Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Restoring the Priesthood

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..."


Sarah said...

I've refrained from commenting because my Trad situation is a little different, as I am sedevacantist, and was a little afraid of being squashed in here over it. Not only that, but that my experiences would reenforce the idea that sedevacantists are crazy cult members.

But anyway, I'll jump in... as I said briefly in a previous combox, I had terrible experiences with young Trad boys in the States. It wasn't even the usual "Pants vs. No Pants; Women and Careers vs. Barefoot, Pregnant and in the Kitchen" narrative...

The problem was that women were made to feel like we were put on God's green earth specifically to tempt and torment men.

If a man falls into sexual sin, it's not so much his fault-- the poor man-- but the fault whatever girl who tried to seduce him. There was the general attitude that men were pure knights who had been ruined by women. And at the same time, that men just can't help themselves. And it's not just the men who think this!

A friend of my mother's has something like 6 boys and only one girl. She found out that her two oldest, teenagers, had been sneaking out of the home to meet some girls they had met the previous day in the park. The boys, however, faced no consequences, as their mother had concluded that they couldn't help it, because the girls had obviously tempted them with their immodest dress. (shorts and short sleeved t-shirts, those skanks.)

I've tried typing out other instances, but they just end up being long and I end up getting angry all over again. And I'm sure a lot of your American readers know what I'm talking about anyway.

But now I live in Germany, where for whatever reason, things are just naturally more egalitarian and more FAIR. While I used to think most Trad men were simply THE WORST and had resigned myself that I must convert some non-Catholic before I'd get married, now I am much, much more at peace with people in my Traditionalist group. There's absolutely no tension between the sexes, and I've never been made to feel as if I'm doing something wrong simply by being a woman.

It's heartening to know that being Traditional is not inherently linked to being crazy, but I'm wondering what it is about the combination of American and Trad that makes men act like jerks.

Cindy said...

From the U.S. I don't have much experience with the Trad/Trid but I am not a fan of alter girls at all. We had one last Sunday that faced the people during the consecration rather than facing our Lord in the Eucharist. It was as if she believed she was "on stage."
Oh, and I will avoid "extra-ordinary" Eucharisitic Ministers. There is nothing extra-ordinary about them being there every Sunday and at every Mass.
So much disrespect. It is a wonder He still blesses us with His true presence.

Larissa L. said...

From Brazil.
I attend TLM masses about once a month. I wish I could go more often, but I like to go to mass with my family and they prefer N.O.
My experience with Trad men/boys/ people with Y chromossomes is quite nice. They don't faint when they find out that I'm a lawyer, wich I came to understand is a big no-no on the US. Nor do they ask for their smelling salts about the fact that I went to military school.
(It's not that I go about telling people about my background, but one of the male parishioners went to military school and law school with me, so there's no hiding.)
There's one weird guy with a metal chain on his waist and the biggest cross that you ever seen on his chest, but that's about it, for what I can tell.

MaryJane said...

I could write a novel on this, but I will leave that to Seraphic and try to keep it as short as I can.

First, I am an American and at the risk of sounding cheesy, very proud to be so. I think our nation, despite its many, many (growing) problems, is built on a notion of law that is truly exceptional. Now, if you were to take that mindset (which many conservative Americans have) and apply it to Tridism, you can get a sense of why the men get so, shall we say, dictatorial? These men, as far as I can tell, think they have found something truly exceptional in the EF and they are proud of it, which is wonderful.

But the problem arises when everyone starts telling them that it is not important. Liturgy is not important. Beauty is not important. The male priesthood is not important. Rightly so, these men get indignant. They want to defend this glorious thing against people who would have it thrust into oblivion!

So here is where the problem arises: they are on the defensive so much that sometimes they just feel like they have to play offensive, and the easiest targets (who are actually kind of listening to them) are the women in their circles. And because these men are so caught up in insisting that the EF is IMPORTANT, that male priests are IMPORTANT, that beauty is IMPORTANT, sometimes- often actually- they kind of just keep going in that vein. Suddenly things like skirts become IMPORTANT and mantillas, and other such things.

I am not in any way shape or form defending the men who are jerks (and yes, how can they tell a woman they don't know very well to wear a skirt? Isn't that crossing all sorts of Trad boundary lines?) But I am trying to explain what I think may be going on in their psyche.

After being in Europe for a month, I am am constantly realizing again and again how very different things are when it comes to rules and laws. Americans love them! We expect them to work! Even little things, like waiting in line at a store, or crossing the street only when the light is green - we are very rule-oriented. When that gets added to a kind of intense defensiveness, I think you get a bunch of men who are obsessed with insisting that rules about small things are REALLY IMPORTANT and you had better listen, darn it all.

They can be real jerks, but I think there is a kind of a twisted goodness to it: I kind of want to tell them to take all that passion and direct it towards the men of the world who are actually harming women. Then they could use it for a good cause.

And Seraphic - it really doesn't bother you when a man drones on about women shouldn't work? You have much more patience than I do.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I am not a fan of trid men at all, and they are the main reason I do not attend the EF Masses even though I do like it. And I have attended EF Masses both here in American and in the EU.

I always feel like a piece of meat - it doesn't matter how long my skirt is or how high my neckline comes.


And then they always want to debate something. I hate debating. I don't take ammusment from parsing out every last word B16 said and trying to find something wrong with it. It just drives me nuts.

Maria said...

Hee hee! I've really enjoyed this series.
There isn't a weekly EF in my current city, but last year I was living elsewhere and ended up going to the EF every week for months (both cities in Canada). I really miss it now. It was absolutely beautiful and such a welcome relief after attending at a university chapel with Christian pop. I endured that parish for ages because I liked being able to meet other Catholics my age afterwards for treats in the hall.
The Trid parish unfortunately was not so friendly and welcoming. Nobody ever scolded me about my clothes or behaviour, but nobody ever was friendly with me either. If there was after-mass coffee it was not apparent - nobody ever invited me to anything. I was never approached by kindly young men or well-meaning little old ladies. That's fine, they have no obligation to do so. But it's too bad to crave Catholic companionship and not get it even at your church.

Seraphic said...

Jumping in to say, Oh, Catherine, I hear you. I'm sick of debating, too.

And, yes, MaryJane, I think you have hit several nails on the head. Americans (and Canadians) are much more legalistic than most Europeans, which is something to ponder when reading documents written by Europeans. (Germans don't cross against the lights, though. Don't cross against the lights in Germany or you might be killed.)

And I had a good laugh at your characteristic of men needing to tell anyone who will listen (especially their fellow "converted", the women who go to their Mass) how important important stuff is.

Yes, they do go on, and I almost slaughtered a poor innocent young man who said, "What is this Spirit of Vatican II I am ALWAYS hearing about?" because if I hear one more man slagging off the Spirit of Vatican 2, I will positively DIE of boredom. "Could we not talk about something else?" I wish to scream. "Who saw 'The Great British Bake-Off' last night?"

I have so much patience because I am 39 plus and the soi-disant opinions of 20-something men on women have absolutely no effect on my life whatsoever. (B.A.'s opinions are another story) Half the time such young men have no idea what they are talking about, or they change their minds the next week, or they are just trying to get a reaction, or they behave much more gallantly than they sound. It's what they do, not what they say, that is really meaningful although there IS a limit, which in my circle is called "a port story" which means most of the men know they aren't supposed to say it when women are in the room.

Seraphic said...

Maria, find the priest and say "Are there any parish activities I could join? I crave Catholic companionship." The priest is your go-to guy.

Maggie said...

I think one of the challenges, as this series shows, is finding a true middle ground. I feel often that Catholic men fall into one of two camps: either crazy trids who would *expect* me, as their wife, to wear a frumpy denim dress, leave my job, and bear ten children in eight years, homeschool them, and spend my life at home, because that is the extent of their EF community experience. On the other hand, there seem to be the typical "normal" postmodernist men who are simply products of our culture (the US): that is, they expect sex on the third date, can't imagine married life without two professional incomes, shudder at the thought of more than two children, and the idea of praying as a couple or attending Mass is laughable.

I know there must be middle ground; that there are plenty of normal, faithful Catholic men who fall in a healthy medium of these extremes. But they seem to be married to my friends already or in the seminary.

I am obviously very melancholic today. Perhaps tomorrow will be cheerier!

Seraphic said...

But Maggie, that is NOT the typical Trid (Extraordinary Form of the Mass) experience! I can't speak for the USA, but that is not what it looks like in Canada, Scotland or in France or in Germany. Really, one thing to take from these posts is that there is a lot more diversity than the few sightings of crazy Mr "Don't Wear Pants in Church" indicates.

At any rate, lots of nice Catholic men, out there, not ALL in seminary or married to your friends, even though it may feel like that!

jamie said...

I've enjoyed this. Just one semi-related question: What do you mean by Neo-con? I figured all the other abbreviations, etc. out. As I type this I think I just realized that you mean neo-conservative. Yes? And how might that fit into the, uh, spectrum, I guess? Just curious. :)

Jessica said...

I'll admit that I'm a Notre Dame grad quick to jump to the defense of my alma mater whenever someone criticizes it for not being Catholic enough, so maybe I'm just getting defensive, but...
I don't see how female participation in the liturgy cheapens the priesthood any more than participation by lay males. I'm not a fan of altar girls because I do see how that can be a "training role" for boys who are still discerning their temporary vocation. But a married man who is lectoring is highly unlikely to ever become a priest -- it would only ever happen if his wife happened to die before he did (or he was released from his marital vows for some reason). Permanent deacons also serve in liturgy without any intention of becoming priests.

My point is, once you have non-priests in liturgical roles that at one point* belonged exclusively to priests, I don't think the gender of the non-priest matters anymore. Personally, I think lay participation in the liturgy actually strengthens the role of the priest -- sure, we can all proclaim the word or distribute communion (with diocesan permission), but only the priest can proclaim the Gospel and consecrate the hosts.

*I wouldn't say "have always exclusively belonged to priests" here because there was 1500 years of Church history before Trent, and I'm not sure exactly what lay participation looked like before Trent. I'm no theologian, but from what I understand, the role of lay people in the liturgy has sort of ebbed and flowed throughout the centuries.

Clare said...

Eeek. None of this makes me want to have anything to with trads, trids, or neo-cons, no matter what country they hail from. cultural Conservatives who are sneakily Marxists are fine.

The good thing is that since I have no interest in social success with trad men, I am free to debate them whenever the say things like "women shouldn't work."

Avoid, and when necessary, combat, I think will continue to be my response.

MaryJane said...

Not to get all technical, but I just have to jump in with Jessica and point out that random lay people in general should not be lectoring, even at the N.O. - a careful reading of Vatican II documents indicates that instituted acolytes should be lectors. (It so happens that women can't be instituted acolytes, but that is a different point.)

In fact, if you want to see a proper implementation of Vatican II documents on things like this, look to the diocese of Lincoln, NE where Bruskewitz is (was = retiring) Bishop. He, for example, had no female EMHCs except in the few cases where they are needed (places where men can't go, which rarely exist outside of Mary Daly's classroom!), and almost no EMHCs in general - men or women - at masses where they could be avoided. Some of the problem with "women's participation" is actually a problem with lay people doing things that are not their parts. I hate it too, because it creates a class system in the N.O. - the more you "do" at mass, the better you are. Totally backwards from everything Christ calls us to!

Seraphic, the next time some man drones on inappropriately, I am going to say, "hm, that sounds like a port story. Don't you have any male friends who would like to hear about that?"

Nzie (theRosyGardener) said...

I find this whole thread quite interesting. I am quite traditionally Catholic, but I think that Novus Ordo, etc., is valid and also beautiful - just not in the same way. I always am a bit wary of these distinctions among Catholics because it often turns to incivility (thank you, ladies, for not doing that!). It is my considered opinion that the liturgy itself, in both Novus Ordo and Tridentine forms, has never been the problem - the problem has been misinterpretations that result in liturgical abuse - and that is true of both old and new forms. Catholic has always meant various expressions of truth - which is why we have, what, 17 valid churches? 20? That the Roman is the biggest means very little. I love the Byzantine liturgy (and Novus Ordo, and Tridentine).

As for these young Trid men - I think there is a bit of a puritanical strain in the U.S. I think there is a middle ground growing, however, in the U.S., and I hope it will flourish. This stuff about women's clothes is ridiculous, lame, and, I agree, inappropriate.

Seraphic said...

Jessica, I agree that when there unofficial male lay readers, there's no point not having female lay readers. The point I am making is that women-in-the-sanctuary is such a break from centuries of tradition, that women unwittingly, through no fault of our own, begin to symbolize what was nearly lost with the near-suppression of the Usus Antiquor, not to mention modernist streams of philosophy, etc.

This unfortunate phenomenon can lead to tension in traditionalist circles (be they in union with Rome, or slightly on the outs with Rome, or separated from Rome) between men and women and, indeed, women and women.

A neo-con is indeed a neo-conservative, and a very quick answer is whoever adores George Weigel and calls Bl. John Paul John Paul the Great hoping it will catch on.

(By the way, John Paul II wrote absolutely wonderful documents and letters about women, very much influenced by Edith Stein, whom he canonized, and all Catholics should read them.)

Hilary White has a very funny and over-the-top post differentiating between neo-cons and "trads."

Seraphic said...

By the way, thank you very much everybody for not freaking out. I'm proud of you and the combox. This may be the first time in the history of the internet a whole bunch of Catholic women who worship in different ways were able to right about liturgy without serious rancour!

Seraphic said...

Sorry, that's "WRITE" about liturgy! :-D

Alisha said...

I've only been to a couple of EF masses and was admittedly frustrated because I couldn't follow properly, even with the missal, which led me to being frustrated about how we are so poorly catechized etc etc.
I appreciate this whole discussion. I don't know many trad/trids so I have no bad experiences but I am wary because I know the attitudes described here (the undesirable ones) exist, and it makes me reluctant to go there because I feel that I would be looked down upon, and that they just wouldn't get where I was coming from at all. Sometimes I feel like that just with your average Catholics and that's painful enough.
There is no way I would be able to stand someone telling me how to dress or talking even in general about it or whether or not women should do. I would probably retort something like "If I don't work, my children will go hungry. If you would like to take it upon yourselves to find people to regularly exercise the corporal works of mercy to feed them daily, or to change the entire societal system to ensure preferential options for the poor, please get to it. After all, you are the one who is supposed to be working."
I just don't see how anyone who is so connected to the Truth can be so wrong about the basics of how to treat women or anyone.
And it's true that traditionalists are often uncomfortable mentioning Jesus. Sometimes I wonder if their faith is just not that personal, though that might not be fair...I do think it's what some Protestants pick up on when they say things like "I don't have religion, I have a relationship"... And while that is simplistic, they are right in identifying that it should be relational, that we shouldn't be ashamed of Jesus or His name.

Will Cubbedge said...

This is a lovely thread. So much nicer than Fisheaters!

Well, I got married in an EF by permission of the bishop mass to a man who was, at the time, a dyed in the wool trad. At the time, I was more of a neo-con, but I liked the liturgy and the beautiful chant, and the fact that we got sung out to Ubi Caritas. And, it helped that the priest who married us gave rockin' good homilies. This was in a major American city at the (at the time) only legit EF parish in town. SP came out and it began to be more and more popular, but I also began to notice more and more the absolutely crazy parishioners. Crazy is not going too far in describing them. It may be more charitable to think they're crazy, actually. There was a table during post-mass coffee with all sorts of anti-Semitic literature, admonitions from dubious apparitions on women's dress, and the conversation was angry all the time. I used to wonder why it was that I was never approached by ANYONE, male or female, who I didn't know from college or work, and then I made the connection. It was because I wore pants. I had a short haircut. I wasn't pregnant five minutes after I got married (years later, after we had a baby girl and were dealing with infertility I still wouldn't get talked to except to be lectured about being open to life). Long story short, the general population of the community was creepy, mean and enough to turn me off the EF. Maybe that's unfair, but it also turned my husband off the EF, and he's a liturgy geek from way back. We attend an EF mass once a month or so in another city in another region of the US, and it's much friendlier, but I've noticed that as you get to know the people better, all sorts of nasty stuff starts coming our, notably in the racism department. Also, the women begin to sigh sadly when they see a new short haircut, or pants and heels. I don't know. The trad/trid men I've met have been, overall, bullying, abrasive and condescending. My husband and a few of our male trad friends are adorable exceptions to the American rule.

Lydia Cubbedge said...

Oh, Heavens, I am sorry Seraphic. The above comment from Will Cubbedge is actually from me, Lydia Cubbedge. I can only blame an alarming lack of caffeine.

american (not) in deutschland said...

Yeah, I don't know, guys. I think it is stretching it, even on the grounds of charity, to attribute ALL of these attitudes and opinions of conservative religious men to righteous outrage over abortion or the changes in the Mass.

I actually grew up a devout evangelical. Trads only existed in my grandmother's worst nightmares. THE MASS only existed in my grandmother's worst nightmares. But many of these same attitudes still existed in a place where an altar might have been more offensive than the girl. (Proud of that turn of phrase.) And, really, evangelicalism broadly speaking is probably only slightly more problematic than mainstream US Catholics, but our fringe movements (the Fundies) can be just as misogynist as the Catholic Trads. And it would be disingenuous not to note that strains of anti-Semitism and other conspiracy-theory-esque beliefs ARE present in the Trad movement -- not everywhere, obviously, but more present than they would be in your Average Awful Guitar Mass Parish. Surely we can't say they are only ever reactionary for good reasons.

I personally grew up with the same anti-feminism stuff, and although I still distance myself from many opinions or systems of thought that some feminists hold to, I think our culture war has turned a lot of these serious moral issues into mere talking points that build up identity blocs. I definitely dealt in talking points, all through my growing-up years when I was "anti-feminist," and would willingly accept "teasing"/putting-me-in-my-place behavior from boys and young men, who, for whatever reasons, decided that haranguing good obedient Christian girls about feminist evils was the best way to secure their own masculinity.

The fact is, it might not bother US INDIVIDUALLY if some young man spouts off about women having jobs, or [insert your complaint couched in Chestertonian verve]. But what men say DOES matter. It certainly matters a lot more (sad to say) than what even a mature adult woman says. What they do might matter more, but what they say often determines what women, and other men, will do. I was such an obedient kid, who wanted all the approval from the accepted corners, that (to a certain extent) I made sure that I did nothing to risk the outrage of some idealistic man. I wanted to be "what's right with the world," not "what's wrong with it" (thank you again, Gilbert!).

I still want that, and I still listen thoughtfully to what men say, whether traditionalist or progressive. But I also remember that they are men, and that protecting male preserves is not always the exact same thing as having holy pious pure feelings about the Mass. And having high ideals about such and such is not always the entire reason behind why it's so important to say that women should do X.

I also think, btw, about why my stated beliefs about the good of society or beautiful art or liberal arts education or the divine purpose of gender -- which at different points affect the lives of my gay friends, or the kids I teach who live in poverty, or anybody who didn't grow up middle class and white -- why these beliefs might not ALWAYS be completely reducible to those high ideals, and might have something to do with what is convenient for me and my comfort. I think this is reasonable and Christian. Trying -- politely, and most effectively, but not apologetically -- to get across to men that it would also be reasonable and Christian for them to think this way about their opinions about women doesn't seem so pointless or silly to me. I think most of the posturing is their attempt to not have to become accountable in this way.

I like what you suggest in your update! I don't want to ever suggest to men that they must only respect the women who play by their rules (ie., by trying to best them at being pious anti-modernists, especially if you are not!), but to a certain extent we ARE having to try and recall them to their senses, and maybe reminding them of Our Lord is a good way to do that. I would hope?

sciencegirl said...

I started attending my local EF Mass this year, though the local OF Masses are also beautifully celebrated.

I gave it a try, along with Masses at other parishes around town. I have to attend multiple parishes anyway to get to daily Mass, so I figured I could go different places for Sunday Mass and get to know different Catholics. I was most welcomed after the EF, so there I went.

I mostly go for the nice community after the EF. When I went to the OF Masses and stayed for donuts, a couple of people talked with me. After the EF, numerous people talked with me. And talked with everyone else. They were nice. They were helpful and encouraging.

Are some kind of weird and/or crazy?


I am not surprised. 1% of the human population has schizophrenia. Even more have autism, dementia, ADHD, OCD, depression, and social anxiety. At work and school, employers, Human Resources, and interview committees screen out the people whose emotional struggles spill over too much into their personal interactions. The Church doesn't screen us before Mass, so we shouldn't be all that surprised that we keep meeting weirdos there. As long as mentally ill people are not being deliberately rude to me or threatening, I try to be gentle and tolerant of their oddities. Who knows, given the right circumstances in my brain, I could easily start saying weird, embarrassing things myself.

Luckily for me, 95% of the men are married with kids, and the other 5% are priests, children, or very very nice single young adults. HAHAHA it would be a bad place to hunt for a husband, but it's a good place to find other nice Catholics. Many of our congregation are recent converts. I do not enjoy pompous young men bossing me, and I am grateful to be spared their presence.

When I go to this Mass, I try to blend in. When I went to Goth clubs, I also tried to blend in. I want to be a visible part of the parish. I want to be a friendly face to everyone I meet outside the church or at daily Mass, many of whom attend the other Masses.

One of the pleasantest things about going to the EF is that it actually spares me from much of the tedious liturgical conversation my old friends used to enjoy. No need to rant about altar girls/lectors/EMHCs, because we don't have any. This is not because of a mean old priest banning them, but simply because this Mass form has... other rules. It makes it all rather non-controversial. We, the laypeople, are not all expected to weigh in on these matters, whether to cheer or boo the liturgical dancers.

As for neocon/trad, well, I am more of a Crunchy!con neo-con semi-trad poser. The crunchy is because I like sometimes eating organic food and go to farmers markets when the weather is nice. The neo is because I am indeed a liberal who got mugged by reality. My Traddiness is only Semi because much of my Tradition evolved in a milieu that was blatantly misogynistic, despite the formal teaching of the Church, so I can't be all about all the traditions of all of the history of Christianity. Since I hang out with progressive liberals most days, that all adds up to me being an extremist conservative, as the finer points of conservative philosophy are lost on a lot of college professors.

Seraphic said...

I woke up thinking about the University of Notre Dame, so I want to stress there was absolutely nothing wrong with the Mass I attended. My point was not that there was anything wrong with it, but that I was startled by the female voice or voices reading the readings because I am no longer used to that.

I have no problem with Notre Dame. My father is a Domer, and we have family connections with Father Corby.

Well, inviting Obama to a graduation and giving him a law degree honoris causa is a problem, I admit, but I imagine that was a one-off.

Jackie said...

Seraohic, heaps of kudos for cultivating such a fantastic discussion and community here! I don't know enough about EF to offer an opinion, but the post and comments have been fascinating. Thank you! :-)

Charming Disarray said...

There's so much that can be said on this topic that I wasn't really going to comment at all, because sometimes it's nice NOT to be the one talking about these issues. That said, I think American (not) in D hit the nail on the head by saying that even if we're not individually bothered by the behavior of these men, in the end they do affect everyone and they are important. Not that I'm not sympathetic to wanting to avoid a confrontation on the church steps. I don't even go to events where I know there will be a lot of trads because I can't even face how upset I will be if anyone makes some crack or offhand remark about one of their hot-button issues. Incidentally, not being able to force myself to talk to people after a TLM prevented me from getting to know any Scottish trads in the year+ that I lived there. They might have all been perfectly nice and every Sunday I told myself I was going to socialize, and every Sunday I ended up feeling too emotionally exhausted even to take the risk. I moved back to the US, was all gung ho about meeting new people at the TLM here, and got smacked in the face with a huge modesty campaign (half a page in the bulletin through the whole summer and a sermon) even though most of the women dress downright dowdily. No church picnic for me, thanks. It's gotten to the point where I can't even pray at the TLM, and for the first time in my life have started going to OF. Whatever problems there are with lectors and altar girls (which are totally weird to me) or the funny music, at least I have some head space to actually pray--which, last time I checked, was actually what going to Mass is all about, and not banging an endless drum about feminism/modernism/thejews/whatever.

Woops, that turned into a rant. I think your suggestion about women saying that their husbands or fathers don't have a problem with whatever is being complained about would probably be the only thing that MIGHT make those guys get a little perspective. In an ideal world, a man should be able to treat any woman with respect because she's a human being, and not because she has a dad/brother/husband to stick up for her (especially since some women don't) but clearly we're not dealing with an ideal anything but rather a huge snarled mess, so it's probably the only thing that has a chance of working.

People often tell me to just stay away from the problem people. Believe me, I try. At home in California I was going to a small TLM chapel where the priest was lovely and the only people I ended up talking to were my close friends. And then one Sunday I saw the mother of a friend of mine, who had been living in DC and I hadn't seen in a while, so I stopped to talk to her. Mr. Angry Trad Man was standing nearby (I guess they had been talking) and would not stop trying to draw the conversation towards how much he hated Obama, via the fact that she was living in DC. Neither of us said ANYTHING and he tried more than once. And then I left. Really, nowhere is safe.

And yeah, there are nutty people everywhere, but in my 28 years of attending TLMs I can state with authority that the weird people far outnumber the normal ones, and they outnumber the weird people in general society. And I'm from Berkeley.

Seraphic said...

Ah, there you are! I've been wondering where you were.

Well, my dear, I am sorry you didn't chat with the east-coast Scottish TLMers because we are all very nice and nobody talks about women's clothing, etc., or Obama, et al. At least WE don't. I don't know about the east-coast SSPX although I'm told the west-coast SSPXers are very nice.

The next time you're in Scotland, come to after-Mass tea!

Seraphic said...

(In case that was misunderstood and y'all are freaking, I myself do NOT go to SSPX Masses. I got to the FSSP's Masses, according to the provisions of Summorum Pontificum, etc., etc., etc. The Cardinal Archbishop is very sympathetic to our bunch; we think he is wonderful and hope he is in charge for a very long time!)

Sarah said...

I think it's just really important, so as to not foster resentment of the Traditional Mass itself, or think the Mass itself and this attitude are actually related-- to remember that these trads are in America (and Canada?). Europe is totally different. I think there are lots of things about American culture that are misogynistic and puritanical and Traditional Catholicism happens to be one of the things *in America* affected by it. I think this is because while it also attracts a lot of good people, certain things about it also attract a certain "bad" type-- the type who have Golden Age Syndrome and idealize the Middle Ages.

By the way, that "my priest said..." thing works on busybody women, too. I once went to a wedding wearing a really great cocktail dress that I was very proud of, but which was a little lowcut. But I had bought it on a shopping trip with two older-than-me (intheir late 30s) married women who gave it their stamp of approval in the dressing room, so I didn't worry about it.

After the wedding, a girl my age-- who I should have remembered has somewhat neurotic hang ups over modesty-- approached me about it:

Her: "Did you KNOW how lowcut your dress was?"
Me: "Yes, but X and Y were there when I bought it and they said it was still modest enough."
Her: "Really? That surprises me. Maybe it looked different at the store. At the wedding, it was really awful."

I felt bad about it for days afterwards until I remembered that my priest, who officiated the wedding, had complimented the dress when he saw me at the wedding. I wished I had remembered that earlier, because that definitely would have stopped her in her tracks.

Seraphic said...

Seraphic (to Her): Well, we can't all rock dowdy flour sacks the way you do.

I can't begin to imagine the rocky road this girl has walked and has before her. I don't know if she's neurotic, but she certainly spoke like a "rhymes with witch."

Seraphic said...

But of course "It couldn't have been that lowcut, since Father [X] told me it was beautiful" would have been the most excellent response ever!

Charming Disarray said...

I would have been West-coast SSPX at the time, although I kind of regret not shopping around for any other TLMs (nothing against the one I went to but just for variety), which was partly out of laziness and partly because I always woke up on Sunday morning HATING the idea of going to Mass and getting myself out of bed was always a huge struggle. That hasn't happened to me anywhere else, and I have a half-serious theory that it was because I was living in a renovated protestant church at the time.

But if/when I visit again, I will definitely show up for after-Mass tea!

Now that I think about it, I have at least once used the argument, "My older brother is a traditional priest and he doesn't have a have a problem with women wearing pants." That was online, though, so I think it got lost in the din. It's been a very long time since I've had a pants argument with anyone in real life. Besides, one delightful thing about the kinds of trads who moniter women's clothes is that they only take the priests seriously who already agree with them. Everything else is attributed to modernism.

Lina said...

Hmm... I started commenting a couple of times, but both comments were getting verrry long so I hit delete. Here's the short form: yes, there are nutcases at TLMs. There are nutcases at NO Masses as well. A thick skin and a sense of humour are important qualities in any situation or walk of life, friends. If someone says something ridiculous to you (for instance, an elderly woman at my church asked a newcomer, apparently single but wearing a black mantilla, if she was a virgin) know that it is ridiculous and do not let it bother you. perhaps the elderly lady in question is in her dotage?
My experience of trads has been great, for the most part. The nutcases are in much higher concentration at SSPX chapels, where women are expected to dress in long flour sacks and discouraged from pursuing higher education. (I grew up in the SSPX - I'd know.) Since turning to the FSSP ten years ago, however, my experiences and general happiness have vastly improved.
Trad men are fabulous as long as they're not angry, chauvinistic SSPX trad men. Go FSSP!

Charming Disarray said...

Re: saying Jesus' name. I was taught to bow my head whenever I heard or said "Jesus." Maybe you're seeing bowing rather than flinching?

Seraphic said...

Come on. I know the difference between a bow and a flinch. The flinch might be because of a forgotten bow. But it is more likely because of a deep, deep, cultural embarrassment about talking of the sacred outside of church.

Em said...

Lots of great comments here! Lina & Science girl, I heartily agree with you both.

I've been attending the TLM since I was 9, so for over 15 years now, mostly in Australia, but also in the UK, Ireland, France & twice in America. The differences in liturgy are not much to speak of, unless it's in the music, but differences in parish life, priests & popular attitudes abound.

A few commenters have mentioned that the problem of Trad men seems to be more of an American one, and although I have little experience from there, I'd say that seems to be true.
Trad men in Australia tend to be more like the Europeans. After all, we are very laid back people. But you get the angry nutcases too, although few and far between.

The make-up of parish life depends a lot on the priest leading that parish and of course the demographics, which can change often or not at all. There will always be cycles of newcomers, singles getting married and starting families, converts etc.
And 'fringe' parishes like TLM parishes will always attract odd people, it goes with the territory.

I'd say it's easy to be an angry trad. Or to believe that the future of the world depends solely on the state of a woman's dress. When you accept that the world's a mess, and that V2 destroyed the Mass, the injustices of the past are very much present and we should get upset about it. But not to the point where you develop an 'us and them' attitude. I think trad men feel these injustices very keenly, and feel it's their duty to protect what's left, because no-one else will.
This is what leads to extreme or unbalanced opinions and behaviour.

However, the Church is bigger than it's past mistakes and the future of the world does not rest on my shoulders, thank God. Of course we must fight the bitter fight, save our souls and those we love, but God's got it all in hand.