Dissing the Traddies

14 08 2008

Okay, so I admit it. I read Mark Shea sometimes. We all have our strange habits, and this is one of mine.

So anyway, he decided that he wanted to write an essay criticizing traditionalist Catholics as being judgmental, nasty, and mean. Anyway, just because some of you might be interested in my response, here is what I wrote as a comment to the article:

There is a saying in France that when leftists get together to form a firing squad, they form a circle. The same could be said about devout Catholics, and Mark Shea’s essay here illustrates that.

Perhaps some of the most cultish and strange Catholics I have met were more involved in Marian apparitions and extreme ultramontanism than with Catholic traditionalism. Are traditional Catholics insular and judgemental? Yes, in general, I have to say that many of them are. Does that mean “Neo-Caths” (if we are going to use such labels, though I loathe them) are off the hook and completely tolerant by comparison? Not by a long shot. One need only go on Mr. Shea’s site to see him use ad hominem attacks, invectives, and sophomoric nicknames for all the people he doesn’t like. This particular attack is only the flavor of the day apparently.

Otherwise, I am a bit tired of critics of traditionalism saying that the “Trads” overlook what’s important: “It’s all about the Gospel, man! It’s all about evangelizing!” Evangelizing what? We are not Presbyterians last time I checked. We are not passing out copies of the KJV and the Westminster Catechism on street corners. Catholicism is not some sort of “ad campaign” where we “get out the message”. The liturgy, the sacramental life, and the traditions of the Church ARE the message, and debates about them are far more important than the credit you give them here. We are not trying to proclaim to the world some minimalist reduction of the Gospel and modern ecclesiology (“allegiance to the Pope by any means necessary”), but rather an ethos that has been two thousand years in formation. The problem with the Church since the 1960’s is that such an ethos has been distorted in many places. While traditionalists no doubt commit sins against charity when debating their points, the truth of their radical critique of the current state of the Church stands.

So I’ll come right out and say it: most “neo-Caths” are nice people. Most of the “trads” I know would swim through shark infested waters to help a fellow Catholic. Heck, I know a Call to Action Catholic who devotes his life to feeding and helping the homeless. If you are going to be a “hater”, you can be a hater in any of these categories. I am not going to make broad characterizations of others in the Mystical Body of Christ.



8 responses

28 12 2011
Stephen Spencer

“Has he actually gone to a TLM parish and spoken with the people there?”

Perhaps he has gone to over 50 of them, and has yet to find anybody willing to talk to him?

My experience is that traditionalists are very open to those whom they have known at least 10 years. Ok, perhaps 15. 🙂

16 08 2008


15 08 2008

I wonder how much time Shea has actually spent among traditionalists (and no, blogs and message boards do NOT count). Has he actually gone to a TLM parish and spoken with the people there? It seems to me that if you have any group of large people coming together, a certain percentage of them will be nutty. That’s just the way life is. Scratch around a Novus Ordo parish and you can find any number of anti-semites, racists, conspiracy theorists, holders of odd political positions, and devotees of unauthorized apparitions. I’ve met some nuts at the TLM, but I’ve also met some of the sweetest, holiest people there as well. My TLM parish is also the most racially diverse parish I’ve attended, probably because people commute from various places throughout the region. There are hard-core Confederates, Chinese, Hispanics, blacks, and Indians all kneeling together and praying in the same tongue. It’s certainly not perfect, but it’s not some kind of Stepford Wife convention either.

15 08 2008
Arturo Vasquez

I commented the following at the Cornell Society blog:

In reading this essay, one thing I thought to myself was, “If Shea is writing this, he is doing it for a reason”. And the reason is one that you insinuate here: he is writing this precisely because the “trads” are not going to die out anytime soon. 1,962 years of Church history are not going to be wiped out by forty years of experimentation. At best, he is relying on modern man’s tendency towards historical amnesia. Maybe it will work for others, but not for serious Catholics. If, even as a teenager growing up in liberal California, I could figure out that the Tabernacle used to be on the altar, or that the Mass was not always celebrated on a plain table, other Catholics twenty, thirty, and a hundred years from now will be able to figure out the same thing. Try as much wishful thinking as you want, but the traditonalist critique is not going anywhere anytime soon.

14 08 2008
Fr. J.

Well done. Ah the sniping that infects the Church. But, a revolution is taking place against a former revolution that is near spent. Proverbial blood will be spilt. I hate, yes, hate the sniping.

14 08 2008

I have always thought it was ironic that “neo-Caths” tend to distance themselves from Pius IX, when his infamous “I am Tradition” sums up their ecclesiology perfectly. All the pope has to do to prove that he can do something is do it, and by virtue of the fact that he did it it must be in accordance with the will of the Holy Spirit. If the Novus Ordo were not a grand idea, God would not have let Paul VI impose it on the church. There don’t seem to be any objective standards, apart from sheer papal fiat, determining what Catholicism is. If the pope emerged on the balcony of St. Peter’s reciting the shahada, I can only imagine people like Shea nodding their heads in assent. After all, what else COULD he do? If he answered that God would not let the pope do that, I would ask the older among the neo-Caths if growing up they thought God would let the pope invite animist priests to Assisi. What I find so appalling is that the effect is to transform a magnificent two thousand year old tradition into a cult of personality, not that far different from Stalinism (except without the gulags).

14 08 2008

It is strange when they now speak as if the Liturgy is only an afterthought of Catholicism. But then, on the other side of their mouth they talk about it being the “source & summit” of Catholicism. The Church Herself in the early 20th century Liturgical Movement encouraged the laity to pray through the Liturgy, to let the offical prayer of the Church enter their bloodstream. Now soem say it’s only secondary, and if we still cling to proper Liturgical Worship we’re shallow Pharisees with no real sense of “real Christianity”. Strange times.

14 08 2008
The young fogey


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