Sunday, June 04, 2006

of traditionalism

I’ve spent some time in the past few months posting comments on the forum at

The site itself offers a wealth of information that argues for the traditionalist mentality: that the Missal of 1962 is superior to the 1969 Missal and that the Church would be best served by a return, greater or entire, of its use.

(Some traditionalists are "sedevacantists" and do not acknowledge Paul VI or successors as true Popes. Sometimes Blessed John XXIII falls into the non-Pope category as well. This site’s author is not of that opinion, though she has a section in the forum where that issue is discuessed.)

It’s an interesting site. Some posts reflect a mentality kinda like a high school student (or college student, or professor, ...) will get really into something esoteric and become convinced that they have found something that should change the world. Relatively few posts are actually *from* people who remember when the 1969 Missal was new; this is predominantly a young crowd. It’s not for the faint of heart if you’re of the opinion that the 1969 Missal is just-fine-thank-you-very-much. This being said, many of the posts I have seen border on fanatic - even if these people are correct in what they propose, they go about bringing it to life all wrong.

The enthusiasm for the former Missal is telling, I think, that the reforms of the 60s and 70s were too dramatic - or else there wouldn’t be people of a new generation taking such interest in what things were like when their (grand)parents were kids.

My own experience of looking at the old rite has been revelatory: so many things that people said were taught are contradicted in the prayers. One person said she was taught that Protestants are going to hell - yet the Good Friday prayers (and the Baltimore Catechism from which she learned) explicitly state that God can save anyone, and that we cannot know that anyone is damned. It makes me wonder how many Vatican II fathers had this on their minds during the Council - making the faith of the people reconcile with the prayer of the Church.


At Sunday, June 04, 2006 6:56:00 AM, Blogger Todd said...

A group of people reinforcing their own ideas on a few internet sites is hardly indicative of a movement in the church, no matter how strong a constitution it might take to hang with them in their comment boxes.

Church teaching in Sacrosanctum Concilium is clear about what the Mass should be and what its expected fruits might be in a parish. The vast majority of Catholics are just fine with the 1970 Rite, thanks very much.

That the 1962 Rite continues to hang on may be more a symptom of discontent with how liturgy (or perhaps parishes in general) are being handled in select parishes and from select viewpoints.

Mainstream parishes will be successful in which the widest possible spectrum of ideologies can comfortably co-exist (or even thrive) in community.

The council bishops were on the right track. There's still a lot of work yet to be done, but looking backward with nostalgia isn't going to move things forward.

At Sunday, June 04, 2006 8:44:00 PM, Blogger Cantor said...

....except looking back, arguably “with nostalgia” is exactly what many around the Council were doing - just nostalgia for their reading of Justin and Hippolytus rather than something people remembered.

Brahms’s great choral works emerged from a sense of “looking back with nostalgia”: he took what worked from the past (counterpoint, antiphonal choirs, chorale fantasias, ...) and melded it with his own harmonic sensibility. In a sense, he was the first composer to innovate by looking back - a practice Webern would later take to a whole different level.

I tend to regard the idea of lots of different practices coexisting with some suspicion. Take computers: in the mid-80s, there was a fair amount of diversity in the home computer market. But little by little, people wanted the same computer at home that they had at work, and the PC won out. I regard the widespread adoption of Internet Explorer (to the exclusion of other browsers) as a bad thing, but it certainly can be said to have been a natural consequence of Microsoft’s unique position as both OS manufacturer and browser author.

Me, I wonder if we couldn’t eventually arrive at some uniformity of practice that wouldn’t have to be enforced; people would just eventually adopt more similar practices than we have today.

The spread of the SSPX and FSSP is perhaps a stronger indicator of the presence of a movement for more widespread use of the 1962 Missal.

The vast majority of Catholics may not distinguish the 1970 and 1962 rites so much as they prefer the priest facing them and English instead of Latin - neither of which are to be attributed to the 1970 Missal per se.

Truth be told, I identify more with Fr. Fessio than with FSSP folks, while at the same time, I agree with the people who say the 1970 Missal is “watered down” in some ways - compare the Good Friday prayers concerning the Jews, for example, in the two Missals. Maybe it’s just for novelty, but I find the 1962 Missal intriguing in some ways.

At Monday, June 05, 2006 8:53:00 AM, Anonymous moconnor said...

Cantor said:

Brahms’s great choral works emerged from a sense of “looking back with nostalgia”: he took what worked from the past (counterpoint, antiphonal choirs, chorale fantasias, ...) and melded it with his own harmonic sensibility. In a sense, he was the first composer to innovate by looking back - a practice Webern would later take to a whole different level.

Just a friendly correction to this statement. Brahms was a part of the first "movement" that looked to the past for inspiration--his German Requiem is a great example of how he integrated his admiration of Handel's Messiah into his own style--but composers have always looked to the past for inspiration. For example, large parts of Bach's Bm Mass were inspired by his recently found interest in Palestrina. Mozart's interest in Handel appeared in the great fugues of his later years (especially the end of the Jupiter symphony). When you get down to it, Renaissance and early Baroque composers both were inspired by what they thought was the Ancient Greek aesthetic (of course not the actual music). So, this reinforces the idea that we live in our own time and that we have the immense responsibility to balance the authority of tradition carefully with modern aesthetics. While I view myself as a traditionalist, I understand completely that Church exists in the modern world and must serve modern people. How that's done is the point of debate!


At Tuesday, June 06, 2006 6:12:00 AM, Blogger Cantor said...

moconnor: I was mostly, when I made my point, reiterating points that I know were discussed in music history courses I have taken. You do bring up a good point, that looking to the past for inspiration is by no means a new thing with Brahms.

I’m calling you out, though, on Bach discovering Palestrina shortly before writing Bm. For one, the Kyrie and Gloria date from 1733 (with some parts written earlier), and the Sanctus from not too much later (1740, IIRC). In the Credo, the Patrem, Crucifixus, and Et exspecto are largely re-workings of material from the cantatas - though the Credo proper wasn’t done until the late 1740s.

Every Baroque composer knew how to write music like Palestrina; Schütz write a collection called “Spiritual Choral Music” toward the end of his life and prefaced it with an admonishment to young composers always to ground their technique in “stile antico” counterpoint. Voices of Ascension included the famous “Selig sind die Toten” from this collection in their “Mysteries of the Renaissance” CD, precisely because although chronologically this music belongs to the Baroque (and does bear some corresponding stylistic qualities), it is essentially consistent with compositions from a hundred years earlier.

Handel is probably not Mozart’s big contrapuntal model; Handel’s counterpoint tends to be pretty transparent. I would posit that Mozart owes more of his contrapuntal technique to J.S. Bach.

Early Classicists, too, were inspired by their perceptions of Greek culture: balance, form, simplicity, elegance - a departure from the elaborate counterpoint and highly personal music we find in Bach’s cantatas.

I think we would both agree that the Church does not serve people today by jettisoning its traditions, even be they not directly connected with the faith (chant, counterpoint, etc.).

At Tuesday, June 06, 2006 5:55:00 PM, Blogger Duckfan said...

Cantor, if you want to see an excellent piece on the changes of the prayers in the new missal, then look at this from Prof. Lauren Pristas. The changes in the prayers go way beyond the Good Friday changes and seem to be far from merely cosmetic.

Also, Todd, ...Mainstream parishes will be successful in which the widest possible spectrum of ideologies can comfortably co-exist (or even thrive) in community... I wonder sometimes if we ought to be involved with ideologies in the Catholic Church. So often ideologies are so driving as to obscure the Truth of the Faith, which is treated as a competing ideology among others. If the 1970 Missal is so great, then why is the discussion about old vs. new rite even happening with those who go to the new mass?

Nice blog, thanks


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