Sunday, November 04, 2007

Conversion to Traditionalism

Though I try not to say too much about myself on this blog, I thought I would share some thoughts on what it means when one goes from being a "conservative" Catholic to a Traditionalist Catholic. I made these distinctions from reflecting on my own transformation from conservative to Traditionalist. For many years, I was a lapsed (i.e., non-practicing) Catholic who was ignorant of the most basic tenets of the faith. Then, around 2000, I started studying the Faith in detail and came back to the full practice around 2002, identifying myself with the conservative wing of the Church. I watched EWTN, read books by Catholic Answers and listened to Scott Hahn tapes. I was brought back to the Church largely by a study of Catholic history, and because of this I always had an aesthetic preference for Latin and an innate dislike of Haugen-Hass and other modern innovations. But I rejected Traditionalism. I was so grateful to be back in the Church, that I could not understand people who were not satisfied and demanded a return to the older ways. I was just happy that there was a liturgy at all, and I was too infantile in the Faith to understand the finer points in favor of Traditionalism. I continued on in this intellectual slumber until around early 2006.

Around that time, I started noticing several things about the Church. I noticed for the first time that the Church was not neutral towards Latin, but seemed absolutely hostile towards it, despite the fact that it claimed Latin as its official language. I began to loathe the music I heard in Mass. I wondered why St. Thomas was not more frequently quoted and studied in Catholic schools. I began to be uncomfortable with several statements and ideas found in post-Conciliar documents (and later, in the Conciliar documents themselves). I noticed a glaring lack of references in ecclesiastical statements to documents from before the Council. The real turning point was when I really got to know fellow-blogger Anselm earlier in 2007. He had already trod this path (in his case from charismatic to Traditionalist) and helped to give formula and words to the inexpressible dissatisfaction I had in my heart with the way things currently were. We spent much time together, and before long I realized two of the most important things I have ever learned since coming back to the faith: (1) The Catholicism we see in the average American parish is absolutley not the Catholicism of Tradition, (2) There are literally thousands of others who feel and think the same way I do. Until I realized this (mainly through blogging) I thought I was an aberration.

Reflecting back on this change today, I thought I would list several of the changes in thinking, or the "signs," that I experienced when shifting from conservative Catholicism to Traditional Catholicism. Perhaps you can think of some more. By the way, these are meant to be serious, unlike my earlier "You Might Be a Traditionalist If" post.

1) You have gone from admiring Pope John Paul II and calling him "the Great" (as I did in 2005) to thinking his papacy was not a very good one. You still admire John Paul II for his unflinching support of the Church's moral teachings, but you have started to see his administration of the papacy as contributing to the current confusion.

2) You have gone from deploring the false interpretations of Vatican II to realizing that the inherent problems are in the documents themselves, irrespective of any subsequent interpretation. You still hold the Council and its documents authoritative, but you see that there are a lot of ambiguities and things that could have been done much better, even at the Council itself.

3) You have gone from appreciating and preferring Gregorian Chant and traditional architecture aesthetically to seeing them as essential to Catholic worship.

4) You once acknowledged that there were some parishes out there where liturgical abuse happened; you have since come to realize that there may possibly be some parishes out there where liturgical abuse does not happen.

5) You realize that the universality of the Church is not best manifested in one Church speaking many languages but in the many groups within the Church all praying in one language.

6) You once turned to the Catechism and the documents of Vatican II as the sure bastions of orthodoxy; now you have to supplement them with hefty references from the pre-Conciliar documents in order to fill in the glaring doctrinal gaps and ambiguities.

7) You once were happy that lay persons had the option of receiving the precious Blood from the chalice; now you are repelled by it and never receive from the chalice yourself.

8) You once voiced support for your local bishop in everything he did, even if you did not quite approve of or understand it all; now you suspect that the smoke of Satan has entered the diocesan offices, especially in the various departments and bureaucracies.

9) You have come to realize that papal infallability does not apply as broadly as you once thought; i.e., you once treated every single word out of the pope's mouth as ex cathedra dogma, even low level pronouncements. You now have a more refined understanding of the degrees of authority of various statements and take this into consideration when forming your opinions.

10) You used to enjoy the passing of the peace, but now you see it as a manifestation of horizontalism and do not mind at all when it is omitted.

11) You once wanted a dignified celebration of the Novus Ordo; now, you see the Extraordinary Form as the surest way to restore order and dignity to the liturgy.

12) You once thought perhaps the TLM should be available to those who were still "attached" to it, but now you think the NO should be ultimately suppressed and the TLM should be the missa normativa of the Latin rite, mandatory for everybody in the end.

13) You have gone from being excited about the Luminous Mysteries to thinking it was an arrogant affront to Tradition for JPII to add them to the Rosary at his own initiative.

14) You used to defend Vatican II by saying, "I know there have been abuses done in the "spirit" of Vatican II, but the Council itself was necessary,"; now you believe the entire Council was utterly unneccesary and you think it would have been better had the Council never been called in the first place.

15) You have gone from attacking the SSPX as schismatics and condemning them unreservedly to thinking they really have some good points and think that perhaps they have been treated a little too harsh (compated with the way Jews, Protestants and Muslims get welcomed).

16) Finally: your average drive time to Mass has gone up from twenty minutes to an hour and a half.


Alexander said...

Yes to all except number 9. Good points.

However I have been in a lot of debates lately (you should see them) where people are confused over what a Traditionalist is. It has many levels and meanings it seems, but some people just lump us all in the same group as the wacko Traditionalists.

Anonymous said...

1) Sorry, I have always preferred JPII, The Pretty Good.
2) I contend it is the “documenters” who are the problem(s)- for letting the sheep stray
3) Left the church, but never that feeling
4) yep, and few and far between
5} Amen
6) Nope, the CCC has those handy references
7) Hardly horrified by the Precious Blood…. But always by the thought of accident
8) ….and permeated all who serve self or the Bishop and not the Church
9) Naw… I think I always knew it was “Key”, but not seen often.
10) let it fall into pieces (Sat I experienced an usher who INSISTED on shaking the hand of EVERY person going to communion…. Ugh!!
11) I would still love a CORRECTLY celebrated NO…. do you “NO” of one?
12) proper catechesis would have as its fruit only one liturgy
13) I have always though the devotion should have been unchanged…. And now should be changed back and then discussed by those converts (Staples, Hahn etc) who promote it. Benedict is too kind and smart to do it though.
14) I think it was necessary. We needed the 40 years of wandering in the desert of ambiguity that followed to re-appreciate the gifts we had…..and never lost.
15) SSPX will come around some day. Authority and pride are at the core of most church problems.
16) it has doubled…. But that has more to do with the celebrant than the celebration

And 17)… I try to remember to do as Mother Theresa and look for Jesus in everyone, and then try something harder….. to look for Him in myself. That has become a traditon for me.... and a tough one.

Anonymous said...

Laus Deo!

I am grateful to hear that you found our conversations to be as beneficial as I did

David Contra Mundum said...

I am with you in every point; you wrote my thoughts exactly!