From a priest – In Coronavirus time “conservative priests have become more liberal and liberals more conservative”

From a priest…

A brother priest, in a recent conversation, made an interesting
comment about our diocese. For context, he is one who offers both the Novus and Vetus Ordo forms of the Holy Mass in his parish. To paraphrase his observation, he said “In these past weeks it appears that the conservative priests have become more liberal and liberal priests have become more conservative“.

His point was that the more liberal priests have shuttered their
parishes up and even offered little in form of extra devotions live, on-line or pre-produced. In contrast the more traditional priests increased their virtual outreach. The more liberal priests have not re-opened when permission was granted to have public Holy Adoration, Holy Confession and Holy Mass whereas the traditional ones have with prudence.

I do not wish to offer a blanket judgement on all priests and styles, but it appears he has his finger on something. Well, at least he does in our diocese. It could be as simple as certain priests knowing the traditional devotions, and therefore have a cache of spiritual treasures to offer. Who, knows?

Now, understanding that opening up a parish with social distancing norms demands much preparation, I am inclined to give some leeway to all priests. However, looking at the responses over two months might show us the distinction between a parish who is serving a social mission verses a supernatural mission.

I see this same response in my area among the Protestants as well. The conservative ecclesial communities and the liberal ecclesial communities have followed somewhat the same pattern as the conservative/liberal priests.

Food for thought perhaps.

Food for thought.

I don’t think that conservatives are becoming more liberal or liberals more conservative.

Instead, this challenge has brought to the fore what is already there.

The conservatives or traditional priests believe that Masses are effective whether there are people there or not.  They want people to be able to pray before the Blessed Sacrament and having their sins forgiven.  They, therefore, look for creative ways to make those things happen, even using tools of social communication.  They go out of their way.

The liberals, on the other hand, also show their colors.  While this is a blanket statement as well, as my old pastor used to say, scratch a liberal and underneath you find a despot.  It is not “conservative” to be despotic.  It is the essence of the liberal, who can be defined as “one with whom you are free to agree”.   Lib priests withdraw into their places and hunker down, because without a congregation focused on their faces at “liturgy”, well.. what’s the point?   Modernism: the reduction of the supernatural to the natural.

Are such blanket statements fair?  Are there exceptions?  Sure.   But it is indeed food for thought.

Please share this post!
Share

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Mail from priests, Priests and Priesthood, The Drill and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to From a priest – In Coronavirus time “conservative priests have become more liberal and liberals more conservative”

  1. The current crisis has torn the masks off everybody, and exposed everyone’s true priorities: clergy, laity, political leaders, captains of industry — everybody.

  2. abasham says:

    With due reverence, Father, perhaps he was making a bit of a pun.

    To my eye, it reads that this crisis has caused the “conservative” priests to become ever more “liberal” in sharing their gifts – as in, giving freely of themselves and embracing every new possibility from drive-through confessions to masses on Facebook.

    Whereas the “liberal” clergy have become more “conservative” – keeping things to themselves, not sharing their charism, refusing creativity, and failing in boldness.

    One group seeks to open themselves to the world, one to be closed off from it. Funny that we should be wrong about which describes the so-called “liberals” and “conservatives.”

  3. Fr. Reader says:

    1) “The more liberal priests have not re-opened when permission was granted to have public Holy Adoration, Holy Confession and Holy Mass whereas the traditional ones have with prudence.”
    In the place in which I live things are not like this. Among other things because reality is much more complicated than just “less and more traditional”. Some priests that I consider more “liberal” have pushed to offer public Masses much earlier that priests that are apparently more “traditional”.

    The use of “more liberal” and “more traditional” sounds like a kind of one-dimensional spectrum in which we can put people. But there is no one dimension in this spectrum. There are many.
    For many reasons I do not like the term “traditional”. After all, we all belong to traditions. Language is a tradition, science is a tradition (many, indeed), liturgical deviations belong to a certain tradition
    Often and in many aspects, very “liberal” people live anchored in the past with old ideas (and not because they are old it means they are good), and tied to “traditions”. It might be the same with some very “traditional” oriented people.
    It is easy to mix tradition and Tradition, and not be able to distinguish that not all that “traditional” people do is part of the Tradition.
    Sorry for the long text.
    2) For various reasons I do not promote very much the video-Masses. I begin to hear things like: “I attended Mass in the internet”, “I attended the Mass of this parish in video”. Perhaps in the language we use here it is more obvious than in English. We might be putting in the mind of the faithful the idea that to “attend” a virtual Mass, it is just like attending a “physical” Mass. If that is the case, why do we bother even to try to re-open the churches?
    Also, for many people (not for all, of course), it is something very passive: what I see in the screen, what I hear in the audio. And since many are used to very “active Masses” (with seven micro-homilies, all kinds of servers and “ministers”, people moving, and action, action, action), it is easy to actually miss the Mass, that is so “simple”, because we might be focusing on other things (the Mass of this particular priest, that place, those involved, the empty seats, the show) that are complex. What about using that time to pray using the texts of the Mass of the day, or the Canon, or other texts, while joining spiritually the Holy Mass that is celebrated?
    In a sense, is like those who feel that they do not participate in the Mass if they do not see what the priest is doing in the altar, so we need a camera for that, or two, and a microphone, and a stadium-like church, so we all can see. Because if we do not see, the Mass might not be valid for me. That is actuosa participatio, isn’t it?
    These are just ideas that I have been processing during these days, and not firm and stable conclusions.

  4. The Masked Chicken says:

    Anita Moore, O.P. (lay) wrote:

    “The current crisis has torn the masks off everybody, and exposed everyone’s true priorities: clergy, laity, political leaders, captains of industry — everybody.”

    They can tear the mask off of my cold, dead beak!

    The Masked Chicken

  5. Fr_Sotelo says:

    Fr. Reader,

    I agree with you wholeheartedly. It is very simplistic, to me, to try to stereotype or pigeonhole priests. In public media, they can be caricatured into one tribe or another, but in real life they are very complicated and defy the labels imposed on them.

    For instance, I have met plenty who were labeled “bad” for one reason or another, who were humble, faithful workers in person. And have met those who were labeled “good” who were not at all pleasant to deal with, or wanted to be catered to, and were not known for a hard work ethic or sense of attentiveness to their flock.

  6. FromVicBC says:

    I’m a member of the Ordinariate and we have a wonderfully orthodox Priest. His wife just had their sixth child. They have a small sunroom they have converted into a… chaplet? Anyway, the online mass is amazing. He has the most fantastic collection of vestments. It’s very clear and you can hear exactly what he is saying (helps he’s an excellent singer as well). He and his family (son is an acolyte) also do mattins and evensong.

    I am taking advantage of doing Sunday mass at home with my kids. I can sing along and know much of the liturgy by heart so they can *hear their father* pray and sing along. I can also let them be a little more goofy in the off moments and can be a little more instructive during important parts.

    Since I’ve been consistent about attending online, I’ve also had the chance to instill the importance of why we do mass. “Why does dad think this is so important that we are going to do it in our living room?”

    I’ll also say that I don’t mind one bit being separated by space from our priest because of what I have learned about the Mass. It is the priest offering the sacrafice, my prayers are simply joined to his. If I am praying to the God of all space and time, and I am doing so to add my prayers to the sacrafice Fr. Kenyon is offering, then it is the same in one church, or on one planet so long as it is at the same time. The delay across the internet would be no different than sitting at the back of a large church.

    My insight from this “pandemic” is that positives always come from negatives when we orient to our King and his church. I love our beautiful liturgy more now than I ever have.

    “But if I say, “I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.”
    Jeremiah 20:9 (NIV… deal with it.)

  7. Charivari Rob says:

    It’s difficult to say much of anything about the original assertion. It mixes discussion of ‘traditional’ (and by implication, ‘not’ or ‘less so’) with ‘liberal’ & ‘conservative’ without much background. Is the original source surprised that priests that don’t fit the ‘traditional’ mode are actually solid?
    Conservatives becoming “more liberal” or liberals becoming “more conservative”?
    Really, I would wonder. How much do people really change their stripes, especially in just 8 weeks?
    What I have seen is what seem to be regular priests from everyday Novus Ordo parishes making great efforts to reach out to their congregations and others by whatever means available (in technology or limited assembly or simply well-being checks) with things they’ve always done – Mass, Liturgy of the Hours, rosary time, scripture reflections, Adoration, processions. That includes reaching beyond their normal congregations and territories online, and popping up online (or probably more accurate to say “being shared”) in places and to people they’ve never met. So, no, definitely not shutting down or closing up. Many building closed or limited access, yes, but that’s the temporary physical reality.
    .
    The so-called “traditionals” popping up or being shared in new places & new ways? Where they haven’t been before? I have no idea

    “It is easy to mix tradition and Tradition, and not be able to distinguish that not all that “traditional” people do is part of the Tradition.”

    Fr. Reader, thank you very much for saying this. It’s a crucial point that I’ve seen for years that I don’t think many at any point along the spectrum of things recognize or choose to acknowledge.

  8. veritas vincit says:

    Fr. Reader: ‘The use of “more liberal” and “more traditional” sounds like a kind of one-dimensional spectrum in which we can put people. But there is no one dimension in this spectrum. There are many.’

    One example: “Traditional” in terms of liturgical practice, is not at all the same as “traditional” or “conservative” in terms of doctrine. I know doctrinally faithful priests who offer only the NO Mass. Doctrine and liturgy are different dimensions (perhaps related to a degree, but still distinct).