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If I'm Not Rad-Trad or Progressive, What Am I?

The online Catholic world, as is the world around us, is full of name calling these days. Not of all of it helpful, friendly, or even Catholic for that matter. Typically, we tend to label people in convenient political terms. Many online purveyors of Catholic commentary tend to lump people into two broad unhelpful camps--conservative and liberal.

Lately, however, I notice that the labeling is morphing into something else. Even among the press, I find that the conservative and liberal tags falling by the wayside in favor of traditionalist and progressive. But for many, even to call them a traditionalist is not sufficient since traditional is not ominous sounding enough for people, so now we have radical traditionalist or rad-trad is the common pejorative.

After being called one himself, Father John Zulsdorf commented that there really isn't a name for people like him and he opened the combox for suggestions. And boy he got a lot. But the most common answer I came across was something along these lines. "I am not conservative or liberal, rad-trad or progressive, I am Catholic pure and simple."

While I am sympathetic to this line of thinking, I don't think it is that simple. Further, I don't think that all labels are to be eschewed as unhelpful. I think the problem with many labels is that they are not specific or well defined enough to be useful. Since people will use labels no matter what, I think that our labels should be specific and well defined.

In all this discussion, I kept coming back to the question, "If I am not Rad-Trad or Progressive, then what am I? And am I alone?"

To find out what I consider myself, read the rest at the Register. As always, I appreciate your support over there.

*subhead*And am I alone?.*subhead*

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JOB said...

The problem isn't the Council or Tradition but the fact that Christendom, which assumed the work begun by councils and facilitated it for the faithful, has disintegrated.

Three items:

1. There is absolute truth - consult Euclid if you wish for non-theological proof of this statement.

2. Despite the existence of such truth, culturally, politically, socially, Christendom has fragmented to the point where the Churchmen - if not the Church herself - can no longer sustain a clear message when they're trying to understand the profoundly obscure continuity with Tradition which the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council represents, leading to, among other things, a further fragmenting among the faithful and skepticism about anything older than yesterday or at most last week.

(Note that even raising the question of whether the Second Vatican Council uses a new "language" in its documents is a point of sore contention on either side. If they do, the one side argues, it was to speak to the world; if they do, the other side argues, it was at the neglect of the faithful.

Thought experiment: put a so-called traditionalist and a so-called neo-Catholic (or V2 Catholic, if you wish) in the same room with one of the Second Vatican Council's documents. Do they talk to each other? Past each other? Does the one accuse the other of too much deference to the council document? Does the other say, on the contrary, that the one is showing too little deference to Tradition? Does the one cite post-Vatican II papal authority to refute or mute criticism of the Second Vatican Council? Does the first cite pre-Vatican II popes to magnify such criticism? How long will the discussion last before one or the other gets up in disgust and ends the discussion by walking out of the room? How long before their families stop hanging out together? How long before they take to their respective corners and start lobbing dialectic grenades at each other over the internet?)

As Martin Mosebach in his book "The Heresy of Formlessness" points out, when the institutional abuses present in the liturgy these days forces each Catholic to serve as his own liturgist, most faithful who wade in tend to get lost in the thicket of Tradition vs. Second Vatican Council. No one person can take on the whole weight of Tradition (by analogy, try memorizing all the Great Books) and no one person can know the full mind of the Second Vatican Council (again, by way of comparison, try memorizing James Joyce's Ulysses - and all the criticism written about it). More often than not, the only result of such an undertaking is herniation of the frontal cortex and catastrophic failure of the executive functions.

3. It takes 20 miles of water to bring one those oil supertankers to a full stop. How much more it will take to stop the drift of Christendom from its center?( Cf. Genesis 11:1-9 for further insight.)


Tom said...

I have always found the liberal/conservative descriptions, borrowed from the political world, to be unhelpful.

Isn't it really a matter of orthodox/heterodox . . . not to be confused with Orthodox Catholics. Either you believe what the Church teaches or you do not. And there are degrees of heterodoxy . . . perhaps all of us, as our faith develops, are heterodox in our beliefs to some extent . . . even as we consent to the teaching authority of the Church.

So, isn't the question, what does it mean to be an orthodox Catholic? In what sense are "liberal" Catholics, or "conservative" Catholics, or "progressive" Catholics, or "traditionalist" Catholics, orthodox Catholics. Ultimately, to me, the easiest guide is the Catechism, if you believe in the teaching authority of the Church and with the Catechism, you are orthodox. If you do not, the extent to which you do not defines your heterodoxy.

Ron Van Wegen said...

If I go to my local Ordinary Form Catholic Church I have no idea what any of the people therien believe about anything at all and that includes the priest. If I go to a Church that celebrates the Extraordinary Form of the Mass and is in communion with the Catholic Church I know exactly what the priest and the people believe. Take from that what you will. It's a terrible sadness.

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