The traditional Latin Mass returned to St. John the Baptist in Chico yesterday. The 2:30 pm time slot is less than ideal, but it is necessary for the priests from St. Stephen’s who have duties in the morning at their home parish. It is reported that we had 47 people in the pews – a slight improvement from the usual numbers in Durham, even with one or two families missing. I’m in the process of putting together a very small hymnal with an FAQ in the front for newcomers. At this point we do not have sufficient talent for a choir, but we hope to find someone locally who can help start one.
After the Mass we lingered for a bit chatting with friends in front of the church. A man with a skateboard crossed the street and headed our direction. He recognized me from an article in the newspaper (not the one linked in this space previously) and had something he wanted to tell me. He said that my comments in the article were” divisive”, “offensive”, and “inappropriate”, especially with respect to women at the altar. The article in question was problematic for several reasons: 1) I said some things that were in fact too controversial for public consumption; 2) I was misquoted; and 3) the newspaper, a left-leaning alternative weekly, predictably omitted some very important context. Not wanting to get into a heated public argument on the sidewalk, I did not handle this incident well. Not at all. But it has provided much food for reflection.
“Divisive”. That’s the ultimate sin, apparently. When a liberal thinks you are wrong, he will instead accuse you of being divisive. That’s because liberals would rather not say that anyone is objectively wrong about anything. To admit there is such a thing a “right” and “wrong” would be a metaphysical concession that leads to their undoing. They would then have to get into the reasons why a thing is right or wrong, which would require adopting universal and absolute principles of some kind, which would undermine the only principle they really believe in, the principle of Relativism.
There is no denying that my remarks were divisive. There’s no denying, in fact, that the Latin Mass is also divisive. But every truth claim, every opinion, and every point-of-view creates a division between those who share it and those who don’t. Are we then to avoid discussing anything with the potential to divide? Hardly. Sometimes division is necessary. And granted, sometimes it isn’t, and some things do fall in the “agree to disagree” category. The issue here was not that I said something “divisive”, but that I said something that, in the mind of my accuser, was either incorrect or not important enough to justify adherence to a different liturgy.
Why can’t people just say what they mean?
If I wanted to, I could have explained that the Novus Ordo is what is truly divisive, segregating people by language, separating Catholics from the traditions of their ancestors, and representing (as usually celebrated) a stark rupture with 2000 years of Catholic worship. But that particular argument is not politically very wise.
We’d better get used to this. I suspect that for every parishoner who has the gumption to do what Skateboard Man did, there are a few hundred more who share his views. We need to have our answers ready. The Latin Mass is going to divide before it unites. Therefore we need to be ready to show unity with the parish on every level possible, without diluting or compromising our heritage.