You know, I can actually *feel* the power to destroy the Church crackling along every nerve of my being!

A reader responds to my self-interview about By What Authority? with this penetrating analysis:

Dear Mark Shea:
Yes there was! A golden age of purity. Before Vatican II. I lived it.
The just published translations of the original schemas of Vatican II (unam sanctam catholicam blog) shows the pure Romanita we have lost. Until 1939 France was the most Catholic country on earth. (In 1880 more than 75% of all Catholic missionaries serving abroad were French, by 1930 this number had only slipped to more than 50%). In 1970 20% of French adults attended weekly mass, in 1995 only 8%, in 2004 only 4.5%. One explanation is “The Devirilization of the Liturgy in the Novus Ordo” by Fr. Richard Cipolla (Rorate Caeli).

The Protestant invasion (Hahn, Ray, Shea et al) has made Catholics sceptical of their own tradition. Fr. John Riccardo recently suspended most parish activities to put his congregation through the Alpha program. Questioned by Teresa Tomeo, he acknowledged that the program was not Catholic. But it works, he said, because it is non-Catholic. Catholics, he maintained, do not trust their Church.
Until the Protestant invasion, “the first seven years were the ones that count”. Every Catholic possessed the short pithy responses of the Baltimore Catechism as their lifelong possession. Newman in the Idea of a University tells the story of three Anglican ministers traveling in Ireland. They were guided by a 13 year old youth who surpassed them in his knowledge of the Catechism.
You and your colleagues in the EWTN marketing network are undermining the authority of the bishops creating a parallel magisterium. Pope Francis recent critical remarks on capitalism were carefully avoided by EWTN. Mother Angelica’s fight for Catholic tradition is only a distant memory.

There you have it: Everything was perfect back when pre-Vatican II Catholic JFK was love harpooning mafia molls and Marilyn Monroe. On the bright side, this reader’s keen analysis of the Protestant Convert plot to destroy the Church reminds me: Hahn, Ray, Akin and the rest of the gang have yet to schedule our next cell group meeting to continue drafting The Protocols of the Learned Converts of EWTN.

Notice, yet again, the absolutely consistent habit of mind of the Reactionary: The huge problem the Church faces is *converts*. Riff raff. Impure and unclean people getting into Fortress Katolicus. So all the animus is directed at people like EWTN, who are attempting to do evangelization. And in the effort to shout that down, it matters not a whit that complete nonsense is spoken. So a book devoted entirely making the case that the Church tradition is reliable becomes the launch pad for the charge that “converts” are trying to make Catholics skeptical of their own tradition and the guy glosses over the emphatic insistence of this blog that we listen to pope Francis *particularly* concerning his economic teaching. Somehow, Scott Hahn and Steve Ray, writing in English, become responsible for the state of the French Church and assume blame for some priest somewhere using the Alpha program.

Here’s the governing paradigm: Reactionaries hate evangelism. It explains everything from Michael Voris’ constant attacks on Fr. Barron, EWTN, and Catholic Answers to Rorate Coeli’s stupid attack on Tolkien (who has, the critics claim notwithstanding, been a powerful force for evangelism as any number of converts will tell you) to the intense loathing for Francis’ evangelical witness to this. If anything presents the threat of calling riff raff and rabble into Fortress Katolicus, the unfailing instinct of the Reactionary is to attack it.

Because Reactionaries hate evangelism.

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  • HornOrSilk

    I’m sure you are a time traveler, so like Constantine, you have seeded your destructive tendencies throughout history, just to confuse us all! 😉

    Seriously, France? That’s what he has?

    • >>Seriously, France?

      I think we need an addendum to Godwin’s Law, the Reductio ad Gallia– whoever holds up France as the pinnacle of ANYTHING, except perhaps surrendering, collaborating, and possibly winemaking, automatically loses.

      • Rebecca Fuentes

        What about pastries?

        • Nah. Lovely pastries, yes but so many countries have really excellent pastries they are justifiably proud of…

      • Don’t forget cheeses. They are cheese-eating surrender monkeys, after all.

  • Alma Peregrina

    Yeah! Before Vatican II, France was the most perfect catholic country, like, evah! It was only after Vatican II that they started guillotining priests and vandalizing cathedrals! Stoopid, stoopid V2, with those catholics undermining bishop authority and creating a parallel magisterium, unlike the pures at Fortress Katholicus.

    PS: I just love how this comenter praises craddle catholicism and attacks protestant converts using a story by… wait for it… Newman! Wow…

    • IRVCath

      And it does not take into account, say, the perception some put out (contrary to what the Holy Father said) that not supporting absolute monarchy made you a heretic. No, contrary to the historical sources (even the testimony of the very clergy of the time), there was nothing wrong whatsoever in the French Church until 1960.

      • WesleyD

        To be logically consistent, those who consider monarchy to be a Catholic dogma shouldn’t date the decline of the Church to 1962. Instead, they should date it to 1926, when Pius XI condemned Action Française. This was widely understood to imply that Catholics were free to support democracy even in traditionally monarchical states. The ultra-monarchists were horrified at this. Cardinal Billot, the former chair of theology at the Gregorian University and former consultor to the Holy Office, resigned from the cardinalate rather than serve under Pius XI after that.

  • tteague

    Hey folks! I’m new! (I say as I stuff my pockets with the free prayer cards and hors d’oeuvres.) Yes I’m a recent immigrant from Protestantland. Don’t worry, I’ve been deloused. Though I’m curious about the whole BV2 / AV2 (Before Vatican II, After Vatican II) heavy sighing thing, and I’m curious about all these debates, and I want to know ‘cuz I’m curious, I don’t really always know what to focus most of the time (like the new driver a little overwhelmed at that busy intersection). But I feel rather confident to say that anytime someone says there really was a “golden age of purity” it’s okay to vomit just a little. The past may have some eras better than others, but the true golden age of purity is yet to come, and none before the present are anything but memory now. And thank you to all the Sheas, Hahns, Curries, Howards, Rays, Chestertons, and other converts who have help me see the glory of the Church in a way that said, “Look buddy, I know where you’ve been and what you must be thinking.” And thank you to all you wonderful Catholics who have happily welcomed me into the fold with generous hearts, genuine curiosity, and guiding wisdom.

    • Praise to Jesus Christ for the grace of conversion, and thanks for your kind words. Welcome home.
      I’ll try to sum up the “Pre-Vatican II vs. Post-Vatican II” controversy for you. The Council was called to help the Church renew her efforts at evangelization and dialog with the modern world. Through the Council, the Church restated who she is, declared her mission in the world, described her relationship to other ecclesial communions and religions, and made liturgical reforms. None of this constitutes a break with Tradition.
      Every single dispute in the wake of the Council arose from its implementation; not its substance. You immediately had modernist dissenters misinterpreting Vatican II in ways that coincidentally validated their errors. Unfortunately, initial implementation of the Council mostly fell to folks like these. Traditionalist Catholics rightly saw many abuses (and imagined others), but some mistakenly concluded that the Council itself constituted a rupture with Sacred Tradition.
      If you want a picture of how Vatican II is supposed to be interpreted and lived, look no further than Bl. John Paul the Great. In the words of Fr. Dan Pattee, John Paul II is the ultimate pope, bishop, priest, man, and Christian of Vatican II.

    • Brian gives a good definition, but I’m going to give a snarkier (but more accurate) account:

      While The Church more or less eliminated the systemic risk of Protestantism to the universal Church (as in it remained mostly a western dispute, it’s influence reached its peak and declined rapidly and continues its rapid descent), Protestantism had a kissing cousin within the Catholic Church named modernism. The Church has struggled with that modernism in the religious sphere since the 18th century, and it was joined by secularlism in 1789.

      Since that time, the Church has tried various approaches to combatting it, some successful, some not. Meanwhile secularism ran rampant, as did modernism. The latest approach in Vatican II tried to build on the truths these controversies made us understand more (that though they are heretics, there is still a movement of the spirit within PRotestant communities, but this movement ultimately leads back to Rome). They also had to adapt the Church to the modern world in the aspect of increased education, communications, etc.

      On most aspects…. Vatican II failed. Ecumenism with Protestants has not accomplished much (though it has accomplished a ton with the Orthodox), the liturgy was roughly a devestated vineyard in most parishes for 5 decades and is only now slowly improving. They tried to outline a model for dealing with the State in light of the post-Christian society, and this “American model” has more or less been a disaster for Church-State relations, even if it wasn’t heretical.

      All of this sounds like an indictment, but really, this kinda stuff happens with ecumenical councils all the time. They take decades and sometimes even centuries to fully work out, at which there arsies even more pressing issues to be discussed. On a lot of ways, the Council did succeed. Dei Verbum was more or less a strong success (the modernist scholars of old have lost a lot of influence since), the reform of the reform is beginning to pick up steam, even if five decades late, seminaries are finally being reformed, Traditionalists more or less implemented Vatican II’s liturgical reforms by accident with the Latin Mass, etc.

      So out of that current “failure”, there are actually some pretty bright signs. For those which aren’t, a future Council or movement of the Magesterium will fix it. That’s the beauty of having the promise of the Holy Spirit. Not that everything the Church will do is always the best idea, but that she won’t teach error, and in the end she will figure it out.

      • “…[T]his kinda stuff happens with ecumenical councils all the time. They take decades and sometimes even centuries to fully work out…”
        Chalcedon is probably the best example. The Council Fathers enthusiastically approved Leo the Great’s “two natures in one Person” formula, but the layman (and even bishop) in the street shrugged, said “What do we know from Aristotle?” and went about the business of saving souls. Meanwhile, Alexandria and Syria respectively fell back on the “one divinized nature” and the “two persons” formulas, which they more or less hold to this day.
        So yeah. Vatican II’s implementation has gone pretty sideways over the past 50 years. But given the fact that Chalcedon is still a work in progress after fifteen centuries, the Second Vatican Council’s legacy isn’t looking too shabby.

        • It is that understanding of Church history (that councils rarely work as advertised) that helps provide perspective on the church, how I can be a traditionalist, yet not among those who reject the council. For all its rancor, the debate over the “ambigious” subsitit is nothing compared to the rancorous debate over the term homoousion, which was widely understood to be heretical, until the Church redefined it as a council, and tried to split hairs by seperating it from Homoiousian, which was still totally heretical.

          Anyone confused? Really, Vatican II and the disaster that followed it is par for the course. That isn’t to excuse the modernists and clerics likely bound for hell due to their destructions, its just to say chill out, recognize history, then live your life as a Christian, knowing that in the end the orthodoxy you live by prevails.

    • Rosemarie


      Just make sure you don’t stuff the free prayer cards in the same pocket with the hors d’oeuvres. 🙂 Welcome to the Church!

  • Here’s a pointer: to maintain the least modicum of internal consistency, avoid citing Newman in polemics against converts.

    • chezami

      You noticed that, eh?

      • Perhaps he’s considered the “Right Sort”.

        • D Lewis

          That depends. Some RadTrad folks claim him- some reject him. Their counterparts in his time, the Ultramontanes, disliked him intensely. However, making hay out of his status as a convert per se was less than useful, as many of them were converts as well – Cardinal Manning, Fr. Faber, W.G. Ward, etc.

          • D Lewis

            Now sometimes his Catholic critics would claim that his conversion didn’t “take’ properly . This was picked up by some outside the Church as well. : See, Newman with his eloquence and brilliant mind couldn’t really be a Papist. So following him to Rome would be a dead end.” Some took it so far as to say that he must be headed back to Anglicanism – and the occasional report to that effect showed up in the newspapers- something that exasperated Newman for years, as he had to take time to write letters to the editor saying, “No. I’m Catholic. I’m staying Catholic . I love that Faith. I’d have to be a consummate fool to go back to the Angiican church.”

    • D Lewis

      As one devoted to the Blessed Newman, I would like to point out that the story about the Irish boy has nothing to do with converts. Here is the relevant passage ….

      “Generally speaking, however, as I have said, what is given as information will really be an argument as well as information. I recollect, some twenty-five years ago, three friends of my own, as they then were, clergymen of the Establishment, making a tour through Ireland. In the West or South they had occasion to become pedestrians for the day; and they took a boy of thirteen to be their guide. They amused themselves with putting questions to him on the subject of his religion; and one of them confessed to me on his return that that poor child put them all to silence. How? Not, of course, by any train of arguments, or refined theological disquisition, but merely by knowing and understanding the answers in his catechism.”
      The three men were not converts, but active Protestant clergy. The point is that they were so ignorant about Catholicism that a kid with a good grasp of the Catechism could show their ignorance.
      Fulton Sheen was to make a similar point later- a lot of people who “hate the Church” are clueless about what the Church really teaches.
      What that has to do with bashing converts is anyone’s guess.

      • Rosemarie


        It would be interesting to know exactly which Catechism the boy had memorized. Probably not the Baltimore Catechism, since I think that was only in use in the US.

        • IRVCath

          They had the Penny Catechism, which as the name suggests, cost 1d. During the 19th century there was a plethora of religious publishing to take advantage of and increasingly literate population, and to counter the radicalism of some of the political currents.

  • Ed Peters

    I don’t think you, Ray, Akin, and Hahn should be allowed to ride in the same vehicle. I think it wiser to thin the risk of mishap

  • Evan

    I think this makes you …a CULTURAL MARXIST!!!1!!!!!!

    (Whatever that is.)

  • PalaceGuard

    Yep. We evil converts have been deconstructing the Church ever since Saul hit the road to Damascus.

  • Heather

    The thing that I always wonder about is, if everyone was thoroughly catechized and loved the Mass and knew their Catechism and all that jazz, why was it so darn easy for V2 to get hijacked into becoming the kickoff for decades of looniness?

    • Daniel G. Fink

      James Hitchcock delved into the reasons 10 years ago…

      His “Cliff Notes” version is the anti-authoritarian period of the ’60’s. Or as Weigel has stated, the Church rolled down it’s windows to dialog with the culture just as She was passing through a tunnel filled with noxious fumes.

      • Heather

        The problem with that idea is that the people who rebelled in the 60s did not come out of a vacuum. They were raised and catechized in the 40s and 50s. That so many people were so easily confused and misled suggests that they may have been able to quote the Baltimore Catechism at length but they may not have had as strong a grasp of their faith as those who long for the Good Old Days of the 50s seem to think.

        So I can’t really agree with his assertion that if Vatican 2 had happened in the 50s it might not have gone so badly. I’d think that if it had happened in the 50s it might have ended up even more confused, given the closer proximity of the 50s to the global upheavals and societal changes of the first half of the century.

        • $2346491

          Yeah, that would suggest that reciting by rote the Baltimore Catechism didn’t really lead to people having a strong grasp of Catholicism. Pre-Vatican II Catholicism didn’t really want Catholics critically examining and questioning the faith or trying to address the concerns of the modern world, This led to the crackdown on DeLubac and others associated with nouvelle theologie and the oath against modernism.
          The reason why Catholicism endured for so long is because it was a “cultural Catholicism.” Going to Mass and following the rules were parts of community life in many places. If you didn’t go to Mass and follow the Church’s rules, then you would probably be ostracized in the village. In the U.S., Catholic immigrants were discriminated against in many places so they formed their own communities (the so-called Catholic ghetto).
          In the past 70 years, things have changed. Yes, France was very Catholic in the 1930s. There was a major war in the 1940s that devastated Europe. I think that might have had something to do with declining Catholicism in France since 1939. The major economic depression, WWII, technological upheavals, etc. mean that people don’t live in small villages anymore. Catholics in the U.S. don’t live in their own working-class ethnic ghettos. The pre-Vatican II cultural Catholicism depended on people living in small Catholic villages and ethnic enclaves and going to Mass and following the rules because it was part of village life and they would be ostracized if they didn’t. The Church has to adjust to the modern world and find ways to reach out to people that don’t involve rote memorization of the Baltimore Catechism.

          • Yes, the Catholicism of the 50’s was pretty superficial, more cultural habit than anything. And Mass attendance was already declining then.

            This very same thing was actually pointed out by your archnemesis, detestable supervillain Benedict XVI. See especially his last address to the seminarians in Rome before he left office. In fact, that whole address is a fascinating look inside the Council, from a participant — no, rather Benedict was one of the architects of the Council — as is being more and more recognized. If you would only take the trouble to investigate.

            • $2346491

              Even before the 1950s Catholicism was very superficial and cultural to most Catholics. In the Middle Ages, most people were illiterate and had little understanding of the basis of the Catholic faith. They couldn’t even read the Bible themselves. There was much belief in and fear of the supernatural. One thing that I thought was fascinating was that people in the Middle Ages viewed the Elevation as providing tangible protections (i.e. from blindness). And of course deviating from the proper norms (as even Joan of Arc discovered) could get you burnt at the stake. By the 20th century, criminal punishments as well as medieval ideas of the supernatural were gone, but there was social penalties associated with not attending Mass or living by Catholic standards. Those obviously started weakening with the advent of the modern world, but lingered into the 1960s.

              And I’m sure that Benedict didn’t think that Vatican II was the cause of the Church’s decline but he did seem to think the solution was reviving a type of hybrid, more traditional pre-Vatican II version of Catholicism. If lapsed Catholics would just learn about Eucharistic Adoration and Latin Masses, they would return in droves. I really don’t think that this would work.

              • chezami

                You seem to know an awful lot about the inmost souls of millions of people who lived before you were even born.

                • $2346491

                  I don’t think that free thought and disobedience were encouraged in the 13th century.

                  • Daniel G. Fink

                    …or the 1st…

                    (Rom 1:5, 16:26)

                  • Well, Illinidiva, you know just as little about medieval thought as you do about anything else Catholic. Take this from someone who has a Ph.D. in Medieval History (yes, me). The Middle Ages was a riot of contending schools of thought, including the intellectual free-for-all at the 13th century University of Paris. The main glue, yes, was that most everyone was baptized Catholic. There was punishment for out-and-out heresy, of course, for things that went directly against the Gospel and mankind’s good (i.e. the Cathars denied the good of the body, sex and children). There were a number of indefensible things and great injustices too, but no more or less than any other period of history.

                    As for Joan of Arc, while she was formally convicted of heresy, she was really condemned for political reasons. She was captured in wartime and put on trial by her country’s mortal enemies — the English and their Burgundian supporters — who themselves knew the conviction was a sham. If they had really believed her guilty of heresy, they never would have allowed her to go to confession and receive Communion on the morning of her execution as they did. It was this fact among other abundant evidence of bias and irregular procedure that led the Inquisition to overturn the verdict against her twenty-five years after her death in 1456. As far as her beliefs go, Joan was a pretty conventional Catholic. Even her cross-dressing was considered perfectly justifiable by most medieval theologians, including the judge who examined the evidence during the second trial.

                    “Disobedience” has a wide range of meanings, so I can’t really comment there. I am sure though that there are kinds of disobedience even you wouldn’t accept.

                    • chezami

                      Illini: Listen to Lori. The unbelievably dull intellectual conformity of postmodern would be hopelessly at sea in the incredible intellectual ferment of the 13th century.

                    • Thanks, Mark.

                    • $2346491

                      Yeah.. I’m sure that upper classes intellectuals back then were upper class intellectuals at all times. I don’t think that Joe Farmer, the bonded serf to an English lord, was debating with Aquinas in Paris.

                    • chezami

                      True. And that proves nothing. Look, if you want to say snobby things, at least know what you are talking about.

                    • $2346491

                      The fact that upper class bohemians were upper class bohemians doesn’t prove anything about the religion of the regular folks. I contend that they weren’t any more devout, any closer to God, or any different from people today. The reason that people seemed more religious is that religion is woven into culture and society, there was an element of folk belief in it that fit people’s superstitions, or that there was real penalties for not fitting the crowds.

                    • chezami

                      Upper. class. bohemians? What are you talking about?

                    • $2346491

                      Who do you think went to the University of Paris? The illiterate serfs. Most of the great intellectuals that I know of from the Middle Ages were from noble families.

                    • IRVCath

                      And yet there were institutions like the College of Navarre that provided scholarships for bright but poor students. The phenomenon of the higher clergy and scholars being disproportionately noble only started in the 1600s, largely because many means for ordinary people to advance themselves had by that time been reserved to noble families as a revenue-enhancing expedient (in many cases you had to pay a tax to get a government job).

                      Also, in many cases, the so-called nobles were not necessarily all wealthy. A lot were, certainly. But many only owned marginal properties, and were no different in habits of life than any other free farmer. This would have been especially true in northern and central Italy. In many cases nobility would have given you freedom to move around, the right to carry a sword and shield (and an obligation for military service), and that’s about it.

                    • chezami

                      Actually, it was possible for the poor to get a decent education in Church-run schools. The English Reformation did a nice job of crushing that and making sure the poor were kept in their place. The best description I’ve ever read of it was “the revolt of the rich against the poor.”

                    • Alma Peregrina

                      Check the story of Petrus Hispanus. He was a poor guy from a poor family. Through Church incentives and universities he got a higher education in theology and medicine and became one of the greatest intelectuals of the Middle Ages. He even became a pope (John XXI).

                    • Whoever contended that ordinary medieval people were more devout or different from people today? Certainly neither Mark or me did that. My reply was intended to be general in regard to intellectual and religious conformity in the Middle Ages. And in regard to the illiterate peasants, if you look at the record of Joan’s trial, you’d see that she had a pretty terrific understanding of the Faith — and she was an illiterate peasant. She also wasn’t typical, of course, she was a saint. You’ll find exactly the same variety today among ordinary not particularly well-educated Catholics. Some are saints with true spiritual penetration into what they’ve learned, even if it’s only a few notions from the Catechism. Then there are the mass of the indifferent who resist learning anything or don’t understand anything they’ve learned. And a few general malcontents. The same as the Middle Ages or any other time.

                      Medieval peasants really didn’t declare themselves to be atheists in the philosophical sense. This development really only came in with the philosophical naturalism of the nineteenth century, and the scientism especially of the 20th, where all means of finding out truth except those measured by scientific means are rejected. Anyone in previous Christian centuries who gave a thought to the matter would readily conclude from practical experience of the design in nature that the world had a designer. But most peasants probably did not give a thought to the matter.

                      I recall that the fifteenth-century Franciscan preacher Bernardino of Siena did complain in one of his sermons that a great many people among his audiences “believed in nothing higher than the roofs of their own houses,” but I take that to mean that they were demonstrating the practical atheism of those who don’t think but simply live as if God didn’t exist. I think this was probably quite common, but how many were received severe sanction from society for it? None were recorded that I know of.

                      Thomas Aquinas did put down his arguments for God’s existence, but directed to other philosophers. I don’t think there were any serious medieval atheists even among philosophers.

                      At any rate, if you do have even one instance of a medieval peasant declaring himself and atheist and being censured or punished for it, let me know and I’ll comment further.

                      The big problem in the MA would have been heresy, not atheism, and yes, there were many among the unlearned who fell into it. But only those who had a large following were of concern to the Church.

                      Of course you are right about faith being woven into the whole fabric of society back then. If that was your original point, you were right. (Now I’ve lost track of what this whole thread was originally about!)

                    • $2346491

                      See that is what I was getting at in my original post. That even during the Middle Ages the Catholicism of most people was superficial and cultural. People didn’t just start to fall away from the Church during the 1950s nor is church attendance actually a good indicator of people’s actual Catholic beliefs. Catholics during the Middle Ages were no different than today; it was just that there was a specific cultural and social incentive to attend Mass and adhere to Catholic mores.

                    • That much I can agree with. I just went off on a tangent when you said that “free thought” was not encouraged in the Middle Ages. Those are words guaranteed to make a medieval historian see red! Sorry for the confusion.

                    • Guest

                      Yeah, coz Joe Plumber is really debating with William Lane Craig in the XXI century or something…

                    • $2346491

                      Joe the Plumber at least has some sort of social mobility in the 21st century.

                    • $2346491

                      Yes… I am aware of the University of Paris. I don’t care about the intellectual bohemians. However, let’s take this supposition. Robert Farmer is a serf who lives with his wife and children in Great Britain. Let’s suppose that he begins questioning Church teachings and declares that he is an atheist after study of the Bible. He refuses to attend Mass. Do you really think that he is going to last long on the lord’s estate? There were social incentives back then that no longer exist for people to attend Mass and adhere to Catholicism.
                      And yes Joan of Arc was killed in a political dispute, but being denounced as a heretic or an insufficiently pious Catholic had to be in the back of the mind of many people.

        • SteveP

          I would agree with your comment here especially: the hedonism breaking forth in the 1960s is better explained in the light of two wars in Europe, an economic depression, an influenza epidemic, and a genocide. If Qoheleth recommends eating, drinking, and being merry, who are the faithful to argue especially in light of the horrors they lived through?

        • Dan13

          Thinking it about, I think the decline would have happened nonetheless. Protestant religiosity in Western Europe, Scandinavia, and North America hasn’t exactly remained stable since the 60s either. Are the Dutch Protestants any better off right now than the Dutch Catholics? The same with the Germans or the Canadians. And as wounded as the church is in France and Belgium at the moment, I think the Lutheran churches in Scandinavia are hurting just as much or more.

          For all we know, Vatican II slowed down the decline . . .

          • Heather

            I agree. The “Good Old Pious and Stable 50s” is an illusion. Just a nostalgic papering over the cracks of a trend that began with the Enlightenment.

    • chezami

      The Reactionary explanation is, “Shut up.”

  • Andy

    I am always curious how they might view me – someone who left the church for a while and then returned – I must be a major problem, because I remember the pre- V2 days and the post. It was a priest who chased me away and a nun who helped me find my way back – alone with my long-suffering wife. I don’t think V2 was/is the problem – I don’t think that answering in a rote fashions questions to the Baltimore Catechism really pointed out knowing what the church taught/teaches. I think what happened is that people, laity, priests, bishops and so on looked to find a new meaning to relating to Christ – not well in many cases, but I think most often it was done in a searching fashion. I doubt it was for most based on skepticism, it was based on looking for a new way to relate.
    A revert? I must be loathsome for these folks.

  • Athanasius

    Um, when did Rorate attack Tolkien? I just have missed that, as all I saw was them post a conference from a priest, not them, who holds his own opinions. I didn’t know presenting another’s thoughts, very qualified, priestly thoughts, was now considered an attack. So much for Catholic debate …

  • Joe

    I wish I could be part of your Protestant convert cell bent on destroying the Church, but alas I’m a cradle Catholic. Do you guys have a really cool decoder ring?

  • SteveP

    “The Protestant Invasion” – you lucky dog Mark! Trim Nehru jackets, the reporters, the screaming young women, the Ed Sullivan Show! Oh, never mind, I got stuck at “Newman” and thought it was the “English Invasion.”

    We’ll pray for reactionaries, evangelists, and those in between.

  • Matthew

    I’m a convert! From Southern Baptist too. Where do I sign up?

  • Jordan

    “The Protocols of the Learned Converts of EWTN.”
    Was Tolkein not a pretty stubborn pre-Vat II Catholic himself? I just remember reading something about a relative (grandson, maybe?) making a note of him purposely giving responses in Mass in Latin, even if the Mass was in English.

    • ivan_the_mad

      You’re thinking of a recollection of his grandson, Simon. There aren’t any dates attached to that specific memory, so it’s difficult to tell what he’s talking about. The best guess from the context of the article would be that Simon was 9, so likely in 1968 since he was born in 1959. What we know today as the OF wasn’t promulgated until 1969. There were already Masses told in the vernacular prior to VII. From 1964 until 1969, instructions from one of the Congregations while the Council was still being held and various orders of the Mass were published by episcopal conferences, which included changes such as Mass in the vernacular, increased responses by the congregation, etc. That was a rather chaotic time, from my understanding. Some people point to Tolkien’s actions as some sort of justification or evidence for … what exactly, I’m really not sure. Change is rarely easy, least of all with the things we hold dear. Who knows what Tolkien might think or do today? Asserting that he would today be some champion of a certain liturgical form or rite is a non-falsifiable and therefore useless claim, and further is to be disdained for using a dead man’s memory as a means in internecine squabbling.

      • Jordan

        Ooook…well disdain away if you’d like, but I wasn’t “using” that tidbit of info as some sort of argument for the superiority of the TLM (which I don’t attend). I just thought it was funny. If it’s not even true, that’s no skin off my back.

        • I don’t think he was being disdainful. Just expanding on your interesting contribution with more interesting information.

        • ivan_the_mad

          Jordan, I did not intend those last few sentences to be disdainful to you. The context of the last few sentences deals with a post on this blog from Wednesday, wherein commenters did allude to that memory in such a fashion, e.g. here. I thought it pertinent in the context of recent discussions in this blog, but it is my error to assume that the context was clear in this post. I apologize for the confusion.

          • Jordan

            Ah, ok, well my fault then! Hard to read emotions from type, and also so easy to upset some people via the Internet so I wasn’t sure what was happening. It would seem pretty silly to *me* to get upset about that, but you just never know sometimes. I even made a point once that it didn’t bother me at all that my interlocutor disagreed with me, and that the reverse shouldn’t cause them any pain either, and even THAT got a downvote (which made me laugh due to the point I’d already made).

      • HornOrSilk

        Well, we might get a sense that he would have followed with the rite as it is normally practiced, since, what I gather, his son followed the normative rite and Tolkien did go to masses with him:

      • Paul Stilwell

        “Asserting that he would today be some champion of a certain liturgical
        form or rite is a non-falsifiable and therefore useless claim, and
        further is to be disdained for using a dead man’s memory as a means in
        internecine squabbling.”

        Amen, Ivan.

  • $2346491

    Actually, in some ways I agree with the writer about EWTN and other vehicles of new Evangelization. I think that they have huge flaws. First, I think that EWTN has turned into something of a conservative Republican mouthpiece. (And I am saying this as someone who considers herself a more moderate Republican.) I’d really like for EWTN and other Catholic institutions to get out of the politics business. For evangelization to work, it has to not be seen as associated with only one political party. Second, I’ve never seen EWTN actually criticize anything in the Church. Have they ever for instance criticized the slow response of the Church to the child abuse scandal? It seems like they just read the party line. It really is okay to be critical of Church actions.

    • chezami

      The guy who wrote this is one of the rage junkies who absolutely worships Michael Voris without an ounce of critical thought. Any dolt can, as he did in another note, look at problems in the Church and declare that he sees no hope at all. That way madness lies.

      • $2346491

        I think that the writer in question is probably a hypocrite. I don’t think that he (or Michael Voris for that matter) like Pope Francis’ focus on poverty. He has just added it in there to cover up what he really dislikes about EWTN – their willingness to tow the hierarchy line on everything including Vatican II.

        • chezami

          No. He added the attack on EWTN because Reactionaries loathe anybody they perceive as bringing the impure into the Church. The man is, like his Master, a junkie for rage and despair. He has nothing constructive to say at all.

    • First, I think that EWTN has turned into something of a conservative Republican mouthpiece.

      Yeah, this. I really, really want to like EWTN (and do like much of their stuff–particularly their radio affiliates), but when it gets political, the disavowed but still obvious Republicanism (in a “my party, right or wrong” sort of way) is always a bummer.

      • Matt Talbot

        I put a lot of that on Raymond Arroyo, whose role in the EWTN organization seems to be more along the lines of Republican outreach to Catholics than defense of the Faith, per se.

        • I always get that impression, too, which makes it impossible for me to watch “The World Over” for very long, despite wishing for a Catholic alternative to tv news. However, I should say that my wife (who generally loathes EWTN and was not expecting to like him) once met Mr. Arroyo, and said he was one of the most affable people she’s ever had the pleasure to encounter. So credit to the guy where it’s due, even if I dislike some of his politics.

    • About the political positions, I would tend to agree with you. The hosts (TV and Radio) generally strenuously disavow all political leanings, but their choice of favorite guests (like Fr. Sirico) is telling. They do make exceptions for people like Dem Congressman Dan Lipinski because he is pro-life. And admittedly it is hard to like anything about the Dems nowadays. But still, no socio-economic considerations outside the Republican party are allowed through, it seems, and they have the same very narrow view of Catholic social teaching as most political conservatives.

      As for adhering to the Church line, the apologists on Catholic Answers have a line: “We’re in sales, not management.” They see their job as trying to defend the Church. They may going overboard in defending things that are questionable, but it’s hard to see the dividing line. From the above, it’s clear that I listen quite a lot — it’s a great time-killer while working (I’m a professional translator and work many hours at home by myself).

      • $2346491

        Yep.. And Fox News is “Fair and Balanced.”

        As for adhering to the Church doctrine, that is obviously expected. However, I’m really talking about EWTN and others like Catholic Answers seeming like the bishops’ press releases. It would be actually interesting if rather than just reading the Church line; they actually had different debates and discussions. Why not have two guests with different ideas about Catholic economic teachings or remarried divorcees or strategies of New Evangelization and have them debate? I think that having an open and lively discussion about issues (as well as being openly critical when criticism is needed) might actually help with “sales.”

        • I think you’re right there. They do have panel discussions but too many of the guests think alike. They do get a lot of e-mail /text questions on The World Over questioning this or that policy of the bishops (why are Pelosi and Biden still allowed to receive Communion seems to be the biggest) and tend to dismiss them. No one has yet asked, that I know of, why Paul Ryan is still allowed to receive Communion after saying atheist Ayn Rand was his biggest influence! I don’t know what they would say there.

          But the the management of EWTN are afraid, because they’ve got a certain base, which largely approves what they do, and supplies their funds, and episcopal disapproval of the network could result in some pressure on them that they don’t want — and no more bishops as guests. And I don’t know that a discussion with Catholics at each others’ throats would bring that many people into the Church (that’s what they mean by “sales” while bishops are “management”).

          • IRVCath

            I doubt the bishops would disapprove if they talked about CST more. But I suspect they fear donors would leave if they challenged their prejudices regarding socioeconomics, in the same way the Los Angeles Times fears the advertisers would pull out if they presented a socially conservative viewpoint.

            It is always hardest to preach about the sins of the people who pay for your bread. In a way people like the Holy Father, or the Franciscan brothers have more freedom in this regard, as in the first case he has the support of billions, and in the latter because they often depend on so little.

  • ImTim

    Is it mere coincidence that Ray, Akin, Shea and Hahn spell RASH? The itchy, uncomfortable disease eating away at the skin of the church? HMMM?!? Making it so that any old convert can just invade the body of Christ? I smell a conspiracy! Get your pitchforks and torches, True Catholics!

    /end sarcasm

  • Random thought about traditionalism and liturgy: I noticed a while ago that, having been born in the 1970’s, the Ordinary Form feels “traditional” and like “my culture” and inspires curmudgeonly conservative protectiveness in me, whereas the Extraordinary Form, although magnificent, doesn’t feel like “my” culture or tradition–it feels like an admirable exoticism, as if I were attending a Byzantine liturgy. Does anyone else who grew up going to the O.F. every Sunday notice feeling this way?

    • James H, London

      I think it would for me, if I could bring myself to attend one – but I haven’t, so far. Going by the tone of their blogs and comments, I don’t think that’s a crowd I really want to get involved with.

      • Oh, don’t judge them by their most extremist elements. Most offline E.F. folks are just lovely.

        • Heather

          Agreed! I have as little time for internet “the TLM is my battleground in the culture war!” curmudgeons as anyone. But the folks at the Oratorian parish I brought my RCIA class to the other week for a traditional Solemn High Mass were utterly lovely, lending us booklets to follow along with and checking with us afterwards to see what we thought.

      • Lisa

        I have been going to the TLM (diocesan or FSSP) almost exclusively for the past several years, and I have never met anyone like this. My guess is, if you go to Mass at a parish approved by the local bishop, the vast majority of the people there will be welcoming, happy, and loving. At least that is my experience. There may be some people who rub you the wrong way, but life is like that, isn’t it?
        I could give you tons of examples of Catholics who attend Novus Ordo who are bitter, angry, and unloving. But it would be incredibly unjust of me to go around acting as if this is the norm.

    • $2346491

      The same here.. It would be like watching some sort of play or production on a Sunday. I know someone who has attending an Extraordinary Form Mass on her bucket list right next to going on an African safari.

      • Well, it definitely feels like Mass to me, it just doesn’t feel like mine, because it’s not the one my mom dragged us to as kids. Sushi and burgers are both great, but sushi doesn’t taste like home.

    • Lisa

      I felt this way when I first started attending the TLM. In fact, the first time, I cried, and they were not tears of joy. In a way, I felt hurt that something that was so important to me – the Mass, was so unfamiliar. And it wasn’t because of the language. I had been to Spanish Masses and felt at home. But everything was strange, and I was so distracted trying to figure out what was going on the whole time that I pretty much missed what was going on.
      But it didn’t take long before I started to figure it out. Now, I love it. Being familiar with something makes a big difference, but I completely understand where you’re coming from.

      • So glad for you! Thanks for sharing this.

        • I feel pretty much as you do, Irenist. I’ve never been to a Mass according to the 1962 missal since about 1964 and I was just seven years old at the time. The changeover to English was complete within a couple of years. I was young enough that none of it bothered me, I was happy to have a Mass that I could follow in English and have been happy with it ever since. I have always loved Latin in the liturgy, especially since I learned the language in high school and later studied it for my history work. I delight in follow the Pope’s OF Masses in Latin – with English and other languages in the readings and all the beautiful chant – and think this must be the best the Church can offer. That and the weekly English OF liturgy make me happy. I don’t feel any special desire for the EF and the ad orientam way of saying it completely turns me off. Yes, I know the theological reason for it – to face East and God together – but I have gotten used to something very different with the ease of communication of priest and people. Perhaps I’d like going to this Mass for nostalgia value, and could get used to the strangeness. I don’t know. But the bitter attitude of some trads is very unappealing and who knows if I’d run into them.

          But what really alienates me is the some of the theology that EF’s supporters tend to associate with it. For instance someone on a blog I won’t name said in a comment that the entire Mass is addressed to God not the people, and that the scripture readings therefore don’t need to be translated into English because they aren’t addressed to the laity in the pews. Someone else opined that the Mass is a form of contemplative prayer, and that the less attention paid to your neighbor in the next pew, the better. This person naturally shuns the sign of peace if at an OF Mass. There has also been a rash of modern day Donatists and Jansenists there who confess that they refuse to go up to Communion if there isn’t a priest distributing and they have to receive from an EMHC. Even if they can steel themselves to it, having a bad (angry) thought about the EMHCs and their ubiquitousness will cause them to return to their pews without receiving. They justify themselves by saying that after all, the Church only obliges you to receive once a year, and a spiritual Communion is just as good, etc. Absolutely batty, if you ask me. Also, they believe the Mass is solely a sacrifice and see any mention of it as a meal being “Protestant.” A type of Eucharistic theology that would seem antiquated even to Pius X. I know Benedict wanted to see the EF itself grow and change in an organic way, but its biggest supporters are never going to let it.

    • Rosemarie


      Yes the OF does feel that way for me, though I did get used to the EF after attending a few times. The first time I went it felt quite different. It was an Indult Mass back in late 1989. The rather young priest gave a scathing homily against the SSPX (I had no idea who they were) and the false Bayside apparitions (the latter were an ongoing, local phenomenon at the time). I wasn’t used to scathing homilies so I was a little taken aback, but not enough to keep me away forever. He was actually right to warn people to steer clear of those movements.

    • Kate Bluett

      I was born in 1979, and the OF definitely feels like my Mass. I’ve never been to an EF Mass, and I’m not particularly interested: I’d have to drive an hour to skip Mass at my own parish. Or I could go to the Byzantine rite Mass across the street from my own parish. But both the Byzantine and the EF Masses would be more like field trips for my kids. I feel a lot of protectiveness toward the OF, although I can tell when something’s done wrong. I want it done right; I don’t want to leave it for some other rite. And thanks to many years of all-school Masses, and I can still sing big chunks of the Glory and Praise hymnal from memory. So I know how to do it wrong, you know?

  • Shawna Mathieu

    Several times, I’ve run into people who more or less tell me that, because I’m “just” a convert, I can talk about my conversion, but nothing else. I was on a online forum and was outright told that, as a convert, I need to sit down, shut up, and let cradle Catholics talk and answer questions. I’ve also freaked a few people out when they found out I’m a convert from Wicca…had a few that automatically assumed I must be some kind of mole or infiltrator, and couldn’t possibly be an ACTUAL convert. Gee, thanks.

    • Ask these people about St. Paul some time….

    • Peter Holmes

      I have experienced the same reaction from cradle Catholics. ‘Tell us about your conversion, which makes us feel good about being Catholic. But whatever you do don’t say anything that isn’t directly from the book of permissible Catholic phrases which we all grew up with.’

      For many years I was ridiculed and rejected wherever I taught on this basis, by a loud minority of both the so called ‘left’ and ‘right’.

      I am happy to say that a majority of Catholics were delightful, interested and thoughtful when I had the privilege to teach them.

  • Mark R

    There are 2 things I would like to get off my chest: 1) There should come a time when converts stop characterising themselves as converts. This would be different for each individual, but one cannot spend one’s life as a perpetual convert any more than one can be a perpetual junior high pupil. 2) Contrary to the fairy tales, pre-Vatican Ii Catholics were in many ways progressive. They believed in the possibilities of science, they embraced the possibilities offered by increased political muscle and prosperity without minimising obedience to Church teaching…in fact this forward thinking was at the behest of the Church….which is one reason seminary enrollment was so high, at least in the US, at the time.

    • dcmac

      Except Manning was also a convert. Had his wife lived he may have been a happy lay catholic.

  • Fascinating that he cites Newman. This complaint against the Protestant converts ruining the Church was precisely what Manning and the other ultramontanists made against Newman and his fellows.

    Plus ça change…


  • Ronald King

    Being born in 1947, raised Catholic, attending Catholic grade school, being an altar boy and memorizing the catechism indoctrinated me into a belief system which provided a moral compass for life outside the community of my church which I left when I turned 18. I left because I experienced a void within me which I now understand was in part constructed within that community. It was an absence of empathy and a reliance on the authoritarian instruction of morality which formed the foundation of relationships with self, others and God. The rebellion in my generation was against authoritarian control and indoctrination which created and supported the history of violence we inherited. That rebellion was a step toward self awareness but it did not accomplish what we had hoped. It ultimately ended in hedonistic pursuit but it did create a foundation for a different vision for human development and relationships. That is all I will write about that except to say the void was also present in the rebellion but at least we learned to identify it and began to understand its development. I returned to the Faith 40 years later through God’s Love and the void is still present and its influence is just as strong as it was in my childhood. At least I know what it is now and what has created and sustains it.

  • Loretta

    As a convert, count me “in” on the conspiracy. Except all I brought with me in 1972 were a few hymns and a tattered King James Bible that used to belong to my grandmother. In its marginal notes was where I first learned of “church tradition.”

  • accelerator

    Nonsense. This little rant is guilty of just the over the top name calling you accuse your critics of. Rorarti Caeli even posted a long caveat to the Tolkien piece. Lead by exams: listen to the substance of what these guys say… There is more than a little truth to it.