Monday, December 03, 2012

Mass Movements: Radical Catholic Reactionaries, the New Mass, and Ecumenism (Dave Armstrong): Dedication and Introduction



DEDICATION



To those Catholics – in God’s foreknowledge – that are currently sliding down the slippery slope to eventual schism and separation from Holy Mother Church. May it never be! May God in His grace help you to not do so! May this book be used for that purpose. St. Paul wrote to the Galatians, whom he dearly loved: “Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth?” (4:16). Proverbs 27:5-6 concurs: “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend . . .” Proverbs 12:15 informs us that “a wise man listens to advice,” and verse 9:8 adds: “. . . reprove a wise man, and he will love you.”


Also to my esteemed "traditionalist" brothers and sisters in Christ and His Church. We agree on so much. I am not “against” you; I am for you; and most of the time, with you!

We all must strive (with God’s necessary enabling power always) to be “wise” and not “fools” in the biblical sense.


INTRODUCTION



Some recent encounters on my Facebook page have convinced me of the need for a second book on the broad topic of radical Catholic reactionaries. The crucial and necessary issue of definition and the various titles that get thrown about, back and forth, will be covered in great detail in the first chapter.

The present volume consists of a collection of various website or blog papers of mine on three topics:  the radical Catholic reactionary strain of Catholicism ("RCRs" or "RadCathRs" in short), the New (Pauline, Novus Ordo) Mass and its liturgical abuses, and genuine, orthodox (not silly liberal, “ersatz”) ecumenism: derived from my three web pages devoted to those topics.

I often hear complaints about why I "pick on" the errors of the "right" far more than on the errors of the "left". It’s because I think theological liberalism (or what calls itself "progressivism") is fundamentally an intellectually dishonest enterprise, whose proponents pick and choose what they like and dislike from among Catholic dogmas: thus losing the gift of supernatural gift of faith altogether, as St. Thomas Aquinas and Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman have both stressed.

The dissident spirit is simply watered-down, half-baked agnosticism, or (in another sense) pseudo-Protestantism (insofar as it exercises unchecked private judgment, espouses doctrinal relativism, and rejects binding Church authority). At least atheists and agnostics and Protestants usually try to be, and are, honest with themselves and self-consistent. I know I always tried to be so, as an evangelical Protestant for thirteen years.

For this reason, I have never paid theological liberalism or "Catholic" modernism much attention in my wide-ranging apologetics (though I have devoted half a book to it, and one small web page). Even as an evangelical Protestant apologist in the 1980s, I rarely dealt with Protestant liberals in my work. I detest these false notions; have nothing but intellectual contempt for them (while trying to love the persons, as I should).

I strongly believe that radical Catholic reactionaries, on the other hand, know better. These are Christians with genuine faith, who want to be observant and faithful Catholics, for the most part, but they have been misguided and misled and bamboozled by various errors of the nature of what is called "rigorism" -- or what might be described as a "puritanical" outlook. It’s a matter of degree, and there are many variations.

This recurring problem throughout Church history is seen in groups such as the Donatists, Montanists, Jansenists, and the Old Catholics who left the Church after Vatican I: an error of thinking and out-of-whack perspective; an inability or unwillingness to think with the Mind of the Church, and a lack of charity. It’s often characterized by gloom and doom pessimism and difficulty in taking a “long view” of history (caused by ignorance of past Church history). Radical Catholic reactionaries are also particularly prone to absurd conspiratorial notions (as well as anti-Semitism).

Despite these serious errors, I think that many in this extreme category may, perhaps, be able to be persuaded through (orthodox Catholic) reason and presentation of clarifying fact. I have received many reports informing me that my first book on the topic swayed people (by God's grace, always) away from this dead-end and quasi-schismatic mindset. It is reasonable to assume, therefore, that a second book might be used by God to accomplish that same end result. One can only make an attempt.

The devil loves to divide the Church and pull away folks who otherwise would be faithful, zealous Catholics, living according to traditional Catholic morality: into lonely corners and isolated backwaters. We see the same tendency in conservative politics, with many people pulling away, playing the "independent" game and engaging in third-party fantasies and pipe-dreams: with the most zealous "true believers" among them allegedly better and "purer," more principled than the rest of us.

Human nature never changes. What the devil gains so often with lust and lack or loss of faith on the theological or ecclesiological left, he gains with spiritual pride and Pharisaical “holier-than-thou” legalism and tunnel vision on the right. He is constantly at work dividing Christians and even Catholics (orthodox ones) against each other: “divide and conquer.” This allows the world to keep going to hell in a handbasket, becoming more and more immoral, cruel, and secularized all the time, while we endlessly fight and squabble with each other.

But this book is not mere (and yet more) wrangling; it is an orthodox Catholic "answer" to the errors and falsehoods dealt with: a proposed “roadmap” for the way out of the morass and despair, so that the in-fighting and faulty thinking and lack of charity towards multiple millions of fellow Catholics can lessen, not increase and continue indefinitely.

My position (as I wish to make crystal-clear from the outset) has always been that people ought to be freely allowed to worship as they please (at whatever form of Mass they prefer), with the sanction of the Church. I held this view before the declarations promoting wider availability of the Tridentine Mass: not only of Pope Benedict XVI (in 2007), but the earlier ones from Blessed John Paul II as well. It's always been my position since I became a Catholic in 1991.

From that same year I have attended the Novus Ordo Latin rite, which is performed at my parish in downtown Detroit in a very reverent, traditional fashion, with no abuses that I have ever seen. We receive Holy Communion at an altar rail, on the tongue. This is what I do every week. We don’t have altar girls; rarely even have eucharistic ministers (but then, we have small numbers).

Those issues can be discussed pro and con on various levels. I’m simply describing my own parish (where I have chosen to worship nearly my entire Catholic life): what we believe and practice, and in so doing, showing that I have no problem at all with traditional Catholic worship (which I dearly love). That’s not what this book will be critiquing. It will, rather, critique radical views that seek to “bash” the New Mass as profoundly “inauthentic” or vastly inferior Catholic worship.

My parish is one of only two that I know of in metro Detroit that offers the Tridentine Mass (every week in one of the three church buildings). I have attended it in my own church several times. I love it; it's fantastic. I myself prefer the Novus Ordo Latin Mass. If the choice is between a corrupted or scandalous Novus Ordo Mass (that is, not performed as it is supposed to be, according to the rubrics) and the Tridentine Mass, I would choose the latter in a heartbeat.

I don’t have to make that choice in my own parish, or “give up” any reverence or solemnity in the Pauline Mass that I personally prefer. I understand that, unfortunately, many millions feel (given the fact of widespread liturgical corruption) that is the stark choice they face. I enthusiastically support the choice of the Tridentine Mass in such sad situations (or as a choice for anyone, anytime, if they should so prefer). If we “vote with our feet,” maybe we can see much further liturgical reform and a renewed emphasis on reverence and solemnity “on the ground.”

As with my first book on the topic, I will not “name names,” because my goal is to critique the various false beliefs and bad tendencies, as opposed to getting into all the “legalistic” wrangling back and forth, and personal offense, and stepping on the toes of folks who are fond of various persons or organizations. Such a practice (not naming specific names) follows the example of most (if not all) of the Tridentine decrees, that didn't name Luther or Calvin or other Protestant leaders; they simply corrected the errors and proclaimed Catholic truth: defining faith and justification and other doctrines that were being redefined or rejected by the new Protestant movement.

Whether or not a particular error is present in a given person or group is for the reader to discern and ascertain. I am communicating truth as I believe it to be, and critiquing errors, in line with the Mind (as far as I understand it) of Holy Mother Church. This is my task and grave responsibility as a lay apologist and teacher. I am happy --  as always -- to be corrected by priests and bishops in that Church, as the case may be.

* * * * * 



13 comments:

MatheusFT said...

Sorry for the Off Topic, Dave, but did you know about this?

Keep up the good work and happy new year.

Dave Armstrong said...

Now I do! I'm glad it isn't my parish that is being sold. It's not far from there.

MatheusFT said...

Yeah, but from what I gathered it wasn't a parish anymore, having been sold to a Baptist church in 1989. Which makes it even sadder...

Thanks for replying.

Bruce B. said...

Hello Mr. Armstrong,
Years ago someone recommended your work to me. I plan to purchase your basic book on Biblical evidence for Catholicism.
I am thinking of converting from Anglicanism through an Anglican-use Ordinariate. I am sympathetic to traditional ways and a lot of the blogs I read feature posts by traditional Catholics. I think they are all in Diocese-approved Latin Mass parishes not sedevacantist or SSPX. They tend to be critical of either Vatican II or at least of the practice of much of the clergy and laity since the 1960’s. I have read some of your posts on radtrads. My question is: Do you have general principles for helping me to understand how far one can go in criticizing Catholic faith and practice since the 1960’s and still be a good Catholic? I have internalized many of the criticisms I have read over the years. I want to understand if these criticisms are legitimate or if they will place me (upon conversion) in the “radtrad” category. And if they make me a radtrad and I cannot let go of them, then it COULD obviously mean that Catholicism is not for me and I need to recognize this now.
I’m trying to think of examples so this question is not so abstract. One example is whether or not the Church itself can sin. Some traditionalists say no, but some claim that Vatican II says “yes.” Part of my thinking that has helped move me towards Catholicism has been to see the Church as distinct from the people that make it up – more than the sum of clergy and laity, that is. So I’ve tended towards a position that the people of the Church can sin but the Church cannot. By thinking this would I be violating the Church’s (ordinary) teaching authority as expressed by Vatican II? Another example: many disagree with the Church’s current position on the death penalty. Is one free to privately disagree with this position and still be a good Catholic? Also, can one criticize the new mass (or at least the general lack of Catholic piety that seems to be common at new mass parishes when compared to old mass parishes) while still agreeing that it is legitimate? Does such criticism go to far.
Just trying to understand how far one can go in criticizing the practices of the Church and/or its clergy. Do you have any general principles so that I can apply them to various examples not limited to the ones I give above?
Thanks,
Bruce B.

Dave Armstrong said...

Hi Bruce,

Nice to "meet" you.

I am thinking of converting from Anglicanism through an Anglican-use Ordinariate.

Excellent.

I am sympathetic to traditional ways and a lot of the blogs I read feature posts by traditional Catholics. I think they are all in Diocese-approved Latin Mass parishes not sedevacantist or SSPX.

That can be a very mixed bag. If I had to choose between recommending visiting these sits and not doing so, I'd say don't do it, because the negatives often outweigh any benefits.

They tend to be critical of either Vatican II or at least of the practice of much of the clergy and laity since the 1960’s.

Yep.

I have read some of your posts on radtrads. My question is: Do you have general principles for helping me to understand how far one can go in criticizing Catholic faith and practice since the 1960’s and still be a good Catholic? I have internalized many of the criticisms I have read over the years.

The general principle for a young Catholic is to accept and receive with faith and obedience, the magisterial teachings of the Church. In their most basic, accessible form, these are found in the Catechism. For more depth, there are the Vatican II documents and papal encyclicals and other talks.

After five or ten years as a Catholic (should you become one), then you can understand better, specific instances where disagreements may be taken, with all due respect.

I want to understand if these criticisms are legitimate or if they will place me (upon conversion) in the “radtrad” category. And if they make me a radtrad and I cannot let go of them, then it COULD obviously mean that Catholicism is not for me and I need to recognize this now.

I have laid out basic definitions of "radtrad": what I believe is unacceptable for a Catholic, in my book (above), in the Introduction and first chapter: both online.

I’m trying to think of examples so this question is not so abstract. One example is whether or not the Church itself can sin. Some traditionalists say no, but some claim that Vatican II says “yes.”

Depends on what you mean by that. People make up the Church, and people sin all the time. We believe that the Church is protected from error when binding all the faithful to a theological dogma or moral teaching.

Part of my thinking that has helped move me towards Catholicism has been to see the Church as distinct from the people that make it up – more than the sum of clergy and laity, that is.

Absolutely.

Dave Armstrong said...

So I’ve tended towards a position that the people of the Church can sin but the Church cannot. By thinking this would I be violating the Church’s (ordinary) teaching authority as expressed by Vatican II?

No; as long as you don't hold that the magisterium can "sin" when binding Catholics to teachings.

Another example: many disagree with the Church’s current position on the death penalty. Is one free to privately disagree with this position and still be a good Catholic?

Yes, because it's not an absolute. Capital punishment is not intrinsically wrong, as abortion is, and the pope has allowed states to make their determinations. I have a post about it:

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2011/10/capital-punishment-catholic-teaching.html

Also, can one criticize the new mass (or at least the general lack of Catholic piety that seems to be common at new mass parishes when compared to old mass parishes) while still agreeing that it is legitimate?

We can criticize a lack of piety, because that is a fault of people, or application, or an abuse. We can't say it is invalid, and I would say that much of "traditionalist" criticism of it crosses a line that Catholics ought not cross.

Does such criticism go to far.

Yes; I've tried to explain why in recent posts on the topic.

Just trying to understand how far one can go in criticizing the practices of the Church and/or its clergy. Do you have any general principles so that I can apply them to various examples not limited to the ones I give above?

Did that above. If you become a Catholic, the guiding thought shouldn't be "what can I criticize?" but rather, "how much treasure I have found that I didn't know of before, and how much I can learn!" It doesn't make sense of me to come into a new belief-system or environment and start right in blasting it.

I think the Catholic faith is far deeper than that, and this is the problem I have with so many "traditionalists." It's a negative, reactionary, destructive, uncharitable spirit so often.

Bruce B. said...

Thank you for the response Mr. Armstrong. That is an excellent point about not going into Catholicism looking for things to criticize. As I said, I have internalized many criticisms. Your advice may help me to keep them in perspective and to discard some of the more questionable ones.
I didn’t specify this but just to be clear, most of the criticisms I have read have been on general websites dedicated to culture and politics (that happen to include contributions by traditional Catholics) and not on sites dedicated to discussions of Catholicism and anti-Catholicism. I think I am missing a lot of background when it comes to your arguments with radtrads.
I also want to be clear that I am not considering converting ONLY because I can do it through an Anglican Ordinariate. Rather I am an Anglican now and so I would go into the ordinariate for certain practical reasons (existing relationships with the ordinariate clergy, a “smoother” transition for our children, etc.). I have no misunderstanding that I would be accepting the jurisdiction and authority of the Catholic Church.

Bruce B. said...

One more topic if you have time Mr. Armstrong. About the ordinary form of the mass. As you know many traditional Catholics do not like the ordinary form. I do not understand all the supposedly less than desirable characteristics. I know of a couple of things that bother me about it. One is the presense of female acolytes and women distributing the cup. As far as I can tell, this is not heresy so I can accept it as legitimate even if it isn’t my cup of tea. Is it ok to state why I have a strong preference against these practices though?
Also, I don’t much like that the people don’t kneel before they take sacrament. This is more serious for me. If Jesus appeared before me, I’d probably fall on my face. I’d at least be on my knees. It seems to me like the practice deemphasizes the fact the Christ is literally present before us and makes the error of not discerning the Lord’s Body more likely. I don’t think that the mass is invalid because of this. I will try to attend the extraordinary form when I cannot make it to the Ordinariate but as you can imagine, most parishes around me only use the ordinary form.
Also, I haven’t read this criticism in a long time but I can remember criticisms that the priest facing the congregation during the consecration deemphasizes the sacrificial aspect of the mass and suggests that it’s all about the people. I don’t understand this criticism very well though.
I also suspect that there’s more piety and orthodox practice at parishes offering the extraordinary form than the ordinary form. If this is true, I don’t know that this is a result of the form of the mass. It could just be that serious Catholics are frequently drawn to the extraordinary form. But is it wrong to note this?
At some point, to fulfill obligations on Holy Days, I will probably have to attend the ordinary form. Bearing in mind your advice not to go into Catholicism looking for things to criticize, I want to know if my objections are reasonable? I suspect that the best thing for me to do would be to try to attend my Ordinariate mass as much as possible and to seek out the (licit) extraordinary mass when I cannot attend the ordinariate.

Again, thank you for your generosity with your time. I am a father of six so I know how busy you are.

Bruce B.

Dave Armstrong said...

Hi Bruce,

Altar girls have been permitted, but Blessed Pope John Paul II made it crystal clear that this is not a prelude to women priests. I don't have a problem with this, myself, but I understand why some object, and my parish never uses them.

Eucharistic ministers are greatly overused, as I have written about, and sadly, many parishes appear to ignore the "rubrics" regarding their use only with great crowds. Our parish never uses them. I've also written about preferring to receive Holy Communion from a priest.

I agree about kneeling, before receiving Our Lord. When receiving standing up, the Church teaches us that we need to make some gesture. My parish has communion rails and we receive on the tongue. But it should be noted that the leading practice in the early Church was receiving standing up, in the hand. Therefore, I don't think a case can be made that it is intrinsically irreverent or spiritually inferior to do so.

I also agree about which way the priest is facing. In our parish, he usually faces the altar, but some priests face the congregation. I don't think it's a huge deal, but I like the symbolism of the more traditional practice.

You will, no doubt, want to attend the EF if you can, should you become a Catholic.

I don't think lack of reverence is due to the OF itself. Rather, I would say it is simply a matter of people doing what everyone else does, around them. These practices or lack of reverence have simply surrounded the Pauline Mass, whereas the TLM, because of its relative rarity, has brought together Catholics who are particularly concerned about solemnity, propriety, and reverence, and preservation of traditional practices and gestures.

Now that the pope has made it very clear (in 2007) that both forms are sanctioned by the Church and spiritually beneficial, anyone can worship as he or she chooses. There are also 21 other rites in the Church.

I hope my answers have been helpful. God bless you!

Bruce B. said...

Mr. Armstrong,

I have been told that the Church explicitly teaches now that Muslims and Catholics worship the same God. Is this a belief that I can disagree with and criticize without violating the ordinary magisterium teaching authority?

Dave Armstrong said...

I dealt with this much misunderstood issue in this paper:

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2007/11/does-catholic-church-equate-allah-and.html

Bruce B. said...

Very clear defense and it seemed quite reasonable to me.
I searched for articles at your site about Pope JP II kissing the Koran (as you know, this is frequently criticized by traditionalists). I saw links to three articles but articles one and two were not available. Maybe the links need updated.
Can a Catholic believe that something like this was bad judgement by the Pope since it does not represent any sort of authoritative teaching?

Dave Armstrong said...

Hi Bruce,

Those two articles / dialogues, were incorporated into this new book.

Catholics can believe that a pope acted imprudentially. The problem is that the "traditionalists" who go on and on about this incident have to make sweeping judgments of what was supposedly in JPII's heart, his motivations, supposed indifferentism about doctrine, etc.

In other words, it quickly becomes a scenario of slander against the pope, based on something he did that a person doesn't like, and thinks is harmful.