05 May 2014

"What exactly is a traditionalist? He is what every Catholic once was, and will be again when the crisis is over."

And, boom goes the dynamite.

Christopher Ferrara's newest article in The Remnant not only nails the answer, but presents the necessary background to understand that the question itself is a novelty. Excerpts:


...But what exactly is a traditionalist? A look back at the way things once were might convey the meaning of the term more effectively than the usual attempts at a formal definition:

- Once there was no rite of Mass rendered into the vulgar tongues of the world. There was only the universal liturgical language of a timeless Church as seen in the immemorial Roman Rite, whose organic development had proceeded almost imperceptibly since the 5th century, or in the venerable Eastern rites, almost as ancient, which have largely escaped the furious liturgical vandalism that has ravaged the Church’s principal liturgy.

- Once there were no Lutheran-style altar tables in our churches, but only high altars oriented to God, whose very appearance aroused one’s sense of awe and reverence.

- Once there were no lay lectors, lay “ministers of the Eucharist” or girls in the sanctuary, but only priests, deacons on the way to the priesthood, and the male altar servers who were a primary source of generation after generation of priestly vocations, filling the seminaries.

- Once there was no profane music during Mass, but only Gregorian chant or polyphony, arousing the soul to contemplation of the divine rather than foot-tapping, hand-clapping or mere boredom.

- Once there were no widespread liturgical abuses. At worst, there were priests who celebrated the traditional Mass diffidently but within a rubrical, textual and musical framework that nonetheless protected its central mystery from any possibility of profanation and maintained the supreme dignity of divine worship against human weakness.

- Once there was no “gay Mafia” in the seminaries, the chanceries and the Vatican itself, or clerical predators molesting boys all over the globe, because Church authorities enforced the rule that “religious vows and ordination should be barred to those who are afflicted with evil tendencies to homosexuality or pederasty…”

- Once there were no empty seminaries, empty convents, abandoned parishes and shuttered Catholic schools. There were only seminaries, convents, parishes and schools filled with faithful Catholics from large families.

- Once there was no “ecumenism.” There was only the conviction that the Catholic Church is the one true Church outside of which no one is saved. Catholics followed the Church’s teaching that “[i]t is not lawful for the faithful in any way to assist actively at or to take part in the worship of non-Catholics,” and they understood, if only implicitly, what Pope Pius XI insisted upon: “Venerable Brethren, it is clear why this Apostolic See has never allowed its subjects to take part in the assemblies of non-Catholics: for the union of Christians can only be promoted by promoting the return to the one true Church of Christ of those who are separated from it, for in the past they have unhappily left it. To the one true Church of Christ, we say, which is visible to all, and which is to remain, according to the will of its Author, exactly the same as He instituted it.”

- Once there was no “dialogue.” There was only evangelization by clergy and lay apologists with the aim of making converts to the true religion. And converts there were, entering the Church in numbers so great that it seemed even the United States was becoming a Catholic nation, as 30 million Americans tuned in to Bishop Sheen every Sunday.

- Once there were no mass defections from the priesthood, the religious orders, and the lay faithful, leading to “silent apostasy” in Europe and throughout the West. There was, rather, what a Father of Second Vatican Council described at the Council’s commencement: “the Church, notwithstanding the calamities that plague the world, is experiencing a glorious era, if you consider the Christian life of the clergy and of the faithful, the propagation of the faith, and the salutary universal influence possessed by the Church in the world today.”

- Once there were no “Catholic Charismatics,” “neo-Catecheumenals,” or other “ecclesial movements” promoting strange new modes of worship invented by their founders. There were only Catholics, worshipping in the same way as their forebears with unbroken continuity down the centuries.

- Once there were no traditionalists, because there was no need to describe any Catholic by that term. All Catholics accepted instinctively what a series of Popes had prescribed as part of the very profession of our faith: “I most firmly admit and embrace the apostolic and ecclesiastical traditions and other observances and constitutions of the Church.”

That was the way it once was. And when was this bygone era of which I write? Not centuries ago, or even one century ago, or even a single lifetime ago, but a mere fifty years ago, within the living memory of many millions of Catholics today.

What, then, is a traditionalist? He is nothing more or less than a Catholic who has continued to practice the faith precisely as he learned it in his childhood, or who has received the same unreconstructed faith from his parents and will in turn pass it on to his own children. A traditionalist, in other words, is a Catholic who lives the faith as if the ecclesial calamities of the post-Vatican II epoch had never happened—indeed, as if Vatican II itself had never happened. And the astonishing truth about the traditionalist is that no doctrine or disciplinary rule of the Church whatsoever forbids him to believe and to worship God in just that way, even though the great preponderance of Catholics no longer does.

That Catholics who have simply gone on believing and worshiping as Catholics always did before the Council have come to be called traditionalists—quite suddenly in historical terms—that the very word tradition now distinguishes these relative few Catholics from the vast majority of the Church’s members, is the undeniable sign of a crisis like no other the Church has ever witnessed. Those who deny this would have to explain why it is only within that transformed vast majority, rightly described as neo-Catholic, that the faith has been steadily losing its grip on the people, with many falling away completely into the “silent apostasy” John Paul II lately lamented after hailing for so many years a “conciliar renewal” that was actually a massive collapse of faith and discipline.


They would also have to explain why it is only among the tiny minority of Catholics now denominated traditionalists that not one of these signs of ecclesial decay is evident.

In recent days the ecclesial crisis that has been with us now for more than half a century appears to be reaching a depth from which there can be no rescue without a miraculous divine intervention. The world is singing hosannas to the new Pope, urging him on to a final completion, per impossibile, of the process of ecclesial auto-demolition Paul VI spent his last years decrying although he himself had unleashed it. Yet the neo-Catholic establishment continues its confident march past the point of no return, explaining away all evidence of disaster while patronizing traditionalists as diehard connoisseurs of nostalgia whose “sensibilities” might be accommodated even if they no longer matter for the future of the Church. But in truth traditionalists are the future of the Church, as the history of our time will record when it is written.



Sam said...

What a sad, sad commentary. Here's the deal. Your statement that anyone who is not a member of the Catholic Church cannot be saved is heresy. You have put yourself outside the Church.

Pope Francis is the Pope. If you can't handle that, that's too bad. Please reconsider your statement.

thetimman said...

Sam, well, first, it was not my statement. I am excerpting Ferrara's article. But, as that is perhaps beside the point, I agree with the Church's constant teaching that the Catholic Church is the one, true Church of Christ, outside of which no one may be saved. Of course, that's not my idea either. Start with Pope Boniface VIII in Unam Sanctam:

"Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff."

I don't know, but that seems fairly definitive. The Pope here makes a fairly solemn statement, and even himself states he "defines" it.

Over the course of history, the Church, her Popes and theologians have tried to develop what this might mean for those who may not explicitly reject the Church, or who might not realize her claims yet be in some sense attached to her. I would read, first, Mortalium Animos, by Pope Pius XI, and then conclude with Cardinal Ratzinger's Dominus Iesus, which was clarified during the reign of Pope Benedict XVI to make it more obviously conforming to the Church's traditional teaching.

So, "my statement", as you call it, hardly amounts to heresy. Your point of view actually validates Ferrara's thesis.

As to your other point, yes, Pope Francis is the Pope. OK. So what? Got anything else?

Anonymous said...

The article grossly overstates the use of Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony at mass before the council. I've heard many say, "If we had beautiful high masses back then like the ones we do now, there never would have been a Novus Ordo..." In short, the TLM is said better now than it was 60 years ago.

truthseeker said...

IMO, I think you are putting too much blame on Vatican II. Did liturgical abuses creep into the New Mass. Definitely? Did schools and parishes close on large numbers, tragically. Yes. But blame the social and cultural and political changes that happened in the 60's. At least that is the conclusion I am coming too. I cannot lose faith in my belief that the Holy Spirit is guiding and directing our Holy Father and the Magisterium.

St. Corbinian's Bear said...

So, I identify as a traditionalist, although I go to an ordinary Catholic Church. Personally, I think "supernaturalist" is broad enough to include everyone who thinks the Church should be faithful to her mission to get as many souls into heaven as possible. Traditionalism seems so focused on the liturgy it excludes those who accept the Novus Ordo, either happily or a matter of not having a TLM within 100 miles.

Marc said...

I saw this quote on a blog:

What Catholics once were, we are. If we are wrong, then Catholics through the ages have been wrong.
We are what you once were.
We believe what you once believed.
We worship as you once worshipped. If we are wrong now, you were wrong then.
If you were right then, we are right now.

Robert DePiante

Athelstane said...

Hello Sam,

There was only the conviction that the Catholic Church is the one true Church outside of which no one is saved.

A statement which is, in fact, compatible with Dominus Iesus (2000), properly interpreted.

Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus. Vatican II did not overturn that doctrine (though it muddled it). We may not always know where the Ecclesia is (this is in God's Providence), but we do know one place where it very much is, and is centered: the Catholic Church. Outside of that, you you are putting yourself in God's mercy, with less surety.

Anonymous said...

As an aside ... what a lovely shot of Sister and that little girl!


thetimman said...


I'm kind of partial to the girl, as she is my daughter.

But maybe you knew that. ;-)

Anonymous said...

:) !


Ray said...

I love your Church. I grew up in St. Agatha parish and visited your parish many times in the late 40's and early 50's. Still feel it is one of the most beautiful Church's in St. Louis. My grandfather told me, it was built for the most part by the parishioners. I respect your views on being a traditionalist. For me personally, the Church is guided by the Pope, and the Pope and Magisterium are guided by the Holy Spirit. This same Church gave us Vatican II and part of that was the Novus Ordo. If the Mass is said validly in Latin or native tongue, all Communicants receive the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. Our goal as Catholics is to attain the Beatific Vision and attempt to be Saints while we are on our journey. To me, we are all part of the Roman Catholic Church, equal members in it. Thanks for your work on this blog

Anonymous said...

Apparently, The Holy Eucharist was established in a "vulgar" tongue. How vulgar.