Definition of “Radical Catholic Reactionary”: Dialogue

Definition of “Radical Catholic Reactionary”: Dialogue September 6, 2020

With Particular Reference to [Traditionalist] Timothy Gordon

This was a discussion on my Facebook page with Kyrby Caluna: a young zealous Catholic. His words will be in blue.

*****

To lump all “reactionaries” (a term that is unhelpful, and uncharitable) into one monolithic group is unjust, unfair, “reactionary”.

*
If indeed Timothy Gordon is not anti-Vatican II in the way that the standard reactionary, is, then he is not reactionary. I’d be delighted if that is the case.
*
I coined the term, “radical Catholic reactionary” in 2013 in order to differentiate extreme ways of thinking from legitimate traditionalism. It’s not “unhelpful, and uncharitable.” It’s a sociological necessity and act of charity towards millions of traditionalists (among whom I virtually include myself), who get lumped in with what used to be called “radtrads.”
*
I have taken extreme care and have been precise in the definition. If you don’t think so, then be my guest to take on my articles where I define it, point-by-point. I just had this very conversation with Timothy Flanders. But first, I’m curious as to what you think my definition of “radical Catholic reactionary” is. Why don’t you tell me? I’ll know in one minute whether you have actually read or understood my explanations of it or not.
*
Reactionary Trads or Catholic Radical Reactionaries believe the following:
*
1. The Novus Ordo is invalid or objectively offensive to God.
— This, Timothy Gordon rejects. That is why, as he said, even some Trads are skeptical of him for viewing the Novus Ordo as valid.
*
1. Incorrect. Reactionaries view the OF as valid, but “objectively inferior” to the EF. But it is true that now some reactionaries are so extreme (e.g., Abp. Vigano and Taylor Marshall) that they may indeed be rapidly moving towards the position you describe. It doesn’t follow, however, that the bulk of reactionaries, at least at this point, agree with their increasing anti-Catholic fanaticism.
*
2. Vatican II is qualitatively different from preceding Councils because it is either invalid, and instrinsically heretical because of modernistic ambiguity.
— To be honest, this definition of yours is so generalized. I think even some of the non-Trads would accept that Vatican II is different in some ways to the preceding Councils and that it is somewhat ambiguous and even optimistic.
*
2. Incorrect. Reactionaries (as I have categorized them, from long observation and experience) accept Vatican II as valid and not objectively heretical, but rather hampered by ambiguities deliberately injected into the texts by subversive dissident radicals. Again, as in #1, the cutting edge of reactionaries are moving further right at present, so this wouldn’t be true of them. But as a whole, it is as I have described.
*
3. Vatican II is the root cause of the modernist crisis.
— Timothy Gordon rejects that. By textualism, he believes Vatican II does not teach doctrinal error. It is the Intentionalism of the modernists that is the cause of the crisis after the Council.
*
3. Correct. This is one of the four hallmarks of reactionaryism, but it co-exists with the understanding that Vatican II is a valid ecumenical council. Reactionaryism (note closely) is all about going up to a “line” but not crossing over it; trying to have it both ways. So, e.g., “Vatican II is valid but we should simply ignore it, or it has harmed the Church,” “The New Mass is valid but it is objectively terrible liturgy and we ought not attend it (having a choice),” etc. etc. ad nauseam.
*
4. The Conciliar Popes are either materially or formally heretics.

— Nope! The Credo of the People of God by Paul VI and John Paul II’s CCC attested to their orthodoxy. As Timothy Flanders said, Paul VI was a moderate (like Jacques Maritain), but not a heretic.

*
4. Incorrect. Reactionaries accept all the popes as valid. But they want to bitch and complain about and rebuke and second-guess popes all the time (“more Catholic than the pope”). It’s primarily an attitudinal problem and not having an understanding of traditional reverence towards the pope (thinking like Protestants: particularly Anglicans).
*
5. Ecumenism, religious liberty are “radical” novelties.
— If we stick to the texts, they are not radical. But some of their implementations are radical, and that’s a different issue.
*
5. Correct. Your following statement is correct, but the reactionary rejects ecumenism as explicated in Vatican II and recent ecumenical encyclicals. They’re wrong. It’s a rather striking and rapid development, but is in line with past tradition, correctly understood.
*
So you get a 40% grade for understanding my definitions and conceptions of what reactionaries believe. That ain’t very good. It’s a failing score in any class I’ve ever been in.
*
Getting a grade of 40 for not exhaustively listing all characteristics of RadCathRs is okay. I never thought there is a grading system here.
*
Timothy Gordon is simply not a reactionary, if your report is accurate. He’s a traditionalist, perhaps on the line between the two groups, or holding one or two reactionary beliefs. I think Taylor Marshall’s atrocious behavior (including casting him to the wind) has been a wake-up call for him.
*
Again we can go on and on with all the radicalism of these reactionary traditionalists. But that isn’t Timothy Gordon. And I don’t know why I’m defending him. We are not even friends. But maybe because, I believe he is balanced in his assessment of Vatican II. As to his assessment of Pope Francis, that’s a different issue.
*
The gist of his traditionalism is that textually Vatican II does not contain errors. But we know that intentionally, some of the drafters of the texts are modernists, and their intentions were weaponized and implemented after the Council.
*
The crux of the matter with regards to Vatican II as Timothy Gordon sees it is: the need for a hermeneutics of continuity and the implicit presupposition why it is needed.
*
For Richard DeClue Jr.  and Christopher Plance, the texts are clear. The hermeneutic was needed because there is already an on-going hermeneutics of rupture that is imposed on the texts by the modernists.
*
For Timothy Gordon, there are some ambiguities in the texts and that is why a hermeneutic of continuity is needed. I think, George Weigel implicitly sides with Gordon for he said in his The Irony of Modern Catholic History and The Next Pope, two of his latest books, that “it took 20 years before the hermeneutical key of Vatican II was discovered” in the 1985 Synod of Bishops. And that implies that Vatican II has ambiguities that even the “Word On Fire FAQ on Vatican II” admits.
*
Of course we need a hermeneutic of continuity; that’s simply how orthodoxy operates. The Holy Spirit protects the Church from falling into doctrinal error. The tradition is consistent with itself. That includes Vatican II and papal encyclicals. Duh! It’s simply self-evident for a faithful, orthodox Catholic.
*
Everything needs to be (ultimately) authoritatively interpreted, including ecumenical councils, that are protected from error, because human beings are ignorant and sinful.
*
It’s the same with the Bible. It’s perfect, inspired, infallible revelation, but without guidance from Holy Mother Church and Sacred Tradition, people believe all kinds of lies about the text and come up with Arianism, Sabellianism, Unitarianism, Christian Science, Mormon polytheism, Protestantism and Orthodoxy (insofar as they are in error), and who knows what else . . .
*
I am not saying that I have and need to exhaustively list down all the characteristics of the RadCathRs. That’s a whole chapter in one of your books. I simply quote some of the obvious.
*
And not only that, your whole book is all about them, just like the “bible” (as you said) of the RadCathRs written by Christopher Ferrara is all about neo-Catholics.
*
Both terms are not helpful. Not all those who you consider as RadCathRs “are radical” with ears closed. And not those Ferrara calls Neo-Catholics have no problem whatsoever with the texts of Vatican II.
*
Cardinal Ratzinger, for example, finds Gaudium et Spes as “too French” (referring to the implicit Teilhardism of some in the texts, i.e. too optimistic), and that it needs Luther (a German like him, whose theology of the cross balances the optimism). This Fr. Robert Barron (now a Bishop) explained in one of his talks. Ratzinger also have some problems with the Novus Ordo Liturgy. Though, when he became Pope he did not touched it. He simply encouraged the celebration of the TLM.
*
So here’s the point, as I said. Calling people names when one is not aware entirely of their views (i.e. Gordon) is unhelpful. Point to what you think is their error and not lump them into a group you wished to dismiss.
*
And if I am incorrect, maybe. Here’s where I quote some of your characteristics (again, this isn’t exhaustive):
*
[he was actually citing my 2002 book, Reflections on Radical Catholic Reactionaries, and I didn’t realize it!]
*
Cute. So you were largely citing me. The problem is that this book was written almost 18 years ago now. Things have changed a lot since then, especially since Pope Francis, and my own views have evolved. My present views have developed mostly from my definitions formulated in 2012-2013. See also my recent dialogue with Timothy Flanders.
*

This is why I appealed to my views since that time, not back to my first book about it in 2002. Categories in actual life are often fluid and not always so clear cut in any given individual case. This is true of traditionalism and reactionaries as well.

*
So I spend money for an obsolete book. Kidding! If I am not aware of your development, then a grade of 40 is unfair too. Kidding. Okay, I’ll read those articles.
*

It still has some value. If anyone bought these books I would revise them. Mass Movements is more up to date.

*
I’m not merely “calling people names.” I’m doing religious sociology (my major was sociology in college) and apologetics both, and being charitable to legitimate traditionalists by noting that those with extreme views ought not to be called by their chosen title.
*
If reactionaries insist on bashing the Church, popes, councils, the Mass, and ecumenism, then by the same token they ought to expect to be criticized back. “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”
*
Yup, Gordon is a traditionalist. You called him reactionary. Maybe simply because he teamed-up with Marshall before? Is that an implicit criterion? It’s not helpful.
*
I have already conceded that Timothy Gordon seems not to be a reactionary. He’s a traditionalist, who shows some similarity and commonality with reactionaries in some respects. In any event, reactionaries do form a distinct sociological group within the Catholic Church. Few theologians and apologists have analyzed it. Many more need to. I have, and I think my observations are valid and easily backed up by facts.
*
Well, when one (Gordon) is making 100 videos with one of the most wacko, conspiratorial reactionaries around, one assumes that there is general agreement between them. Like I said, when Taylor Marshall cast him to the wind, he probably reconsidered some things and perhaps became less reactionary, or never was and concealed some of his opinions.
*
I recognize that people sometimes change, and I do in his case. I haven’t followed him closely. I adjust my opinion if evidence and further information warrant it.
*
Exactly, we need a hermeneutics of continuity. No one is denying that.
*
I laid down some details about Gordon because your post accuses him of being a reactionary, which is unfair. So I clarified where he stood. He advocates for that hermeneutic like all of us. There is no questioning about a need for a hermeneutics of continuity. We all need it. The Pope said so. In fact, the Pope’s exact words are “a hermeneutic of reform, of continuity in the one-subject Church”. And as your friend Prof. Eduardo Echeverria said that because it is a hermeneutic of reform, there are reversals too but not the substance of doctrine but in the way it is explained.
*
And as Fr. John O’Malley said in his book What Happened at Vatican II, the real novelty in Vatican II is the change from a juridical-legislative to a more epideictic-panegyric genre in the composition of the texts.
*
I would definitely agree with you on Gordon being critical with the Pope. Scott Hahn too, is implicitly a papal critic, for vindicating Archbishop Viganó as an exemplary Bishop.
*
Vatican II was first discussed by Timothy and Taylor on their video of the same title. In the surface they agree that there are ambiguities in the texts that needs clarification. But as the two of them elaborated their views on their channels, Gordon is vocal that one cannot read from Nostra Aetate the ecumenical distortions we have today, contradicting Taylor, Schneider, and Viganó’s views.
*
Gordon will release a book on Vatican II soon. Maybe there he will clarify a lot.
*
When asked what should Trads do? Gordon said, since many of the Trads are not reading the Vatican II texts, they should read them or read his book when it comes out because it will clarify and correct many misconception of some Trads regarding Vatican II.
*
Maybe both you and Gordon are more and more in agreement on Vatican II. That’s how I see it. Although both of you are hundred miles apart regarding Pope Francis . . . 
*
But unlike Phil Lawler who is quite questioning Vatican II now in some of his articles at Catholic Culture, Gordon is less concern with the text as containing errors, and more concern with the intentions of some of the drafters of the texts which havoc confusion after the Council.
*
Well, I am delighted to hear this about Timothy Gordon. I noted a few years back that Lawler was starting to waver on Vatican II (and his wife just signed the big “statement” criticizing it). I have repeatedly defended Vatican II against reactionary criticism: especially in my 12-part reply to Paolo Pasqualucci.
*
So I’ve done that work in that series and other papers: replying to what is being charged. I think it can help people who are trying to reconcile Vatican II with sacred tradition. I’ve never had the slightest problem doing so, whenever some [pseudo-]issue came up.
*
***

*
Photo credit:
Timothy Gordon (right), with former sidekick Taylor Marshall [from The Libertarian Catholic web page]

*
***
"Not sure; I would guess not. He's gotten progressively more far right."

Kwasniewski vs. Cdl. Newman Re Pope- ..."
"Was Dr. K. a critic of Vatican I when JPII and BXVI were Popes?"

Kwasniewski vs. Cdl. Newman Re Pope- ..."
"Yeah. And every dope who saw Godfather 3 consider himself expert in Vatican politics..."

“Amadeus” & Historical Accuracy in Biopics
"On the other hand if Shakespeare had been historically accurate we wouldn't have Julius Cesear ..."

“Amadeus” & Historical Accuracy in Biopics

Browse Our Archives