Say you’ve got two choices in your area, a Diocesan Latin Mass, offered under the auspices of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, or one offered under the auspices of a Priestly Society of Apostolic Life such as the FSSP, ICK, or SSPX.
What differences can you expect, both when first attending one vs the other, and if making a more long term commitment?
What philosophical or theological differences would exist between those two approaches or sub-movements of the wider Latin Mass Movement?
Which is the more ideal choice? Or more prudent one?
Such will be the examination in tonight’s latest installment of The Okie Traditionalist! After all, here in Tulsa, OK we have two TLMs within city limits.
(The TLM Movement began here in 1970 when the Bishop refused a group’s request for the Traditional Mass; that group formed an Independent Chapel which eventually was served for 40 years by the SSPX).
Factors to consider: the Liturgy, the liturgical-devotional-catechetical environment, quality of community life, overall fidelity to Sacred Tradition, not compromising to the New Religion.
Do you fit into the temperament or dynamic of the community? Are the religious and communal needs of your family being met? Is there a proper cry room, wheel chair ramp, sufficient temperature control? Are you allergic to incense? The list goes on. Is the pastor actually pastoral? Does the community have an open, welcoming, and public orientation, or does it tend towards the insular, elitist, or privatized?
In my experience many or most Trads weigh all such factors, not just on one hand purity of religious doctrine and practice, but on the other hand how well said parish community meets their very real personal, concrete needs.
In my own case, that once meant going to the FSSP for 7 years, then the SSPX for 10 years. But I digress...
Even the SSPX often will advise the traditional faithful to make a prudential decision as to which Mass to attend, with at least a half dozen cases coming to mind, just off the top of my head, of SSPX priests actually advising laity due to very particular circumstances to go to the FSSP.
Yet, to illustrate the paradox of the question of which TLM to attend, the Society itself also officially advises as an ideal to only attend their Mass centers or chapels if in driving distance.
Framing the Topic:
To frame the topic of this post, I think we need to consider the topographical layout of the contemporary Church, the Traditional Movement itself in its endeavor to help restore Tradition, the noble ideals revealed by that Tradition, and the practical way at present we can promote said restoration of Tradition.
Novus Ordo Land is the 99.999% mainstream. Traddom the 0.0001% Catholic Remnant. Excluding the formally schismatic theory that rejects as an Anti-Church the Hierarchy that accepts the validity of Vatican II (aka sedevacantism, which if wrong [its is] according to classical logic means formal separation from Church), Traddom began largely with the vast works of Traditional Restoration put in place by the saintly bishop Archbishop Lefebvre, especially but not only the Society.
The hard fact is that by and large out of the Society came the FSSP, the Ecclesia Dei Commission, other Ecclesia Dei Communities, the resurgence of the Latin Mass, the motu proprio, and overall the entire movement of restoring Tradition.
What the Society has proven by its own persecuted history is that in general we cannot trust the conciliar bishops or popes, that the diocesan structure and Vatican structure cannot be trusted. To uphold Tradition, protect the rights of faithful Catholics, or protect the moral legitimacy of today’s clergy.
But consider this. The same SSPX is largely responsible for the motu proprio. It was the main organization asking the Pope to make it clear the ancient Roman Mass is a public right of every Roman rite priest and lay faithful. The FSSP never asked for that. The FSSP as an organization above the level of some of its individual members, has never made the preservation of Tradition abs and Traditional Mass a moral obligation, a moral imperative, challenging the Authorities to make it universal again throughout the entire structure of the Latin Church. It was and is the Society that most supports the motu proprio movement, providing materials and liturgical training for diocesan clergy. Praising individual priests and parishes for turning back once again to the timeless, perennial, and sacred.
My point of view shared by some Trads is to support both the SSPX or FSSP, but also the Motu Proprio side of the movement, both on the level of theoretical ideals, but also on the level of practical circumstances both for the indivdual/family structure, but also for keeping alive this Catholic Remnant.
Going deeper, the commitment to Tradition goes beyond various trad circles or ideologies. It involves the whole Church in all Her divinely instituted levels. Not just the level of the domestic Church of the family, but also that of the parish Church, the Local Church under a singular Bishop, and the universal Catholic Church. This commitment is to seeing Tradition spread and restored everywhere, including in the Eastern Catholic Churches which truth be told are somewhat affected by Modernism.
Would we Tulsans for example not want a Traditional Mass to start at Holy Family cathedral, or at any of the parishes of the diocese? Would we not celebrate and support in some way all these young priests and seminarians who privately (or not so privately) are learning the 1962 missal and reconnecting to the entire spiritual heritage that goes along with the Traditonal Liturgy?
I have heard of many such examples recently just here in the Tulsa Diocese.
The Case for the Motu Proprio Movement:
Consider this. The Motu Proprio movement itself, of TLMs popping up exponentially from diocese to diocese, has made the Latin Mass much more widely known and available. By Providence, God is not only preserving Tradition within trad enclaves served by Societies of Apostolic Life “outside the mainstream” but by heroic, good, and faithful priests and laity “in the mainstream.”
On one hand, the exclusive, complete adherence to Tradition in the FSSP or SSPX is a guiding light for everyone else to turn towards Tradition. On the other hand, with motu proprio Masses spreading throughout a diocese, or better put our “local Church,” over time there is created a kind of almost geographical flow of Tradition-minded Catholics across the diocese in the eventual direction for many of them of joining the FSSP parish or SSPX chapel.
The philosophical difference then between both the noble ideal of the Diocesan Latin Mass, and a generally fully traditional parish, is in the approach to restoring Tradition. And I don’t think that means the philosophies are in binary opposition to one another, unless they become ossified ideologies enforced by the groupthink of said trad community. Philosophy means the “love of wisdom,” with wisdom being both about theoretical ideals and prudence.
Unfortunately ideologies do often ossify and clash. Fellow trads even in a singular parish can form imaginary lines of division over how hard-line traditionalist one should be, with the Remnant or SSPX supporters vs the Michael Voris type supporters, etc, etc. Throw in a JP2-We-Love-You Neoconservative gadfly at odds with the Trafitionslist frame of mind, and things get even more dicey.
Taking all this into account, in summation, my opinion is that overall we should support in theory and in practice both the noble ideal of the fully traditional, active, communal, vibrantly devotional and liturgical trad parish/chapel, and of the more mainstream Motu Proprio movement throughout our local Churches of restoring Tradition given legal and moral force by means of Pope Benedict XVI (responding to talks with the SSPX).
At the same time we have to weigh the ideal with the practical needs of ourselves and families. If said Trad parish in your own personal experience is too insular and toxic, at least for you, going to and supporting a Diocesan Latin Mass would be most helpful to your spiritual life while supporting that side of Traditional Restoration. But if in your estimation the trad parish provides a healthy atmosphere, then it is, again in my opinion, the better choice, for the integrity of the doctrine of the Faith and the Liturgy.
The bottom line is that, for all of us, it boils down to making a prudential choice for what is best. The Pope unfortunately has not settled this Crisis, so the laity are forced to figure things out with the limited advise of a minority of faithful priests. That decision comes down to balancing discernibly objective truths and facts with many different subjective, real-to-life variables.
Either way, thank God for the wider availability of the Traditional Latin Mass. And for all those faithful, orthodox priests, both in Priestly Societies and Dioceses (not to mention the Religious Orders), who are courageously stepping up to the plate. Or rather the altar of the sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Okay, time for bed.
(Comments are open and moderated).