The Latin Mass (II)

Rod Dreher's thoughts are here. Among other things, he writes:

I don't understand how it is that the Latin mass can be something that nobody but the tiniest sliver of Catholics want, but it can also be a nuclear bomb that obliterates the Catholic Church. Benedict is making a slight accomodation to help a certain number of Catholics who have endured a lot of very, very difficult times, and who are in many cases making extraordinary sacrifices to keep the faith. I don't understand why making the Tridentine mass more widely available should be interpreted as a move designed to force non-traditionalists out of the Church. If the Pope were withdrawing the Paul VI mass and replacing it with the old mass, they'd have a point. But he's not; he's only offering more choices to the faithful, within the Church's continuing tradition. And that's wrong ... why?

Downes' point about the pope's latest move exacerbating the factionalizing of contemporary Catholicism is more on point, but it says more about Downes' lack of paying attention these past decades than it does about the pope. Many engaged Catholics of the left and the right already parish-shop. Everybody knows which parishes in a given diocese have the reputation for being orthodox, and which have the reputation for being progressive. It shouldn't be that way, I recognize, but that's how it's shaken out since the Council. The divisions Downes sees coming have been with us for some time now. True, most Catholics continue on at their parish, and probably don't get involved with the faith at the level of caring overmuch whether the pastor is orthodox or progressive. But is that a good thing? In most of the parishes I was involved in as a Catholic, peace was kept because the priests/deacons avoided talking about controversial aspects of Catholic teaching.



I agree with all of this, and - just to be clear - I don't think that the slight damage that may be done the tattered unity of American Catholicism outweighs the benefits of restoring a much-beloved liturgy that probably never should have been restricted in the first place, and that will enhance the religious devotion of many thousands of faithful Catholics, most of whom are not nutty Hutton Gibson types but sincere, ordinary believers who merely want to worship God in the most elevated manner they know. I just find myself very, very weary of the divisions in the American Catholic Church, of which the liturgical division is just one manifestation, and which make it so very hard to just be a ordinary Catholic, orthodox and American at the same time. (Not that Christianity is supposed to be easy, of course ...)

Jody Bottum wrote a long essay on Catholic culture in America last year, in which he suggested that "one can find at least hints that Catholicism has finally begun to leave the deadlocked past behind." I liked the essay and the sentiment, and I certainly hope that he's right, but I don't always see it. The post-Vatican II battle has cooled off, yes, but sometimes it feels like there's an awful lot of scorched earth left behind where nothing green is growing.