Tuesday, 20 December 2016

The end of Traditionalism?

Traditionalists have always risked the following temptations:

1. That of being "cafeteria Catholics", but ones who pick different bits of the Catholic whole than do the liberal minded to whom at one time the Traditionalists would have applied this epithet. Isn't this the import of the discussion of the "non-magisterial" nature of those recent exercises of the office of the Successor of Peter that are not amenable - and this appears now to extend beyond Pope Francis?

2. That of making absolute for all time those things that are relative to their own particular time or place. Isn't this what lies behind the insistence on the "Traditional Latin Mass", even though Pope Benedict indicated that the Ordinary Form, celebrated according to the Missal of Paul VI, should be considered an authentic expression of the tradition of the Church?

3. That of becoming an alternative to the present day teaching office of the Church, with its own respected authorities and defining axioms. Do we not see this in the replacing of the "non-magisterial" in the exercise of the office of the Successor of Peter with the teaching of the Traditionalist "blogisterium", something that the internet has enabled in a way not seen before? And isn't there an irony in its claim to authentication by the support in the media of Catholic intellectuals* when it was precisely such a display of intellectuals in the media that they blame for undermining catechetics in the 1960s and 1970s?

4. That of living in a permanent state of contestation with others in the Church. Do we not see this in the critique of "conservatives" now, when in the past that contestation might have been directed only towards the liberal minded in the Church? Where other movements in the Church  can find their origin in a founding charism, an individual gift of grace given at a time and place but with a value for the Church as a whole, does not the Traditionalist movement only find its definition in contestation with the contemporary life of the Church in favour of a concept of "Tradition"?

5. That of siding with a concept of Tradition over and against the Successor of Peter. Do we not see this in the discussion of "conservatives" who have "sided with the Pope against Tradition"? When one moves aside from the exercise of the office of the Successor of Peter - and, indeed, from that of an ecumenical council - does not Tradition become something of the past rather than something that has its living expression in the exercise of office in the Church? Are we not seeing a certain legitimisation here of the stance taken by the Society of St Pius X at the time of their illicit episcopal ordinations?

When I read something like this, from a spokesman of the Traditionalist movement, and I cut through its apparent credibility and its pigeon-holing of others, do I not in reality see Traditionalism arriving at a destination that is inherent in its risks highlighted above? A move away from a living of a Catholic whole towards an isolated corner, in a permanent state of "against" and adhering to a certain concept of Tradition as its prime source of judgement?
...it means is that a very large proportion of our conservative Catholic voices have been forced to reconsider the narrative, which has been a favourite of their school of thought, that everything which has gone wrong has gone wrong because of people misunderstanding or mis-implementing Vatican II or the post-Conciliar popes. When a pope has made it clear that his personal view is something nor really consistent with the Tradition--Paul VI on the liturgy, John Paul II on the death penalty or the authority of the husband over the family--they have tended to side with the Pope against Tradition, despite the fact that the Papal statements on the subject tended to lack magisterial weight....
...What happens to ultra-montanist Catholic conservatives** who finally realise that some at least of the Church's problems go right to the top--who take, as the metaphor of the hour has it, the red pill?
Ask a Traditionalist. Almost all us have gone through this process personally: I certainly have.
That move from the "conservative" to the "Traditionalist". Isn't it telling that the terms are "conservative" and "Traditionalist", and not "Catholic"?
Are we not instead called to live according the Catholic "whole", in which Tradition lives in its context of Scripture and the living teaching office, the Magisterium?

*... but are these intellectuals in large part from among the "usual suspects" of Traditionalism?
** .... the irony of this when Pope Francis has been accused of setting up "straw men"!

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