Our friend Patricius has just written Censorship… as a result of having crossed the line on the New Liturgical Movement blog. It was only to be anticipated. It is a long time ago that I ceased to be respectable for any of those conservative and “party line” traditionalist Roman Catholics. I have been subscribed on the ctngreg list on Yahoo Groups for about ten years. I am a lurker because the moderator told me not to send any posts – because I am a schismatic (and perhaps a heretic and apostate too).
Patricius reminds me of something I read about Fr George Tyrrell, that pugnacious Irishman without a shred of tact. The former got himself banished by the more respectable conservative Roman Catholics on the internet, and the latter by the Pope (Pius X). That is his freedom, and he takes the responsibility of calling people riff-raff, morons, etc. It is not my way, especially since I am a priest and am accountable to my Bishop. I am also English, not Irish, and am not attracted to brawls in spite of any number of righteous people who would see me silenced and taken to Room 101 for an encounter with my worst nightmare.
Patricius was brought up a Roman Catholic. I wasn’t. I spent the best part of fifteen years in it and had to look reality in the face. I looked for Tradition expressed through beauty and sanctity, and found authoritarianism and bourgeois conventionalism. It took me a long time to find some kind of stability as a priest and come to terms with my own profound alienation from Roman Catholicism. At the same time, recognising my own shortcomings and ill-advised commitments, I refrain from blaming those I met along my way or those who had authority over me as superiors. I should not have “swum the Tiber” unless I was prepared to accept the reality.
He, I and others are dissidents. We found ourselves alienated for different reasons. There were figures in the past who engaged the RC Church in polemics like Fr Vladimir Guéttée who became Orthodox. Fr George Tyrrell ended up as a hanger-on with a religious community and died a premature death of kidney disease. Those men faced considerable suffering, as did those who fell foul of the Inquisition in earlier times, who were tortured and died horrible deaths. Each man took his responsibility and suffered. Nowadays, we can move to other Church bodies where we find acceptance, or we can lapse altogether and not be thought any the worst for it in society.
A couple of years, the French traditionalist scene got wind of my being a priest in the TAC, and that Rome was about to receive the TAC and make an Ordinariate of it. I was invited to be interviewed on the radio – Radio Notre-Dame and Radio Courtoisie, interviewed for Catholic magazines and invited to talk at conferences. It didn’t go to my head. I just went about it simply and without fanfare, believing I was rendering a service. When things ended up as they did end up, I ceased to exist. In a letter to someone, I sincerely referred to myself as a “nobody with the grace of the priesthood“. The less we think we are, the less disappointed and bitter we will be in life. My life is quieter without those milieux, including some of my old confreres from the Institute of Christ the King. My wife suggested wanting to see the face of my old superior seeing me as a star of the Ordinariate. I was more sober and sceptical, and it is of no concern to me if they enjoyed a moment of Schadenfreude.
Why stir up the hornet’s nest, rather than go the way God is calling us to do something good and positive? That is a guiding principle of my blog, but Patricius is free to do what he believes to be best, if he has the strength to take on the opposition. I don’t believe he has, but he does… I see no sense to prolonging conflicts with the NLM moderators, who would just ignore him. There is no answer against a wall of silence.
For the substance of these questions, to which I alluded in my recent article on the liturgy. There needs to be some serious work on the nature of liturgical tradition, auctoritas, custom and the role of episcopal authority in regulating it and on the basis of which criteria. It’s no good simply calling the Pope and Bugnini nincompoops or other insulting names. Some of us have the same convictions in common, Patricius, Rubricarius and others. I have used the Sarum missal for the past six years one having figured out the rubrics in a practical way. I may not have all the academic justifications to hand, but this is what I do with my Bishop’s knowledge and consent. If Rome ever decides to take the question of the liturgy seriously, everything except the saints’ feasts should be rolled all the way back to the first revision of the 1570 missal (Clement VIII in 1604), at least, and then allow good vernacular translations and other similar pastoral concessions. Local uses should be fostered and revived to the maximum. That is very unlikely to happen, and frankly it’s not my problem.
A good point is made that Bugnini was named and mandated in 1948 by none other than Pius XII, and it is known that there were already designs for a form of the liturgy akin to the ideas of the Jansenists and the Synod of Pistoia. The keynote of such a liturgical reform was to favour the rational dimension or the word over the mystery and liturgical symbolism.
The conservative and traditionalist milieux seem forbidding. They have their entries into official institutions, if that matters to us. I have long ago ceased to be intimidated to those who hurl the words schismatic, heretic and apostate in my face. I went through times of anxiety, anguish and depression when they played cat and mouse with me, promising everything with one hand and taking away with the other. Some are kind and sincere people, doing what they believe is right. We have to respect them for that. There are all kinds of personalities in that world that is no longer mine – and was never really.
I saw the way things went with the English Catholic blog and the beginnings of this one. I could never imagine so much hatred from people claiming to be Christians and orthodox Catholics. I am glad I had that experience after all I went through with the Institute of Christ the King and others. Yes, it was my fault. I should never have gone there in the first place. Lives are lived: they cannot be remade, so it is useless even trying.
I know the patter by heart, like a good Communist knew the works of Karl Marx and all the stuff about the exploiting capitalists and the ever-suffering proletarian workers. Even valid theological categories and terms become slogans, but again, it isn’t my problem. I don’t fight against all that, because I am elsewhere. It isn’t my war.
We need to find peace within ourselves and cease fretting about the rest. The kind of traditionalism I have left, with which Patricius is still at war, is essentially the French bourgeois reaction against the French Revolution and the alienation of the popular classes. There is a class and cultural dimension I could never overcome, even by speaking good French and being le plus français des anglais, as one priest called me at Gricigliano.
I do not comment on traditionalist RC blogs. They are none of my business. I do not belong to their milieux. They are welcome to read my blog for anything they might find to be of interest. The only thing that causes me to moderate comments is a rude tone or behaviour intended to cause emotional reactions – commonly known as trolling. I am a priest, and my duty is to teach and come to the help of anyone who asks my guidance. My blog is my parish, and that needs to be something positive and worthwhile. I cannot allow my energies to be dissipated through shrill polemics and conflict.