Gnostic Traditionalists and Liturgical Singing

By Poterack, Kurt | Sacred Music, Fall 2009 | Go to article overview

Gnostic Traditionalists and Liturgical Singing


Poterack, Kurt, Sacred Music


There was an article entitled "Gnostic Traditionalists" in the July 31 edition of the Catholic Herald, one of England's best-known Catholic newspapers, by Stuart Reid that caught my attention. I do not have a subscription to the paper in question, but the article was reprinted and appeared on several Catholic websites that I regularly read. It caught my attention because those of us who have been involved in Catholic liturgical music--and indeed the "liturgy wars" of the past several decades--have at times been given pause to reflect upon some of our allies.

One has to be very careful about sinning against charity in such cases. Certainly I do not wish to offend or even alienate my allies in the many prayers that led to Summorum Pontificum--a document that, in my opinion, will bear fruit for centuries. In fact, the chief good that Summorum Pontificum did--or should do--is to break once and for all the stifling psychological atmosphere which grew up after Vatican II that held much of the church's liturgical past as suspect. Nonetheless, I have to stress that, when asked to locate myself on the liturgical spectrum, I will typically say that "I love liturgical tradition--including the Tridentine Mass--but that I do not consider myself to be a 'traditional-ist.'"

In his article, Stuart Reid quoted Thaddeus Kozinski, an American Catholic philosophy professor, who identified "Gnostic traditionalists" as having "the attitude that leads one to believe he possesses an irrefutable insight into the truth of matters of great importance, whether natural or supernatural." To be fair, Professor Kozinski also admits that this attitude "of which he speaks is not confined to the traditionalist right but can be found among ultra-orthodox adherents of the Novus Ordo."

My point about not being a "traditional-ist" (or a "Gnostic traditionalist") is that as Catholics we are to love Christ and his church, follow what she teaches and how she prays--to love her traditional ways of prayer, which lead us to God the Father. Pope Benedict has given a green light to those of us who always thought that something fishy was going on in regard to matters liturgical over the past forty years--at least through semi-official ecclesiastical channels.

The problem is that some traditionalists act as if they have "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth" when it comes to everything from liturgy to chapel veils to American foreign policy.

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