The Culture of Disdain for the Past
Blogged by James Preece on 1st February 2010
When I interviewed Bishop Drainey, we had the following exchange...
I explained that most young people in Middlesbrough diocese don't know the Our Father in Latin. "Well," he replied. "I think that's very sad if that's the case. It's part of our heritage and I feel very strongly about that."
He is going to need to feel very strongly if he is going to do anything about it. He is not up against one or two hippy priests, he's up against a cultural phenomena, as Jeffery Tucker describes in his preface to Msgr Marini's address...
Every Catholic has experienced it at some level, that culture of disdain for the past that has afflicted Catholicisim in the postconciliar period. It happens at our parishes, when a special guest lecturer talks about the supposed horrors Catholic school back in the day, or of how ridiculous it was that the Mass was in Latin, that we attempted to sing chant and did it so poorly, or that we went to confession behind a screen. We read about it in our catechetical materials, that contempt for what has gone before in the great age of ignorance and oppression that was finally swept away in the liberating Age of Aquarius. How unfortunate those people were and how fortunate we are in this enlightened age.
Or so we've been taught. So pervasive has this attitude been that we can speak of self-hating Catholics as a widespread cultural phenomenon. Even in our own parishes, the absence of a positive self identity seems almost required as an ground rule for every conversation. "I don't want to go back to the past of course," we are expected to say before adding any critique of the present. This attitude - this hermeneutic of discontinuity, this positing of a great divide between preconciliar and postconcilar faith - has cut us off in a strange way. Wondering used book stores we find pre-1965 books on the faith and read them like relics. We don't recognize the pictures, understand the words, or even see a familiarity in the disciplines then and now.
You don't fight a culture by quietly pottering away in the Cathedral and making sure Masses there contain the occasional bit of Latin. You fight a culture by doing things openly and publicly in such a way that it becomes a widely known fact that, as Bishop Drainey said to me: "It's part and parcel of being a Latin Rite Catholic to at least know the Our Father or to be able to sing the Creed and the basic things [in Latin]."