Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Humble Will Be Exalted

There's another liturgical mess making the rounds of the Catholic blogs. Out in Orange County, parishoners at a more traditional parish are being ordered not to kneel.

Some parishoners haven't taken this on their knees, which is part of the problem. Anti-episcopal activism, though often starting in true grievances, can lead to a kind of ascetic pride. The protestor might think of himself as another Athanasius or a Catherine of Sienna, even invoking their names in his letters of protest.

But despite all the traditionalism such efforts hope to advance, protest is one of the crasser features of modernity. As Alisdair MacIntyre has commented:

indignation is a predominant modern emotion... Protest is now almost entirely that negative phenomenon which characteristically occurs as a reaction to the alleged invasion of someone's rights in the name of someone else's utility. The self-assertive shrillness of protest arises because... protestors can never win an argument: the indignant self-righteousness of protest arises because... the protestors can never lose an argument either. Hence the utterance of protest is characteristically addressed to those who already share the protestors' premises... Protestors rarely have anyone else to talk to but themselves. This is not to say that protest cannot be effective; it is to say that it cannot be rationally effective.

Not only is protest not rationally effective, I do not think modern forms of protest can be spiritually effective either. Those wronged should kneel before the archbishop in supplication, asking him permission to kiss his ring and beseeching him to hear their cause. A shrieking letter is easy to ignore, but he'll be too embarrased to refuse a personal request made in so obsequious a manner. Obedient humility of the ring-kissing sort is exactly the kind of practice traditionalists should revive.

Then perhaps the lowly will be lifted up, and certain bishops will be reminded of the duties their God requires of them.

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