I have had a number of long conversations with self-proclaimed “Trads” (traditionalist Catholics) in recent months. My engagement with the local Trad groups has become an endeavor to build bridges between Catholics like me, who honestly prefer the Ordinary Form, and those who gravitate to the Extraordinary Form. I think that relationships, not arguments, are more important in building the Church.
Over that time, I have come to a conception that there are both wonderful opportunities and potentially frightening risks in the growing celebration of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass and other prayers that had been eclipsed after Vatican II.
On the upside, I think there are wonderful opportunities for the growing use of the Extraordinary Form to deepen and broaden everyone’s understanding of the liturgy. I am not a Latin speaker. I am only just beginning to explore the theological bases of the Tridentine Rite, and so far it’s been interesting and enlightening.
On the downside, it seems to me that among some Trads (a reasonably large proportion of a reasonably small but growing subgroup within the Church), there is a nascent or implicit rejection of Vatican II. Further, in a number of my conversations, I have detected a notable contempt for parishes that celebrate mass in the Ordinary Form, accompanied by a apologetical stance that draw heavily on pre-conciliar (and possibly counter-conciliar?) theological works. I’ve also heard criticism of the placement of the tabernacle, the use of guitar and piano in liturgical music, and modern vestments.
I can totally understand that preferences vary in liturgical style, but there seems to be much more than that at play – again in a large fraction of what is now a small group. Among this group, there seems to be an unmitigated assertion of the superiority of Tridentine rites and theology, and it is in this phenomena that I see risk for the future of the Church. Not only have I heard criticism of Vatican II, but overt sympathy for schismatic groups like the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) and a willingness to attend their liturgies. When I’ve brought up Sedevacantism (debating them was how I was introduced to Tridentine theology), it seem that the only problem it that many of the Trads I’ve met have is that it denies that there’s a pope… surely, there must also be something wrong with the Sedevacantist claim other than its rejection of the post-conciliar papacy!!!
Does anyone else see a risk here? While I think it is fruitful for every Latin Rite Catholic to experience the Tridentine mass and other services, I am concerned that the mere demographic growth in groups celebrating the Tridentine rite could create greater rifts between Catholics – which is the last thing we need right now. Is my approach of trying to build relationships with my local Trads a good approach? The way I see it, mutual understanding is best achieved when “the other” is seen as a friend and brother, and not a theological rival.