When I first began working as an Ethernet cabling installer, I often worried that my skills weren’t “commercial grade.” It would take me a long time to snake cables through walls, install professional looking Ethernet ports, and properly hang, install, and setup a network box. I often thought to myself “I bet the professionals at Cox and Verizon do a way better job than I do.” That desire to be considered a “professional” drove me to keep improving my craft and learning something new every day.
Recently, I went to a potential clients house for a survey, and I opened up his fiber box to inspect the cabling. The Ethernet wire coming from the fiber box was haphazardly wired, and the installer stapled a non-outdoor rated cable to the bottom of the vinyl siding. Worse still, he simply drilled a hole straight through the outside wall to reach the clients living room, instead of running the wire in the crawlspace or in conduit. Sloppy work, from someone who probably considers himself a professional, and certainly from a company that should have higher standards.
Sadly, this poor installation is just a sample of low standards in industry. Journalism has suffered greatly too. My wife informed me of an article from The Catholic Virginian that talked about the recent changes to the Latin Mass. I’ve already written about these changes, and in general, I’m not a fan of what the Pope did. I also don’t read the Catholic Virginian, mainly because I find most Bishops incredibly dull and boring. Sorry for saying that out loud, but lets be really frank here: how often has your Bishop ever visited your church? I typically see his likeness once a year, during the Bishop’s Request for Funding…I mean, Annual Appeal.
Anyway, at my wife’s behest, I dug up the July 22nd article by Cindy Wooden. Now, I’m used to reading poorly written articles, but only because the Babylon Bee is making fun of them in some way. But Cindy? Her article is particularly lame. It might as well have been written by CNN. Let’s dive into this, section by section, because you probably need a good laugh for a Saturday afternoon.
Cindy starts off by quoting Archbishop J. Augustine Di Noia, who for the sake of fun we’re going to call “Archbishop Montoya” because it rhymes and allows me to make Princess Bride jokes. Cindy quotes Montoya, who says the Latin Mass ban “fearlessly hits the nail on the head: the TLM (Traditional Latin Mass) movement has hijacked the initiatives of St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI to its own end.” Now, that quote begs some questions. What is this TLM movement? Who runs it? And what exactly has it hijacked? Well, Cindy hints at this two paragraphs later, where she writes “When St. John Paul and Pope Benedict expanded the possibility of using the pre-Vatican II Mass, they were hoping to promote unity in the Church and to counter abuses that were widespread in the celebration of the post-Vatican II Mass…”
Now, an intelligent reader would then expect to hear a discussion about why the Latin Mass somehow didn’t promote unity AND didn’t address widespread abuses in the post-Vatican II Mass. Don’t worry about that second part…we’ll never get to it, since that might unwind some of Cindy’s arguments. In the next paragraph, we get the first point: that the Latin Mass allowance was made to try and bring in the currently outcast group of former Catholics called SSPX, or Society of Saint Pius X. The article continues to quote Montoya and suggests that the Latin Mass was allowed specifically to placate members of SSPX.
But is that true? Does Archbishop Montoya keep using words that he doesn’t know the meaning of? Apparently. It’s not hard to find that Marcel Lefebvre (the founder of the SSPX movement) objected to a lot of things about the post-Vatican II church. He even said so in his “Open Letter to Confused Catholics.” This isn’t hard to find. Lefebvre was mad that there was a joint Catholic-Lutheran Commission. He was mad that kids in Catholic schools barely knew their prayers or said grace before meals. He was mad that people didn’t pray in public. And on and on.
In short, Lefebvre had a fever, and the only cure was a lot more cowbell in the form of prayer, fasting, and a return to a lot of things done in the past. I don’t particularly like the guy, but after reading what he wrote, I can at least understand his viewpoint. He makes many valid points while going a bit overboard on others. More importantly, only one of his points was the Latin Mass. So it’s really disingenuous to say that was the whole reason for having the Latin Mass around. Don’t worry though, Cindy demonstrates true journalistic integrity when she lays out the next section, titled “Betrayal of two popes’ intentions.”
Cindy provides us a link to latinmassdir.org, which, like The Catholic Virginian, was something I didn’t know existed. Thankfully for me, I followed Cindy’s link and realized my church’s information was woefully out of date! I quickly created an account and updated it, including the links to the streaming Masses, since I was the guy that set those up in the first place. Certainly can’t have false information floating around on websites, otherwise we’d wind up like some flawed CNN-like publication….anyhow, back to the article.
Cindy quotes Montoya again, stating “…the intentions of the two pontiffs who permitted the celebration of the 1962 Missal to draw traditionalists back into the unity of the Church. What the Holy Father is saying is that the TLM movement is working for objectives that are precisely contrary to what St. John Paul and Benedict XVI hoped for.” Again, this implies the “TLM movement” (whatever that is) is outside the church. So this is talking about SSPX? But by SSPX’s own words, they had a whole list of gripes. Did we solve those? Did we fix Catholic education, or the whole list of other things Lefebvre had a fever over?
Not really. So are we surprised that it didn’t work?
The article ends with this quote from Montoya: “Pope Francis is right to see in the repristination of the pre-conciliar liturgy at best a form of nostalgic dalliance with the old liturgy and at worst a perverse resistance to the renewal inspired by the Holy Spirit and solemnly confirmed in the teaching of an ecumenical council.”
Ouch. I had to lookup “dalliance” because I don’t know what Montoya meant. Dalliance means “a casual or brief romantic or sexual relationship.” Man, good thing I don’t have to explain that word to my kids!
Let me just say it: this article is trash. It’s poorly resourced and poorly written, and I say that because:
- It has one source (Archbishop Montoya).
- That source, like pretty much all sources, has a bias.
- It makes no attempt to bring in any counter arguments to balance the source bias.
- It lumps a lot of people into the same group (we have words for that behavior that end in -ist).
- It ignores other, similar things the Church allows.
Points 1 through 3 are pretty obvious. A good article challenges our thinking. It brings in contrary facts and demands that we sort these out in our head. I recently read an article about a man who used a sophisticated AI chatbot to “bring alive” his dead girlfriend. The article bounced between the obvious trauma someone feels when losing their loved one to the technical challenges of simulating humans to the ethical questions about whether it was right or not. In the end, the article made me cry a little and think a lot about the ethics and humanity behind it all. It brought in opposing viewpoints. It was smartly written. I’ll bet it’ll sit with me for a while.
Cindy’s article contains none of this. It’s obviously biased. It misses opportunities to ask other people for their thoughts. It certainly doesn’t challenge us to use our brains. And thus, like most of the other publications coming from the Diocese, it’ll be forgotten.
I addressed point 4 in my previous article about the Latin Mass changes. Yes, there are SSPX people out there that aren’t in Communion with the Catholic Church. And there are people in more traditional non-SSPX parishes that think Vatican II was the worst thing ever, and kids in public school have lice, and girls with skirts above their ankles are border-line prostitutes. Yup, those people exist. But there are a large number of people that just don’t want guitars and joking at Mass. They flock to the Latin Mass because its a bit more serious. More focused. More…religious? Many of these people send their kids to public school, and they don’t believe that the Illuminati took over the Vatican in the form of Pope Francis.
Lumping these people in with SSPX, which is exactly what Cindy Wooden does, is unfair, biased, and just poor journalism. It’s the racist equivalent of lumping black Africans in with black Haitians, or Japanese and Chinese people into one group and assuming they have similar backgrounds. It demonstrates low reporting standards. It’s the equivalent of a poor Cox or Verizon installation, and the editor should be ashamed for allowing it in the first place.
On point 5, the article ignores a pretty key point. The Catholic Church is mainly composed of the Latin Rite, but it has many others. There are plenty of approved deviations, including the Armenian Rite, Melkite Greek Catholic Church and others. We let these churches celebrate the same Sacraments slightly differently. Is it that hard to allow some parishes to celebrate in Latin? Wait, doesn’t the Pope celebrate Mass in Latin? Isn’t that, like, the official language of the Vatican?
I’ll end with a comparison. Marcel Lefebvre attempted to ordain priests and eventually a bishop without approval from the Pope. For these actions, on July 2nd 1988, Pope John Paul II excommunicated him, and rightly so. Ever since then, SSPX and the Catholic Church have been working to find a way to reunite. In 2019, Pope Francis reached a deal with the Chinese Communist Party to attempt to protect Catholics in China. In 2021, the CCP blocked the Pope from essentially having any say over the appointment of Catholic Bishops in China.
I ask the reader: what standards were applied?
“…hoping to promote unity in the Church…”– Archbishop Noia
“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”– Inigo Montoya
This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.