Traddie and Hippie Catholics: The Same?

Dearest Reader,

I don’t agree with everything posted on Rorate Caeli, a traditionalist Catholic blog, but their most recent post is certainly relevant and true:

My generation, simply, inherited the theological flotsam of the 60s; consider the widespread dissent over Humanae Vitae that became the cause celebre of the theologians formed in that era and whose ongoing impact continues to be a chief reason for certain Catholic universities to avoid going anywhere near JPII’s Ex Corde Ecclesiae.

My generation now seeks to bring the Church to a more full theological richness than it had when we were growing up. It seeks to avoid an over-identification of the Church with one cultural or temporal perspective, whether it be the vague Democratic tendencies of Kennedy-Catholicism, the overt Communism of certain liberation-theology-Catholicisms, or the merely banal Sing-A-New-Church-Catholicism which tied “the Spirit of Vatican II” to certain hymns from the 60s, rampant genuflect-a-phobia, and polyester vestments.

However, the traditionalism that was present after the Second Vatican Council carries equal faults of over-identification of traditionalism with certain cultural trends.

Rorate argues that traditional Catholicism should not be tied to the aesthetics and culture of the 50s. Theological orthodoxy and good liturgy is for all times and places. Much too often, the traditionalist parishes are doing precisely that: trying to recreate the 50s. That’s certainly not all traditionalism, but it’s a danger associated with their movement.

Before I hear the “Spirit-Driven” folks get triumphalistic about those nostalgic traddies, I’d remind them that the door swings both ways here. The only thing worse than a “progressive” is an aging “progressive” who cannot seem to escape the 60s-era Catholicism they grew up with.

Most progressive parishes I’ve visited or lived in look like the 60s warmed over. Just read the composition dates for the songs in the hymnal. They’re singing the St. Louis Jesuits, or Gather Us In, or Ashes, or Sing a New Song.

Eventually, you stop singing a “new” song when you’ve been singing the same one repeatedly for 50 years.

Both of these alternatives, liberalism and traditionalism, are, in real life, mixed packages of both cultural elements and theological ones. The traditionalist holds certain truths about the liturgy, the nature of belief, etc., which are not shared by the liberal. However, these are often mixed up with purely cultural accretions.

Holding that the Mass, for example, should be celebrated in dignified vestments made according to classical patterns does NOT imply the Roman fiddleback is the only way to go (good news for those of us who love the conical and medieval semi-conical gothic styles of chasuble).

Holding that the Mass should be celebrated with truly sacred music that implies transcendence does NOT mean no new hymns can be written or that “folk” music is intrinsically evil (although “Ashes” probably is 🙂 ).

Holding that theology should be rigorously scientific in its methodology and faithful to the Magisterium does NOT imply that theological disagreements are impossible, nor that theologians are slaves of the Pope, nor that we cannot incorporate pastoral sensitivity into theology.

It’s not just a generational thing. It’s fundamental opposition on certain intellectual positions that characterizes how these two positions conflict, aside from cultural contributing factors.

The new generation, as I’ve said before, embraces a different vision – one I think is healthier, by far. It’s not nostalgia for the world prior to the Second Vatican Council. It seeks to bring a stronger division between cultural expression and the trans-cultural faith that we hold together as Catholics. It’s ressourcement – reappropriating sources from the past in new ways. They are seeking to bring the true faith into dialogue with contemporary culture and change the world. The latter and the former goal are the crucial insights of the new generation: orthodoxy combined with holistic evangelism. This explains just about everything the new generation wants.

Why do young Catholics want to see priests wearing cassocks and religious wearing habits? Because wearing these tangible signs brings Catholicism into the world and makes the Gospel present visibly. It doesn’t just challenge religious/clergy themselves to live more holy lives, but it challenges everyone to do so.

Why do young Catholics insist on fidelity to the Church’s teaching? Because nobody wants to be part of an organization that they hate, nor can they get enthused about a group that they disagree with fundamentally. You leave those kinds of groups. If I’m a Catholic, it’s because I love Jesus Christ and believe that the Catholic Church and Her hierarchical leaders teach the truth. That’s rather the whole point of the Church’s existence: to preach saving doctrine and to administer the sacraments. I will do my darnedest to convince you and persuade you that we have the truth, but I don’t want you to stay somewhere you feel compelled to undermine. Heresy, like it or not, is not merely your problem, but is an social disease in the Body of Christ and so is everyone’s problem. Why? Because Truth is the business of the Catholic Church’s preaching, not merely evoking some community consciousness or political activity.

Why do young Catholics want clergy/religious to live strict lives of poverty, chastity, and obedience according to ancient forms? Because it speaks louder to the world that Christ’s Kingdom is not of this world and that our goal lies beyond material comfort. If Fr. Joe can give up the newest Ipad and sex, then I can too.

Why do young Catholics want liturgy that is “by the book”, with chant, incense, smells and bells? Because liturgy should draw us into our true goal, heaven, and not keep us bound to very culturally parochial “folk” mentalities. If liturgy is truly the timeless sacrifice of our true High Priest, Jesus Christ, made present on earth, why does it so often look like a hippie free-for-all that anyone thinks they can manipulate at whim?

Why do young Catholics want Eucharistic Adoration, silence, rosaries and all that jazz? Because they believe changing the world can’t be for a narrow political, purely naturalist agenda, but must be one oriented toward true happiness in God. The agendas that have co-opted the Church into progressive political programs are too limited; no purely political agenda will save us. Would that we could rule the world by prayer, it would be a much better place!

To get even higher on my soapbox, here are what I see as the five main elements in the “New Evangelization” Generation’s vision of the Catholic Church in the 22nd century and beyond:

  1. Theological Orthodoxy
  2. A “New Liturgical Movement”
  3. Radically Evangelical Clerical, Religious, and Lay Life
  4. Deep Spirituality
  5. Evangelization

Maybe I just speak for myself in pointing to these five aspects. I understand that I’m just going on personal experience and anecdotes, so maybe it’s just my own pipe-dream that the Church would embrace these things wholeheartedly.

But would it really be so bad to have a Church that really was a light set on a hill?

Would it kill someone to believe the world could be governed by God’s grace and prayer?

I guess it did.

Yours in Christ,

Br. James Dominic, OP

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