November 7-8, 2004
vol 15, no. 182

Have You Hugged your Local Conservative Novus Ordo Believer Lately?
    The sweet honey of hope and help will bring more conservative Novus Ordo believers back to Tradition and wash away all the Vatican II vinegar that has so seeped into their psyche. It will take time, but in God's time those who still shy from Tradition can be our greatest allies.
    "Even for those who do not come home to Tradition at this point, I like to think that this is not the last opportunity for Grace to work in their lives, since Christ is always faithful in standing at the door of their hearts and knocking. They might stop trying to understand "liturgical" or "ecumenical" matters, but they are still able to apply themselves to such practical matters as the political forum, charitable activities, or even evangelism. From the ranks of these come many of those who still work on evangelizing the Protestants, the Moslems, the Jews, the Hindus, and indeed all non-Catholics."

    Christopher Ferrara lumps them in with the non- (and semi-) conservative Novus Ordo believers under the heading "Neo-Catholics." Other writers call them "Neo-Conservatives." My gracious editor, who so kindly has offered to post my articles on this site even offered to use something from my book where I call their "church" the Novus Ordo "church" of the "People of God" (My shorthand for "The People's Republic of pseudo-Catholicism") and to calling them "POG's" or even "NOCPOG's" (for "People Of God," or "Novus Ordo Church of the People Of God"), which to me sounds like those game pieces the kids were collecting so avidly about ten to fifteen years ago.

    Obviously, it isn't my place to tell my fellow traditionalists what they can and cannot do or say, but for myself I can set a policy. Respect aside (and I certainly do not mean any disrespect for my distinguished traditional colleagues), I tend to find such "names" at best disrespectful, and at worst misleading. After all, do we really like being called "Rad-trads," "Ultra-trads," or "Integrists"? Dare we stoop to that same level by returning the "compliment?"

    Labels can be useful. Indeed, it is difficult to think at all if one goes through life taking to heart that politically correct exercise of "avoiding labels in life." But with every label comes a dangerous oversimplification, as "one size fits all" doesn't really fit any very well. Furthermore, behind every label applied to a category of person there are the persons themselves who, far more often than not, are bound to take exception to being referred to in such terms. I think this often results from too much social distance from these people (as indeed the willingness of some of them to use such terms about us follows from the same). We don't know them very well personally, and they don't know us either.

    In my book and on my own site I steadfastly refuse to use such terms to describe these people, since it is they who are (as often as not) my intended audience. And for me it would not be what I consider fair to speak politely to a person's face, but then refer to them in less polite terms behind their back. Furthermore, I am not resistant to using some of their particular expressions, since these can be often quite descriptive. For example "Culture of Death," a phrase one seldom hears in traditional literature, is one I am not afraid to use on occasion. And again, the phrase "cafeteria catholic," though a bit of a misnomer, since such is really not Catholic at all, can I think, be used providing that one always puts it in quotes. It so beautifully conjures up the image of someone who could say, for example, "Well, I will take the Church's teachings regarding helping the homeless, but leave the Church's teaching regarding contraception."

    On the other hand, I cannot in good faith call the followers of Vatican II "Catholics," even of a "Neo-" variety since, technically they aren't actually Catholics at all. But in the vast majority of cases, neither can they be called "ex-Catholics" or "non-Catholics" since they did not willfully leave. What one CAN call many of these people is "Catholic-at-heart." Only materially, have they have been (mis)led out of the Church. They don't realize it, and in fact would be with us traditionalists in a heartbeat if only they knew what we know. But they don't. And that's not really their fault. Hence, "Novus Ordo believers" is what I call them, and I do not abbreviate it.

    Novus Ordo believers, that is to say people who believe in the Novus Ordo religion (that promulgated from the Vatican since Vatican II), are composed of many sorts, perhaps as many are there are people. But there are a number of various specific "currents" among them: liberal, "cafeteria," and conservative being prime among them. The current I am particularly interested in is what I call "conservative." These people MEAN to be Catholic. They WANT to be Catholic. One sees much good done by these people in such places as the political arena where they are vocal supporters of Catholic morality. They oppose abortion, contraception, gay marriages, abusive sex-ed programs in schools, and support such things as the Ten Commandments in public places, the proposed "marriage is one man and one woman" act, the political Right, and so forth. They stand behind what few diocesan bishops oppose the giving of Communion to pro-abort public figures, as should we (at least in doing this).

    These are the only people, along with us Traditional Catholics, who really believe we are meant to obey the Church, to live the Gospel purely, and without shortcuts. It is true that conservative Novus Ordo believers may often give us traditional Catholics more grief than most other sorts. This is partly in contrast against the other (non-conservative) Novus Ordo believers (both the liberals, and also the all too many more "cafeteria Catholics" for whom "church" is a social event, a habit, a chance to be seen, or even a convenience) all more or less fail to take anything spiritual seriously.

    Indeed, it is to both Traditional Catholic and conservative Novus Order believer alike a great complement to be criticized by a liberal. And the "cafeteria Catholic" has no spiritual opinions beyond which particular morsels he wants served up on his spiritual "blue plate special." But when pot shots are exchanged between conservatives and Traditionalists, it is as if our own family has wounded us. At heart, the conservative Novus Ordo believer often is a Traditional Catholic. The opinions of conservative Novus Ordo believers matter very much to us Traditional Catholics, as ought our opinions matter to them as well.

    We are both doing what we can to remain attached to the Church and the Faith of history, and subject to the Successors of Peter, but they and we labor under intensely different understandings of what that actually consists of, and especially how that mandate is to be interpreted and applied in the present situation. How easily it rolls off one's tongue from one to the other "Oh, you're a heretic/schismatic!" and how terribly wounding those words invariably are. We are keen on saving our souls, and avoiding heresy and schism is a most important thing to us, indeed, a fundamental component of being truly Catholic, THE most important thing to us: More important than job, marriage, friends, wealth, status, pleasure, or any other mere temporal thing.

    We traditionalists and conservatives need to avoid being so quick to suspect each other's good faith. Caution is one thing, but continual suspicion and doubting of the other person's motives is quite another. An eager readiness to impugn the good faith of others is a crime against charity, and one that requires confession and absolution. Of course, this does not apply towards that minuscule coterie of those who have gone out of their way to prove to all their bad faith, but that is an altogether different category.

    For there is one other Novus Ordo believer "current" of interest that I have not mentioned above and that is the "anti-traditionalist." This is by far the smallest current, numerically, but what they lack in numbers they make up for in sheer vocal volume. These are the perpetrators of all the anti-traditional-Catholic propaganda. In all justice one is bound to distinguish between the deceiver and the deceived. But all too often we traditionalists have neglected to make that essential distinction. Many conservative Novus Ordo believers have accidentally picked up the various anti-traditional (read: anti-Catholic) canards cynically concocted by this tiny group, passed them along unexamined, and then we make the mistake of pouncing on all conservatives.

    We traditionalists have a duty, and the spiritual resources of the Grace of the valid and lawful sacraments, to maintain control in the face of these "have you stopped beating your wife"-level canards naively passed along to us so often by those who are spiritually closest to us. "A mild answer turns away wrath" (Proverbs 15:1). How can those who are most close to us complete their journey towards us who are the Church if we respond in kind? Let us use that power God gave us to rise above that low level. We mustn't get so wrapped up in trying to be a good Catholic that we forget to be a good Christian.

    But we can do even more than that. We can try to understand these people and most of all look for the things to admire in them. Try and picture their interior spiritual discomfort: Having made the understandable mistake of equating the recent and current nominal "leadership" in Vatican City with Papal authority, all else they have done logically follows. With each aberration, they tell themselves that "this will be the last," or "the pendulum must begin swinging back," and so forth. "Oh, they will never allow Communion in the Hand" they once said, but then it was. And again, "Oh, they will never allow Altar girls," and once again they were wrong. When will this ever end? There is no end in sight. The light at the end of the tunnel repeatedly proves to be merely a train coming straight at one. "There is NO elephant in the room," they feel obliged to say, while carefully ducking around the elephant that IS in the room.

    Then they see us traditionalists not having to deal with any of that nonsense, and like Dives seeing Lazarus in the Bosom of Abraham they envy our felicitous state, wishing for even a drop of that cool water of Grace we traditionalists so abundantly possess. The difference from that Scriptural passage is that in this life, though the chasm is wide, it is not impassible as it was for poor Dives. One CAN cross over from there to here, if only one realizes it. But the cost is great. It becomes something a person would like to do, but they don't like it enough to do it, only enough to be less than happy at not doing it. Is it any wonder then that many of the best and most serious conservative Novus Ordo believers are grumpy enough to be all the more willing to spew the devil's canards at us?

    With each innovation and outrage introduced, they have tried to "interpret" it all in Catholic terms. Of course over time, those interpretations have taken on more and more the form of "mental gymnastics" as they vainly attempt to fit the increasingly square peg of Novus Ordoism into the round hole of authentic Catholic Tradition (Revelation). In many cases, it comes to the point that they just throw up their hands and stop trying to rationalize it out anymore. This is an important crossroads in their life, since this is either when one finally turns to Tradition and comes home at last, or else when the person stops thinking seriously about deep spiritual topics anymore.

    Even for those who do not come home to Tradition at this point, I like to think that this is not the last opportunity for Grace to work in their lives, since Christ is always faithful in standing at the door of their hearts and knocking. They might stop trying to understand "liturgical" or "ecumenical" matters, but they are still able to apply themselves to such practical matters as the political forum, charitable activities, or even evangelism. From the ranks of these come many of those who still work on evangelizing the Protestants, the Moslems, the Jews, the Hindus, and indeed all non-Catholics.

    These things are really our job, and we would do well to turn our attention to these apostolates as well. Granted we will have to start small as our resources are limited and our lives stretched so thin, but we must start somewhere. We can and should have a special respect for these conservative Novus Ordo believers, though they may make themselves party with those who maliciously attack the traditional Church today, even as the early Christian congregation had a special respect for the Jews, though those who personally arranged for the crucifixion of our Lord still lived and were accepted among them. But as the Gospel was for Jew and Gentile alike, the Gospel remains today something for conservative Novus Ordo and not, alike.

    Finally, a sense of proportion is always a good thing here. So often we can get so wrapped up in our rather fine distinctions and differences that we forget just how close we really are to each other spiritually. Just recently, a liberal columnist (calumnist?) decided to throw a little venom in our direction, by "linking today's Catholic fundamentalists with the Integralist movement of the early-20th century. The Integralists also claimed that the most dangerous enemies of the church are within, and that the way to deal with them is through censorship, repression and even excommunication." Sounds like a certain ex-traditionalist many of us have heard of (who shall remain nameless), doesn't it?

    Yet the same liberal continues, thus: "some examples [of this "Integralism" offered]: Comunione e Liberazione in Italy, Opus Dei in Spain and around the world, and Catholics United for the Faith and the Wanderer Forum in the United States." Huh? Not The Remnant or the SSPX or the sedevacantists? But all this shows is that conservative Novus Ordo believers can end up being the recipients of pot shots that are actually meant for us traditionalists. It is those of us who take our Faith seriously whom the world hates. And oftentimes, the outside world can scarcely tell us apart.

    What I wish to do here therefore is to salute our "cousins of the Faith," so to speak. It is mostly they who wrote and signed all the petitions that provided the basis for nearly all Indult situations in existence, they who labor in their Novus Ordo "parishes" to try to bring them back to Catholicism (or what limited amount of it they are aware of), who give it and their leader John Paul II what remaining credibility they retain. In this sense, they are a credit to their religion, and since the hearts of many are far united more to us than they are to their liberal co-attendees at the Novus Ordo, one can reasonably hope and pray for their return to the fullness of the Faith and to the Church as well as She actually exists today in the form of "the traditional Catholic movement." And if you are such a "Catholic-at-heart," then you are practically one with us already in spirit.

Griff L. Ruby

Griff's book is available from Books for $26.95 or can be read on-line at We at The Daily Catholic strongly urge you to share it with all you can for that could be the gentle shove that moves your friends back to where the True Faith resides forever, rooted in the Truths and Traditions of Holy Mother Church as Christ intended and promised.

    Griff Ruby's STRAIGHT STUFF
    November 7-8, 2004
    Volume 15, no. 182