Elsewhere: what works — tradition or modernity?


It always amazes me when people champion relaxing “rigid” rules in favor of a more “merciful” or “pastoral” Church. This is code for finding ways to justify reinterpretation of orthodoxy, at least in practice (wink, wink). It is also known as heterodoxy.

In charity we assume such people are well intentioned, but the result is not just. It hides the truth – resulting in more pain, separation from God and a smaller, less effective Church.

The collapse of liberal Protestant communities and growth of “traditional” ones illustrates this. In the Catholic Church, we see vocations plummet when a liberal bishop arrives or at parishes with altar girls. Conversely, vocations bloom under more traditional bishops and parishes. This has been observed again, and again, and again (worldwide).

One theory apparently is that the truth is too hard for young people who seek inclusiveness, tolerance and affirmation. That is false, at least for the young who seek truth, would actually come to Church and are open to the Gospel were it boldly offered. Michael Warren Davis wrote an interesting piece recently for the always excellent Crisis Magazine:

No one swims the Tiber (at least not seriously) hoping the Church will “meet them where they are.” They don’t want to stare into a mirror, content with their own little being. That’s why we have…   well, mirrors. If someone makes the effort to become Catholic, it’s because they want to gaze up at some terrible Gothic cathedral and feel helplessly small. They want to become a better person, not to be told what a wonderful person they already are. They want to exchange fashion for what Eliot called “the Permanent Things.”

Which is why Fr. James Martin’s Building a Bridge is such a depressing read, especially compared to a masterpiece like Brideshead Revisited. Modernism somehow manages to be both more debauched and less sexy than traditionalism. It wants us to be more understanding toward the “LGBT community,” but glosses over our common denominator: that we’re all sinners in desperate need of a Savior. If any Millennials struggling with same-sex attraction do approach the Church, I promise you: they’ll prefer Waugh’s treatment. They’ll want to be Catholics, not gay Catholics.

It’s why I and other Millennials are flocking to the Latin Mass, despite the Holy Father’s accusations of “rigidity.” As Paolo Gambi so ably put it:

We, the younger generation, need some rigidity, surrounded as we are by weak systems of thought and “liquid societies.” If we perceive the Mass as something rigid, uncompromising and rigorous, it can be attractive. If it is just something social, then we have better social places to go.

But traditional Catholicism isn’t really rigid. Nothing that survives roughly 1,600 years ever could be. Name a great poet, novelist, sculptor, painter, or architect; odds are he attended the Latin Mass. Little wonder bright young minds sick of tedious nihilists like Duchamps and Foucault turn ad orientem.

And it’s why, as a recent piece in National Review pointed out, we’re experiencing a renaissance of traditionalist conservatism among college students. They’re “more interested in, and connected to, the Catholic faith and Catholic social teaching.” They’re reading St. Thomas Aquinas and Russell Kirk. They’re “trying to reorient Americans toward ideas and ideals that nourish the whole person: community, truth, goodness, and beauty.”

Read the entire piece: A Millennial Defense of Catholic Tradition.

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