Thoughts on the Discarded Term, “Radtrad”

Thoughts on the Discarded Term, “Radtrad” August 6, 2013
. . . (and on the Discussion About Ditching It, and Attacks on My Sincerity)
The radical axis of two intersecting circles connects their two points of intersection. Image by “WillowW”. [Wikimedia CommonsCreative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license] Radical Catholic reactionaries intersect with the group of traditionalists a little, but are fundamentally a different group.



[As of 3 August 2013, I started using the self-coined term, radical Catholic reactionary instead of radtrad. But my reasoning (for the most part) for my former use of radtrad was not invalid or unsound or intrinsically unethical. In my opinion, it was never shown to be so. I stopped using it mostly because it was causing confusion of category and offending mainstream “traditionalists.”]
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In a true breath of fresh air and classy act, Pete Vere, who had been present on a Facebook thread in March 2013 where I was being massively attacked, yet never participated in the mud bath and shark attack against me, stood up strongly for me. Thanks so much to Pete. It’s so encouraging and refreshing to see someone have the courage to rise to Christian charity (which ought to be normative rather than dodo bird rare) in such a poisoned atmosphere. Here is what he wrote (my interjections in black and bracketed):

. . . I actually think this a positive sign of how far things have evolved in the Indult / EF in terms of returning to the heart of the Church. Twenty years ago, as traditionalists loyal to Rome, we took our allies wherever we could find them because we had so few. And to his credit, Dave during those early years was a valuable ally, who unlike so many other conservative NO [Novus Ordo] types in the apologetics movement at that time, not only did not trash us, but actually stood up for us.

I also recall Dave taking lots of flack [some things never change!] from both conservative NO types and rad trads for standing up for us, so I can understand why he appears sensitive to the charge he was lumping together all trads as radical. I also understand [so-and-so’s] sensitivity to the term radtrad, given that the term is often used outside its original coinage as an epithet against all trads.

I just don’t believe that the latter was how Dave intended to use the term. [quite correct, as I have explained at length, and numerous times] Not only does he deny lumping together all trads as radical, but to do so would be inconsistent with his past support of trads loyal to the Holy See. [Exactly; as well as my own worship experience of 22 years of the Latin Mass and support all those years for wider freedom to attend the Tridentine Mass]

So I kinda see this as one of those differences between paleo-trads like myself (and people like Dave who supported us back in the day) and neo-trads like Kevin [Tierney] . . . who came about after the term “radtrad” had morphed from its original meaning.

Regarding Dave’s use of the term “radtrad” – here again, regardless of whether one agrees or disagrees with his definition and/or usage of the term, I did not feel that he was directing the term toward [name] or any other trad participating in the discussion here. Which is why I find the ensuing blowup unfortunate. As far as his definition of the term, I find it interesting how the term has expanded and morphed since I first coined it. But that was due to several people and not just Dave.

Basically, in the old sandbox of traddyland way back when, I was just looking for something to counter the term “indulterer” (as I have repeated ad nauseum). I think it is fair, especially after the radtrads introduced the epithet “neo-Catholic” into the apologetics lexicon – which has also been picked up by some well-meaning EF types, including a priest friend of mine (former SSPX turned EF) who I laid into quite strongly after he used the term “neo-Catholic” in my presence. That being said, I do think the term “radtrad” is becoming less relevant as EF Mass centres become EF parishes, which has a stabilizing and moderating effect on trads. Even the SSPX is going down this road today.

I had only used radtrad since 2008 (and decided to stop using it on 3 August 2013; opting for “radical Catholic reactionary” instead). Before that, I used my own coined term, quasi-schismatic, to denote extreme, radical, fringe, exclusivistic “traditionalists” with all the usual attitudinal problems associated with this sort of mentality, that goes back to early separatist, rigorous, or purist sects like the Donatists, Montanists, Old Catholics, etc.

I responded on 3-17-13 to Pete’s magnificent defense of my person, and accurate explanation of my views:

Thank you so much for the prayers, and especially for your defense of me in the thread. That was extremely welcome after another day of being dragged through the mud over something (originally) that I didn’t even do, or say.

That’s what has been so odd about all this. I’ve been a target because I supposedly hold a position that I don’t even hold, and never have. It’s like being trashed because I am a Democrat or something (which I haven’t been for over 30 years). You hit the nail on the head in your analysis. I’ve plainly explained all this carefully and many times, including a detailed chapter in my recent book, Mass Movements (there is no mystery at all about it), but obviously to no avail in some quarters.

The day before I had stated on my Facebook page:

I pray for all the people attacking me and wish all God’s blessings upon them, and I ask you reading this to do the same: pray and don’t fight back in kind. Don’t sink to that level. I’ve consistently called for prayer and non-attacks over here, while the lies and calumnies on other pages continued unabated. I’m kickin’ the dust off of my feet now, having done every possible thing I could do to try to bring it to an end.

They (and anyone else who wants to slander) won’t stop me from doing what I do, including exposing errors and helping people to be freed from a destructive, quasi-schismatic, uncharitable mentality.

This is clear enough. Pete Vere was one of the persons instrumental in using the term, radtrad early on, and he witnessed the entire ugly escapade (that ended up with legal threats from the main instigator, after I merely dared to defend myself on my page from all the personal attacks and — what a novelty! — document what actually happened). Pete knows what he is talking about, and he accurately reports my usage and my intention for it.

Despite all that, the inimitable Shawn McElhinney once again distorts what happened, and, well, lies about it, in a comment dated 6 August 2013: “Now I was admittedly privy to some apologists resurrecting the term earlier in the year and proceeding to use it in ways it was never intended to be used.” I didn’t “resurrect” it; I had been using it since 2008. Nor did I coin it. But concern for accuracy is not one of Shawn’s defining characteristics: especially where I am concerned.

I would also note that mainstream “traditionalists” themselves draw the same distinctions I do, but simply use different terms. I mentioned one “traditionalist” with whom I clashed recently [the one in the incident above]. She used the term, “wacko.” Big improvement over radtrad, huh? Another one used the description of “urine and vinegar wing of traditionalism.” But he later renounced it.


“Traditionalist” Kevin Tierney wrote: “When people aren’t around screaming ‘rad-trad’, you don’t see too much talking about ‘Neo-Catholic'” . . .

“Radtrad” was used mostly in private e-mail circles (in the mid-90s, among the names I mentioned above). I wrote a book on radical Catholic reactionaries in 2002 and never used “radtrad” (I used “quasi-schismatic”). I don’t believe it appears in Madrid’s and Vere’s book on the SSPX, either. I myself didn’t use “radtrad” till five years ago or so.

But Chris Ferrara (the epitome of a radical Catholic reactionary) started using “neo-Catholicism” himself in his book in 2002 (that even his co-author Thomas Woods now disses), and it has constantly been used in reactionary circles since then (just read back logs of the Fisheaters Forum if you doubt this). I critiqued “The Remnant” on my site at length in 2000. In his book, The Great Facade, it was noted (p. 10) that the term had been coined by Gerry Matatics.

You say “neo-Catholic” is only used in reaction to “radtrad”? Well, Ferrara used the term 34 times in his article that you cite. That’s an awful lot for mere reactionary use: which would be silly, anyway. If it’s wrong to use a term, it should never be used, with no exceptions made for polemical or “controversial” circumstances.

Kevin: “As you yourself admit, Dave, you get a lot of heat from mainstream trads for using it [radtrad]. Why?

Already explained why: they don’t understand (when they get mad) that I am not including them in with the term (precisely the opposite), and so this angers them, because they wrongly think I am calling them that. That was what the huge stink and slander-fest at a certain blog last March was all about: completely ridiculous. I’ve had many mainstream “traditionalists” — once they understand the distinction — agree with me and thank me for my efforts. It’s all part of apologetics (unfortunately) to (not infrequently) be massively misunderstood. All I can do is keep explaining how I am using terms . . .


No doubt people will have big problems with any new term; nothing totally solves this, but it can’t be any worse than the farce and huge misunderstandings we have now over terminology.

But I am acknowledging that there is a legitimate argument against the use of “trad” (i.e., as part of radtrad). I think a lot of the conflict is silly and unnecessary, but part of it is legitimate, and that is what compromise is about, in charity, and why I am willing to entertain this as a real possibility.

I’m neither an uncharitable person nor an inflexible one who never changes his mind. This effort shows that yet again, I think. I am listening to the concerns and trying to address them from my end. Maybe some of my critics will “get” it at long last.

We tried catchy and semi-humorous with radtrad. Didn’t work out too well. So now we go with pedantic and boring to stop the hogwash that has been going on, with folks refusing to make crucial distinctions or to take five minutes to read any of my papers on the topic.  It’ll still be necessary to provide a capsule summary of what the newly selected term [radical Catholic reactionary] refers to: that always has been necessary and will continue to be so.


I am still quite willing to consider a different term, because that is what charity does: it reaches out and takes the initiative; the first step; tries to overcome the suspicions and the acrimony. But in no way, shape, or form am I duty-bound or ethically required to do so


“Prophet once again” files:

Seven hours ago I wrote privately to a friend:

Now, if I decide not to change my terms, no doubt, I’ll get accused of not being sincere in the first place; like this was just some sort of game or ploy on my part.

Now here comes pompous ass [seemingly] reactionary Glendon Cheshire (about six hours after my prediction) responding to me over at Catholic Lane:

I don’t think anyone was taking the initiative seriously. It seemed staged, or rhetorical — for effect. Maybe you should have prefaced with ‘I’m serious about this. I’m not joking. I’d like a name or names to call people, to be accurate.’

I made it crystal-clear that I was dead-serious. Just read the post above (anyone who doubts it). Anyone could see that, except for a pharisaical ass who insists (ultra-typical of the reactionary mentality) on refusing to extend the minimal benefit of the doubt that every Christian is obliged to routinely extend.

I feel like Rush Limbaugh: who knows the political liberals like the back of his hand. I just knew this would happen. Someone said it even before I made up my mind yay or nay. I know how reactionaries think and especially how they view me and others whom they characterize as “neo-Catholics,” etc. I’ve been wrangling with them for 16 years. I continued with my friend in private:

You can see that I am sincere. . . . anyone who is trying to be charitable and conciliatory can see my spirit and heart in the thing. And that may be worth something, as you say, . . .

It seems like almost all radtrads, — much as they loudly protest about being characterized as angry or intolerant or self-righteous –, prove it so very often when you run across ’em. At some point we have to believe our own eyes and experiences. If they want respect, they gotta earn it, just like the rest of us, not moan and whine about how “mean” people are to them . . .

In the same private correspondence, my friend stated that he was seriously considering starting to attend the Eastern Rites. My reply shows, I think, how close I am in spirit to mainstream “traditionalists” as to liturgy:

Yes, no question, if the choice is your average tepid [i.e., in practice], liturgically and architecturally insipid, abuse-laden, mediocre western [Novus Ordo] Mass vs. Eastern Rites; no contest. Or between that and the TLM, no contest. Blessedly, I don’t have to make that choice, because I’m in a very rare parish, and love it; think it’s perfect. I don’t think I could handle anything less at worship. I wouldn’t have the patience for it, for two weeks.

The thing is to get back to authentic [liturgical / architectural] tradition. If your local western Mass doesn’t offer it, then ‘vote with your feet’ and do whatever you gotta do. Good for you.

It’s nothing I haven’t said before, many times. Eventually these numbskull reactionaries that run into me will “get” what I am about. But I won’t hold my breath, and I certainly won’t lose a minute’s sleep over it. Someone who can’t even extend the rudimentary charity that any atheist or rank heathen could and would extend is no concern of mine. I mention it only for the sake of humor (the “prophecy” aspect) and to illustrate the folly and asinine nature of it.


[Glendon’s] remark (along with the apathy of response in general) has just about killed the initially great hope and enthusiasm I had for seriously entertaining a change of terminology. Way to go, Glendon! A sterling example of Christian charity there, that Kevin is calling for . . .

I haven’t said I was plain wrong in using “radtrad” (if so, then I would cease using it, regardless of how people reacted or what they thought, as my ethical duty; no need to even make a public proposal; it woulda been done yesterday). Fr. Dwight Longenecker’s reasoning today in defending the use of “radtrad” remains my own.

I was trying to take the extra step — walk the extra mile — in attempting to mollify those who are offended by “radtrad” (I think, based mostly on huge misunderstandings).

I tried. And this is what I got: charges of insincerity. Now, a mainstream “trad” could say that Glendon is a radtrad and so his response is irrelevant to my proposal, which is directed towards mainstream trads. That’s true, as far as it goes. But then we should see his pathetic attitude roundly and loudly rebuked at Catholic Lane by “trads” who would like to work towards more common ground with folks like me who have many sympathies towards the movement and who make sincere efforts to build bridges with and to it.

We’ll see if that happens. First I get no reply at all to my proposal over there, then when I do, it’s a guy accusing me of game-playing and bald-faced lying.

This is exactly, by the way, how the most hostile, vitriolic anti-Catholic Protestants have always reacted to any conciliatory proposal of mine to cease fighting and entering into more congenial discussion: It’s always the charge of insincerity. I couldn’t possibly genuinely mean what I say.

This is how sectarians, or bigots, or Pharisees act. It’s standard playbook pompous assdom.


                               [Attempted] Comment under a post on Kevin Tierney’s website:

Cardinal Ratzinger, 1985: “. . . the so-called ‘traditionalism,’ also in its extreme forms. . . .” (Ratzinger Report, 29)

Pope Francis (May 2013, as documented by Fr. Z and others): “. . . the extremism of certain traditionalist groups . . .”

[Italian: “estremismi di certi gruppi tradizionalisti”]

Many Catholics (2013), and myself up till four days ago: “Radical traditionalist” (aka “radtrad”).

Equivalent terms, in order to define the same extremism and excesses and same folks: NOT intended to apply to all “traditionalists” at all (as Mark Shea, Fr. Dwight Longenecker, Patrick Coffin, Dr. Taylor Marshall, myself, and others have explained till we’re blue in the face).

I stopped using “radtrad” not because it was intrinsically incorrect or insulting or “pejorative,” and couldn’t possibly be construed in any other way (I wasn’t persuaded of that at all), but rather, because it is widely misunderstood and because [mainstream] “traditionalists” are frequently and loudly saying that they are offended by it (the reasons they are, are a whole ‘nother discussion).

So I decided to ditch it, in charity. That is more than worthwhile to do for the sake of peace and unity, and hopefully this is a positive development in the eyes of mainstream “traditionalists.”

But in its essence, “radtrad” is no different from the terminology of the present Holy Father and the previous one (prior to his pontificate): of “extremist traditionalists.”

It’s fine to go after those of us who have used the term. But be consistent and criticize the popes, too, for doing essentially the same thing.

The fact remains that there still exists a group of Catholics who have views that need to be rebuked, and strongly so. This is what apologists do. We can call them various names. Terrye called them “wackos” in our congenial discussion in March. Kevin called them “urine and vinegar wing” a few months ago (now retracted). I called them “radtrads”; used to call them “quasi-schismatics,” and now call them “radical Catholic reactionaries.” Which is more “pejorative”? I’ve even expressed my view strongly against “mad-trad”: which I think is far worse and controversial and provocative than “radtrad” ever was.

“Now I was admittedly privy to some apologists resurrecting the term earlier in the year and proceeding to use it in ways it was never intended to be used.”

I didn’t abuse it at all; nor did I “resurrect” it. I had been using “radtrad” since 2008. Pete Vere was present, too, during the whole incident in March, and as one of the earliest users of the term (Sandra Miesel actually coined it), he expressed his opinion in the same forum that I was vastly misunderstood and did not intend at all to use the term in the way that it was taken by certain folks. He also noted that I had supported him and the FSSP way back (at one point he invited me to come live with his FSSP community), and had taken flak for it. He was right. And he was eminently fair and classy.

I haven’t “flamed” anyone here. I’m simply expressing my opinion, with the back-up of documented facts. I don’t expect this to be received ecstatically, but I haven’t “flamed” or attacked anyone, so this shouldn’t be deleted or edited, and I shouldn’t be lectured for posting it, as if I have done anything wrong.

[Kevin didn’t allow the above to be posted. His choice. For my part, I am big on free speech and detest altogether unnecessary “double standard” censorship. Having said that, I recognize that he is dealing with a couple of folks in the thread who aren’t renowned for talking in a civil manner to folks they disagree with  — to put it extremely mildly — , and that he is trying to please everyone and keep the peace; so I give him a little bit of a pass this time.]

                                                      And another in the same thread 
                            [that Kevin in his sublime moderating wisdom, did allow]:

“too many of those who have recourse to those expressions misuse and misapply them which causes no small amount of unnecessary angst by those unfairly marked by such expressions”

“. . . shun expressions that are unnecessarily divisive.”

These two things I wholeheartedly agree with, and it is 95% of the reason why I decided to ditch “radtrad.” People use it wrongly (just as they habitually misuse “anti-Catholic”) and then it comes back to haunt me, even if I am not using it improperly or directing it to the wrong people.

So the reasoning in my mind was:

1) “I’m sick and tired of being falsely accused myself of doin’ somethin’ I ain’t doin'”.


2) “why create more division than there already is, since in fact [for whatever reasons, good or bad], ‘trads’ are “offended by ‘radtrad'”?

Lessening the instances of #1 lowers my blood pressure and the application of #2 (by ditching “radtrad”) lowers “traditionalist” blood pressure.

Win-win. Thus, we do the prudent and wise thing to foster good reactions and future prospects for legitimate dialogue and unity.

I agree this far. I don’t agree with other items in the criticisms that contend that “radtrad” was always pejorative only or an insult by its very nature.

The ones to whom it was directed could very well interpret “radical traditionalist” / “radtrad” as almost praise, in the same sense that I have often called myself a “radical Christian” or “radical Catholic.” John Wesley has been called a “radical Christian” with a wholly complimentary intention. So if you call yourself a “traditionalist” there is a sense in which “radical” applied as a prefix is a compliment of sorts.

That’s not to deny that “radtrad” has a provocative, semi-sarcastic tone, too, but not nearly as much as the biblical “vipers” or “whose god is their belly” or numerous things that St. Paul said to the Galatians and Corinthians.

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