Sunday, July 21, 2013


As I reflect upon the Thomistic Institute's conference this past week in Nashville, I am grateful to be able to attend a conference that looks to the future, that moves priests and the Church forward and based upon fidelity to the Church and what the Church is asking us to do today, not only liturgically but in every other way.

We can contrast this with groups in the Church, usually older, nostalgic for the hippy-dippy 1960's and 1970's and desiring the Church to go backwards to a time of the 1973 missal, ad libbed Masses and overall me, me, me generation.

There are still people debating the new translation and wanting to reverse what we have gained thus far. They want to go back to the "We" of the Creed, the "and also with you" of the greetings and an equivalent translation of the English from the Latin that leads to a dumbed down version of our liturgical piety and spirituality.

Thank God the conference I attended wasn't into these ideologies. Rather, they embraced with enthusiasm the new liturgy chanted properly and with the entire liturgy celebrated, including the Propers.

They support the Church's teachings on every issue there is even the most controversial, the parts of the Church's teachings that the retro crowd would like to eliminate, especially the natural law parts, such as the themes touched on by Humanae Vitae. This retro group, which has a few young people, like the dying orders of men and women religious, really think renewal lies in the direction of the recent past cut off from its more historic and distant past, its tradition.

So in the Church we have that dying breed that has a few younger adherents trying to move us backwards and we have a whole new generation that wants to embrace what the Church is doing today with what Pope Francis is calling us to do, to be faithful to the Pope and the Magisterium. This doesn't fit well with the retro crowd at all and in fact they tend to be in denial about the Holy Father's call to fidelity and tend to focus on his social doctrine and slight liturgical quirks as though he doesn't say the other things too about fidelity to the Magisterium. They seem to think his liturgical quirks are of the 1970's variety when in fact these are quite sober and minor compared to what the retro crowd would really desire.

Moving forward with the "I" of the Creed, and the "with your spirit" of the greetings is but the tip of the iceberg. The Holy Father is preparing us for fidelity to the Church and her Magisterium, which is not just the living Magisterium but all the Magisteriums that have preceded the living one.


Julius Rosenberg said...

Well said Padre, but I think we need to understand something: The geriatric hippies clinging to the 70's honestly believe that they ARE moving forward and that anything against their agenda is a step backward. They believe that we need to be "liberated" from such outdated concepts as dogma, magisterial teaching, canon law and discipline. I know it's hard for us to wrap our minds around this, but they seem to think you can be a Catholic and surrender everything that defines one as a Catholic.

I honestly don't know WHAT the Holy See is preparing us for, but it would be nice to see a bit more consistency between the last pontificate and this one.

Hammer of Fascists said...

Forward and backward are just as bad as, if not worse than, liberal and conservative. The forward/backward mindset reflects the deleterious influence of American whiggery, i.e., what comes next will always be better than where we are/were. To put it another way, the past (read: Tridentine Mass) consists of flaws, shortcomings, failings, and downright evil, and we must move forward to escape those things. The irony is that the Whig approach borrows heavily from the linear Judeo-Christian view of time, but Whiggery perverts that view horribly, ultimately leading to a dangerous, Pelagian utopianism.

It isn't that simple. Is it wrong for someone who has fallen away to go "back" to Mass and Confession? Is it wrong for someone to move "forward" in her prayer life so that, like the LCWR, she is beyond Jesus? The words really have no inherent meaning and can be filled up with whatever we want, but the tendency--and this is the dangerous part--is to automatically associate "back" with "bad" and "forward" with "good." But that's simplistic. It is a good thing to go back if one has made a mistake by going forward in the first place. So this whole post about going "forward" with Pope Francis is flawed from the outset in that it just leads us to debate, yet again, if what the Church has done liturgically in the past forty years was a mistake. There we're on old ground: most of the regulars here will say yes; Pater and the odd drive-by troll will say no.

Case in point: with the new English translation, did we move forward to a more correct translation, or back to the concepts conveyed by the original text?

It's far better to phrase such issues in terms of orthodoxy and heterodoxy.

Hammer of Fascists said...

Another point--how on earth could I have forgotten this? The two original tyrannies of the past that first produced whiggery were monarchy/aristocracy/class and Catholicism. In a sense, whiggery has its genesis in the same movement that had such French Enlightenment figures as Diderot and priest-turned-athiest Jean Meslier say that man wouldn't be truly free until the last king was strangled with the guts of the last priest.

Also, consider the final verse of a hymn I often hear in Catholic churches these days:

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!

Not at all clear that these alabaster cities that we're moving forward to are part of the New Jerusalem. Seems we are to build them ourselves in America. Who needs heaven if the cities here are going to be that good? that good? Dangerous stuff.

John Nolan said...

Anon 5

An interesting post. But surely the experience of the 20th century killed off the Whig school of history (the last of the great Whig historians was GM Trevelyan) and although belief in 'progress' persisted, it had a harder edge in Marxist-Leninism and Fascism, which are in fact closely related.

The Whig school had its advantages in that it provided a framework conducive to supporting a clear narrative, and since its demise we are struggling to find an alternative.

Ironically, the great landed magnates in the 18th century who supported the Hanoverian dynasty as it suited their economic and political interests, were Whigs. Dr Johnson, who famously identified the Devil as the first Whig, and John Wesley were Tories, as were many of the lesser landed gentry.

Hammer of Fascists said...

John Nolan: All good points, but I'm here speaking not so much of the Whig tradition in Anglo-American historiography as the general subconscious sense of American culture and politics. It was there from the time of John Winthrop. Politicians pretty much have to propagate it and pay lip service to it because nobody would elect a president who promised that things will be worse in the future, and parents want to believe as an article of faith that their children will be better off then they themselves are. The harsh realities that I'm in the first generation of Americans that is economically worse off than its parents, and the next generation will have it still worse, is something that the public sphere is utterly in denial about because it simply doesn't know how to handle this particular truth. It doesn't fit the model we've lived by for 400 years.

I do agree with you that to be a self-conscious whig in the wake of the 20th century is to be a bit naive. The purest ideological example of "progress is good" is definitely the Marxist-Leninist dialectic, and look how that turned out.

Jgr said...

I prefer Orthodoxy vs Heterodoxy, but I don't have a problem with "Moving forward", depending on
what is meant by that. This is the problem with Progressivism. Progress toward what?

The Church can move forward and adapt to the times but only up to a point and only in a certain respect. Thomas Aquinas moved things forward by "going back" to Aristotle.
The Creed is not to change. The style can change but not the substance. Truth will always be truth.
The Church which once believed in the Divine Right of Kings certainly today
has no problem with Democratic governance .

Labels can fail

The Republican Party in the U.S. today is not at all like the Republican party of the
1950's when it was considered to be progressive. Although society has changed so much
in the last number of decades that any fair comparison between the two would find the
difference to not be all that great.