The Catholic Church’s great divide
**[font=Arial]By STEVEN GREENHUT **
Even readers without a trace of interest in Roman Catholic liturgical and theological debates might want to follow an ongoing controversy in the Diocese of Orange surrounding the future of the Tridentine Mass. The issues at the center of this debate are issues that shed light on the ongoing sex-abuse scandal, the roots of which still confuse some observers today.
To traditional Roman Catholics, there are few things more pious than this mass, which is an old-style Latin Mass known for its deep meaning and great beauty. This is the real deal, complete with vestments, incense and Gregorian Chant. It’s more pious than the modern mass and the polar opposite of - this really happened in Orange County - a mass given by a dancing priest wearing a black leotard.
Now that a veteran priest at a traditional Huntington Beach parish has retired, the diocese is stamping out the Tridentine Mass at that location, forcing devotees to drive to the overcrowded Mission San Juan Capistrano, where it is still officially sanctioned.
Basically, the forces of liberalism that are crushing traditional Roman Catholic piety are the same forces that unleashed the sex-abuse scandal within the church. As long as the leadership rejects traditional ideals of holiness and piety, nothing will be done to assure that holy men, and not those with lax sexual attitudes, dominate the priesthood.
Locally, Fr. Daniel Johnson, the kindly, traditionalist priest who led St. Mary’s by the Sea for 25 years, has retired. His retirement, and the retirement of the Tridentine Mass with him, is heartbreaking news to St. Mary’s parishioners.
It’s a mean-spirited act for the bishop to deny the parishioners the mass they love so much. The diocese says permission for the mass was granted for the priest only, and it retires with him. But the diocese could, if it wanted to, pass the permission on to someone else.