The burden of Catholic sanity…

A child enters the world through the struggle of pregnancy and the pains of labor.

Health is preserved and perfected through the efforts of a balanced diet and physical fitness.

True intellectual prowess is achieved after years of intensive study, reflection, and discussion.

And so on.

Good things usually take time and effort to achieve, and preserving them can be a never-ending battle.

I have felt this battle over the past several months, not because of this or that papal statement, or because of this or that renegade cleric, but because, after happily living in a “convert’s catechism bubble” overseas, my eyes have been opened to the larger pandemic of liturgical and doctrinal chaos which has been assailing the Church for some time now. Whatever issues I may have with Pope Francis, I have come to see that he’s more of a symptom, or a weather vane, rather than a first principle, of the Catholic Chaos.

Two years ago, I had no idea what the term “traditionalist” meant in a Catholic context, and “the liturgy wars” were just as obscure. Nor am I shy to admit that I had virtually no grasp of what “the Traditional Latin Mass” (or “the Tridentine Mass”) meant, nor why I should care. I took Vatican II for granted as simply one more Council among others, and I figured that saying the same ol’ Mass in the vernacular, as opposed to in Latin, was no big deal at all.

Beginning last August, catalyzed by numerous statements and actions of Pope Francis, I quickly came to see that the story was not so simple. The process of learning why there are liturgy wars at all–that is, of coming to see why an otherwise devout and well catechized Catholic like myself could regard “the Tridentine Mass” as a bygone obscurity, if not an alienating experience in its own right–naturally led me to become what many in the Church refer to as a “Rad Trad”. In many ways, it is a title I embrace, yet one that is ultimately politically futile. A radical love for Christ will naturally lead to a radical commitment to His Bride, the Church, and an equally ‘rooted’ zeal for her, so to speak, wedding vows to Christ (viz. Apostolic Tradition). Given the structure of Divine Revelation, and what submission to that Revelation entails, being a “traditionalist” Catholic is just as axiomatic as being a “biblical” Catholic.

And so I found myself rapidly becoming a Catholic traditionalist. I underwent what I call the Gattaca Growth Plan for Trads: it was fast, dirty, painful, and perilous. What’s more, it’s still ongoing. I have been challenged on numerous point in my traditionalism; I have been warned about embracing the trend, even so much as the title; on the other hand, I have been exhorted to make my traditionalism even more radical; and so on. In a word, I have been working out my salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12) as I persist in holding fast to the traditions handed down to us for all time (2 Thessalonians 2:14, 1 Corinthians 11:2). There have been many growing pains and I have been “tweaking” my understanding of many things on a daily, and at times, hourly, basis. This blog post may be counted as one such “tweak”.

Recently, one issue in particular has caused me especial torment and confusion, to wit, the claim made by a number of my colleagues that “Novusordoism is a different religion” (a thesis I shall abbreviate as “NDR”). I shall spare you the long and tortu(r)ous tale of how I managed  to achieve a measure of equanimity about NDR, and will just present the conclusions I reached which allowed me to keep my faith–which is to say, my sanity— intact.

  • It’s not so much that Novusordoism is a different creed or faith, but that it is a radically defective expression of genuine Catholicism.
  • Novusordoism can be understood as the systematic political agenda to exploit the ambiguity and flexibility of the Novus Ordo Missae in order to subvert the Social Kingship of Christ, and inculcate Modernist confusion on a parish level throughout the Roman rite.

The analogy that I will provide is the difference between the verb and noun forms of a word like “import”. Materially and apparently, there is only one word, but on a functional level, “IMport” is a noun while “imPORT” is a verb. They are, thus, two different realities. That seems to be what my colleagues mean by asserting NDR.

Nevertheless, be aware that I find this extreme analysis quite unpalatable, and even see in it a species of stealth sedevacantism.

For:

  1. if Novusordoism is a systematic heresy and defection from the Catholic Faith,
  2. if the Novus Ordo Missae in and of itself (NOMi)–and not merely by virtue of the commonly observed liturgical abuses thereof (NOMa)–is the basis and essence of the Novusordoist heresy,
  3. and if the NOMi is an authentic expression of the ordinary and universal Magisterium of the Magisterium (cf. Vatican II et sequalia),
  4. then the Magisterium itself is the efficient cause and morally responsible agent for establishing the Novusordoist heresy as a norm for the Church,
  5. and from that it follows that the Magisterial Church’s credibility (as infallible and indefectible) has been radically and irreparably compromised.

In a word, if none other that Rome and the past sixty years of Christ’s Vicariate have been directly and systematically promoting and imposing what is in essence a false religion, then why in the world should I remain in communion with Rome?

To speak even more bluntly, if the NOMi is a mutated fetus which threatens the life of Holy Mother Church, and of all her children, from the inside out, as it were, then it is none other than the Vicar of Christ who raped the Church to implant the wicked Novusordoist seed. In light of the alleged Novusordoist Apostasy, the only way to salvage the Church’s indefectibility is to deny that the post-Conciliar (or “Novusordoist”) Magisterium has simply lacked the proper authority to impose the changes which constitute Novusordoism–which is exactly the point of contemporary sedevacantism. Whatever Vatican II and the NOM are, they cannot be authentic expressions of the Catholic Faith, and therefore, whoever the prelates are that have been promulgating Novusordoism all these years cannot, in principle, be authentic vicars of Christ and pastors of the Church.

Thus, in my mind, agreeing or disagreeing with NDR is, to paraphrase Ron Burgundy, kind of a big deal! Recklessly hyperbolic and philosophically imprecise statements like NDR–which, I often suspect, is more of a useful slogan than a rational conclusion–are worse than unhelpful: they run every risk of being lethal to the Catholic soul. Just think of why so many believers are so upset by Pope Francis’s own penchant for imprecise and inflammatory sloganeering. Indeed, we might even see the sloganeering angst of some “rad trads” as the rhetorical foil of the slappy-happy ecumaniacal mush of clerics like Cdl. Kasper and Pope Francis.

In a nutshell, boys and girls, is how I found myself once more as a stranger in a strange land. I used to be a Good Neo-Catholic but now I may just be a defective Rad Trad. Well, shucks. Tribalism aside, the question is: How does one remain true to tradition without turning the Magisterium into one’s enemy? If the Church can err so seriously and so persistently about the NOMi–to say nothing of the fecklessnes with which NOMa has been handled–then how can I trust her on much, if anything, else?

If you did not already know, I am a fairly voracious reader, and for many years reading has been something like a form of prayer (à la lectio divina) for me. When I read, even if it’s not strictly devotional material, I perpetually seek the Word whispering into my soul by way of the words entering my eyes. And so it came to pass that yesterday I was making may way through some back issues of the New Oxford Review which my dad had sent me a while back. And lo, it came to pass that in the span of about half a dozen paragraphs I had my sanity restored in an almost prophetic way.

In the July-August issue of the NOR, there are a couple Notes about Universae Ecclesiae, which was the 2011 follow-up instruction to Benedict XVI’s 2008 motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum, which universally liberalized access to what is commonly (though not quite accuratelty) referred to as “the Tridentine Mass”. Because Summoroum Pontificum had met with knee-jerk resistance in many pockets of the Church, the Vatican felt that a supplemental instruction was required in order to rebuff objections and clarify misunderstandings. As the NOR explains:

Universae Ecclesiae’s “specific norms” aim to “guarantee the proper interpretation and the correct application” of Summorum Pontificum. Hence, it clarifies the meaning of the term “qualified priest,” another of those singled out by the motu obstructionists: “Every Catholic priest who is not impeded by canon law is to be considered idoneus (‘qualified’) for the celebration of the holy Mass in the forma extraordinaria.” Moreover, the “faculty to celebrate” the Mass “is given by the motu proprio to all priests.” Every last one of them.

Here is where the cockles of traditionalist hearts are warmed all over again, and where it also might seem that the pendulum is swinging back to sanity and orthodoxy: the NOMi is on the decline as the TLM makes a fourth-quarter comeback!

Ah, but of course you knew nothing in the Church is ever that simple. To cite the passages which were a tremendous salve to my trouble radish-traddish soul (with emphasis added):

The instruction gives an incredible amount of latitude to the laity who love the Latin Mass to establish sites for its celebration. But amid the broad powers it bestows upon the people in the pew, the instruction also contains one significant restriction. It is worth quoting in full: “The faithful who ask for the celebration of the forma extra­ordinaria must not in any way support or belong to groups that show themselves to be against the validity or legitimacy of the holy Mass or the sacraments celebrated in the forma ordinaria or against the Roman pontiff as supreme pastor of the universal church.”

This stipulation not only safeguards parish churches against sedevacantist invasions, it fires a warning shot across the bow at the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), as a reminder that its irregular canonical situation persists (its priest are among those “impeded by canon law”) and that its followers have put themselves in an unfavorable position vis-à-vis the official Church. What is clear is that those Catholics who join — or merely sympathize with — the SSPX or other breakaway traditionalist groups have no part in the liturgical bounty being prepared for the faithful by Pope Benedict XVI. With this restriction, Universae Ecclesiae drives home — with surprising force — the Holy Father’s insistence in Summorum Pontificum that there is “no contradiction between the two editions of the Roman Missal.” Rather, the ordinary and extraordinary forms of the Mass are “two usages of the one Roman rite…. Both are expressions of the same lex orandi of the church.” This will no doubt be a hard pill for traditionalists to swallow. Further, the instruction states that the Latin Mass is to be “maintained with appropriate honor.” The qualifier appropriate cuts in both directions: The Latin Mass is to be afforded no less and, conversely, no more honor than it is due.

In the final analysis, Universae Ecclesiae represents a distinct rejection of liturgical absolutism, of either the New Mass or Latin Mass variety. It will serve as a test of the absolutists’ ultimate loyalty: Is it to a particular liturgical expression or to the living Magisterium, which regulates and orders all of the Church’s sacred liturgies?

The lesson of Summorum Pontificum and Universae Ecclesia is one of unity in diversity: The old and new Masses are both valid and are both here to stay. The Latin Mass can’t be suppressed, but neither will the New Mass be tossed onto the trash heap. The Pope has already ruled out a rollback of the reforms of Vatican II; there is no going back. Moving forward, the two forms of the Mass must co-exist, “one alongside the other,” as Universae Ecclesiae has it, in cooperation rather than in competition, for the good of the entire Church.

As you can imagine, I have a great many other related issues bubbling in the codgitator these days, in particular the issue of authority and obedience–both on the part of our superiors to Tradition and on our part to our superiors–but for now, I will simply ask you to reflect upon the “bitter pill” of Catholic balance and what it would mean to sacrifice the bonds of Catholic unity in favor of the golden calf of “liturgical absolutism.” Does reducing contemporary Catholicism to a soi-disant “anti-Novusordoism” not amount to pitting oneself “against the Roman pontiff as supreme pastor of the universal Church” precisely by virtue of denouncing the “legitimacy of the … holy Mass … in the forma ordinaria“?

Despite appearances, I have no easy answers. I just know that there’s no place like Rome, so I have no interest in pitting my wee little self against at least six decades of Magisterial guidance. I will not deny that I think the NOM Project was a very bad idea, that its implementation has caused massive confusion in the Church, and that the current liturgical schizophrenia of the Roman rite is not sustainable, but I am grappling with the limits of recognizing-and-resisting this, whilst maintaining the bonds of unity as an act of reparation and salvation.

Which is funny because, while there are those who love to mock traditionalist Catholics as “Recognize & Resist Catholics,” I prefer to think of them–and thus of myself–as “Suffer & Submit Catholics.”

Pray for me, and stay tuned.

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About The Codgitator (a cadgertator)

Catholic convert. Quasi-Zorbatic. Freelance interpreter, translator, and web marketer. Former ESL teacher in Taiwan (2003-2012) and former public high school teacher (2012-2014). Married father of three. Multilingual, would-be scholar, and fairly consistent fitness monkey. My research interests include: the interface of religion and science, the history and philosophy of science and technology, ancient and medieval philosophy, and cognitive neuroscience. Please pray for me.
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10 Responses to The burden of Catholic sanity…

  1. I’m with you, suffer and submit.

  2. TharpQuinipher says:

    Miniver Cheevy
    By Edwin Arlington Robinson
    Miniver Cheevy, child of scorn,
    Grew lean while he assailed the seasons;
    He wept that he was ever born,
    And he had reasons.

    Miniver loved the days of old
    When swords were bright and steeds were prancing;
    The vision of a warrior bold
    Would set him dancing.

    Miniver sighed for what was not,
    And dreamed, and rested from his labors;
    He dreamed of Thebes and Camelot,
    And Priam’s neighbors.

    Miniver mourned the ripe renown
    That made so many a name so fragrant;
    He mourned Romance, now on the town,
    And Art, a vagrant.

    Miniver loved the Medici,
    Albeit he had never seen one;
    He would have sinned incessantly
    Could he have been one.

    Miniver cursed the commonplace
    And eyed a khaki suit with loathing;
    He missed the mediæval grace
    Of iron clothing.

    Miniver scorned the gold he sought,
    But sore annoyed was he without it;
    Miniver thought, and thought, and thought,
    And thought about it.

    Miniver Cheevy, born too late,
    Scratched his head and kept on thinking;
    Miniver coughed, and called it fate,
    And kept on drinking

  3. Dear B.C. M.J. has been all over the spiritual/ecclesiological map lately (still is) owing to Our Pope and Our Cross and whose praxis and pronouncements have blown away the felt vestment shroud of continuity which had been, for many, masking the ceaseless revolution within the form of Catholicism.

    Heretofore the changes have not been a matter of a change of Doctrine (which can’t happen anyway) having been infallibly promulgated and so the toxic destructive ground zero where the V2 rocket landed and exploded can not be said to be a place where we must pitch our orthodox tents.

    But, we are advancing rapidly to a showdown vis a vis the Papacy, its Universal Jurisdiction, and its authority to establish Discipline; Matt 16:19 – and that is not even to mention his plan to deform the Papacy so as to make it acceptable to our enemies, the schismatic heretics of the east

    IF Francis dares to change the discipline for refusing Communion to the divorced and remarried who can legitimately refuse to submit? Certainly not a Bishop for what Bishop – other than Athanasius Schneider (forget Bishop Burke, he is too timid) would dare to, rightly, claim that he can (MUST) refuse a discipline that would cause him to succor sin.

    Even if the Pope is an arm of the devil, that does not mean he loses his authority to discipline (M.J recalls the contrary claim was made by Wycliffe– that is, if t Pope is a cacodox creep he loses authority – and denounced at an Ecumenical Council.

    Events are speeding to a conclusion that in some way is not only ineluctable, but a conclusion to be desired.

    Our Hierarchy (most of whom M.J. thinks do not hold the Catholic Faith) must either be Christ’s Fishers of men or they can continue to cut modernist bait.

    He’s got one foot on the platform, the other foot on the train,
    Is he going on to sede ville to wear that ball and chain?

    Well, one thing is quite clear. My Pope and my Cross does not have the same Faith as does M.J. and the word games and the denials and the wild mental contortions to avoid that sane conclusion on the part of the ultramontanes is becoming an increasingly amusing embarrassment.

    O, and the plain and smile truth is that everything – Mass, Sacraments, Breviary, Catechesis, Ecclesiology, Blessings, Religious Orders, Architecture, Art,, Music etc etc etc – EVERYTHING has been changed and so the claims of a hermeneutic of continuity is an unintentionally funny irony but the reality that EVERYTHING has changed is proof positive of different theological beliefs and as Garrigou-LaGrange pointed out, the New Theology results in modernism.

    The Catholic Church M.J was born into does not exist save for the Caves of Covadonga- Traditional Orders like FSSP and ICK which are in union with Bishop and Pope.

    On the bright side, M.J. has rediscovered the joys of Bloody Lizzies.

  4. Dear MJY,

    It’s a strange consolation that The Troubles did not begin with V2. What pains the pious soul, however, is that The New Theology was all enshrined in the Church’s current posture and manner of speaking, making the descent into apostasy evitable only because of the supernatural graces protecting the Bride of Christ. The Barque of Peter is as a ship heavily listed to one side: it continues to proceed to port, and shall never completely sink, but in the meanwhile, everything on board is akimbo and we know not how many souls have tumbled, and shall tumble, into the dark waters off that skewed main deck. Those who flee to the Mass from the masses of those who normally mess with the New Mass are like Covadongan crew members running to the elevated side of the ship in a desperate effort to offset the sinking angle (à la Speed, “Everybody on this side of the bus!”). To hang onto the “extreme” side of the Church these days is actually just an attempt to cling to the old balance.

    Fun times, no?

  5. Dear B.C. We know from Vatican 1 that only the Holy See of Peter will remain incorrupt until the end of times so the image we have of the Barque of Peter is quite over-sized (thinking of the dream of the Saint John Bosco); maybe we ought think of it as a salvific inner tube.

    Institutionally speaking, the Church in the Americas, Europe, and nearly everywhere else in the west is dead – DED – dead.

    In any event, a hard rain’s gonna fall that’ll make the stormy times since the 1960s seem like a day at the beach, or a month in the mountains.

  6. c matt says:

    We know from Vatican 1 that only the Holy See of Peter will remain incorrupt until the end of times

    Which leads to one of two conclusions – (1) somehow, despite his best efforts, PF’s plans will be thwarted, or (2) End Times, Baby!

  7. Tony Jokin says:

    Interesting post.

    I personally think that usually a traditionalist does not pit oneself against the Pope. Because to pit oneself against the Pope would be to argue or object from ones own personal musings and ideas.

    But often, a traditionalist objects to the actions and ideas of the Pope based on what has been advised before by prior Popes, Saints and even first Apostles. That is where the conflict arises. It is the very fact that Popes today are giving advise (whether it be on the liturgy, ecumenism or religious liberty) which if followed causes a dichotomy between the old and the new that has caused this problem in the first place.

    I am not sure how one can get around this by saying we must just obey the current pontiff in all things. Because if that were the rule, then it would have to be held as true that every Pope at any given time is just airing their opinion and there really isn’t any intelligent wisdom in it. One should not in anyway conform ones own thinking to align with that of the Pope or the Church because that is subject to change. The Catholic axiom would be that we just follow what the Pope instructs at any given time. But that seems absurd to me.

    It seems natural to think of advise or warnings received from ones parents, superiors or Popes as corresponding to something true. Therefore, if one were to find contradictory views between two superiors, two parents, two Popes, both of them cannot be right. It cannot be right that it is good to engage in ecumenical work while at the same-time being dangerous to the faith. It cannot be that it is good to adopt everything that was opposed as changes to the liturgy from a prior time while not addressing the reasons given in prior prohibitions. One has to make a choice.

    As for the liturgy itself, I would say that one does not need to conclude the new liturgy as a heresy. One should just identify it for what it is i.e. something less desirable in its Catholic qualities than the old liturgy. Then one has to try and receive the full Catholic experience using other supplements (if one is attending the new mass) like more reading of traditional Catholic texts from saints, Popes, more traditional devotions etc. This way, one maintains perspective.

    I think one can hold the above view because it does not say the Church has defected or that God no longer guides the Church. God has no burden that he should always make available the best liturgy possible. While the liturgy widely available today has taken a hit in conveying many Catholic truths, there are more Catholic resources (than any other time) made available by God to supplement ones Catholic faith if one is truly interested.

  8. C matt. Either the infallible teaching of the Catholic Church that the Holy See of Peter remains forever incorrupt vis a vis teaching will pass away or the Bishop or Rome will.

    Not one sports book in Vegas is willing to post odds that the B of R survives. Seriously, he is processing rapidly to his death in office if he continues his naturalistic agenda

    O, M.J. knows one ought not write that cavalierly about Our Pope and Our Cross but M.J prays for him daily so it’s a wash..

  9. Saint Cyril (Catena Aurea; Matt 16:18)

    CYRIL; According to this promise of the Lord, the Apostolic Church of Peter remains pure and spotless from all leading into error, or heretical fraud, above all Heads and Bishops, and Primates of Churches and people, with its own Pontiffs, with most abundant faith, and the authority of Peter. And while other Churches have to blush for the error of some of their members, this reigns alone immovably established, enforcing silence, and stopping the mouths of all heretics; and we, not drunken with the wine of pride, confess together with it the type of truth, and of the holy apostolic tradition.

    Vatican 1:
    For the holy Spirit was promised to the successors of Peter
    not so that they might, by his revelation, make known some new doctrine,
    but that, by his assistance, they might religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith transmitted by the apostles.
    Indeed, their apostolic teaching was
    embraced by all the venerable fathers and
    reverenced and followed by all the holy orthodox doctors,
    for they knew very well that this see of St. Peter always remains unblemished by any error, in accordance with the divine promise of our Lord and Saviour to the prince of his disciples: I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren

    There is no ontological possibility that Pope Francis can succeed and yet M.J. is still obviously vexed by his attempts but there are numerous justifications for his vexatious state, not the least of which is that Our Pope and Our Cross has been wooing and wowing the world while he has refused to discharge his duties as Pope.

    O, and M.J. went to Confession Saturday and accused his own self of publicly calling Francis an antiChrist owing to the Synod and the Priest averred: You do understand that the Pope is right and that God’s revelation is continuous…

    How often is one tempted to sin during Confession?

    One has to hand it to the product discipline of the local franchise of the shadow church for one can be served the SOS at nearly every franchise across the country

  10. Dear B.C. On a bright note, according to Trent, if Our Pope and Our Cross does allow for the divorced and remarried to receive Communion, he will be anathema (H/T Vox Cantoris)

    CONCERNING THE MOST HOLY SACRAMENT OF THE EUCHARIST
    FIRST DECREE

    Being the third under the Sovereign Pontiff, Julius III., celebrated on the eleventh day of October, MDLI.

    CANON XI.-lf any one saith, that faith alone is a sufficient preparation for receiving the sacrament of the most holy Eucharist; let him be anathema. And for fear lest so great a sacrament may be received unworthily, and so unto death and condemnation, this holy Synod ordains and declares, that sacramental confession, when a confessor may be had, is of necessity to be made beforehand, by those whose conscience is burthened with mortal sin, how contrite even soever they may think themselves. But if any one shall presume to teach, preach, or obstinately to assert, or even in public disputation to defend the contrary, he shall be thereupon excommunicated.

Be kind, be (relatively) brief, be clear...

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