Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Teapot tempests and liturgical storm-chasers

The storms that hit our area last night weren't as bad as the ones that have been hitting other areas, and for us personally, they weren't anything at all. We spent much of last evening listening to Thad's handheld radio as reports of rotation and wind speeds came in, and when the tornado sirens went off several times we took appropriate cover, but we didn't even get rain until the tail end of the last cell came through. The girls and I were relieved; Thad was perhaps a bit disappointed, not because he actually wants anything like the damage and destruction other places have seen to hit us, but because he has not-so-secret dreams involving storm chasing (which is pretty funny considering how cautious and safety-minded he is in general).

A hat tip to the Reflections of a Paralytic blog for posting the Holy Father's condolences to those affected by the Joplin tornado:




A lovely and gracious message of love and concern, is it not? Do you know what it's missing? Look closely.

It's missing this.

Perhaps it is wrong of me to see in that post of Fr. Z's a rather pointed hint that as the tornado has swept away one of those ugly modern buildings it's time to rebuild it, "brick by brick," into something that will be more aesthetically pleasing. Perhaps it's wrong of me to further see, in one admittedly cynical poster's comment that, no, they'll just make the new church bigger and uglier, and in some others' debate about whether or not the bishop of the area is a good guy deserving of donations and support, that side of RadTradism that I'm finding uglier and uglier--yes, even uglier than a 1970s Church of the Regrettable Notions.

People died in Joplin, some of them, quite likely, people who were parishioners of that parish. In the aftermath of terrible events people turn to the Church for support; Mass attendance often becomes quite crowded for a while. The people of that parish, many of whose homes were damaged or destroyed, don't even have their spiritual home to go to for solace or relief. The time for snarky comments about liturgical architecture which leaves something to be desired is not now.

I had a phone call yesterday with a friend who attends the E.F. Mass with her family; she wondered if she's somehow offended me, given that I've been writing so often about "trad" stuff lately. I assured her that it wasn't her. To be frank, it is Father Zuhlsdorf's blog and its commenters that has made me prickly about RadTradism in a way I really wasn't before. My default setting for the O.F./E.F. matter is: live and let live. I am happy to belong to an O.F. parish and to assist at O.F. Masses, and I respect those who choose E.F. parishes and E.F. Masses. The Church in her great generosity gives us both.

But when I started reading Fr. Z.'s blog on a regular basis lately, I felt disheartened. The sense I get from his comment boxes is that Universae Ecclesiae is supposed to be a club wielded against the many, the new English translation of the Mass is a poor substitute for the "real Mass," the Church's real desire is to wait another thirty or forty years and then get rid of the Novus Ordo (when the "biological solution" has had time to kill off all the troublemakers), and that the respect I have for those who attend the E.F. on a regular basis is not always returned by those who attend the E.F. in regard to the rest of us.

Is it Fr. Z.'s fault that his comment boxes are like this? As a blogger whose commenting policy is very open, I have to say no. I will say this, though: his blog has become an absolute stumbling-block to my strong desire to see those who love and attend the E.F. Mass on a regular basis or even exclusively in an open and positive light. In real life, the people I've met who are E.F. Mass attendees are quite nice people. Online--not so much.

The solution is clear: I have to stay away from Trad blogs, including Father Z.'s (perhaps, especially his). From where I am, the various liturgical storms and squabbles rarely pass directly overhead; sometimes there might be a little rain from the tail end of such a storm, and I'm glad to share my opinions when that happens. There's no need for me to be a liturgical storm chaser, and go looking for teapot-tempests in places where I know conditions are favorable for such things to arise.


Dawn Farias said...

I think your solution is spot-on, Erin. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Charlotte said...

Well, I think we all know that I am a big applauder of what you just wrote.

I have often questioned for myself (and once or twice publically on my blog) why Father Z lets his commboxes get the way they do.

As with you, Red, I am a fan of open commboxes (though Mr. Jenkins thinks otherwise). But in Father Z's case, I am of the opinion that it goes too far. I'm talking about repeated, daily, all-out attacks on mainstream Catholics (i.e. anyone who is not uber-orthodox). It gets to the point where I think Father Z actually agrees with his commenters, or else he would shut it all down. I say this because he seems to have no problem wielding his red fisked corrections in the commboxes when people "go down the rabbit hole" or say anything else he's annoyed with. Since he only corrects a certain few comments, but let's the rest of the mean-spirited, totally nasty comments stand, what else am I to think?

Father Z is a decent resource to learn about traditional Catholicism. In general, what HE writes is fine. It's his commboxes that damage faith, charity, and souls.

Those who follow along on my blog know that I gave up Father Z and few other overly-nasty or overly-political blogs for Lent. It was awesome! My faith grew, I wasn't feeling nasty, and I actually thought about fellow Catholics with love. Father Z was the #1 place where my Catholic faith felt destroyed, rather than uplifted (and I can take A LOT of analysis, snark, and negativity.)

I agree - live and let live.

The Ranter said...

Well, you know how I feel about this, since I had a big ranty post about this. ;) I was so riled up and to be honest, I still am.But you've said it much more eloquently than I.

Thom, SFO said...

Well-said. Thank you. I had the same reaction when I read the tornado post.

Melanie B said...

I suppose that's why I so seldom go to Father 's blog. I hadn't consciously connected the dots; but... yeah it doesn't usually leave me feeling happy. Too much... stuff in the comments.

shadowlands said...

good stuff.

Boz said...

Totally agree with your decision. I can read blogs without looking at the commenters and I did that for a long time with Father Z's blog. I'm ultra-cautious on liturgical reform and don't hang out in the Latin Mass circles in my town but do go somewhat regularly to the EF. Last year, I went to the EF Mass celebrated at the National Shrine here in DC and, afterwards, ended up with a group of people hanging out with none other than Father Z. Long and the short of it: Fr. Z likes what his commenters say.

Anonymous said...

Great post Red.

I think in this case, Fr. Z's actual post is the problem, even more so than the comments that followed.

How uncharitable to follow up a picture of such devastation with "this can be a blessing" and "Brick by Brick."

How beautiful was the Pope's message.

It's good to go through your blog reader and edit it once in a while.

Chelsea said...

Thanks for the link, Erin!! I'm a regular reader of yours. Excellent insight, as always!

Nathan said...

Erin, I am truly sorry that Fr Z's blog has become a stumbling block to your strong desire to see those of us with an attachment to the TLM in a positive light. I can understand your reasoning and sympathize with it.

I don't know if it will help, but it might be useful to realize where a number of the commenters (and Trad-minded priests) come from. While it doesn't excuse our behavior and our sometimes very strident writing in the blogosphere, please know that a goodly number of us attached to the TLM were (mostly occasionally, until we learned when to be quiet)treated pretty shabbily by those who led and implemented the liturgical changes from the 1960s through the 1990s. I hope you can understand that our all-too-human reaction was to group all those who bought into the changes (even as a matter of obedience) into a group to oppose.

It took me a long time to realize that, like Trads, you can't put all those who like (or prefer) the OF into a category, and that we ought to treat all our fellow Catholics (and, well, everybody) with the dignity and respect they deserve. Those of you (it looks like all the commenters) who quite charitibly and reasonably see room for both the EF and OF are, unfortunately, caught in the middle of the blog-related liturgy conflict.

I would suggest you look at Fr Z's blog selectively. I count on it for the news--the content, not tone, of what I learn--and tend to overlook the blustering, especially in the comboxes. If that is still a stumbling block, his podcasts on patristics and on the stational churches for Lent and the Easter octave, as well as his drilling into the translations of Mass texts, are really well done and excellent.

I think my children have it right--we go to both the EF and OF, and both to them are simply Holy Mass. I hope you see some of who love the TLM in that light--and please pray for and put up with us who, at times, are still dealing with pain, concupiscence, and lessons from decades of liturgical conflict.

Mostly, I hope you and the other commenters on this thread will, in charity, see past some of the unsavory aspects of some Trads and see the amazing beauty, clarity, and holiness of the TLM itself.

In Christ,

Robin E. said...

I've lived in Southwest Missouri all my life, about a half an hour away from Joplin, and attended the Catholic High School there. I kind of cringed when I read Father Z's comment, just like I cringed when I heard a number of local Catholics say the same thing. And these people aren't rad-trads by any stretch of the imagination. It's just...most of us ordinary Catholics don't care much for that style of architecture.

I still cringe, though, because though I never liked that building much, I recall many times spent there with friends who belong to that parish, and those memories stand out for everyone as what really matters most about the Church anyway - the sacramental life lived there.

It is terribly sad. However, the people in Joplin are not really left without a spiritual home. In Joplin, there are two Catholic parishes, and all three Catholic schools - the elementary (which was destroyed), the middle school, and the high school are all run cooperatively by the two parishes. St. Peter's is taking on a big role in the relief effort there, with members of both parishes involved. They are essentially the same folks, because as you matriculate through the school system, you spend time at each parish in turn. It's a good, strong Catholic community here in the
Bible belt!

MaryMargaret said...

I was shocked by Fr Z's post, and then became angry. In 1991, my parish church was destroyed by a tornado (Andover, Ks, St Vincent de Paul). People died in that tornado, too, three of them only 1 mile from my home.

SVDP was rebuilt, and is not a church that would be to Fr Z and his readers' taste. (no stained glass, no statues, no high altar, etc, etc, etc) Heck, it's not to my taste, either, but it's still a church and the people of Andover are grateful for it.

My somewhat rambly point is to agree with you, Erin. At such a time, one should not sneer at the architecture, but pray for all the victims and their family and friends.

Pope Benedict's condolences were very well expressed, as usual. He is a treasure!

freddy said...

"I will say this, though: his blog has become an absolute stumbling-block to my strong desire to see those who love and attend the E.F. Mass on a regular basis or even exclusively in an open and positive light." -Erin Manning

So, you think it's perfectly fair, just and charitable to let your opinion of one blogger -- and no matter how popular, he's still one person with an audience that is a small minority of those who "love and attend the E.F. Mass" to color your opinion of every. single. other. person. who shares a love for the E.F. Mass.

I also think it dangerous to use the word "desire" to see a group in an "open and positive light." Could you say without cringing that you "desire" to see Jews, or men, or the elderly, or teachers, or actors or ham radio operators "in an open and positive light?" As Christians, don't we have a *duty* to see others in an open and positive light -- in fact, as our own brothers and sisters?

Note that I'm not defending Fr. Z. here. I'm just wondering if your frustration with him has outweighed your good sense.

God bless you.

Melanie B said...

Freddy, The way I read it, Erin was saying precisely that she thinks it's not fair that one blogger and his commenters colors should her perceptions of the EF and every single person who loves the EF. But you know, being human sometimes what we read does color our perceptions even when we know rationally that it's unfair. Thus when we realize our reading material is leading is to be uncharitable, we take stock and decide not to read it any longer because it's an occasion to sin.

From what I read, that's the problem she faced and realizing first that it was a problem, she decided it would be best for her to no longer read it. Thus to avoid the problem and keep from losing charity altogether.

I could in fact say that it is my desire to see people in a positive light while recognizing that I have some prejudices to overcome in order to do so. Often we know our knee-jerk reaction is wrong and we struggle to overcome it. Thus we desire to be better but know that it will be a battle to get there. That's sort of the nature of concupiscence in a fallen world, isn't it?

Red Cardigan said...

Melanie has it right, Freddy. I found myself continually having to say, after reading Fr. Z's, that the trads I know aren't like this. They don't hate the O.F., they don't think it's fundamentally and grotesquely inferior and a danger to the faith of those who worship there, and they aren't praying for the "biological solution," that is, the deaths of people who fail to champion the E.F. Mass. The temptation after reading Fr. Z's is to think of the handful of trads I know as the exceptions to the rule, and the "cranks" as the rule, just because they're so very present on the Internet (and not just at Fr. Z.'s, but at some smaller blogs I've also given up reading).

KBernadette said...

Is it wrong to make a little light in a dark situation? I don't see how you can blame such comments on rad trads or trads at all. Everybody finds a way to add a little snark about something, as I'm sure you know.

Anonymous said...

While Fr Z can be a little snarky, unfortunately, and while commenters are commenters...

(1) He's a big reason I'm Catholic today, and I'm far from a Rad Trad.

(2)Beauty in architecture and liturgy matter; it's not 'mere aesthetics', or, if it is aesthetics, aesthetics for us is not a subjective but an objective matter. Beauty is objective, and when it's not held as such, Goodness and Truth disappear as well (cf. CS Lewis' Abolition of Man), and indeed our God is 'Beauty ever ancient, ever new.'

(2b) That said, the post was ill-timed.

(3) One of orthodox and trad Catholicism's biggest enemies died today, Joe Feuerherd, editor of the Nat'l Catholic Reporter. Here's Fr. Z's post on the subject; note the tone of the comments -- with one small exception (a reference to the so-called 'biological solution'), sincere prayers and expressions of hope for the man's salvation. People piss and moan a lot on the site, but at heart they're solid. (I can't imagine the comments we'll see on lib blogs when -- God forbid! -- our current Pontiff passes, God willing, three or four decades from now.)

shadowlands said...

I think that blog of Fr Z's has the potential to do a lot of harm to liberals, whom God loves and desires to see spend eternity with Him. I have had to really examine my soul regarding the feelings drummed up, by some of the commenters words, in me. Infact, regarding his 'biological solution', and the comment left there regarding the editor's death, I've just posted something on my own blog.
I am also, lately, inclined towards a more traditional style of worship, but not as portrayed by his followers (well, most of them). I intend to pursue it quietly, without outside interference.

App. Prof. said...

I just saw the comment about Feuerherd's death with the "biological solution" remark. How unbelievably petty and uncharitable. The commenter needs reminding that "the least of these" also extends to the community of those asleep in Christ.

My teenage son read's Fr. Z's blog religiously. After every mass we go to, he subjects us to a critique of what was valid, invalid, or illicit but valid, or illicit and invalid. I know there's worse problems a family can have with teenagers, but I find Fr. Z's blog's influence on my son not so good.

App. Prof. said...

"reads", not "read's".

Anonymous said...

I haven't checked the comments on FrZ's post since I commented here, but again, note the tone of all the other comments save the one re: biol. sol. -- Irenaeus

Anonymous said...

I read Fr. Z fairly regularly and comment sometimes. I like the information I get from it but I agree that sometimes the commenters seem a bit, well, stuffy and not the kind of people I'd want to hang around all the time! I guess there is just something about the blogosphere that brings out the worst in people who IN PERSON would probably be quite nice (as you have noted of the people you have met at EF Masses).

I left the comment on the Joplin tornado thread about how my home parish in Illinois was once affected by a killer tornado and afterward began including petitions for victims of storms and other natural disasters in every Mass. I did so as a not so subtle reminder to everyone that they should consider doing likewise!

Elaine (aka Bookworm)

Kevin Orlin Johnson said...

The most distressing thing that I see in American Catholics today is well shown in this whole discussion. People, there are laws. The Catholic Church runs by laws. But we are so far separated from the Catholic Church, yes, "conservatives" and "liberals" alike, that nobody remembers the laws. All of you are addressing matters of law as if they were matters of taste. This blindness is exasperating.

There are laws about what music is permissible and what music is not. There are laws about what form the plan of a church must take, and what form it must not. There are laws about the colors of vestments; there are laws about every single word and gesture in the liturgy. And you're reducing it all to matters of taste.

The whole tenor of this discussion is summed up in the phrase, "no stained glass, no statues, no high altar". Do you not see that only one of these things is a matter of law?

You cannot ever move other people to your own taste, not without a substantial amount of cultivation of your own taste, thorough and professional-grade learning about art and music, and years of teaching people how to distinguish the good from the bad, the worthy from the ephemeral, the appropriate from the inappropriate: and even when you've done all of that, your success is measured not in how they bow to your taste, but how they develop their own.

But when a church violates the law; when a celebrant violates the law; when a music director violates the law, then, then you can approach on solid ground and with irresistible ammunition. You're either part of the Catholic Church or you're not: and every member of that Church has the right to authentic liturgy celebrated according to law in a church lawfully constructed.

Learn the law. And more than that! More than that, people, learn that there IS law.

Red Cardigan said...

Mr. Johnson, respectfully, I appreciate the laws. But I also recognize that one of our main issues is not the law, but the interpretation, especially by the bishops who are our spiritual fathers.

Take music, for instance. The documents I've read say that chant should have pride of place and lists four options for the singing of the antiphons, the fourth of which is to substitute a suitable hymn. Now, I can look at that and say, "See! We should be chanting all of the Mass parts. We should be singing the antiphons. If we're not, we're breaking the law!"

But it's not that easy. Singing a hymn is permitted. Singing approved Mass settings which are more "hymn-like" than chant-modeled is permitted. Nobody who sings the Mass of Creation and a four-hymn sandwich at Mass every week is breaking the *letter* of the law.

Can we argue that the *spirit* of the law is being violated? Yes--but here we run into a sticky issue. The bishops, by virtue of their ordination and office, are in charge of liturgical implementation in their dioceses. The decision about whether the four-hymn sandwich violates the spirit of the law or does not or is pastorally required for some reason is *theirs* to make, not ours.

This does not mean, of course, that even a bishop can play fast-and-loose with the Mass, ad-libbing etc.; when these things happen they should be properly reported. But if Father X. likes the choir to sing "On Eagles' Wings" as an Offertory hymn, and his local ordinary hasn't said otherwise, then Father X. is not breaking the law, and neither is his bishop.

Frankly, I'd like the more modern music to die a natural death; I'd like to learn and sing all the antiphons with my choir; I'd like every future church building to be constructed without so much as a glance at "Environment and Art in Catholic Worship" (which document should be burned, and the ashes salted and buried); I'd like the proper amounts of reverence and solemnity, and I'd like to have a "New Translation Party" this coming November. The only thing I'm actually allowed to do are the last two, though (and I can only be reverent and solemn myself; I can't make anybody else be so): the other things are decided by my bishop and my pastor, and that's probably a good thing.

Lisa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SCCatholic said...

I dislike the "biological solution" phrase precisely because it can be interpreted as eagerly awaiting someone's death.

Fr Z uses it (at least for priests and bishops) in reference to their retirement. See the May 6 article on Bishop Morris of Australia (last red comment in the article).

Anonymous said...


It's not true that Fr. Z uses the phrase 'biological solution' only to refer to the retirement of priests and bishops. Take a look at this quote:

"Year by year these priests of discontinuity and rupture are retiring or dying. The biological solution is quickly taking care of them."

Red Cardigan said...

I've removed the comment from Anonymous at 3:06. It's fine to discuss Fr. Z's blog, writing, or ideas (though I'd prefer the discussion to focus on his comment boxes as I did); it is not fine to call names or sit in judgment on his (or anybody else's) character.

Anonymous said...

Red Cartigan,

Is it calling names to point out someone else's name calling? Is it sitting in judgment to point out someone else's sitting judgment? My words as reactions to Fr. Z, and the things that he says about other people, especially those that disagree with him are far worse than mine.
Look at the link in my post just above yours, where he tick, tick ticks the time toward the death of those who disagree with him. Tell me that that is not icy or creepy; the boundary between wishing someone dead, and that of willing to take action to make it happen is quite thin indeed, such that it makes me wonder how that person would behave in a different time and place.

Red Cardigan said...

No, Anonymous, it is not calling names to say that you were calling names. This is my blog, and anyone here will tell you my comment boxes are relatively open.

You are free to use the words "icy" or "creepy" to describe Fr. Z's words or those of his commenters. You are not free to apply them to him personally or to speculate on his theoretical role in the medieval Church. See the difference?

We strive for civility around here--maybe we don't always succeed, but that's our goal, anyway.

Anonymous said...

Fine, whatever. I wish Fr. Z would follow your criteria for civility though.
Take a look at this link, from his 'Just too cool' category:

Funny, how there was no statement from the Pope praising the elephants, or urging Christians to take retribution. It's also a shame that God didn't send the elephants before any of the horrible things happened to the Christians. Not to mention How does Fr. Z know that the people killed in the stampede committed any wrongdoing? Such delighting in destruction and death is not only creepy, but unbecoming of a minister of the Gospel.

Anonymous said...

Let's take a look at how Fr. Z uses the word 'creepy':

"When I was in a US seminary in the late 80′s, the only guys who had or were interested in earrings were creepy effeminate heretics, now either out of the active priesthood or dead."

"Creepy homosexual demonstration at Chicago’s Holy Name Cathedral"

"Really creepy people.It is very creepy to disrupt legitimate worship services. They are cowards, too. You can bet they wouldn’t do this at a mosque."

"I think I will turn the combox off, for I have little doubt that this post will simply create flames and draw out the deeply creepy as well as those who can’t self-edit."

"On the dissident petition, there are more signatures but a very high percentage of them are "anonymous" or even bogus. Some creepy weirdo has tried several times to put my name on that petition. "

Red Cardigan said...

The point, anonymous, is that *we* don't have to stoop to the level of name calling, just because someone else does. :)

Anonymous said...

I sent $100 to Catholic Charities in Joplin after reading on Fr. Z.'s blog about the destruction of St. Mary's and the great damage to the Catholic hospital there. I do hope that when they rebuild the church there that they build something beautiful that will glorify God. Yeah, Fr. Z can be a bit snarky at times. So what? As for those who write in the comboxes at the site...I learn a lot from some of the comments there. The ones that are obnoxious I just ignore. I truly can't understand why people get so exorcised about Fr. Z or the comments on his site. The site is a tremendously valuable resource for those willing to take the good from it and overlook the bad. Good grief, people - do you really expect perfection in the Catholic blogosphere when it's not found anywhere else on planet earth?

Ann K

Thom, SFO said...

Perfection? No, of course not.

A modicum of decency on a priest's blog? Yeah. I don't think that's setting one's bar too high.

shadowlands said...

Hear, hear Thom!!

Anonymous said...

I know it's kind of late to be revisiting this post, but I had to add this... in the past few weeks I have been seeing pictures of the wreckage of St. Mary's, with the cross standing tall overhead, on MANY other sites, including secular news sites and sites like The Weather Channel. It seems to have become an "iconic" image of the Joplin disaster, in every sense of the word. That allegedly "ugly" modernistic church has become a beautiful and profound symbol of hope for a community that has suffered more than most of us can imagine.