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Traditional Latin Mass at the seminary of the Institute of Christ the King, Italy.ICKSP/ YouTube screenshot

(LifeSiteNews) — Earlier this week, none other than the New York Times published a piece profiling traditional Catholics and our love for the Tridentine liturgy. Its headline was “Old Latin Mass Finds New American Audience, Despite Pope’s Disapproval.”

Believe it or not, I didn’t think it was half bad.

The author of the piece, Ruth Graham, covers “religion, faith and values” for the Times. (No relation to the late evangelical titan Billy.) Even if one could quibble with the presentation here or there, her article manages to shine a humanizing light on us traditional Catholics and our perspective.

Not only that, Graham appears to grasp the key to the current conflict between traditionalists and progressives in the Church: It’s not fundamentally about the liturgical trappings of the Mass per se, but about competing visions of what the Church is and should be.

Here’s how Graham puts it:

The Mass has sparked a sprawling proxy battle in the American church over not just songs and prayers but also the future of Catholicism and its role in culture and politics.


On one level, the split over the old Mass represents a clash of priorities and power struggles in church leadership. In pews and parishes, it is more complicated. Many Catholics say they are attracted to the Mass for spiritual reasons, bolstered by aesthetic and liturgical preferences rather than by partisanship.


“It’s a whole vision of the church and what it means to be a Christian and a Catholic that’s at stake here,” said John Baldovin, a priest and a professor at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry who has written often about liturgical issues. “You can’t say it’s just about a beautiful Mass.”

It’s undoubtedly true that most any Catholic who switches from the Novus Ordo to the Latin Mass is attracted to the latter’s heightened sense of reverence, beauty, formality, and mystery; but in light of the dictum lex orandi, lex credendi — the law of prayer is the law of belief — one can see how this attraction flows from a theology and ecclesiology, even if implicit and rudimentary, that are of a more “traditional” flavor.

In other words, our desire for greater reverence, beauty, formality, and mystery in the liturgy is rooted in our conviction that the prevailing progressive vision increasingly excludes these qualities, and thereby debilitates the Church’s interaction with the world and its mission to save souls.

Graham again:

Since Francis became pope in 2013, he has emphasized inclusivity, and attempted to soften the church’s approach to flashpoints like abortion and homosexuality. He has also issued a major encyclical on environmental stewardship, prayed for immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, and appointed women to historically significant roles in church operations.

Because this piece was published in the New York Times, one could safely assume Graham sides with Francis on these issues, and may not even be aware of the full extent to which he routinely scandalizes traditionally-minded faithful.

RELATED: Latin Mass will be suppressed at New Jersey church a year after Pope Francis’ crackdown

But nevertheless Graham is spot-on that “political and theological conservatives see … a troubling disregard for orthodoxy more broadly” in many of Francis’ actions and remarks. If you’re a regular LifeSite reader, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

It’s true: We are disgusted with the progressive orientation of the Francis pontificate. We do fully embrace Church teaching on abortion, same-sex “marriage,” Holy Communion, and their implications. We are informed about what’s happening at the Vatican and in the Church writ large. Progressivism is failing us.

Cheers to Ruth Graham and the New York Times for making a good faith attempt at understanding the concerns of traditional Catholics and giving us a voice. We wish more of our Church leaders did the same.

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Evan Stambaugh is a LifeSite editor. He has a BA in Theology and an MA in Philosophy.