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How the New Pharisees Attack the Latin Mass

A common criticism leveled against attendees of the Traditional Latin Mass is that we are pharisaical in practicing the faith. Rigid in adhering to law, hypocritical because we look past the log in our own eye, but mostly because (it is said) we uncharitably judge fellow Catholics. At least that’s the stereotype.

Of course, as with any stereotype, there is some truth in it. As I’ve written about before, people and movements driven to the fringes can often attract fringe elements. Shocking, right? 

In addition, social media increases exposure for the extreme. From religion, to politics, to cultural pet causes, platforms like Facebook and Twitter create a forum for even the most obscure and unhinged adherents of any group.

At times this has been the case among Traditionalists. But those same social media platforms have also been the vehicle by which sacred beauty and traditional liturgy are being rediscovered. Put simply: there is so much good to outweigh the bad (and the ugly).

However, there is another trend developing which needs to be discussed, this time involving Catholics who attend the Ordinary Form (or Novus Ordo) Mass, and it looks very similar to the behavior they accuse Latin Mass goers of. 

Put simply, a growing number of Novus Ordo (NO) Catholics are embracing their inner Pharisee, and with this pharisaical attitude, rash judgment and hypocrisy abounds.

As awareness of the Latin Mass continues to grow, and more Catholics are able to experience the beauty and tradition of a liturgy nearly 2,000 years old, online enthusiasm has naturally increased too.

Now, since these Latin Mass attending Catholics are like any other group, some are better than others at communicating the good news. They’re excited about this discovery and want to share it with others. Remember, these are diocesan Catholics who’ve only known the Novus Ordo their entire lives. We are not speaking of the sedevacantist fringe, who no more represent the TLM than whacky female “priests” represent the Novus Ordo.

Part of this new messaging is an affirmative argument for the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM). Some sites and writers seek to promote the Ancient Rite exclusively by highlighting its history, merit, and beauty. This is a good and necessary approach. 

Other have done a great service too by focusing on both the merit of the old rite as well as the problems with the new. This history of the post-conciliar years and liturgical landscape is also necessary, but requires a good deal more skill.

Esteemed writers, liturgists, and theologians have methodically explained over the last 15-20 years online, and 25-50 years in print, the purpose of worship, the organic development of the Roman Rite, and the liturgical revolution of the 1960’s and ’70’s that “devastated the vineyard” to use Dietrich Von Hildebrand’s term.

But an increasing number of Catholics who only attend the Ordinary Form have (apparently) decided to opt out of actual dialogue. For some an intellectually fruitful discussion on the Mass and forms of the Roman Rite isn’t possible. As they see it, any objectively true critique of the New Mass is inherently a critique of them personally

In response, some refuse to engage in a discussion about the liturgy itself, choosing instead to attack the messenger.

Paraphrasing the Pharisee in St. Luke’s gospel (Lk 18:9-14), they loudly protest (saying something like), “Lord, I’m glad not to be like those smug and pompous traditionalists. Those Latin Mass folks think they’re so much better than the rest of us.” 

This is followed then by the usual litany of insults and name calling:

Pharisee

prideful 

superiority complex

uncharitable

rigid

Three recent comments from social media should suffice. All speak to this point. All are real examples:

  • “The people who start attending are the reason I don’t seek out TLM. It changes them and not in a good way.”
  • “So the NO isnt reverent? Doesnt appreciate solemn worship?  You judge over a billion of your brothers and sisters?  No wonder you’re staying on your high horse.”
  • “The proponents of the Tridentine Mass have made their case in such a way that I really do not wish to be associated with them no matter how much better it may be.”

These comments, though a small sample, do illustrate several common themes:

  • Outright implying that the Latin Mass, the liturgy which formed the saints of the Latin Church for 2,000 years, makes people bad.
  • The claim by some that they would have “tried” the TLM if only those mean traditionalists online hadn’t turned them off. It’s disingenuous and needs to stop. Go or don’t go, but don’t blame others. 
  • During discussions about the Mass, accusing Latin Mass goers of judging others, so they can then be condemned for being judgmental, is peak hypocrisy.

It is interesting that comments by Latin Mass attendees regarding liturgical differences are often received by Novus Ordo going Catholics as an attack against personal piety. The anthropocentric nature of the New Mass has been a point of discussion for years. The defensive assumption by many that a critique of form is a critique of faithful seems to reinforce this very point. 

Another common complaint is that TLM supporters only put forth negativity or lack charity. Of course it fails to take into account the works of men like Ratzinger, Sarah, Burke, Schneider, Mosebach, Kwasniewski, Tribe, and Reid to name just a few. It also shows a complete lack of awareness of websites such as New Liturgical Movement, Liturgical Arts Journal, or even this one.

The argument also falls flat for those who attend a TLM weekly, or who remain at their parish all Sunday for pot lucks and fellowship, or who set up welcome tables and hand out those “little red missals” before Mass. 

But some with little to no experience outside of their own parish, and (by choice) no experiential knowledge of the Latin Mass, find solace in making assumptions and then painting with a very broad brush.

The projection by some who have no interest in discussing the Roman Rite outside of shouting “Pharisee!” at their fellow Catholics has got to stop. Either study-up and explore the deep liturgical tradition of the Roman Rite, which should include going to a few Latin Masses, or demonstrate restraint and stay out of these conversations.

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