Saturday, December 23, 2006

Yes Virginia, there are nut cases...

(Anti)Pope Pius XIII

Michael Liccione has posted a good essay on those who subscribe to the hermeneutic of rupture regarding Vatican II. I strongly agree with Mike's position on this. I am also saying this as one who has been sharply critical of the fruits of Vatican II and who was briefly affiliated with the SSPX (mea culpa mea culpa...) a number of years ago on my journey to Orthodoxy. It seems like lately that the trads have been coming out of the woodwork. I suspect it has something to do with the much anticipated indult that is expected to grant very broad freedom for Roman Catholic clergy to use the pre-Vatican II rite of the mass. Traditionalists in the Roman Church probably can be divided into two or three groups.

Moderate Traditionalists: Those who have a pronounced preference for the classical Roman Rite (Tridentine) and who to varying degrees are not happy with the results of Vatican II, but who nonetheless remain in full communion with Rome and who accept as both valid and licit (if perhaps distasteful) the various post conciliar reforms. There's no law that says Roman Catholics have to agree with everything the Pope says or does in matters pertaining to church discipline.

Schismatic Traditionalists: These come in all kinds of flavors, the largest being the Society of St. Pius X. They are people who have to varying degrees set themselves up in judgment over the Pope and their bishops and concluded that they need to do their own thing until Rome realizes how wrong it has been, and restores the church to the way things were no later than the reign of Pius XII. They believe (and have a strong argument from a purely legalistic position) that the Rite of Pius V was never lawfully abrogated or suppressed. Unfortunately they therefor claim that their priests (they range from organized groups like the SSPX to individual vegantes) can licitly and validly offer mass and the other sacraments the old way independent of the local bishop or the Pope. The SSPX has advanced the argument of extraordinary necessity as a justification for their actions. These traditionalists are not in communion with or submission to the Pope or local bishops although most recognize the Pope as such and profess their loyalty to him, but only on matters where they believe the Pope remains orthodox (small "o"). These traditionalists also tend to buy into many of the conspiracy theories that right wing sects like to promote and are often moderately to extremely anti-semitic.

Radical Traditionalists: Or as I like to call them, the tin foil hat crowd. These are you certifiable nut cases. They are almost always sede vecantists and many adhere to one or another of the various anti-popes now floating around. They regard Vatican II as heretical and generally deny the validity of the sacraments including Holy Orders using the reformed rites. Thus they sneeringly refer to Pope Benedict XVI as Fr. Ratzinger. They are often rabid anti-semites and expound to anyone they can make listen to their dark fantasies that Vatican II was a masonic plot hatched by the secret Free Mason John XXIII who was never really elected Pope by the way. I could go on but I am sure you get the point.

Also many Schismatic and Radical Traditionalists are active supporters of far right political movements. This includes support or veneration of various right wing dictators (Franco and Pinochet come to mind). Archbishop Lefebvre (founder of the SSPX) was a staunch monarchist.

Lest anyone think I am beating up on the Catholics let me assure you that we Orthodox have our share of wing nuts as well. Radical Old Calendarists although small in numbers are extremely noisy. Just in the last few days monks from the Esphigmenou monastery on Mt. Athos were involved in a violent clash with another group of monks trying to drive them out of the historic monastery where they have been holed up. They reject the usual things that radical fringe groups get bent over... Ecumenism especially with Roman Catholics, the reformed calendar (a crypto papist / masonic conspiracy to destroy the Orthodox Church) and all the other clap trap. They have been refusing to commemorate the Ecumenical Patriarch for some time and are now in open revolt against the authority of the church. Of course they are right and everyone else is wrong. Sigh. Most radical Old Calendarists share many of the characteristics of the more extreme Roman Catholic traditionalists in their bigotry and affinity for right wing politics and xenophobia.

One comment posted over at Free Republic summed them up rather nicely. He referred to them as Orthodoxy's equivalent to sede vecantists.
P.S. Some Orthodox think there is a strong affinity among Roman Catholic Traditionalists for us. With the likely exception of the moderate trads they are mistaken. The more extreme ones admire Orthodoxy because our liturgy is so old and largely unchanged. But their respect stops there. They have no further use for Orthodoxy until we kneel and kiss the Pope's ring.


Mike L said...

Thanks, John. I like your trad taxonomy too. I shall blog it for the benefit of my readers. Every day it seems I get more newbies than regulars.


Anonymous said...

I have sometimes described the nuttier traditionalists as those who believe the full truth of Catholicism held sway only from Vatican I until Vatican II.

While I agree with the Catholic traditionalists regarding the unfortunate impact of Vatican II on the church's liturgical life, I think other initiatives begun in Vatican II might ultimately move the church in a more conservative direction. Most important, theologians are now able to sidestep Scholasticism and return to the Fathers.

John (Ad Orientem) said...

You make a good point. If I were still catholic I would probably be a moderate traditionalist in matters pertaining to liturgy. I suspect that B16 is one too. he has written prolifically on the botched reform of the liturgy post V-II. But in many respects Vatican II represented not so much rupture or even continuity, but rather repair. It was on some levels a step back from the imperial papacy and that which it was based on and at least a half step towards what existed back in the first millennium. In this sense it was good. Most of the negative stuff that followed was not the product of the council, but rather a product of radicals who hijacked the council after it was over.

Young fogey emeritus said...

I passed through SSPX chapels as well in the late 1980s so I know what you're talking about; I'm aware of their faults from Jansenism and idolisation of 1950s praxis to the Euro-fascist/neo-Nazi connexion. That said I appreciate the good they do and never heard an anti-Semitic sermon there. With their emphasis on Catholic practice much like you or me I find them more to my liking in ways than the Novus Ordo neo-cons ('John Paul the Great').

John (Ad Orientem) said...

Young Fogey
I am with you on all your points except that I have heard anti-semitic sermons and rants there. Of course my priest was for a while the man we now know as Bishop Richard Williamson. All of this being said it is nonetheless true that alone among the schismatic traditionalists the SSPX is the only one I think there is much hope for reconciliation with.

The problem is that I am convinced they are possessed by a schismatic mindset which will be very hard for them to drop if they return to Rome. Also there is certainly a very hardcore in the society lead by Bp Williamson who are near certain to bolt rather than reconcile with Rome. They are Rome's Old Calendarists and I think Williamson probably belongs in the radical traditionalist classification.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, the liberal North American and Western Eutropen Roman Catholic Bishops abused Vatican II and high-jacked it--transforming it on the street (de fact but not de jure) into a socialogical movement.

OTOH, apart from the Celebrant facing the congregation (an mis-attempt to demphaisize medieval clericalism), the Latin "Novus Ordo" is actually a nicely reformed Eucharistic liturigy, very close to the ideal of Pryer-Book Catholic Anglicanism. Now, if we can just get a decent English Translation, and some very moderate traditionalists (the Counter-Reformation Devitions can detract from the centrality of the Eucharistic and are often patient of heresy) in the Roman clergy . . . .

Anonymous said...

Please don't lump monarchism in with the far-right political movements. Whilst some monarchists may have distasteful political views the vast majority do not. Archbishop Lefebvre had many faults; monarchism was not one of them.

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