Friday, December 05, 2014

Catholic trads and bourgeois '50s American culture

In practice, Traditionalist Catholicism is '50s bourgeois American culture with elements of Edwardian retro, pre-modern politics, and a random sprinkling of general European culture (Jane Austen, Mozart, Tolkien) for flavor.
Reminds me of Murray Rothbard's criticism of William F. Buckley Jr. (Cold War statism with European Catholic flavoring) but when I hear this stuff, I say "I resemble that remark," without apology. As I recently wrote to a born-Catholic Orthodox revert who tried to throw that in my face, yes, it's part of my own culture (continuity) and I don't pretend it alone is the universal church.

Facebook comments from different people:
I don't mind the Austen, I love Mozart, and Tolkien is okay I guess, but it is not good for trads to be stereotyped in those ways; it's much better to be stereotyped as so-called "neo-Nazis."

I think the OP makes a point. It's not knocking Austen, Mozart, or Tolkien, but the sort of feel-good style of traditionalism, where as long as everything is good like it was in the Clever house, we are all good. I myself prefer those alternative liberal Green Party types to the type the OP is talking about.

Rob pulled this comment from a thread in which we were/are discussing the nature of Catholic identity. The context is missing here. I wasn't necessarily knocking it as hopelessly stupid, just pointing out that Trad Cat culture did not magically spring forth from the liturgy, itself a cultural artifact of the Mediterranean world, but is a mishmash of various cultural tendencies.

What you call "trad Cat culture" is just a projection of what is in the popular culture onto what is acceptable to Catholics — because it's considered acceptable it's seized upon and there is an exaggerated interest in it.. Jane Austen and Tolkien are very popular with the general public Those things are just pop culture, I haven't noticed any particular love for Mozart among trads, but he was the greatest composer of music to ever live and he was Catholic and wrote Sacred Music, so that wouldn't be unnatural. The real trad Cat culture is the continuation of what went before, and that is in trouble, the revivalists, however, seem to be getting more skillful at marketing.

Americanism is a big problem of the "bourgeois 1950ist culture", and I think there is plenty of it to be passed around among Trad Cats. Not saying they are bad people. A lot better than your average ignorant churchgoer in a
Novus Ordo parish. It's a complex matter because we live in America, like it or not, and the natural affection we have for our country sometimes gets blinded by this obsession with the "freedom" we have. One problem is that it is pretty much the only thing most Americans take value in. The French had a blood revolution for liberty, too, but they do not have this pride for their country because they are "free". There is a depth to their culture, because of the age and how deeply built it is on Catholicism, even now with all the liberalism. That is lacking in America, whether because of the youngness, errors of liberty, or both. So liberty is all Americans have to cling on, too, and I think this seeps into the Catholic culture. It's nothing new and I think you would have found it well before 1950 in your average Catholic parish or school.

Define Americanism. JBS Americanism? Neocon Americanism. GOP Americanism? You're not going to get people to understand history, it would be nice if they understood some basic facts about who runs the modern world.

For trads, I would say more libertarian style/GOP style. For example, take the healthcare issue. I am for universal healthcare, single payer. You can call me a socialist. But go to Canada or Europe, and I doubt you will find even the trads worked up about this.
I don't knock the John Birch Society; quite the opposite. The church is apolitical; Catholics CAN believe in universal health care (as many Europeans do; the American bishops wanted it back in 1919) but don't have to, etc. Republic? Monarchy? Dictatorship? We can work with that.
Nicholas Wansbutter, a Canadian, has told me he has no real problem, morally, with their healthcare system. And since about 90% of their citizens are fine with it, I am going to guess most coservatives are, too, including trads. So while in your average American SSPX parish they are railing against "Obamacare" and socialism, in Europe they already have it. And Distributism is an Anglo-American thing. Outside of English-speaking countries your Distributist type conservatives just call themselves socialists, democratic socialists I suppose it would be.

There are undoubtedly moral issues with the health-care system of every Western country. Obamacare is outrageous and it is outrageous that any Catholic would support it under the pretense that they support public funding of medical care.

The real problem with "trad culture" is that they are not counter-cultural and anti-liberal and those who really are are exceptional. Things really do seem to be falling apart, even if the number of vocations and Latin Masses has increased.

When you talk to a trad you're more likely to hear the thought process of an Oprah watcher than of a Catholic of 100 years ago.

"Failure with an excuse is still failure" — Irish great-grandfather. That one cuts.

The problem is not that the average traditionalist is not countercultural — they are indeed opposed to the cultural revolution of the 1960s. The problem is that most of them look back beyond that only to the anomalous 1940s and 1950s as representative of Catholic culture, while it was in fact the closing phase of industrial transformation in which the elites were still willing to share some of the economic surplus in order to maintain a sufficiently large domestic market.

To what extent are they really opposed to it? It's a lot easier for them to talk nonsense about political goals that are impossible to implement than it is to maintain the values of the past.

Most of them are indeed opposed in principle to the Sexual Revolution ... although the women are certainly very often squishy on feminism ... and the men are typically henpecked by that in consequence.
Echoing Sunshine Mary's criticism of modern American evangelicals.
Trads disappoint but knocking their cultural vapidity is trite. IF ONLY there was something like the "bourgeois culture of the 1950s" among trads — it is nothing like it.
We're not perfect. Part of our problem has been forgetting the breadth, the big tent, of the real '50s church, everybody from Dorothy Day to Francisco Franco; rather, reacting to Vatican II and the Sixties, trying to be an idealized, perfectionistic cult, which is something with the church's trappings, not the church, and not how most Catholics lived then. Or "fundamentalism" (sorry to use a Pope Francis-like putdown of us) is itself part of modernity.
Parts of 1950s bourgeois culture were indeed infected — the cultural revolution didn't materialize ex nihilo. But invalidating it entirely is just as revolutionary. The key is separating what was diseased from what was healthy.
Edmund Burke: not just because it's old but because it's true.
The 1950s take a lot of blame but a lot of time has passed and it would behoove those who purport to be trad to recognize that their "culture" is becoming unrecognizable with respect to being in continuation with the past,, whereas the culture of the 1950s, whatever its defects, was in continuity. The world is more WASPy in spirit as it becomes less WASP in fact.
Right, political correctness (a parody of Christianity's humility and standing up for the oppressed), SWPLness: self-hating whites trying to make the world less white (really trying to replace conservative rival whites) while their "faith" is the ultimate degeneration of WASP Christianity (the New England Congregationalists turned Unitarians).
But it was a façade for substance-abusing workaholics who didn't actually have God as a priority and in reality placed their worship in materialism.
Blind faith in space-age "Progress!" begat Vatican II.
That is a fair criticism of many individuals. But that can't be projected onto everyone. That part of the culture — the "Mother's little helper/Suburban keeping up with the Joneses" parts — are fairly criticized, but that wasn't the entire culture.

Dude, they're the ones who would eventually elect Kennedy and their kids would become the '60s degenerates.

Most liberals of the 1960s were more conservative than most trads seem to be today.

Most Catholic Kennedy backers were completely misled by the media and hierarchy controlled by the Kennedys and their political allies. Most folks didn't understand what Fr. Murray was about at all, they just wanted to believe a putative Catholic could "win" the American game. That was naive, but not fundamentally corrupt.
The Kennedys long have seemed more important than they are because Joe Sr. wanted to be president so he bought good press, a PR machine, which he used to push Jack after his own ambition was thwarted and Joe Jr. was killed in the war. Bill Buckley's family (father) was similar except no mob money as far as I know, no push to become president, no bought press/PR machine, and they meant their Catholicism.
As Catholics we're a universal Church who happen to be Americans. Patriots but not nationalists.

There's a reason I would prefer a Tsar to this republic: one is clearly trying to pretend it isn't the other, and the other gives no apologies for being what it is.

America's ruling class is different than the Tsars. The American ruling class lies even to itself about what it is doing. That's what made it vulnerable to the national nervous breakdown in the 1960s.

1950ism may have its decent points, even being better than the present time. But conservative/liberal really are superficial in many ways, though they have their use. What was liberal in 1800 is conservative now. America was doomed from the beginning in my opinion. The outright liberalism of the Founding Fathers and the weakness, I think, of the Constitution from an objective, fair standpoint. I think a parliamentary system would have been far more effective. The nervous breakdown Paul speaks of is partially based on that. Madison was to some degree a monarchist from what I have read and what at least in favour of a stronger executive branch, going so far as to have one for life, voted of course.

The fifties are especially significant to Catholics because they preceded Vatican II and were the end of an era. As for all the pretentious criticism of American Catholics of the past by peoples from vicious, barbaric backwaters and by the sort of people who like the Queen of England, they are less than worthless.
Related: there's the real '50s and its continuations and then there is "nostalgia for nostalgia," the fake Fifties (the Fonz, etc.). The Fifties popularly understood since the nostalgia revival were just part of the '50s.

What we are doing in church is in part a continuation of the genuine article. Also, my recently (past 10 years) high-church city parish is more than a re-enactment (Low Mass with sappy hymns): borrowings from Anglo-Catholicism such as the music. More of the real '50s but drawing on another source.

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