Tuesday, 3 June 2008

On traditionalists: It's ok to be neo-con (well, if you must)!

Over at 3rd Blog from the Right I'm being attacked for my series on what a traditionalist is for engaging in name-calling, being 'triumphalist', and disenfranchising many of those who attend the TLM.

The point of the series, however, has been to try and help understand the approach adopted by a particular school of (or approach to) theology - so as to try and increase understanding of the different perspectives we are all coming from.

There is room for all-comers at TLMs - you don't have to be a traditionalist in this particular sense. And I'm certainly not suggesting that other approaches don't constitute legitimate, perfectly orthodox positions (even if I don't personally think they are the best ones!).

Still, I think there is something to be gained from understanding where our differences lie, and the reasons for those differences. And I'm pretty sure that the perspective I've described reflects that of many (but not all) priests serving the Traditional Latin Mass communities around the country - remember that I based a lot of my thinking on an article by Fr Chad Ripperger FSSP, who teaches at the Fraternity's North American Seminary (although whether or not he agrees with my interpretation of it is another matter!).

I have to admit that my thoughts on this topic have been somewhat meandering, and I do plan to try and crunch it all down a bit eventually in the light of any comments received, but just to facilitate the debate, I thought I had better give a listing of all the parts to the series:

What is a Traditionalist? Part 1: On Tradition and traditions

What is a traditionalist? Part 2: The hermaneutic of continuity

What is a traditionalist? Part 3: Magisterialism

Waht is a traditionalist? Part 4:Scriptura Prima

What is a traditionalist? Interlude

What is a traditionalist? Part 5: Extrinsic vs intrinsic Tradition

What is a traditionalist? Part 6:Tradition as the test of the new


Bob Catholic said...

To put the record straight: I think a serious struggle with identity is important. Yet there is always a temptation to stereotype opposing positions and absolutize one's own.

I hope I am not attacking you! If you feel that is what I am doing, I am deeply sorry. However, I feel that naming and arbitrarily labeling people, especially the Holy Father, is not a good way to further a discussion. Let's have an open discuss of the issues without calling those who are our brothers and sisters names.

Terra said...

Actually I don't mind being attacked in the least! A little robust discussion is all to the good.

My problem was with the name-calling/triumphalist charge.

I would point out that there is a big difference between calling someone names and labelling various people's positions.

Calling someone names is pejorative - it implies that you are somehow denigrating them.

Attaching labels to someone's position however can help understanding by allowing us to group like with like, and arrive at clear definitions.

In most cases, the labels I've used are titles the people concerned have claimed for themselves. The Holy Father, for example,has certainly used the term ressourcement himself. It is also used by Tracey Rowland in her book on him. A useful place to read on this is here:http://ressourcement.blogspot.com.

Similarly, 'neo-conservatives' proudly coined the term to describe themselves, have journals which develop their views (such as First Things), etc.

Some are other people's useful inventions - ultramontanism for example isn't quite the same thing as magisterialism, though the two terms are obviously very closely related.

It is true that in a series like this positions are inevitably presented in a somewhat stylized way. But the labels are certainly not arbitrary, and I think promote rather than inhibit understanding, since fruitful discussion of issues requires that terms be clearly defined at the outset.

Bob Catholic said...


Again, I apologize if I caused you offense.

My issue is quite simple: why name people?? You wrote: One can be a neo-conservative, for example, like Cardinal Pell, or a ‘ressourcement' theologian like the current Pope and respect or even like the Traditional Latin Mass. Was it necessary to mention these two (one a prince of the Church, the other the Vicar of Christ) as examples?? It adds nothing to the argument and only gets people upset. Has Cardinal Pell ever labeled himself neo-conservative or is he simply a faithful Catholic??

Please accept my apology.

BTW: one of the things we have noticed since being received into the Church is the denominationalism within Catholicism. I often saddens me deeply.

Terra said...

I'm not convinced this is really denominationalism or a claim to be real catholics.

It is one of the wonders of the Church that we not only tolerate but treasure diversity - different schools of spirituality, different schools of theology. Some people like the way St Thomas puts things. Others prefer St Augustine's way of looking at it.

Some like ressourcement, some prefer neo-scholasticism.

Knowing which school of thought a particular person prefers helps us understand where they are coming from and put what they are saying in context.

It helps like minded people find each other, all of which is perfectly healthy in my view.

Has Cardinal Pell ever labelled himself as a neo-con - actually I'm pretty sure he has, but I can't put my finger on the reference. As I said, many neo-cons regard the term as a badge of honour (there is even a blog called 'crunchy cons').

So why worry about what a traddie is? I think establishing groups of common viewpoints around the TLM - our identity in fact - is important in the wake of Summorum Pontificum. As the TLM spreads, will the traditionalist movement simply dissapear as people can more readily find a 'reform of the reform' mass or TLM mass in their own parishes, or does it stand for something more than that?

Is it an ongoing force within the Church like past spiritualities and schools of theology, or will priestly vocations to the FSSP and ICK fall off once young men can be assured of the right to learn and say the TLM in diocesan seminaries?

Does it matter if this happens?

Personally I think it does matter, because we do stand for more than just nice liturgy, and our perspective is one that can continue to aid the Church for a long time to come.

But I don't think traddies have really thought this through properly yet, or organised themselves to operationalise it.

So we need to whether we have an identity quickly, before its too late. And that means working out what some of the labels mean!

Terra said...

PS Labels prevent us from inadvertently jumping off cliffs or poisoning ourselves. That's why we need them!