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Traditional Catholicism 101:
A Brief Primer
A typical scenario: You listen to E.W.T.N. or Catholic Answers and have found through them that the earliest Christians were Catholic, that Catholic dogma is not unscriptural. You become convinced that Jesus Christ did set up a Church, that He did so upon the rock of St. Peter, and that the gates of Hell will never prevail against it. You are willing to intellectually assent to the eternal teachings of the Church and truly desire to become a serious, committed Catholic who serves and worships Our Lord Jesus Christ.
You do what most people do in this case; you call up your local parish and get enrolled in an R.C.I.A. program. You don’t hear much about Mary, the other Saints, sin, Purgatory, or Hell. You hear very little about the Mass as a propitiatory Sacrifice, but instead hear it described only as a “celebratory meal.” Depending on the parish you find, you may hear and see things that seem totally contradictory to what you’d always heard the Catholic Church teaches. Your R.C.I.A. instructor may say things like, “The Catholic Church doesn’t teach that any more since Vatican II” and may come off as religiously indifferent, not insistent enough that the Church is Christ’s Church and that outside of Her there is no salvation.
The Masses offered seem not too unlike what you’d see at a Lutheran, “low church” Anglican, or maybe even a Pentecostal faith community. You’ve always associated “Catholic” with things like eating fish on Fridays, nuns in habits, confessionals, and stained glass — with things that are ancient, mysterious, and beautiful. You look around your local parish and are wondering why nothing you see there seems to match up.
You were expecting this:
but got this:
than like this:
Something in you is worried. What you are seeing and hearing in your local parish seems too — Protestant. Or maybe even pagan or Unitarian. Whatever it is, it just doesn’t add up. All sense of Mystery, of holiness, of ancientness, of beauty is missing. At the very least, it’s just not “Catholic enough.” It isn’t reverent. It isn’t holy. What is going on? How can you know if what you’re being taught is truly Catholic if the “spirit” of your parish isn’t Catholic? What has happened to the human element of the Church?
Ever since the time of the so-called “Enlightenment” and up to the mid-twentieth century, Popes warned us with increasingly greater fervor against the enemies of the Church. From Pope Gregory XVI’s Mirari Vos (1832), to Leo XIII’s Humanum Genus (1884), to Pope Pius XI’s Divini Redemptoris (1937), to Pope Pius XII’s Humani Generis (1950), we have been warned that the Church has enemies, and that their errors are spreading. These errors — whose roots go back to the Mystery of the “Synagogue of Satan” of the Apocalypse — began to germinate during the so-called “Enlightenment” and are summed up by the word “Modernism.”
Called the “synthesis of all heresies” by Pope St. Pius X, Modernism is summarized in the Catholic Encyclopedia thus:
The adherents of these ideas gained more and more power over time, fueled by Masonry and taking on guises as apparently disparate as usurious Capitalism and Communism. Most importantly, the Modernist enemies of Christ have even infiltrated into the human element of the Church itself. Pope St. Pius X warned about this in his 1907 encylical about Modernism, Pascendi Dominici Gregis:
There has been an influx into the Church of those who have, with or without malice, imbibed the spirit of “the Enlightenment,” and there’s been a full-scale, deliberate infiltration by outright malicious political enemies and religious heretics who share the goals and tactics of those who hold to “Enlightenment” ideals. Manning Johnson, a former official of the Communist Party in America, testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1953:
A Catholic monk who heard ex-Communist Bella Dodd speak at Fordham University in the 1950s had this to say:
In the human element of our Church, we are seeing the results of this infiltration coupled with the effects of the pressures of secular materialism and sheer hedonism in the popular culture.
For an entire two years before the Council, preparations were made; commissions worked diligently to produce seventy-two outlines and orders of business called “schemata” — but in the very first general session of Vatican II, those schemata were thrown out, an act that served as a clear signal that those who worried about the Council being “hijacked” were right.
By the time the Council was formally closed by Pope Paul VI on 8 December 1965, the following sixteen documents had been produced (links go to the documents at the Vatican website and will open in new browser windows):
The Sixteen Documents of Vatican II
|The Four Constitutions:|
|the sacred liturgy|
|the Church in the modern world|
|The Three Declarations:|
|relations with Non-Christian Religions|
|The Nine Decrees:|
|the ministry and life of priests|
|adaptation and renewal of religious life|
|13.||the pastoral office of Bishops|
|Catholic Churches of the Eastern Rite|
|16.||the media of social communications|
These documents — which all Catholics should read for themselves — are very ambiguously written, i.e., many believe that one can, albeit with some difficulty in areas, read them with Catholic eyes and claim they support the Holy Faith — or that one can read them with the eyes of a Modernist and claim they support revolution. It is a matter of debate among traditional Catholics as to whether any teach — or even can teach — outright error. Some traditionalists work very hard to read them as perfectly Catholic, seeing the ambiguities as simply that: ambiguities which must be read in the light of Tradition. Others believe that positive error is contained in them. All agree, though, that no solemn definitions that a Catholic must accept de fide (as an article of the Faith) were promulgated. That this is true is supported by papal statements regarding the Council’s intent (such as the opening address linked to above) and in the fact that none of the documents are marked by the language used in infallible definitions.
No matter the case as to the exact nature of the documents in themselves and how they may have been intended to have been read, it is a fact that the ambiguities have been exploited in a revolutionary way. This revolutionary attitude — often called “the spirit of Vatican II” — has swept through the human element of the Church, leaving destruction and confusion in its wake. How often are Catholics told that “since Vatican II, the Church no longer teaches/practices/believes” various aspects of Catholic doctrine? How often are we told this even by priests?
The media aid the revolution by constantly reporting on Church affairs in a self-serving and/or simply ignorant way. If the New York Times reports that “‘the Catholic Church’ says X,” then in the average layman’s mind “the Church” most definitely now teaches “X,” even if there are no official documents even remotely attempting to exercise any level of the Ordinary or Extraordinary Magisterium in regard to the proposition in question. If a Cardinal expresses his personal opinion Y, we are told that “the Church” or “the Vatican” now teaches Y. And people believe it. At work here are the same tactics that have, in a mere forty years, transformed Western culture from one that, for example, saw extramarital sex as a grave sin to one that looks at it all now with a wink and a nod. 2 It is simply the power of the media and of popular culture, allowed to spread their errors with little resistance from undisciplined Bishops.
Know this: true Catholic teaching has not changed — cannot change — in any manner indicative of contradiction. It doesn’t matter if 99 out of 100 priests say X, or if every other theologian who calls himself “Catholic” teaches X; if X is not truly consistent with Scripture and Tradition, then X is not an infallible Catholic teaching. It is as simple as that. Doctrine may be expounded on and explained more fully, and a doctrine that has always been believed may be clarified and raised to the level of dogma, but what was true 50 years ago is still true today, and anything that is not consistent with that Truth cannot be true. This is logic 101, the principle on non-contradiction in action. There is no mystery to it. In order to be a good Catholic, you simply must come to learn what the Church has always taught. And in order to fully benefit (in the subjective order) from the Church’s liturgy, you must to do all you can to worship the way the Church has always worshiped.
So then, how to know what was taught 50 years ago before things got crazy? Easy: read catechisms 3 and papal encyclicals published before the Second Vatican Council along withthose published after that Council. But let me give you a quick rundown of the basic errors you will hear in these times:
- The Error: A new ecclesiology that doesn’t equate the Catholic Church with the Church established by Jesus Christ, but states that the Church established by Jesus Christ is merely partly contained in the Catholic Church in a vague, undefined way — a confusion arising over controversies in understanding the true and intended meaning of the word “subsistet” in Vatican II’s “Lumen Gentium.” The meaning of “subsistet” is debated in traditionalist circles, with some seeing the word as perfectly acceptable if understood correctly, and with others seeing contradiction in its use.
The Truth: To do less than equate the Catholic Church with Christ’s Mystical Body contradicts Pope Pius XII’s ‘”Mystici Corporis Christi” among other papal documents, and leads to false ideas of ecumenism (traditionally, relations between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, but generally understood as relations of all Christian sects) and interreligious dialogue (relations between true Churches/Christians and other religions). Ecumenism and interreligious dialogue, in themselves,are fine as long as conversion is the goal, Truth is not watered-down, etc.
* * *
- The Error: An acceptance — deriving from modernist interpretations of “Lumen Gentium” — of collegiality, the idea that there exists a “college of Bishops” at all times (rather than just during Ecumenical Councils) which has authority and jurisdiction over the Church. This idea has weakened the papacy, attempted to democratize the Church by destroying the monarchial relationship between the Pope and his Bishops, and has made bishops’ conferences a veritable “second Vicar of Christ” for the Church. This contradicts, among other documents, Pope Leo XIII’s ”Satis Cognitum” and even the “Nota Praevia” to ”Lumen Gentium.”
The Truth: Catholic teaching is that the Keys were given to Peter (Matthew 16), that he and his successors are the Vicars of Christ who are blessed with the charism of infallibility which is exercised in very specific ways, and who have full and supreme authority over the Church apart from any other human being. Bishops derive their authority from him, who receives it from Christ. They have no authority apart from him and do not constitute an alternate or equal authority — neither individually, nor collectively.
* * *
- The Error: A deflated view of the papacy and Magisterium on the part of “progressives,” and an inflated view of the papacy and the Magisterium on the part of conservative Catholics who misunderstand papal infallibility and the different levels of the Magisterium.
The Truth: The Pope exercises his infallibility under very specific conditions. The Magisterium — the teaching authority of the Church — has three levels, not two, and only two of those levels are infallible. That which falls outside the Extraordinary Magisterium or the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium is fallible. It is most certainly owed religious assent, but not if it leads to sin, to error, harm of souls, etc.* * *
- The Error: an overly strong focus on the dignity of man coupled with an over-emphasis on the natural virtues (as opposed to the supernatural virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity which come from God alone rather than nature). This ignores original sin and the need for supernatural grace, leading to a sort of Utopianism that sees peace as possible without recognizing the Kingship of Christ, and seemingly gives the Church a new mission: peace on earth rather than the salvationof souls. This attitude, and teachings rooted in it, contradict Pope Pius X’s “Quas Primas”, Pope Leo XIII’s “Testem Benevolentiae Nostrae,” ‘‘Rerum Novarum,” Pope Pius X’s ”Notre charge apostolique,” and other papal and conciliar documents that deal with social teaching.
The Truth: There is no peace without the Prince of Peace. Man has lost his likeness to God through original sin, and this likeness can only be restored through supernatural grace. Without this likeness, there will be strife among peoples and nations, and no amount of “Can’t we all just get along?” thinking can overcome it. The purpose of the Church and all Her laws is the salvation of souls. Peace on earth is a fruit of man’s regaining his likeness to God through the Sacraments and faith, but not the Church’s primary goal.* * *
- The Error: An embracing of false ideas of religious liberty and the radical separation of Church and State (as opposed to recognizing them as two distinct spheres, the secular being informed by — but not controlled by — the religious). This contradicts the oldest teaching of the Church, Leo XIII’s “Testem Benevolentiae Nostra,” etc.
The Truth: While it is often (perhaps more often than not) prudent and beneficial to the common good to tolerate error, while no one may ever be forced to believe against his conscience, and while those in error must be treated with charity and simple kindness, error has no positive “rights” in itself. A State whose laws are not based on natural law, whose laws don’t have the Christian understanding of the True, Good, and Beautiful at their center to define the “”good” in “common good,” and whose laws don’t have the good of the family at their heart is bound to lead to trouble with great eternal and temporal consequences.
If one stops to think about it, it is quite obvious that there are only a few options in this regard:
- We can have no rule of law at all.
- We can have a rule of law based on Catholic morality.
- We can have a rule of law based on Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Wiccan, or other non-Catholic views of morality, and have our civic holidays and symbolism based on that belief system.
- We can have a rule of law based on “secular precepts” of radical individualism and tolerance for the sake of tolerance, the effects of which:
deny any role of religion or of the religious in the public sphere unless they deny their own precepts. This forces the religious into “schizophrenic” lives split in half between their “religious, private selves” and their “public, political selves”;
end in abortion, “homosexual marriage,” euthanasia, divorce, rampant pornography, un-Catholic economic systems, attacks on the family via social programs (or, in a libertarian system of this sort, result in no support via acknowledgment of the rights of fathers), etc. One need not be religious to see the social effects of such policies;
secularize historically Christian holidays and symbolism in order to appease all religions, either denying those things any civic status at all, or forcing recognition of these aspects of all religious systems equally, giving equal weight in law, for ex., to Satanism, Scientology, and Catholicism;
sacrifice: man’s needs for culture (rooted in the word “cult”); a society’s need of a shared vision of the Good, True, and Beautiful; and a sense of historical continuity and rootedness, all in favor of ideologies which have shown themselves to be divisive and socially and psychologically unsatisfying.
That’s it. Those are the options. Which is the right choice for a Catholic? Which ends in sanity? Which builds community, a sense of place, of belonging and rootedness? Which system is more likely to be coherent and lead to happiness? Which is consistent with Catholic teaching? And, most importantly, which is most likely to lead to the salvation of souls?
* * *
- The Error: The spread of a false ecumenism (movement toward unity between Christians) and incessant, fruitless interreligious dialogue (dialogue between Christians and non-Christians) that has as its goal a religious unity that doesn’t require conversion to the Catholic faith; that has served to water down the Catholic Faith in order to appease non-Catholics; and that has led to scandalous “interfaith” prayer and worship services that are based on sentiment and feelingsrather than true charity which is rooted in Truth. This contradicts Sacred Scripture, Pope Pius X’s “Our Apostolic Mandate” (“Notre Charge Apostolique”), Pope Pius XI’s ”Mortalium Animos,” Pope Pius XII’s ”Humani Generis” and other documents.
In this regard, among the most striking of the errors is the presentation of Catholic teaching about the post-Temple Jewish religion, which is a radically different religion — based on the Talmud and Pharisaic rabbinism rather than Tanach and the priesthood — than the Old Testament religion practiced by most of the Apostles before their meeting Christ and embracing the New Covenant, which is the fulfilling of the Old Covenant. The ideas that the Jewish people are in a saving covenant all their own, that they don’t need Jesus, that post-Temple Judaism is not almost completely antagonistic to Jesus and His Church, and the kow-towing to Jewish leaders’ demands that we change our liturgy and prayers, to not canonize this person or that, etc., are all new ideas and behaviors not based in Truth.
The Truth: While understanding between the practitioners of various religions is quite good, while it is a wonderful thing — a Christ-commanded thing! — to have warm, charitable relations with non-Catholics, and while we are commanded to love our neighbor, even if that neighbor is an enemy by being a part of an anti-Christ religion, it is a dogma of the Faith that “outside the Church there is no salvation” (“extra ecclesiam nulla salus”). To gain a proper understanding of this very subtle and very often misunderstood (even by traditionalists) teaching, see the relevant paragraphs on the page “Catholicism 101: A Brief Primer.”
* * *
- The Error: A new view of ecclesiastical tradition that sees it as extremely changeable and has led to dangerous modifications in Catholic practices, liturgy, and disciplines, and to an embracing of novelty which had been unheard of it the Church before the Second Vatican Council. This contradicts, among other papal and conciliar documents, Pope Pius X’s Motu Proprio ”Sacrorum antistitum” (an oath taken by all priests prior to the Council), Pope Gregory XVI’s ”Mirari Vos”, the Fourth Anathema of the Second Ecumenical Council of Nicaea, the teaching of the First Vatican Council, especially the document ”Pastor Aeternus” and the ”Fourth Anathema of the Second Ecumenical Council of Nicaea” which reads, “If anyone rejects any written or unwritten Tradition of the Church, let him be anathema.”
The Truth: Ecclesiastical traditions can change over time, but they must do so only organically — and never if the changes harm souls, lead to sin, damage the understanding of the Faith, etc. One of the three Pillars of the Church is Tradition; it must be guarded, whether those traditions are written or unwritten.* * *
- The Error: a new and critical attitude towards Sacred Scripture that contradicts Leo XIII’s ”Providentissimus Deus” and Benedict XV’s ”Spiritus Paraclitus” among other documents.
The Truth: Sacred Scripture is inerrant, divinely inspired, and historically and scientifically accurate even though some parts of it are to be read poetically or metaphorically. Proper interpretation of Sacred Scripture can be known by reading the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, and by reading infallible definitions from Popes and Councils convened by Popes.
* * *
- The Error: An ignoring of the fact that the Church and the world are at variance with one another to some degree, and that the Church has enemies. This ignores Sacred Scripture, Pope Pius X’s warnings in ”Pascendi Dominici Gregis,” Leo XIII’s ”Humanum Genus”, and many other papal warnings against secret societies and enemies of Christendom. The most obvious and dangerous way in which our hierarchs are betraying the Catholic Faith is in a new attitude toward post-Temple Judaism, a religion that is not the religion of the Old Testament, but is Pharisaic rabbinism based on the explicitly anti-Christ Talmud rather than on Torah. Post-Temple Judaism is almost a complete inversion of the religion of the Old Testament.
The Truth: The Church has always had enemies and will always have enemies until the end of time. Toward the end of time, Antichrist will come and lead these enemies to persecute the Church as She follows Christ in His Passion and Resurrection. We will not be spared by some “Rapture”; the State of Israel isn’t to be veritably worshipped as the heresy of dispensationalism would have it.* * *
- The Error: A new “Paschal theology” which de-emphasizes the Sacrificial aspects of our salvation and which leads the faithful to believe that it is Christ’s Resurrection alone, and not the Blood shed by His Sacrifice on the Cross, that saves. The revision of the Mass liturgy under Pope Paul VI is a fruit of this “paschal theology,” a theology that contradicts Scripture and Encyclicals such as Pope Pius XII’s “Mediator Dei”. This paschal theology also de-emphasizes the meaning of suffering, ignoring Christ’s admonition to Christians to “take up their crosses” (Matthew 10:38), and forgetting St. Paul’s admonitions to mortify the flesh (Galatians 5:18-25, Colossians 1:23-24).
The Truth: 1 Corinthians 1:23 “We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews indeed a stumblingblock, and unto the Gentiles foolishness.” We get to the Resurrection through the Cross; we have to pick up our own crosses and follow Him.
In addition to these errors, post-conciliar changes in liturgical rites and religious disciplines have gravely damaged the faithful’s understanding of the holy religion. Foremost among these changes is the new Order of the Mass (the Novus Ordo Missae) that is rooted in the aforementioned Paschal Theology and which, therefore, de-emphasizes traditional Catholic teaching that the Mass is a Sacrifice (the offering up of Jesus to to assuage the Father’s wrath at our evil ways, in a re-presentation of Calvary and for the remission of sins).
The Novus Ordo Missae (the Mass published after Vatican II) has been stripped of important Catholic prayers; is open to abuse because of the various options allowed; de-emphasizes the ordained priesthood; is divisive because of the eradiction of Latin which brought people of various nations together; is objectively and subjectively more man-centered; includes an order of readings that omits controversial things (Hell, Pharisaism, miracles, etc.); and is less beautiful, poetic, and able to act as a sign of Mystery, etc. Some of these problems are summarized in the ”Ottaviani Intervention” and on the “Introduction to the Traditional Mass” page in the “Being Catholic” section of this site. Consider what goes on liturgically in a typical parish, and then contrast it with the traditional Order of the Mass. Also in the “Being Catholic” section of this site, you can contrast the sacramental rites you see in your parish with the traditional rites of Baptism, Penance, Eucharist, Confirmation, Holy Orders, Matrimony, and Unction (“Annointing of the Sick”).
In the area of discipline come changes that have served to lead people to believe that Catholicism is a religion that doesn’t reflect the deep meaning of the Incarnation. The signs, symbols, and external rites that had always served to discipline the body, inspire holy thoughts, and feed the imagination have been stripped away. Church buildings have been emptied of their statues and other icons. Religious habits and cassocks which once inspired respect and holy thoughts are rare. Fasting and Friday abstinence from eating meat, though still the universal law of the Church, are ignored as Bishops’ conferences have their way with them, R.C.I.A. classes don’t teach them, and lay Catholics simply ignore them. The customs of the liturgical year and the ways and rhythms of the Catholic home are disappearing — rather, they were disappearing, but are being restored now by traditionalists. All of these things once had the effect of binding Catholics together as a single people — a catholic (universal) people — by giving them, as Latin did (and still does for traditionalists), a common cultural “language.”
The Traditional Catholic “Movement”
A “traditional Catholic” (or “traditionalist Catholic”) is a Catholic who recognizes the above errors in the presentation of Catholic teaching, who sees unwise pastoral decisions for what they are, who does all in his power to preserve the Holy Faith in a manner consistent with how it has always been understood, and who strives to preserve all of the liturgical rites and customs of the Church as they were before the “spirit of Vatican II” revolution. Traditionalists are not some “branch of the Church,” or (necessarily) some “splinter group”; they are usually and quite simply Catholics to whom the adjective “traditional” applies.
Traditional Catholics fall into three main categories:
- The first and by far the largest group consists of those Catholics who accept the acclaimed Pope and his recent predecessors as true Popes and who believe that the Second Vatican Council was a valid, albeit problematic, Council. In this group are included:
- those who attend parishes where Masses are offered in accordance with Pope Benedict XVI’s Motu Proprio “Summorum Pontificum“, often celebrated by priests of the Fraternal Society of St Peter (F.S.S.P.) or the Institute of Christ the King (I.C.K), and
- those who attend chapels or oratories where Masses are offered by priests of the Priestly Society of St. Pius X (S.S.P.X.) 4 outside of ordinary diocesan structures. While the S.S.P.X. operates outside of ordinary diocesan structures, they are not in schism. Vatican officials consider dealings with the S.S.P.X. to be an “internal matter.” Further, it’s been ruled that it is licit to attend their Masses and offer financial support for their chapels. The only serious questions pertain to Sacraments that require ordinary jurisdiction — i.e., Confession and Holy Matrimony. It’s beyond the scope of this page to explore the details of such things, but you can search the internet and study these matters for yourself.
- The second group consists of those who are unsure about the status of the acclaimed Pope. Many such Catholics worship at Masses offered by the Society of Saint Pius V (S.S.P.V.).
- The third group consisists of “sedevacantist” Catholics, that is Catholics who believe that the Catholic Church has not had a true Pope for some time (most consider Pope Pius XII as the last true Pope) and who, depending on the time they see as the moment the “Chair of Peter” (sede) became empty (vacante), may or may not see Vatican II as a valid Council. Many sedevacantists attend Masses offered by the Congregation of Mary Immaculate Queen (C.M.R.I.). 5
Though there is certain level of dispute among these various groups at the priestly level, traditional Catholic laypeople amongst them generally tend to have good relations with each other, though often with some very strong tension between sedevacantists and those who accept the acclaimed Pope.
Depending on how he understands the nature of Christian obedience, schism, and the validity of the Novus Ordo Mass, a given traditional Catholic layman might have firm opinions for or against the advisability of worshiping outside of diocesan structures, or, conversely, he might worship at more than one of the above Mass settings without qualm.
A given traditional Catholic might equally like both the F.S.S.P. and the S.S.P.X., thinking it good that there are those fighting for (at least) some level of Tradition both inside and outside of ordinary diocesan structures, while another may think one group superior to the other or that one group is unacceptable for some reason.
Some traditionalists attend Novus Ordo Masses if no traditional Mass is available to them. Others refuse to attend the Novus Ordo Mass (except, perhaps, for funerals and weddings of family and friends), thinking it invalid or believing it “morally impossible” to do so because they see it — not necessarily because of what it is, inherently, but because of what it isn’t, what it lacks — as too dangerous to the Faith to support, even if they may see it as valid. If they have no access to the traditional Mass, some of these sorts of traditional Catholics become “home-aloners” making do like Catholics did during various persecutions.
Despite these varying opinions on the requirements of obedience with regard to attending the New Mass if that’s all that’s available, what all traditional Catholics who fit the label have in common — whether they are sedevacantist, whether they worship inside or outside of diocesan structures — are:
- the dogmas of the Faith understood in a manner consistent with the way Catholics had always understood them — i.e., they reject the errors outlined above — and an upholding of traditional Catholic moral theology
- a desire to preserve and restore all of the ancient liturgical rites, and to do so not because these are “preferred,” but because they are objectively superior to the new rites and should once again become normative
- a deep understanding of or intuition about the importance of preserving not only instrinsic tradition (the unwritten Deposit of the Faith handed down by Christ and His Apostles), but also the ecclesiastical tradition (extrinsic tradition) which has served to preserve intrinsic tradition and allows parents and priests to pass it down in an effective way 6
- a strong sensus Catholicus (Catholic “sense” or “instinct”), including a cautious, Catholic approach to novelty
Traditional Catholics are a minority in the Church, and their demographics are hard to pin down, but their numbers are growing quickly with Catholics moving away from modernism, and with conversions from Protestantism and Orthodoxy. Their parishes, chapels, and seminaries tend to be full.
Traditional Catholics also tend to have large families, with many of them homeschooling their children.
For any questions about traditional Catholicism, visit the Discussion Forum at this site (read the forum’s rules before posting).
Study to learn the Faith as it has always been understood. Read the pages linked to all throughout this article. Read the articles in the “Offsite Essays” area of the “For Catholics” section of this site. And, finally, find a place where traditional Catholics are welcome — a place to worship that offers not only the traditional Mass, but all of the ancient liturgical rites, and sound catechesis.
Where the FishEaters Website
Fits Into All of This
The FishEaters website is owned by me, and I do not speak Latin, have not read the Vatican II documents in their original language, and am not a theologian. Therefore, until I’m shown otherwise by sound arguments, I operate under the assumption that the documents — which are pastoral in nature — were merely badly and ambiguously written, exploited by revolutionaries, and must be interpreted in light of Tradition. I am also not knowledgedable enough to have a truly informed opinion as to whether the documents of Vatican II even could contain positive error.
I am not a sedevacantist and have nothing to do with the S.S.P.X. or any independent priests. I attend Masses offered by traditionalist priests inside normal diocesan structures (F.S.S.P.). This page is intended to act as an unbiased introduction to the traditionalist “movement” in general, and not, because they are mentioned, as support for any of the various types of traditionalists other than those who remain faithful to the Holy Father.
It’s far too often true that when folks start learning about traditional Catholicism, about how the presentation of Catholic teaching has been so twisted since Vatican II, great confusion sets in. Lots of folks spend time reading old Encyclicals and contrasting them with Vatican II documents. They end up looking all over the internet for information– and, in the process, come across some truly whacky folks who claim to have “the” answers. From fake monasteries (like that run by the Dimond Brothers, who are not actually Benedictines) to a man out in the Midwest who claims to be the True Pope and calls himself “Pope Michael,” there’s a a fair share of goofery out there in strange little pockets of “the traditional Catholic world.”
And there’s a lot of anger and bitterness among some — not all, not even close to all! — “trads.” It’s very easy to fall into the trap of always looking for things to nitpick at, to go looking for problems where no problems are, to start to get a “high” off of being enraged about something. Some folks get into the habit of never giving the Holy Father the benefit of the doubt and talking about him with disrespect. Some folks fall over the edge altogether and become what I call “Toxic Trads” — legalistic, joyless, rigid, judgmental, “Puritanical,” humorless people obsessed with hemlines, the issue of women wearing pants, overly-rigid sex roles, stressing the intellect over the heart to the point of ignoring the importance of emotions, etc. (you can read a list of some of their characteristics at the bottom of this page).
Scrupulosity, misogyny, harmful child-rearing practices that suck the joy and spirit out of children, an attitude marked more by fear and pride than by love and humility — these things point not toward greater spirituality and a closer walk with Our Lord, but to escapism in the form of religious addiction. And religious addiction points toward deeper psychological problems that will make the addicts’ lives Hell — and also the lives of people who have to deal with them. I think traditional Catholicism can sometimes attract poor people like this because the necessity of even having to use the term “traditional Catholicism” is a reflection of the fact that something’s gone seriously wrong in the human element of the Church, and that “something” was warned about by our Popes since the so-called “Englightenment.” They mentioned “enemies” — and the Church has ’em. In the way a bee is drawn toward a bright red flower, someone with paranoid tendencies can be drawn toward traditional Catholicism. Others can’t tolerate any ambiguity, any idea that life is more complicated than what they’d like, that people don’t fit into nice, neat little boxes, so they become rigid in thought in order to try to have black and white, easy answers for all of life’s problems. Further, traditional Catholicism as a “movement” is considered “fringe” by some, in spite of Pope Benedict XVI’s Motu Proprio, and — well, things that are considered “fringey” can attract folks “on the fringe.”
To nip this sort of thing in the bud (thanks, Deputy Fife!), I want to point everyone reading this to what I consider the single most important page on this entire website: Conversion of the Heart. I beg everyone reading this — most especially if the person reading this is about to explore the beautiful, fulfilling world of traditional Catholicism! — to read and truly try to internalize that page.
If your practice of the Faith doesn’t bring you to greater preace, joy, and, most especially, love for God and for neighbor, you’re on the wrong path! You are “doing traditional Catholicism wrong”! If you find yourself at a chapel in which these sorts of attitudes predominate, be on the look-out for markers of a true “cult” (in the bad sense of the word) and prepare to find another place to worship. “Check yourself” as you go along, and whatever you do, stay very, very close to Jesus. God bless you!
Traditional Catholics’ Motto
We are what you once were.
We believe what you once believed.
We worship as you once worshipped.
If you were right then, we are right now.
If we are wrong now, you were wrong then.
1 http://www.sspx.ca/Angelus/1984_November/Church_VaticanII.htm Link is offsite and will open in a new browser window.
2 This is precisely how it came about that Catholic women stopped wearing veils, believe it or not. During the Second Vatican Council, Archbishop Bugnini — the Modernist who fabricated the Novus Ordo Mass — was asked by journalists whether women will still have to wear headcoverings. He told them that the Council wouldn’t be addressing that issue. And how did it come out in the newspapers the next day? The reporters wrote that Catholic women no longer have to wear veils. And so Catholic women stopped doing it — even though it had been the immemorial practice of the Church and a matter of Canon Law. When the new Code of Canon Law was written after so many years of women not veiling (and, of course, after feminism won the day), the discipline simply wasn’t mentioned.
These sorts of obfuscations, simple errors, or out and out lies happen all the time! Of this much I will assure you, Catholic: if you get your Catholic education from newspapers, you are doomed. You must learn to be able to recognize what is and is not an infallible statement, learn to recognize the different levels of the Magisterium, and then seek out official documents and attribute to them proper authoritativeness. If you don’t, you will be forever confused and forever wrong about what the Church teaches.
4 For information about the Society of St. Pius X, see their F.A.Q: http://sspx.org/sspxfaqs.htm (link is offsite and will open in new browser window). To clear up a few misconceptions about the S.S.P.X.: they see Vatican II as a valid, pastoral Council; they see the Novus Ordo Mass as valid (but also Protestantized and to be avoided); and they don’t claim ordinary jurisdiction.
5 There are a very, very small number of people who believe we do have a Pope, but that it is not the man accepted as Pope by the world. These people are often mistakenly referred to as “sedevacantists,” but should be referred to as “conclavists.” There are also “Sedeprivationists” — those who adhere to the “Cassiciacum Thesis” which states that the Popes since John XXIII are Popes materially but not formally due to heresy.
6 See “Conservative vs. Traditional Catholicism” by Fr. Chad Ripperger, F.S.S.P. from Latin Mass Magazine: http://www.latinmassmagazine.com/articles/articles_2001_SP_Ripperger.html Link is offsite and will open in a new browser window.
Until next time, God bless & Keep it trad!