I’ve now written three articles related to Pope Francis’ document, Traditionis custodes:
Catholics (?) Trash, Judge, & Mind-Read the Pope (In 1968, “all” the liberal Catholics rejected Humanae Vitae. Now in 2021, “all” the self-described “conservative” Catholics reject Traditionis Custodes — and none see the outright absurdity and irony of this) [7-20-21]
The first analyzed Traditionis itself. The second illustrated that even well-known reactionaries like Steve Skojec (of One Peter Five) can issue scintillating critiques of the (so he says) rampant problematic attitudes within the reactionary (what he calls “traditionalist”) movement: exceeding in fury and vehemence almost anything written by outside critics like myself.
And yet he also continues to exhibit the usual hallmarks of the radical Catholic reactionary [see my well-thought out definition]: rejection of Pope Francis and Vatican II and the Pauline Mass, as well as an unmistakable assertion of the defectibility of the Church, which is rank heresy. He clearly sees the attitudinal problems, but is so far utterly blind to the equally grave theological ones.
In the third paper, I chronicled the passionate negative reaction to Traditionis, and demonstrated how repeated errors in the these reactions (like those of Skojec) reveal and essentially prove the absolute necessity of the reform called for in Traditionis custodes.
We have seen in those reactions and (on my own blog) the impassioned cries of reactionaries and legitimate traditionalists, a constant theme of “it’s not nearly as bad as what you critics are making out!” In other words, in the face of a critique, the ones in the community being critiqued simply deny that there is much of a problem at all: and, at worst, certainly not enough of a problem (if any troublesome aspects are granted at all) to warrant the measures being taken. It’s a massive group demonstration of not seeing the log in one’s collective “eye”, but seeing all kinds of specks in the critics’ (and the pope’s) eyes.
Something doesn’t add up, though. How is it that a guy like Steve Skojec: read by millions of reactionaries on his website, which is one of the largest reactionary venues going, can bear witness to what he sees as a very troublesome state of affairs within the reactionary world (indeed, beyond repair, in his opinion)? Is he lying through his teeth? Is he delusional? Is he prone to writing mere fantasy? I take him at his word. It’s his seventeen-year experience, and I don’t see what possible motivation he would have to lie about such a thing. He gets nothing out of that at all, except for alienation from his own professed community.
But if someone wants to dismiss his firsthand report, I submit Fr. Chad Ripperger: a highly regarded traditionalist priest. Lest anyone doubt his bona fide credentials within the movement, here he is on Dr. Taylor Marshall’s You Tube show, on 15 April 2021. Marshall is virtually the poster boy today for the reactionaries. He regularly appears at Lifesite News: another major reactionary venue. He’s massively cited at Michael Voris’ Church Militant: a rabidly reactionary site. Rorate Caeli took note of him (book review from my friend, Ryan Grant). He’s cited several times at Unam Sanctam Catholicam: a major traditionalist site run by Phillip Campbell, whom I also consider a friend (he has given a talk at my house).
So I don’t want to hear any nonsense about “he’s not a real traditionalist!” He is. He has all the credentials and is immensely respected in his own ranks. And we shall see that he sees plenty of serious problems within the movement: which, I submit, would support Pope Francis’ observation that there is need of reform among the traditionalists / reactionaries for the sake of Church unity. If a critic and a beloved adherent are saying largely the same thing, is that not a strong indication that this is where the truth lies? I take Fr. Ripperger at his word, just as I take Skojec at his.
For the first example, I cite highlights of “Ten Problems in the Traditionalist Movement”: posted on the website for Tumblar House Catholic bookstore on 18 August 2019:
These are just general problems that you see pretty much across the board in almost every traditionalist apostolate. I just want people to be aware that these are the kinds of problems that we’re up against and why it’s actually causing damage to the traditional movement . . . there are particular problems that I think really need to be addressed because they’re rather grave, and they are affecting people quite a bit. . . .
BECOMING GNOSTIC & ELITIST
The first has to do with the fact that the traditionalist movement is slowly becoming a Gnostic movement by among some, and by Gnostic we mean that they think that only they have this secret knowledge that nobody else seems to have or get and somehow there’s something special about them because they get it and these other people don’t. How do we know it’s becoming Gnostic? They’re constantly looking down and bad-mouthing everybody who goes to the New Mass, and things of that sort. Somehow or another they’re special. . . .
Every Gnostic movement always suffers from grave problems of the impurity and so is the traditionalist movement. This is a serious problem. I’m not saying this as my own perception, although it is true that I noticed this some time ago. This is something that traditional priests are starting to discuss because it’s becoming a serious problem. Why is this? Well it’s pride. Pride is the vice in which a person judges himself greater than he is. . . .
If you look at the number of sins against the sixth commandment, sins like self-abuse, pornography, fornication, among traditionalists, they are not any better than the people who go to the New Mass. In fact, there’s some estimates by some priests that it’s worse than is among the New Rite people. . . .
Then there’s also another Gnostic side to the traditional movement, and that is this isolationist attitude in relationship to the world. . . . Gnostics always view everything in the world as bad and this is how traditionalists are becoming. . . . This has never been part of the Catholic religion to be an isolation shunning people and that kind of thing. Why? Because how are you going to evangelize people? How are you honestly going to attract people to Mass? You’re not going to attract people. Why? Because there’s a natural human psychology. People aren’t going to go to some place where they know people are looking down on them. . . .
Many traditionalists deny their children legitimate things because of the fact that it’s an exaggeration, it’s an excess. So what happens? Well you’re ending up with the same kind of phenomenon that you’re seeing among Amish. The kids end up just bolting from the traditional movement because they just can’t stand the fact that things that are perfectly okay are being denied from them entirely. So we’re having attrition rates among them.
Plus there are other problems that the traditional movement has. And don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of the traditional movement. I wouldn’t be standing here before you if it wasn’t a case. I’m just saying these are problems that are affecting the recouping of the tradition on the side of people outside of the tradition. Why? If you’re not holy, we’re not meriting the grace for the people outside the traditional movement to see the value of the tradition. So what’s the moral of the story? We’re dragging the rest of the church down. That’s what it boils down to here. You’re either part of the problem or you’re part of the solution. . . .
DEPRESSION & DESPAIR
What are these some of the other problems? Well, becoming depressed. They sit and they’ll mull over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over, and by the way I’m saying this over and over again so you get the point. How bad everything is in the church. Okay, yes, it’s bad, but it’s leading to despair. We may see how bad everything is and then we judge everything to excess. You know “There’s no hope. The church is never going to recover. Things are just always going to be bad. The Novus Ordo is invalid. There’s no pope.” You just go on and on and on. And then there’s also the problem of allowing the anger to consume our life in the view of the church. A lot of people suffer who’ve come to the traditional movement, but don’t let the sun go down on your anger. In other words, you have to bury the hatchet and forgive people. . . .
Anger’s a real problem among traditionalists. We have to be sure that the problems in the church do not affect our charity, and we have to stop detracting against the Magisterium. Okay, why? Because in the end it destroys people’s ability to the virtue of piety. How can you expect people to want to submit themselves to Christ’s legitimate authority handed on through the Magisterium if you’re constantly running down the bishops and the priests and the Pope and things of that sort? . . .
DISRESPECT OF AUTHORITY AND THE MAGISTERIUM
This negative attitude towards the Magisterium is one of the reasons why the Magisterium has been so slow to give us anything, because people have had such a negative attitude. They’re just like, well we have to be careful with what we’re giving these people, because they’re going to end up biting the hand that feeds them. Then they allow their filial devotion to the office of the papacy to wane; that is not making the proper distinctions between the man and the office. It doesn’t matter what the man does. The fact of the matter is we must be faithful and loyal to the office. Very often you see trads disrespecting authority and then trads wonder why—traditionalist parents will badmouth the Pope with their badmouth some priests or something and then they wonder why the children have no respect for their parents. Excuse me, but grace flows downhill. If you want your children to have the grace to be obedient and respectful of you, you have to be obedient and respectful of those above you. . . .
CONSTANT READING OF NEGATIVE MATERIALS
[P]eople . . . spend large amounts of time reading every last stitch of literature on how bad everything is. We have an obligation to protect our faith and sometimes that even means avoiding people who tell us the truth for which we are unprepared psychologically, spiritually, or intellectually. If reading this stuff drags you down, you’ve got to get away from it and stop reading it. We ought to be aware of the problems in the church, but you don’t need to read too much for that. . . . And I’ll ask these people, when was the last time you read a book on the saints? And they say “Well I find that literature boring or difficult.” When was the last time you did any spiritual reading? “Well, you know, insta-bed. . . .
LOOSE, RECKLESS ARGUMENTATION
Engaging in argumentation when they are intellectually unprepared out of a desire to defend what they think is true. This is a serious problem. I’ve read so much literature by a traditionalist that has theological error in it because they raced in where they were unprepared to defend. In fact, if you really want to follow the tradition, the tradition was until recently that laypeople were forbidden to engage in public debate regarding theological and philosophical matters unless they had permission from a local bishop. . . .
We have to be sure that we’re not always trying to seek to beat up on people. This is part of the whole anger thing. Yeah, it’s true that the state of the church is bad, but that doesn’t mean that when you see people doing something wrong, you beat up on them. We must accept that people aren’t going to get it. They’re just not going to get it because they don’t have the grace. You cannot see the value of the particular tradition without grace. That means that because grace is gratuitous you didn’t merit it. You’re here because God chose you, not because somehow you think you’re special. The same thing applies to these other people. He wants us to merit the grace for them. How are we going to do this if our spiritual lives aren’t in order because we’re angry, we’re impure, we’re this or that. If we’re not getting our act together spiritually, the traditional movement will never get off the ground. . . .
DRIVING OTHERS AWAY
. . . Trads, in my experience, tend to drive more away than they attract very often. And this means that we have to do some serious self-reflecting about how we’re behaving in relationship to other people to make sure that they are able to see the value of the tradition. And the only way they’re going to see the value is if they see that we’re different from everybody else.
Again, this is far more sweeping and condemnatory of error than anything I have written, in 25 years of observing the movement and critiquing its errors, because it is from someone of authority and esteem within the movement.
I urge all of you who call yourselves traditionalists: if you won’t listen to the pope or to folks like me who offer critiques because we think it is in your best spiritual interest, then — for the love of God — listen to one of your own. Fr. Ripperger is a great man; a very wise, spiritual man (and, it seems to me, holy as well). His words ring true. He knows what he is talking about. And clearly he has only the best interests of the movement he loves at heart.
In any event, I can’t imagine a greater verification of the motivations behind, and necessity of, Traditionis custodes than this.
Photo credit: Fr. Chad Ripperger [Our Sorrowful Mother’s Ministry]
Summary: Fr. Chad Ripperger is a highly respected and revered figure within the Catholic self-described traditionalist movement. He offers a scathing critique of its very serious internal problems.