Following my earlier article Facing Criticism, our friend in Pennsylvania showed an amazing level of understanding as he reacted to the matters I expressed.
Fr C on not fitting into the churchmanships around you, even if they’re conservative. I was too Anglican to be a good Roman Catholic and too influenced by the Tridentine forms I sought out to be a good Anglican. I sought out a third way in the light of my experience in France in parishes like that of Fr Montgomery-Wright. Despite our doctrinal difference — finding a place in the Catholic Church vs. finding one in Continuing Anglicanism — we’ve always had a lot in common. His lasting point: the molds familiar to trads — Counter-Reformation religious order, militant laity — are neither the fullness of pre-conciliar Catholicism (the ’50s moderate/liberal French priests he knew, who didn’t go Novus but weren’t reactionary either: ‘they are not what we were’) nor for everyone; they’re not perfect. We’re both just old enough to have grown up naturally learning high-church forms, if not necessarily high-church theology, from the Anglicans before they became more obviously liberal, sort of parallelling Catholics who grew up right before the council. There are parallels and lessons for trads from the old Gallicanism, etc., a traditional church that largely runs itself and is locally based. But I’d say our religious culture isn’t necessarily Anglican. (Leaving the Pope on principle and accepting the English ‘Reformation’ even filtered through high churchmanship are not options.) But there’s a third way for me too. Peter Robinson, a Continuing cleric like Fr C, has described my answer when I couldn’t. Mass-and-office is pre-conciliar’s version of high-and-dry in a good way. Super-high and baroque liturgically like Gricigliano and Bourne Street, but Christ- and Eucharist-centered (why the Mass is so emphasized), very theological; devotionally moderate. The pre-/non-conciliar church is a big tent; different versions of the ‘mix’ I describe are of course welcome. (I don’t mind seeing the charismatics at the new Mass when I’m there on holy days or flea-market Sundays.)
I still remember Fr Jacques Pecha in his parish at Bouloire where he had been from 1955 until his death in 2002. He commented on the “reactionary” priests by saying “they’re not what we used to be” (ie. priests ordained long before Vatican II in provincial dioceses).
The lost paradise was no paradise – but it seems to be just about gone. Gricigliano comes fairly close to having recreated something of baroque Catholicism, but the reactionary fault lines are there too. I have been away from it for nearly twenty years.
The biggest problem is the relationship between local religion and culture. Culture no longer has anything to do with religion, and the churches are “uprooted” and living “in exile”. Cultural relevance is something that either favours the Church or secular values – and no one has been able to solve that problem.