Thursday, January 16, 2014


Each Wednesday, we have a church supper (inculturation, since our Protestant brothers and sisters have done this for generations). It begins with Evening Prayer (abbreviated) and Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament at 5:30 followed by dinner at 5:45 and then adult formation at 6:30 (there is also a youth program) and everything concluding by 7:30 PM, my bedtime.

I've begun a five week series on Pope Francis' recent Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel). I had my second session on Chapter II last night. Presenting this has helped me to enter into what the Pope is saying as I try to explain it to those present and elicit questions and discussion.

Thus I was happy to see that Father Dwight Longenecker has a very good article,"Trendies and Tradies" in the National Catholic Register (a newspaper that deserves to have Catholic in its title). For what he describes in the article is certainly true in terms of Pope Francis challenging the Church to authentic renewal that brings unity to the Church and not division. You can read the complete article by pressing these sentences. I will present a few cogent excerpts below:

[Pope Francis] scolding, but his comments are also scalding. If we listen carefully, we’ll realize that the smiling "peoples’ pope" has some harsh criticism for a whole range of people — including Catholics. His words are blunt, and we’re beginning to realize that they don’t call him "Pope Frank" for nothing!

...Then he goes on to assess problems in the Church. He says "No" to spiritual sloth and "Yes" to a vibrant missionary mentality. He says "No" to a sterile pessimism and "Yes" to new relationships in Christ. Then, in the midst of a rich exhortation that bears detailed study, the Pope makes a very astute analysis of what he calls "spiritual worldliness" — a religion that looks perfectly fine on the outside but is rotten on the inside.

He says, "This worldliness can be fueled in two deeply interrelated ways. One is the attraction of gnosticism, a purely subjective faith whose only interest is a certain experience or a set of ideologies and bits of information which are meant to console and enlighten, but which ultimately keep one imprisoned in his or her own thoughts and feelings."

Gnosticism was a heresy in the early Church that was free-ranging, amorphous and difficult to define. This was because it was based in subjective feelings, personal revelation and individualistic interpretations of the truth. Gnosticism was notoriously shaky on an orthodox understanding of the Incarnation. Some gnostics got caught up in what we would recognize as New Age-type beliefs, while others turned the faith into a bland, humanistic self-help religion. 

This sounds like the "trendies" to me — Catholics who are caught up in subjective New Age spiritualities combined with politicized agendas. These modern Catholics are only concerned about worldly power, and they believe the mission of the Church is no more than to make the world a better place.

The Pope describes them saying, "This spiritual worldliness lurks behind a fascination with social and political gain or pride in their ability to manage practical affairs or an obsession with programs of self-help and self-realization. It can also translate into a concern to be seen, into a social life full of appearances, meetings, dinners and receptions." 

If Pope Francis criticizes the "trendies" for their subjective worldliness, he also criticizes the "traddies" with some astoundingly erudite nomenclature. He says, "The other [form of spiritual worldliness] is the self-absorbed promethean neo-pelagianism of those who ultimately trust only in their own powers and feel superior to others because they observe certain rules or remain intransigently faithful to a particular Catholic style from the past. A supposed soundness of doctrine or discipline leads instead to a narcissistic and authoritarian elitism, whereby, instead of evangelizing, one analyzes and classifies others, and instead of opening the door to grace, one exhausts his or her energies in inspecting and verifying."

What on earth is "promethean neo-pelagianism"? Prometheus was the Greek god who, by individual genius and effort, raised humanity by stealing fire. The translators have chosen this word to express the Pope’s vision of self-absorbed Catholics who thinks they know it all and have it all worked out. And Pelagius was the heretic who taught that humans could earn their own salvation.

We can’t help but see radical traditionalists as the Pope’s target. He pinpoints their "supposed soundness of doctrine or discipline" and their intransigent allegiance to traditional worship. He also dashes their judgmental attitudes that end up as a "narcissistic and authoritarian elitism" and assesses their self-defined and determined form of Catholicism as neo-pelagianism.

Pope Francis quite rightly sees that neither the "trendies" nor the "traddies" will be able to evangelize effectively. In harsh and blunt criticism rarely seen in papal documents, he says, "In neither case is one really concerned about Jesus Christ or others. These are manifestations of an anthropocentric immanentism." By "anthropocentric immanentism," he means the idea of God being centered in human activity and ideas that mimic true religion. He goes on to state, "It is impossible to think that a genuine evangelizing thrust could emerge from these adulterated forms of Christianity."

As Jesus turned over the tables in the Temple, so Francis turns over those who have set places, established agendas and organized power structures in the Church. As Jesus undermined the Zealots and the Sadducees — who turned the Jewish religion into a humanistic political campaign or a social club, so Francis criticizes Catholics for their shallow spirituality, political agenda and social maneuverings. As Jesus condemned the Pharisees for their narrow-minded legalistic traditionalism, so Francis pulls the rug from under the Catholics who fall into narcissistic and authoritarian elitism.

...His fresh approach cuts through all our expectations and categories. He shifts paradigms, moves us from our comfort zone and demands that we consider our faith from a new perspective — a perspective that is also as ancient, disturbing and table-turning as the Gospel itself.

MY FINAL COMMENTS: Thus far in this papacy, the ones who seem to be the most discomforted by what Pope Francis is teaching and doing are the radical traditionalists, the "Tradies." Pope Francis is moving them from their "comfort zones." And they are not going without a fight and a lot of screaming. They get it and don't like it. Time will tell just how Catholic this group is or isn't.

But the "Trendies" don't seem to get what Pope Francis is saying and doing and that his challenging words are also directed to them. They are in denial. They are the ones who have made the priesthood and religious life so worldly and secular. They try to spin the pope in their worldly ways by thinking he will ordain women, change the definition of marriage in terms of gender and permanence, allow for artificial contraception and other technical advances in terms of creating life and devolve the liturgy into the happy clappy status it developed in the 1970's. He would never say Mass ad orientem or entirely in Latin. And certainly he wouldn't maintain the pre-Vatican II altar arrangement.  

Somewhere in the middle are the good folks of Christ who get it and try to live their Catholic faith at Church, home, work and play and where they find themselves. They are NOT culture warriors against the Church and her Magisterium as though they have an inside knowledge about what the Church should become disconnected or in discontinuity with what preceded the Second Vatican Council. They are faithful to Christ and His Church and the Holy Father!


Gene said...

Lordy, lordy. I'll get the popcorn for this thread...

John said...

I am surprised that terms like tredies and tradies are used by the Holy Father and others in theological arguments. To me, such terms are vague in meaning and have no place in discussing theology. They sound very much like name calling.

Bernard Fischer said...

I can't believe Traditionalists are pelagian. Sometimes they are sourpusses, but I've never read a single sentence in traddie blogs or in my own interaction that indicates they are pelagian. Trendies might be gnostic, but that seems a stretch too. In fact, I'd pick trendies as pelagian, but then I can't claim tragedies are gnostic either.

This is the problem I had with that exhortation. Given all the invective, it's impossible for me to understand who he's taking aim at. He's sure mad at someone, though. I have to assume he's talking about people in Argentina.

Anonymous said...

Maybe, just maybe it's not that complicated. Maybe a liberal South American Jesuit gets to be pope and is going to do whatever he wants........just like all liberal South American Jesuits do. I revise that, maybe he is doing whatever he wants like all Jesuits around the globe do. Maybe it's that simple.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I think that gnosticism and pelagianism as the pope uses the terms could be applied to both groups and I would say that the progressives have sold most Catholics the bill of goods that if they celebrated the Mass as the progressives have deemed it should be, as an enclosed circle, focused on self, with plenty of lay ministries during the Mass and that the actions of the Mass such as eating and drinking and using bread and wine that are eatable and drinkable and that if there is a communion procession and everyone stands while everyone else is eating and drinking, that somehow this will effect salvation.

But the same can be true of the radical traditionalists in that they believe a complete return to the EF Mass will save the Church, not Jesus Christ, who is present in every validly celebrated Mass.
You can read more about this mentality at the New Liturgical Movement who posted this:

Finally, this pope is a leader and he is leading the way he wants to as did Pope Benedict and all the pope previous all the way back to Peter. Some popes are more zealous in their leadership and more invective of what is going on in the Church at particular points in history. This pope is clearly invective towards those groups that oppose the direction of his leadership. That is what true leaders do.

rcg said...

I agree with Bernard. My experience has been that trendies seek redemption through acts, which is my understanding of Pelagianism. I can see the temptation of triaddies to pride of their treasures, I have just not experienced it.

Gene said...

I think the term Pelagian is being misused.

Anonymous said...

"This pope is clearly invective towards those groups that oppose the direction of his leadership. That is what true leaders do."

Unlike Pope Francis, real leaders do not cause existing divisions to widen but are able to bring people together. Ronald Reagan did that. Pope Francis believes he is the font of all wisdom. Daily he is correcting everyone; this is wrong, that's outdated, this is irrelevant. But the reality is, Pope Francis does not possess the intellect of Pope Benedict and never will. Pope Francis' treatment of the Franciscans of the Immaculate is a perfect example of what kind of person he is. He is destroying a thriving order. Do they have problems, sure. But what order needs reform more the F of the I or the Jesuits? The Jesuits have been spreading error and dissent in the Church for 50 years. I observe no correction to them. And why does everything the pope does have to be so public. Pope Francis should enjoy the adulation he is getting in this life because that's his reward, unlike Pope Benedict who is really enduring a crucifixion by his own. And what about that 300 page secret document that is never mentioned. The Monsignor in charge of his Motel 6 lead such a scandalous life that he had to be recalled from his diplomatist post. An entire country wanted that priest out but Pope Francis has no problem with him. That's who Francis is. But the Pope Francis is crushing the Franciscans of the Immaculate. That's Francis.

Anonymous said...

Cardinal Castrillon, former Prefect for the Congregation of the Clergy has an excellent observation for the critics of Traditionalist Catholics:

"When you hear talk about so-called 'Traditionalists' some think that they are a group with a stubborn and nostalgic attachment to the past. THAT IS NOT TRUE. In fact, here we find ourselves before a dynamic Christian view of the life of faith and devotion, shared by so many families and their children who are attached to those ancient liturgical and devotional forms which have accompanied the Church through centuries of her history and have formed legions of saints."

Henry said...

I have to assume he's talking about people in Argentina.

I suspect this is the real key, or hermeneutic (as we say nowadays), to understanding the anomalies in these motel meanderings.

His words and views may be so shaped (and confined) by provincial South American experience that following them daily and trying to see some application to the Church as a whole leads to all kinds of word games and silliness that diminish the papacy.

Gene said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Fr. McDonald posts: "Any comment that is vitriolic and disrespectful of the laity in general, and Pope Francis, bishops and priests in particular will no longer be tolerated and will not be posted!"

Gene posts: "The Church is in free-fall. This Pope is a disaster so far."

The FARCE continues....

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Evidently some really enjoy reading farces and pointing them out?????

Gene said...

Just what is disrespectful about saying the Church is in free-fall? What is so bad about saying this Pope is a disaster? There is nothing disrespectful in that…it is an opinion. You libs are so self-righteous. LOL!

Anonymous said...

Why say you will not allow disrespectful posts, especially those directed against the Holy Father, and then turn right around a post them, apparently with alacrity?

Why the charade? Why the farce? Why not DO what you say you are going to DO?

John said...

Do we know the percent distribution of trendies and tradies? Let me make a guess!

I would estimate the tradie share at about 15%. These would be Catholics who exclusively attend the TLM, those who attend sometimes when TLM is available, and tradie sympathizers who may not have access to TLM at all but would go if available. Oh yeah, they miss Benedict XVI and were upset when Cardinal Burke lost his assignment on the Bishop selection advisory group.

The trendies are about 10% of Catholics, who would never attend a TLM even if it were the only rite available to them on Sundays. These are most of the older clergy, parish and chancery bureaucrats, liberal feminists, an others like them.

Then there are the other 75%, generally younger, and or low information Catholics who do not care very much about the shape and nature of the liturgy. Some of these people are clueless good souls. They are essentially happy to go to any Mass and often skip for any or no reason at all; rarely go to confession, contracept, cohabit, vote for anti-life politicians and so on.

I would also venture to say that most in the last 2 categories are in favor of female priests, same-sex marriage, and abortion at least in some circumstances because it is only fair and it is legal.

To be fair, I am not basing these opinions on any research survey. Although, given time I am certain that one can find supporting data for all of the above assertions.

Finally, our Holy Father in just short of 12 months in office has alienated the first group, gave false hope to the second, and generally confused everybody so that the 75% think we never had it so good, since ever!

Joe Potillor said...

Anon at 8:06 AM, I support your comments...and agree with most of them.

Three things I wish to say:

1) I tend to think the Holy Father, for better or for worse is making angry the wrong crowd, and in addition appeasing the wrong crowd. Although the Holy Father will never change doctrine (he can't), the perception that he will is going to cause more damage than changing doctrine ever would. For if he changed doctrine, he'd (hopefully) be deposed of office...the perception filters in and destroys souls from within. As I say it's better a priest or a person be a heretic (an error that can quickly be pointed to and dealt with) than a heterodox person (error mixed with truth, which can't as easily be dealt with). By mocking the very people that are more than likely praying the hardest for him, it leads to discourage those to pray for him.

2) Again, for better or for worse, Pope Francis (unintentionally, or perhaps intentionally, who am I to judge?) by the reduction of symbols has made it more about himself than he ever would have if he didn't ditch the symbols of the papacy...the cult of personality that is attached to Pope Francis was the thing that Pope Benedict XVI was trying to get us away from.

3) I do not think that traditionalists are the biggest problem in the Church. Those that are traditional are simply trying to do what others have done before them, and this should be lauded. Are there some that are over the top? Surely....But we also need to bear in mind that there are differences between legitimate criticisms which people have about various issues in the Church (whether it's the issue of Religious Liberty, our relations with other religions, the NO Missal (which is of course valid, and a 100% Catholic rite, whether it expresses our Faith in the best way possible, that can be up for discussion...The Liturgy is objective, not subjective)...

John Nolan said...


You've hit the nail on the head. Pope Francis is a scold. It's not an attractive trait, particularly in the male sex, since it is more of a female characteristic.

Benedict did not scold, nor did he indulge in name-calling. One misses him more and more.

David Brainerd said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

"The pope has diarrhea of the mouth". ???

Fr. McDonald, is this not disrespectful?

Why do you APPROVE FOR POSTING such garbage when you say over and over that you will not do so? Do you tell the good people in your RCIA that this is how you treat our good pope?

George said...

Some of the things the Holy father has said remind me of something in one of Walker Percy's Novels( Lancelot). Any way it went like this:
"Do you want a portrait of a New Southerner? He is Billy Graham on Sunday and Richard Nixon the rest of the week. He calls on Jesus and steals, he's in business, he's in politics."
Just like a caricature with it's exaggerations comes closer to bringing out the truth of something than a more faithful representation, the above statement, though painting with a broad brush, does hit close to home for a certain segment of the populace.

Anonymous said...

You are quite correct we will not go down without a fight we radicals that is.

John Nolan said...

What unites trendies and traddies (BTW, you need two 'd's otherwise it rhymes with 'ladies') is that they are liturgically aware. Forget aberrations such as clown masses; liturgical progressives like Rita Ferrone, Todd Flowerday and (to an increasing extent) Fr Ruff over at PTB are serious about liturgy, and wish to drive forward the agenda of Bugnini's Consilium which was cut short when Paul VI got cold feet. They know what they are talking about. Since progress is a "good thing", progressives tend to regard those who might impede it as not only wrong but morally wicked. This applies in politics as well as in ethics and religion.

Traddies (a term broad enough to include those who attended the Sacra Liturgia conference in Rome in June last year, and by no means confined to those who reject the Novus Ordo altogether) also know what they are talking about, and are arguably winning the argument intellectually. They certainly have more heavyweight academics in their camp. Ten years ago such a high-profile conference would scarcely have been conceivable; nor could one have imagined the number of private Masses in the EF celebrated every morning in St Peter's.

If there is a large "middle ground" it consists of those who turn up at their local parish church and accept what they are given without thinking too much about it. The Mass they attend will depend more on its timing than on the type of celebration. Larger churches can offer more choice, and congregations can be more selective. A sung Latin Mass as the principal Sunday Mass will draw a large congregation, but if the same church also offers a vernacular "family Mass" with hymns the congregation can be even larger. Devotees of the one will rarely attend the other.

I get the impression that the 'trendies' don't see the TLMers as a threat to the status quo, although they are bitterly opposed to Summorum Pontificum. Their main target is what they identify as ROTR or Reform2, and the 2011 translation to them epitomizes this, which is why they hate it so much.