I am a product of the traditionalist movement. My first Latin Mass did more to coax me into the Tiber than seven years of Catholic school, and I may not have converted at all were it not for Summorum Pontificum. (Former Anglo-Catholics rarely come to enjoy singing Dan Schutte hymns and holding hands for the Lord’s Prayer.) I wear tweed. I smoke a pipe. I keep a bust of Blessed Karl of Austria on my desk.
But, as Chesterton said, “There is many a convert who has reached a stage at which no word from any Protestant or pagan could any longer hold him back. Only the word of a Catholic can keep him from Catholicism.” When we set our minds to it, we are our own worst enemies. And that seems doubly true in the case of traditionalists.
For instance, I do not understand why so many of us traditionalists insist on using words like “sodomite” and “Mohammedan”. What purpose does it serve, except in making the Latin Mass look like a den of mouldy bigots? In Yes, Prime Minister, Jim Hacker rightly lamented those zealots who would “turn the Church of England into a religious movement”, and I do not mean to do the same with the Church of Rome. But St Paul did ask us to be kind to one another – tender-hearted, even. We might start by not going out of our way to be nasty.
Most off-putting, though, is surely the incessant pope-bashing: referring to Francis as “Bergoglio”, and to his theology as “the Bergoglian heresy”. As proud catechism-thumping Catholics, we should know that “the respect of children, whether minors or adults, for their father … is required by God’s commandment.”
Our Father in Rome is no exception.Of course, it is only a minority that gives the rest of us a bad name. But, sadly, the extremists are always the noisiest. That is why Cardinal Sarah is trying to draw us out of what he calls the “traditionalist ghetto”. “Some, if not many, people call you ‘traditionalists’,” he told the Fifth Roman Colloquium on Summorum Pontificum in September of 2017. “Sometimes you even call yourselves ‘traditional Catholics’ or hyphenate yourselves in a similar way. Please do this no longer.”
Obviously, Cardinal Sarah is not trying to undermine the movement to restore traditional forms to the liturgy. More than anyone in Rome, he wants that movement to flourish. That is why it pains him to see the Tridentine Mass looked on as a weird hobby, like historical re-enactment for people who do not like to go outdoors.
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