A Little Cultural Perspective on Traditionalism and the 'Four Points' - Part 1


Fr. Greiger has explained his opposition to 'traditionalism':
So I openly resist traditionalism because the question of its relative evil when compared to modernism misses the point. Traditionalism proposes itself as the solution of modernism and reduces if not completely eliminates a middle ground. You, in fact, completely, ignore the middle ground.
And that ground is precisely what I am fighting for because it is made of rock and not sand.
This 'ground' that he is willing to fight for ... I wonder if it really is 'rock' and not sand.  It will all depend upon the principles that he bases his stand.  What principles does he invoke in defense of his disobedience? Make no bones about it, Fr. Greiger's entire rebellion is based upon an act of disobedience, just like Archbishop Lefebvre. The question is can he justify it in a rational sense vs the calamity of that has fallen upon the Church of Christ since the Second Vatican Council.  The superiors of the FFI made a decision to go in a certain direction and Fr. Greiger and his companions stroked their beards and whispered: "Non Serviam". Then they launched their appeal which, when you look at the occupants of the positions of authority, their appeal could hardly have found more receptive ears.

If they did not intend the consequences that followed, they were somewhat naive.

Anyway, pondering Fr. Greiger et al's responses to 'traditionalism', their antipathy towards those who (in their view) seem to hold 'anti-conciliar' views similar to the SSPX, it occurred to me that what they lack is some cultural perspective.

That is what I will attempt to provide in this series.

Traditionalism and Organizational Change

Fr. Greiger noted that 'traditionalism' has a counterrevolutionary M.O. and ascribes to it a simple activism as opposed to any deep theological underpinnings. This is a generalized statement, just like saying that Rome is Modernist.  It potentially will be partly correct and partly incorrect and if left at this point, it will simply generate an unthinking prejudice.

In order to understand 'tradtionalism', it is important to understand that as an organization it is a response to cultural change.  This does not mean that there aren't strong theological arguments in support of the stance of 'traditionalists', but it does mean that some stimuli will prompt strong automatic reactions.  Reactions that are similar to the one where Fr. Greiger decided to not obey and appeal to a higher authority.  Why?  Because some of his fundamental assumptions about the FFI/Church were transgressed when his superiors decided to favour the 1962 liturgy etc.

What is organizational culture?

I've discussed aspects of organizational culture before and having interacted with Fr. Greiger, I think time is ripe for a recap.

Edgar Schein describes organizational culture as:
A pattern of shared basic assumptions that the group learned as it solved its problems of external adaptation and internal integration, that has worked well enough to be considered valid and, therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think and feel in relation to those problems. (Organizational Culture and Leadership, Schein 1996)
More simply put Schein noted that Culture is "the basic tacit assumptions about how the world is and ought to be that a group of people share and that determines their perceptions, thoughts, feelings, and their overt behaviour. (source)

Following Schein's model, culture is divided into roughly three interacting levels.

Before the council, there were a number of cultures present within the Church, one dominant, and other(s) classed as sub-cultures.  The artifacts of the Church were all developed by the dominant culture, based on the values, beliefs and assumptions that had developed over the previous millenia.

Examples of the artifacts would be the Liturgy, Ecclesial Structures, clerical garb,and relations with out-groups - to name a few.

The sub-cultures (Neo-Modernism et al) were kept in check by the strong culture of the leadership of the Church, particularly the Pope.

However, after the death of Pope Pius XII, the cultural change started with a change in leadership, as any good culture change program should, in order to be effective. Pope St. John XXIII was the first of a series of Popes that would support the culture change - knowingly or not.

As the leader goes, so will most of the organization after the cultural is unfrozen.  In this case one basic cultural assumption was utilized to effect this change: Obedience and a mistaken understanding of the infallibility and indefectibility of the Pontiff and Church of Christ.

Also the a type of crisis was created by the change of the most solid of artifacts - the liturgy.  In those days of torment, laymen sailed into the Atlantic and consigned to the depths statues and other artifacts.  Those unable to avail themselves of a handy dumping ground resorted to physically damaging statues in order to have an excuse for their disposal.

Next came the endless renovations (ie. wreckovation) of various sanctuaries. The architecture and art both reflect fundamental assumptions and beliefs.

Expressions of Culture - Architecture and Art

The following is a compare and contrast exercise to spot the pre and post conciliar cultural artifacts vs the protestant artifacts.  The differences and similarities between the different era's is stunning.

Example of a 'Traditional Roman Catholic' Sanctuary

Oakland Protestant Church (Denomination unknown)

St. Boniface Cathedral, Winnipeg Manitoba (Catholic)

St. Boniface Basilica- 1937, Winnipeg Manitoba (Catholic)

St. Boniface Basilica (Post Fire Reconstruction), Winnipeg Manitoba (Catholic)

Calvary Baptist Church, Columbo, Missouri
St. Theresa's - Oakland (Catholic)

St. Theresa's - Oakland (post renovation - Catholic)

 Name Escapes me (Protestant)

Precieux Sang - Winnipeg (Catholic)
Holy Trinity  - Edmonton (Protestant - Anglican)
Hope Anglican (Protestant)
Queen Anne United Methodist (Protestant)

Among the items that disappeared during the renovations were communion rails, kneelers, decent statues, the tabernacle being in a place of honour in the Sanctuary ... to name a few.

Why is this important?  Because artifacts reflect the lower/deeper levels of the cultural hierarchy.  The world-view and what is important to the people who hold the culture is reflected in the architectural arrangement.

Why did these artifacts disappear? As a result of the implementation of the documents of the Second Vatican Council.

Cultural Responses

At this point in the cultural change process the people who form the organization were faced with a number of alternatives:
              1. Acquiesce 
              2. Fight
              3. Separate
Those who formed part of the pre-conciliar sub-cultures (Neo-Modernists & Liberals) were ecstatic and in large part continue to be so.  They had their way and as in the case of the FFI, anyone who stood in their way was dealt with in a decisive manner.  To say 'extreme prejudice' would be closer to the reality.

Those who were either discontent with the Church in the Fifties, having imbibed in the worldly culture that surrounded them, or unable to adapt or fight the culture change left ... in droves (ie Priests, Monks, Brothers, Sisters, Lay people).  I would also include in this group the sedevacantists who were so scandalized by the behaviour of the leaders of the Church after the council that they separated themselves from the Church claiming that the men elected as Pope could not possibly have been validly elected.

This leaves those who stayed and fought the changes (doctrinal as well as cultural).  Starting private rosary meetings, salvaging what they could from the wreckovations, and, when they were forced out of their parishes, finding priests to say the 'Old Mass'.  In Canada the Traditionalists owe a great debt of gratitude to Fr. Yves Normandin, who was ousted from his parish in the 70's for reverting to the 'Old Mass'.

At a cultural level, these people knew that the changes were "wrong" intuitively. From receiving communion in the hand standing, singing hymns that sounded protestant, the felt banners, the 'renovations' - they 'knew' that something was amiss at a 'gut' level.  Their treatment as well as the treatment of those cultural, not to mention doctrinal elements reinforced the lessons being taught by the Church.

The sub-cultures, having found champions in high places, became the dominant culture.  The former dominant culture that had generated all the beautiful artifacts representing 2000 years cultural artifacts was cast out as 'old' and wrong.

Specifically, the old Catholic world view was no longer welcome and nor were those who held on to that world view.

Some members of the Church who held a deeper level of knowledge, understood the issues at stake.  Even before the council there had been a conflict between "Liberal/Modernist" and "Conservative/Traditionalist" factions within the Church. The council was only the end of the beginning, not the beginning of the end.

In summary, the 'Traditional Catholics' in large part have preserved the Catholic Cultural assumptions that existed prior to the Council.  Underpinning these cultural assumptions are the pre-conciliar doctrine and dogmas that formed them.  The inter-relation between these cultural assumptions cannot be understated, although not all Traditionalists are as informed of these doctrines/dogmas.

In part 2, I'll do my own review of the 'Four Things' in order to determine if a layperson with an undergrad can see the difference between the pre & post conciliar doctrine.



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