Reply to Misguided Radical Catholic Reactionary Criticisms

Reply to Misguided Radical Catholic Reactionary Criticisms February 13, 2016

+ Obligatory Digs at Patheos


Some folks love that mud! Photo by “skeeze” [public domain / Pixabay]

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My recent post, “Neo-Catholic” (Silly Radical Catholic Reactionary Term), has drawn some criticism which was quite misguided as to basic aspects of my own position. One “Thetimman” (anonymous, as usual), who has a blog called Saint Louis Catholic, took umbrage with the post and my behavior. His words will be in blue.

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…if only I knew who Dave Armstrong is. I checked it out to save you time.  He apparently writes for Patheos,

He certainly writes for Patheos.

and has recently written a typical article on how trads are mean, 

First of all, my article was not directed to traditionalists per se, but a separate category that I have coined (in 2013) “radical Catholic reactionaries.” They are not identical. Hence in the article I write, “‘traditionalists’ and also reactionaries” [italics added presently]. In the first sentence I link “radical Catholic reactionaries” to my lengthy paper explaining the differentiation that I make. But I did add it a little later than the initial posting, so my critic may have read it before I made the link. The question of definition always comes up, so I should have had the link from the beginning. “My bad” there. I wrote in this paper:

I define “radical Catholic reactionaries” (“RCRs” or “RadCathRs” in abbreviation) as a rigorist, divisive group completely separate from mainstream “traditionalism” that continually, vociferously, and vitriolically (as a marked characteristic or defining trait) bashes and trashes popes, Vatican II, the New Mass, and ecumenism (the “big four”): going as far as they can go without technically crossing over the canonical line of schism.

At any rate, my article was not about “trads”: with whom I have a great deal in common; it was about radical Catholic reactionaries and their improper use of terminology, in describing Catholics as “neo-Catholics.” My term describes a sub-group of Catholics, whereas this objectionable term qualifies the very word “Catholic” and in so doing creates an entirely new category, quite without warrant.

But confusion arises because the reactionary habitually calls himself a “traditionalist.” Because they do not represent mainstream traditionalism, I coined the new word so as to remove legitimate traditionalists from the “bad association” with the radical reactionaries.

especially to Catholics who would never act meanly to trads, part 3,297.

I am on record, time and again, in decrying prejudice against legitimate traditionalists or anyone else. I never implied anything remotely like this in my post, and I didn’t, because it is not my position. I often defend traditionalists against bum raps, especially because my views are so similar to theirs (so, e.g., I have attended a very reverent, liturgically traditional Novus Ordo Latin Mass these past 25 years). See my paper: Am I a Catholic Traditionalist? (YOU Decide).

I tried to engage in “dialogue” with him, but I’ve been blocked.  No problem, it’s his site– but pardon my rueful chuckle at the juxtaposition of the ban with the subject matter of his article. And the thing that makes me wonder is that I’ve never before commented on an article by him, so why am I blocked? 

I ban folks who exhibit the negative aspects of the reactionary position, because it is a poison and cancer that spreads like wildfire, if left unchecked. I don’t allow pope-bashing, or Vatican II-bashing, or Novus Ordo-bashing on my site, as a matter of policy (all aspects fundamentally characteristic of reactionaries). I don’t ban anyone who simply disagrees. Hence in the same thread where I banned my critic, I have engaged in dialogue with no less than four others, who appear to be either traditionalists or reactionaries. My critic must have said something that was clearly crossing the line, for me to ban him. I don’t have a record of what he said, so I can only search his blog to find something of similar nature. It took just a few seconds to find relevant material:

The one benefit of the Francis pontificate has been the stripping away of all illusions of an inevitable triumph (in earthly terms only) of the Church, or of that neo-Catholic understanding of the Church. This reliance on the “Vatican II was good but hijacked” theory is no longer defensible, unless like Mark Shea or George Weigel or Elizabeth Scalia or others, you get paid to defend it. [12 January 2016]

This sort of rotgut is eminently ban-worthy on my website, and I make no apologies for it. I openly note my view of reactionaries in my Discussion Policy (linked at the top of my site): “. . . those Catholics who habitually bash the Novus Ordo Mass, Vatican II, ecumenism, and recent popes, . . .”

The knee-jerk requirement that neo-Catholics stubbornly maintain that the sayings of (what I earlier labelled) thisPope [his mocking repetitive title for Pope Francis] must be true to the exclusion of all Catholic Tradition has now made it necessary to shove JP2 down the memory hole. [1 December 2014]

Etc., etc. ad nauseam. This guy’s plainly a radical Catholic reactionary; not merely a traditionalist who loves the extraordinary form of the Mass (which I myself attended at Midnight Mass last Christmas). Elsewhere, he bashes Pope St. John Paul II. And that’s why I banned him. He made it clear in his comment. It’s always the same: going after popes, Vatican II, the New Mass, and ecumenism, with the obligatory use of “neo-Catholic” and links to Rorate Caeli and The Remnant (poster-boy sites for reactionaryism).

Funny. I hope that Patheos hasn’t banned commenters across all their contributors’ blogs, merely for the crime of trying to question Mark Shea about, well, anything– or perhaps for failing to swoon before the collected wisdom of Simcha and Scalia.

This is a big miscomprehension of how things work here. Each writer is completely independent. We are free to write and opinionize as we please. I’ve been here exactly six months now and no one has ever censored my opinions (which often ruffle feathers of lots of different folks) in the slightest. Each person moderates their own website. Many don’t allow comments at all. I always allow comments, but I have a very strict commenting policy, for the sake of good discussion and the best possible experience for all.

Secondly, Mark Shea and Simcha [Fisher] no longer post at Patheos, and my friend Elizabeth Scalia is no longer the leader of the Catholic channel; though she still blogs here occasionally and has maintained her site. All departed on amiable terms. All are freelance writers, who are free to write in many different venues and publish with various publishers (as I do myself). Whatever beefs this critic has with them has nothing to do with me. My opinions are my own, and neither endorsed nor objected to, by Patheos (though I was initially deemed qualified to be brought on as a regular writer here). It’s called freedom of speech and freedom of expression.

In my own writing, I always seek to be 100% orthodox Catholic, according to the magisterium and sacred tradition of the Catholic Church. My first book has a Foreword by the late great Servant of God Fr. John A. Hardon, S. J., who received me into the Church and baptized my first two sons. Even radical Catholic reactionaries, as well as mainstream traditionalists, have immense respect for him as a doctrinal and moral traditionalist, with unquestioned rock-solid orthodoxy (he was a catechist for Blessed Mother Teresa). That’s where I come from.

Of course, the Internet wouldn’t be what it is without the “peanut gallery” combox and further silliness:

Jane ChantalI’m sorry to hear this. Back in the late ’90s, Dave Armstrong’s apologetics website, “Biblical Evidence for Catholicism” (it was magnificent, and much more comprehensive than its name would suggest), was tremendously helpful to me. Eventually, the website became less accessible, and I gave up trying to use it. I’ve never forgotten it, though. Sounds like Mr. Armstrong has gone through some changes. Time does such a number on us…

I thank Jane for her very kind words about my work. But I haven’t changed one whit: either in Catholic orthodoxy or in my critiques of reactionary Catholics. I’ve been criticizing them since 1997 when I first began my website, and have written two books about them [one / two]: the first dating from 2002. Surely Jane couldn’t have missed all that if she read my site a lot. I’m the same old me. But (apparently based on this article) Jane suffers from the illusion that I have somehow changed.

XXXXXXX [wonderful name, huh?]: Mr. Armstrong complains about the term “Neo-Catholic,” and yet he describes traditionalists as “radical Catholic reactionaries.” Seems a bit hypocritical to me. 

Yes it does, if it’s not understood. I clarified this in a reply in the combox for the disputed post:

It’s not a magisterial term. It’s merely a sociological term to differentiate the radicals from the “traditionalists” who emphasize legitimate things, and to eliminate a lot of confusion.

The radical Catholic reactionary generally calls himself a “traditionalist”: which is not a magisterial term, either, but it is an acceptable term, just as “orthodox Catholic” is acceptable.

Note that “Catholic” is part of my term (I coined it a while back, so I first used it). I’m not denying that anyone is a Catholic. But because “neo-Catholic” modifies the very important term, “Catholic” and is insinuating that certain folks are “new” sorts of Catholics altogether (which is nonsensical: a Catholic is a Catholic. A = A), it needs a magisterial basis, since the magisterium (particularly, canon law) decides who is and isn’t a “real” and authentic Catholic or not.

That is the essential difference between my term and “Neo-Catholic”: which was coined by sedevacantist Gerry Matatics and greatly popularized by reactionary Chris Ferrara of “The Remnant” infamy.

What if traditionalists were always extremely charitable in how they present their criticisms of the post-conciliar popes? Would Mr. Armstrong then support what they say? I doubt it.

He is correct. But my point in my paper is to object to the ridiculous terminology of “Neo-Catholic”: not to comment on nastiness among a sub-group (though I don’t deny that it is a strong tendency: as many have noted, and often readily conceded by the reactionaries themselves).

One can easily hide their anti-tradition views behind the complaint of the lack of charity of trads, when in fact, they don’t want to hear what trads say
even if trads were always very charitable in how they present their concerns. Sometimes a person isn’t even aware that they are doing this. We can deceive even ourselves at times. 

I’ll say it again (repetition being a good teaching tool): I have many affinities with traditionalists; I even defend in numerous papers many things that they favor. My problem is with radical Catholic reactionaries. I am as far from “anti-tradition” as is imaginable.

Sure, trads can and should be more charitable in how they present their concerns, but that’s not really the basic problem. The basic problem is that trads know that there is a severe Crisis in the Church today, and they know the causes of it, even if they cannot always present it in a charitable manner.

I know there is a severe crisis, too. I agree with Fr. Hardon, who always said that the modernist crisis was the “greatest” in the history of the Church. Where I differ with the reactionaries is in identifying the cause and solutions to the problem.

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One last thing I should note is that my critic classifies my post under the category of “Moneychangers of the Blogosphere.” Isn’t that a delightful description? It’s the old bum rap that full-time apologists like me are devoted to filthy lucre above all else. It seems to often get thrown around at Patheos writers, since we get paid by the hit on the site. But how much are we paid? That’s quite relevant. I’m one of the most prolific posters on the Catholic channel (probably the most), and I can attest to the fact that when I figure out the time I put in per week writing at Patheos, the average payment I receive comes out to 94 cents an hour. One month it was 47 cents an hour.

It takes me about seven hours to make what my three sons make in an hour at their jobs. Or put it this way: I make in a month at Patheos, what I make for two articles, that take me about two hours to write, for another publication that has hired me. Now, it’s true that perhaps I will learn in due course, how to exponentially increase my traffic, but it will clearly be a long laborious haul, if so.

I didn’t become an apologist to become a rich man or even a modestly “well-off” person (or as a popularity contest). I’ve endured great personal sacrifice in order to follow my vocation (full-time now for over 14 years), both financially and in the endurance of innumerable insults, for 19 years online, such as the ones presently directed at me. I’ve taken on additional part-time jobs as needed through the years (four different ones): added on top of my 40+ hours as an apologist. I don’t make much money doing what I do, but that’s fine. I knew that going in.

I make enough to pay all my bills and have good credit and no debts at all except my mortgage (my family doesn’t even use credit cards). I’ve supported a wife who homeschools our four children, all these years. Even my bestselling books (I have four) bring me all of $1.50 or so per sale. Those are the facts. I’m like thousands of Catholic and other Christian workers (and servants and teachers of all types, generally speaking) who are not in it for the money. That’s not what motivates us. We do what God called us to do, and do it joyfully. God has always provided our needs. But it’s not your typical American “materialistic” lifestyle, I can attest.

Yet this person, who scarcely knows me at all, even by my writings, feels compelled to describe what I do as “Moneychangers of the Blogosphere”: as if I should be ashamed and be seen as in league and spirit with the greedy, out-of-place, blasphemous merchants at the temple who made Jesus angry, and were tossed out by Him. This is sheer slander, to accompany the wrongheadedness and sheer fact-challenged fallacies of the rest of the critique.


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