Monday, June 22, 2009

Why do people attack 'Traditionalists'?

James Preece of Catholic and Loving It, and Jackie Parkes of Catholic Mom of 10, have recently been having a go at Traditionalists. I admire both blogs but I feel I should address the issue, although they have both toned down (or deleted) the most stident aspects of their posts.

The first thing which seems to annoy them is the terminology: traditionalist, conservative, liberal, etc.. Arguing about words however is a terrible waste of time; I'd rather address the realities which the words stand for. And the reality is that there are indeed three identifiable groups in the Church to whom these labels apply, with enough usefulness for people to find it useful to use them. (Otherwise they wouldn't use them. Simple, really.)

Is is wrong or un-Catholic to use labels for sub-groups of Catholics? No, of course not; people have always done it, and the magisterium has frequently helped itself to such terms, or invented new ones. We've had Gallicans, Modernists, Integrists, Ultramontanists, Cisaplinists, the pro-Imperial and pro-Papal parties and so forth. If you refuse to use the terms you won't get very far.

What usually happens is that, being Catholics, the people in a party claim that the committments of the party are compatible with the faith, and are even implied by it in the concrete circumstances in which they live. If they couldn't claim that, they'd have to leave either the party or the Church, so this is hardly surprising. The problem is that the other side of the coin is that they imply that Catholics not of their party are less faithful to the implications of the faith, are less fully Catholic.

So Catholic monarchists and Catholic socialists are often convinced that monarchism or socialism is, in the world we live in, implied by Catholic principles. Good luck to them, I say; this attitude needn't lead to bitterness or recrimination, and we can't stop them saying this if we want to have a debate about what Catholic principles imply for the world we live in. And obviously we have to have that debate.

So today liberals, conservatives and trads all have views on what Catholicism demands in the 21st Century, and they think members of the other parties are mistaken.

Is this a terrible thing? Not in itself. Now pay attention: If you believe something, you believe it is true. If you believe it is true, you believe people who disagree with you are wrong, and that they hold false opinions. This isn't wickedness, it is logic. It doesn't mean you think you are infalliible. It needn't imply an aggressive attitude towards people who sincerely disagree.

James and Jackie seem upset by the implication, when trads do or say something, that non-trads have got it wrong. Lighten up, guys: your opinions have the same implication - that other people are wrong in the implications they draw from the faith.

The attitude of liberals and conservatives could equally be described as suggesting trads have got it all wrong. And remember, trads have been the underdog in this three-cornered debate for 40 years; they are the ones who'se 'legitimate aspirations' (as John-Paul II called them) have been trodden underfoot. We don't have any power - we are just trying to survive.

And we've been loyal supporters of many causes promoted by conservatives, a point I made a while ago when Daphne MacLeod accused us of being too concerned about the liturgy. So it is upsetting when these conservative commentators turn their fire on us. Attack your enemies, James and Jackie - not your friends.


  1. A very interesting analysis.

    I would however tend to disagree with your last paragraph and would suggest that 'traditionalists' and 'liberals' have more in common than either party would care to admit and, apart from superficialities, both have much less in common with the 'conservatives'.

  2. Hi Joseph,

    For me it was always a discussion about the meaning of terminology - I never intended to accuse of particular beliefs. There's nothing worse than being told - "you are a Catholic so you believe x, y and z". Especially when they usually have it all wrong and we believe no such thing.

    The more I think about it, the more I think I confused "ist" words with "ism" words.

    "ist" words, as in "Chemist" and "Archaeologist" just declares that one is a skilled practitioner of something, e.g. a violinist plays the violin.

    "ism" words however are more about ideology, like "Communism" or "Socialism".

    I was confusing "traditionalist" with "traditionalism". I think we would all agree that "traditionalism" is not way to go. It's traditionalism and modernism that I object to, and not traditionalists and modernists.

    I intend to post a full clarification on my blog when I get a moment but in the meantime, I hope any traditionalists reading will accept my apology for being and idiot on this one.


  3. Hestor12:23 pm

    James Preece seemed to reproduce what Jackie Parkes had started off and has been dragged into this. Otherwise I respect his blog very much and look at it as a sign of hope for the church of the future. At least, James makes an attempt to try and understand, whereas Jackie was off-handed about the whole thing.

    It is interesting but not well known fact that the words "pre-conciliar" and "post-conciliar" came into use when Archbishop Benelli wrote a letter in the 1970s to Archbishop Lefebrve saying that he should, "... accept the post conciliar church." Before that the two words were unheard of. Years before that the word "conservatives" was used to denote the group lead Cardinal Ottaviani and Siri, Coetus Internationalis Patrum, at the Vatican II council, who opposed the changes that were ensued. They later would come to be known as "traditionalists" when they became more vocal about the changes (cf. Ottaviani Intervention, Open Letter to Confused Catholics, Iota Unum), while those who accepted them (but maybe only opposed their excesses) were termed "conservatives".

    Before the council, there was simply just one type of Roman Catholic. After 1965, we have to admit that no two Catholics now agree on the same thing. Even those who are orthodox and agree on the main truths, are at odds with each other. So much for unity in diversity!

  4. Hestor, James, I don't think you can have read my post very carefully! Either that or I failed to express myself at all.

    It is - I'm sorry - simply ludicrous to claim that 'before the Council' there were no parties in the Church. And it is equally silly to say we should not use party designations. That's why I listed all those groups - Modernists, Integrists, Gallicans, Ultramontanists etc.. These terms denoted recognisable groups in the Church and many of them are used in Church documents. They apply to groups which existed before Vatican II.

    There is nothing to be frightened of in using these terms. Refusing to do so is simply bizarre.

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  6. But Jackie, half the time you seem to be applying the term 'traditional' to yourself. So it can't be so awful to do that!

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  8. Well I've addressed that here - as you know!

  9. Rachel11:01 am

    I want to try to add a little light to this discussion! I understood that Jackie was saying that qualifying adjectives for Catholics are unhelpful because all Catholics are traditional by virtue of the fact that they adhere to the traditions of the Church. Using the qualifier “traditional” also gives the clear implication that all other Catholics must be “un-traditional”. This seems to me to be the epitome of the “hermeneutic of discontinuity”. To misquote St Paul;
    “Has the Church been divided up? Is Traditionalism our Saviour? Or Liberalism?”
    The problem lies really in the fact that the labels people use reflect underlying issues which are much deeper. People choose to use the term “Traditional”; they are happy to use it and it defines them as Catholics who practise their faith in a particular way. At one end of this spectrum are the SSPX, who use this qualifier to justify their situation of schism with the Church, implying that it is the rest of the Church which is wrong and we will all catch up with them soon in realising that the Second Vatican Council was in fact the work of the devil! But along the spectrum there are others who are not so extreme but who do dissent from clear teachings of the Church in the same way that those who are called Liberal dissent from Humanae Vitae, for example. I can give some examples; those who will only attend EF masses and other liturgy and who state that the Novus Ordo is illicit and will soon be outlawed.: those who believe that there is no such thing as legitimate use of NFP within Christian marriage; those who believe that girls should not serve on the altar.
    The Church has given clear teaching and guidance in each of these three things and as faithful Catholics we are bound do defer to Her wisdom, even when it does not agree with our own ideas. One wise priest I know said often, “We must think with the mind of the Church”. Archbishop Lefebvre was not doing this when he ordained priests in disobedience to the Holy Father and it is well worth remembering that it was this disobedience which brought the excommunication in latae sententiae- in other words, he excommunicated himself.Let us pray for his soul.
    A few other important points:
    During Vatican II, mass was celebrated each day in a different rite. Now we all know that the Council lasted for more than two days!! There are many legitimate rites in the Latin Church and we do well to remember that when there is very polarised debate about EF/OF. An example of another rite which is still in use is the Ambrosian Rite, but other more scholarly people (Fr Tim Finigan?) can enlighten us more on this subject.

    It was not a fair comparison to talk about Miles Jesu with the LMS. Clearly , Miles Jesu, even if it has/has had problems (every family does!) is an authorised, structured body within the Church which like many of the “new movements” which the Church has approved is helping people to become saints, which is what we all need! Let’s support that. The LMS is an informal group which helps to provide the opportunity to attend EF Mass. This is their aim and no more. It would be a pity if the LMS members tried to do more than that and we all need to affirm each other in our loyalty to the Holy Father and the Magisterium.

    It was a pity, Joseph, that you used the word “endure” regarding Baptism in the ordinary form. You did imply clearly that there was something inadequate about this and Baptism is a tremendous gift to us from God the Father, through His Son which comes to us by the Holy Spirit. I am certain that your baptism was legitimate and we should all thank God every day for this wonderful gift and that our parents wanted this for us.
    More to follow...

  10. Rachel11:06 am

    Agellius said “ I can’t see the harm in using labels. They’re just shorthand ways of referring to opinions.” Sadly, I think they are not this at all. As I have tried to explain above, they can be subtle ways of referring to dissent from Church teachings, both on the part of the user and recipient. We do not need labels. If we have difficulties understanding or accepting the Church’s teachings we need to pray for each other and help each other with guidance and instruction. The Church is ONE. It is not necessary to qualify our faith with other labels unless perhaps we are hiding something behind them…..

    Finally, one word which is missing greatly from the discussion is JESUS.
    Where does He come into all of this? We are not privileged to be members of His Church except to give Him glory and praise and love and honour and to love each others for His sake. If He is not the focus then we need to pull ourselves back to this thought all the time.

    I am praying for you all. God Bless you and your families.

  11. Thank you for your thoughts, Rachel. Your position seems to come close to the Ultramontanism I discuss in the other post.

    I'm interested in your use of examples. Is accepting altar girls a test of the Catholic faith? But altar girls are forbidden explicitly by canon law. They are permitted in practice only by a papal indult - as an exception to the law of the Church.

    What I said about my baptism wasn't that it was invalid - if I thought that I would have remedied the situation! It was that because I was born in 1971 I was baptised (validly) using a rite of baptism regarded as lacking in some way by no less an authority than Pope Paul VI. He issued a new Rite a year or two later which was closer to the 1962 version.

    These points illustrate the kinds of confusions into which Ultramontanism inevitably leads. You seem unable to distinguish the teaching of the Church, which Catholic must accept, from prudential decisions which can legitimately be debated.

  12. Rachel1:11 pm

    Hello Joseph! I hope you will be kind enough to explain which parts of my comment led you to conclude that my views come close to Ultramontanism? I was puzzled to see your brief comment which didn't seem to connect with what I said.I would also be obliged if you could give your thoughts about the points I actually raised, please. I think this will help with the discussion. May I also humbly add that I think I am clear about what the Church obliges us to believe as faithful Catholics, what she gives as permissive and what is left to our own personal opinion.God Bless you, Joseph.

  13. Rachel1:46 pm

    Dear Joseph, Just a last thought. The Extraordinary Form of the Mass is also "permitted in practice only by a Papal Indult- as an exception to the law of the Church"! If you go down this line you will be, as C.S Lewis said, "cutting off the branch you are sitting on"!
    God Bless

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  16. The Extraordinary Form of the Mass is also "permitted in practice only by a Papal Indult- as an exception to the law of the Church"!

    Was permitted... the key word is "was". If you read the papal motu proprio, you'll see that the idea of the indult is completely abolished as any priest can now freely celebrate it without permission from their bishops.

    Also the explanatory letter that the Holy Father wrote to accompany the motu proprio, clearly explains that the 1962 Missal was never abrogated and hence in theory always permissible. Therefore the embargo of having the old rite under "indult" was a fallacy itself - you can't ask permission for something that is not abolished and lawful.

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  18. Heavens I have never seen a storm ina teacup becming such a gale. The matter is a simple one. Joseph likes the Latin Liturgy. His whole life is dedicated to it. Unfortunately he let his enthusiasm make a statement he probably at the time never gave much thought to. He loves the Latin Liturgy so much he sees the vernacular as undignified. It is a personal statment he ha s a right to say. Unfortunatley it did cause hrt to others. The Sacraments are valid in Latin or the Vernacular. Joseph should just apologise and make it clear it is his personal view. We do not have to start fighting wars over traditionalism, labels, and God knows what other things.

  19. I've been away so I've not been keeping up with these comments; apologies.

    Thanks to Hestor for explaining the point about the 'indult' of the 1962 Missal. My point was simply that nothing forbidden by canon law - such as altar girls - could be regarded as so central to the Catholic faith that people who don't like it should be regarded with suspicion. Perhaps canon law is wrong - it isn't infallible - but this situation must AT LEAST mean we can talk about it.

    And yet Rachel used it as an example of " others who are not so extreme but who do dissent from clear teachings of the Church in the same way that those who are called Liberal dissent from Humanae Vitae, for example."

    No, no, no! Unless and until Rachel starts making the necessary distinctions between 'clear teaching of the Church' and prudential or disciplinary matters which can be openly discussed by faithful Catholics without being branded as practically schismatics, not only is she clearly suffering from a nasty case of Ultramontanism but I can't see how we can have a discussion of these matters in the necessary spirit of fraternal charity.

  20. Anonymous2:59 am

    Miles Jesu is a dangerous group.

    Read about it at this site: