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Tony's Testy Terminology

by Tony M.

A friend many years ago once made a glossary of terms used in a manner specific to one small environment - our alma mater. In this glossary he gave both the "official" definition, i.e. the denotation of a term, and also the actual, common usage (or connotation). Being one too many times much too irritated by double-edge or, two-faced usage of terms in the public forum, I decided to borrow this approach for my own glossary. Enjoy, and feel free to propose new terms, denotations, and connotations - everyone can play!


Denotation: what is “in practice”

Connotation: what is “in practice” insofar as it is under consideration by the intelligentia. What is in practice by the non-elite is not "praxis" unless the elite approve it (or create it).

Example: In practice, Joe the Plumber will spank his 8-year old for mouthing off, but the modern Christian praxis has been to expend more effort crafting clever explanations for departing from the Biblical admonitions for corporal punishment.


Denotation: one who studies liturgy or specifies particulars for liturgical events.

Connotation: a modern artist who uses 3400 years of liturgical praxis as an optional resource bank or palette for a canvas consisting of modern events, but regards the results of internal, organic maturation of liturgy during those 3400 years largely as a series of quaint anthropological pastiches without any implication toward harmonious coherence in modern praxis.

Example: Our post-Vatican II liturgists have produced many modern concepts for liturgy, such as clown liturgies, ecumenical Buddha-centered events, and liturgical dances, with the result that post-modern attendance of Catholics at weekly mass hovers around 25 percent, although this statistic may not accurately represent true praxis in the Church.


Connotation: recent, up-to-date, current.

Denotation: a dated style of art and philosophical approach, founded on sand and flowing emotes, rooted in deeply skeptical resistance to any absolute or universal norms of expression, and exemplified in the painting of Picasso, the a-tonal music of Fred Lyerdahl, and liturgies emphasizing dance, cookies, and apple juice.

Example: The Novus Ordo mass is soooo modern, it takes your breath away. That might be why you can't hear people singing.

“Corporal Punishment”

Denotation: physical pain imposed on one who disobeys a rule, by the authority charged with the care of the community. Synonym (archaic): the rod

Connotation: spanking, caning, whipping, applying a ruler to any body surface, etc.

Connotation (modern): any of a number of barbaric physical treatments of one who expresses alienation from a community by an act contrary to one of the community’s taboos, designed to repress non-conformity by pushing the personal cost of non-conformity beyond the limits of the individual’s ability to remain self- indulgent autonomous. Most community praxis condemns corporal punishment, though exceptions can be made, notably for traditionalists who will not conform to the dictates of liturgists. (See: torture.)

Example: Johnny sassed off at Mom, but Dad took him behind the woodshed for some corporal punishment. Luckily, CPS didn't see anything.


Denotation: one who upholds or loves traditional practices. One who believes philosophically that tradition imposes an obligation on the community and its members.

Connotation (1): an old fuddy-duddy, a curmudgeon, one who refuses to change.

Connotation (2): one who repudiates modern attempts to dis-organize society or vociferously declares himself in favor of 1955-era practices.

Connotation (3): any member of 3 or 4 self-identified groups who doubt the correctness of Vatican II or any change in doctrinal expression, law or praxis mandated by any pope after Pius XII. (Often used with a capital “T”.)

Connotation (4) (technical, derogatory): any member of 3 or 4 groups who are set on undermining the work of the spirit (esp, the “spirit of Vatican II), who thus constitute one of the gravest threats of the modern church, and who generally should be excommunicated from the Church (even though that penal rule is generally considered an archaic hold-over from antiquity – i.e. pre-Vatican II – and is virtually tantamount to corporal punishment).

Example: Paul VI-era liturgists tried to push the traditionalists out of the Church by modernizing liturgical praxis, but Benedict XVI let them back in again.


Denotation: (Adj.) favoring change for the better; toward improvement.

Connotation 1: Favoring change; holding that it is a sufficient reason to prefer a change that there be some (even remote) possibility that after the change there will be some desirable condition, it being irrelevant whether the desirable condition be better than the prior condition, nor that the change be per se causal for the desirable condition. (Consequently: “anything is better than the status quo.”) Preferring change for the mere sake of change (see: fashion). Antonym: favoring stability.

Connotation 2 (traditionalist), (adj.): preferring to wreck the goods that others have than to live without them yourself; (noun) a modern word-con-artist promoting change in order to acquire more under the guise of “just redistribution”.

Example: Woodrow Wilson was a progressive who pushed for re-shaping Europe largely because he could. Rockefeller was a progressive because it filled his pockets.


Denotation: variety; having different forms or types.

Connotation: variation with regard to certain special characteristics, those that distinguish definite favored sub-groups (i.e. so-called “minorities” even when they are not in the minority). Also: an attitude that favors minority-typical values over non-minority-typical values. (See also: oppression, reverse prejudice.)

Example: In a university, diversity means having and accommodating a faculty and administration composed of many different varieties of modernists, skeptics, and materialists. It does not consist of having or accommodating also many different kinds of orthodox, practicing Christians or Jews. In politics, diversity means having blacks, Hispanics, and women in positions of power. Except that in Africa, diversity means having blacks in positions of power without regard to whether whites are also. In Muslim countries diversity means having Muslim men in power who, in many different ways, do not love freedom or the US.


Denotation: a condition of permitting, allowing to be.

Connotation: a condition of permitting behavior that is foreign to ortho-normative culture, its mores, its tenets, and its philosophical foundations. This permission extends to behavior that tends to subvert the philosophical concepts that form the rationale of toleration and / or the specific reasons toleration is extended to such behavior; it does not extend to toleration of orthodox Christian behavior in a non-Christian culture, except possibly when such behavior is in private, uses no resources, and has no material effect on anything.

Example: In the 1960s and ‘70’s shacking up came to be tolerated, praying in school was not, but praying in the home was tolerated then and even now.

Comments (9)

Very interesting.

I don't know if you've seen it but you should check out the HBD Dictionary


Plenty of good stuff there!

You all should review the New York Time's Nicholas Wade's book coming out in May: A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race, and Human History.

It's really going to get the libs and Cultural Marxists worked up!

Good examples, Tony. I must admit that reading about liturgical abuses in modern (there's that word) Catholicism makes me feel rather smug about being part of a teensy little spin-off Anglican church that may be traditional (in the sense of fuddy-duddy) but is mercifully free of any modern liturgists guiding its praxis.

Smugness, however, is not called for. After all, it remains to be seen whether such teensy islands of blessed liturgical fuddy-duddy-ness are sustainable.

Heh. Of course, one could mention that there's that teensy issue of un-traditional Reformation stuff breaking with a 1000 year tradition...nah, we wouldn't want to bring that up. :-)

In my part of the state, on a weekly basis I drive past several Protestant churches that were established in the 1700s and 1800s. I have always wondered how much their liturgical ceremony compares to that of 150 years ago.

Oh, those probably have no liturgy to speak of at all. I'm guessing that from the fact that, to have a good liturgy, a Protestant church has to be very deliberate about it and usually part of a non-mainline denomination, such as continuing Anglican or Missouri Synod Lutheran.

The interesting thing about the Book of Common Prayer, though, is that it was translated as part of "breaking with tradition" at a time when "no mass in the vernacular" *was* the tradition, but at a time when the vernacular was still very beautiful. (The 1500's.) Hence, the BCP did what Vatican II wanted to do--translated the Mass into the vernacular--but did it in wonderful language. That is why Roman Catholics who belong to uniate congregations that use a "high church" version of the BCP liturgy feel like they are in hog heaven.

When I was still an ELCA Lutheran back in the 90's I attended a church in Lincoln, Nebraska with a liturgy that put many Catholic liturgies to shame: kneeling at altar rails, Bach played on a massive Bediant organ (Bedient himself was in the congregation), and austere sermons that communicated the sense that everyone was taking it seriously. In fact, I recall when a substitute pastor came and strolled down the marble aisles with an acoustic guitar and everyone looked at him like he had tarantulas crawling out of his nose.

But that was the problem--it only happened because the head pastor had his head screwed on right. After he left, the church reverted to burlap and butterflies (or "dance, cookies, and apple juice" as you put it).

I'm one of the blessed ones in that I now have a traditional Latin Mass within 10 minutes driving. The encouraging thing is that there will likely always be a TLM there even as pastors come and go, so I think there is a kind of "build it, and it will stay" principle at work right now in the Catholic Church. What is truly encouraging is seeing young priests taking an interest in the Latin Mass. We have one priest fresh out of seminary doing it. Basically, he kept his mouth shut about his interest during seminary. The Old Guard was vexed when they found out about it, but there was nothing to be done. Even more encouraging is that we have another seminarian who isn't hiding his interest and not only is no one giving him any grief, but even the bishop encouraged him saying that we are going to need more priests that can say the Latin Mass in the future.

I hope this isn't the wrong question at the wrong time or the wrong place, but I saw a surprising opinion in a blog post yesterday to the effect that the general permission for the motu proprio from Benedict for the TLM applies only to a priest's private masses. In other words, contrary to what I had thought, this claimed that any public Mass (such as at a church, presumably!) is still under the control of the bishop who can forbid the TLM. To me that sounded like the "old days" when a priest had to have the permission of the ordinary (who might be hostile) to use the vetus ordo, and that was precisely what all the rejoicing TLM bloggers were saying was ended with the motu proprio. So that was an eyebrow-raiser for me and made me think perhaps it wasn't accurate. As a Protestant, I suppose I shouldn't have a dog in the fight, but I admit to being sympathetic to Catholics who want a worshipful and traditional liturgy, and the TLM-ers at least have that down.

Hence, the BCP did what Vatican II wanted to do--translated the Mass into the vernacular--but did it in wonderful language.

That's actually fascinating, and an interesting way of looking at VII.

The motu became the summorum pontificum http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Summorum_Pontificum. As best as I can tell, before SP, a priest had to go hat in hand to the bishop and try to persuade him to grant an indult which, in the hippified 70's and 80's, didn't happen often. An indult is no longer required. Yes, a recalcitrant bishop could still put all kinds of obstacles to it, but before he could just sit on a request for an indult and claim he'd get around to it someday in classic check-is-in-the-mail style. Now, he'd have lots of public 'splainin' to do if he suppressed a parish and priest taking the initiative.

Actually, Scott, I think the bishop would have a harder time than that.

First, as I recall, SC is very broad and general. It certainly does nothing at all to explicitly limit its scope to private masses. In my opinion the main change is that it puts the individual priest and pastor in the driver's seat: especially for a pastor, he can just inform the bishop "I have added a Tridentine mass to the schedule for 12:00 noon on Sundays." He doesn't have to "get permission" for it at all.

Now, the bishop can still make waves, if he wants to, by claiming in some cases that the people who want the Novus Ordo aren't being taken care of. but this is easily refuted wherever there are several masses, and especially if the pastor just adds a new mass. Other than that, the bishop could argue about when in the schedule it would best go, but that's not much of an obstacle. If the bishop tried to be heavy-handed and simply DECLARE that the Trid mass was causing problems with the faithful, and the pastor is not to use it, he would be up against it if the pastor wanted to fight back - which he could. Pastors have significant authority within the parish, and the motu proprio basically sidesteps the bishop in handing discretion farther down.

It's somewhat different for a parochial vicar (i.e. not the pastor). Although he certainly would have the right to say the Trid mass in private, he would also certainly have to negotiate a solution satisfactory to the pastor for saying it as one of the public Sunday masses or even a regular weekday mass. If the vicar wants to add, say, a public vigil mass at 7:30 PM on Saturday to the schedule, on his own steam, when he is "otherwise free", a pastor would be hard pressed to absolutely forbid it permanently, though he could quite fairly ask for (a) a delay while the parishioners and altar boys are trained up, (2) some evidence as to how many people might want it, (3) whether other parties are willing to take on the added burdens (ushers, choir, deacon, etc), and (4) will it be sustainable. One of the classic in-between measures is to have it one time a month, to gauge its "draw". That's not a particularly good gauge, of course, but it is better than nothing. If the pastor were to pose all sorts of "problems" that don't have obvious solutions, then the parochial vicar could complain to the bishop, but he is not likely to get much satisfaction that way and he probably wouldn't try. Within the parish, the pastor has the authority to decide all those discretionary facets, and how to fit in a Trid mass is one of those.

My experience with lib pastors who don't "get" the traditional mass don't really mind all that much if their parochial vicar wants to knock himself out on it, as long as the vicar doesn't go out of his way to make it a "us against them" issue. What I have seen more, is old-ish relatively conservative pastors not wanting to be flexible on something that they don't think is all that important and that will demand more effort from them. And, of course, plenty of priests who just don't want to take the (rather substantial) effort to learn to say the old mass: if you are going to do it at all, you more or less have to learn about 80% to 90% of all what you would need to do everything all year long (the different calendar, etc). So it is pretty close to an all-or-nothing sort of deal.

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