Commentator Peter wrote on the last post saying:
"I implore you to eschew the usage of tradionalIST and ISM. There is tradition and an attachment to tradition. Tradition is intrinsic to the church. (I'm a supporter of the restoration of the extraordinary form and other traditional usages). It is a convenient and tempting usage but I think ultimately it doesn't serve the 'movement' well."
I have to admit I've heard traditionalists (!) and others hint at this position before.
So far as I can see the arguments are basically three (but please do tell if I I've missed something):
- we are all just Catholics really, and shouldn't need to distinguish ourselves since tradition is part of the whole Church's heritage - the argument made by Peter, and see for example Fr Blake's recent post on this;
- claiming to be traditionalists offends those who also feel attached to tradition but don't go along with the whole TLM thing (tough is my reaction to this one!);
- the term is tainted because it is also used to refer to sedes, schismatics and other weirdos.
Why a label?
Terms like traditionalist, liberal and conservative inevitably oversimplify things. There are, for example, possibly some liberals for whom the term is not actually just a codeword for heretic (though I'm not sure I've met any)! And there are many sub-groupings within the 'conservative' group notwithstanding some similarities.
Still, if we want to talk about issues and advance causes we need language to describe distinctions. Because without distinctions, we have vague woolly waffle.
And the underlying reality is that there are a set of common positions and views that lie behind the label, and having a word that reminds us of that is in some ways a rallying call. The idea that tradition is intrinsic to the Church still doesn't have a wide following. Things are changing, it is true. But until we have actually won the war, it seems to me there is a need of a term that helps remind people what we are about.
Finding an alternative
Now I'd be happy if we could find a good alternative that will be accepted.
Remember, for example, when Summorum Pontificum came out, and people wanted us to stop talking about the TLM and Novus Ordo? Fr Z even had a series of polls to test out alternative terms. And even now some engage in euphemisms when advertising who and what they are and are offering.
We've cycled through a number of terms for the 1962 Mass for example - Tridentine (technically incorrect so largely dropped these days), 'classical Roman rite', 'Extraordinary Form' (does get some usage but really too technical for most people), 'Missal of Blessed John XXIII' (well I can offer a few guesses as to why we don't much like that one!), 'Latin Mass' (closer but how to distinguish from Novus Ordo Latin Mass?), and more. In the end we keep coming back to TLM because for all its faults, it is clear and meaningful to people.
Could we find a better label for the movement itself? The conservatives have coined the 'reform of the reform' and 'new liturgical movement' for what they are on about, and I agree that it would be nice if traddies could come up with something equally engaging.
One suggestion has been restoration(ism/ist). But I personally dislike it, first because it was first coined by the liberals and has been thoroughly trashed already (have a look at Arbuckle's books on religious life) and secondly because it suggests a going back in time that I don't actually think is either possible or desirable.
Yes we want the TLM and tradition 'restored'. But we have to recognize that it is happening an will continue to happen in the context of the way the world is now, and in line with the teaching of the Magisterium as it has been articulated today (admitting that there may be some areas where the ordinary magisterium of recent decades may need to be reformed), not just as it was at some magic time point in the past.
Personally I think we should use the label traditionalist proudly, and fight to define it in our terms, not as others attempt to define it for us.
The neo-conservatives invented the term for themselves and use it happily enough, even giving their blogs names like' Crunchy Con'.
But by all means explain to me why you think I'm wrong about this, and why the terms traditionalist and traditionalism don't help the movement!