Wednesday, 21 May 2008

What is a traditionalist: interlude

I've been talking about what a traditionalist is mainly in terms of some of the distinctions between traddies and neo-conservatives (and others).

But my attention has been drawn to a rather nice piece on the key division within what might be called broader traddiedom, and I thought I would post it at this point before I continue my own meanderings on this subject!

It is by 'O'Rattie' on the 'Total Catholic' forum:

It has to be said the author's views are a little jaundiced: the thread is about his decision to defect to the Orthodox Church. All the same it is a very interesting read.

I've added the headings, bolding and comments.

There are two main strands within traditionalist thought

"I'm anxious to avoid oversimplifying (especially as this is no longer, directly, any of my business), but I have always been aware of two distinct currents within the Traditionalist Movement, which have converged in the struggle to preserve and recover the objective tradition, but which are not, in other respects, natural allies.

The 'high and dries' or Roundheads [the author takes the view that this group, which he regards as definitely schismatic, are 'right but repulsive'. Explains why he is defecting I guess....]

The larger party by far, of which the SSPX is the backbone and which shades off at the edges into the various sedevacantist cults, is composed of old-fashioned "paleo-conservative" ultramontanists who, finding themselves under the "wrong" Popes and deploring (for example) the cult of personality surrounding JPII, cultivate an equivalent attitude of inflated adulation for his nineteenth and early twentieth-century predecessors instead. [making them much more like neo-conservatives in their approach, even though they arrive at directly opposite conclusions to them]

This tendency (which we'll call High & Dry) is not really very interested in the liturgy for its own sake.

Like its liberal enemies in mirror image, it is relentlessly ideological (and often overtly political). In this camp, the “TLM” (as mutilated by Bugnini and Pius XII) [well, I'm not sure I'd quite go as far saying mutilated in relation to the Holy Week and 1962 changes!] is taken for granted, together with an abhorrence of the Novus Ordo and everything else “Conciliar”; but one will hear very little of liturgical spirituality (indeed one might be forgiven for gaining the impression that liturgy is chiefly a branch of Canon Law) in contrast to hearing a very great deal of something called “The Social Reign of Our Lord”.

This group will tend to be suspicious of those whom it identifies as “liturgical traditionalists”, whom it considers shallow and effete.

Its favoured narrative is a dualistic account of the the pre-Vatican II Roman Church succumbing to the machinations of Modernists and faithless liberals within, and their puppet-masters - Freemasons, Jews, schismatics and Protestants - without.

To criticise the fundamental inadequacy of this narrative is to reveal oneself as belonging, wittingly or unwittingly, to the enemy camp (the logic, like that of all avowed conspiracy theorists, is inexorably circular and airtight) to which one is also inclined to consign Pope Benedict, on account of the theological company he kept in his youth, his part in the Council and his continuing failure to do theology in the integrist straitjacket. Impossible burdens are piled upon him, while never a finger is lifted to help him bear them.

The Cavaliers: wrong but romantic! [well,actually I think closer to right,but....]

The second tendency has also been present right from the beginning (even in the SSPX) but it has tended to lack articulacy within the Anglo-Saxon world until relatively recently. Its critique is essentially radical, which accounts for its relatively low profile within a movement characterised inevitably by a predominant “conservatism” of outlook and temperament, in which sensitive souls vulnerable to accusations of disloyalty or ideological incorrectness are inclined to keep their heads down.

Where the High & Drys look to the counter-Reformation and the nineteenth century Catholic Reaction as their beau idée, the latter tendency is Medievalist and Patristic. It is steeped in liturgical piety; objective Tradition is its operative norm, and it is quite unillusioned in its appraisal of the Papacy both pre- and post-Vatican II.

It is indifferent to - if not contemptuous of - mere politics. [I agree that this is a tendency within this camp, but it is certainly not universal, and needs to be fought in my view!]

It regards the High & Dry tendency as shallow, legalistic, stultifying and fraught with wilful contradictions. It may be said to include English Trad hero of the early twentieth century Fr Adrian Fortescue (who - whisper it in TradWorld - once described Pope Pius X, as "an Italian lunatic") Dr Geoffrey Hull (author of The Banished Heart) and more recently, the German novelist Martin Mosebach (author of The Heresy of Formlessness).

Among bloggers, its doyen is the artist Daniel Mitsui (The Lion and the Cardinal).

It is Orthodox-friendly, even where it remains tenaciously and vigorously Roman.

It tends to be very favourably disposed towards, and respectful of, the present Pope, even where it continues in "imperfect communion".

A manifesto for the cavaliers

One of its most minor and inconsiderable exponents was a Roman Catholic blogger who no longer exists, but who once wrote the following as part of an effort towards a kind of manifesto: [this is an interesting interpretation of what happened- does anyone know who wrote it???]

'I believe that one of the currents converging on the Second Vatican Council was an uneasy sense that something in the Church had gone too far, was becoming unsustainable and unbalanced. [I'm not sure everyone in this broad camp would agree with this view, but its an interesting perspective]

It's possible to see behind the Council's principle of Collegiality, for example, some sort of attempt at rebalancing, subverted at one level by that leitmotif spirit of bogus "democratisation" and at another, by its very prosecution as a project of the “new” Magisterium, to be pursued and imposed in an ultramontane manner, by agencies incapable of extricating themselves from an ultramontane bureaucratic mindset.

The "party line" changed - the mentality and reflexive attitudes remained exactly the same.


We can "make" our own Revolution. God is with us! It can't fail!

Throughout it all one continues to believe that the Holy Spirit has been, and is, quietly at work - perhaps never more so than in the working-out of that explosive and toxic conjunction of ultramontanism and liberalism in the fall-out of which we grope our way today.

To the ultramontane, legalist mind you need only the components – Pope, Bishops, Council - connect up the plumbing in the requisite order, turn on the tap and out comes Pentecost; but God, famously, “writes straight with crooked lines”.

The Council was not "Pentecost". In consideration of its fruits and the darkness and confusion following in its wake, the suggestion is proximately blasphemous.

Nevertheless, is it not possible that the aggiornamentist project, in its pride and folly, unintentionally set the match to an all-consuming fire – not of Pentecost but of Purgatory - from which a chastened, humbled and truly restored Roman Church can at last emerge?' [hence the project that comes up every now and then to try and look for what can be rescued from the new theology vs the outright rejection of anything past Garrigou-Lagrange by some traddies]

Roundheads vs Cavaliers

Whether one agrees with the writer or not, it is difficult to imagine Bishop Williamson touching elements of that passage with a barge-pole; that would also be the blogger's preferred level of association with His Excellency's views.It’s too easy to fall into a dependence on caricatures.

Thus, the first lot are the Roundheads (right, perhaps, but Repulsive), the second are the Cavaliers (wrong, perhaps, but Romantic); the first the blackshirts, the second the bohemians, and so on; but of course most participants in the Traditional Movement do not fall consciously into either “camp”, being simply decent, honourable, pious and not infrequently very holy Catholics, attempting to live their faith in its fullness through the most confusing and dispiriting period in five hundred years. [so true!]

However, if the second strand leads closer to Orthodoxy, the first leads, or ought to lead, back to the Pope. Insofar as it continues to refuse communion with Benedict XVI, it is certainly schismatic. (I'd mention here in a spirit of mischief, that the Pope has annulled the excommunications against the Orthodox; he has yet to do so in relation to the SSPX bishops).

My avatar, BTW, is St Nektarios of Aegina, who in common with Williamson was a bishop and one time seminary professor; there, however, all similarity ends..... "

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