Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Catholic culture wars: define your terms
Hilary on the ‘candle’ of Roman Catholic churchmanship, as in the Anglo-Catholic expression ‘up (or down) the candle’, ‘up’, meaning ‘high-church’ (originally about authority not ceremonial, which it mostly refers to now), being Catholic and thus good. In both versions, doctrine, authority and ceremonial are pretty closely related.

Parts I, II and III.

Jeff Culbreath did something similar for me about 10 years ago, distinguishing between traditionalists and conservatives. Traditionalism is closer to Orthodoxy’s approach (uncoincidentally traditionalism and the little Western Rite Orthodox experiment look more or less alike): it puts great authority in the way things have always been done, which changes but naturally and very slowly. ‘We’re papal minimalists’, he said. Home turf to ethnic Catholics (including Bad Catholics: ‘I don’t go to church but there’s only one church and who am I to try to change it?’).

(This is what the Anglo-Catholics I met in my teens, who helped form me, were imitating.)

Conservatives (neo-Catholics) include the low-church charismatics who seem to have peaked under their hero, John Paul the Overrated. Not heretics but their approach to the church was/is weird: every papal utterance was a holy nugget (sort of a parody of Roman Catholicism foreign to most ethnics born into it) and they hated trads for not being ‘open to the Spirit’, whatever that meant, such as the weird idea that it was normal for a Pope to order a wholesale rewrite of the services, which nobody, including the ultramontanists 140 years ago, ever imagined. (Hilary: ‘novusordism isn’t Catholicism’.) I think the late disgraced Marcial Maciel’s Legionaries of Christ were of this persuasion.

Me? Neither a hand-clapping JPII neocath cheering the Mideast wars nor a Social Reign of Christ trad. Vatican II/the Novus Ordo were bad, but: classical liberalism/libertarianism, not the neocons nor the monarchists/Francoists nor the distributists. So religious liberty is good. Ecumenism rightly understood is not a problem. (So other than its bad approach to liturgy, no problem on paper with V2. But Archbishop Lefebvre was a fine fellow.) The market, not a sanctified welfare state, no matter how well meant. So they all think I’m screwed. Whatever. The Italians and Slavs I know wouldn’t care what they think. There you go.

My message is like how I look, basically the same as it would have been in 1960: Good Protestant hymns at some Low Masses, though I prefer chant. (I like the quiet Low Mass first thing in the morning.) Sure, let’s have some dialogue Masses. More High Masses. More chant. Congregationally sung chant. Teach the laity about the office (breviaries for all who want them, and bring back Sunday Vespers). Let’s have the choice of doing some of it in English. Yay for Byzantium (where I’ve parked for nearly 20 years), and cut out the latinizations, Ukes. Liberal then, reactionary now. (If you think that’s reactionary you’ve never met the SSPX or the sedes.) Whatever.

The Modernists ought to get the hell out and join the mainline where they belong. But pretty soon both will be mostly dead anyway. God have mercy.

By the way, Bainbridge Street in South Philly, which I walked down today, has two charming little old Episcopal churches that inside are a lot like the Anglo-Catholicism I walked into as a very young man. (Essentially it was a monument to one man’s faith: imagine if Fr Toles had been ordained in the ’40s.) 19th-century Roman Catholic in style but small with charming taste. Those two, St Mary’s and the Church of the Crucifixion, were originally for the black servants of the uptown rich white Episcopalians. Apparently the blacks liked Catholic looks and ways. Obviously what I hope ordinariate parish churches will be like.

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