February 19, 2002
volume 13, no. 32

A Brief Defense of Traditionalism

Responding to 'conservative' attacks and misconceptions

Part Four

By Peter Miller
    In this issue we complete a special series on what Traditionalism truly is - Roman Catholicism. Peter Miller, editor of the Seattle Catholic at www.Seattle Catholic.com, first published this on his excellent web site and shares with our readers a simple, concise response to 'conservatives' who see their beloved Church collapsing everywhere but continue to keep their heads in the sand, refusing to see the obvious. Peter shows the distinctions between 'traditionalist' and 'conservative' and clears up misconceptions that hopefully will better alert neo-Catholics to the true path they need to follow and to dispell the many myths about Traditionalism as we present the fourth and final part of his excellent essay A Brief Defense of Traditionalism.

8) "Traditionalists view the Mass of Pope Paul VI as significantly 'different' than the Tridentine Mass."

    Here we come to the second "mysterious objection". Again, traditionalists are accused of a position held partially or totally by those same Church leaders they are supposedly being disloyal to. It is well-known that one of the main objectives behind the "revision" of the Roman Rite was an "ecumenical" one. It was to break down one of the chief differences between the Protestant forms of Worship and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. While the validity of the sacrament may not be up for debate, the prudence of the decisions supporting the revision (revolution) of the Roman Missal is not beyond questioning, especially given one of its chief objectives. If one objects to the current ecumenical direction and practices which humiliate the Catholic Faith and cost countless souls, why should the Novus Ordo Mass receive immunity?

    The significance of such a change is necessitated by its goal. If the Mass underwent the same "natural" development it had undergone over the ages, it would not accomplish any "ecumenical" ends because it would not be seen by Protestants as any different than the previous Catholic Mass. Of course, the degree of change was substantial and widely acknowledged by those assigned to the very Consilium responsible for its revision. Consilium expert Joseph Gelineau, S.J. stated:

    "Let it be candidly said: the Roman Rite which we have known hitherto no longer exists. It is destroyed." 15 15. Joseph Gelineau, S.J., Demain la liturgie, Ed. du Cerf, Paris, 1979, p. 10

    This was reiterated by Consilium appointee Fr. Louis Bouyer:

    "There is practically no liturgy worthy of the name in the Church."
    Msgr. Klaus Gamber, one of the most esteemed and respected liturgists of the twentieth century and chamberlain of Pope Paul VI, strongly criticized the nature in which this "reform" was undertaken. As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger wrote in the preface of one of Gamber's books:
    "...in the place of liturgy as the fruit of development came fabricated liturgy. We abandoned the organic, living process of growth and replaced it...with a fabrication, a banal on-the-spot product. Gamber...opposed this falsification, and, thanks to his incredibly rich knowledge, indefatigably taught us about the living fullness of a true liturgy." 16 16. J. Ratzinger, K. Gamber, "The Reform of The Roman Liturgy"
    As Gamber demonstrated, this was a "revision" never before seen in the historical development of the Mass. This was not just another organic development but an effort to create a "new" Mass for particular objectives. The result was clearly shocking, even to Ratzinger's predecessor as head of the Holy Office, Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani:
    "...the Novus Ordo Missae...represents, both as a whole and in its details, a striking departure from the Catholic theology of the Mass. ... To abandon a liturgical tradition which for four centuries stood as a sign and pledge of unity in worship, and to replace it with another liturgy which, due to the countless liberties it implicitly authorizes, cannot but be a sign of division a liturgy which teems with insinuations or manifest errors against the integrity of the Catholic Faith is, we feel bound in conscience to proclaim, an incalculable error." 17 17. A. Ottaviani, "The Ottaviani Intervention"
    Finally, the Novus Ordo required an additional "foreword" published one year later which justified the doctrinal orthodoxy of the Mass. The existence of this "justification" is the most condemning aspect of all. Why is such a justification needed if the orthodoxy of the Mass is so clear? And, as with all the other excuses and defenses of this new orientation, the very fact that they exist is an implicit acknowledgement of the legitimacy of criticism.

    As an example, consider the blasphemy and sacrilegious nature at the "Mass" at Cardinal Roger Mahony's 2001 Religious Education Conference where there was a procession of half-naked Aztecs, bizarre politically correct innovations that placed more emphasis on cultural rites than the Roman Rite; definitely more on the 'banquet' than on the sacrificial nature of the Mass. Incense censors were used that resembled more portable cauldrons and juice pitchers were blessed. The list of aberrations goes on and on and pictures are available at our website at www.seattlecatholic.com. Suffice it to say we need only recall Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 10: 20, "But the things which the heathens sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils and not to God. And I would not that you should be made partakers with devils. You cannot drink the chalice of the Lord and the chalice of devils: you cannot be partakers of the table of the Lord and of the table of devils."

9) "Traditionalists are on a trajectory towards or leading people into disobedience and schism and are no better than liberal dissidents on the left."

    While it's heartening that some "conservatives" realize they cannot pronounce someone "Schismatic" just because they don't agree with his views on successful pastoral techniques, it's not much better when they try to use an imaginary slippery slope.

    It's unfortunate that the views of traditionalists (the same views universally held by Catholics several decades ago) are now on the "fringe" of the "mainstream" Church, but it's unavoidable. This is not a place traditionalists themselves have traveled but where they have been forced in light of the current Church orientation. Different saints throughout history have found themselves at odds with the popular opinions held by Churchmen, but have remained as such to avoid the even greater error of compromise. St. Athanasius may be used as a justification for too many things, but one cannot deny that he was better off being at odds with a majority of those "within" the Church than denying his Faith.

    To go along with the popular opinions just because they are popular is a significant error, especially when dealing with the Catholic Faith and salvation of souls. To say that those Modernist ideas condemned as heretical and dangerous at the beginning of the century are now acceptable because the Pope seems to "say so" is to surrender based on the odds. That truth and error can be defined by public opinion is not Catholicism and is wholly detestable.

    Furthermore, comparing "Catholic" liberals (material Protestants and heretics) who campaign for Church "acceptance" of baby-killing and "ordination" of women to traditionalists who uphold the consistent Truth of the Catholic Church is extremely insulting and inaccurate. It is a difference of night and day, black and white.

        Liberals reject encyclicals that aren't in line with their "lifestyle choice"; traditionalists ask clarification on only those items which apparently contradict past teaching. Liberals condemn the spiritual and moral authority of the Church; traditionalists uphold and defend it.

        Liberals want to promote personal or political agendas; traditionalists don't want those agendas anywhere near the Church.

        Liberals push for new beliefs, approaches, philosophies, practices and rituals; traditionalists protect the old ones that have sustained the Church for thousands of years.

        Liberals see the Church as an old-fashioned discriminatory institution of which they are ashamed; traditionalists would die to defend it.

        Liberals would just as soon leave the Church for a trendy alternative if they don't get their way; traditionalists will remain until the end of time.

    Just because our current leaders are less sympathetic to traditional Catholic beliefs and practices does not put us on the same level as those who would "renew" the Church according to their humanist and diabolical desires. The fundamental difference is obvious.

    The dissidents on the left who were rightfully shunned a half century ago have seen their ideals (religious liberty, collegiality, ecumenism) gain great measures of support in the Vatican. Will today's dissidents who proclaim their new causes (women's "ordination", "choice", contraception) gain some measure of official support fifty or a hundred years from now? The Church making any concession to these "causes" seems unthinkable, but no one ever thought eighty years ago that an ecumenical council would release a document affirming the "right" of an individual to publicly profess a false religion. No one thought the Vatican would support or even acknowledge a global, atheistic, man-made institution that aggressively spreads abortion and contraception to all the countries of the world. No one ever thought a Communist government would be so much as tolerated, much less praised in an attempt towards "dialogue".

    Of course the Church is indefectible, but it can be influenced by evil forces and outwardly appear to be in collapse. A consequence of this crisis is that faithful Catholics upholding traditional beliefs are seen as "extremists". As St. Basil lamented during the Arian Heresy:

    "Only one offense is now vigorously punished an accurate observance of our father's traditions. For this cause the pious are driven from their countries and transported into deserts." 18 18. St. Basil (376)
    As is the case during every widespread Church crisis, those holding firm to the Catholic Faith are subject to ridicule and persecution. Traditionalists expect nothing less.


    The traditionalists of today were the conservatives of fifty years ago. Their positions have not changed the Church around them has, and the results are there for everyone to see. "Conservatives" claim a greater degree of "trust" in their leaders whose opinions and actions have received stark criticism from the prophetic words of former Popes.

    Of course, a "trusting" road is a much easier one to travel. Bearing in mind the ridiculous state of the Church in America, it is natural to cling to the hopeful idea that there are allies in Rome who are "on your side". And if those leaders only knew the extent of what was going on or were not too busy with more important matters, surely they'd come to the rescue. Wouldn't they?

    "Conservatives" would dread having to get down on their knees every night worrying what the Pope is going to do or say next; or how many potential converts are being lost due to the ecumenical shenanigans; or how an orthodox priest will ever be able to make it through a seminary without getting expelled for being too Catholic; or what type of man a College of Cardinals which includes Mahony and Kasper will elect to succeed John Paul II.

    I, for one, would love to sleep peacefully each night comfortable that, as bad as things may be in my local parish or diocese, the majority of the Church (and especially the leadership) is composed of perfectly wise and holy individuals, incapable of error. But that's not the case and maintaining such misguided "trust" is not being honest.

    The Church Militant now, more than ever, needs strong warriors. We must respond to St. Athanasius, to whom the Athanasian Creed it credited, said, "Whoever wishes to be saved, needs above all to hold the Catholic Faith; unless each one preserves this whole and inviolate, he will without a doubt perish in eternity." We must repond to his exhortation:

    "Our canons and our forms were not given to the Churches at the present day, but were wisely and safely transmitted to us from our forefathers. Neither had our faith its beginning at this time, but it came down to us from the Lord through his disciples. That therefore the ordinances which have been preserved in the Churches from old time until now, may not be lost in our days, and the trust which has been committed to us required at our hands; rouse yourselves, brethren, as being stewards of the mysteries of God, on seeing them now seized upon by aliens." 19 19. St. Athanasius (340)
and heed the words of Pope Pius XI:
    "The two opposing camps are now clearly marked; each man should choose his own. Men of good will and men of evil will face one another. The uninterested and the cowards face their fearsome responsibility. They will have their names changed if they do not change their behavior: they will be called traitors."

          It is completely backwards to fight against the destruction of a cathedral building while ignoring the actual Church in a state of ruin. It is ludicrous to share in the Vatican illusion of a "Springtime of Vatican II" when all eye can see is a devastated vineyard.

          Catholics must never give in to compromise or ignore error out of a false sense of loyalty. We must avoid the errors of those who fall into "conservative" relativism out of a fear of "private judgment". Our Sensus Catholicus cannot be abandoned or suppressed at the time when it is needed most!

      "Wrong is wrong even if everyone is doing it. Right is right even if no one is doing it." - St. Augustine

POST SCRIPT: "Wandering" aimlessly?

    In the year 2000, The Wanderer (an American "conservative" Catholic periodical) published a work by a former traditionalist turned "conservative" who accused his former associates of maintaining a dangerous "trajectory", lacking adequate "trust" and exercising irresponsible or arrogant use of "private judgment" (FULL TEXT). What could have been an interesting and beneficial discussion on the merits of a particular publication ("We Resist You to the Face") became an angry and illogical attempt to generalize, then condemn all traditionalists. What could have been the start of an important debate became a shocking personal attack.

    Faced with such an action, The Remnant (an American traditional Catholic periodical whose editor was among the targets of the attack) published a series of responses which defended the individuals singled out, as well as Catholic traditionalism as a whole (FULL TEXT). The responses demonstrated the obvious inconsistencies of the attack and summarily refuted what anti-traditionalist arguments were made. To the objective observer, the original work was destroyed and the author embarrassed. As much was obvious even to a non-objective "conservative" observer. I know because I was one.

    At the time of the publication, I considered myself a "conservative". I was orthodox in my beliefs, knew the Catechism and Church History better than most and practiced pious prayer, sacrifice and devotions. Like any good "conservative", I would react strongly against those who claimed that Vatican II or the Novus Ordo Mass had any deficiencies they were both doctrinally sound but unexplainably hijacked and abused by evil men. Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger were my role models and the shining examples of wonderful "conservative" Catholicism in an increasingly liberal world the generals fighting the "culture of death". I knew all the "conservative" mantras: "the modern crisis would've happened anyway due to societal changes"; "the Novus Ordo Mass was just the most recent in a line of perfectly normal liturgical developments"; "Pope John Paul II brought about the 'fall' of Communism"; "the New Mass accomplished important 'pastoral' objectives and provided a 'richer fare' for the people"; "traditionalists put unreasonable and 'arbitrary' limits on Tradition". Yes, I could defend the shadows on the cave wall with the best of them.

    In reading the aforementioned attack in The Wanderer, the inconsistencies started to become clear. The author presented the very un-"conservative" opinion that the Novus Ordo Mass was only hesitantly promulgated after much deliberation and undue pressure from Annibale Bugnini, a man "deeply influenced by secular humanism" (although selected, appointed and supported by Pope Paul VI). He condemned the use of "private judgment" in a publication that regularly criticizes bishops and Cardinals selectively "judged" as part of their "AmChurch". He suggested the views of traditionalists had an economic incentive after himself switching from an audience of a couple thousand to one of millions. He held up blind trust as a virtue asserting the unquestionable wisdom and prudence of the Supreme Pontiff, due to his position. It was almost as if he was really a traditionalist trying to emphasize the inconsistencies of the "conservative" position by giving extreme examples; as if he were setting up straw arguments for an easy refutation. Perhaps it took an angry individual rejecting his former traditionalism to draw big red circles around the tentative and arbitrary nature of the "conservative" ideology. Perhaps he was really attacking his own former extreme beliefs and practices (not actually reading any encyclicals, declaring the Pope an impostor), but then decided to condemn all traditionalists as guilty by association.

    While the problems were already becoming quite apparent before even reading the responses, I (like several other "conservatives" I knew) acquired copies of The Remnant to read them for myself. What I knew would be a relatively easy defense became a complete and irrefutable annihilation of The Wanderer and the work they mistakenly chose to print.

    Since that event, The Wanderer has been on a very questionable "trajectory". The attacks on traditionalists have continued. Some have been in rhyming verse and some even attempting to usurp the title "traditionalist" for themselves (one would think laying claim to the undeserved title of "conservative" would have been enough of a coup already). The criticisms of Cardinals and bishops have become less frequent as the actions of their superiors in the Vatican have become more similar. Recently, the publication even went so far as to suggest that Sister Lucy either lied or was mistaken about Our Lady's message at Fatima (would the Queen of Heaven really entrust critical messages to an individual with such poor morals or memory?).

    What once was a valuable resource for keeping up on the scandalous behavior of US bishops and priests is becoming merely a vehicle for Vatican press releases, a forum for politically conservative opinions and a weapon wielded against traditional Catholics. The name is becoming more and more fitting as the direction in which this periodical is "wandering" becomes more and more unclear.

Peter Miller is the webmaster for the excellent Roman Catholic website Seattle Catholic at www.SeattleCatholic.com. You can contact him at Peter Miller


Your email:
Your name:
E-mail it  to:

For past articles in the archives of Traditional Thoughts, see ARCHIVED ARTICLES

Tuesday, February 19, 2002
volume 13, no. 32
Traditional Thoughts