I’m blogging from Boystown near Guadalajara Mexico –which is one of the charity boarding schools for poor kids founded by the American priest Ven. Al Schwartz.

The school educates 2000 teen aged boys from the poorest families in the area. This morning I attended early Mass with the Sisters of Mary–the religious order established by Schwartz. They are mostly young Philippino, Brazilian and Mexicans.  Incredibly hard working, cheerful and devout. Also in the priest guest house is  Jose–a young Mexican seminarian and Deacon Kevin–preparing for priestly ordination to serve in the Brothers of Christ–the Schwartz-founded men’s religious order.

Deacon Kevin served at the 6:00 Mass celebrated by a local priest. I attended but chose not to con-celebrate as my Spanish is so bad. After Mass Kevin and I had a simple breakfast and discussed some of the rumbles in American catholicism. He was interested to hear about the popularity of traditional worship and observed that traditionalism is thought of as more “vertical” while Vatican II Catholicism is “horizontal”

Vertical is therefore more hierarchical. It favors a social class structure–no wonder that many traditionalists nurture a fond nostalgia for monarchy and love Emperor Carl and the trappings of aristocracy. Horizontal Catholics, on the other hand emphasize the church’s mission to “the people”. For Vertical Catholics Jesus Christ is King. For Horizontal Catholic Jesus is the carpenter’s son and the man of the people.

Here in Mexico it is easy to see the horizontal Catholicism in action. It is compassionate, down to earth, humble an busy incarnating the Lord in the lives of the people–bringing to them at their level the love of God. That is not to say the Vertical Catholics lack compassion and do not care about the poor.

This distinction should not really exist. We should be both horizontal and vertical–indeed the cross itself is a sign of the horizontal and the vertical meeting.

While the distinction is interesting, it should not define us or bring us to blame others. One thing the contrast does do is to explain the clash between Pope Francis and traditionalists. Pope Francis was formed by the radically horizontal worldview of the Jesuits in the post Vatican 2 period. His ministry and theology is formed by his life in Argentina where the horizontalists were for the people and the verticalists were associated with the aristocratic, moneyed, powers allied to the European colonialists. You can see the clash–socially, religiously, liturgically and spiritually.

No doubt Francis still views traditionalists as aristocratic, colonialist, monarchical overlords. His suppression of the traditional Latin Mass is therefore not a matter of fussing over one’s taste in lace or one’s choice of chasubles. It is part of a larger struggle.

What I’ve appreciated about my visit to Mexico is to see the church in action–to admit the power and beauty of the “horizontals” rolling their sleeves up and getting the job done. However, I did wonder yesterday–as we were touring Boystown–about a larger issue. After visiting a music class (pictured above) where the boys were belting out the Beatles’ anthem Let it Be, we came to the large open sided gym where, on Sundays, 2000 boys meet for Mass. (I con celebrated a similar Mass at Girlstown last Sunday with 3000 girls) I thought to myself how wonderful this work is, then I thought, “What if these children worshipped the Lord in a beautiful Church rather than a gymnasium” “What if the money was spent on a glorious modern attempt at Romanesque or Gothic architecture?–or what if, in keeping with their Hispanic heritage–they were to build beautiful churches like the one at Thomas Aquinas College in California? What if these poor kids were learning Gregorian chant, Monteverdi and Palestrina in addition to praise and worship songs? What if they had stained glass workshops in addition to welding and car mechanics? What if the girls were sewing fine vestments and altar linens in addition to aprons and dresses and T-shirts?”

I guess the verticalists would say, “Go for it! It’s the Catholic thing to do.” while the horizontalists would say “But that money would be better spent providing more schools for more children.” I can see both sides of the argument, but wouldn’t it be grand if we could for once get ourselves out of this stupid either or mentality and see that the horizontal and the vertical are both good and necessary?

After all we’re supposed to love God and our neighbor. But there is a priority. Loving God comes first.

Go here to watch author Kevin Wells’ moving video about Boystown: