Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Defining "traditional Catholicism" continued

This question continues to be debated - go here to see another discussion.

I particularly liked this:

I think we need to make a distinction between "traditional" and "traditionalist".

The traditional Catholic holds on to what is good until it gets old. The traditionalist Catholic holds on to what is old, whether it turns out to be good or not. All Catholic ought to do the former, while the latter seems a bit risky to me.

Hestor sent this link in the comment box:
If you can read your way through it, good luck to you. There is a fairly complete failure to understand the new movements in the Church (so far as I can gather, it is these that are being referred to as "neoconservative Catholics"). Such gems as this, tucked away in the middle of the article, reveal underlying presumptions that are masked by an appearance of the intellectual:

...the standard of orthodoxy was shifted from Scripture, intrinsic tradition (of which the Magisterium is a part) and extrinsic tradition (which includes magisterial acts of the past, such as Pius IX’s Syllabus of Errors), to a psychological state in which only the current Magisterium is followed.

There is a more useful discussion here. Accepting a "common usage" is fine, but from a juridical point of view - and the article does refer to Summorum Pontificum establishing juridically that there are two forms of the one Roman Rite - no one of the two forms should be considered as any more traditional than the other. In reality, I suspect that most of those using the term "traditional" to refer to the extraordinary form are at least implicitly including the idea that it is in some way more traditional than the ordinary form. I think the Latin Mass Society would do well to adopt the terminology of ordinary and extraordinary form.


Jackie Parkes MJ said...

Well done to you Joe for sifting through it! Great post..

Adulio said...

Joe - thank you for drawing attention to the article.

In what way may I ask that the article fails to understand new movements? Granted that a lot of Catholics (clergy included) fail to understand new movements rightly or wrongly, this is perhaps not surprising.

I also do not see why all of a sudden, some have taken it upon themselves to force terminological uniformity when the terms "Traditional Latin mass" and "Novus Ordo" have been floating around for donkeys years probably before Mrs. Parkes and I were born. The pope himself, in his motu proprio, refers to the usus antiquor - the older or ancient use, implying it has been handed down and therefore "traditional" in that sense of the word. Presumably the 1970 Missal should then be referred to as usus recentor? How is then that no one would dare criticise the Pope for distinguishing the two uses here? The second article you linked to quotes Cardinal Hoyos as referring to the old rite as the "Gregorian rite" - implying it goes all the way in its essential parts to St. Gregory the great. Why then would be deemed offensive to say that by this admission, the old rite is more "traditional" than the new rite (who chief architect acknowledged it as a "new" thing in his memoirs).

Anonymous said...

Certainly the EF mass and the OF mass are equally *valid* from a juridical point of view. But given that the EF has been part of the Church's tradition for at least 1,400 years, and the OF barely 40, it's hard for me to consider them equally *traditional*.

Anonymous said...

Joe writes, "There is a fairly complete failure to understand the new movements in the Church (so far as I can gather, it is these that are being referred to as "neoconservative Catholics")."

Actually Rapperger gives a pretty thorough definition of what he means by "neo-conservative", in footnote (2):

"The term "neo-conservative" refers to those who are considered the more conservative members of the Church. More often than not, they are those who hold orthodox positions, but they would not assert that it is necessary or a good idea to reconnect with ecclesiastical tradition. The prefix "neo" is used because they are not the same as those conservatives in authority in the Church right before, during and after the Second Vatican Council. The current conservatives, i.e. the neo-conservatives, are different insofar as the conservatives of that earlier period sought to maintain the current ecclesiastical traditions which were eventually lost. Obviously all of these labels have a certain inadequacy, but since they are operative in the current ecclesiastical climate, we will use the terms here in order to denote certain theological and philosophical positions."

Here is an excerpt which, whether you agree with it or not, I think summarizes the main gist of the Rapperger article better than the one you gave:

"Neo-conservatives have fallen into this way of thinking i.e. the only standard by which they judge orthodoxy is whether or not one follows the current magisterium. Traditionalists, as a general rule, tend to be orthodox in the sense that they are obedient to the current magisterium, even though they disagree about matters of discipline and have some reservations about some aspects of current magisterial teachings which seem to contradict the previous magisterium (e.g. the role of the ecumenical movement). Traditionalists tend to take not just the current magisterium as their norm but Scripture(41), intrinsic tradition, extrinsic tradition and the current magisterium as the principles of judgment of correct Catholic thinking. This is what distinguishes traditionalists and neo-conservatives i.e. their perspectives regarding the role of ecclesiastical tradition and how the current magisterium relates to it."

Joe said...

Thank you for the comments, which I am happy to publish. To make some responses:

1. Many of us who are uncomfortable in being defined by our stance towards "traditional(ist) Catholicism" would be equally uncomfortable to be considered "neoconservative" in Fr Rapperger's meaning of the term. It is not a notion that I can recognise at all in the various experiences I have had of different new movements/
communities over the years.

2. Implicit in my posting on this topic is the feeling that Summorum Pontificum and the the accompanying letter, as well as making it juridically easier to celebrate the extraordinary form, also make a demand on those who celebrate the extraordinary form with regard to the ordinary form. This is why I happen to think that the adoption of the language of extraordinary form - ordinary form is important. I am not seeing the movement from the side of those attached to the extraordinary form. What I feel that I am seeing is the continued effort on the part of those attached to the extraordinary form to see it as "more traditional" than the ordinary form - which is in my view, juridically illegitimate post Summorum Pontificum.

3. One wonders where Fr Rapperger's understanding of tradition in relation to Scripture and Magisterium is ultimately headed. The intrinsic/extrinsic distinction, and certainly the discussions of non-infallible ordinary magisterium ... these seem familiar from somewhere ...

Anonymous said...


1. You keep mentioning "new movements / communities" in connection with Fr. Rapperger's article, but I don't see where he mentions them at all. As far as I can tell he is simply contrasting contemporary Catholics who consider themselves conservative, with those he calls traditionalists, who he thinks are traditional-minded to a degree which the aforementioned conservatives are not.

2. I just re-read Summorum pontificum and its accompanying letter, and I don't see what "demand" is made "on those who celebrate the extraordinary form with regard to the ordinary form". Can you quote it for me?

I do see where it says, "Needless to say, in order to experience full communion, the priests of the communities adhering to the former usage cannot, as a matter of principle, exclude celebrating according to the new books. The total exclusion of the new rite would not in fact be consistent with the recognition of its value and holiness."

It also says, "For that matter, the two Forms of the usage of the Roman Rite can be mutually enriching: new Saints and some of the new Prefaces can and should be inserted in the old Missal."

Other than that I don't see what demands are imposed on people who prefer the extraordinary form.

3. Honestly I don't know what you mean. Where do you think Fr. Rapperger's distinctions are headed? From where are they familiar?

In all sincerity, I sense some disappointment or resentment or distaste on your part, towards people who prefer the EF mass. As far as I can discern -- and please correct me where I'm wrong -- it seems to be based on an attitude of superiority on the part of some EF adherents, an attitude that suggests the EF is clearly superior to the OF, and therefore there is something wrong with those who prefer the OF; that the latter are less faithful or devout or intelligent than EF adherents. Have I got that right?

For my part, I do think the EF is superior to the OF. But I recognize that the OF is a totally legitimate and valid form of mass. I can't help thinking the EF is better and that the Church in the Latin Rite would be better off using the EF exclusively. But there's no need to extrapolate from that fact that I hold OF adherents to be inferior in respect of their devoutness, intelligence, etc. Do you see any problem with my attitude in this regard?

Jackie Parkes MJ said...

Isn't that the whole point of what I've been saying? You can prefer what you like but the two forms are EQUAL & should be mutually enriching. We can ALL prefer EF or OF but we can only say it's better for us individually in some way otherwise you are saying something the pope EF is the preferred form of the rite.

Anyway! Tomorrow you're all getting..Miles Jesu is bi-ritual! Now hope y'all knew that!!

Anonymous said...

Cath Mom:

I don't agree that it's only a matter of preference. My belief is that the EF is objectively superior, not just better for me as an individual. And if I may engage in a bit of speculation: From certain things he has written, it's my suspicion that the Pope feels the same way about it, but that he doesn't want to just come out and say it because of the uproar which would ensue. In any event, the fact that the Pope doesn't say it publicly, doesn't prove that he doesn't think it.

Interestingly, your comment that "otherwise you are saying something the pope doesn’t", seems to fit with what Fr. Rapperger's article says about modern Catholic conservatives: that they practice "magisterialism", which he defines as "a fixation on the teachings that pertain only to the current magisterium". In other words you seem to be implying that if the current Pope doesn't believe the EF is superior to the OF, one would have to be heterodox to disagree with him. Which I do not believe is the case.