The Catholic Radical

Traditional Latin Mass
by the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter,
available from
Talk to any Christian in the Middle East right now, and you're likely to hear quite an earful of what it's like to be a persecuted minority.  Talk to any Christian in a communist nation, and you're likely to get an earful of what it's like to be a member of an illegal religion.  The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life reports that Christians suffer more persecution than any other religious group.  Yes, that's a reality in the modern world, and it amazes me to no end how many Christian Americans are oblivious to this fact.  Persecution is a reality of the Christian faith.  It always has been.  Jesus Christ warned us the servant is not greater than the master.  If they persecuted him, they will persecute his followers as well.

There is a small, but very vocal and influential, minority here in the United States that would like to see a similar kind of persecution met out to traditional Christians -- especially traditional Catholics.  Imagine this for a moment if you will.  The year is 2017, and you're getting ready to board a flight to Orlando to take the family on a trip to Disney World.  The kids are excited, and both you and your spouse have been saving up for this trip for years.  The kids are finally old enough to really enjoy the rides and take in all the magic and excitement of the full Disney experience.  You check your bags in at the gate, as you notice the gate attendant issuing your gate pass looks a little nervous.   No matter, the kids are pulling on your arm as you hurry to the airline terminal.  Now it's time to pass through airport security.  You dread the long and intrusive process, but keep your mind on the prize at the end of the flight to sooth your nerves.  The TSA officer asks for your ID.  You produce your driver's license.  He looks it over, looks at you, as his eyebrows raise slightly. "One moment please."  He talks to the officer behind the other counter under his hushed voice, and no sooner another TSA officer appears behind you.  The first officer, the one with your license, asks you to step out of line please.  You're escorted to an unmarked room just so they can "ask you a few questions."  An hour later you emerge from the unmarked room, where you discover your family, waiting with their luggage (which you previously checked in), along with an armed security guard ready to escort you all out of the airport and back to your car.  You've just been informed that your name was placed on a federal "No Fly List" because of your "extremist" and "racist" views.  You see, you're a traditional Catholic, and you regularly attend a Traditional Latin Mass that is celebrated by the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter (FSSP).  You're also active on a few Internet discussion boards, where you've expressed some criticism of the Second Vatican Council for being "too vague," and disgust over liturgical abuses commonly found in your local diocesan parishes.  For this, the federal government has labelled you an "extremist" and a "potential risk" to national security.  Therefore certain "precautions" were taken to insure the public safety.  As traumatic as this experience was, it will pale in comparison to the interrogation you'll get from the police a year later, after a "hate crime" was committed in your neighbourhood and the police station just happened to have your name on their "watch list" for "radical extremists."  Welcome to the brave new world, where God-fearing traditional Catholic Christians are put under the same scrutiny as members of Al Qaeda and the Ku Klux Klan.  You think this scenario is ridiculous?  Preposterous! you say? Bookmark this article and check back here in a few years.  See if it doesn't begin to match the headlines in the news.

The fact of the matter is, traditional Catholics will probably not be the only people receiving this treatment.  It's fair to say many conservative Protestants will be treated the same.  Who knows what lengths both the federal and local authorities will go to marginalise us, or even how far our employers will take it?  You see, for Catholics the situation is very simple.  To a growing number of elitists on the Left, the only good Catholic is a bad Catholic -- meaning one who doesn't fully adhere to the teachings of the Catholic Church.  You see, to these Left-wing elitists, it's okay for you to be a member of the Catholic Church.  That's fine.  But you better not believe and practise everything the Catholic Church teaches.  That would make you a "radical" and "potentially dangerous."  This is the world these Left-wing elitists want to create, and they're working very hard to make it happen.  Allow me to illustrate using their own words...
Though tiny in comparison with the approximately 70 million Americans who are mainstream Catholics, "radical traditionalist Catholics" may form the single largest group of hard-core anti-Semites in America...  Radical traditionalists are also unrelated to the many Catholics who call themselves "traditionalist" because they prefer the ancient Latin Mass, though radical traditionalists also prefer their liturgy in Latin....  Other plots abound in radical traditionalist circles, including a "Marxist-Jewish" scheme that is ruining American schools, a "Jewish-homosexual" alliance destroying the priesthood, and a 9/11 conspiracy that maintains the 2001 terrorist attacks were actually "predicted by the Blessed Virgin Mary 84 years ago."...   If radical traditionalists belong to a particular sect – and many do not – it is typically the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX)....  
SOURCE: Heidi Beirich, Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)
The term "Radical Traditionalist" or "Rad-Trad" as some say on the Internet, is a rather broad characterisation.  The article goes into detail trying to draw a distinction between those Catholics who just simply like the Latin Mass (traditionalists), verses those who fall into their "Rad-Trad" classification.  But the distinction itself is still considerably vague.  For example; I happen to follow a priest who has encouraged the regular celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass.  He has decried liturgical abuses, and has even criticised the common celebration of the Novus Ordo Mass, disparaging common liturgical practises (such as the priest facing the people for example).  He has openly criticised the "reforms" following the Second Vatican Council, and even alluded to a conspiracy in which the popular media has intentionally misinterpreted the council and attempted to usurp the Church with its own version of the council.  This priest has openly questioned the clarity of the Second Vatican Council itself, and has opened up this matter for debate.  He has had direct contacts with the SSPX.  This priest, himself, had associated with a known Nazi group in his younger years, but he has since condemned their activities.  He has celebrated mass with this back to the people, and while he has not directly come against the Second Vatican Council, he has encouraged his followers to adopt a new interpretation of it that is more consistent with the pre-conciliar Catholic Church.  This has been met with the scorn of many Catholics -- even some bishops!  He has a profound devotion to Our Lady of Fatima, and believes these apparitions predicted events in our generation and many of the problems in the modern world.  The SPLC article above speaks much of anti-Semitism, and tends to blur the lines between traditional Catholics and outright Sedevacantists.  Would this priest I follow be considered a "Rad-Trad" by the SPLC?  I suppose only they can know the answer to that, since any casual reader of their article might have difficulty telling the difference.  This priest I follow is retired now.  He left public ministry less than a year ago.  He now lives in seclusion in a monastery somewhere, away from the public eye.  There are those who speculate it was because he could no longer take the heat of Left-wing elitists, like those in the SPLC for example, but most of us know that is ridiculous.  Who was this "Radical Traditionalist" priest?  I probably shouldn't reveal his name here, but I will give a link for anyone who has the desire to click on it.  Some photos of him, along with some of his written materials, can be found HERE.

I confess to being a follower of this man.  So does that make me a "Radical Traditionalist" or "Rad-Trad" according to the SPLC?  I deplore anti-Semitism, and I've been critical of the SSPX on this blog, but not for the reasons cited by the SPLC.  I think the SPLC's characterisation of the SSPX is unfair.  One can find traces of anti-Semitism (or racism of any type) in many organisations, even radical Leftist organisations.  That doesn't mean it's okay to paint the whole thing with a broad brush.  I know there are some anti-Semites in the SSPX, but I also know there are many who abhor such views and have nothing against Jews at all.  Then again, I am aware of a certain political party (the Democratic Party) that supported and elected a former grand dragon of the KKK to the U.S. Senate, but that doesn't mean the entire party is racist, and it would be unfair for me to characterise it that way for that reason.  The problem the SPLC seems to have, along with many far-Left elitist organisations, is that they indict their targets with "guilt by association."  For example; I'm a follower of the priest I described above, who associated with the SSPX.  While the SSPX has been known to have some anti-Semites within their ranks.  Therefore, I too must be an anti-Semite, because you see, I follow a priest who associates with the SSPX.  That's "guilt by association."  Never mind the fact that I abhor anti-Semitism and I am descended from a man who contributed to the bombing of Hitler's Nazi regime.  Never mind the fact that I not only acknowledge the reality of the Holocaust, but I actually believe it was a lot worse than what is commonly reported, and I think the estimation of 6 million slaughtered Jews is far too conservative of a number.  (More like 12 million seems more realistic, of which at least half, possibly more, were Jews.)  Never mind the fact that I have Jews in my extended family, whom I care for deeply, and would defend with lethal force (if necessary) should anyone attempt to harm them.  Never mind the fact that this priest I follow has condemned anti-Semitism soundly.  Never mind the fact that even the SSPX was not founded on anti-Semitism, and nowhere lists hatred of Jews as one of it's foundational principles.  I can't help it if some anti-Semites choose to associate with the SSPX, but that doesn't make me an anti-Semite, just because the priest I follow associates with them, and I myself have associated with members of the SSPX from time to time.  I even attended an SSPX mass twice, back during the time when no Latin mass was allowed in my diocese.  Does that somehow magically make me an anti-Semite now?  What about the regular attendees of SSPX chapels?  I may disagree with their attendance there, when a diocesan Latin Mass is available, but that doesn't mean I think they are all anti-Semites.  For heaven's sake -- no!  It would be obscene to even suggest that.  Nevertheless, that's exactly what the SPLC has done, and they are not alone.

Here is the problem, organisations like the SPLC forward their "watch lists" to public authorities all the time.  These might include the FBI, TSA and local police.  In recent months we have heard the horror stories of certain public authorities identifying various conservative and traditionalist groups as "radicals" and "potential threats" to the public safety.  There was even an attempted terrorist massacre at the conservative think-tank, "Family Research Council," wherein a certain crazed individual brought in a firearm with the intent to kill as many people as possible in the FRC headquarters, simply because he saw the organisation listed as a "hate group" on the SPLC website.  We've also heard the horror stories in the news recently about the NSA spying on Americans and the IRS targeting conservative (and even traditional religious) groups.  How long will it be before there is a convergence between what the SPLC does, and what the TSA, NSA and IRS does?  How long will it be before the federal government starts using lists, put out by organisations like the SPLC, as a guideline for who to target in their regular procedures?  It would appear that organisations like the SPLC may actually want this?  Why else would such organisations forward their "hate group" lists to public authorities?  I certainly don't know when this convergence will happen, but I do think it's safe to say that it eventually will happen, and it will probably happen sooner rather than later.

I have my issues with the SSPX, and I know they've had their problems with anti-Semites within their ranks, but I would never dare equate them to an anti-Semitic organisation.  Are they functionally schismatic, if not officially schismatic?  Probably -- but they are still my fellow Catholics.  I'll not libel them by linking them to neo-Nazis and White Supremacists.  I have my issues with Sedevacantists too.  Have they made the Protestant error of thinking there is no way the Church of Jesus Christ could ever be marred by scandal?  Yes.  Do they need to repent of schism with the Catholic Church?  Yes.  Does that mean they are all anti-Semites?  No!  And it's slanderous to suggest they are.  Some may be, but certainly not all.

I've dealt with traditionalists for all of my adult life, both on the Protestant side and the Catholic side, and if there is anything I've learnt at all about them, it's that they are generally not motivated by hate, and their traditionalism is reactionary in nature -- nothing more.  They are reacting to a provocation.  That provocation usually comes from the modern world, and usually amounts to an attempt to force modernist values upon them in such a way that directly violates their religious sensibilities.  It also comes from the attempt of many modernists to marginalise them, by calling them "radicals" and "religious fanatics" etc.  You see, one thing leads to another.  The modern world has in many ways imposed itself upon religious people against their liking.  Those who resisted this were called: "radicals, fanatics, zealots and troublemakers."  They reacted accordingly to this with fear and conspiracy theories in an attempt to explain such unreasonable hostilities.  I've seen this on both sides of the Catholic-Protestant divide.  Religious traditionalists are simply trying to carry on with their religion the way their grandparents did, and the way countless generations did before them.  They can't be faulted for this.  It is tragic that certain racists would want to associate themselves with these people, but you have to remember, it was not the traditionalists who invited them.  One group of marginalised people simply adhered to another group of marginalised people and that is that.  The tragedy in all of this is that religious traditionalists were marginalised in the first place.  They are the victims here.  The modern world reigns victorious over them, while they exist in its shadow -- outcast.  The so-called "tolerance" of this modern age has displayed nothing but intolerance toward anyone who will not conform to it.  Rather than seeking to rehabilitate the image of traditionalists, and embrace them as part of the modern world's "diversity," some far-Left elitists are seeking to finish them off, going so far as to even implore the force of the government to do it.  The sad reality is that it is not the traditionalists who are radical, but rather those who seek to besmirch them with racist libel.

So now that traditionalism is making a comeback in the mainstream Catholic Church, what will organisations like the SPLC say next?  The vast majority of practising young Catholics, (and the operative word here is "practising"), are usually traditionalist in nature. A growing number of them have an affinity toward the Traditional Latin Mass, and still more are asking for a more traditional celebration of the regular vernacular mass. Many young people are reverting to a more traditional understanding of doctrine that is in continuity with the pre-conciliar Church.  Some are even openly questioning the clarity of the Second Vatican Council itself.  This is the future of the Catholic Church my friends.  The day will come, not long from now, when the only practising Catholic youths that remain will be those the SPLC might classify as "Radical Traditionalist."  What then?  Only time will tell.  The servant is no greater than the master.  Our Lord warned us, if they persecuted him, they will persecute us as well.  That's not the ravings of a "Radical Traditionalist."  I'm just citing the words of Jesus Christ himself.


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Brennan said…
Excellent article, I think you have described the future of Catholicism well. However, it doesn't seem that the SPLC is the only group (and I know your article didn't say this), even within Catholicism, who considers Reactionaries to be simply awful (while they attempt to distinguish them from "good" traditionalists).

The only issue I see, as I look through the list of Reactionary sins which was posted recently by a Catholic blogger, is that I can't help but notice that I myself fall into the "Reactionary" side of things (since I believe the traditional Latin Mass is objectively better than the Novus Ordo and think Communion in the hand should be abolished--and I think in general skirts and dresses are in almost all cases objectively more modest than pants--but don't worry, I haven't arrested any pants-wearing women--yet ;) ). In fact, it would seem as if most all traditionalists could be labeled "Reactionary" by this list.

And this seems to happen whenever any Catholic blogger tries to make a distinction between "good" traditionalists and "bad" Radical Reactionary Catholics--I end up trying to think of what blogging traditionalists I know (I know few in person since a TLM isn't available near me) who wouldn't fall into the "Radical Reactionary" camp as opposed to the "good" traditionalist camp even though I rarely, if ever, run across issues like racism or anti-semitism within traditionalist blogging circles.

Anyway, Mark Shea is the one who recently posted regarding this and here's his list if you want to take a look:

God bless.
Brennan said…
I'm sure the author of this article is already aware of this, but there's an interesting article posted recently by Karl Keating of Catholic Answers called "Hyperbolic Traditionalists".

It's in response to a couple of shows Catholic Answers have recently done on "Radical Traditionalists" and the reaction of some traditionalists to the shows (I personally have not listened to either show as of yet).

Anyway, I share the link not even primarily for the article, but there's a pretty good discussion of traditionalism going on in the comments section between people such as Karl Keating, Christopher Ferrara, and Pete Vere. Pete Vere himself is providing some valuable history of the traditionalist movement since he was there;--much of it I was not too familiar with.

And for the record I do like Catholic Answers, Karl Keating, and Jimmy Akin, who I think is a great apologist and just about all of the time makes a lot of sense even when he writes about controversial Church issues.

Here is the link:
Brennan said…
Okay, just one more comment (maybe). Another thing Radical Traditionalists get accused of is saying or implying that Catholics who do things like attend a Novus Ordo parish exclusively and aren't traditionalists are "second-rate" Catholics or are part of the "B-team".

And this despite the fact that whenever I have heard traditionalists talk about regular, Novus Ordo attending Catholics they have almost bent over backwards to say they are not impugning anyone's personal holiness and in fact such Catholics may very well be even more heroic than a lot of traditionalists because they don't have the benefit of, say, a beautiful traditional liturgy the way traditionalists might.

That all said, I listened to Christopher Ferrara and Walter Matt talk about the shows Catholic Answers did on "Radical Traditionalists" and I thought Christopher Ferrara had a great line. He said (and I'm quoting from memory):

"It's not that we have an A team and a B team, rather we are all on the same team, it's just that we're not all using our A game."
Shane Schaetzel said…
The strategy of the Enemy has always been "divide and conquer."

If we Catholics are divided against ourselves, Traditionalists vs. Modernists, etc. We will be conquered.

We don't have time for this. The Traditionalists have some very good and valid points to make in the Church today, especially in the areas of liturgy, catechises and discipline. Failure to listen to them, indeed marginalising them, and calling them "troublemakers," is the very reason why the Church is in crisis now. Likewise, Modernists have some important contributions to make too. The problem is, they've had their way for so long, and gone so far overboard on almost everything, that is has become difficult to distinguish what part of their message is good, and what part is misguided. There needs to be a rolling back of contemporary changes in the Church, if we are to preserve anything that is contemporary at all. Failure to do this will only result in the complete and total rejection of contemporary changes eventually.

Most of all, we must stop demonising each other. WE ARE NOT ENEMIES. WE ARE BROTHERS. I've seen this on both sides, and it must stop. It becomes especially dangerous when some Catholics will throw in their hat with non-Catholic liberal elitist organisations (like the SPLC for example) to demonise their fellow Catholics. I'm not going to name any person or group doing this. I'm just going to say this. When a Catholic (of any stripe) pulls in propaganda used by organisations like the SPLC to demonise other Catholics (of another stripe), we have a very serious problem. That Catholic may be unwittingly creating the circumstance for his own persecution later on down the line, as well as the persecution of the brothers he slandered with the liberal propaganda.

This isn't a game any more. The stakes are too high. There are those who really and truly want to destroy us, and they are gaining power. We cannot fall into their divide and conquer strategy. I have no problem calling Catholics within the SSPX my brethren. Do I have issues with their organisation? Yes. But they are still my Catholic Christian brethren, and I will not disown them, now will I stand by idle and let my fellow Catholics (or outside organisations) slander them.
Brennan said…
Well Shane, I certainly agree wholeheartedly with what you have written above and hope that we all as Catholics can adopt an attitude closer to what you have described.
Amfortas said…
One would like to think there are no 'A' and 'B' List Catholics, but the reality is that Catholics are like anyone else in that they exist on a 'continuum', a 'dimension' where some are more holy, more 'traditional, more 'Militant' than others, and those others have become the Church of Nice. The distinction is highlighted all the time by the Church Militant TV group who see a need for Catholics to distance themselves from the influences of Politics and 'Zozchial Justiz'.

Yes we must love our brethren. Yes we must love even the brethren who are non-Catholic. But there is a need to restore and support and even fight for Catholic Principles. That puts some at odds with the 'progressives'.