Part 3 of Trids, Trads and Neo-Cons
My dears, I am shaking in my blue flannel nightie (early morning writing uniform) because I once got FIRED for writing something similar to what I am going to write today. Of course, I always expected to get fired because I was writing about traditionalist Catholicism in a Spirit of Vatican 2 newspaper, and I could hear the shrieks of dismay from all the way across the ocean. I wrote my columns in an alphabetic way, starting with Asperges and Benediction and was delighted that I got as far as the Novus Ordo before the editor pulled the plug.
The Novus Ordo I was writing about was at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, and was the first one I'd been to in some time. And Mass was done beautifully--don't get me wrong. There was a great homily on Saint Edith Stein, the church interiors had been restored, the female cantor had a beautiful voice, there was an impressively huge crowd of students. What I found so startling--and what my editor found so outrageous that I found startling--were the readings read in a female voice. I forget if there were any Extraordinary Ministers of Communion or any altar girls, but I would have found them startling too, just because I have ceased to be used to them.
Now if you are a committed female EMC, cantor, reader or altar server, you may want to skip this next part because you might take it personally and get mad, and I am not interested in making anybody mad. I am interested only in delving into the mindset of Male Trids and Trads, for the solace of Female Trids and Trads who might like to marry a Male Trid or Trad if they weren't such mutants.
Okay, most of them aren't mutants. My husband isn't a mutant. Our friends aren't mutants. The mutants seem to be roaming the USA, telling ladies not to wear pants in church. (In the UK this could get them arrested for indecency.) Obviously you don't want to marry those guys. But you might be wondering why it is that Trid men are somewhat aggressive on the subject of Woman, so I'll tell you what I think.
I think one of the biggest changes to the Mass since 1962 is the erosion of the priesthood. The innovators decided that it was terrible that the priest was "up there" and should be "down here" among the people. The innovators also decided that many sacred tasks did not have to be done by priests, but by almost anybody. Not just priests, but anything sacred should not be "up there" but "down here" among the people.
The innovators were not taking into consideration human psychology, which values most those things that are "up", not "down"; sees the sacred best from a slight distance; respects that which takes effort, training and skill; finds the exclusive thrilling; and takes comfort in sameness. Any Fifth Avenue adman could have told them that.
The innovators seemed to be actively chipping away at the priesthood and the very notion of priesthood, which in Christianity is inextricably linked to maleness because to be human is to have a gender and Christ's, the High Priest's, human gender was and is male.
Therefore, there is no more visual and obvious a breach between the ancient Christian traditions of priesthood and the new than women in the sanctuary doing things that only clerics used to do--like (in the case of Catholics) read the lessons, open the Tabernacle, touch the Eucharist with our bare hands and exchange a sign of peace with the celebrant.
Altar girls--poor things, they have no idea--also symbolize the erosion of the priesthood because altar service, which was once done by clerics, has been for some centuries an early apprenticeship for the priesthood. This is why it was a male preserve and--loving male preserves--boys and young men were happy to serve. Once altar service ceased to be a male preserve--and therefore no longer an early apprenticeship for the priesthood--boys and young men became more reluctant to do it. If the girls wanted to do it, and were allowed to do it, then let them do it. So much for altar service as apprenticeship to the priesthood.
Except, of course, in communities like mine where only young men are altar servers. Two of our altar servers are now in the seminary and at least one other is thinking about it. Altar service is very "in" with the twenty-something boys of our community. They discuss server-craft over drinks, reviewing their errors with rue and discussing the minutiae of movement. Altar service is an art, being not just service, but part of the religious ritual that, like art, lifts our minds to another plane.
I am keenly interested in the importance of ritual in lifting our minds to another plane which is why I like mantillas. But if I go there, I will go off topic, so let me just say that it is a woman thing and I like to express myself as a woman at prayer. Because only women wear mantillas, and usually only during prayer, the mantilla says "I am a woman at prayer!" And, among other things, this expresses a belief that men and women are different, at very least when they are at church. And I think this has a soothing effect on men (and women) who have come to associate women-at-church with the erosion of the priesthood.
I do not know who it is who is attracted to traditional Catholic worship in the USA or Canada, but in Britain I have come across many tradition-loving Catholic men who were once Anglicans or Scottish Episcopalians. One was once an Episcopalian priest.
Anglican and Episcopalian priests have famously been crossing the Tiber in droves, some with very serious financial sacrifice, in part because of the inclusion of women as Anglican deacons, Anglican priests and even, in some places, Anglican bishops. The fact that the Anglican Church would do such a thing convinced these men that they must not be Anglican any more. The Anglican Church no longer believed what they believed about priesthood--including Christ's priesthood--and therefore the Tiber (or the Bosphorus) they must swim.
This is not about "hating women" as their smug critics suggest. It is about priesthood---and all the rituals and tasks around priesthood (including, for some, the ancient boys' and men's choirs)--which is linked to maleness, a maleness shared by the High Priest. Of course, not all men are saints, so some of them harbour resentment for the women for whom their devotional lives were so disrupted. Or if they do not resent those women, they resent the idea of women doing stuff women are not supposed to do, albeit in a much much milder way than the average Manchester United fan would, should FIFA order the inclusion of women in the starting eleven.
Men not wanting women to do men's stuff is a hallmark of traditionalism. Not all traditional men are the same, of course. There are traditionalist men who think a woman should be in any profession she likes (except men's football), remembering that the priesthood is not a profession. And then there are traditionalist men who think that a married woman should not work outside of the home if her husband can support her financially. There are traditionalist men who are charmed if women ask them to dance, and there are traditionalist men who think this a sign of the coming apocalypse.
And they are perfectly free to think this because men have freedom of speech and freedom of thought, just as we do. The only time to give Trad or Trid man a piece of your mind--or an icy glance that shrivels him down to walnut size--is when he is inexcusably rude to you or to your weaker/younger female friend. I could not care less if a Young Fogey drones on about how he thinks women ought not to work as long as he doesn't tell me I ought not to work. Then he is in trouble.
The way to fight carnaptious Fogeys is with Fogeyism. And this, my cherubs, is a technique I learned as a Neo-con when young Neo-con men tried to set little traps for people's orthodoxy. For example, they would ask how many children you wanted, and if you said anything except "As many as God sends" they would say "Heretic! Ha ha!" So you just said "As many as God sends" to put a stop to that little game.
It is so easy to fight a Fogey as a woman because all you have to do is shove another man between yourself and him. This man could be your father, your husband or, if you have neither of these, your brothers or, in a pinch, your confessor. In a quelling voice you can say, "My husband/father/eldest brother/confessor is quite happy for me to [blah, blah, blah]." This suggests that you are, in fact, a better traditionalist than the Fogey is. In fact, by speaking so personally to a woman without being her husband, father, brother or priest, this soi-disant traditionalist is really just another modernist. Tell him.
Only a madman would think he trumps the opinion of your husband/father/eldest brother, although he might think he trumps your confessor if he suspects your confessor of being a modernist. But then you can inform him, in quelling tones, that you obviously have a higher opinion of the clergy than he does. ("You modernist!")
This post is way too long. If you're still with me, have a go in the combox. Please mention what country you are writing from if you fulminate against Triddism because, believe me, it is probably different in Europe. Ladies only, please.
Update: Another good rejoinder is, "Our Lord never spoke to women like that." He didn't. Our Lord was kind to every woman he met. The Gospels detail his many kindnesses to women, including rescuing one of us from being stoned to death by men.
It's amazing how uncomfortable traditionalists and conservatives are with frank lay conversations about Our Lord. And there seems to be a rule that you can't mention the Holy Name. In the UK, you can make people, atheist and Christian alike, flinch just by saying "Jesus said..."