When I started RCIA about a year ago, I had already made my way through a good amount of the Catechism and felt like I had a good general idea of what Catholic orthodoxy was. Of course, I also knew that a good amount of Catholics just openly flaunt the Church’s teachings, so I felt at least a little bit prepared for encountering a bit of division between the orthodox, and, well, the heretics.
What I wasn’t quite prepared for was the notion of divisions within the orthodox. I’m referring of course to the tendency for orthodoxy to split into the Catholic traditionalists and (what are sometimes called) the conservative Catholics.
Part of that is because my approach to Catholicism before RCIA was very abstract; I wasn’t a churchgoer; I didn’t even know any practicing Catholics. All of my info came through books. I knew about Vatican II and the divisiveness it caused, I knew about the liturgical changes that had happened, but I was still looking at the whole thing from a distance. And from my standpoint, Catholicism had presented itself to me as the traditional form of Christianity. So the notion that there could be more traditional and less traditional forms of the tradition itself without either one wandering into the territory of heresy was a little bit too recursive to be on my mind at this point.
Anyhow, I lately have been exploring the 1962 Mass at a couple of the parishes in town which still have it on offer, and I do feel like I’m home. Now when I start to look over the reasons for why this is so, things look slightly suspect:
Like many kids of my generation, I grew up rather culturally starved. My Jewish heritage appealed to me when I was young in part because it was a glimpse at a strange, ancient tradition which just seemed to have so much more mystery and romance than all the pomo multicultural wonderbread around me. So when Catholicism became a real possibility for me, I was quite happy at the thought of being adopted into an actual culture which was radically different than my national one, which jealously held onto all the rituals, language and music which the rest of the world would find quaint and clannish. It all seemed, well, cool.
The point is that my interest in the trappings of traditional Catholicism are shot through with a certain degree of aestheticism and subjectivity. Traditions do provide us with beauty and comfort, but their primary value is in terms of how well they transmit the truth, and shape the individuals in it. And that is and should be the core of debates over the liturgy. While my philosophical inclinations lead me to turn a favorable ear to the traditionalists, I still don’t feel knowledgeable enough to want to stick my nose in between that clash of dueling swords just yet. Especially considering its tendency to quickly snowball into sectarianism.
So for the time being I’ll have to be content as some sort of pseudo trad. Man, by modern standards we all might as well be Sith Lords anyhow.