Yet again in the blogosphere there have been some storms about traditionalist Catholics. “Was Michael Voris attacked by this person or that person? We must rally to his defense!” “Is Michael Voris a real traditionalist or not?” “Did Pope Francis attack traditionalists by calling them ‘self absorbed, promethean, neo pelagians?”
While I have criticized certain trends within the traditionalist movement from time to time, I’ve always tried to also express my admiration and respect for the majority of traditionalist Catholics who are good and faithful sons and daughters of the church.
I’m not a traditionalist. To quote Fr.Z, I just want to “say the black and do the red”. In other words, I want to live my life as a Catholic priest where I am today in this situation in the twenty first century–realizing that things are not perfect–but knowing that they never have been. Within that I try to be faithful to my vocation as a Benedictine oblate and a Diocesan priest.
But while I am not a traditionalist, I appreciate them and here’s why:
One of the riches of the Catholic Church is her unity and diversity. Within the Catholic big tent we have different religious orders, ecclesial movements and associations of the faithful. Some of these are formally organized and recognized–others are more amorphous but still identifiable. We have different tastes, different trends, different tendencies. The Lord has given us many ways to follow Christ. Each of these different traditions, spiritualities, emphases and disciplines offer particular strengths and weaknesses. Each of them have a particular charism and something to offer the whole church.
The reason I love traditionalists is the same reason I love Franciscans or Charismatic Catholics or Jesuits or Missionaries of Charity or Friars of the Renewal or Priests for Life or Benedictines or Legionnaires….and on and on and on. Each of these groups or sub-categories in the church offer the whole church a particular vision and aspect of the whole truth, and members of each group serve the church best by being faithful to Christ within their path. The traditionalists offer us a reminder of the hermeneutic of continuity. They work hard to bring forward the best in our Catholic traditions of spirituality, liturgy, music, art and architecture. They remind us of the call to radical discipleship and the need to love the Lord with our whole heart.
When traditionalists live out their traditional Catholic faith with zeal, joy and love for others they will evangelize and grow the church in a truly authentic and wonderful way, but this can also be said of Catholics in any of the other sub groups. A radiantly authentic Franciscan or Benedictine–a joyful Missionary of Charity, Dominican or Jesuit will do the same. The key thing to remember is that we are following Christ the Lord. He comes first–not our particular sub-set–no matter how beautiful, good and true it happens to be.
Are there negativities within the traditionalist movement? Are there crazies and dangerous extremists? Of course. So what? Every sub group in the Catholic Church (every parish and family for that matter) has crazies and dangerous extremists. It’s part of the wonderful width of the Catholic Church. What each sub group needs to realize is that the individuals in the sub group best serve the church by being as faithful as possible to their charism and calling, while not expecting everyone else to be like them. It is wrong for a person who is keen on Cursillo, for example, to demand that everyone in the parish go on a Cursillo retreat. We can’t all be monks in the desert nor should we be. It is right for Charismatic Catholics to be gung ho on the gifts of the Spirit, for example, but not right to expect every other baptized person to speak in tongues and love praise and worship songs.
This is not to endorse a kind of Catholic relativism in which everybody should just do as they please. Within the diversity we have unity in our obedient allegiance to the magisterium. There is an enormous amount of latitude in the Catholic Church, but there boundaries. History shows that any sub group can become corrupt, twisted, heretical or schismatic. It happens. This is why all of the sub groups in the Catholic Church are to be committed not only first and foremost to following Jesus Christ, but also being submissive to the authority of his Vicar on earth. Mother Church properly corrects, adjusts and directs both the individuals and the groups within the church. In this way our diversity is celebrated while our unity is affirmed.
I realize that traditionalists may not appreciate my take on the matter. They may say, “But we are not a sub group of the church. The Latin Mass is the mass of the ages. This is what all Catholics used to do. We’re keeping the true faith! The others are all wrong.” I understand that opinion, but that’s not actually the teaching of the Catholic Church. Like it or not, the second Vatican Council has taken place. Like it or not, by decree or by popular practice, changes have happened. The vernacular Mass is accepted as the Ordinary Form while the Latin Mass is appreciated and valued as the Extraordinary Form. This means that the rituals in Latin are an accepted alternative. I, for one, am glad the Latin rituals are treasured and promoted by traditionalists. They are a gift to the whole church.