“Remnant” Reactionary Michael Matt’s Reading / Logic Disabilities

“Remnant” Reactionary Michael Matt’s Reading / Logic Disabilities March 10, 2016

. . . so it Would Sure Seem, Given his Ridiculous Attacks on Fr. Dwight Longenecker


Photograph by Ryan Hyde (6-15-10) [Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0 license]

* * * * *

Fr. Dwight Longenecker, fellow Patheos blogger and friend, wrote a piece entitled, “Ten Traits of Catholic Fundamentalism” (3-7-16). Michael Matt is the editor of the radical Catholic reactionary organ, The Remnant.  Astonished and scandalized by Fr. Dwight’s perfectly reasonable article, Matt replied with an article (3-9-16) demanding that he retract it.

[later disclaimer: it was pointed out to me in the combox below that the retraction demanded was a more specific one. In Mr. Matt’s words: “[P]erhaps Father Longenecker will be good enough to issue a retraction of his libelous claim that we are about to ‘move from verbal violence to physical violence’.” I missed that detail and am happy to now rectify it]

Looking over the latter jeremiad and histrionic piece of nonsense, I am flabbergasted that the editor of such a momentous and influential group does not seem to know how to 1) read properly, or 2) understand the rudiments of logic.

Now, I’m sure that characterization may sound to many as if I am engaging in extreme exaggeration, myself. But actually, I am being quite literal, serious, and matter-of-fact. Please let me explain exactly why I think so.

Fr. Dwight made it abundantly clear many times that he was referring to a relatively small faction of folks in his analysis (i.e., the very ones whom I call radical Catholic reactionaries: though he doesn’t use that term); not all Catholic traditionalists. Here is the proof, from his article (my added italics and bolding and two bracketed / blue-colored comments):

Within Catholic ultra traditionalist circles a new wave of ugliness has arisen. [first sentence; sub-group of a sub-group of all traditionalists]

First of all, I think it is unfair to use the term “traditionalist” for these people because it pulls down the many good, sensible and holy Catholics who are traditionalist by nature and by their devotions and worship. These people are my friends and family. I am on their side.

They work hard for the church. They live their faith. They build up their families and their parishes in the faith. These good folks deserve to keep the term “traditionalist” and to honor it with their good, strong, faithful and humble Catholicism.

We should separate the paranoid hate mongers from the rest of the traditionalists. They are not traditionalists. They are Protestant fundamentalists wearing traditionalist Catholic clothes. [this paragraph was cited in The Remnant article, at the beginning]

See the clear distinctions drawn there? Now, granted, there could be a rational discussion as to exactly what constitutes a Catholic traditionalist and what distinguishes this more radical group described by Fr. Dwight from them. I understand that Mr. Matt might disagree as to matters of definition. I myself have pondered, for a long time, these categories and definitions, and have engaged in many discussions through the years about them with my fellow apologists.

Eventually I settled upon a term that I myself coined,  radical Catholic reactionaries. When Fr. Dwight is critiquing these negative character traits, he is essentially referring (without using the same terminology) to this radical group, not to mainstream, legitimate traditionalists. He couldn’t have made it more clear and plain than he did, in the cited words above.

Why is it, then, that Mr. Matt can’t grasp this distinction? Why does he continually assume and act as if Fr. Dwight was deliberately indicting all traditionalists? It’s one thing to claim that one is a traditionalist: to cling to that noble term as a self-description, as Mr. Matt and virtually all radical Catholic reactionaries do. They think they are the cream of the crop: the best of the best, the elite, blue ribbon squadron among traditionalists. We get that; we simply dispute its accuracy, and conceive different categories, and different folks in them, than reactionaries do.

But what Mr. Matt does is continually misrepresent Fr. Dwight’s own argument, as if he is always writing about — condemning — all traditionalists, rather than a sub-group of a sub-group of all traditionalists. That is why I say he seems to either have serious trouble with reading comprehension (including grammar and syntax, etc.) and/or in grasping the elementary aspects of classical logic (how ideas relate to each other and are sensibly organized in our brains). Here are his statements that grossly misrepresent and distort what Fr. Dwight argued (italics in the original; bolding my own, and my bracketed / blue-colored comments):

[O]ne wonders what motivates a relatively orthodox Catholic priest to wake up one morning and say: Today I think I’ll launch an Internet attack against all the traditional Catholics in the world. 

As I read through his completely unprovoked attack against all of us, . . . 

He evidently stumbled across a couple of wingnut websites and, based on that, launched his offensive against all traditional Catholics.

[H]e just sort of lumbers out onto the World Wide Web and starts firing scud missiles in every direction and at all traditionalists—except for those few with whom he happens to agree… who must also remain nameless, of course.  Yes, he says he’s on the side of the good traditionalists—evidently those who like Latin Masses, have no problem with the New Mass and can be counted on never to question anything Pope Francis says, no matter how offensive to pious ears it may seem.   [this is deviously clever. With no justification at all, Mr. Matt concludes that the traditionalists that Fr. Dwight agrees with are “few”: despite the fact that he never said that. He wrote about a faction “Within Catholic ultra traditionalist circles”. Then he referred to the “many good, sensible and holy Catholics who are traditionalist” (my emphasis). What is it about “ultra” and “few” that Mr. Matt doesn’t comprehend?]

. . . he writes that Catholic traditionalists are “tinged with anger” . . . 

[W]hy did he just calumniate a couple of million traditional Catholics as “paranoid hatemongers” ready to turn violent?

[T]his is the extent to which neo-Catholics are evidently willing to go in order to silence traditional Catholics.

Since he names none of us, he is obviously accusing all of us. [really? I guess, then, when Trent condemned various Protestant errors, without naming groups, in every instance it implicated every Protestant group, since it didn’t name them (and even the early Protestants were already notorious for internal divisions)! More shoddy illogic and dim comprehension . . .]

All traditionalists? Some? A few? Most? Many? Who knows! Father doesn’t say. [nonsense. He certainly did indicate that it was an “ultra” faction, as opposed to the “many” (thus, a strong implication that the objectionable ones were the smaller group). Mr. Matt — surely it is a plain, “hard truth” by now — needs a remedial reading course]

[I]n the name of traditional Catholics everywhere we demand a retraction from Father Dwight Longenecker.  

Such silliness and ludicrosity coming from The Remnant is not surprising to me in the least. I was critiquing their errors as far back as 16 years ago. But it needs to be exposed now and then, lest unsuspecting readers get drawn into its acid and putrid reactionary net.

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