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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The Traditionalist Spring.

Read this entire essay by John Zmirak, which is upbeat, clear-eyed, and radiates hope.

If bishops faithfully follow the Holy Father’s wishes—which apparently now extend to training new priests to say both rites—it will work miracles at luring back the scandalized souls of the 70s. It will gradually convince the gun-shy, self-styled Traditionalists to poke around at their old parishes. This will take time, of course. Given the sheer number of falsehoods imposed on Catholic laymen trying to schlep our way to Heaven by “highly placed officials” and the committees who loved them, is it any wonder that when some people learned the truth, they became a little… suspicious? No wonder so many of those people I met at reluctantly tolerated “indult” Latin Masses—it was easier, in some places, to get permission for gay-sponsored Dignity liturgies—carried plastic grocery bags full of poorly printed pamphlets with the names of “cardinals who are 33rd degree Freemasons.” It wasn’t so much a sign of a “schismatic mentality” (although that exists) as a symptom of Post-Conciliar Stress Disorder. I once adopted a beagle whose previous master used to beat him; he still winces whenever I try to pet him. But he’s learning to trust….

Pope Benedict understands all this, and has shown a fatherly compassion toward those of us who suffered from priestly liturgical abuse. His warmth and wisdom are washing away the bitterness, even as solemn liturgies attract new vocations to the priesthood. (When I was in Rome, the Latin liturgies were always scattered with curious seminarians from Indiana.)

What remains is an outreach to the other lost sheep of the 1970s, the millions who drifted away from catechetical psychobabble and liturgies lacking the dignity of Cub Scout ceremonies. Faced with the prospect of a Church that was being dressed up by wishful thinkers in the trappings of dying, “mainline” Protestantism, one out of three Americans who grew up Catholic have already left the Church. Many ceased all religious practice, but far more sought out the starker certitudes of Evangelical churches—whose embrace of Biblical principles and rejection of sacramental rites is straightforward and sincere.

I’m not saying that people who’ve gone off to Pentecostal churches to speak in tongues will be lured back by hearing Latin. But the recovery of the Church in the West from a generation of chaos and self-indulgence can only be advanced by the slow and solemn recovery of dignity, beauty, and order.

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