Read the whole thing here.
So, after three years of this nonsense, you finally head for another parish because you feel you must, just to keep your family safe from the boredom punctuated by nuttiness. All this I grant as a perfectly legitimate thing for a Catholic to do who is really surrounded by grotesque distortions of Catholic teaching.
But the problem is this: You can get hyper-sensitized and bitter. The shock of discovering that the average Catholic is average leaves you prone to see not just a gross violation as a sign of creeping apostasy, but everything as a sign of creeping apostasy. The distance between the vision of the Universal Church you have seen in the theology books and life as it is lived at the parish level throws you into crisis.
At which point you have a choice. You can face the fact that the Church has always been a hospital for screw-ups with Simon Peter (and, um, you) as chief of the cowards, shufflers, and snobs who make up our band of sinners in desperate need of treatment… or you can scan the herd with your gimlet eye and decide that they are a pack of “clapping fornicators” whose only wish is to profane the Eucharist with their “grubby hands” (as my reader above so generously put it elsewhere).
You can choose to sit in judgment of a priest reverently celebrating a valid Mass and accuse him of “turning his back on God” while admiring your own “humble awe” as you sneer in disgust at your average neighbor for not being up to snuff. In short, you can enter into the prideful fantasy of believing that the average Catholic is not merely average but your enemy, and that there exists somewhere the Perfect Parish with Perfect Liturgy and Perfect People. Because, as we all know, the Tridentine Rite Catholic is blissfully free of fornication and all other serious sin and always was until the damned Second Vatican Council introduced the Seven Deadly Sins into Catholic life.
My reader’s impatient contempt for, well, about 99 percent of the Church outside the hothouse of his tiny subculture will sooner or later run up against the George McClellan Principle of Utopian Christianity: namely, that though he has arrived, for the moment, in what he fancies is the perfect sect within the Church and escaped the pollution of, well, virtually all of what the Church herself calls “the Church,” he has also brought himself. And that means that sooner or later he will again confront the imperfections of the people around him — and his own imperfections as well.
At that point, he will either have to face the fact that the Church is basically made for slobs and screw-ups and the incorrigibly Average or else blame his troubles on everybody else and leave again for someplace still purer. To the question, “What’s wrong with the Church?” he will have to answer either humbly, “I am” or proudly, “They are!”
Now, Mark framed this blog post in terms of a Rad-Trad Catholic's view of the Novus Ordo Mass-attending Catholics because he actually had a Rad-Trad Catholic call his fellow Catholics who attend the Ordinary Form "clapping fornicators" and the like. I recall the exchange well, and found it astonishing that someone could speak so sweepingly of his fellow Catholics in such an unjustly judging way.
But I know perfectly well--and I'm sure Mark does too--that there are "Stanford Nutting" types out there who are just as intolerant and judgmental about people who like a little Latin or the E.F. Mass; to the Nutting N.O. Catholic, anybody who rejects the architectural pinnacle of the Church in the Round, dislikes clapping, thinks that a parish full of wealthy Americans can afford to do better than a guitar and a pair of cymbals for their musical instruments, or is noticeably uncomfortable at a Mass that is clearly being haunted by that unquiet ghost, the Spirit of Vatican II, is just a fuddy-duddy Pharisee from Company T (the T, of course, stands for Tradition).
The point, of course, is that if we're all about roaming the aisles of our parish church with a pair of tweezers to remove the splinters from our neighbors' eyes while we ignore the fact that they are ducking and covering to avoid being smacked in the head by the giant two-by-four jutting out of our own ocular organs, we're not really approaching the matter as Christ would. He made it pretty clear that He wants us to practice charity toward each other instead of being fixated on other people's sins, foibles, and shortcomings while ignoring our own. And we can't practice charity toward people if we've already decided the only way to deal with them is to shake the dust of their parish off of our feet and march off in high dudgeon as we search for the elusive Church of the Purely Pure.
None of that is to say either that liturgy is not important--it is, tremendously so--or that we never have a reason to leave a parish where, for example, heresy is being openly and defiantly taught, rubrics are being laughed out the non-stained glass windows, and naked contempt for the Pope, or the teachings of the Church in serious areas, or any such thing is being practiced; we do, and should, leave such parishes, and we should also document all of the irregularities and send them to the proper authorities in the diocese and beyond.
But there's a big difference between being aghast and frustrated at a parish priest who teaches that Mary and Joseph went on to have other kids and that Mary certainly did sin, and that the Eucharist isn't really Jesus (to use some extreme examples) and being just as aghast and frustrated that lay people are allowed to assist in the distribution of Holy Communion, or that there are altar girls, or that some people receive Our Eucharistic Lord in their hands. Whether, within the confines of an abstract liturgical discussion, we can opine that some of these practices are misguided or have had unfortunate if unintended consequences is one thing; whether we insist that we really know better than the Church does and that liturgies or liturgical practices which the Church allows and celebrates are dangerous to the faith and ought to be eradicated is quite another.
Which is why I was a little bit amused--darkly, perhaps--that one of Mark's combox critics scolded him for writing all of this and not even mentioning Summorum Pontificum or the recently released Universae Ecclesiae which clarify the faithful's right to ask for the Extraordinary Form of the Mass and the duty to grant that request provided there are priests properly trained to celebrate it available: because, presumably, Mark's whole point is somehow invalidated by the existence of these two documents. Mark's quite reasonable reply that he had written the Crisis piece before Universae Ecclesiae had been released (owing to the publishing world's tendency to want to have things in hand, read them, edit them a bit, etc. before hitting the "publish" button) was a mild and irenic response; I'm afraid, in such a situation, I would have been tempted to use the commenter's gripe as a Soapbox Moment. Yes, these documents have been released. And yes, they make it clear what Summorum Pontificum did: the faithful may ask for the Extraordinary Form, and the priest who is able to say it may agree. But what these documents do not say--what, I learned, many online RadTrad bloggers and commenters had secretly hoped that Universae Ecclesiae, at least, would say, is that henceforth and forthwith the Novus Ordo Mass is no longer the Ordinary Form, and is, in fact, so egregiously deficient, Freemasonish, and dangerous to all the faithful that it is hereby banned forever, and its books shall be burned and their ashes salted and buried, and the Church humbly apologizes to everybody for ever thinking it was a good idea when clearly no reform was ever necessary at all, and a forty-year period of penance and reparation is immediately instituted and shall be binding upon all the faithful except those who had the wisdom and foresight to attend the E.F. Mass exclusively from the earliest days of Ecclesia Dei who are exempt from these penitential requirements, and from now on the Extraordinary Form is the Ordinary Form and lay people are prohibited from--well, everything--and every Catholic high school in the world has to teach in Latin exclusively after the freshman year. Oh, and women have to wear waist-length lace veils over their no-less-than-eight-inches-below-knee-dresses whenever they are within ten miles of a Catholic parish.
I may be exaggerating a tad. But seriously, I have seen, in the days leading up to the release of Universae Ecclesiae, the confident opinion expressed on all sorts of Trad sites that the Novus Ordo is on its way out; the Church plans to do away with it; it will die a natural death in the next thirty or forty years; the Extraordinary Form Mass is the true Mass and the other is a sad mess; if any good ever comes out of an N.O. parish it's certainly not the fruit of that horrible liturgy; souls are being lost because they go along with the whole EMHC/Communion in the hand/altar girl unholy trio; God is not looking favorably on anybody who thinks the Ordinary Form is just fine.
It's a little shocking to encounter those sorts of opinions, and realize that these Catholics are not only speaking so contemptuously of their fellow Catholics--they are speaking contemptuously of the Church's Ordinary Form of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
I find it just as shocking when, say, the National Catholic Reporter or some similar paper or site speaks contemptuously of the Extraordinary Form of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, or of the people who assist at it. Examples of that have abounded in the past, and continue to crop up; perhaps that's why those who assist at the E.F. Mass feel entitled to bash the O.F. But both sides need to cut it out: the Mass is the Mass, and bashing either Mass is bashing Our Lord and His Eucharistic gift to the Church and to the world.
Which is why Mark is right to warn that allowing oneself to stew in negativity and bitterness of this sort--whether from the side that wants Latin and veils, or the side that likes EMHCs and Communion in the hand--is ultimately a path out of the Church altogether. It's terribly easy to go from "Thank you, Lord, for not making me like these idiots!" to "Why, Lord, are you making me put up with these idiots?" to "Okay, Lord, I'm going to find You somewhere where there aren't any idiots at all!" even if that last option leads away from the Church and down the road of schism, sedevacantism, Protestantism, or whatever "-ism" most appeals to the person concerned.