Pensées (Thoughts) on Radical Catholic Reactionaries

Pensées (Thoughts) on Radical Catholic Reactionaries December 27, 2015
 Woe unto You, Scribes and Pharisees (bet. 1886 and 1894), by James Tissot (1836-1902) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]
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The following comments were made on a recent Facebook thread that I have now decided to delete because it got way out of hand, with wild diversions and rabbit trails and personal remarks thrown about, as well as the obligatory myriad misunderstandings (as usual with any thread having to do with radical Catholic reactionaries [RadCathRs]). Here are a few of my thoughts that I expressed in the course of the discussion. Take ’em or leave ’em!
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Vatican II was relatively less “dogmatic,” but the principles of authority remain the same as with other ecumenical councils (as Pope Benedict XVI expressed in 1985). Vatican II had more to do with overall approach and method and worldview (and liturgy) than with dogma per se, but it is not an absolute distinction. But it reiterated infallible doctrines and in fact, it taught conciliar infallibility to an extent greater than the Church ever had before. 

It cannot be challenged in the way that SSPX and 
RadCathRs routinely challenge and trash and bash it. SSPX denies the infallibility of the ordinary magisterium, which is dogma. That is a fundamentally unCatholic mindset: much more like “Catholic” modernism or Protestant private judgment than like orthodox Catholicism (as I have noted many times). One must give “religious assent” to the Council, per CCC 892:

Divine assistance is also given to the successors of the apostles, teaching in communion with the successor of Peter, and, in a particular way, to the bishop of Rome, pastor of the whole Church, when, without arriving at an infallible definition and without pronouncing in a “definitive manner,” they propose in the exercise of the ordinary Magisterium a teaching that leads to better understanding of Revelation in matters of faith and morals. To this ordinary teaching the faithful “are to adhere to it with religious assent” which, though distinct from the assent of faith, is nonetheless an extension of it.

This is how Blessed Pope John Paul II in 1997 authoritatively described the Catechism:

With today’s promulgation of the Latin typical edition, therefore, the task of composing the Catechism, begun in 1986, is brought to a close and the desire of the aforementioned Extraordinary Synod of Bishops is happily fulfilled. The Church now has at her disposal this new, authoritative exposition of the one and perennial apostolic faith, and it will serve as a “valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion” and as a “sure norm for teaching the faith,” as well as a “sure and authentic reference text” for preparing local catechisms (cf. Apostolic Constitution Fidei Depositum, no. 4).

Catechesis will find in this genuine, systematic presentation of the faith and of Catholic doctrine a totally reliable way to present, with renewed fervor, each and every part of the Christian message to the people of our time. This text will provide every catechist with sound help for communicating the one, perennial deposit of faith within the local Church, . . . 

The above statement is infallible in the ordinary magisterium. The pope declared by his authority that it was a “sure norm” etc. That’s certainly infallibility in the sense of ordinary magisterium.

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It’s a lack of faith that occurs in RadCathR circles: like theological liberals and Protestants, they can’t bring themselves to believe that God could protect His Church and His popes and ecumenical councils to such an extent. Lacking this faith, they then pick and choose what to dissent from. It’s a cancer. This was my own biggest objection to Catholicism: infallibility: so I understand from the inside the skepticism and lack of faith and understanding that leads to these sorts of dissenting opinions.

But then again I was an evangelical who had never been a Catholic, when I believed this: not a Catholic, denying it from the inside, which is infinitely more serious, possibly indicating the lack of the supernatural virtue of faith: which is lost (according to Aquinas and Newman) when even one dogma is deliberately denied / disbelieved.

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The problem I have with RadCathRs is that their stance is completely indistinguishable from the premises of the dissent and rebellion of Martin Luther. He started with the assumption that ecumenical councils contradicted each other, and went from bad to worse. So now we have the same nonsense today, being believed by who knows how many people, who are, or (in extreme cases) falsely claim to be Catholics, not Protestants. It seems to me they would be much more happy (not to mention consistent) as Protestants. 

This is why I constantly compare this mentality to the pick-and-choose mindset of both Protestants and theological liberals. It’s precisely the same insofar as it dissents where it wants to: it “knows better” than Holy Mother Church and popes and ecumenical councils. It’s a poisonous, spiritually dangerous and deadly attitude and set of opinions.

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Individuals in the SSPX fall into heresy if indeed an individual among them actually denies the infallibility of the extraordinary or ordinary magisterium, and indirectly, the indefectibility of the Church. Dissenting from the infallibility of the ordinary or extraordinary magisterium (where it indeed applies) is heresy: it’s a denial of conciliar and / or papal infallibility and (even if not technically infallible) authority. I suspect that some SSPX do and some don’t believe this, so I am reluctant to make a sweeping assessment. If someone holds to the above errors, it is heresy.

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What RadCathRs  don’t get is the notion of giving assent to magisterial teachings, even if something isn’t technically infallible. I deal with all these distinctions at the greatest length in one of my papers (citing many others). The contrasts are stark and extreme:

Vatican II: ecumenism is good and the mind of the Church.

RadCathR: ecumenism is bad, is the same thing as indifferentism and in conflict with past Church teaching.

Vatican II: religious freedom and liberty are good and the mind of the Church.

RadCathR: religious freedom and liberty are bad and in conflict with past Church teaching.

Vatican II: liturgical reform is good and the mind of the Church.
RadCathR: liturgical reform is bad and the Tridentine Mass has to stand forever: any conceivable reform is objectively inferior and out of the question.

It goes far beyond whether something is infallible or what level of “binding” authority it may have. 
RadCathRs are diametrically opposed to the direction and Mind of the Church, as seen at Vatican II. They know better. The Church is dead wrong, according to them.

This is what is patent nonsense and a lack of faith and understanding of Catholic ecclesiology, pure and simple. It’s Luther redux. Having studied Luther and the Protestant Revolution in depth, and having once been of that mind myself, I’m quite familiar with it.

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No ex cathedra declarations of the very highest level of infallibility were declared in the Vatican II documents. But there are many levels of infallible pronouncements. The serious mistake here is to assume that Vatican II possessed none of that character whatever, simply because it issued no ex cathedra statement, as Vatican I did, and as popes did regarding the blessed Virgin Mary’s Immaculate Conception and Assumption. This is the same mistake that flaming modernists make, in attempting to cast off Catholic authority.
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Loss of faith and possible loss of the supernatural virtue of faith always come to us slowly. This is how the devil works. Beware and be careful: anyone who thinks in the fashion of how 
RadCathRs think about the Church.

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The RadCathR view of the Pauline Mass is quite out of step with how Pope Benedict described the two forms of the Roman Rite in 2007. I knew that RadCathRs who were quite enamored of and ecstatic about Pope Benedict when he became pope would throw him under the bus, too, if he disagreed with their foregone conclusions. And we see it happening all the time.

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One RadCathR has described the defense of Fr. Brian W. Harrison (one of the most brilliant and orthodox Catholic writers today), of  Vatican II’s teaching on religious liberty as “utter madness”; a view that  “guts the Church of her divine commission” and “poison to souls” and “treason against Our Lord Jesus Christ.” Here he has revealed his true beliefs. He gets past the usual equivocation and double-minded games that RadCathRs play, and truly speaks his mind. Pretty revealing, isn’t it? I’ve been noting how the RadCathR rhetoric plays out for fifteen years now. This is a classic, textbook example of it.

This is what the RadCathR mentality leads to: eventually, popes, too, are fair game and almost any criticism is made of them. That’s why the RadCathR path so often leads to sedevacantism: it’s the logical reduction of a position that wants to harshly judge popes, councils and the Church at the drop of a hat.

I have collected many good articles about religious liberty and Vatican II (mostly by Fr. Brian Harrison), on my Radical Catholic Reactionaries page (see the two sections there). 


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RadCathRs usually decide to devote more and more of their time to anti-Church, anti-papal, anti-conciliar bilge, and less in proportion to the defense of Holy Mother Church (which is what we apologists do, by definition). It’s tough to defend the Church and bash her at the same time. Usually, one course or the other prevails, but they don’t blend very well: sort of like oil and water.

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I have stated repeatedly that I’m not gonna debate the issue of RadCathRism. I just finished a book on it (my second; the previous one was from ten years ago): and that constitutes my current opinion and what I wish to convey. I also have a web page on the topic, with more material. Going round and round in “debate” regarding these issues is almost always fruitless and a prime example of what St. Paul calls “foolish controversies”: a thing he urges us to avoid. It also plays into the common RadCathR mindset of an excessive (and often obnoxious and contentious) legalistic take on everything: highly reminiscent of the method of the Pharisees: leading to the result of often “missing the forest for the trees.” 

That said, I have managed to get into a few halfway decent exchanges through the years, and they were included in my recent book, with my opponents’ words accurately paraphrased (copyright considerations; otherwise, I would have directly cited their words, as I do on my blog).

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Just glancing through a few items at the SSPX website, I quickly found a ridiculous statement such as the following:

It consequently cannot be denied that Vatican II attempts to constitute a new religion in radical rupture with all of Catholic Tradition and teaching, a new religion whose principal purpose is to exalt the natural dignity of the human person and to bring about a “religious” unity of mankind. However, the subtle cleverness of this operation must also be noted. It is the traditional hierarchical structure of the Church, its Mass, its devotions and prayers, its catechisms and teachings, and now even its Rosary that have all been infiltrated with the principles of the new religion. This new religion has been swallowed down unwittingly by many Catholics precisely because it hides, as a caricature, behind the outward appearance of Catholicism. The end result is a strange mixture of Catholicism and the new religion. [by Fr. Peter Scott]

I can only imagine what additional patent nonsense and hogwash could be found with a closer perusal.

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I have stated many times and have believed for 22 years, since becoming Catholic, following my mentor, Servant of God Fr. John A. Hardon, S. J., that modernism is the greatest crisis in the history of the Church. It is its causes, origins, locations, and solutions to it that differentiate my orthodox Catholic view from RadCathRism.

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I contend that is easier than ever to find and learn Catholic truth, with the Internet, free availability of Church dogmatic sources (such as Denzinger and Ludwig Ott), the revival of apologetics in the last 25 years, very excellent papal encyclicals for (at least) over 100 years, the treasures of Vatican II, and the Catechism.

It’s not a matter of what to believe, but whether one has enough faith to believe it. The problem is located in the will and the mind.
 RadCathRs  have begun to lose faith, and can no longer believe what in most cases they used to. This is very sad, but it need not be. And Fr. Hardon also noted very often (following Aquinas and Newman), that denial of one dogma of the faith leads to the loss of the supernatural virtue of faith.

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As I have said till I am blue in the face, we’re not the ones who began this tendency to label people and put them in a box. We were all simply “Catholics” until all of a sudden we have this group of Catholics who want to call themselves “traditionalists” in order to distinguish themselves from the rest of us peasants, as the alleged cream of the crop.

That was their choice, not mine. I use that word in quotation marks almost always because I reject the need for another word like that, and also the premises of the definition of those who use it. Again, we were the ones who were labeled, by being designated absurdly as “neo-Catholics” or “neo-conservatives” (that term was used in this thread and applied to me), or “Novus Ordo Catholics,” etc.

Since it was, again, the “traditionalists” who have chosen to separate themselves in some sense from other Catholics, so that they have to have a different name, we regular old Catholics were put in a weird position of having to deal with the errors of extremists to their right, and hence, a name is useful and necessary.

But I do agree with you that oftentimes the labels are wrongly applied, and all sides need to be very careful to avoid that.

I have sought to clarify at great length how I define the terms, and how I use them myself. If someone is acting differently from my reasoning, I’m not to blame for that, since I have laid out my position very carefully. No one ought to be labelled a “neo-Catholic” or “neo-conservative” or “Novus Ordo Catholic.”

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My own definition of RadCathR is far broader than simply the SSPX and sedevacantists, and includes Catholics who moan and groan constantly about the Pauline Mass and run down Vatican II, etc. It’s a spirit and a matter of degree, and spirits and mentalities transcend mere technical canonical status. They’re more nebulous than that.

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It’s always helpful to point out and refute error. That’s what apologists do, along with defending truth. Errors on the theological “right” are every bit as dangerous as those on the left, if not more so (because those on the right usually know better and desire to be faithful Catholics, unlike the left).

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There are plenty of educated RadCathRs of all stripes. The RemnantCatholic Family News and other faves have plenty of educated people spreading RadCathR poison.

I have not the slightest objection to someone who prefers the TLM (my own parish is one of the few in Detroit that offers it). I’ve attended Latin Mass (Novus Ordo) for 22 years. I have a problem with such people who have to constantly run down the ordinary form as “objectively inferior” (or in extreme cases, invalid), and all the other rotgut said about it: such as my recent critique of Michael Voris’ trashing of it.

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RadCathRs play games and love to “straddle the line” (of schism and SSPX-like beliefs). My concern is in identifying danger signals that could signify trouble ahead. Running down Vatican II all the time (while saying it is a valid council), running down the Pauline Mass incessantly (while saying it is valid), running down popes constantly (while saying they are valid popes) are three examples of that. It’s a matter of degree: how far one goes with that, to be classed as a RadCathR. 

So, e.g., in the [defunct] thread [where I made these remarks] we observe several people who seem enamored of the SSPX. They all say they aren’t in that party, yet they constantly defend it against criticisms (sometimes legitimately, other times not so much). That’s potentially on the road to the same thing. It’s a matter of warning (on my part) and discernment (for those reading who are on such a path).

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 If one gives pious assent to all that Holy Mother Church teaches, they don’t constantly run down popes, ecumenical councils, and the ordinary form of the Roman Rite Mass! Those things are included in that, because to be a faithful Catholic is a spirit and an approach: not just a canonical status of “in communion” as opposed to “in schism.” The liberal and the RadCathR are also guided by specific “spirits” and “worldviews” and presuppositional and interpretive frameworks.RadCathRs seem to want to approach everything legalistically. That’s not my approach at all, and it causes the great miscomprehension of many of my critiques of the phenomenon. I have to explain all this stuff over and over: usually to no avail. 

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I prefer to stick to the ideas, rather than label individuals (though I sometimes do). That’s why I don’t name any names at all in my book, because that is a side issue and a rabbit trail (“who’s in the group, who ain’t?”). The real issue are the false ideas.

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Proponents of one form of the Roman Rite Mass [extraordinary and ordinary] over the other who run down the other form are the problem. The pope in 2007 put both on an equal plane, in terms of the Church’s approval. That should have ended the controversy, but of course it didn’t, because people don’t heed what the pope says (don’t respect it as they should) and don’t follow the Mind of the Church. What a pity . . . 

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The pope is not equal to the Mind of the Church. But I would say that he is the one individual in whom the Mind of the Church is particularly concentrated or “crystallized”: if we can say that one person most typifies it. He’s the leader and the spokesman.

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I am persuading RadCathRs away from that line of thinking through my first book on the topic; not through endless acrimonious, mostly fruitless debates. I never expect to convince anyone I am debating. Debates (like national elections) are for those on the fence, wondering, confused, with ambivalent feelings (this is one wonderful aspect of the Internet: that has made my entire career possible, and my efforts relatively successful). One can help move some fence sitters or the “mushy middle” out of one opinion and into another. But one can rarely persuade the true believers and zealots. The ones who debate most vigorously are the true believers and most immune to both reason and change.

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RadCathRs looked to Pope Benedict as their big hero-reformer in 2005, because he had talked about reforming the liturgy. So they loved that, and loved the fact that he advocated universal availability of the TLM (my own position for the past 22 years). When he became pope they celebrated all night and were beside themselves with ecstatic joy: they were so happy. 

They didn’t like nearly so much, however, that he continued Blessed John Paul II’s ecumenical endeavors (just as I said he would at the time) and made very clear that the ordinary and extraordinary forms are both equally sanctioned by the Church. This is why 
RadCathRs repeat endlessly (carefully selected) liturgical statements [preface to Gamber, etc. ZZZzzzzz] that he made before he was pope, while largely ignoring what he proclaimed authoritatively as pope in 2007, regarding the Roman Rite Mass in its two forms.

When he agreed with them they loved it, precisely because he was pope. But when he didn’t, his opinion was ditched and disregarded just like anyone else’s (as if the office of pope is no different from the baker down the street), because private judgment is king for [many]
 RadCathRs (just as with modernists and Protestants): not Catholic ecclesiology correctly understood, and not obedience to the magisterium as traditionally understood. The magisterium (councils, papal encyclicals) goes right out the window as soon as RadCathR Person X disagrees with it. They are thinking (when they do this) more like Martin Luther than like the Holy Father and the Mind of the Church.

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 I am trying (in my own way) to build some bridges, too, by acknowledging much common ground. I think the RadCathR vs. so-called “neo-conservative” squabbles are often quite bitter precisely because we are brothers in Christ’s Church, and family fights are always the most intense.

I’m trying to show the common ground, and that not only 
RadCathRs are concerned with a liturgy (in practice) of integrity and reverence, nor with doctrinal orthodoxy. I have been, my entire Catholic life.

So I try very hard to find common ground, but at the same time I will talk frankly about errors, and if toes are stepped on, they are. I can’t avoid that. It’s part and parcel of apologetics. If you happen to hit upon something that a person adheres to, and you are saying it is error or false, they don’t like it. It’s human nature. And then it often gets personal and irrational.

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Here is an excellent comment on cynical labeling of Catholics and how it has derived from RadCathRs, from one “Jordanes551”:

“Neocon,” short for “neoconservative,” is a bit of traditionalist Catholic in-house jargon that refers to orthodox Catholics who fully accept with little or no hesitation the authority and authenticity of Vatican II and the post-Vatican II liturgical revolution, who tend to see Vatican II and its aftermath as generally good things (with the negative things being the fruit of a parasitical “spirit of Vatican II” rather than coming from or required by the council and the post-conciliar reforms themselves), and who tend to oppose theological liberalism/Modernism and liturgical abuses.

If I recall correctly, it was Chris Ferrara and Thomas Woods Jr. who came up with the term “neo-Catholic” in their book “The Great Facade,” drawing an analogy from the schism in U.S. political conservatism between so-called “Palaeoconservatives” and so-called “Neoconservatives.” Palaeoconservatism retains the traditional U.S. conservative insistence on truly “small” limited government, high tariffs, strict immigration controls, and a cautious foreign policy that eschews foreign entanglements and contemns the UN and international law, while neoconservatism is reconciled to a larger, more expansive federal government (what Pres. George W. Bush called “compassionate conservatism), globalist trade, looser immigration standards, and active involvement in the UN with a readiness to use military force to defend or advance U.S. interests. . . . Palaeoconservatives tend to see neoconservatives as not true conservatives at all, but really crypto-liberals.

Ferrara and Woods, being American Catholics who held to palaeoconservative political views (Woods has since become a libertarian devotee of Ludwig von Mises, but I for one am unconvinced by his attempts to reconcile the classical liberal ideology of von Mises with the Catholic Faith), likened if not exactly equated Catholic traditionalists to American palaeocons, and likened if not exactly equated orthodox “conservative” Catholics to American neoconservatives, with traditional U.S. conservative ideology being like traditional Catholic teaching and liturgy, and neoconservatism being like post-Vatican II Catholic “conservatism.” 

Like U.S. neoconservative proponents tended to be “converts” such as Irving Kristol, Norman Podhoretz, and Father Richard John Neuhaus, so traditionalists point to Catholic converts such as Scott Hahn, Father Brian Harrison, Mark Shea, or Dave Armstrong as so-called “neocon” Catholics. 

Just as political palaeocons tend to view political neocons as false conservatives, so too Catholic traditionalists tend to view non-traditionalist orthodox Catholics as crypto-modernists. At times traditionalists even level accusations of false conversion against those that they, since Ferrara and Woods, call “neocons” — and anti-semitic traditionalist Catholics have sometimes even accused them of being crypto-Jews secretly and intentionally working to destroy the Church from within. (The more virulently anti-semitic traditionalists will even accuse non-anti-semitic traditionalists of being crypto-Jewish “neocons,” and, notably, some of them have even been known to make a play on our blogowner’s screen name “New Catholic,” calling him “Neo-Catholic” just because he doesn’t harbor any hatred for Jews and does not tolerate anti-semitic vitriol here.)

I’ve never had any use for the Ferrara/Woods transfer of these terms to discourse on the Catholic Faith, because they unconsciously set 20th-century Anglo-political ideology as the lens through which to view the unadulterated and perennial faith of the Apostles, which transcends and trumps all human politics. The analogy is understandable, but is very limited and consequently misleading. But then, as I’ve previously mentioned, I don’t even like the label “traditionalist,” even though most liberal/Modernists probably think that’s what I am, while many traditionalists think I’m a “neocon” or worse. 

Whatever. Call me what you like. I’m just a sinner who is grateful beyond any ability to express in words for having been brought into the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, trying my darnedest to cooperate with God’s grace so I can escape hell and attain heaven and bring as many people along with me as my pitiful efforts can capture in my nets in need of mending. (As an aside, the very term “neoconservative” was coined by a Socialist critic of the “founding fathers” of neoconservatism — Irving Kristol subsequently embraced the epithet. Kind of funny to me that a word coined by a Socialist is now part of the Catholic traditionalist lexicon, . . .

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I don’t hold that a pope can never be criticized. I’ve had papers on my website for 15 years stating the opposite.

My point is that 
RadCathRs routinely do what should be a fairly rare event: almost in a knee-jerk fashion, and often (quite humorously) in inverse proportion to their age and experience in and with Catholic thought and the Mind of the Church. RadCathRs do so with ridiculous and farcical regularity: to such an extent that it implies that they have little respect for the office at all, or awareness of or faith in the special guidance from the Holy Spirit that the pope has (in a non-legal sense): God is with him in his exalted office.

This is why I and many other critics so often compare 
RadCathRs to the mentality of modernists and Protestants: they’re the folks who specialize in running down and rejecting the wisdom of popes and councils.

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Take, for example, a certain Catholic “apologist’s” outlandish trashing of both Blessed Pope John Paul II and the present Holy Father. When I called him on it and exposed the outrageous slanders, he removed them, but without any retraction that I know of (therefore, my papers documenting what he wrote remain online). He seems almost embarrassed by his own excesses of verbal diarrhea, or else he would rather conceal his contempt for purely pragmatic reasons: hide his deeper motivations and convictions from the peasants and the masses. I suspect the latter.

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RadCathRs seem to think it is fine and dandy for anyone to moan and groan about the pope night and day as if he is little different from any other person. That is what I oppose, not all criticism of popes whatever. But if we point that out or make other arguments and criticisms, RadCathRs relentlesssly come back with obscurantist legalism: a Pharisaical, hyper-legalistic approach: the quintessential and ubiquitous method of the RadCathR that is virtually impossible to rationally, sensibly interact with.

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Many RadCathR s are enamored of various goofball, wacko conspiracy theories, all the way up to and including rank anti-Semitism. Certainly no one can deny that? “Traditionalists” on the other hand (several of whom I consider friends and apologetic allies) can always fall back on the “well, the nutcases ain’t us” defense (again, very much as Protestants perpetually do). I saw a person do this last night on my blog. To an extent, that is true, and we must make distinctions; however, the fact that the excesses and wingnut tomfoolery are so very prevalent in proximity to “traditionalist” circles (and often decried by “traditionalists” themselves) ought to tell us something. It’s not insignificant.

The overall worldview lends itself to these kinds of things because it is a negative enterprise of incessant criticism and bashing (often based largely in ludicrously self-important, chest-puffing adolescent angst, sophomorism, and testosterone). Because the analysis of the roots of and solution to modernism are wrong, conspiracy theories often provide a bogus “causational” framework in (shall we say) “less developed” minds.

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I have taken the greatest pains to show respect and find common ground with “traditionalists” in my recent book; some of whom remain friends to this day. I tried to charitably present the most articulate “traditionalists” I could find: not the wingnuts (though they are out there in great numbers).

So I do that; I give credit where it is due, and I always assume good faith. At the same time, I will not water down any critique of serious, dangerous error, because souls are at stake, and the devil loves to siphon away would-be vocal apologists and evangelists, so that they will spend their time bashing, rather than defending the Church. I see it all the time.

I think there is a way to talk intelligently and calmly about it, but it’s very tricky, and hard to do in proportion to how many people jump in. I left Internet discussion boards about ten years ago because I was disgusted with them, for many reasons. Blogs and Facebook continue to exhibit the same tendencies. Constructive discussions are as rare as a Democrat balanced budget.

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Why can’t RadCathRs simply worship as they please, and let others do the same? Is that so difficult? No one has a problem with that. They go to their TLM, we go to our OF [ordinary form, or Novus Ordo] (my church also offers Latin Mass in both forms). Live and let live. Why is it even an issue? They know more than Pope Benedict when he declared on the issue in 2007? I’m not trying to be provocative. It is a perfectly sincere, logical, rhetorical question. Why can’t RadCathRs simply accept what he said and move on?

The pope says that the Pauline Mass is not a break with tradition. But RadCathRs expect us to go with their opinion over against his? Why would any sane Catholic do that? It’s absurd. It’s the spirit of Luther and dissent. I believe that is what it literally, logically reduces to. I’m not trying to be insulting at all. I often reduce things to their logical outcomes in argument. And it’s usually misunderstood.RadCathRs want us to “feel their pain” and relate to their concerns. Well, it works both ways. They have to realize how utterly repugnant some of their basic ideas are to those of us who simply think of ourselves as orthodox, obedient Catholics.  

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Why do RadCathRs expect their opinion to have more sway and influence than the pope’s: to be accepted as if it were actually on some kind of remote level of parity with official utterances of the Holy Father? I’m not trying to be provocative or insulting; just making the obvious logical observation. Catholics listen to what popes say and accord them the highest respect. It’s not robotic obedience to every jot and tittle. It’s Catholic ecclesiology, the Catholic Way; honor, obedience, respect, following the Mind of the Church.    

I don’t agree that an individual RadCathR can routinely dissent against an official proclamation of the pope and expect to be taken seriously. They’re not important enough for the criticism to have any weight. When I say the pope can be disagreed with, I’m talking mostly about historically important instances like St. Catherine or St. Dominic or St. Francis, or about things that have nothing to do with binding declarations on dogma, faith, or morals. 


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I don’t approach RadCathRs based on legalistic distinctions ad infinitum. I critique the spirit and the “atmosphere” of what we find very often in RadCathRism: getting down to brass tacks.

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Canon c. 212 § 3 is used to justify RadCathR dissent against the pope:

Christ’s faithful “have the right, indeed at times the duty, in keeping with their knowledge, competence and position, to manifest to the sacred Pastors their views on matters which concern the good of the Church. They have the right also to make their views known to others of Christ’s faithful, but in doing so they must always respect the integrity of faith and morals, show due reverence to the Pastors and take into account both the common good and the dignity of individuals.

But that’s talking about priests, not popes (or even much about bishops). It’s a much larger discussion about how often this should happen, and on what topics, and how vigorously. It’s not about an antipathy to lay participation. I’m a full-time lay apologist, after all. I edited Newman’s writings, and he is my hero, and he was the big champion of the layman. That’s not at issue.

RadCathRs think they can correct popes: all the time, even every day, if “necessary.” I think that is manifest hubris, folly, and absurdity.

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Note how similar RadCathR tactics are to Martin Luther’s at the Diet of Worms in 1521. The Catholics stated (paraphrase), “the Church teaches thus-and-so. Do you accept it or not?” Luther came back with obscurantism and claims that councils contradicted each other, and that the pope wasn’t infallible. Uncannily similar . . . I’ve studied Luther in great depth. I used to think very much like he did. He was my hero. I know how that thought works, and I know how RadCathRs often think in very similar ways and categories.

If the analogy of this discussion is to Worms, clearly RadCathRs are in the position of questioning, dissenting Luther, and I am the defender of the Church and tradition. It’s patently obvious. Analogies are imperfect by definition, but this is a good one.

Expanded on 7 January 2012; terminology revised on 7 Aug. 2013.
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