The Passing of the Old Guard

Image result for fatima crusader

Inevitably, all men pass on to their creator.  Every movement or cause is handed to a new generation who is given the choice of how to proceed with it.  With Latin Mass “traditionalism” this is already happening and the next several years will define the direction the broad (and often contradictory) cause will take.

The saintly Archbishop Lefebrve, without a doubt the most prominent figure, died before the Vigilante was even born.  “Independent” priests (whether retired like Fr. Frederick Schell or in whatever situation Fr. James Wathen was in) unattached to any semblance of control from the SSPX, Ecclesia Dei, or a diocese are a thing of the past.  Over the years we have seen many of the men who spoke loudest for traditionalism meet their eternal reward:  the intellectual and well read if not always precise Michael Davies, the untouchable humorous wine guzzler Gregory Hesse, and the affable and kindly Nicholas Gruner (whose death seems to have deprived the Fatima Center of its very heart and soul).  The balding Christopher Ferarra is a far cry from the energetic firebrand he used to be, Richard Williamson (discredited and mocked in the mainstream due to his extremist views) has broken from the SSPX and formed his rump alt-SSPX, the sedevacantists are a laughing stock, the ever-smiling and youthful Bernard Fellay is fast becoming an old man, the apocalyptic language that used to be all too common and was slightly alleviated during the rule of Benedict XVI has resumed under Frankie (the greatest antidote to right-wing ultramontanism that God has ever blessed us with).  Men and Women who remembered the “good old days” before Vatican II are well into their old age and leave either nothing or a fanciful romantic view of those times to their descendants.

The question is, however, what path will those descendants take?  Those who remain committed to the cause or the “new blood” who enter it from other sectors of Catholicism have no memory of the 1940’s or 50’s.  Will they create Amish style communities to play dress-up and remain forever locked in that state (as some FSSP/SSPX adherents the Vigilante knows have done)?  Will they answer the call of Bp. Fellay and Fr. Pfluger to look forward and not remain perpetually stuck in the 1970’s, the 1950’s, or the 19th century?  Will they look deeper into their tradition and see that there is so much more that was before Trent or Pius IX?  Only history will tell.

The one thing that stood out to the Vigilante about the “old guard” of traditionalists was their genuine sincerity.  Fr. Gruner truly seemed to believe that devotion to Fatima was all that was needed to save the world, Frederick Schell (according to anyone whoever met him) was a pure no-nonsense man with a German practicality, Lefebrve was a man torn between the way things used to be and how they turned out, and even good old Richie Williamson appears to believe everything he says.  What stands out among all these men, whether dead or aging, is that there is no hint of hypocrisy among them.  No matter how much the Vigilante has matured to agree or disagree with their various positions, he has always admired their conviction.

Whatever path the younger crowd of traditionalists takes is not in the hands of the Vigilante.  He has crossed the Eastern frontiers of Galicia into an entirely different liturgical landscape, but can only hope that they look deeper into the traditions of their Church and not content themselves with simplistic and ahistorical explanations.

Their valiant forbears often lacked the ability or time to have a comprehensive understanding of Church Tradition, but they have no such excuse.  Should they become complacent and worry themselves with 1950’s “culture” that they have no way of truly understanding, dresses that dare go a millimeter above the kneecap, devotional fads that offer a “golden ticket” to paradise or out of purgatory, or an obsession with “modernism” in the most imprecise or broad terms, then the movement will become a fossil that dwindles and decays into the dustbin of history alongside the Cathars or the Hussites.

May God bless them with the strength and judgement to use their talents to best benefit the Church.

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5 thoughts on “The Passing of the Old Guard

  1. Hello! Great article, and you have conveyed your first-hand experience well.

    But how do these tradition-loving communities ‘fossilize’? Is it the inability or unwillingness to rise contemporary challenges? Is it the neglect of spiritual growth in favor of preserving inherited cultural norms? Is it the inability or unwillingness to expand their numbers? Or any other cause?

    I hope you don’t mind my questions.

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    • I enjoy your questions!

      “Is it the inability or unwillingness to rise contemporary challenges? Is it the neglect of spiritual growth in favor of preserving inherited cultural norms? Is it the inability or unwillingness to expand their numbers?”

      Somewhat, yes, and no. Many are quite active in causes such as pro-life and there is always new blood coming in from those seeking to escape the guitar masses and David Haas hymns. But it is often this very new blood that keeps the communities stuck in the pseudo-1950’s culture. In their attempt to fit in, many of these souls adopt the culture as if it is a package deal with the Latin Mass. As a result, you will hear many a conversation about “modernism” from people who have never heard of Alfred Loisy or George Tyrrell. Also, the devotionalism is limited to things between 1570 and 1962 (aside from those pushing for new apparitions) so walking into the church may be similar to entering a carnival of post-Tridentine devotions , including some that would have been better forgotten.

      Not that I am trying to paint the whole of them with a broad brush, but this certainly applies to a large subset. Fossilize may or may not be the right word…

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      • Thank you for responding!

        If my understanding of your article is correct, your concern is that the newer generation of traditionalists will cease to become a relevant force that ought to be reckoned within the Western Church. Do these traditionalists need to chuck out the the pseudo-1950’s culture? But then where will you draw the line between helpful and harmful customs?

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      • Apologies for the late response (you know how life is…)

        Customs that are in line with timeless tradition are helpful. Ideas made up by desperate devotionalists are harmful. I see it that simply.

        The 1950’s culture will die. As younger generations emerge, the culture becomes more removed from the actual 1950’s/40’s and a more obvious parody. It will phase itself out of existence and something new will gradually emerge. What that is, I have no idea.

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