The Reactionary Mantra of My Supposed “Change”

The Reactionary Mantra of My Supposed “Change” May 28, 2016


Image by “geralt” [Pixabay / CC0 public domain]


I get rather tired of this bum rap and so have decided to write a little reply to it, on this Saturday morning. It was again brought up by radical Catholic reactionary Steve Skojec (words in blue, henceforth), on his site, One Vader Five, on 5-26-16:

I do believe, though, that you’ve helped people over the years. I have friends who benefited from you during their conversions before they realized what a self-parody you have become. They find it sad that you’re so far from who they thought you were. So I’ll give you credit for leading people to the faith, at least once upon a time. . . . But at the present moment, you’re doing more harm than good with your name-calling and your absurd denials of the truth in front of your face, and that’s why you’re just not taken seriously by many people now.

I replied to this charge in a paper that basically documented the silliness of Skojec’s opinions in this thread:

Nothing has changed at all: except for Steve and his ilk becoming reactionary fundamentalists. So they falsely think I have changed, because they operate from the perspective of their own pharisaical / legalistic / naysaying heads and souls and hearts. These people that he references, who used to like my work and now do not (and I believe that Steve himself was a Facebook friend at one time), nevertheless cannot deny that I helped them into the Church. They can only deny that I helped them in their “second reactionary [pseudo- / illegitimate] conversion” (as I have recently posted about). The fact that my work keeps having an effect, and (above all) that I continue to rebuke reactionary garbage, which is leading many souls astray, is (rest assured) what is so threatening to Steve. So he feels compelled to lie about myself and my work, in order to try to minimize its impact.

It’s sort of like the relative motion of someone on a train vs. someone standing at the station as the train departs. The guy on the train may think that the person at the station is “moving.” But in fact it is the train that is moving and the other person is standing still. Reactionaries are the guys on the train of reactionaryism, that continues to depart further and further away from the “train station” orthodoxy and mainstream Catholicism, and even mainstream traditional Catholicism (of which I am a big ally, and very close to in many important ways).

Now, on the same thread, reactionary Dale Price has chimed in. Dale has drifted further and further to the ecclesiastical “right” through the years (I once met him: visiting his house with Mark Shea, whom I was driving around the Detroit area, for some talks he was giving), but somehow he has this silly notion in his head that I am the one who has changed, rather than himself:

Count me as one of them who regrets what you’ve turned into, Dave.

I replied there:

I haven’t turned into anything except a Catholic, and that was in 1990. I act exactly the same, I teach exactly the same as I have ever since then. If you don’t like it, you don’t. If you think I am a jerk and Attila the Hun now, then consistently, you should have from the start.

Now I reply further, here and there, with a strong challenge to “put up or shut up”:

My opinions vis-a-vis reactionaryism remain exactly the same as they always have. Back in 1998 I was disputing with Mario Derksen. His reactionary friends at the time insisted that he wouldn’t drift any further off into ecclesiastical wacko-land. Sure enough, he did, precisely as I warned about. He became a sedevacantist (one who denies that there is a valid sitting pope).

In the same period, though I didn’t directly debate Gerry Matatics (I had a 45-minute cordial discussion with him in person once), others like Karl Keating (Gerry worked at Catholic Answers for a short time) were warning that he was headed for very bad territory, and I concurred. Again, shortly thereafter, Gerry became a sedevacantist, too. Recently, he moved even further than that, and holds that there are virtually no valid Masses being celebrated anywhere. There’s nowhere to go from that ultra-extreme position, except to outright atheism or perhaps some form of fringe Protestantism. I suppose both Mario and Gerry could claim (like Steve and Dale) that I am the one who has changed, whereas it is clear that both of them have.

I was opposing the nonsense spouted about Pope St. John Paul II back in the early 2000s (particularly about the “kissing the Koran” incident and the Assisi conferences); now I defend Pope Francis from the avalanche-loads of sheer nonsense written about him.

I was attending Latin Mass (Novus Ordo) back in 1998, just as I still do (have since 1991), and advocated free and wide access of all Catholics to the Tridentine Mass, since my conversion in 1990 (I attended a Tridentine Mass in Windsor, Ontario, across the river from Detroit, shortly after my conversion). Our cluster parish is one of the few in metro Detroit that offers the extraordinary form every week, and I attended it at Midnight Mass last Christmas. I have defended various traditional liturgical practices all along (use of Latin, ad orientem, receiving kneeling on the tongue, traditional music at Mass, traditional architecture, etc.), and continue to do so.

I was opposing big Skojec comrade-in-arms Chris Ferrara and The Remnant back in 2002, when his pathetic attack-book, The Great Facade came out, and I continue to do so today. If someone doubts this, they can consult my critique of The Remnant and debate about the  reactionary group, both written in the year 2000 (that’s sixteen years ago, by my math).

I could go through a whole host of things, but there is no need: the record is clear, and my papers and books are out there for all to see. So my challenge to Dale and Steve is this: prove that I have “changed” by actually demonstrating it from the record. Put your money where your mouth is. There are still papers on my website today from the late 90s and early 2000s, about reactionaryism; for example:

Syllabus of 60 Radical Catholic Reactionary Errors [2000]

Debate: My “Syllabus of 60 Catholic Reactionary Errors” [11-24-00]

Radical Catholic Reactionaries vs. an Optimistic Faith (vs. Mario Derksen) [1-21-01]

If that isn’t sufficient to locate areas where I have supposedly made a sea change in the intervening decade-and-a-half, here are old links to my web page on “traditionalism” (I meant by that in those days, the extreme positions I now call radical Catholic reactionaryism; the reactionaries have called themselves “traditionalists” all along and still do today), from Internet Archive:

The Donatists and Novatianists Live: “Traditionalist” and Schis | matic Catholics (web page from my old original “erasmus” website: this capture from 12-12-05)

The oldest archived date of the same web page is from 11-28-99, from Internet Archive. Readers can see me making the same sorts of arguments there: opposing The Remnant and SSPX (as I do today), defending the pope (as I do today), defending ecumenism (as I do today), and Vatican II (as I do today). Nothing whatever has changed.

Thus, I challenge Steve or Dale or anyone else with the courage of their convictions to prove and actually document (what a novelty!) that I have undergone a remarkable metamorphosis from this time, 16 1/2 years ago. I’ve provided you the resources. Have at it; or look even more foolish than you already do, when called on your gratuitous whoppers. Your choice . . .

If I have blocked you for trolling and violation of rules at Patheos or on Facebook (just as The Remnant has totally blocked me), you can send your replies to my e-mail address: apologistdave [at] gmail [dot] com, or simply reply in the referenced thread at One Vader Five. All of your replies (i.e., if someone actually takes up my challenge) will be posted on my site (with, of course, my further replies). So you can have your full say on my site (and I appreciate being able to “speak” and respond to accusations at One Vader Five, too).

Skojec then replied with an ultra-insulting and condescending hit-piece in the same thread on his site, complete with the obligatory potshots at converts and apologetics and idiotic (utterly predictable) assertion of supposed ultramontanism and virtual “papolatry”:

My attestation to your change is based on second-hand information. As a cradle-Catholic, I never had need of the kind of thing you did that helped converts from Protestantism, and so, I can’t speak to it. That said, two of my friends (Dale being one of them) have spoken of this help that you gave them. Because I respect them, I’ve extended the courtesy to you in that regard.

Personally, I’ve found you ridiculous from the moment I first ran into you. You’re a modern day, post-conciliar Don Quixote, all bravado and sword swinging, invariably picking the wrong targets. (You might want to consider renaming your blog “Rocinante” – I think it’s a fantastic fit for the vehicle for your tilting.)

The first time I encountered you, as I recall, you blustered mightily and then blocked me about three comments in. I wasn’t being rude, but I was being confrontational. Of course, I was arguing that there’s a qualitative difference between the two forms of the Roman liturgy. Because there is.

Since that time, I’m sad to say, you’ve become a bit of a punchline. Have you changed? Oh, I expect not. The theological pugilism to which you’re drawn has most likely always been your stock-in-trade, but there was a time when unapologetic novusordoism was in vogue. People have wised up and moved on. Many of the luminaries of the so-called “reform of the reform” movement have packed it in and said, “You know what? We tried, but this thing is irreformable.”

But here you are, sword as dull as ever, energy for a thousand battles, none of them worthwhile.

There’s a war going on for the soul of the Church, and Francis, much as it pains us lifelong papists to admit it, is taking point for the wrong team. I’m not particularly interested in whether you’ve changed, or in whether you were ever right. You’re wrong now, you’ve been wrong as long as I’ve ever come across anything you’ve written about anything that matters, and history will judge you to have been on the wrong side of the schism that is even now coming to a head.

It’s a thing, I think, with Protestant converts. They don’t have sola scriptura anymore, so they resort to papal positivism as their one and only guide. Is the current pope saying something that’s an almost complete contradiction of one of his predecessors? No problem! Like Muslims have the theological principle of abrogation, we have Super-Ultramontanism! If this pope says something that contradicts a dead predecessor, clearly we didn’t understand the dead predecessor sufficiently! We have to read the past in light of the present! The only thing that matters is the Magisterium of the Now!

If you’d pull your head out of all the post-conciliar weak sauce for a month and actually read what the popes of the 19th and early 20th centuries were warning us about, you might recognize (because I’m certain you’re capable of it) that Modernism has the upper hand. No, that’s not just some “Radical Catholic Reactionary” (or whatever uber-parsed nomenclature it is you use for people who are actually Catholic) buzzword, it’s a real heresy, and one that combines elements of all those that came before it.

But facing up to the fact that we have a bad pope (and a run of Modernist-influenced ones before him) and are still reeling from a bad council and a bad Mass means having to deal with an uncomfortable level of cognitive dissonance. It hurts. It makes you mad. It makes you question things. But then you dig in deep and recognize that the Catholic Church is eternal, that she can’t change what she believes, and that God has given us everything we need even to survive an apostasy at the highest levels of the Church, and things become bearable, if not entirely OK.

While you continue glibly playing the part of Leslie Nielsen in The Naked Gun, telling everyone watching the explosions that there’s “nothing to see here”, we’re going to continue telling the truth, and doing our best to help people to navigate these choppy waters. And because we’re proposing things that challenge those who just want everything to be hunky dory, we’re going to be controversial, and we’re going to attract the negative attention of bloggers who are rapidly fading in relevance (because they refuse to actually deal with the thing people are wrestling with) and etc. & c.

You could be a part of the solution if you want, but only if you stop making it about you and start making it about the truth. Nobody cares whether you’ve changed, Dave. Nobody cares whether you’ve evolved, or reversed your opinion, or did backflips naked at the 50-yard line of the Super Bowl. You’re just not that important, and neither am I. We intrepid few who seek to do some good for the Church do it as God’s instruments, and the minute we forget that, the minute we fail to understand that no matter how much time we’ve spent on our apostolates, if they’re not serving God he can take them away in a heartbeat, the minute we become…well, a punchline.

I feel bad for you, I really do. Someone was calling you the Napoleon Dynamite of Catholic Apologetics, but really, you’re the Uncle Rico. You just keep fantasizing, 20 years on, about what would have happened if coach had just put you in fourth quarter. You keep telling people that you can throw a football over the mountains from your front porch. But coach didn’t put you in, and you can’t throw that far, and the only thing that matters right now is if you fight the evil that is, at this very moment, threatening to strangle the faith of millions of Catholics because it is being perpetrated from the very top.

I have lost friends because of this. I have had strife in my marriage and my family because of this. I have suffered financially because of this. I have been attacked almost daily because of this.

There is no way to justify this on a human level. It’s not worth it. I do what I do because I believe that what God wants is more important than what I want. And I even fail at that. If you could just, for one minute, look at the world with fresh eyes and SEE what is happening around you, you could regain that. But you have to be willing to let go, and let God.

I predicted this response on my Facebook page over four hours before you made it. I wrote:

These guys are great at slinging around false accusations. Now we’ll see if they can back it up. My prediction: they will fail abysmally if they try, but most likely, won’t even attempt it, and will simply up the insults. Mark my words . . .

One again, you make me a prophet. You bought Dale’s (and someone else’s) lies about my supposedly having changed, and regurgitated them. But, fair enough, you admit that now. The onus is on Dale, then, to document this supposed sea-change in me.

And I predict he will act precisely as I noted above, too. You opted for insults; he will almost certainly choose the route of more insults, too, or (less embarrassingly), simply ignore the challenge, thus proving that the charges never amounted to anything in the first place, having no actual evidence to back them up.

I also wrote on Facebook today:

Skojec was mocking my apostolate, saying it was doing more harm than good. Since I have the fruit to show that I have been following my calling from God, I felt compelled to reply, because he was basically attacking the notion of laboring to bring more people into the fold (i.e., Catholic evangelism), which I’ve been doing for 25 years.

When folks start calling good evil, I am duty-bound to respond, as an apologist and faithful Catholic.

You see? This is exactly what I’m talking about. It’s all about you. All hubris, all the time. Of course you predicted I’d say you’re wrong. Did you think I was going to spend my Saturday studying your life’s work?

And of course, you pulled your trademark move of twisting whatever the other person says to fit your narrative. You’re not just predictable, you’re on rails.

Get over yourself, Dave. You’re not even a little deal. And you are doing more harm than good. But I’ll let you sort that out with God. You really aren’t a problem that concerns me.

Hogwash. You can’t even read words correctly if a person disagrees with you. I predicted that you wouldn’t be able to prove that I changed (your initial lie) and would opt purely for personal insults instead, and that’s exactly what happened.

Now you are lying about all that and creating a huge 50-story straw man with more insults about my supposed gigantic ego and hubris. No one (who is not already in your reactionary clique) is fooled by such bilge. That’s why I spend little time replying to it. It’s self-refuting and I am delighted to reprint it on my web page.

I knew you would do it because it is standard playbook reactionary behavior and also because you have acted in precisely this fashion with another critic of yours, Scott Eric Alt.

And, as I was saying to my wife at dinner, why should I expect fair treatment from a guy who regularly trashes the Holy Father, Holy Mother Church, and Vatican II? Of course I will be in your doghouse, too. So it’s all absolutely predictable. I called it and I was dead-on, and I will be about Dale Price, too, unless he has the intellectual honesty to admit that his charge against me was groundless from the start.

May God abundantly bless you, Steve. I think you’re better than your theology and that you will crawl out of this hole you have fallen into, in due course. But it looks like you will have to learn the hard way.

I have no interest in proving anything about you, Dave, least of all to you. I don’t care. I’m not interested. I already explained that it was others who said that you helped them and that now you’re just absurd.

As for the rest, as usual, TL;DA/DA;DR. [“Too long; Dave Armstrong / Dave Armstrong; Didn’t Read”]

It’s obvious that he didn’t read what I wrote, since his reply had little or no relation to it and came out of thin air.


Meta Description: Direct challenge to reactionaries Steve Skojec & Dale Price, to prove that I have somehow changed from 15 years ago regarding reactionary errors.

Meta Keywords: Chris Ferrara, Hilary White, legalism, One Peter Five, Pharisaism, quasi-schismatic, Radical Catholic Reactionaries, radtrads, The Remnant, Rigorism, Rorate Caeli, Steve Skojec, Traditionalism, traditionalists, ultratraditionalists, Gerry Matatics, Mario Derksen, SSPX, sedevacantism

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