Saturday, 27 November 2010


The uttermost choice is before me. To stay put, and abide poor Liturgy (which even among more sensible Traditional circles isn't really all that traditional), the culture (which, incidentally, sickens me), the fundamentally wrong ecclesiology of Ultramontane Tradworld (which isn't quite as Ultramontane at the moment as is its wont, vis the condoms business), the New Kalendar, the eventual canonization of the Antichrist, the acceptance of a set of claims to holiness and apostolicity which clearly belie the last 450 years of sterility and a bureaucratic hermeneutic of Tradition, belief in the ''development'' of doctrine (which entails acceptance of the Papal claim to infallibility - a claim which is entirely novel and contrary to the Apostolic Tradition) etc. Or to depart and wander hopelessly through a series of foreign churches, and who knows where that may lead me?

Perhaps my time as a Traditionalist can be compared to waiting in an ante-room leading to something greater. A lot of Anglicans of my acquaintance feel this way about their church, which has clearly departed from even their own wholesome tradition in a very serious way. This is a matter of conscience. Trad Catholics may sneer at conscience if it is at variance with the Magisterium, though I do not understand why. In conversation with a friend some weeks ago (sadly steeped in a Trad milieu) he had said that he would watch with growing concern the path to canonization of Pius XII, whom he described as an arrogant old queen. An apt description if you're being reticent I suppose. I was rather pleased by this, though disappointed when he added that the day Old Pius is canonized he would accept with filial piety his canonization, as coming from the infallible Magisterium of the Church.

Conscience versus Obedience. Where do you draw the line? I cannot, in conscience, accept or approve of what Pius XII did to the Sacred Liturgy. I just cannot. I am supremely confident that those reforms were both deeply pernicious and wrought great evil in the Church (you can see the signs today). So why must I sacrifice my conscience in this matter in order to appear orthodox to other Trad Catholics? I care not for such pretence of ''orthodoxy.'' Indeed I would fain question the whole ''traditionalist'' position if their end to ''turn back the clock'' runs contrary to Papal and Curial decree. There has to be a point where you can look with an objective eye at the dealings of the Papacy with the Sacred Liturgy, step aside from starry-eyed filial piety (just as Fortescue, a man very misunderstood, did during the course of his life), and just admit that the abolition (say) of the Midnight Eucharistic Fast was wrong, utterly wrong, and that there was a ricochet effect - do away with the Eucharistic Fast and you clearly encourage complacency about preparation for the Lord's Day and receiving the Eucharistic Lord into ourselves. Similarly I cannot understand sacrificing one's conscience for the sake of obedience to the Magisterium in terms of the canonization of Pius XII, a man who clearly did great violence to the Church's Tradition. Why would you accept this? Are the marks of a saintly man, dutiful son of the Church, ''Second Sunday of the Passion'' post-'56 fashion, or evening Mass?

My hero J.R.R Tolkien, at Oxford in the 1960s.

Of course I am just one lonely guy - up against the ''infallible'' Vatican curial system, which regulates orthodoxy by decree and ''Canon Law'', renders abuse Tradition and novelty ancientry. Trad Catholics may pride themselves on the Roman Church's staunch opposition to doctrinal relativism, though this is just circumstantial, just as subject to change where the Pope is concerned as it is among Protestants. The Pope is lord even of Truth in the Roman Church, and can mould the Tradition as he sees fit. Deviation from Papal orthodoxy and you are anathema. I fail to see why, as a Catholic, I am expected to submit myself to the Church, that is, to place my trust in the Pope who has clearly failed to do his job - that is to safeguard and defend the Tradition of the Church. Conscience has no place in the Roman Church.

Though I am in great doubt. Christ plainly did not intend His faithful to only partly-adhere to the Tradition of that Church He founded, to believe some of her teachings but not others, to sneer at most of her liturgy. I always imagined that putting on Christ entailed steeping oneself fully in the Tradition of the Church, which was upright, worthy to be followed and thoroughly orthodox; with the Sacred Liturgy, the traditional prayer of the Church, being offered by all the Church, by all Christian men everywhere, according to the same received ethos and praxis, and rising up to God as an evening sacrifice, as sweet incense to perfume the heavenly court. This is not so romantic as you might think, and this was indeed the case once upon a time, with wholesome Liturgy radiating from all the churches of this world. Now what do you find? Banal 1970s hymnody, ICEL mistranslations of an impoverished Missal, a plethora of untraditional Eucharistic prayers, the Propers being left out - not to mention the countless aliturgical abuses such as Mass facing the people. Tradworld is hardly better - with Low Mass, Rosary Crusades and Benediction being the order of the day. Where am I to go in the Roman Church for decent Liturgy? The answer is, of course, that I would look in vain...

''A shadow passed over Saruman's face; then it went deathly white. Before he could conceal it, they saw through his mask the anguish of a mind in doubt, loathing to stay and dreading to leave its refuge.''

I am sick to death of cheating myself, of trying to employ Orwellian Doublethink in terms of my faith, only half-listening to my own conscience. ''The Church is infallible, the Church is never wrong'' I kept assuring myself as I felt sick to my stomach (and trying against hope to suppress a fast-rising wrath) to witness recently a celebration of a pseudo-feast in a Traditionalist parish. Years ago I tried to conceive of my reaction if I became aware beyond all doubt that the Church was wrong, that the Roman Church was not the true church of Jesus Christ as I have always believed. I could not, as I could not conceive of it. Though I was (really) sick recently and wept, having come to the irreversible conclusion that the Roman Church is evidence of a gigantic fraud, and that I was led astray by her, my conscience and right thinking lulled to sleep by false hopes and want of religion. How do you think it feels when the magnitude of your own folly and ignorance is revealed, though you were long aware of it, but too scared to actually admit the truth? I am tired and bitter now, finding little consolation in that which of old gave me comfort. Even Tolkien, that kindly intercessor who has kept me in the Roman Church beyond all hope, said that the Church more often felt like a trap than a refuge in the 1960s. Though where could he go? Where can I go? I feel homeless, orphaned and utterly bereft.

O Lord, seeking me Thou sat exhausted; Thou hast redeemed having suffered the Cross; may not so great a labour be wasted...


  1. And yet, as you say, if not here...where? Orthodox perhaps, but they have their own strange problems too.

    Yes, there is a huge crisis in the Church right now. But that's an opportunity for you to be of use in setting it right rather than despairing.

    Ultra-ultramontanism may be opposed in good conscience. "Infallibility" is very narrowly applied. You shouldn't hate on Pius XII so much; incompetence is not a sin. A holy man may make horribly misguided choices in administration (and I'm not saying he didn't; I think some of Pius X's "reforms" were bad too), but your uncharity towards him is unbecoming.

    The liturgy (and theology) do develop organically over time. Trying to go back to some pure liturgy is to ignore the baggage of history which has been imperfect, which has had periods where popular piety was stronger, etc. I'm not crazy about "anatomical" things like the Sacred Heart either, but if it has moved many people in times when the liturgy did not, then so be it. Sure Solemn High Masses in a local rite are ideal...but you do have to take what you can get sometimes while never forgetting the ideal.

    Suffer through some of these things. If you despair and jump ship, then they've won.

  2. My latest blog post is for you, Patricius. I'm sorry that this is where you currently find yourself.

    Know of my prayers for you.

  3. I can relate to your feelings, Patricius. I have gone through them myself. I too feel as though I was duped. Anger, bitterness but most of all sadness - sadness, because I no longer believe that there exists an authentic western Christian tradition; a tradition which should have been your inheritence, my inheritence and the inheritence of all Christians in the west. In the end I gave up hoping that things would change.

    Ultimately only you can decide how to deal with that. All I can do is offer you my prayers.

    Reading your earlier post where you linked to Ad Orientem's blog, I looked at the discussion on ecumenism. There were some interesting comments. One comment which stuck in my mind was "First, let the Pope confess the orthodox faith", but until then how can I even begin to consider being in communion with him?

  4. And i sympathise with you because i too felt a sort of anger at having been dispossessed of my rightful inheritance by some clerical committee.The wolf in the sheepfold really. The false shepherds.

    Maybe should we persevere to keep the spirit of the true liturgy even if we've been deprived of it. Should we leave the battlefield where our Mother, the Holy Roman Church, is being bled by those supposed to be her guardian? I'm thinking of undertaking a big pilgrimage to all the genuine shrines of Europe once my degree over- cathedrals/reliquaries/etc. Keeping it alive in spirit. But then it them who have introduced that dichotomy in the Liturgy.

    I am sure His Sufferings wont be wasted if you keep hope and persevere, howsoever difficult that may be. There are several fronts on which we have to fight. Courage! The Banners of the King go forth, the Standard of Blessed Peter and Paul.

  5. Perhaps it is more useful to look at the positives?

    Whatever her faults, and I would suggest they are quite numerous, the Roman Church does do an awful lot of good in many places on the globe amongst the poor and needy. Its pro-life stance is also worthy of support.

    There are a lot of good things in the RCC and they tend to work from the 'grass roots' upwards - the problems are created when the top starts imposing novelty downwards.

  6. Rubricari!

    I understand the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation also does a lot of good amongst the poor and needy in over 100 countries.

  7. I can understand your sorrow, with regards the liturgy and the excessive 'popolatry' which is committed by trads and progressives alike.

    But to deny doctrinal development is to deny the whole of Judeo-Christian history. It is more an unveiling than development; a fulfillment and elucidation than change. Also, with regards papal infallibility (in its modest meaning and scope - not the acid-trip papacy that some trads envisage): it is mere logical necessity if the Church is indefectable. You know this, but can't bring yourself to accept an easy answer for a harrowed conscience. I am assuming a lot about you, I know, and that probably irritates or angers you. But that's how I see it. You just can't accept the fact that holy men (like Ven. Pius XII) can do stupid, stupid things while good-intentioned.

    Stay the course; pray; work, study and fight for what you see as the source and summit of the faith (which is your faith). You'll do a lot more good for the Church and world if you do this, than entertaining fantasies about leaving the Catholic communion and doing your own thing, your way. We can't expect to go to Heaven on a feather-bed, or be truly happy in this world without some struggle for truth, justice and peace.

    I quite enjoy your blog, but sometimes I just want to slap you out of fraternal love. :)

    Greek Orthodox in communion with Rome,

  8. Remember Patricius that many of us are not even aware of the things that you so despair of because we have lost them whereas you at least have some glimpses of them from time to time. The Church is Christ's and He uses even our failings for His own purposes. The Roman Church of the post-Trent tradition has baptized and allowed many souls to know Christ and salvation. Perhaps the Popes of Rome may have failed and may have arrogated powers upon themselves, but ultimately, the Master knows what He wants from them and from us and He will not lead us astray. Have a little more faith in our Lord.

  9. Of course the downside of questioning the Faith I was brought up in is that it's all I know. Why am I fortefied in the Faith of Christ by the Church in one respect (say, the Hypostatic Union and the bodily Resurrection of the Lord) but not others, such as the Infallibility of the Pope?

    As Tolkien himself said: you can either accept Christ and the claims of the Gospel, and take the consequences, or reject them...and take the consequences.

    I must say that my mind boggles at the moment.

  10. Patricius
    I think you need some time away from distractions (including the internet). It has been said that the Church is a hospital for the soul, and that monasteries are her intensive care ward. At the risk of giving advice which should properly come from your spiritual father, I believe you need to spend some time in a monastery. I recommend a week if you can swing the time. But a long weekend at the least.

    Yours in ICXC

  11. John's right, of course, and I hesitate to transgress his sound advice. I've said my piece many times here. I'll add only this:

    There's quitting the battle because you're losing (cowardice in the face of the enemy), and there's walking away because you recognise that the "battle" is itself illusory. In the latter case, you can't "stay and fight" for something that you have come to recognise as being utterly without substance. What would "victory" mean?

    Secondly, yes the Orthodox Church has its own peculiar problems - but these are precisely where you'd expect them to be: in its human element. The mythical Roman "magisterium" is supposed to be the indispensible condition of security and stability in the faith itself. Look around you. Judge each tree by its fruits.

    Third - there is no reason to be angry and bitter. Let the dead bury the dead. If it really is Christ you're seeking you'll find Him. There is nothing whatever to be afraid of. Letting go of everything that has seemed so dear and so essential for so long is very, very hard, but - and I speak directly from experience - in truth, you have nothing to lose but your chains. I set out hoping to find a happy home for my children, but in the expectation of spending the rest of my own passage here as Ruth, eating the bread of exile. Instead I found myself enveloped in an unlooked-for and unanticipated joy.

    I am a very ordinary, very ignorant Orthodox who nevertheless knows himself to be plugged into the mains, at last. I'm not a liberal, a Trad, a conservative, a neo-conservative, a Benedictine; I'm not a Calendarist of either persuasion. I haven't concerned myself with a single question of liturgical procedure in three years. I'm just Orthodox.

    The funny thing is, that having, like you, wept bitter tears over all that was lost, today I wouldn't willingly return to the Western rite, even if my Archbishop instituted it on my doorstep.

    - Moretben

  12. PS: "Orthodox in communion with Rome"

    = Sanity in communion with schitzophrenia.

  13. Oh - another thing: "foreign Church". The very first converts on these islands would have joined themselves to communities consisting mostly of Greeks and hellenised Jews. We can can put up with a little cultural awkwardness today, too.