Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Tradistan, Neo-Con Whackos & the East

With Geoffrey Hull, I believe that while they are not currently allies, Roman traditionalists and Eastern Catholics ought to be more closely aligned. They share more common spillover at American parishes than most think. Both theoretically put a handed down liturgy at the center of Christian life rather than something concocted in a conference room. And above all, both share a very realistic view of the papacy grounded in reality and the historical experience through which we must read the Church's teachings on the papacy. The pope cannot be something other than what his predecessors show him to be.

In an interview with progressive blogger Anthony Ruff OSB, Robert Taft SJ branded all who disfavor the Spirit of Vatican II "neo-con whackos." A more realistic approach reveals that there are the Tradistanis and then the genuine "continuity" neo-conservatives on the "right wing" of the Roman Church. The Tradistanis, much like their Greek Catholic counter-parts, are unafraid of opposing or ignoring the pope when he is flagrantly wrong about something or damages the Church's praxis—not that the opposition mattered a tinker's bell in the 20th century. Many of them, like Msgr. Lefebvre before 1988, wanted to be Ultramontanists a la Pio Nono, but were at some point accosted by real life.* Others, like myself, view the pope as the center point of the Church's Communion and the custodian of the Roman tradition. This is a view amenable to Eastern Christians, too. Yet all these viewpoints and experiences contrast remarkably to the neo-conservatives, who will often admit to the on-going troubles in the Church and many, like the fellow in the video below, will go after the bishops for their mistakes, but never the pope.

I have said all I have to say about the Synod on the Family and I would rather not examine the video below on the merits of the host's views of Francis, but I would like to comment on his attitude, an attitude which reflects the neo-conservative view like still water. Mr. Voris quite openly attacks bishops, often by name, in his videos, earning him the understandable indignation of some, but does not go after the pope. Ever. Why? He admits freely that the vast majority of what the pope says and does has no doctrinal guarantee whatsoever and that those things are open to debate. Why, then, can we not debate them? An American priest whose name begins with the last letter of the English alphabet posted this video the other day, advertising it as a sort of key to a good attitude about the current papacy. This is essentially a via media approach to a problematic pontificate which acknowledges the bad and does not assign the blame for it out of piety and good manners. The host accuses Tradistanis of name-calling and nastily insulting the pope. Rorate Caeli no longer allows comments, so I am not sure what Mr. Voris has been reading. There is also the nonsensical moment at 3:00 when he assails the Tradistanis for wishing to uphold traditional teachings and practices, and then proceeds to compare the those people with the progressives who wish for a change in teaching, as if an equivalency exists betwixt the two. The message seems to be "The pope might theoretically be wrong, but in faith we must always pretend he is right. Nothing could be his fault." What. The. Heck.

Those who know history rarely adopt this high-Ultramontane view point. What is quite irksome is the occasional neo-conservative who does know history, but who has also grown up in the JP2 era and chooses to disregard the past. Yes Vigilius and Honorius were heterodox, yes John XII toasted the Devil, yes Benedict IX sold the papacy to chase a woman, yes Alexander VI killed a lot people, but that was then and the Holy Spirit guides the papacy, so it would never happen now; we have had St. John Paul the Great, after all! A friend, who I love dearly, told me "Ya gotta love Francis," to which I rebutted, "Why?" I was told, "He's the pope." I retorted, "That is not an argument, good or bad. It is just a fact." Much like at Vatican I—the council to define Infallibility, at the Synod the Holy Spirit acted through those who opposed the pope to preserve the Church's teaching and, ironically, the pope's own doctrinal infallibility. To the high-Ultramontanist, this is implausible. Say what you will about him, Benedict XVI seemed to be dismantling the mythology around the papacy while restoring its external dignity. I am afraid that is gone and we are, as we were in 1978, left with a cult of personality. 

Tradistanis and Eastern Christians in Communion with the Apostolic See have slowly learned to worry about their local communities, both because of their isolation and because they depend on strong local churches to survive, and to keep a distant, atavistic eye on Rome. We do not ignore Rome. We love Rome, the city of the two greatest Apostles, the martyrs, our liturgical tradition, and the center of the Christian world. But we also realize Rome will always have her politics, her power struggles, her good popes, her bad popes, and her ugly popes. We delude ourselves if we think this was untrue in any era after St. Peter's crucifixion. Pray for Rome. Love Rome. Concentrate on the local church though. Christ had twelve Apostles, after all, and they traversed the known world. They did not issue online encyclicals. Our local churches have been devastated in the modern era and are in need of care. The Vatican will still be there.

Let the "neo-con whackos" worry about the rest!

* = Of course this is untrue of sedevacantists, who disregard the modern popes precisely because they maintain a high Ultramontane view. I am sure they have their own historical foundations for their opinions.


  1. "There is also the nonsensical moment at 3:00 when he assails the Tradistanis for wishing to uphold traditional teachings and practices, and then proceeds to compare the those people with the progressives who wish for a change in teaching, as if an equivalency exists betwixt the two."

    Reminds me of a 1979 Firing Line episode (my paraphrasing).
    "In fact, I see many similarities between Lefebvre and Hans Kung..."- Msgr. Joseph Champlin
    "Now Monsignor, I find your comparison a bit problematic. Kung is an outright heretic who denies papal infallibility, the priesthood, the immaculate conception and the Real Prescence; but Lefebvre has never done all that."- Malachi Martin

  2. If I ever write my fictionalized auto-biography, I'm calling it "Tradistan"!

  3. Mr. Voris' vlogs are bankrolled by an Opus Dei numerary, hence his official support of the prelature (, and his acceptance of the OD ultramontane party line. "The Work" is beholden to no local bishop because of its status as a personal prelature, so they have no problem with carpet-bombing any bishop they dislike. The best thing about Voris' affiliation with OD is that he could finally afford to buy a well-fitted suit coat!

  4. So, is it /Træd-i-stæn/ or a more Biden-esque /Trah-dih-stahn/ ?

  5. I have come to respect the Sedevacantist position in the last three years; not because of their high Ultramontane view (which I understand as Ultramontanism in reverse) but because they have the honesty to view the modern Roman communion as in a state of de facto schism with her own Tradition, without ascribing hermeneutics of continuity to self-evident ruptures in praxis and teaching. Their chief fault lies in their understanding of how far back the problems go, not necessarily what the problems are.

  6. I couldn't agree more with Patricius. As one who survived the horrors of VC2, I can't help but chuckle to myself when read about all the wailing, hand wringing and gnashing of teeth amongst the Tradistanis. They try every way known to man to justify their opposition without insulting or openly rejecting the Man in Rome. Do you worship Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ or do you worship the Man in Rome? Virtually all the ills of Apostolic Christianity can be laid at the feet of the Man in Rome. Until traditionalists realize that he is the source of their problems their misery will continue ad infinitum.

    1. "Virtually all the ills of Apostolic Christianity can be laid at the feet of the Man in Rome."

      Really? I'd have blamed the Byzantine emperors, a few Greek Patriarchs, ambitious kings, and worldly bishops before I would even blame specific popes, much less assign the entire papacy to the dustbin.

    2. Francis should have no greater control over your beloved liturgy than the pro-abortion, environmentalist liberal currently occupying the See of Constantinople, Bartholomew the Idiot, has over the liturgy celebrated by the vast majority of Orthodox bishops and priests. If Catholicism had a polity similar to that of Orthodox your liturgy would not have been tossed into the dustbin of history with the mere stroke of a pen. One bad Greek Patriarch can't destroy the Orthodox Church, but one bad Roman Pope can wreak havoc in the Catholic Church for generations.

    3. I would argue that the damage done by those who idolized the pope (the ultramontanists and neo-ultramontanists) far exceeds that done by any of the popes personally; be that pope Pius XII, Benedict IX, Stephen VI/VII, Alexander VI, Paul VI, Urban VIII, Pius X, John Paul II, or Leo X.

      Do certain popes have much to answer for? Without a doubt. However, we cannot blame all the ills of the church on them. In all the first 7 ecumenical councils except V and VI the bishop of Rome was often the defender of orthodoxy.

    4. I know next to nothing about Bartholomew, but I would take Francis over a pro-abortion patriarch any day (perhaps there is a silver lining to this pontificate).

      The Roman liturgy was not consigned to the dustbin at the stroke of a pen. If you ever wish, read some of my posts from mid last year. My belief is that the devotional and legal culture put it out of use over the course of centuries. The "stroke of the pen" approach had been tried without success against many local rites in the Middle Ages without success. The way the Church found herself in the 20th century made the changes possible, not necessary just Pacelli and Paul VI.

      As someone who attended a Melkite church for a few years, I would point out that the "Orthodox polity" did consign the Antiochian liturgy to the dustbin and replaced it with the Byzantine rite in the 11th century. Then again, that was when Eastern Christianity was highly centralized and the Emperor was basically a Greek pope with a large army.

    5. Wait a sec... Bartholomew is Pro-Abortion?

      I assumed the opposite was true.
      "For 2013 years Our Lord is killed every day in the person of thousands of embryos killed by the will of their parents. For 2013 years have passed and Christ is mocked and ridiculed in the person of unfortunate children, who experience the crisis of the family, destitution and poverty". And 2013 years have passed and "our Creator incarnate is still being persecuted by contemporary Herods in the Christians in Syria and elsewhere."

    6. Bartholomew made some very troubling statements in the 1990s (prior to his election) which he has never denounced or explained. So one must take him at his word.

      "When asked the Orthodox church’s position on abortion, Bartholomais described a stand more liberal than that of the Roman Catholic Church, which condemns abortion in all cases and whose clergy have, in some cities, excommunicated leading pro-choice Catholics.

      Although the Orthodox church believes the soul enters the body at conception and, ”generally speaking, respects human life and the continuation of pregnancy,” Bartholomais said, the church also ”respects the liberty and freedom of all human persons and all Christian couples.”

      ”We are not allowed to enter the bedrooms of the Christian couples,” he said. ”We cannot generalize. There are many reasons for a couple to go toward abortion.”

    7. I'll agree. Those are extremely troubling statements.
      ”generally speaking"
      "There are many reasons for a couple to go toward abortion.”

      It is possible that (like Joseph Ratzinger) he might have moved to a more orthodox position over time.

    8. I would agree, the pope was the champion of orthodoxy on more than one occasion, however, his claims of universal jurisdiction and infallibility have been the source of many "misunderstandings" and has driven a wedge between Rome and other Apostolic Churches.

      Concerning Batholomew's rather strange comment, perhaps he has had a change of heart. If so he should clarify his current position on the issue. I'm all in favor of preserving our environment, however, halting abortion under any and all circumstances is even more pressing. As Ronald Reagan once said, "I can't help but notice that all those people in favor of abortion have already been born."

  7. Rorate Caeli no longer allows comments, so I am not sure what Mr. Voris has been reading.

    At a guess: places like Eponymous Flower or half a dozen other trad blogs RC keeps on its sidebar blog roll. But I suspect his own email box is quite the rumpus room, too.

  8. P.S. "In an interview with progressive blogger Anthony Ruff OSB, Robert Taft SJ branded all who disfavor the Spirit of Vatican II "neo-con whackos."

    Fr. Taft is not without knowledge of affairs of the east, but this single statement confirms that he knows less than nothing about Catholic traditionalism.

    Meanwhile, in genuine Neo-Con News, John Paul II's biographer is busy making the case today for crediting the True Vatican II for the fall of the Berlin Wall.

    1. Taft is a blast to read and to listen to even when one vehemently disagrees with him. M.J wants more clerics like him

    2. Taft is the true successor of St. Jerome the Great Name-Caller and a welcome respite from the countless ass-kissers in the Latin Church.

    3. Oh, I'll give Fr. Taft credit for his obvious virtues - he knows his area well, and he's no company-line man (a rarity today, alas). I agree with MJY that we could use more of that brio among our clerics.

      He is exasperating on a few subjects, however, and this post touches on two of them: traditional Roman Rite liturgy, and the Bestest of all Councils That Ever Was.

    4. Like this?

      I have never read an article like this where I'm shaking my head in disagreement on half the paragraphs ("Pope Pius XII restored the celebration of the Easter Vigil in 1951") and clapping in agreement in the other half of the paragraphs("One of the dumbest ideas in the world was invented in the ninth century when someone came up with the notion that something was either symbolic or real. The Eucharist is both symbolic and real").

      Everything in the article elicits a strong reaction, positive or negative.