Saturday, June 18, 2022


 Protestantism tends to emphasize individualism and individualism is often used to describe the American experience. 

Thus, I wonder just how horrible, how bad, how mortally sinful individualism is. In fact, I don’t believe that at all unless it causes people pain, suffering and death, such as abortion does. The abortion debate is an exercise in the worst case scenario of individualism, “my body, my choice!”

But, liturgically speaking, does it cause pain, suffering and death to the worshipping people of God?


The liturgy most associated with individualism isn’t the Mass now called “Antecedent” but the one that is called the normative Modern or novel Mass of the Latin Rite. This Mass can be used, abused and manipulated to the various tastes of individuals, of parishes, and of dioceses, not to mention nations or regions of the world, like the Amazon. 

As it regards the priest, unless a liturgy committee makes the decisions, he can choose this, that or the other option based upon his individualism and individual preferences. Which ad libbing, which greeting, which form of the penitential act or replacing it with the Asperges, which Eucharistic prayer, which acclamation to the Eucharistic prayer. You get the picture.

And then the whole debacle of inculturation raises individualism to a high art. Who decides inculturation? The priest, the bishop, the congregation or the individuals at Mass?

The modern Missal promotes individualism to a high art, indeed. Is that any worse than the individualism that having two forms of the one Latin Rite has created where there are those who prefer the Mass of the Ages and those who prefer the more individualized Modern Mass what some call, “the Mass of Individualism?”

Oh, did I mention styles of music that individuals can choose for the modern Mass? 

Individualism isn’t so bad as long as the choice isn’t the Mass of the Ages as an individual’s personal preference. 

Here’s a good secular article on the value of individualism:

13 Reasons Why INDIVIDUALISM triumphs Collectivism !


TJM said...

THis is off topic, Father McDonald, but I thought you would find this amusing:

"As [Van]Jones says, the modern Democrat Party is just “weird.” He brings up the idea of calling Hispanics “Latinx,” noting that normal, middle class people have never met a “Latinx.” Nor have they met anyone who identifies with the acronym “BIPOC,” which I had to google in order to find out what it means. Apparently, “black, indigenous, people of color” didn’t have enough identifiers already and needed more. The left has so fractured the country that it’s impossible to keep up with all the various groups they’ve created.

Further, those pushing such nonsense are, as Jones points out, predominantly over-educated and wealthy. They are in no way connected to the normal struggles of everyday life, and their lack of religious observance has left them with no feeling of purpose. In order to make themselves feel better, they’ve decided to create victim groups to “help.” That’s how you get the stupidity that is “Latinx,” a name with which essentially no Hispanic people identify."

Of all places this interview took place on CNN. Their dwindling audience must have been aghast!

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

I suspect you are unaware that "The Fountainhead," from which is taken the quote that serves as the foundation for the article you linked, was written by the noted atheist, anti-religionist, and philosophical objectivist Ayn Rand. Her individualism, which springs from her objectivism, has been described by Saint Pope John Paul II as a dimension of the "culture of death" which arises from an "eclipse of the sense of God." Those are not sterling credentials in any Catholic's book.

Rand's radical individualism flies in the face of Catholic social teaching and denies the very nature of the human person which is communitarian. Og didn't survive in prehistoric days by killing a wooly mammoth by himself. He and his tribe - a community - banded together to cooperate in obtaining the meat they needed to live.

Rand's notion of the Supreme Individual also flies in the face of the doctrine of the Eucharist. Malcolm Schluederfritz writes, "We shouldn’t see the Eucharist in an individualist manner, as being all about an individual encounter with God. By participating in the Eucharist, we become one both with the local Eucharistic community and with the Mystical Body of Christ as a whole." That is our doctrine.

As to liturgical individualism, was I giving evidence of some liturgically pain-causing behavior when, yesterday, I chose the fourth Eucharistic Prayer? Did I contribute to someone's loss of faith by choosing form one of the Penitnetial Rite? I think not. Holy Mother Church does not give us options that cause pain.

rcg said...

Hopefully on topic, I can think of several reasons the individual gives the most to God when encouraged to stand alone. Out first example is found at our Baptism and when we renounce sin and attest to our Faith in the singular, not plural, pronoun.

TJM said...

Fr K,

BLM and Antifa, the Dem Party’s stormtroopers, activities fly in the face of the Church’s social teaching, unless since Vatican II rioting and burning homes and businesses are now part of the “social justice” creed.

Mark said...

Individualism versus Collectivism is a false dichotomy. As Father Kavanaugh points out, we exist, and indeed can only exist, as individuals within community or, more precisely, communities. More specifically, we form our individual selves and acquire our individual identities as we participate in the various practices in which these communities engage and the traditions they bear. Consequently, our individual selves and identities are an amalgam--partly shared and created by others, partly unique and created by us. Another way to say the same thing is that our life stories are partly written by us and partly by others, so that we are at most co-authors of our own lives. Perhaps the phrase “interdependent selves” comes close to capturing the reality. It is within this matrix that we can then try to listen for the voice of God and to discern what God is calling us to become and to do or, as I like to think of it, how God is calling us to flourish as individuals within community.

The TED talk video embedded in the article is instructive, The high school girl giving the talk, doubtless after having been brainwashed by exposure to the materials distributed in her school by the Ayn Rand Society, seems blissfully unaware that the only reason she can express herself individually in a Yoga pose is because she participates within the practice and tradition of Yoga, and indeed that she has learned the very concept of the headstand or “The Tree” pose from the community that practices Yoga.

The situation becomes very interesting when one thinks about the Desert Fathers and other hermits—did they really exist apart from the communities which formed them?

Like Father Kavanaugh, I certainly hope Father McDonald’s invocation of the dreadful Ayn Rand was unwitting and inadvertent.

Mark said...

Is one to suppose, equally, that the Proud Boys are now the Trump Party’s stormtroopers and that this is in keeping with the pre-Vatican II spirit? Just posing the question shows how ludicrous some of TJM’s statements are.

TJM said...


How many homes and businesses did Proud Boys destroy? Makes you look ridiculous and I question how you are qualified to teach law if you cannot see the difference.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

The destructive violence of the Proud Boys is well documented.

Their initiation rites incude violence:

Step 1 - Wannabe states, "“I’m a Proud Boy. I’m a Western chauvinist. I refuse to apologize for creating the modern world.”
Step 2 - Wannabe initiate must submit to a ritualistic assault-by-punching from at least five members.
Step 3. Wannabe must tattoo “Proud Boy” on their body.
Step 4. Wannabe has engaged in intentional violence on behalf of the Proud Boys.

The initiation ritual illustrates how political violence is an inherent characteristic of the Proud Boys identity, as every step of the way is steeped in socio-political world views in need of physical defense against degenerate forces. In a Newsmax appearance, Gavin McInnes (Proud Boy founder) stated bluntly, “And I cannot recommend violence enough. It is a really effective way to solve problems.”

Jerome Merwick said...

Perhaps if we could get the two kindergartners to stop arguing about political topics (you know the ones they've had SO MUCH influence in convincing us with) we could get on the topic.

Individualism has always struck me as one of the hallmarks of what makes Americans unique. Our entire culture is built around it in many ways. We've even created our own unique mythology of individualism: The cowboy. He is a loner. He finds his own path. He sometimes is forced to play by his own rules. And in the end, he rides off into the sunset, ALONE. Americans value personal responsibility and admire those who can stand on their own, indifferent to the cries of the mob.

That said, our faith is something entirely different. While we ARE individually accountable to God and our relationship to Him is between each individual and Him, it is also something bigger and more corporate. No one forces us to be Catholics. We might be baptized as infants--if we are fortunate enough to have good parents who will do so--but ultimately WE as INDIVIDUALS choose to be a member of the..forgive The Church. The Body of Christ.

Collectivism? A great lifestyle for those who want to control or be controlled. Certainly not appealing to anyone who can stand on his own two feet, a group whose membership seems to be dwindling.

Jerome Merwick said...

TJM--I hold YOU accountable for this misdirected "conversation". You just CAN'T help yourself, can you? And you know darned well the target of your political obsession can't help himself either, nor can his toady. I dare you , just once, KEEP THE POLITICAL STUFF OUT OF IT.

Why don't you guys exchange addresses, get together and have a miseryfest with Joy Behar?

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

The individualist mythology is summed up in the adage, "Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps."

But the mythology is not reality. Yes, we should, as individuals, use our talents. But, these are talents we have been given by someone else. These talents have been nurtured and developed by someone else - the parents who raised us, the teacher who inspired us, the elder cowboy to taught us to ride and rope and the Native American who taught us to find water in the parched prairie, the boss/mentor who challenged us.

"Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps" works as am image. But as soon as you bend over and grab the sides of your shoes and pull as hard as you can you discover that you go... nowhere.

In terms of faith, we enter the Church as part of a community. If an infant, parents and godparents answer for us when "Do you renounce Satan" is asked. The priest, representing the entire Church, pours water on our heads and anoints us with oil. If we enter as an adult, we've been part of an RCIA process that introduces us not only to the Church's teachings, but to the local community.

Cowboys may have spent some time alone on the range. But the vast majority of their time was spent working with others to herd cattle to find food and water and, eventually, to markets.

Dave Thoman said...

Catholic writer Matthew Kelly, secular writer Simon Sinek, and others encourage “being the best version of your self”. This is the message that I came away with reading the article. As a Catholic, I take this message to a deeper level knowing that God uniquely created me with a distinct personality and set of talents for the purpose of serving both Him and others.

Mark said...

Dave, I agree, that is a good message to come away with. Indeed, one should never throw out the baby with the bathwater. The article makes several good points about the value and virtue of individualism--but, for me, only if those points are situated within the context of the individual in community and not within a context that emphasizes, as the article does, a false dichotomy of individualism versus collectivism.

Thus, a practice and its tradition, for example architecture, can only develop through rational argument among its practitioners, often or even typically after being challenged by individuals, but those individuals will first have learned the knowledge and acquired the skills and values/virtues of architecture from the community of current (and indeed past) practitioners. Hopefully such challenges and resulting evolution of the practice and its living tradition will then lead to improvement in the direction of ever greater excellence--of performance, of the product that results from the performance, and of the way of life involved. Sometimes, however, change is not progress. All this is relevant, of course, to Vatican II as well.

Mark said...


Father Kavanaugh and his “toady” (by which I assume you mean me) are not so much seeking to persuade anyone commenting here as trying to help prevent other readers who do not comment, many of whom might even be quite new to the Blog, from being misled and intellectually frog-marched by the likes of TJM.

Mark said...

I should add that a practice should also contribute to the greater common good and help not only its practitioners but also those they serve to flourish.

Interestingly, I have just read the following provocative article on the notion of progress and indeed of flourishing, and on how these notions are controverted. Ayn Rand and Objectivism even make an appearance in it.

Jerome Merwick said...

Tell you what, Mark. Since you and the good father have such a handle on what the rest of us ignorant, deplorable unwashed can't seem to grasp, I suggest applying to the Department of Homeland Security to work in their new ministry of "disinformation" so everyone can "get their minds right" and think just like you.

As for the rest of us--this topic was NOT supposed to be political. Again, TJM stepped right into it with his first post and now the only question is, how many more posts of B.S. do we have to wade through? Actually, I'll answer the question. ZERO for me. I'm finished with this thread and I'm getting VERY closed to finished with this blog. It's turning into a forum that's about as productive as watching "The View".

I'm sure my absence won't cause anyone to shed any tears, especially you and that other person.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Jerome Merwick - What leads you to believe that you control what others choose to post?

And what leads you to think that, because others disagree with you, they think you are "ignorant, deplorable, and unwashed"? I don't think that, but I do think you are wrong.

People who hold different views - views, not facts - can discuss their differences. That's what happened in the Continental Congress and in the Constitutional Convention. The result, to understate it, was pretty good!

It is a "view" that the January 6th attack on the Capitol was justified because the election was stolen. The FACTS do not support that view

You have described the attack on the US Capitol as nothing more than "barely broken windows." Georgia Republican Andrew Clyde described the actions of the rioters as a "normal tourist visit." The FACTS, as we have all seen on videotape, show that that view is wrong.

Mark said...


In addition to the political comments, I thought this thread had a rather interesting discussion about individualism as well. And on that and related topics, I will claim some expert understanding. I have spent years contemplating, researching, and writing about this topic and related matters as they relate to professionalism and professional identity. I will not apologize for that, although I realize it is fashionable nowadays for many people to reject the notion of expertise and assume they know as much as the so-called “expert.” This said, I am still learning and there is much I still do not know and understand, as any good teacher will be prepared to acknowledge. In fact, as I often tell my own students, good teachers or “professors” will continue to see themselves as students as well, only more advanced ones than the students they teach.

More generally, I will also not apologize for defending the concepts of truth and facts, and in this “post-truth” world into which we have cast ourselves I will go to the barricades on that one. Yes, I have opinions and a view of the facts as I understand them. And yes, I am prepared to defend them. BUT I am also very open to rational refutation--on anything. Just provide the evidence and the sound argument and I will listen. To do anything else would be hypocritical and arrogant. I would sincerely hope that any Catholic would do the same. Our God is a God of Truth, not Lies. We know who the “Father of Lies” is, don’t we?

Like Father Kavanaugh, just because I think someone is wrong does not mean I think they are “ignorant, deplorable, and unwashed.” So, instead of such an emotional reaction, please show me the evidence and make the argument instead.

Mark said...

One further thought: If I wanted to learn about the opening hearing of the House Select Committee on the January 6 riots, I did not go to the FOX News main cable news channel because they did not cover it, so I watched it on MSNBC instead (although other networks were also an option). But if I want to learn about the regrettable pro-choice protests outside Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s home this weekend, for example, then I go to FOX News and not CNN or MSNBC because they do not appear to be covering it, at least not yet. So, you see how we get manipulated by both the “left” and the “right.”

To try to get to the truth—the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth—we need to exhibit the individualism we have been talking about and not succumb to “groupthink” either on the left or the right. But to do this, I also need to exhibit critical thinking when reading or viewing any specific source and ask, for example, what are they leaving out and not telling me?

Does that make sense?

TJM said...

Very interesting. But for Jerome Merwick’s benefit, have you ever read a post by the king of snark, Father K, where he compliments Father McDonald? Ever read his comments that President Trump is evil? As for Mark, he seems head and shoulders above Father K, but he too, sometimes engages in emotion. Like suggesting the Proud Boys have inflicted more harm and physical damage than BLM and Antifa, it is not even close. I wish Mark would comment on the constitutionality of holding January 6 folks in prison without bail for over a year, when if they murdered someone in a Democrat controlled city they would be out on bail tout de suite!

rcg said...

Somewhat back on topic, I once worked for the Objectivist Center in Poughkeepsie, NY. I have read all of their materials and do like the concepts of personal freedom tied to responsibility for your actions. The rest of it is overheated nonsense that depends on collectivist enforcement tactics. It is obviously a certain interpretation of individualism that unintentionally defines its own limitations. Human individualism will always end that way. However, the individual must be free to act or he cannot benefit fully from any choices made without the full influence of his own will. The fact that Rand’s version of individualism is trapped in perpetual adolescence demonstrates only the risk of being an individual. Eve desired the power of the individual for herself, Mary offered the totality of her individuality to the Creator of All Things, and reaped more than is imaginable. The individual will stand in judgment; before honor comes humility.

Mark said...


As I said, this is an interesting discussion about individualism. Presumably, it also necessarily implicates questions about the nature of the self and identity. Could one say, perhaps, that the various selves and their corresponding identities are socially constructed (how could it be otherwise if our eternal soul is infused in a body that happens to be born in one culture rather than another?) and that they are all ultimately “false” selves and identities (although inevitable and indeed necessary, of course), but that the deepest level of our self, our eternal soul, or True Self is the self with which we respond to the immanent divine within us? How, and where, exactly “free will” and the notion of a Jungian “shadow self” fit into all this is a puzzle. Does Parker Palmer provide a clue in the following passage discussing how we discern our calling or vocation?

“The figure calling to me all those years was, I believe, what Thomas Merton calls ‘true self.’ This is not the ego self that wants to inflate us (or deflate us, another form of self-distortion), not the intellectual self that wants to hover above the mess of life in clear but ungrounded ideas, not the ethical self that wants to live by some abstract moral code. It is the self planted in us by the God who made us in God’s own image--the self that wants nothing more, or less, than for us to be who we were created to be.
True self is true friend. One ignores or rejects such friendship only at one’s peril.”

Parker Palmer, “Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation” (2000), at 68-69.

By the way, were you even able to find a copy of Russell Kirk’s “Roots of American Order”? I seem to recall you had expressed interest in it some time ago.

Mark said...

By the way, too, TJM, I don’t think I ever said the Proud Boys “inflicted more harm and physical damage than BLM or Antifa” because saying that would be very silly. Comparing the actions of the Proud Boys on January 6 and the actions of BLM and Antifa in street protests would be like comparing apples and oranges. Contrary to the implication of the expression, we can in fact compare apples and oranges, but when we do so we must notice their differences as well as their similarities, no? Perhaps we can borrow the notion of “time, manner, place” to which we can add “purpose” to provide some criteria we can apply.

Mark said...

Talking of comparisons, I should add that whatever dynamic may or may not exist between Father Kavanaugh and Father McDonald, Father Kavanaugh provides a valuable contribution to the discussion on this Blog because he also tries to keep us all honest, just as Mark Thomas tries to remind us that we should all respect the office of the Pope.

TJM said...


Unlike you, Fr. K lacks graciousness and civility. Take some time and read his “gracious comments.” I suspect he is envious of Father McDonald. Mark Thomas comes across as a papal sycophant, lauding a pope who is cruel to the most faithful of Catholics, the EF community, a community which actually believes what the Church teaches. My liberal Catholic friends were astounded by Traditionis Custodes, a distinctly disingenuous document, lacking in charity. They simply could not understand it at all considering the diversity of liturgical practice in the Church today. I suspect you do not either. The concept of “unity” of Rite is a cruel hoax because the Latin Rite can vary dramatically from parish to parish depending on the personal preferences of the priest. In effect, you can attend either a High Church or Low Church service. Only liturgical abuses are tolerated but not the Vetus Ordo. King Canute is alive and well in Rome.

rcg said...

Mark, thank you for the thoughtful reply. I do need to look for that book. My personal/professional life is a long blur these last few years and I need to correct that with more intellectual pursuits.

Thomas Merton has interesting things to say and I have to overcome my New Age gag reflex to think about him more seriously. So much of that, including Jung and Freud seems to bring a thicket of confusion to my mind where i, like some fairytale character, risk losing sight of the Light which is my objective. I prefer to spend time defining the problem then act swiftly, like Alexander with the Gordian Knot, and move on.

Dave Thoman said...

Main themes in postings reacting to this article are individualism (focus of article) and social responsibility (criticism of article’s omission). The act of posting on this forum involves both. Individual thoughts are freely formed and voiced. Social responsibility comes into play in the words and tone that are directed to those we disagree with.

Mark said...


I appreciate the more cordial tone and hope we can continue to sustain it in our conversations. I also hope it can extend to everyone who comments on the Blog, including Father Kavanaugh and Mark Thomas. When we disagree, we can all try to do so without being disagreeable, as the saying goes.

Related, I was most impressed, and inspired, by the testimony before the January 6 House Select Committee offered by the Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, Russell (Rusty) Bowers, on Tuesday. He is an ardent Trump supporter and apparently has said yesterday that he would vote for him again because he supports his policies. But, as you know, he refused to violate his oath of office by going along with Trump’s attempt to overturn the election results in Arizona favoring Joe Biden in the 2020 general election. I am sure I would disagree with Speaker Bowers on various matters, but I greatly admire his virtue and sense of honor. He was a real class act and an example to us all.

Regarding the Form of the Mass, I have no problem at all with the Tridentine Latin Mass and indeed think it a mistake to have “suppressed” it in practice after Vatican II. I hope only that, whichever Form of the Mass we attend, we can leave our politics at the door of the church. So much is already politicized; we don’t need to politicize the Mass as well!

Mark said...


I hope you do get the book. I am sure you would enjoy it. It is written by someone I regard as a “real” conservative, someone who was no fan of the so-called neoconservatives, on the one hand, and who, I strongly suspect, would be absolutely appalled by Trump, on the other.

I understand your reservations about the New Age “vibe” that can attach to Thomas Merton but I still find much of great value in what he writes (babies and bathwater, etc. -:)).