Monday, February 26, 2018

An attack on older Traditionalists in the Catholic Herald

Because of the flurry of posts I've published in the last few days I'm putting this back to the top of the blog.

I'm cross-posting this from Rorate Caeli.

Davis in the Catholic Herald
In last weekend's Catholic Herald (Feb 16) Michael Davis (not to be confused with the late, great, Michael Traherne Davies) makes an extraordinary attack on the older generation of Catholics attached to the Traditional Mass. He does so in the context of an alleged contrast with younger Traditionalists. You can read the first part of his article, or pay to read the whole thing; I include some screenshots to give a flavour.

To generalise about Traditional Catholics as 'going out of [their] way to be nasty' or tainted by 'repugnant anti-Semitism' is wearily familiar, and I would not dignify it with a response but for the fact that Davis presents himself as a 'Traditionalist' (as he puts it), and the Catholic Herald is one of the more trad-friendly Catholic newspapers. Furthermore, Davis is the paper's US Editor, on the eve of their big launch in the USA. Rorate's Twitter feed put it well: what we see is the phenomenon of the "the self-hating self-righteous not-really-trad Trad." I've discussed other examples of the type here.

2nd snippet
If challenged Davis would doubtless claim that he is being frightfully clever, on behalf of the Traditional movement, since the thrust of the article is that the stereotype of the nasty trad is becoming out of date. But a moment's thought should have been enough to reveal that saying 'Yes the stereotype is true: but only of the older generation of traddies, and they are all dying off, hoorah!' is not a good PR strategy. The self-righteousness and lack of charity are awe-inspiring, but the take-home message is that the vicious polemic against us for the last forty years has been spot on: even self-confessed Traditional Catholics admit it.

But is it true? As I pointed out in my letter to the Editor of the Catholic Herald, which may be published next weekend, the founding leaders of the lay Traditional movement (and it is the laity Davis appears to have in mind), cannot be accused of these traits. Internationally and in Germany, the dominating figure from the 1960s to the 1980s was Eric de Savanthem, who had risked his life for his opposition to Hitler, and whose decency and kindness are admitted by everyone. Intellectual leadership was given by the philosopher Dietrich Von Hildebrand, who was on a Nazi assassination list when he fled Austria, eventually to arrive, penniless, in the USA. Other major figures in the movement include Hugh Ross-Williamson, a founder of the Latin Mass Society and a man of the political Left, and the Scot, Hamish Fraser, a former Communist Party activist who had fought for the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War.
3rd snippet.

Are these the 'older generation' of Traditionalists Davis is talking about? Were they 'gratuitously nasty'? Were they anti-Semites? No one even superficially acquainted with their actions or writings could say so. The same is true of the following generation of leadership, who include the likes of the late Michael Davies and John Rao.

Davis refers to Bishop Richard Williamson and Hutton Gibson. He admits that what he is talking about is 'only a minority that gives the rest of us a bad name. But sadly the extremists are always the noisiest.' But they are not a 'minority', they are not even 'extreme' members of our group: these two, the only named targets in the article, are not any part of the Traditional movement which Una Voce organisations, the Traditional Institutes under the PCED, or the SSPX, would recognise. They are, as a result of their own choices, on the outside. No-one would have even heard of Gibson were it not for his famous son. Are Traditionalists to be judged by mainstream leaders, or by such marginalia? Well, do we judge the Novus Ordo world by reference to excommunicated pink-haired feminists who've had themselves ordained? De-frocked child-abusers? Priests excommunicated for breaking the seal of the Confession? Celebrity 'Catholics' who campaign for abortion? Of course not. Why are Traditionalists judged by a different standard?

Again, Davis may have met an anti-Semite or an aggressive older person at the Traditional Mass. He may even have met two or three. I could show him, at some of London's famous churches, tramps who sleep in the aisles, mad old ladies who carry statues around or hand out incoherent tracts about private revelations, and the occasional aggressive schizophrenic. Should we be expecting Novus Ordo Catholics to cringe and apologise for these figures? Of course not. But why are Traditionalists judged by a different standard?

Davis claims it is the older generation who are the problem. Well, I could introduce him to some very angry and off-putting older Novus Ordo Catholics, if we are in the business of invidious comparisons. People who don't just make themselves unpleasant in church, but make a public spectacle of themselves in print. I've made a particular study of the ones who regard themselves are 'conservatives', so I'm not just talking about the shouty liberals. It would never occur to me to say their behaviour is a problem for the Novus Ordo milieu as a whole, or to look forward to their deaths with anticipated satisfaction. Good grief! But why should Traditionalists be judged by a different standard?

Michael Davis' attack on the older generation of Traditional Catholics is not just lacking in filial pietas, a virtue he recommends to others in this very article, but is grossly unjust. The Traditional movement owes everything to the older generation: were it not for them, there would be no movement and no Traditional Mass today. As I wrote in 2013:

I should say, in passing, what a joy it is to meet and work with the older generation of the traditional movement. People sometimes characterise them as embittered and battle weary, but that is not my experience. Of course, things are beginning to go their way, which always helps. But these are people who maintained their integrity, or have rediscovered it, who lived through the horrors without giving in to the horror. Their obedience has been learnt by suffering. They have much to teach us, and are more than willing to pass it on. This is how the Church is supposed to work. (Here's one illustrative obituary, and here's another.)

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  1. Well Michael Davis might be forgiven for thinking "Trads" were a band of embittered militants if he is basing his critique on old editions of Christian Order. That magazine was literally a shouting wall for anyone venting their frustration and anyone would be forgiven that trade were an uncharitable bunch after reading the intemperate articles that appeared in that publication. However, we have to view such phenomena in context. I'll never forget the time an abbot showed me a review of Klaus Gamber's newly published book, The Reform of the Roman Liturgy, in which the author referred to Klaus Camber as "a sad little man" (amongst other things). It was then I understood the meaning of being uncharitable and it was that mentality that was prevalent throughout parishes and Catholic (so called) publications (The Catholic Herald not excluded). That notwithstanding I found Trade a very sociable bunch with a great sense of humour when they weren't on the defensive. Perhaps Michael Davis should not jump to conclusions and do a little more research.

    1. 'Shouting wall' - that's a good phrase!

  2. "Well, I could introduce him to some very angry and off-putting older Novus Ordo Catholics, if we are in the business of invidious comparisons. People who don't just make themselves unpleasant in church, but make a public spectacle of themselves in print."

    Tut, tut - that's no way to talk about this hapless bench of bishops! ;)

  3. Is Mr. Davis (in that first screenshot) really saying that we should think like Jim Hacker, that we should be careful not to turn "the Church of Rome" into a religious movement? Did he even understand what he was watching? The whole point of that episode of "Yes, Prime Minister" was to show the absurdity of the Church of England as an essentially political institution that is controlled by men who are mortally afraid someone might wish for it to be actually religious. (Hacker himself is not so much anti-religious as utterly clueless about religion.)

    I apologize; explaining a joke always kills it. But, Mr. Davis (who appears to be an American) seems to have decided to quote "Yes, Prime Minister" merely to display his Anglophile bona fides without getting the joke.

  4. You might think this is a robust defence of 'traditionalists' but it concedes, implicitly, a fundamental point of your opponent's argument; namely that it is 'nasty' to be aware of the harmful influence of organised naturalism (as was the late, great Fr Denis Fahey), to be honest about the disgusting reality of the 'gay' lifestyle, to call the false religion of Islam by its true name, to reject the corrupt occupants of modern Rome, or to be in any way 'right-wing'. Hence, rather than challenging the basis for the charge of 'anti-semitism', it is merely denied. Men 'of the political left' and former Communists (former is the key word, surely) are held up as proof that traditionalists are nice (or 'nithe' as Bishop Williamson would say). "Don't worry, world, one of our founders fought for the Spanish Reds! That balances out all the nasty people." In order to exculpate older traditionalists en masse, Bishop Williamson and Mr Gibson are sacrificed as bogeymen, regardless of the strengths and weaknesses of their positions or their characters. Sadly, nearly everyone plays the same game, justifying his position by attacking a more 'extreme' stance and distancing himself from it, to appear relatively moderate.

    1. You appear to have forgotten my posts about the Prayer for the Jews. Here I am playing Mr Davis at his own game.

    2. Anonymous4:58 pm

      How many 10000s of words do you have to write before it stops being just a game?

      Merry del Val wrote: “Surely at a time when the world has lost its bearings and is anxiously seeking that which we alone are able to provide, we should not drift ourselves, or appear to juggle with principles, but hold up the lesson of light as God gave it to us and refrain from the tactics of human politics.”

      When you write so consistently in this way, everyone from all sides gets the message: ‘Catholics do not really believe in the Church’s own moral authority.’

      This is really the only message your writing ever gets across when you try to play this game. You call “retreat another step!” and gain nothing by it.

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. Thanks for your comment, which I'd happily allow on my blog but for the highly defamatory claim that a song with a particular line you quote was 'in an LMS songbook'. No, it isn't. Write the truth, and you are welcome on this blog.

    2. Dear Dr Shaw, no defamation intended, it was in the songbook that was handed out on the Saturday night and I (wrongly at it turned out) assumed that it was produced by the LMS.

    3. Understood. I have never seen the contents of that book, nor do I know who created it.

      I agree incidentally about the younger ones with immature views. We don’t want to exclude them but we can’t expect ‘message discipline’ from them. But this of course is part of what Davis gets completely upside down.

    4. Dr Shaw

      My concerns are more to do with:

      a) Where children pick up these extreme views in the first place, one presumes that it is from their parents in which case we have a much wider problem on our hands.

      b) How this looks to the world. If it came out in the press that homeschooled Catholic teenagers talk about reintroducing a particularly nasty form of capital punishment and abolishing our democratic system etc etc. Then it gives the radical secularists all the ammunition that they need to try and limit this freedom and to clamp down on Catholic schools. It also erects a further stumbling block to those trying to actually evangelize.

    5. a) Very unlikely. They are saying those things to shock their parents’ generation, who won’t be shocked by sex, drugs, and roll’n’roll. They have to try harder than previous generations of rebellious teenagers.

      b) They are not the leaders or spokesmen or key thinkers of the movement. And while I don’t want to deny the problem, if you ever meet a group of young people with matching grins and identical, sunny messages, watch out. You are being inducted into a cult.

    6. Anonymous5:10 pm

      The problem is not with those teenagers, but with you who shrink back from what they say. “Message discipline,” in this context, just means love of human respect. The greatest scandal in the world is that the Church seems to be peacefully reconciled with the worst enemies of God. All her members, no matter how traditional, pay more respect to the higher authority of humanism. Kids like these, by the grace of God, understand more than you.

    7. Ha ha. 'Clamp down on Catholic schools' indeed. There are very few. Most, if not all, novus ordo schools blindly follow the Marxist agenda, and are no different from openly and honestly faithless state schools. I looked at a newsletter for one 'Catholic' school, recently. It was all holocaust, refugees, climate change, holocaust and more holocaust. Nothing about the Reign of Christ the King or Church teaching. I'd love to see a copy of that songbook, by the way. Sounds like there might be interesting lyrics! Shame I missed the original (and now deleted) post.

    8. Dr. Shaw, I don't see how the views listed can be characterised as 'immature' considering that they are supported in the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Pope Pius X, Pope Pius VI etc. etc. I assume you think that these esteemed men were ‘immature’?

      In the comments so far there has been no discussion of whether the views espoused by these youths are contrary to Catholic doctrine or whether they make sense. St. Thomas supported the use of capital punishment and criminals were executed in more gruesome fashions than hanging in the Papal States until their fall. St. Thomas also held the view that monarchy was a superior form of government to democracy and St. Pope Pius X stated that the class system is a gift from God, and he was born into a very large and poor family. As to the supposed comment about the Ordinariate, I wouldn't be at all surprised if the report of this young lady's comment is a misrepresentatation. Although it would have been far better for the Ordinariate to adopt the Sarum Use than to try and improve upon Cranmer's mutilation of it.

      As to the supposed 'suspicion of converts', what the original poster asserts is pure nonsense. In my experience, a large number of trads are converts and this also applies to the youth. In fact, I happen to know that among these aforementioned young people there are those who can be described as converts (One of their number is definitely an ex-Anglican). As to the song which was supposedly in an LMS Song Book (It is not in either the 2016 or 2017 Pilgrim's Handbook, both of which I own) it cannot be described as Anti-Semitic or suspicious of converts. The quoted portion mentions people who have not converted. The point which I believe the author was trying to make is that convinced Protestants and followers of Talmudic Judaism should not be comfortable at a Catholic Mass. Of course, I'm not sure Orthodox Jews would be happy going to a Mass, Novus Ordo or not, but that is besides the point. As to the Novus Ordo being inferior, it ostensibly is. Not in it’s intrisic value as every valid Mass is Christ’s sacrifice on calvary, and therefore it’s efficacy has no limit. However, the grace we receive from Christ’s sacrifice is limited due to our nature and this is why different Masses can impart more or less grace. This is their difference in extrinsic value. Fr. Chad Ripperger has written a very comprehensive article on this:,%20F.S.S.P.).pdf

      I believe I have established that it is not 'immature' to hold these 'extreme' views. However, what may be immature is reveling in the fact that they are controversial. But what can one expect from 'teenagers'? They are by nature immature.

      As to these views being “shot down in a heartbeat” by priests of the SSPX, this is a patent falsehood. Please see the following articles written by priests of the SSPX who espouse the very positions you claimed they would “shoot down in a heartbeat”:
      I'd also recommend the following interview concerning democracy:
      And this FAQ on monarchy:

    9. As to how this appears to the world, it may be true that secularists would find this horrifying, but that does not mean that the positions are wrong. In fact, it shows that there's probably something correct about them. As to clamping down on Catholic schools, radical secularists need no more ammunition to do this than that which they already have. Besides, the only Catholic schools which can be truly described as such nowadays in this country are the ICKSP school in Preston and the SSPX school. Catholic education is in a huge crisis. Also, if one is truly worried about the possibility of the unconventional ideas of a few youths being used as ammunition to destroy the virtually useless Catholic schools of the present, I think it to be unparalleled idiocy to go and give specific examples on a well-read blog.

      It seems to me that the original poster's modern sensibilities were offended by the out-of-date views of these youths. Therefore he wishes these views to be censored. Quite ironic considering that he finished his first post with an exhortation to political Liberalism.

    10. It is harder to comment, now the original post has been deleted, but was the poster really suggesting that it is offensive to support capital punishment (hanging?), to reject the Talmud, criticise the Ordinariate, or to doubt the value of modern democracy (so easily manipulated by lobbies of various kinds)?

      As to the novus ordo being merely 'inferior'.... I suggest you read Father Cekada's 'Work of Human Hands'.

    11. To answer your questions, yes, no, yes, yes.

    12. Its been a few days but........

      a) As Far as I know neither Fr Ripperger or Fr Cedaka are authorities on the effacacy of the New Mass (personally I worry a lot about the FSSP)

      b) I support the principle of Capital punishment but I would reserve it for the very worst of murderers. In addition I think that when it is used, lethal injection is the most humane method.

      c) As for the class system, HOW DARE anyone say it is a gift from God !! I am the first person in my family to go to University, I am the first to secure a professional position. Saying the class system is a gift from God will drive many good people into the arms of Marx, Rousseau and Robespierre. The same will occur if you deny people a voice in the running of their country.

      d) I stopped attending a SP Parish because of the antisemitic comments surrounding my wife's conversion. An attitude not repeated at the SSPX parish where we sometimes assist at Mass. This is not about the talmud at all, it is about the attitude toward Coversos (and ex Anglicans) that we experienced.

      e) In my experience it is SSPX Priests and laypeople who are the most in favour of meritocracy and the desire to improve one's social condition (admittedly this is among
      so trads the bar isn't particularly high).

      You may say good riddence but the comments here have confirmed that Traditional Catholicism isn't for me. I see no contradiction between the classical liberal tradition, just as I see know contradiction between the biology of evolution and Holy Scripture.

  6. It was Cardinal Hume who codified the narrative that the liberals and progressives were more pleasant than the conservatives and traditionalists. Unfortunately this has also been my experience and yet therein lies a logical fallacy. I speak as someone who spent a significant period of his life in the company of addicts many of who were deeply unpleasant people. What was uncanny was how some of these awful men and women maintained marriages. That is until you met the partners in question. They were invariably the most wonderful of human beings. The sort one finds amongst the libs and progressives to which Hume refers. In a similar way, the Novus Ordo Church is so moronic nobody but the finest could endure it week in week out.

    1. Hmm. Well if you’ve been hanging out with sede vacantists your experience may diverge from mine.

    2. Your experience evidently differs from Cardinal Hume’s. What I am suggesting is a parallel between the pleasantness found amongst the partners of seriously afflicted or dysfunctional “addicts” and that of a typical NO parishioner. A parishioner who find himself worshiping in a typically dysfunctional NO parish. You have extrapolated from my nom de plume that I “hang around” with sede vacantists. Yet my entire comment was predicated on my experience of perverts, murderers and a various assortment of criminals. Nothing more.

    3. How many sedevacantists do you know, Dr Shaw?

    4. Only you, my dear fellow, and Sadie Vacantist, if indeed you are, either of you.

  7. Why don't you all just SHADDAP and be nice to everyone, as Jesus commands?