Sunday 14 July 2013

Responding to Dr Tracey Rowland

DrShaw has already made an erudite reply to Dr Tracey Rowland’s remarks in her CNS interview. While this blog is only a minor player in the league of blogs, I do hope that if Dr Rowland is aware of the criticism she is receiving and decides to google it, that she comes across this short response.

Dear Dr Rowland,

I am sorry if your experience of attending the Extraordinary Form (EF) is as poor as you seem to suggest. I started celebrating the EF before the days of Summorum Pontificum, and while I found long-time adherents to the EF rather unwelcoming and perhaps suspicious of newcomers, I recognised this as understandable since they had been boxed into a defensive corner by thirty five years of struggle and derision. In that hostility towards the EF is still present among many in the Church (who seem to think that what was good enough for the saints of millennia is beneath them) those who prefer the EF are not likely to overcome their fears and defensiveness easily, and your interview does not help the situation.  

First, you seem in this interview to be very one-sided and rather unaware of the wider picture. You say that in your experience people attending the EF dissect the celebration, yet you fail to mention a widespread attitude among those who attend the Ordinary Form of “I prefer Fr X’s Mass to Fr Y’s Mass” and the even more common “I didn’t like those hymns today”. In my experience of celebrations of the Extraordinary Form the content of the homily is much more likely to be commented upon; rarely the mistakes Father makes with the rubrics. I grant that the singing may sometimes be subject to criticism, but that criticism too is not restricted to celebrations of the Extraordinary Form.

Second, comments about being “dressed in funny clothes” or “belonging to a different era in history” seem remarkably condescending and indeed, rather off-key. It is my experience –even when celebrating the EF before Summorum Pontificum when only the brave and dedicated dared to attend- that the dress of those present was simply formal, not that of another era. It might have been good for you to note how those who attend the Ordinary Form dress immodestly; females in skirts that barely cover the buttocks and males in T-shirts with dubious messages and images.

Third, while we do indeed need to correct the idea that attending the EF is a statement against the Second Vatican Council, it might have been good for you to note how among a number of those who attend only the Ordinary Form there is often a rejection of the Church’s Tradition as expressed in the EF, and a displeasure with the Council of Trent and the First Vatican Council.

In conclusion, I am sorry to say I do not feel this interview presents you in a good light, and hope this is due to editing. I feel you come across as someone who is either very unaware of the wider picture or as one-sidedly critical. Further, I feel you are not so much “friendly towards" the EF as “not antagonistic” towards it. Sadly, friends of mine -who simply dress modestly and are actively engaged with and understanding of the liturgy, do not seem to be given due respect in your comments.

Fr Dickson.


  1. Your blog is not so minor in my opinion! I hope she reads this; very well done thank you father!


    1. Thank you for your comment on this post...and your comment on the blog! being a small rural parish, we do not see ourselves here as a major player in any league, though we do hope to be (or aim to be) orthodox and charitable.
      God bless you and yours.

  2. Dear Fr Dickson,
    I must say I'm disappointed. "Erudite" you say, I would call it "ignorant".
    As far as those parishioners who wear dresses barely covering their buttocks and men with their dubious T-shirts, I take it you regularly catechise your flock on modesty, chastity and so forth... good manners as well, love your neighbour as yourself...? After all, it's the priests that make their flock isn't it. If parishioners comment on the priest saying Mass, I would say that, quite frankly it's the fault of priests who for decades now have "done their own thing" and educated their flock to pick and choose, and let's be honest, some priests are lazy, mediocre (yes, I have come across bullying and mediocre priests) and couldn't be bothered. It has been too easy for some priests to pass the organisation of the Mass to the Parish Liturgical Committee, whether they believe this is empowerment of the laity (priest's seminary education (?) or sheer laziness. If priests can pick and choose what they do, then parishioners sure can criticise hymns at Mass. As for parishioners rejecting Church Tradition, I take it you're preaching hammer and tongs about it in your parish.
    Perhaps you'd like to send Joseph Shaw an email about modest use of words, politeness and Christian love of neighbour. That's the second woman he's insulted on-line, first epislon, now Tracey Rowland. Gosh, "traditionalists" really can't stand people who agree with Vatican II and Novos-Ordo-goers. Sigh, such a schismatic mentality, at least I'm loyal to "both" Popes, the Magisterium, Vatican II (yes, though I question it). Though I love the Mass of Ages, and love the graces that flow endlessly from it, I attend the Novus Ordo and am happy to eat these crumbs that have been thrown down at me, well, all of us really, by the Papacy. Unlike some traditionalists who, in the meantime, have been stuffing themselves on the cake of the Latin Mass and are happy to pour scorn on others because they can't see the end of their noses because the cake's too big.

    1. Thank you very much for your comment.

      Sadly, when any of us speak or write we are liable to offending someone, and I’m genuinely saddened if my comments, Dr Shaw’s comments or those of Dr Rowland offended.

      I am not aware of Dr Shaw and epsilon you mention, but in that he is often as teasing in speaking of Fr Loftus as when speaking of Dr Rowland, I did not see his comments as insulting. For myself, I replied to Dr Rowland with my own thoughts and those made known to me after our TLM yesterday. I hope my post says nothing disparaging about Dr Rowland herself; my aim was to express how I felt she came across and how others felt hearing on her comments.

      Catechising on modesty, manners, and living out the spiritual and corporal works of mercy is indeed something I try to do. While I admit that it is rare to see immodest dress at either Form of Mass, it does happen. It is particularly disturbing during the distribution of Holy Communion to suddenly behold a significant quantity of flesh: it is not always holy thoughts that are generated. That said, I’m not sure what Dr Rowland meant about being dressed as from another era: a man in shirt is the same at either Form of Mass; a woman in a dress is the same at either Form of Mass; I had the impression that her comments arose from seeing women wearing mantillas.

      On the fact that priests pick and choose too, I fully agree with you: it causes problems for the people on where to attend Mass. I admit I avoid Novus Ordo concelebrations per se because I never know what kind of celebration I will find, Novus Ordo liturgy encompassing extremes (from an ad-orientem celebrations in Latin at the Oratory to puppet-dancing Masses elsewhere). That extremism is one of its weaknesses. I support preference in regard to which Form one attends, but I am disturbed when there is actual hostility to either Form, since both encompass the same Victim, same Sacrifice and offer the same graces. Still,

      In regard to those reject Tradition, I’m sad to say I experienced such a rejection in seminary and still experience it in parish life -among priests as well as laity. There is, I think, a set of folk who see Vatican II as a whole new beginning; others who see it almost as the work of the devil. These extremes are unhelpful, even damaging. We simply must get to the point where Vatican II is read in the hermeneutic of continuity so that we can all be loyal to all our Popes. I recently heard a great comment that while John-Paul II gave us the lex credendi in the Catechism, Benedict gave us the Lex orandi in liturgical reform, and Francis is giving the Lex Vivendi. I think all three give us all three aspects, but I see from where they are coming.

    2. I´m a convert to the Faith, too. I love your blog and never found anything offensive.
      Your blog ist very comforting, Father!

    3. Thanks for your comment Martina.
      I hope the Faith is suitably enriching your life. In Our Lord every treasure we need is to be found, and more besides.
      God bless you and yours.

  3. Here here, well put father
    Sally Anne

    1. Thank you for your comment. God bless you and yours.

  4. Father, I wish people would read what Professor Rowland writes, or at least place her words in context.

    The context here as Fr Blake points out is the Usus Antiquior and Evangelisation. It is understandable that the Chairman of the LMS expresses no interest whatsoever in Evangelisation and is only interested in clothes and nitpicking, it is significant too that he doesn't take up the Professor's criticism of partisanship, the rejection of VII but I would have thought you, as a concerned priest would have shared Rowland's interest in evangelisation and the Traditional Rite, rather than leaping on the anti-Rowland bandwagon.

    1. Thanks for your comment.
      Since I made my response to Dr Rowland quite early I did not see myself as joining a bandwagon, merely as responding to criticisms of the devout folk who attend the TLM. Those criticisms described the folk as people who ‘dissect’ the celebration and people who dress as though from another era in history, which I felt were quite disrespectful remarks to make. Dr Rowland could well have noted that people who attend the TLM are in fact, simply dressed in modest clothing and so engaged with the Mass that they spot errors in its celebration.
      Dr Rowland’s third point is only part of the truth: yes we need to have attendance at the TLM untied from opposition to the Second Vatican Council for the sake of evangelisation (after all, the TLM has much to offer by way of sacrality, dignity and historical pedigree) but Dr Rowland would have done better to clarify that since the people who attend the TLM are (apart from the SSPX) still in union with Rome and the post Vatican II Church, that the error of tying the TLM to opposition to Vatican II is made by those who object to the TLM.
      God Bless.


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