TUESDAY
March 12, 2002
volume 13, no. 47

A Strange Obsession


Why is the neo-Catholic establishment so concerned about traditionalists?

By Christopher A. Ferrara
Part One
      " There is no question that the luminaries of neo-Catholicism have a special loathing for us traditionalists. Nothing - not heresy, not priestly or episcopal scandal, not profanation of the sacred liturgy throughout the world - excites their outrage as much as our presentation of the case for Roman Catholic traditionalism, by which we mean nothing more than a return to the constant practice and understanding of the Faith before 1965. The leaders of the neo-Catholicism despise us, I am convinced, simply because we are what they themselves were a scant 35 years ago. If we remain Catholics in good standing - and no competent Church authority has said otherwise! - what does that say about them? I believe the neo-Catholics understand precisely what it says: it says that they have performed the role of useful idiots in the post-conciliar revolution, who failed in their moral duty to object to innovations which have caused grave damage to the Church"

      Reprinted with the gracious permission of editor Michael J. Matt of The Remnant.

    The Remnant has always provided a forum for the exploration of that great epiphenomenon of the post-conciliar epoch: the emergence of what is rightly described as neo-Catholicism (otherwise known as “conservative” Catholicism). A number of articles in The Remnant have been devoted to fleshing out this term with examples. For present purposes it suffices to say that a neo-Catholic is one who seriously defends and embraces—as "developments" of apostolic and ecclesiastical tradition—the entire panoply of unprecedented post-conciliar novelties, even though the mere sight of them would have reduced any of the pre-conciliar popes - not excluding John XXIII himself - to a state of apoplexy.

   For example, it requires very little imagination to envision the horror with which Pope Saint Pius X or Pope Pius XII would have viewed a "reverent Novus Ordo Mass," said strictly in accordance with all the currently approved rubrics. Nor does one need a very bright bulb upstairs to picture how these great popes, and all their predecessors back to Saint Peter himself, would react to such spectacles as the current Pope conducting joint ecumenical liturgies in Saint Peter's Basilica with pro-abortion Lutherans dressed up as "bishops," or pan-denominational prayer meetings featuring muftis and yogis holding potted plants alongside the Vicar of Christ, and so on and so forth.

   Now, it is perfectly apparent that the post-conciliar innovations have produced nothing but bitter fruit by any empirically verifiable standard, be it the number of baptisms or conversions, the number of vocations, or the number of nominal Catholics who still believe (or even know) the dogmas of the faith, let alone adhere to the "difficult" teaching on marriage and procreation. But the neo-Catholic simply refuses to acknowledge that the conciliar popes could have blundered and caused serious harm to the Church by approving these unheard-of novelties. A prime example of this kind of studied denial of the obvious is a statement by neo-Catholic historian Warren Carroll in his capacity as one of EWTN's online "experts" on matters of the Faith. Carroll was presented with the following query concerning Pope John Paul II's interreligious prayer meetings:

       "Recently there was a post with regards to questionable actions by the pope, in particular his habit of praying with persons of other religions. The post writer mentioned that previous popes had condemned this action. I have also read condemnations by past popes…. Given your vast knowledge of Catholic history, is praying with other religions something new or has it been allowed in the past? Do you know why the Holy Father does this now?"
   Here is the pertinent part of Carroll's "expert" reply:
    Because in the past, Catholics feared that this would imply that all religions were equally valuable. But the Pope believes that we can and should risk people drawing this false conclusion in order to emphasize what we have in common with all believers in God, in the face of a very secularized world today, where many people believe that 'God is dead.'
   So Carroll admits that the novelty of interreligious prayer meetings carries a risk of luring the faithful into the theological error of indifferentism. Yet he defends this risk-taking with souls based on nothing more substantial than a presumed papal desire to "emphasize what we have in common with all believers in God."

   But it is precisely this emphasis on "what we have in common with all believers" which gives rise to the error of indifferentism in the first place, because it obscures the radical differences between the one true religion revealed by God through His Church and the innumerable false religions invented by men. That is why the pre-conciliar Holy Office, in its 1949 instruction on the "ecumenical movement," warned bishops to "be on guard, lest, on the false pretext that more attention should be paid to the points on which we agree than to those on which we differ, a dangerous indifferentism be encouraged . . ." (AAS 42-152) If the false pretext that "what unites us is more important than what divides us" poses a danger of indifferentism in our dealings with Protestants, all the more so in our dealings with those who deny the divinity of Christ. Yet today's neo-Catholic defends that same false pretext as if it were some marvelous new insight. Carroll even lauds the Pope's public kissing of the vile Koran on the same grounds: "In kissing the Koran… the Pope was not blessing their errors; he was recognizing common ground among those who in our secular, 'God is dead' age still share our belief in one God." If you believe that the Pope did not imply a blessing (or at least a veneration) of that which he kissed in public, then you'll believe anything. This is not to say that the Pope actually intended to bless the errors of Islam. The problem is not the Pope's actual intention (whatever that might be), but rather the profound implications of such impetuous gestures and their effect upon the faithful.

   In Carroll's defense of the indefensible we see the very essence of neo-Catholicism: praising today what was condemned yesterday, no matter how much evidence is presented to demonstrate a harmful discontinuity with the Church's past. In this connection I urge readers to obtain and study Father Chad Ripperger's seminal essay "Operative Points of View," first published in The Latin Mass magazine and now available on line at the website of Christian Order magazine.

Why They Loathe Us

   There is no question that the luminaries of neo-Catholicism have a special loathing for us traditionalists. Nothing - not heresy, not priestly or episcopal scandal, not profanation of the sacred liturgy throughout the world - excites their outrage as much as our presentation of the case for Roman Catholic traditionalism, by which we mean nothing more than a return to the constant practice and understanding of the Faith before 1965.

   The leaders of the neo-Catholicism despise us, I am convinced, simply because we are what they themselves were a scant 35 years ago. If we remain Catholics in good standing - and no competent Church authority has said otherwise! - what does that say about them? I believe the neo-Catholics understand precisely what it says: it says that they have performed the role of useful idiots in the post-conciliar revolution, who failed in their moral duty to object to innovations which have caused grave damage to the Church. [1]1. As Tom Woods has noted, the use of Lenin's term "useful idiots" in this context does not connote actual stupidity. Quite the contrary, from the Soviet perspective the most useful useful idiots were men of extreme intelligence. The same is true in the current ecclesial context. In other words, if we are Catholics, then they are quislings. It seems to me that only this motive could account for the neo-Catholics' otherwise inexplicable obsession with denouncing traditionalist writings and doings in the midst of an unparalleled neo-modernist crisis whose perpetrators they criticize only mildly, if at all.

   Accordingly, the neo-Catholics see it as their mission to persuade everyone that traditionalists are "schismatics," or at least that our adherence to the Church is so tenuous as to be suspect. Since competent Church authorities have made no such declaration, however, our neo-Catholic inquisitors have simply arrogated that function to themselves, thereby becoming guilty of the very conduct they falsely ascribe to traditionalists: acting as if they were the Pope or the local ordinary. A remarkably obnoxious practitioner of this technique hounds traditionalists on a website emanating from his kitchen table in Massachusetts. Here is the man's explanation (complete with the royal "we") of why he simply must alert the world to the presence of "schismatic" traditionalists:

       "While, clearly, only the Church can officially 'declare' someone or some group in schism or in heresy, such a declaration is ordinarily preceded by accusations of schism or heresy wherein schismatic or heretical teachings and/or acts are brought to the attention of the Church and the Faithful by ordinary Catholics…. If we say we consider a group to be holding 'schismatic' views we know full well that we are only making the assertion, albeit based on grave evidence, in order that the Church may investigate, decide and perhaps officially declare, and that ordinary Catholics, meanwhile, will be alerted to the need for caution."
   That is, this fellow sees himself as a kind of ecclesial vigilante who first conducts a public lynching of traditionalist "schismatics" and then "brings them to the attention of the Church." This reminds me of a movie in which a detective shoots a suspect with his .44 Magnum and then says "You have the right to remain silent." (The website in question is little more than a popgun so far as persuasiveness is concerned, but public calumny on the internet is no small matter.) Needless to say, there is no evidence that our cyber-vigilante actually has brought any traditionalist "schismatic" to "the attention of the Church" in the manner provided by Church law: namely, a canonical complaint lodged with the competent local ordinary, with an opportunity for the accused to defend his views against specific allegations supported by hard evidence. No, it is much easier to write up a little jeremiad concerning the traditionalist target of the day and then post it to the world on one's home-based website.

Next Tuesday: Part two The Long Knife of Monsignor Calkins


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Tuesday, March 12, 2002
volume 13, no. 47
Traditional Thoughts
www.DailyCatholic.org