Note to progressive Catholics: Enough about the cross-dressers

In my list of favorite sites, I include the National Catholic Reporter. If you are an arch-conservative, you might know it as the National Catholic Distorter/Destroyer/Fish wrap.) It is an independent news source with a strong liberal bias, though it does has more moderate and conservative voices as well. I like reading this publication, though I disagree with much of what is written there. At least points of view can be heard that often are not heard in a Vatican publication.

Despite my respect for the NCR overall, I have been consistently disappointed with their-the writers and the community alike-treatment of the Tridentine Latin Mass. (For those who are not aware, the Tridentine Latin Mass is the fancy schmancy Mass with the smells, bells, vestments, Gregorian chants, organs, etc. that you see depicted in movies and classic novels.)

The significance of this is that since Vatican II, such Masses have not been  the norm and instead, the Novus Ordo Missa (New Order Mass) has taken its place. Its hallmarks are use of the vernacular language, lay participation, receiving Communion in the hand while standing, and other features that I will not get into right now. It’s much less formal and to many, much less mystical.

I personally prefer the TLM. I respect the Novus Ordo Missa and those that prefer to worship in that style.

It would seem that not all Catholics agree with me. Progressive Catholics in particular feel that the Tridentine Mass is symbolic of a past era in which the Church saw itself as royalty and the laity as passive, ignorant lumps of clay. Some of them invoke the old cliche that Jesus was a simple man and would not have wanted all the finery. They want the TLM to be tossed in the dust bin of history.

As a huge fan of the TLM, I resent their trying to restrict liturgical diversity and stereotyping those that enjoy that Mass as being brain-dead, sexually perverted arch-conservatives. That could be its own blog post, though, and that’s not the topic I want to address today.

A common slur directed at clerics who celebrate the TLM is that they are sexually repressed cross-dressers. This is a reference to the lace, the cappa magna, and the fine vestments worn by priests at this Mass. Critics of the TLM believe, quite strongly, I might add, that the TLM is just a ploy to mask fear and declining power behind pomp and circumstance. They have decided to use a sexist, heterosexist and trans-phobic slur to make their point. They need to grow up and act like men, stop playing pretend and dressing in fancy clothes like Mom to hide how small they feel inside. Someone actually wrote that these men dress like Mom and wish to be called Father.

Okay, from people that, allegedly, support women, homosexuals and sexual diversity in general, I am shocked and disappointed to see comments like that. Type in ‘Tridentine Latin Mass’ into the Search engine of the NCR, and you will find many such comments. There are too many to mention, some of which are truly vile.

Despite their constant exhortations of the capability and nobility of women, they reinforce the idea that women are weak and cowardly such that dressing like them makes you not a real man.

Combined with frequent references to the sexual abuse of boys, they imply that clerics have an irrational fear of women which causes them somehow to want to dress like their domineering mommies. So we combine the gay-men- as-drag-queens with the gay-men-as-pedophiles stereotype and kill two birds with one stone. Good job, guys!

Then, of course, there is the obvious implication that cross-dressing, a hallmark of sexual diversity for men and women, gays and straights, is some sort of horrible crime and makes you less than human.

All this from so-called progressives? Really?

Here’s some knowledge for you: Dress codes by gender are culturally determined, not absolute truths. You might not see the holy vestments as manly, but that does not make it so. There is nothing shameful about being transgender, queer, or a cross-dresser. When you make comments like the ones above, you are cementing the very stereotypes that you claim to want challenged. It is insulting to men and women alike when you refer to priests being cowards who dress like Mom and want to be called Father. It insults women by making them out to be inferior and it insults men by restricting them to your definition of masculinity.

That, and it’s just not true. Learn the history and symbolism of the vestments and you might find that your adolescent fantasies about rebelling against womanish autocrats are out of place.

Don’t like the TLM? I don’t care, but stop with the slurs!

*Throughout this post, I was writing ‘sluts’ instead of ‘slurs.’ Coincidence?



  1. wriggles · September 19, 2011

    Wow, last time I heard, this kind of middle class liberal opinion respected the traditional Latin Mass but couldn’t be bothered with it themselves and it was the more working class people who wanted changes, like use of English instead and so forth.

    How quickly things change.

    Incidentally, I’m not surprised misogyny is being used to argue the case, it’s no different than that of fatness, where women’s lack of agency morphs into/becomes fat people’s lack. The dismissal of FA being “anti science” trades on the idea that airhead females don’t know shizz about how reality functions, even when they are that reality.

  2. skeptyk · September 23, 2011

    Raised Catholic, longtime agnostic atheist here. I love some of the old rituals, the Latin, the smells, the costumes, and can love them without buying into some of the Vatican leadership’s nonsense. I can live with the ambiguity of my love of my cultural and personal history coexisting with my disagreement with some of the policies and practices of the Church.

    There are real arguments to be hashed out about the relevance and power and future of the Catholic Church, but bratty jibes about the vestments preclude that, stifling, silencing any useful debate. I am disgusted when I hear queer-hating, ahistoric idiocy of such comments as those you pointed out, from self-identified progressives. Unfortunately I also hear this kneejerk pseudoclever dreck from some in the skeptisphere.

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