Saturday, May 03, 2014

Why Catholic traditionalists are so annoying

It's just a hunch of mine, but I would guess that what makes Catholic traditionalists so annoying is that they seem to be annoyed by so much of what the rest of the "normal" conservative Catholic world takes for granted as being "normal."

When I say "what the rest of the 'normal' conservative Catholic world takes for granted," I'm thinking of EWTN, Dan Schutte's Mass songs, contemporary church architecture, the Novus Ordo liturgy, Communion in the hand, free-standing altars, the obvious blessings of Vatican II, bishops dancing at World Youth Day, all-you-can-eat Lenten Friday fish fries -- things like that.

The case of the Catholic apologist seems almost emblematic. Tradition-minded Catholics generally seem put off by the Catholic apologist. They seem to find him annoying. Why? Would they say it's the slightly patronizing "patness" of his answers? the approaching-smug sense that if his listeners simply got all their facts right, all would be well with the Church? I don't have the answer. But I do know that "normal" conservative Catholics are sometimes seriously annoyed when they discover that traditional Catholics are put off (for whatever reason) by their celebrity apologists.

The fact is, I have personally profited a great deal from some of their work. I like the arguments made by Karl Keating in Catholicism and Fundamentalism, by Jimmy Akin in The Salvation Controversy, and by Peter Kreeft in Fundamentals of the Faith: Essays in Christian Apologetics (despite the fact that it misled a Lutheran bishop to conclude that the Catholic Church had come around to the Lutheran understanding of the Christian faith, which conclusion he was rudely disabused of by Pope John Paul's grant of a Jubilee year indulgence in 2000, leading him to reverse his decision to become a Catholic). Nonetheless, many of these sorts of works are well-conceived and meet a real need, not only for the potential convert but for the Catholic who wishes to know his faith better, particularly vis–à–vis Protestantism.

Still, I can imagine that there are many tradition-minded Catholics who would be at least mildly annoyed by titles like Dave Armstrong's Bible Proofs for Catholic Truths, or One-Minute Apologist, no matter how cogent and substantial Armstrong's arguments.

The question is, why?

The answer, I imagine, would have something to do with the fact that those Catholics who are particularly concerned about (some might say obsessed with) Catholic tradition probably tend to think that other "normal" conservative Catholics aren't sufficiently exercised about the kinds of things that concern them. That is, as these tradition-minded Catholics see it, there is a subject often conspicuously absent from the table in most discussions by apologists -- something that cuts to the heart of their own concerns -- namely the crisis in the Church. (And let's not get hoodwinked by the red herring that the Church has always been in crisis, which doesn't absolve us from dealing with our own crisis of mass apostasy and an imploding Church.)

Of course it goes without saying that the Catholic apologist, who is concerned with defending and promoting Catholic doctrine to prospective converts, is not likely going to be spending a lot of time lamenting the pitiful state of the Church today. This creates the impression among tradition-minded Catholics, however, that the Catholic apologist, while serving a certain niche market, seems to be a member of a sort of fan club for the status quo that is hell-bent on winning converts even at the cost of dishonesty in advertising.

Many Catholic apologists are, like me, converts to the Catholic Faith. All of us converts, I think I can safely say, were thrilled to be received into the Church and wouldn't be caught dead anywhere else! We embraced (and continue to hold) the fullness of the Faith with enthusiasm. But not all of us took the same paths after our conversions.

Some, in quasi-Baptist-fashion, have made careers out of calling others to swim the Tiber and come aboard the Ark of Salvation, the Church. Just as good Baptists, once they "get saved," are often focused primarily on getting others to "get saved," so some Catholic apologists seem focused primarily on honing arguments that will help get non-Catholics into the Church. I say "Bravo"! Good for them!

Meanwhile, other converts are more preoccupied with the internal state of the Church. In the cultural momentum of the recent Church history, they have discerned much that fills them with alarm. The focus of their concerns is thus not so much on how to win converts as how to keep them once they come into the Church. How do we keep converts from dying of thirst in the shallow puddle of Marty Haugen church music, Fr. Richard Rohr "catechesis," or programs of Lenten Yoga? How do we make sure they find firm rooting in the rich soil available in the Church fed by the living springs of her Sacred Tradition? Let me say that I also share with many of my Catholic friends this concern for growing deep roots in Catholic tradition.

From this vantage point (at least for traditionalists), it may sometimes appear as though the rest of the "normal" conservative Catholic world is intent on burying its head in the sand. Of course, I seriously doubt this is true; yet I can understand the perception. Where but among the more tradition-minded Catholics, who are often dismissed as (and sometimes are) extreme (Michael Davies, Geoffrey Hull, Louie Verrecchio, Michael Voris, John Vennari, Michael Matt, Christopher Ferrara, Atila Sinke Guimarães, Romano Amerio, Roberto de Mattei, etc.) does one find any real head-banging-serious hand-wringing over the effects of Vatican II and the current implosion of the Western church?

Oh, of course there will be the obligatory nod toward the problem of abuses and confusions here and there, as exemplified by Helen Hull Hitchcock in the Adoremus Bulletin. But the focus is clearly on trying to patch up a few relatively minor bruises on an otherwise healthy patient. One need only read or listen to anything by the prolific Fr. Robert Barron on his Word of Fire website, or by the equally prolific George Weigel, like his Evangelical Catholicism, or listen to any of his interviews, to see how oblivious they seem to be about the deepest concerns that trouble tradition-minded Catholics. In fact, the Evangelical Catholicism envisioned by Mr. Weigel seems not substantially different from an Evangelical Protestantism to which a number of corrective Catholic propositions have been superadded (like frosting on a cake) for the assent of the faithful, along with numerous para-church lay apostolates to pick up the slack left by a radically diminished traditional monarchial hierarchy.

Meanwhile there continues to be a lot of talk about evangelization and the New Evangelization, but very little actually being done beyond diocesan and parish programs that come and go and leave the status quo pretty much unchanged. Not for a moment would I deny or belittle the evidence of pockets of renewal here and there throughout the country, or the work of wonderful priests and lay evangelists faithfully working against incredible odds and often at great personal sacrifice: there is nothing that argues so incontrovertibly as the testimony of changed lives. At the end of the day, nonetheless, for all their work and for all the books and articles and programs focusing on parish renewal, keeping kids interested, and bringing lapsed Catholics home, there is very little that promises to stem the tide of massive apostasy sweeping the West.

That leaves the tradition-minded Catholic with a sense that something about all the "happy talk" among contemporary "normal" conservative Catholics seems a bit abstracted from real world of lived experience in the local parish, and the sense that the rubber never quite hits the ground -- and the fact that he refuses to stop pointing this out is probably what makes him so damned annoying. Especially if he's cheerful.


24 comments:








rubyroad

said...

Which name doesn't belong (Michael Davies -----de Mattei?)
Answer: Michael Voris.





Paid by Catholics and Enjoying It

said...

You can be true to the Catholic Church according to its own words, but what fun its that?





Dark Horse

said...

RR,

What's your beef against Voris?

PBCAEI,

What that's supposed to mean?





Chris

said...

Philip,

I find myself agreeing with nearly every syllable of what you have written. (That's not completely unknown, of course, but I'm pleased that you've written it, since someone needs to identify properly for both sides in what the disagreement consists.)

Dark Horse,

If I had to guess, a beef against Voris would revolve around his (reported, but perhaps not true) distaste for the Extraordinary form of the Mass. I don't agree with everything Voris writes/says, but I find it hard to pretend that his criticisms are based in fantasy.

A teacher of mine in high school (who died about 18 months ago) used to tell us that the Civil War wasn't just about slavery, but about what slavery was about. Part of what he meant by this was that declaring the war to be about slavery alone was to adopt an insufficient hermeneutic to understand the war and the society which endured it. In the same way, "Conservative" Catholics tend to take a "magical key" approach. In fairness, there are some who call themselves "Traditional" who are anything but .... and these often use the "magical key" themselves.





rubyroad

said...

Dark Horae,
Papal blind spot.





Pertinacious Papist

said...

Mark Shea, I'm not sure what point you're making, though I'm delighted you're "Catholic and Enjoying It."





Dave Armstrong

said...

I have replied here:

https://www.facebook.com/dave.armstrong.798/posts/774113712623616?stream_ref=10

My Facebook posts are public; open to all, if someone wants to comment. I have asked my many "traditionalist" friends what they think of your criticisms.





Anonymous

said...

I know Fr. Robert Barron, and believe me, he is a disturbed by rot and idiocy and corruption as anyone is, but in his role as a rector of a major seminary, he obviously feels that the way to address those problems is to work hard to form solid priests. Yes, he may have a certain blind spot regarding the TLM, but given the number of recent events at which Mundelein seminarians have participated in TLMs, and who Fr. Barron is bringing in to teach sacred music, who knows what might happen int he future...

And to your basic point. The obvious reason why especially convert apologists set one's traditional teeth on edge is that their style and approach is still fundamentalist and evangelical. They have replaced "sola scriptura" with "sola magisterium" which they interpret as some combination of proof texts and recent pope-of-the-month pronouncements.





Pertinacious Papist

said...

Mr. Armstrong.

I have your Newman book, which I like very much. Please note that I nowhere suggest that books such as yours should not be written, even the quick reference book for one minute apologists. They're very useful, and I myself find such booklets useful. I position myself in my post simply as an observer with sympathies for both "normal" conservatives and "tradition-minded" Catholics. If anyone calls me a "traditionalist," it is not a self-descriptor. All I say as to your two titles is that tradition-minded Catholics are not going to see them as addressing their concerns. If there is any "critique" of your work in that statement, it is not mine; mine is but a description of how one side might react to the other. Both you and so-called "traditionalists" each have your own proper vocations and spheres of concern. Though there may be little overlaps in terms of specific areas I focus on here, they are not incompatible and each is important. But they are different. That aside, they share massively a common commitment to the Catholic Faith.





Dave Armstrong

said...

Here's my response that I wrote on my Facebook page:

* * *

Dr. Blosser,

Thanks so much for stopping by, and for your helpful comment. I understand (now even more so) that you were making generalizations about "traditionalists" and being an observer. Why they think this way (if indeed they do) is what I'm trying to figure out. My comments were, accordingly, not primarily directed at you, but rather, at the phenomenon you describe. But I will change the title and a few lines that implied you were making the charge, rather than observing that others might make it.

"All I say as to your two titles is that tradition-minded Catholics are not going to see them as addressing their concerns."

Why would that be annoying to them, though? Why would that make anyone be "annoyed" by a book title or its content, simply because it doesn't deal with what they are most concerned about? It'd be like saying, "I love bananas and don't like pears so much. It annoys me that Mr. X over there is eating and (worst of all!) enjoying a pear!" What relation do the two have to each other? None . . . it's like the proverbial apples and oranges.

"Both you and so-called 'traditionalists' each have your own proper vocations and spheres of concern. . . . they are not incompatible and each is important."

This is exactly my view, too. I'm glad to hear you say this. I am quite happy to let "traditionalists" do what they do (live and let live; I encourage it), as long as it doesn't cross certain lines, which I consider "quasi-schismatic" or bashing the Church (where I myself will start to criticize it as imprudent and slanderous, etc.). Many if not most "traditionalist" concerns, I share myself. I write about liturgical abuse and moral laxity and a host of things that "traditionalists" can and do resonate with. I don't write much about bishops and the "politics" in the Church; never have, for a variety of reasons: the main reason being that it has little or nothing to do with my vocation of apologetics.

What I object to is this notion that I must do all this sort of "airing dirty laundry" and sociological / muckraking journalistic-type analysis of Church problems, just because "traditionalists" do. I'm under no such obligation. I have a plate more than full enough, with all the doctrines and dogmas and misunderstandings that apologists routinely deal with. I'm also a big believer in not spreading oneself too thin. As it is, I have more than 2,500 papers, so I've covered quite a few topics; but I can't do *everything.*

I'd like to hear from "traditionalists" who would actually be annoyed (as you surmised) at two of my book titles, and the fact that they didn't deal with their own leading concerns.

THAT would be a fascinating discussion . . .





Pertinacious Papist

said...

Mr. Armstrong,

I think "normal" conservative and tradition-minded Catholics are both concerned with some of the problems we all see in the Church. I think these concerns may attach to slightly different diagnoses sometimes, even if both are accurate, as far as they go.

For example, somebody (let's call him "Joe") concerned with nothing more than the canonical licitness of a liturgical action may concern himself with various liturgical abuses such as departing from the rubric into ad hoc performances. Yet Joe may find altogether unmproblematic some liturgical innovations that, while canonically licit, represent a significant rupture with liturgical tradition as well as carrying questionable theological implications. (Let's call the person concerned with these latter issues "Jim.") [More detailed examples can be found HERE.]

Now Jim is no less concerned with the abuses involving canonical violations of the liturgical rubrics that concern Joe, but these abuses can seem almost beside-the-point in light of the concerns that animate Jim. Thus when Joe expresses satisfaction that some canonical abuses have been corrected by in his parish, Jim's response to his satisfaction may seem less than enthusiastic, and this may strike him as strange and annoying. Why shouldn't he rejoice? But Jim isn't concerned so much with questions like "Is this Mass valid?" or "Is this action canonically illicit?" Rather, his questions run more along the lines of "Is this expression of liturgy authentically Catholic?" or "What does this liturgical action convey theologically?"

I think this is an example of the sort of disconnect we get between what I've called (for lack of a better distinction) "normal" conservative Catholics and "tradition-minded" Catholics.

As for how this impacts your question about why the latter could find those two book titles of yours annoying, my hunch is that some among them (to put it in extreme terms to make it more obvious) might be inclined to view honing one's skills as an apologist in meeting various Protestant objections as a sort of parlour game being played on the deck of the sinking Titanic.

Now we know the Church is not a "Titanic" that's going to sink, and we know that honest answers of the sort you provide to honest questions are invaluable to the quest for truth. But maybe this can help to see how the sides may fall out, when they could really serve the Church much better by cooperating or at least seeing one another as co-belligerents in the same army.





Polk Salad Annie

said...

What is it with all these big time apologists and their doofus cowboy hats? Do you cowpokes ride mechanical bulls at "Theology on Tap" lovefests?





Robert Allen

said...

'I'd like to hear from "traditionalists" who would actually be annoyed (as you surmised) at two of my book titles, and the fact that they didn't deal with their own leading concerns.' Dave Armstrong

As a traditionalist, I see your apologetic as irrelevant and, yes, off-putting because you fail to realize that the most serious problem facing the HMC, entailing even the moral issues you address, is the continued abandonment of venerable liturgical rites wrought by V2. If you would like your work to resonate with me, try criticizing the powers that be who trumpet ecumenism while eroding the sense of what it means to be a Roman Catholic, i.e., those who would placate rather than attack our enemies.





Dave Armstrong

said...

Hi Robert,

Thanks for your feedback and for having the guts to refrain from anonymity.

Of course, your comment tells me nothing about why my apologetics is bad, or why two of my book titles are deficient. It's no argument or true response at all.

All it tells us is that the only things you think are important are liturgy and a commitment against ecumenism: both classic "traditionalist" and radical Catholic reactionary distinctives.

You apparently see no importance in apologetics or defense of doctrine. I find that fascinating, in that it seems to presuppose that apologetics was irrelevant before the notorious, evil, wicked Vatican II, as well as after.

That would be big news to St. Francis de Sales, Pascal, Bishop Bossuet, Cardinal Gibbons, St. Thomas More, Erasmus, St. Robert Bellarmine, Cardinal Wiseman, Blessed Cardinal Newman, Ronald Knox, G. K. Chesterton, Frank Sheed, Robert Hugh Benson, Hilaire Belloc, and many others.

But to you (if you are consistent with your present remarks) that is all "bad" because it's not what YOU are most concerned about. It's your way or the highway. Nothing else matters. That is the classic pharisaical attitude: so roundly condemned by our Lord.

Lastly, bad liturgy was not "wrought by V2". It had nothing to do with that (V2 called for the retention of Latin), but everything to do with liturgical liberals who hijacked the council and put their own junk into place. The Pauline liturgy is not a bad thing; it's a reformed thing, and if rightly done (this is the problem), every bit as orthodox and reverent as the Old Mass. Thus, I have attended a very traditional, reverent, Novus Ordo Latin Mass at my parish since 1991.





Dave Armstrong

said...

By the way, as to my hat, it is a fedora. See:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fedora

. . . not a "cowboy hat": which usually has curved sides:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cowboy_hat

But I wouldn't expect a nattering nabob with an inane anonymous nickname to understand such subtle differences.

If a mocking comparison is to be made, it would be much more to the gangsters of the 20s and 30s, or movie stars in the 40s and 50s, who often wore fedoras, rather than to the cowboys.

I even did a whole series of photos on Facebook, trying to (tongue-in-cheek) emulate the old "gangster look": with a black leather jacket and white tie: hardly a "cowboy" look.

I'm from Michigan ((Detroit), and I can vouch for the fact that virtually no one wears a "cowboy hat" here. That's mostly a western and sometimes southern style.

Learn history, learn fashions, with five minutes of online research, and you won't look so foolish and out to sea when you comment.





Robert Allen

said...

'Of course, your comment tells me nothing about why my apologetics is bad, or why two of my book titles are deficient. It's no argument or true response at all. All it tells us is that the only things you think are important are liturgy and a commitment against ecumenism: both classic "traditionalist" and radical Catholic reactionary distinctives (sic).'

My response, thought admittedly terse, does tell you everything you need to know about my pique: you folks are failing to get at the root of the problem, viz., the Protestanization of our liturgy and its insidious effect upon the life of the faithful. I must say though, in labeling my concerns 'classic ...' you do manage to commit one of the best tu quoques of all time. Of course that appellation fits my concerns: I ALREADY TOLD YOU THAT I'M A TRADITIONALIST.

'You apparently see no importance in apologetics or defense of doctrine. I find that fascinating, in that it seems to presuppose that apologetics was irrelevant before the notorious, evil, wicked Vatican II, as well as after. That would be big news to St. Francis de Sales, Pascal, Bishop Bossuet, Cardinal Gibbons, St. Thomas More, Erasmus, St. Robert Bellarmine, Cardinal Wiseman, Blessed Cardinal Newman, Ronald Knox, G. K. Chesterton, Frank Sheed, Robert Hugh Benson, Hilaire Belloc, and many others.'

I have read and greatly admire the works of all of those writers, especially FDS, BB, and HB. (I just discovered RHB and plan on reading BWA this summer.) The difference between them and you is that they were (or at least would have been had the question arose) staunch defenders of the Mass of the Ages and for that reason reliable guides as to what it means to be a RC.

'But to you (if you are consistent with your present remarks) that is all "bad" because it's not what YOU are most concerned about. It's your way or the highway. Nothing else matters. That is the classic pharisaical attitude: so roundly condemned by our Lord.'

To borrow a phrase from Barry Goldwater, extremism in the defense of tradition is no vice. Moreover it is most definitely not MY way for which I advocate, but the Mass of St. Gregory the Great and St. Pious V, as handed down from the Apostles who were with our Lord in the Upper Room when He 1st said 'Do this in memory of me.'

'Lastly, bad liturgy was not "wrought by V2". It had nothing to do with that (V2 called for the retention of Latin), but everything to do with liturgical liberals who hijacked the council and put their own junk into place. The Pauline liturgy is not a bad thing; it's a reformed thing, and if rightly done (this is the problem), every bit as orthodox and reverent as the Old Mass. Thus, I have attended a very traditional, reverent, Novus Ordo Latin Mass at my parish since 1991.'

Ah the old intentions vs. implementation distinction. But here we do get to the heart of the matter. St. Pious V, in combating Protestantism, codified the Sacred Liturgy and thence declared that anyone attempting to alter any of its aspects, including the language in which it was to be prayed, should be anathema. The fact that you do not regard the NO as a violation of this papal edict is what (sadly) divides us.





Anonymous

said...

Robert Allen:
I have had similar discussions through the years. I don’t know if you number among those who believe that QUO PRIMUM is infallible but many people I have known through the years do. The criteria for Infallibility:

1. The Pope must speak Ex Cathedra (from the Chair of Peter) in his official capacity.
2. The decision must be binding on the whole Church.
3. It must be on a matter of faith or morals.
4. He must be intending to teach.

Below is the quote from Quo Primum. The encyclical does not is not binding on the whole Church, therefore not infallible.

“This new rite alone is to be used unless approval of the practice of saying Mass differently was given at the very time of the institution and confirmation of the church by Apostolic See at least 200 years ago, or unless there has prevailed a custom of a similar kind which has been continuously followed for a period of not less than 200 years, in which most cases We in no wise rescind their above-mentioned prerogative or custom. However, if this Missal, which we have seen fit to publish, be more agreeable to these latter, We grant them permission to celebrate Mass according to its rite, provided they have the consent of their bishop or prelate or of their whole Chapter, everything else to the contrary notwithstanding.”

Pax et bonum

Donna





Chris

said...

Dave Armstrong,

When you wrote

"All it tells us is that the only things you think are important are liturgy and a commitment against ecumenism",

you appear to dismiss a rich source of doctrine and authentic concern that "ecumenism" already has a meaning before "let's all come together in each others' houses" became all the rage.

To defend the Mass, I suspect others will, intelligently, argue, IS to defend Catholic teaching. To oppose the currently accepted form of ecumenism IS to defend Catholic truth from indifferentism and false irenicism.

Chris Garton-Zavesky





Hilary Jane Margaret White

said...

Mike Voris isn't a Trad. He's a good guy, and a good Catholic, but he ain't a Trad, which I'm sure he'd tell you if you asked. But he also doesn't "hate" the TLM. I know this because he usually attends it at least once whenever he visits us in Rome, and seems to be doing so of his own free will.





Robert Allen

said...

Yes, Donna, QP is binding upon the entire HMC; what is not mandated is (what we call) the TLM. It is as if I were to say to my family 'A3 I want you to do the dishes, A2 you take out the garbage, Ab, since you are my favorite, you have a bowl of ice cream; honey, let's you and I go see how the Tigers are doing.' My order, though entailing a different requirement for each individual towards whom it was directed, would have been intended for the entire group.





Anonymous

said...

I understand what you mean Robert and indeed QUO PRIMUM was binding on everyone 1570. But since then we have had other Popes who have changed this directive. No Pope can go against and ex cathedra statement but no successor of Pope Pius V is held to his non infallible bull.

Donna





Pertinacious Papist

said...

Dear Ms. White,

Good points.

BTW, I've seen Mr. Voris at a TLM at our parish in Detroit.

The trouble with saying someone is or is not a "Trad" is the diffuseness of the semantic range of reference.

If, on the one hand, one used a term like to mean someone who is an exclusive patron of the Extraordinary Form (EF), a confessional Catholic monarchial state, etc., then he might not qualify.

If, on the other, one used it to refer to someone who defends the EF and traditional Catholic social teaching, and opposes the political accommodationism of the Catholic "right" and "left," Communion in the hand, the wreckovation of traditional church architecture, etc., then he might qualify.

I don't use such terms as having hard-and-fast definitions, because people rarely fit tidily into them. Which is why I avoid using labels for myself, other than "Catholic."

But I understand your point, which is well-taken.





Fartein Valen

said...

"I understand what you mean Robert and indeed QUO PRIMUM was binding on everyone 1570. But since then we have had other Popes who have changed this directive."

No pope has an authority greater than another pope. Which means in practical terms that the last guy is right about everything. Which means that the Church hierarchy is a bastion of relativism, and always has been, and that today's apologists butter their bread by denying the indisputable for $$$.





techdecisions

said...

Thank you. God bless you. We are often not easy to love or be patient towards. May He have mercy on us all!