Monday 20 December 2021

On the Margins

My sleep has been much troubled this weekend, partly because the West seems to be using COVID-19 as an excuse to slide into totalitarianism, but mostly because of Rome's war against Catholics who love the Traditional Latin Mass. 


"So is this the last Mass?" asked a new member of our community, a young father of at least three, with a half-martial, half-merry glint in his eye. 

This was yesterday outside the parish hall before Mass.  

"No," said I in a high good humour, for I had been to the christening of a tiny baby with seven siblings, and it had been a truly beautiful occasion, unmarred by the surprise cancellation of the train the family meant to travel on.  

"There's always the SSPX," said a veteran member of our community. 

"We don't have to go to the SSPX," I replied cheerfully. "Father [X] is about [Y years old], and he'll probably live to be [Z], so we're good for 20 years."

"I've heard that Pope Francis is very ill," said the vmoc. 

"I've heard that he's ill. I've heard that he's crazy. I've heard that the Vatican is in chaos. I've heard a lot of things," I said, later reflecting that it was not prudent to say these things just outside the parish hall while the 1970 Mass people were still in it. 

Thinking now about the1970 Mass people, I wonder what they make of the local Catholic schools. There's a doughty grandfather who always brings his grandsons to Mass; when I was going to both Masses in an attempt to build up the courage to Become a Bridge, I generally sat behind them. I wonder now if he knows about the atheist bullies at one local Catholic secondary school. They terrorise the minority of teachers and students who actually believe the Catholic faith. 

I know one poor girl who went through agonies at that school. She was not only bullied by foul-mouthed atheists, she saw them swagger up to the altar at school Masses to make sacrilegious communions. 

I also know more than one religion teacher sorely oppressed (to put it mildly) by his or her school's embrace of anti-Catholic sexual ideology. There's a reason an increasing number of Catholics homeschool their children, and it's not COVID.

Speaking of embracing anti-Catholic ideology, I haven't taken our current sovereign pontiff entirely seriously since 2016 when he appeared with a statue of Martin Luther. Apparently it was a gift, so presumably the Lutherans weren't taking him seriously either. I mean, who thinks a statue of Martin Luther is a wonderful present for a successor of Pope Paul III? Personally, I'd go with a bottle of wine and a cheque made out to Aid to the Church in Need. 

It was also reported in 2016 that Pope Francis mused that he might divide the Catholic Church. However, the Church was already divided in the 1980s between Catholics who believe the Catholic faith and Catholics who dislike it and want to replace it with something else. The latter group is now in ascendance, alas. But since the Catholic faith, handed down full and entire, is beautiful, sensible, and compelling, and because Our Lord promised the gates of hell will not prevail (Matthew 16:18), some Catholics will always believe the Catholic faith. And an increasing number will avoid institutions run by the second group, including advertised-as-Catholic parishes, seminaries, and (especially) schools. 

Attempting to ban the Traditional Latin Mass is not going to force Catholics who believe the Catholic faith back into parishes, seminaries, and schools that want to replace the faith with something else. It won't work. It won't work because, unlike many poor Catholics who are so confused that their one rock in the stormy sea is not the Faith but "Vatican II" or "The Pope", traditionalists are not confused. We know what the Faith is, we know that a rupture has occurred, we know that John Paul II wasn't perfect, and we have come to accept that Benedict XVI isn't either. We watched as nothing much happened to most of the anti-Catholic dissenters in the Church, and we suspect nothing much will happen to most of us pro-Catholic loyalists as well. 

More to be pitied than traditionalist Catholics are Catholics badly hurt by the post-1962 innovations and ideologies. First, of course, are the Catholics harmed by clerical sexual abuse, but there are many other spiritual victims. 

I think, for example, of the single mother who had no idea she could have her baby baptised privately. Thanks to a lifetime of liturgical innovations, she thought she would have to stand in front of a church with a bunch of married couples and their babies, probably during a Sunday Mass. Not wanting to exhibit her single motherhood to an entire congregation, she put off baptising her baby for years. In the end, the child was baptised according the the traditional rite. 

I also think of the child who refused to make his First Confession because he would have to do so in front of an entire congregation. (Yes, really.) I was summoned to remonstrate with this child, and so I saw the set-up. In short, the priest sat in a chair in front of the sanctuary, and each child in the class walked up to him to confess quietly--while parents watched from the pews---and then went back to his or her pew. In the end, I took this child home unshriven and congratulated him on his authentic Catholic sensibilities. He later made his First Confession in decent privacy.

I next think of the potential convert I put in touch with a certain priest 15 years ago. The potential convert is now good friends with this priest, but she is still not a Catholic. I sent another potential convert to the Oratory of St. Philip Neri, and she is now a Catholic. ("I thought you were going to suggest Fr. [certain priest]," she told me. "Ha," I said.)

So when Catholic traditionalists believe and teach the Catholic Faith whole and entire--and celebrate or assist at the traditional Catholic liturgies that best express that Faith--it is not merely for ourselves and our likeminded neighbours. It is for everyone, all Catholics and everyone who might become a Catholic--which is to say, everyone on earth. 

It's not going to be comfortable. But it's not supposed to be comfortable. In the traditional Confirmation rite, the bishop is supposed to smack the confirmand in the face as a reminder of this fact. My Confirmation was Novus Ordo, so I didn't get a slap. Happily, however, the large and heavy hand of the future Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic clamped down hard on my shoulder. It has served the purpose.

Update: Pardon me as I fix my many typos. I've been up since 4 AM. 

Update 2: If anyone is interested, traditional Catholicism is perfectly compatible with love for the environment, aka stewardship of the earth. Traditional Catholicism has always recommended abstemiousness about meat, for example, and there are traditional monks and nuns who are functional vegetarians and/or organic farmers. Traditional Catholicism is also not particularly keen on cosmetics (St. Thomas Aquinas has an interesting take) or vast wardrobes/fast fashion or luxury/consumerism in general. It is definitely against the contraceptive pills whose mass use is doing extremely weird things to the fish.  The pre-V2 bishops of Quebec have been disparaged by historians and politicians for wanting to keep their flocks on their farms and out of the the cities; perhaps one day they will be hailed as agricultural visionaries. Pope Gregory XVI objected to both fossil fuel lighting systems and to mass transportation (well, trains). And naturally our faith built a wonderful civilisation that depended on neither petroleum in general nor plastic in particular. 


  1. Thank you, dear Mrs. McLean, for an excellent and much-appreciated pep talk! Wishing you and your husband a very merry Christmas.

    1. Thank you very much. A very happy Christmas to you and your loved ones!