On the other hand, when John Zmirak is on, he’s spot on

On the other hand, when John Zmirak is on, he’s spot on October 15, 2013

He writes:

“From what I have read, in Argentina, a swath of the folks who fought for the Latin Mass also supported the right-wing dictators down there—which means they winked at torture and murder, but their consciences proved too tender to countenance altar girls” — What Is Pope Francis Saying to the Right? More:

I have met this kind of smug zealot up here in the U.S.—the guy you meet at the coffee hour who starts off with pro-life talk, then finds a way to assert that most abortionists are Jewish … and pretty soon he’s pressing on you poorly printed pamphlets that “prove” the Holocaust never happened. I used to argue with people like this, but it led nowhere. (Although I learned how to have some fun with them by “proving” that World War II was also a myth, and that all its “casualties” had really been abducted to serve as slaves in the Zionist tin mines on the Moon.)

I finally had to accept the cold fact that some people are not sincerely mistaken, or even deluded, but rather of evil intent, with wicked hearts and culpable motives. In fact, they’re the kind of “evil company” St. Paul tells us to flee. Likewise, I learned to scorn folks who reject religious liberty, who joke about burning heretics or who condemn the American founding because so many Founders were Freemasons. (They don’t, I notice, denounce the nation of Spain, which was founded by Arian Visigoths.) Some right-wing Catholics embrace a hardline agenda because they feel weak and irrelevant, and prefer magnificent fantasies of wielding power over their neighbors to the slow grunt work of evangelizing.

It’s no accident that the guy who was the principal informant on Bergoglio for the poisonous Rorate Coeli site was a Holocaust Denier. And as I pieced together the “horror” story of Bergoglio’s supposed mistreatment of Traditionalists in Argentina, what I discovered was that he was such a mortal enemy of Traditionalists that he approved an EF Mass almost instantaneously after the promulgation of the motu proprio. But (gasp!) it turns out that priests, being extremely busy people, have to carve out time from their schedules and *learn* the EF.  This, a priest attempted to do, but his celebration of the EF was (and you may want to sit down for this) less than perfect.  Naturally then, a grateful community of Reactionaries in Argentina thanked Bergoglio by cursing his name for not instantly giving them an absolutely perfect EF Mass.  And the poisonous malcontents at Rorate Coeli immediately took up their drumbeat of butthurt whining narcissistic self-pity the moment he was elected Pope.

It’s that kind of behavior that makes Reactionaries the very worst enemies of the Benedictine reforms on the planet and makes Normals want to avoid them like the plague.  That, coupled with such charming traits as Holocaust Denial, is what healthy sane Traditionalists are up against as they fight to make the EF more common.

As a tonic and a medicine to heal us from all the Reactionary craziness, here are three healthy and sane Traditionalist sites here, here, and here.

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  • You’ve found a much better balance with this, keep it up. It has the feel of an ally looking to improve things.

    • chezami

      I’ve never been especially averse to admiting when somebody I disagree with is right. But there remains the gaping problem of his encouraging pre-emptive rejection of an encyclical that he knows nothing about. That kind of stuff is poison–and becoming typical on the utterly discernment-free right. That’s why the sort of nuttery Zmirak opposes here has a home on the right. The antibodies are breaking down and the kooks are getting more common.

      • What are you talking about? I am not a professional at these things so a reference would be helpful as to pre-emptive rejection. Functionally I don’t know who this guy is (I might have read him in the past but the name didn’t stick).

        As for kooks, I don’t find them to be any more common than 30 years ago when I started paying attention. The fight against them is never-ending.

        • chezami
          • Charitably, I don’t see him doing what you accuse him of. “Pope Francis is writing an encyclical on poverty. I’m not trying to prejudge it, and I’m sure there will be much spiritual wisdom in it” seems a reasonable start.

            Pope Francis has demonstrated a verbal style mismatch with much of conservativism in the US. So how do you prevent a knee jerk freak out that does damage to the Church? You have two Coasian alternatives, go tell the Pope to prepare better or go tell his likely-soon-to-be-freaking-out audience to prepare better. I think it’s perfectly ok to do the latter.

            Personally I spent quite a bit of time thinking about Francis’ economic commentary. It was good for me. A necessary crutch during the process was repeating to myself “the pope is not an idiot. He supposedly was an orthodox and conservative catholic in South America.” It helped. If you squint a bit, at least I can see Zmirak doing something similar.

            Capitalism is not a revelatory ideology. There are no tablets coming down from the mountain top. It is an emergent one, which is what makes it mostly tolerable. Part of the push and pull of it developing is that Popes and others will occasionally critique it, hopefully with an aim to improving the thing. That doesn’t mean that the process is quiet, civilized, or even particularly nice.

  • ivan_the_mad

    Meh. Keep what is good, I suppose. I’ve read the article, and I’ve read the interview. Does the pope dislike “right-wing” (whatever Zmirak meant those quotes to mean) Catholics? I certainly didn’t come away with that. I am less than impressed with his treatment of the Catholic left in the article, the implication that they are the pope’s enemy, and his ability to read hearts and minds. That last paragraph completely loses me, it’s simply bitter, partisan, self-righteous shit. Add this to the stack of reasons why, while I am nominally right-wing, I don’t generally associate with others of that stripe.

    • chezami

      There’s a reason I selected the text I did. I think Zmirak’s “Let’s pre-emptively reject whatever it is Francis is going to teach” stuff is complete and utter crap. But at least he’s willing to acknowledge the nutjobbery on the Reactionary Right instead of whine that it doesn’t exist and people are mean for challenging it. I give him props for that, but still think the whole pre-emptive dissent thing is whack. That, like the ridiculous Amnesty Equals Abortion thing, or the absurd “Not Voting for Romney is like Masturbation” is demagoguery in chemical purity.

      • ivan_the_mad

        That’s fair enough. I was angrier than I ought to have been because my patience for “the pope should affirm me but not thee” foolishness du jour is very short.

      • Stu

        “Right instead of whine that it doesn’t exist and people are mean for challenging it.”

        Mark, that’s not what people have been saying to you. I can appreciate that you might be hearing that, but that is not what people have been saying to you.

        What people have been pointing out is that you are increasingly obsessed with these extreme viewpoints to the extent that you go
        out looking for it and bring to attention obscure fringe elements who don’t get the time of day in the overwhelming majority of circle (including so-called traditionalists). In effect, you are highlighting and giving credence to these viewpoints while at the same time taking blaming wholesale groups of people for them who have no idea who they are. It would be like everyone else blaming you for the positions of found on the National Catholic Reporter.

        Again, the question is, “What are you trying to achieve?” Are you attempting to perpetuate animosity between differing groups of Catholics or are you trying to win hearts and minds for Christ and His Church? If the former, then the message to you is that your method of calling people names and marginalizing the “them” as a counter to “us” isn’t going to work. Instead, you will just get more of the same “kicks to the groin” that you complain about that in turn you can return in kind. You are an apologist, right? If that is the case, I would think you would want to employ those skills (which are ostensibly your strength) in helping others to the Truth. And I’m fairly confident that calling people “effing reactionary bedwetters” didn’t rank high on your list of effectiveness for methods in explaining the faith. And unless your conversion was different than mind, I’m confident such an approach isn’t what brought you into the fullness of the faith either.

        You talk about loving Pope Francis a lot. Good. Maybe you might want to start listening to him. The dichotomy he (and Benedict) raised regarding proselytizing and evangelization touch on this a bit.

        • chezami

          It’s what many, many, *many* people from that subcculture perpetually say.

          • Stu

            Define the subculture and define many? Are you talking about all so-called traditionalist? The fringe group of traditionalists? Online people only?

            You don’t really associate with traditionalists in the flesh and blood. It’s not your thing. And as someone in that element I can say that your constant highlighting of those extreme viewpoints in no way represent reality. No one pays attention to them but seemingly….you. So again, to expect every traditionalist to drop everything and condemn every instance of wackiness by some fringe person who may offend the sensibilities of Mark Shea isn’t really realistic any more than I expect you to go non-stop in writing about the evils of liturgical abuse.

            But even accepting your premise that this is some manner of pandemic, how are methods helping? Are you converting souls to your cause or just repeating the cycle of “kicks to the groin”? What are you trying to achieve and are you methods working?

            • chezami

              Stu: I run into reactionaries on line almost every day who fit the bill Zmirak describes. Angry, paranoid, anti-semitic, nuts. You can take me at my word or not. I’m not interested in precise taxonomies of what sort of angry paranoid reactionary right wing antisemites they are. I’m just interested in getting away from their repellent presence as fast as I can.

              • Stu

                “I run into reactionaries ON LINE almost every day….”
                BINGO. On line.

                Few things.

                First, they are still a minority in real life and you give them way too much air time and your tactics in engaging them does more harm than good. In other words, your rhetorical drone strikes end up doing collateral damage much to their benefit.

                Second, if you really want to get away from the “repellent presence as fast as you can” then constantly writing about them in the manner you do will not achieve that. Quite the opposite actually. Think of yourself as a gunfighter with a reputation with a fast draw. Do you really want to engage every young turk who comes your way looking to prove himself? Your manner of engaging them only perpetuates the cycle.

                Third, you can still engage bad ideas and you should. Stay away from the name-calling and attempts to marginalize people into tribes of your making and focus only on the ideas. Address bad ideas in the same way that you would address a protestant who genuinely thinks that “Catholics worship Mary” (as we probably both believed at one time in our former protestant days). That’s your strength and that is where you will excel. Why would want to engage others on terms that don’t give you the advantage? It only make you less effective and dilutes your brand among your core audience. It’s a losing proposition.

                • Athelstane

                  Yes, it’s true: the internet Draws The Crazy.

                  True of so many things in life; but regrettably true with traditionalism, where there is (I hate to say it) a substantial share online who fit the angry RadTrad mold to some real degree. Some visit Mark’s combox.

                  But I do think of the TLM I frequent most often: About 130 people at an 8am timeslot. I don’t know every one well, but I don’t think more than a double handful spend serious amounts of time in Catholic blogs and sites, and fewer still haunt comboxes; most are too busy building a spiritual life for themselves and their families. Many are perhaps not warm and fuzzy about the present Pontiff, and few frequent an OF Mass; but I don’t hear or see crazy conspiracy theories or rants about the Jews. It’s fair to ask how representative my community is; obviously, those people exist, and they must attend Mass somewhere. But I can’t help but feel that the dichotomy between Online Trad and Real Life Trad is unusually big.

                  • Stu

                    There is a huge dichotomy and only someone who
                    actually spends time within an actual EF parish would know that. And that isn’t a “No true Scotsman” defense but rather an observation. Of course we have kooks in our community. Who doesn’t? Every parish I have been in has a share of “off” people. Same holds for places I have
                    worked, gone to school, etc. It’s all part of life.

                    But the Internet changes things. It levels the field in many ways because anyone can speak to anyone about anything. People who normally would be ignored in polite conversation can speak out and almost always find someone willing to get down in the mud with them.

                    And your experience mirrors mine in terms of being online. Most people in my parish aren’t plugged into the Catholic blogosphere.

                    • Paul Williams

                      The Internet does bring out the crazies. I’ve noticed that as well. It could be that the only refuge malcontents have is to take to internet comment boxes since no one will listen to them in real life.

                      We had someone show up at our parish for a couple weeks who stood in the back and didn’t talk to anyone. I introduced myself to welcome him to the parish and got little more than his name. He started asking a bunch of questions which seemed oddly detailed.

                      Soon afterwards, he was on the internet blasting anyone going to the English Mass as not really Catholic and the only “real” bishops were in the SSPX. I haven’t seen him sense, but find it amusing and sad that he could be seen as representing hundreds of families in our parish.

                  • chezami

                    Yep. And I have no ability left to give a shit about their everlastingly narcissistic issues. Not one bit.

                    • Except posting about it and raging with profanity. BUt that isn’t defined as caring. Like I said, passive aggressive.

  • capaxdei

    By his answer to his own question, “Why are you a Christian?,” John Zmirak shows himself to be a half-converted pagan: “Because, out of all the worldviews I’ve ever encountered, the Christian one seems most attuned to human flourishing on earth.”


    So yes, he’s good on the parts of the Catholic Faith that are consistent with his a priori opinions about human flourishing, and wretched on the other parts. May he surrender wholly to God, and destroy the idol he has made of his own intellect. (And, while I’m at it, so may we all.)

    • chezami


    • Dan C

      This seems to be a virtue ethics technique that was often embraced but previously formulated as “Christian values.” (Perhaps one can describe this as a deontological vs. virtue ethics paradigm). It is not entirely without merit, and has purchase among folks like Thomas Jefferson (among the more extreme). I agree though that this does leave out a discussion of what is called “Discipleship” in some faiths, and by Sherry Weddell, the beginning of which is “conversion” as you note.

    • You probably want to read further than that question as it doesn’t tell the whole story. He apparently has had at least one encounter with the divine.

      Q: But haven’t you had personal religious experiences that serve for you as evidence?

      A: As it happens, I have. But so have Muslims and Buddhists. Such things are not proofs but clues. They could all be delusions, wishful thinking, the neurological side-effects of having an Irish-American mother. As Kolakowski points out, there is literally no sign that God could give us which would be so “big” and miraculous that it could prove the vast array of unlikely, even paradoxical assertions entailed in Christian faith. A skeptical scientist who saw the sun dance at Fatima could find a dozen less implausible explanations than “it’s a miracle! The Virgin Mary appeared here in Portugal.”

      • capaxdei

        Yes, he had at least one encounter with the divine — or, possibly, with an undigested bit of beef. So?

        (And yes, by all means read the whole thing. It was only when I got to the end that I realized the beginning *was* the end, and not merely where he had started out.)

        • So you don’t like Zmirak’s paraphrase of Boniface VIII in anathematizing the fraticelli? Do you really think that makes him a “half-converted pagan”? Do I misunderstand you?

          • capaxdei

            You seem to understand me. If a man wrote about his wife the way Zmirak writes about his faith, I’d pray for his marriage.

            • I worry more that you are arguing against a papal decree. What was wrong with Boniface VIII action? Or is it that the paraphrase is of poor quality?

              • capaxdei

                Okay, maybe you don’t understand me.

                In his article, Zmirak states the reason he is Christian — not the reason he *became* Christian, but the reason he *remains* Christian — is because, as a *worldview*, Christianity best aligns with his own opinions about human flourishing *on earth*.

                This makes him a half-converted pagan. He believes in God, revealed to us by His Son Jesus — that’s the “half-converted” part — but he goes to great lengths to insist that God is #2 in his pantheon, and that He will be discarded if He ever crosses Zmirak’s #1 god, Humanflourishingonearthaccordingtojohnzmirak. That’s the “pagan” part.

                What any of this has to do with Boniface VIII or the Fraticelli, I don’t know.

                • I would be interested to hear what Zmirak has to say about pre-Noah God (i.e. God prior to the covenant with Noah) as well as the entire book of Job and how those fit in with this worldview concept. It seems some good point to elaborate how that fits. I suspect that clarity would be achieved because I’m not entirely sure that you’ve sussed out what he really means.

                  God is love. God loves us. God wants what is best. These are all claims of the Church that are central and do, I suppose, help form the Catholic worldview. Were they to be proven wrong, there would be serious problems.

                  That you don’t see any relation with the fratelli, the spiritual franciscans that Boniface VIII anathematized is a bit troubling for me. To me it indicates that you’re looking to pick nits and aren’t actually interested in listening to Zmirak. They are fairly central to his argument.

                  Please don’t be the mirror image of the mainstream caricature of the hidebound traditionalist. Mirroring that caricature does not improve the result.

                  • capaxdei

                    “That you don’t see any relation with the fratelli, the spiritual
                    franciscans that Boniface VIII anathematized is a bit troubling for me.
                    To me it indicates that you’re looking to pick nits and aren’t actually
                    interested in listening to Zmirak.”

                    What it actually indicates is that I haven’t read Boniface’s anathematization of the Fraticelli. If it includes a long, lingering look at the conditions under which Boniface would go into schism or apostatize, that would change my opinion (such as it is) of Boniface, but not of Zmirak.

                    • It also means you haven’t really read Zmirak and thus don’t understand what he’s talking about. I’ll go as far to say that you are raising a potentially real issue, but only potentially as alternate hypotheses could be supported that are more charitable to him.

                    • capaxdei

                      I certainly don’t want to be culpably wrong. If you have any argument to offer, I’ll be happy to consider it.

                    • That’s admirable. My argument is simple. Before stating as fact that someone else’s conversion is incomplete, it is proper to make sure that the other person is not just having a foot-in-mouth moment and that you actually understand what they are getting at. It is improper to simply shoot your own mouth off with an ugly accusation that is professionally hurtful without first being sure of your grounds.

                      In this case, necessarily it would include a basic understanding of what Zmirak means by human flourishing (i.e. is he just saying that he expects God not to break his promises or is he saying that he has a standard of human flourishing that he is holding God to) as well as looking at his main points of argument to see whether they impact or give any insight into the parts of his argument that you find troubling or wrong.

                      Reduced to one sentence my argument is condemnation without nailing down your details is illegitimate and wrong because it is uncharitable.

                    • capaxdei

                      Fair enough. I’ve already read and evaluated his article two or three times on two or three separate days. I could do it again, I suppose, but I expect I’d come to the same conclusion.

                    • If you can figure out how to get the answers without asking the man or looking at other pieces of his work for evidence my hat is off to you. I’ve looked at it too and can’t figure the answer out.

  • Paul Williams

    Please provide a link/source for this part. I’d be interested in learning more about what happened: “But (gasp!) it turns out that priests, being extremely busy people, have to carve out time from their schedules and *learn* the EF. This, a priest attempted to do, but his celebration of the EF was (and you may want to sit down for this) less than perfect. Naturally then, a grateful community of Reactionaries in Argentina thanked Bergoglio by cursing his name for not instantly giving them an absolutely perfect EF Mass.”

    • Stu

      What’s generally accepted is this.

      Indeed, the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires did respond immediately to Summorum Pontificum. However, the priest who said the Mass chose to use the Ordinary Calendarand use lay readers in the Mass. So while one may classify this as simply “not perfect”, one does have to wonder why this happened at all or continued to happen because eventually the faithful simply dwindled off because no one wanted a “hybrid Mass” and certainly some probably saw it as an attempt to changes things so much as an effort to drive people away and then eventually claim “no one was interested.” (That tactic has been used before.)

      But here is what is not known in all of this.

      Did Cardinal Bergoglio call for those changes? Did he even know about them?

      Were they instituted by the priest out of ignorance or
      did he have an agenda?

      Did the parishioners use the proper channels to
      rectify the situation or did they assume the worst and storm off?

      Who knows?
      Regardless, there really isn’t enough to go on to make conclusions about
      anyone from what I have seen. I suspect it was just bad execution by many.

      • Paul Williams

        This detail is helpful, thanks. There is a big difference between a priest trying earnestly to offer the Mass but making mistakes as he learns, and one who is actively trying to change/alter/improve the liturgy.

        One of the reasons people are attracted to the Latin Mass is that it is not subject to the whims of the priest and whatever changes or variations he may wish to explore.

        I know of several instances where a bishop tried to implement SP or an indult Mass, but mandated they have extraordinary ministers or altar girls or lay readers. This either shows a lack of understanding or compassion to the sensitivities of those Catholics who would be attracted to such a Mass, or a less honorable effort to set up an effort sure to fail. “I gave you a Mass that was good enough, even though I changed some things around and put it in a bad neighborhood at an inconvenient time, and no one showed up. Well, too bad – that’s your fault – I tried.”

        This has also happened in parishes which have discontinued a Latin Mass, but implemented Latin hymns into another Mass, calling it a “Traditional Mass”. Then telling those interested in the Latin Mass to go to that. And if that’s not good enough for them, that’s their problem.

        However, these things happen in America, and the landscape may be different in Argentina. Certainly, the politics are, as our “right wing” has very different political connections than they do in South America and we don’t have the same history with liberation theology here. That’s why I’m interested in reading from more sources (preferably ones with more credibility than those who question the Holocaust) whether this batch of traditionalists were really malcontents or were legitimately treated unfairly.

        • Athelstane

          Yes, one thinks of the attempt at a longstanding regular TLM in Cambridge (England) to introduce altar girls, which is as sure a guarantee of alienating and offending everyone in attendance as you can think of (and, obviously, in serious violation of the rubrics, as repeatedly affirmed by PCED). Sometimes, it’s not just ignorance, but an effort at sabotage.

          I try never to assume the latter out of the gate when such things happen. But I have seen deliberate sabotage before. Especially, as you say, with dumping it in bad neighborhoods at extremely inconvenient Mass times.

      • This gives me a chance to share my current favorite Catholic “inside baseball” joke:

        What’s the difference between an O.F. Catholic and an E.F. Catholic?

        An O.F. Catholic worships felt banners, while an E.F. Catholic worships a calendar…


        • Chesire11

          So does that mean that a felt advent calendar is a nod toward ecumenism?


      • Athelstane

        Well said again Stu.

        Thanks for providing the explanation of what happened, and balancing it with a charitable restraint in assigning agency and motives.

  • Dan C

    One of the features of political conservativism is the demonization and de-legitimization of any Democrat elected President. We see this in Clinton and Obama. When conservatives in a Carville focus group see Obama talk, the reactions hardly vary from “liar” and “socialist.”

    This set of responses, this habit and communal cutlure may be playing itself out with certain conservatives on the right. We have watched a Democrat cut the budget more aggressively than any Republican since Roosevelt via sequester, execute wars more effectively and successfully than Republicans, produce bellicose arguments for more war, use the Heritage Foundations and Republican-candidate Mitt Romney’s blueprint for healthcare, and still “liar” and “socialist” and “he hates America” are truly reflexive among conservatives.

    While not exactly the same, I think the same set of dismissiveness and divisiveness exists with the Catholic conservative and Francis. It is an explanation of the universal rejection, even after pointing to Ratzinger/Benedict statements that map more strongly to the points despised by the conservative, the problem is that it is Francis, and Francis is not identified as “one of us”-us being “orthodox Catholics.”

    When he does start with more controversial aspects of his thinking, such as with regards to poverty, and the responsibility of the wealthy to the impoverished, there may be enormous trouble.

    But, this is not Francis’s trouble. Its American conservatives’ trouble. In the language of “group process” the conservatives must “own” their own set of habits and responses and feelings. Francis didn’t “make them mad” or “confused.” They got mad themselves. It was not a universal phenomenon through the whole faith. I come back to the American conservatives as the “personal responsibility” advocates to say that they have to “own” their own confusions and anger and trepidation. Its not Francis’s fault, he is not Pope in order to make American conservatives happy He has other tasks. And I find few Jesuits are “pleasers.” As such, he has no “base” to maintain, and will do as he sees fit.

    • Daniel G. Fink

      Erroneous speculation from the point of reference from which you too “own”.

      Most “conservatives” are simply charitably desiring more clarity, context, and precision in the pope’s statements, and are represented best by the opinions of Carl Olson, Fr. James Schall, S.J., et al…



      • Dan C

        Perhaps. But if I can google the question, “what did Benedict say about prosetylism, salvation outside the Church, and a myriad of other “questions” and come up with language that maps directly to Francis’s, then I presume Mr. Olson and Fr. Schall and Fr. Longenecker can also.

        At one point the “questions” are not questions so much as attacks in passive-aggressive ways (“birther” questions are similar- “really, I just want to know why there are inconstencies…”) for which no answer will ever satisfy.

        And beyond the questioners, and some folks are honestly asking questions, there are plenty who are actively opposed to Francis. I hold commentators and writers of The American Catholic and Over the Rhine and into the Tiber and Steve Skojec as prime examples of these folks.

    • “Its not Francis’s fault, he is not Pope in order to make American conservatives happy He has other tasks.”

      I think this is a really good point, and one I see on the left, too, as American Catholics on the other end of the spectrum argue that Church has to “get with it” with regard to, say, sexual issues. We Americans tend to be a self-centered lot, and we tend to forget that there are a whole lot of other Catholics out there.

      • I would like to be a Catholic American- but American Catholics of both the left and right wing varieties have convinced me that American citizenship is incompatible with Catholicism.

    • Martial_Artist

      Dan C,
      Of course, that reaction in a Carville focus group couldn’t possibly be due to any history of Obama to prevaricate nor to push statist/socialist programs, could it? No, that’s just not even a possibility.

      • Dan C

        With clarity, Benedict and Paul Vi in their social encyclicals are nothing but, by your definition statist and socialist, far far more than Obama. Thus, your implicit condemnation of statism and socialism (neither of which are highly present in Obama’s policies) should dial down the consideration of “evil.” You presume that Catholic theology and Truth are supportive of your economic philosophy, while really the default position of the Church is a highly regulated, socialized society. That is up for discussion of course, whether such is wise, and the degree of this, but this is the current default position. Libertarianism is not at all supported, nor is classical liberalism. In fact, papal social encyclicals began as a rejection of classical liberalism.

        Compared to Benedict XVI, Obama is a John Birch Society member.

        • Chesire11

          There is absolutely nothing in the modern American political landscape that even remotely smacks of socialism. The constant accusations that Obama is “a socialist” have nothing whatsoever to do with either the facts of Obama’s policies, or the definition of the word. It is simply focus group tested invective intended to tap into a stereotype of 1960’s radical African American political activists. That’s also why his record as a community organizer is so often ridiculed on the right (his record as a constitutional law professor at the University of Chicago Law School, being conveniently ignored).

          It is a label intended to bypass the rational mind and tap directly into emotion – specifically fear.

    • Chesire11

      I think you have a valid point that the “conservative” objections to both Obama, and Francis are often less about ideology and the right-left divide, and more about simple tribalism. If someone from outside of our tribe says something with which we agree, it’s either a deception, or “we never believed that!” If the other says something with which “our tribe” disagrees, it’s just proof of his villainy!

      Heads “we win”; Tails “they lose.”

  • Athelstane

    Here we go again.

    I’m a traditiionalist, safe to say (I’m a member of a very traditional Ordinariate parish and I pretty much exclusively attend and serve authorized TLM’s or a high church Anglican Use). I also recognize that what Zmirak says is true: there’s a certain toxic element in Argentine traditionalism, not just because so much of it is SSPX, but there is this…peculiar political history, alas. I think we have to recognize it, and call it out. You can see it in France as well, sometimes (not always, but sometimes) tied to Le Pen, Vichy, Bourbon restoration, etc.

    But I also think the story in both countries is more complex, and we have to recognize that, too. People, traddies included, must take responsibility for their own actions and words. But it is also true, as people I know who lived in the Buenos Aires area (which consists of several dioceses) before and during the Bergoglio years have affirmed, that in some ways, the Argentine bishops unwittingly helped create and intensify the more radically paranoid parts of Argentine traditionalism, given how they relentlessly excluded and even punished pleas (especially by priests) for some room for more traditional worship and catechesis of the sort they had always known and followed, as they moved to implement their understanding of the Council (an understanding which, alas, partook more of rupture than of continuity, at times). The SSPX grew so large because for the most part, those who wanted traditional worship had no other place to go, though the recent emergence of Miles Christi and Incarnate Word have helped a little (and even they ran into intense episcopal opposition). It is not surprising to me that some people who ended up in Society chapels ended up more radicalized, indeed, much more radicalized than they might otherwise have been, had there only been some tolerance shown to them and their rightful aspirations.

    I think it is a salutory effect – and intention – of Summorum Pontificum that it is creating space within the Church’s mainstream not just for traditional worship, but traditional voices as well. It’s a healthier dynamic, and it is genuinely pastoral. If you treat people like social outcasts, they may start acting like social outcasts. For that, they must take responsibility; but that responsibility is shared more widely. That’s not an indulgent cry of self-pity, but a plea for people to understand the full narrative, and why it is crucial for the Church’s leadership to act more pastorally – especially where it is the Church’s own traditions that are being fought for.

    • contrarian

      You win the thread.
      Good stuff here.

    • Stu

      This is definitely a consideration.

      In the current state, you often see traditionalist criticized for living in their own “cloisters” and trying to keep things pure without any thought given to what (or who) marginalized them into their traditionalist ghettos. Pre-Summorum Pontificum in some dioceses, traditionalist were neither to be seen nor heard if they were to have any hope of keeping the Old Mass around and were thus relegated to fringe locations and odd Mass times every Sunday. Even now, you see the Motu Proprio characterized as being simply for those who have that peculiar sensitivity in worship instead of really understanding what is really going on there (and that it is a youth movement).

      Even my Bishop to my face likened it to just a bunch of kids playing dress-up in the attic with their grandparents clothing. I think he meant well in saying that but it didn’t further endear him to anyone.

      • Athelstane

        Well said, Stu.

        Here in Baltimore, successive ordinaries (or at least their chancery officials) in the 80’s, 90’s, and 00’s, acted determinedly to limit the TLM solely to the Shrine of St. Alphonsus, imposing petty restrictions; other priests or groups who requested it were punished or ignored. Even traditional touches in OF Masses could generate stern calls from the chancery. Not surprisingly, some at St. Al’s turned into a flinty, suspicious bunch (not on an SSPX level, but…). Unfortunate, but you see how it came to pass.

        But if you look at dioceses which have been more pastoral and charitable in recognizing a real space and rights for tradition, these neuroses tend to disappear, or become very, very marginal among traditionalists. And speaking as a Juventutem board member, I agree that this is especially true of youth who are attracted to tradition. A lot less baggage. More joyful, less angry.

        • contrarian

          I admire your patience and resilience in the face of such insanity. The more i learn about the dark days prior to SP, the more I sympathize with the embittered and angry older trads, even if I don’t endorse their bitterness and anger. I totally get it, though.

          “Here in Baltimore, successive ordinaries (or at least their chancery officials) in the 80’s, 90’s, and 00’s, acted determinedly to limit the TLM solely to the Shrine of St. Alphonsus, imposing petty restrictions; other priests or groups who requested it were punished or ignored. Even traditional touches in OF Masses could generate stern calls from the chancery.”

          Absolutely bonkers, man.

          Bonkers. I mean, wtf.

          What a crazy, crazy situation we had, and are still having.

          Good on ya for your proactive and charitable approach.

          • chezami

            It’s over. Past. History. The last thing you need to do is lovingly linger over bitterness and anger. Or if you want to, just go away and leave me alone. I’m sick of the toxicity from that subculture.

            • P.F. Hawkins

              If that’s really what you think of that subculture, why keep writing about them? The old canard of “don’t feed the trolls” would seem to apply.

              • chezami

                Because they are a poison and a danger to souls.

                • Stu

                  Are you winning?

            • Athelstane

              Really, Mark: I haven’t read any of Contrarian’s other posts, but he ain’t coming across to me as “Angry Rad Trad Man.” How can you know him well enough to say he’s “lovingly linger[ing] over bitterness and anger?” Wrong target you’re firing at, perhaps?

              I brought up the history because I thought it helped explain how we got where we are, even if it doesn’t excuse the Usual Suspects. Otherwise, the past is the past. I’m interested in the future, because it’s what I can actually affect, and that’s certainly true of all the young people in my Juventutem chapter.

        • Stu

          That’s a beautiful church as I have been there for Sunday Mass. When I was there, I had a discussion with one of the parishioner about how challenging it has been for them given some of the positions taken by the diocese but was led to believe that the pastor had made great headway in fixing up the building. That would be a great parish to have the FSSP in one day.

          • Athelstane

            It is indeed a stunning church – still in the process of being restored, thanks to the great fundraising of Msgr. Bastress. It also has a great history behind it, with two pastors who have been beatified or canonized (St. John Neumann and Bl. Francis Xeelos). The aesthetics (and restoration work) seem to make it a better fit for the ICK, but locals won’t likely complain if either society is given charge down the road.

            They have had much to endure over the years, which I hope is not engaging in self-pity to say as much. But there is room for more hope now, thanks to the recent change in leadership in the archdiocese.

      • contrarian

        “Even now, you see the Motu Proprio characterized as being simply for those who have that peculiar sensitivity in worship instead of really understanding what is really going on there (and that it is a youth movement).”

        Exactly. It’s tolerated as long as it’s simply subjectively liked (if you’re into that sort of thing) for completely superficial reasons. If you like the chanting and such. Whatever gets you going, sort of thing.

        If you have any reason for preferring the TLM that might touch on anything more than preference, and if you voice these reasons…well, watch out.

        But quite frankly, that’s the thing about it that I don’t quite get. If folks who preferred the old mass were really *seen* as fuddy duddys with a love of lace and chant, pining for nostalgia (as JPII put it), then why not pat them on the head and give them their mass? If it’s only seen as a subjective preference, then why not humor the old bags? Why such resistance by the bishops for so many years?

        Perhaps those in charge knew the power of the old mass, and what they were ‘unleashing’ on the world, and what they therefore had to keep locked away?

        • chezami

          Don’t care. Not interested. Losing consciousness. Go to whatever Mass youlike and stop whining about not being the center of the universszzzzzzz…….

          • Good to see you are back to your passive aggressive self Mark. Why don’t you just admit that this really has nothing to do with traditionalism, but your own hangups?

            You go whining about certain things, people try to comment, then you complain “stop trying to be the center of the universe.”
            If you don’t want to hear this stuff, that’s cool. Just stop talking about it, and let us “sane” guys drive the conversation. I’ll still read here because I enjoy the interesting commentary. I just think this passive aggressive behavior is beneath you. I expect it out of the other apologists.

        • Chesire11

          I was born in the 1960’s and never experienced the Latin Mass until I discovered that one was offered at a nearby parish. I attended on a couple of occasions out of real interest, but only attended a couple of masses.

          I expected to have difficulty following along, given that I never learned Latin, but with written text can usually piece things together albeit laboriously, so I was undaunted. What turned me off wasn’t the form of the mass itself, but what came across to me as a cold unwelcoming atmosphere, as though one of the unwashed plebes had rudely intruded upon an exclusive club.

          It seemed from my very limited direct experience, but bolstered by several interactions with Traditionalists online, that there can be a temptation to pride operative here. Real and perceived marginalization can foster a sense of exclusivity, and greater purity. If Traditionalists want to see the Latin Mass attain greater prominence in the Church, it would seem that they should be more welcoming and offering opportunities for the curious to learn, rather than muttering about the vernacular, and guitar masses, and how oppressed they are.

          In the end, I go to mass to worship God, and to receive the Eucharist, and the sacrament is valid regardless of which of the forms the mass takes, so I might as well attend a licit mass that I understand and in which I can fully participate.

          Just my two cents…

          • Athelstane

            If Traditionalists want to see the Latin Mass attain greater prominence in the Church, it would seem that they should be more welcoming and offering opportunities for the curious to learn.


          • Stu

            Come to my parish.

    • chezami

      Dude, all I know is that when Bergoglio was elected Rorate Coeli shrieked “The Horror!” like a bunch of little girls and ran stories by embittered malcontent jerks who were pissed off because the EF he authorized wasn’t perfect enough for their prima donna sensibilities. As with the jackass Fellay, declaring him a modernist now, I could not care less anymore what these people think, want, or care about. Nothing will ever make them happy.

      • Athelstane

        Yeah, they did, Mark. I don’t think the Rorate fellas are anti-Semites, but they were and are morally tone deaf in their use of M. Gonzales, and frankly scandalous in effectively declaring war with their broadside within moments of the announcement of his election. I mean, really: Wait 24 hours, at least? Give the Pope a chance?

        As for that aborted attempt to offer the EF: We now know that Rorate was right on the narrow point that the Mass offered was a bizarre hybrid of the OF and EF (and not just “not perfect enough for their prima donna sensibilities,” Mark: come on, we have liturgical books, and we’re supposed to *try* to follow them; the laity have a right to a properly celebrated Mass, regardless of Rite or Form or Use), and that to this day, no licit regular EF Mass is offered in the archdiocese. Where they were wrong was in assuming that it was a conspiracy to sabotage it, and that Cdl. Bergoglio was the chief conspirator. Charity requires that we assume the best of motives until evidence emerges to the contrary. It could have been mere incompetence. But the abuses were not corrected, and people drifted away until the Mass was cancelled.

        I regret that you decline to respond to the substantive point I made, re: the responsibility of bishops, pastors, and other Church leaders in helping radicalize some of these traditionalists (even while recognizing the responsibility each bears for his or her own bad choices) through their intolerance and hostility even to mildly traditionalist impulses (I know of one Argentine priest removed for the simple mistake of wearing a cassock one day, nothing more), not just obvious junta supporters or conspiracy cranks. No, you’re right, some will never be made happy; but some can be reached, and I contend that we (and you) have a responsibility to do so. It should not be illegitimate to want to embrace and promote the liturgy, devotional life, and catechesis (Catechism of Trent, classical Thomism, etc.) that the Church has used for centuries, and it is not indulgent self-pity to request it, as Pope Benedict rightly recognized. But for most of the last few decades, even erstwhile conservatives treated these things like they were smallpox scabs, usually out of a misguided zeal for obedience to the authority of the Council (and post-conciliar Magisterium) as they perceived it.

        The theological virtue that some traditionalist struggle most with is charity (even to other traditionalists), and it is pitiful to see it when it happens. But charity is something a lot of us struggle with. You do a lot of good work, Mark, but sometimes your blogging could employ a little more as well. Even when angry rad trads come in to pollute your combox.

    • “that in some ways, the Argentine bishops unwittingly helped create and intensify the more radically paranoid parts of Argentine traditionalism, ”

      It’s difficult to blame these or those, but I doubt that. Traditionalists (I’ve been in touch with some of them) have been a refractory group in the argentine catholic church since middle 1930. Their reactionary anti-liberal anti-democratic tendencies (with Maurras influences) were radicalized with the Spanish civil war (poor good Maritain had to suffer insults from ex-admirers,..) and by the WWII their sympathies were on the fascist Italy. They had (and have) good and cultivated people, but as a group they are nuts, and their petulance, their ingenuity at believing to have the codified truth defies any good will. They had a few sympathetic bishops, but practically none now. “Their” last seminary was dismantled in the 80s.
      They had (have) the usual obsessions: old “vertical” liturgy, hate of all modern things, anti-democracy, anti-blame everything on judeo-masonic cospirations and a pathological fear of communism; this last element was actually the only thing which links them with the last violent right-wing dictatorship, BTW.

      I believe that their nuttiness is less excusable in that, in the other side, they have not an opposition of a band of left extremist progressive priests and bishops. Moderation (or, if one is less indulgent, mediocrity) is the rule here, as I see it.

      “a salutory effect – and intention – of Summorum Pontificum that it is creating space within the Church’s mainstream not just for traditional worship, but traditional voices as well”

      Might be the intention, and perhaps the effect in some places. Not here, in my opinion. They don’t need a place to make their voices heard, they need to learn to listen.

      • Athelstane

        I appreciate your perspective, Hernan. And while there is some truth to what you say, it doesn’t reflect the experiences of traditionalist or tradition-leaning Argentines and expats from that era have told me in recent years. Yes, a fair lot of traditionalists were politically loaded integrist cohorts going back a long way, thanks to Argentina’s ideologically polarized history. But there were also people who simply wanted reverent liturgy and devotion more like what they or their parents had grown up with, people often involved with groups like Miles Christi and Incarnate Word, who still ran into stone walls at chanceries and rectories. Rather than try to provide a place in the church for those not carrying such baggage, however, the bishops chose to freeze out tradition entirely. And those people had nowhere to go to fulfill their rightful aspirations, as urged and affirmed by John Paul II in his 1984 and 1988 indults.

        In short: If you wanted a licit traditional alternative for worship, devotion and formation, it was, for most of the recent decades, the SSPX or Bust. You got lumped in with junta reactionaries whether you liked it or not. And I know such people.

        I myself am attached to “vertical” liturgy, because I believe that’s what it long was, and is supposed to be, since the liturgy is about God, not us – even as I refrain from judgments on the spiritual dispositions of those not so attached (at least not to the TLM). I hope that does not make me “obsessed.”

  • Dale Price

    I have enough humility to recognize that I am no great loss to the Catholic Church, but I’d like to offer a little advice:

    browbeating the wounded before shooting them isn’t much of an improvement.

    • chezami

      I don’t understand what Francis has done to wound you. Nor, since you are not the paranoid nut Zmirak describes, how this has any application to you. I don’t get it.

      • I think it says more about you Mark than the reactionaries.

        • Mike Petrik

          No question.

  • Here’s an honest question for Mark:

    If you can’t “give a shit” about all this stuff, then why do you continue to post on it? If it’s a “cancer” (and it is), forgive me for being so crass, but must we give a shit about every cancer infecting every nook and cranny in the Church? Why do we always have to play crusader?

    Do I care about the damage a lot of subcultures inflict on the church? Not really. I don’t care about the nuns on the bus whoever they are. I don’t really care about the womens ordination stuff. I don’t care about the chapel veil debate. All are cancers and dangers to the church. And all have about as much influence in the grand scheme of things as traditionalist have, which is to say, just about none.

    I don’t write on those things. I write on the things which interest me, and ignore the idiots. So if you “don’t give a shit”, how come you can’t do the same?

    • chezami

      Because it’s poison and people are buying it.

    • Dan C

      You can choose not to point out the error of Francis-hate. But you will make the same mistake conservatives made with its political activism, tolerating for the sake of unity and comity undicisplined thought and language that will lead many into error.

      That strategy, such as tolerating birthers, or pretending that WMD’s really were found in Iraq when friends and colleagues assert such nonsense, or going along with tolerating Maciel, did no favor to the conservative brand. Tolerating Francis-hate (like tolerating Obama-hate) as a reasonable position for a Catholic will be more damaging.

      When years ago people were claiming that the Chruch was ready for a schism, many assumed they meant the pelvic obsessed left. When someone dug up Benedict’s one line (and took it out of context) in 2005 describing a future with a small purer Church, conservatives fantasized about the blessed exodus of liberals.

      Right now, the exodus is not likely to be liberals. It would be unwise to not sound the alarm,

      • Donna

        This view of the church as divided along American political lines is a grave mistake. First, it’s crazy ethnocentric, because it makes sense only in the context of the American Catholic church, which really isn’t as important as this view thinks it is. The universal church doesn’t care about our puny political divides. Second, the staunch political conservatives and the staunch political liberals are far more similar than they are different. They look at issues from different perspectives but their blind allegiance to their principles no matter what the facts show, their immense hubris and their intolerance for opposing opinions are identical. Look what the liberal vs. conservative divide has done to our country. Why would anyone bring that anywhere near the church, even as an analogy? We should be working against that hateful and dysfunctional mindset, not adopting it into our church.

  • Chesire11

    Does anybody else detect a hint of irony about people getting exasperated with, and scolding Mark for getting exasperated with, and scolding some of the less than charitable Traditionalist Catholics?