author, strongly influenced, it seems, by Father Chad Ripperger, holds, then so be it.  This is rightly the ideal towards which all Catholic communities should aim.

But I still take exception to the type and manner of criticisms made.  I don’t think it’s helpful for people to be made fun of or made to seem ridiculous for failing to live up to the very highest standards of Catholic formation and community life of the past 2000 years, and I think to some extent that’s what’s going on here. In addition, the piece as a whole had far too much of the sense of an almost anthropological examination of some strange tribe, some “other” to be analyzed and criticized, but not joined or properly understood, rather like the author viewed himself as somehow above or separate from the community.

And that’s another point.  Our family has been very involved in this parish for 10 years.  My wife, particularly, knocks herself out, especially with regard to the high school co-op.  I’ve done a thing or two myself.  This is my biggest problem with Mater Dei.  While the parish has grown from 300 to 1800 in 10 years, the same 30 people seem to do 90% of the labor at the parish.  That’s not entirely true, speaking totally extemporaneously, out of every 100 new parishioners about 1 or 2 will come on board and really help out.  It’s a lot easier to just sit back and criticize and find fault, than to join in and help out and build up.  What?

The author was worried that weirdo trads are going to keep the TLM phenomenon from growing.  I think his analysis is quite off here, too. First, we can only plant, God alone gives the increase, but I think these pieces excoriating wide swaths of the TLM movement as strange, mean, and ugly do far more to keep souls away than the behavior of the 3 or 5% of stereotypical angry old Trads.  While I wouldn’t exactly describe this piece at The Federalist as being another circular firing squad amont Trads, it comes close, and does probably more harm than good, certainly more than the author intended.  In fact, I think broad criticisms like this are singularly unhelpful, especially published in a secular venue where lack of nuance can easily lead large numbers of people to develop the wrong idea.

I would also add that it is remarkable that for such deficient community, it is amazing that Mater Dei has managed to grow 600% over the past decade.  If the souls assisting at Mater Dei were anything like the author describes, that growth would have been impossible.  Virtually any other parish, Novus Ordo or TLM, would love to have had such growth over the same timeframe.  I don’t think that is accidental, or would have been possible with such a toxic community as described in the piece.   The same goes for the other regional TLMs in Tyler, Fort Worth, Houston, and Oklahoma City, to varying degrees.

Alright, I’m done defending my parish.  It’s not that I think this parish, or TLM parishes in general, are above criticism.  Certainly, I’ve had some things to say in the past, but generally much more specific and to the point.  It’s more that I think this particular criticism was off base, and may have said a bit more about the author than it did the parish.  Naturally, in matters such as this, your mileage may vary.  If the author had other parishes in mind when crafting this piece, my analysis still applies, though somewhat less forcefully and specifically.  I think the trope of “mean old trads” and traditional Catholic moral deficiences – as a group, as opposed to individuals – needs to die, or at least be something we see far, far less of.  Or of which we see far, far less, for the English teachers out there.


1. Julia Augusta - October 17, 2019

I go to the TLM in many countries. The people in the parishes are always welcoming and friendly when they see a new face. They are less weird than some Novus Ordo parishes I’ve visited. The author of that piece has an axe to grind. You don’t know his history. But he sets up a straw man and knocks it down so his piece is nothing but a hit job. Pray for him.

TPE - October 18, 2019

I read the article. I know the type. They say, “ I like the Latin Mass. But I won’t come regularly to Mater Dei until more normal people are going.” Next time I hear that, I’m responding, “Oh? You’re not normal enough to stick around and dilute the number of people you deem crazies?” These people flit around from St. Basil to St. Sophia and grace us occasionally at Mater Dei with their high intellectual Catholic presence, long enough to sneer at the homily (Not high tone enough. It’s too pedestrian. Never mind that the typical homily is for guiding the moral life of an average person. It’s not supposed to be a guaranteed supremely intellectual masterpiece.). They also sneer at the usage of the 1962 form. Not Roman Catholic enough for them. Like we have a choice. I guess I have an opinion about these snobs. I have my faults too.

Tantumblogo - October 21, 2019

I have run into the type, too. More than a bit of sneering intellectualism, I agree. Plus, usually, in the background, some point of doctrine they don’t like or don’t want to accept, and/or got offended over.

2. Bill - October 18, 2019


We are considering moving to Dallas. What Catholic elementary schools around the area are actually Catholic? We are traditional in our beliefs and our worship and would anticipate attending Mater Dei.

Thanks in advance for your advice!

Bill Brooking


David - October 18, 2019

Respectfully speaking, I would check out Mount St. Michael’s Catholic School. It’s close to the Oak Cliff area.

Tantumblogo - October 21, 2019

Bill –

I most strongly recommend homeschooling, but know that’s not for everyone. Mater Dei TLM parish in Irving has a very strong homeschool co-op that can help families out tremendously with the school work, and is for all grades.

For schools, Faustina Academy in Irving is very good. The Highlands School is also solid but it is associated with Regnum Christi which not everyone is comfortable with and is quite expensive. I’ve heard good and bad about Mount St. Michael’s. David gave a strong recommendation, and the “bad” I heard was several years ago. At this point I probably don’t know enough to say. Most Catholic high schools are very bad. Especially avoid Jesuit, Ursuline, John Paul II. One of the two, Bishop Lynch and Bishop Dunne, is much better than the other, but I can’t recall which right now. Cistercian is pretty good for high school and the religious there are quite solid from the Novus Ordo perspective.

If I had to recommend one it would be Faustina, which is very small but very orthodox, and then The Highlands, which is much bigger and a little less orthodox but quite solid by today’s standards.

Hope this helps, and please let me know if you do move here, my wife knows much more and can help.

3. Baseballmomof8 - October 18, 2019

I’m wondering why this fellow was given such a format? Is it became Trads are becoming more mainstream? Is it because they are more prevalent on the web and are at the forefront of the Resistance? I would guess that’s definitely part of it.

4. Tim - October 18, 2019

Yeah, there aren’t any odd Novus Ordo folks are there?

I love the standard “unwelcoming and mean trads” nonsense, I have NEVER witnessed this in 19+ years of “tradland”. I’ve met numerous smug, arrogant and just plain Novusordites in my day.

In my experience the trads are simply people who want Truth unvarnished and do not want their children in the societal cesspool. If that’s bad then so be it.

In an insane world the sane man must appear insane.

Tim - October 18, 2019

plain nasty Novusordites

5. Karen - October 18, 2019

I have not read the article you mentioned but we are forever grateful to the Mater Dei community. We are in Aledo and attend mass in Ft Worth now but for many years we drove to Mater Dei. We loved it! Everyone was friendly and welcoming as we attended many events. Never ever was anyone unfriendly. The Legion of Mary drove the two hour round trip twice to bring Our Lady’s Statue to us. I could give you many many other examples. Thank you and come visit us in Ft Worth!

6. c matt - October 18, 2019

They believe the mainstream church is a disgrace, and everything outside the church is an apocalyptic wasteland. In response, they hope to create isolated, self-sustaining communities to buffet the tides of immorality and impiety surrounding them.

Sounds like a plan! Seriously though, does he think the mainstream church is a paragon of virtue, and everything outside the church is unicorns and pixie dust? I guess his point is that it’s not as bad outside Tradiland as some Trads make it out to be. Maybe not, but it is pretty darn close. As for the same 30 doing 90% of the work, that’s probably true of almost any organization of significant size. Part of it too may be trad parishes draw, by necessity, from far and wide. Speaking for the Houston area, there are three trad parishes for about 3600 square miles, whereas NO parishes can be found within a five mile radius of practically any neighborhood. The distance makes it challenging to be involved on a frequent basis. And my experience with NO parishes at least, parishioner involvement is positively correlated to a parochial school being attached. The downtown Houston parish (which offers a Trad Mass, so I don’t know if that alone makes it a Trad parish) does not have a school, and struggles with involvement. Also being downtown doesn’t help.

c matt - October 18, 2019

Now that I think about it, in the past week alone we learn:

The “pope” has possibly denied the divinity of Christ
Dropping celibacy for priests is odds on favorite
Ordination of women is seriously considered (if not already in the works for deacons)
Our “pope” hosts idol worship in the Vatican
Our “pope” kneels before everyone except our Lord God and Savior in the eucharist
Our “pope” shows more concern for fake climate science than unborn children

The mainstream church is not as bad as Trads make it out to be – it is worse.

Tantumblogo - October 21, 2019

Exactly. I will say one thing about Meyrat’s article, it’s one of the best short-paragraph presentations of the Trad mentality I’ve ever seen. These are primary reasons we do what we do.

I’ll add another bit – the large, large majority of these “trads are crazy and extreme” types I’ve met use that as a bit of cover for their real beef – some doctrine or other they don’t want to adhere to. So, this provides a convenient excuse.

Having said that, there are “bad people” at Trad parishes but they’re everywhere. Trad parishes are some of the few places where expectations are so high that folks like this can actually get called out. I know they exist and we’ve been calumniated by them but I don’t let the frankly rare contrary examples deter us from the awesome benefits the TLM and the TLM-centered community provide.

skeinster - October 23, 2019

One of the former priests at MD told me, in his experience, the percentage of deeply involved people in any parish was probably about 15%.

C Matt makes some excellent observations.

A lady’s POV.

Trads are trying to reclaim a life of tradition many of the under
50 of us have never lived. They are working from sources from a less complicated time and in their zeal, many wear themselves out ‘drinking from the firehose’ of possible devotions and activities, at a parish a long commute away. While simultaneously educating their children and making a home. And yet, almost all of them manage to be kind and gracious, with a few exceptions.

And those, I think, criticize more from a position of insecurity than elitism or self-righteousness. Strength in numbers, if you like.
The more people around me that are “sola skirtura” or homeschooling, the more confident I feel with my own choices.
Especially if one is at odds with their own non-Catholic or NO family.

I was never on the receiving end of the criticisms/gossip rebuked in Fr’s famous (but not at all bizarre) sermon, but I thought it was a good one.
And one that could be given at any Catholic parish at any time.

Tantumblogo - October 24, 2019

Awesome comment, skeinster. You should have your own blog. Better than I could say it. I am always glad to have your input.

7. jamesthe1st - October 21, 2019

A silly article by Meyrat. Of course people should be charitable to others. But complaining about people having opinions about politics or art? That just silly. Sounds like he needs a safe space.

8. MFG - October 21, 2019

I’m concerned he published this in The Federalist – a political conservative publication and not in a more suitable forum (Remnant, One Peter Five?). While Federalist has Catholic readers and contributors, this seems the odd place to publish an internal critique of a segment of Catholics that most outsiders never heard of.

Second, isn’t one of the principles of fraternal correction is that the recipient of the correction would realistically be open to correction and change? Otherwise the recipient of the correction digs in and become more opposed. Is airing negative experiences in public against people who cannot defend their actions (if true) the best medium to achieve a correction?

A better approach might be to ask what would the saints do in this situation? If they went into a church that was truly as the author describes, would they complain about it to the public? Or would they practice charity, and perhaps lead by example, lead people towards sanctification? I know I could use more sanctity.

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[…] this is a pretty damned good reason to go to a TLM parish, and to try to totally shield one’s spouse and children from all this corrupting, […]

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