What Do People Do With the Latin Mass?

In my continuing response to Msgr. Charles Pope’s piece about stagnating attendance numbers at Latin Masses (http://www.ncregister.com/blog/msgr-pope/an-urgent-warning-about-the-future-of-the-traditional-latin-mass), I decided that it would be useful to examine what Latin Mass advocates do with their preferred liturgical form and what they hope to achieve by increasing the number of Latin Masses available to the public.

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Schism of a Schism

An interesting news story is coming out of radtrad land; apparently, Richard Williamson, the former SSPX bishop most known for his Holocaust denial consecrated a new bishop, Jean-Michel Faure, two weeks ago, who in turn is planning to consecrate a new generation of traditionalist bishops for their schismatic church known as “The Resistance”:


Unlike the SSPX, which at least in theory, desires to be reconciled with Rome, the priests associated with “The Resistance” have decided that further dialogue with the Vatican is pointless unless it gives up its “modernizing” ways and returns to the old ways of the pre-Vatican II church. In the afore mentioned article, Faure muses that perhaps a “World War” will convince Rome to go back to “tradition”.

No doubt, Williamson and Faure imagine themselves as a couple of beleaguered Athanasiuses contra a crazy world where women can marry women, black men can become the presidents of majority white countries, and Jews can walk around in public instead of being confined to ghettos as was the case during “the good old days” of Christendom. I think they imagine that they’ll be supported in their efforts by other traditionalist Catholics who think that the SSPX has “gone soft” but I’m doubtful that. While discussion of the SSPX takes up a lot of space in the conservotrad Catholic blogosphere, the average Catholic has no idea who they are. When the SSPX does enter the news, it’s usually under dubious circumstances, like providing asylum to a Nazi war criminal (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Touvier#Arrest_and_trial), offering to perform a funeral mass for another Nazi war criminal (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erich_Priebke#Death), and public Holocaust denial (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Williamson_%28bishop%29#Jews_and_Holocaust_denial). Contrary to what PT Barnum said, there is such as thing as bad publicity and the only people who are going to look the other way at a religious leader who denies the Holocaust are other Holocaust deniers and/or their fellow travelers.

I think that the creation of “The Resistance” is motivated by Pope Francis’ indifference to the traditionalist cause in general and the status of the SSPX in general. While Benedict was obsessed with bringing the SSPX back into the Vatican fold, a move that blew up in his face when the press discovered Williamson’s very public and noisy statements in favor of Holocaust denial, Francis simply isn’t interested; if the SSPX isn’t willing to play by Rome’s rules, then Francis isn’t going to waste his time dialoguing with them. Traditionalist Catholicism isn’t part of Francis’ own spirituality, so he doesn’t have the same sympathy towards the SSPX’s position that Benedict had.

One lingering question I have is whether “The Resistance” uses the revised Holy Week rite devised by Pius XII. If they do, then I seriously doubt their notion of “tradition,” since that’s just as much an “innovation” as the mass in the vernacular (indeed, this is one of the points of contention that the Society of St. Pius V has with the SSPX). As with many restorationist/traditionalist groups, it’s difficult for them to pin down when “moral decline” occurred. Vatican II is a convenient whipping boy, because the liturgical and ecclesiastical changes also happened coincided with a period of intense social changes, thus creating a perfect storm of conservotrad disapproval. Yet, as Pius XII’s changes to the Holy Week rites show, liturgical change didn’t just start with Vatican II; indeed, Pius X made a number of changes, not just to the liturgy, but to the breviary and the culture of the church itself, like lowering the age of first communion:


In the end, I suspect that “The Resistance” will just be another fringe group in the already fringe radtrad scene. The SSPX and the FSSP already have most of the non-sedevacantist trad support sewn up through the sheer number and strength of their institutions. Only the most zealous supporters of Williamson will be interested in “The Resistance” and that crowd is probably not the sort that many people, even trads, will want to associate with.