Tradionalist Modernism?

“What in the world happened to the Traditionalists?!?!,” asks one commenter:

As one might expect, Obama also lost the Traditionalist Catholics, obtaining two-fifths of their votes. Nonetheless, he did better with the Traditionalists than with the Centrist Catholics and markedly better than Kerry’s one-fifth in 2004. This result is a surprise, being the only instance where a group of Traditionalists voted more Democratic than their Centrist coreligionists. This change represents a modest closing of the God Gap among white Catholics (although McCain still did well among regular Mass attenders overall).

Opposition to the Iraq War may account for Obama’s gains among Traditionalist Catholics: In 2004 more than three-quarters supported the war, but a majority opposed it in 2008. The Catholic Church opposed the Iraq War and its leaders, from the pope to parish priests, regularly criticized it. In addition, prominent Catholics joined the debate on related policies, such as the interrogation, surveillance, and detention practices of the Bush administration. It is ­interesting, however, that such policies could influence these voters, given their other issue positions. For example, Traditionalist Catholics were staunchly pro-life on abortion and, like the Centrist Catholics, tended to hold conservative views on economic issues. And as in 2004, they gave lower priority to economic matters than many other religious groups.

If Centrist Catholics were a bright spot for McCain, then Traditionalist Catholics were a major disappointment. This outcome may reflect the often intense competition between progressive and conservative Catholic activists for the votes of the most committed Catholic voters. Overall, white Catholics made up one-sixth of the Obama vote and one-fifth of McCain’s supporters. If white Catholic ballots are added to minority and Unaffiliated voters, the total accounts for almost three-quarters of all Obama’s ­ballots.

No definition in the article is given for “Traditionalist Catholic.”  It is only distinguished from “Modernist Catholic” and “Centrist Catholic.”  Here are the published survey results.  I assume the respondents were just given the three options undefined and were left to define and choose themselves.

In any case, the results are very curious indeed.  Why would Catholic traditionalists compromise on abortion?  One would think that those who are the least secular and the most “supernatural” in their outlook would buck the fear of being a “single issue voter.”  All is not well among the “traditionalists.”

No, traditional forms, as important as they are, are not going to save us.  Let us hope that inspite of our “orthodoxy” and “traditionalism”  we are not whited sepulchres, which outwardly appear to men beautiful but within are full of dead men’s bones and of all filthiness (Mat. 23:27).

9 thoughts on “Tradionalist Modernism?

  1. Leave it to you dear Fr. Angelo to find the ‘hot button topic’.

    Though I only skimmed this article, I would not count on “First Things” to have a deep understanding of the ‘Traditionalist Movement’.

    Though I hate any label except that of ‘orthodoxy’… there is a saying among ‘liberal’ Catholics that “the best way to neutralize a ‘traditional Catholic’ is to have a ‘conservative’ Catholic attack them.” Many well intentioned but “behind the curve” modern Catholic ‘thinkers’ have knowingly or unknowingly held up the ‘reform of the reform’ through these means. Some are very big names in very respected ‘conservative Catholic media’.

    This plays into the fact that many ‘conservative Catholics’ are unwittingly ‘clericalists’. Recent experience has taught me that the ‘conservative Catholic’s shallow knowledge of sacred tradition makes them unwilling or unable to challenge their own ‘conservative priests’ & bishops when they need to. I will point out that many conservatives were the first and strongest opposition to the Tridentine mass until the MP S/P came along. It’s as though they had never read the writings of Cardinal Ratzinger (even after he was elected to the Chair).

    And that is how the goal posts often move left even in the ‘conservative’ world without anyone even knowing why or how it happened.

    On the other side of this problem are the folks who have perhaps not made an official break with Rome, but who may have made what I call an ’emotional break’ with the paternity of Peter’s successor. This can be seen in some SSPX chapels just as easily as it can be seen in many parishes, albeit for very different reasons.

    These poor folks hate ‘conservative Catholicism and it’s association with ‘official hierarchical Catholicism’ because their biggest detractors over the last 2 decades has been ‘Conservative Catholics’. I do not pretend to know the reasons behind so called ‘Conservative publications’ accepting something as anti catholic as the ‘Bush doctrine’ while simultaneously writing lopsided articles about the Tridentine Mass… nevertheless, I have seen it happen.

    I think they mean well, but lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi.

  2. What is the difference between a liberal, conservative, orthodox or traditional Catholic? Is what separates them from one another a matter of doctrine, tradition, culture or their political leanings? Clearly, if any of these “labeled” groups are supporting a particular political candidate at the expense of being Catholic first, then are they really faithful to the teachings of Christ or His Church?

    Also, why is the Bush Doctrine anti-Catholic?

  3. The differences shift every day. Also the meanings shift and do not necessarily correspond to the real issues that divide them. The term which (for the moment) seems least subject to redefinition is that of orthodoxy. And by that term, I mean the Orthodoxy that G.K. Chesterton stood for.

    I happen to know quite a few traditionalists and not a single one of them voted for Obama. At the same time… they did not vote for a Republocrat. (no, that is not a typo).

    Many traditionalists voted a write in vote for Ron Paul because only Ron Paul had an economic strategy which conforms closely to a truly Catholic understanding of economic/social teaching (i.e. the principal of economic subsidiarity in small government). Ron Paul was pro life and his message was essentially censored out by Catholic conservatives who for some unknown reason were incapable of understanding Ron Paul’s message. Looking back now… his economic thoughts were prophetic.

    One could fairly state that Fr. Richard Neuhaus represented the ‘conservative catholic’. A guy like Cardinal Roger Mahoney represents the liberal Catholic, and a man like Bishop Bernard Fellay (of the Society of Saint Pius X) exemplifies the traditionalist. I am only comparing these men in terms of their following… I mean nothing else by this comparison. Finally, I might offer Archbishop Raymond Burke as an example of a truly orthodox Catholic man.

    Traditionalists have historically objected to several things which I will enumerate here:

    1.) The unofficial and draconian suppression of the Tridentine Mass by bishops all over the world. They believe that the sacrifice of the mass is first and foremost a sacrifice. They go on to explain that it is a teaching tool which is timeless and which should have never been tampered with in 1965. They would find things like altar girls, communion in the hand, banal utility music, loss of the beautiful propers, constant retranslations by ICEL as blasphemous. (I happen to agree with them).

    2.) The document on religious liberty in the second Vatican council which IS actually a theological development and therefore can be viewed by some as a break with sacred tradition (especially if it is not read in light of previous councils).

    3.) The various documents and statements by members of the Roman Curia and congregations directed toward Judaism which seem to state that there is no need for a Jew to accept Our Lord Jesus as the Savior of the world (again, a seeming break with tradition).

    The modern Catholic hierarchy has always dealt in a very solicitous manner with every denomination, split, creed, sect, and fancy. But that same spirit of ‘ecuminism’ has never been extended by most Catholic bishops to traditionalists.

    Unfortunately this bad treatment has caused many traditionalists to become sedevacantist (meaning the chair of Peter is now empty [sede=chair, vacantist=believes it’s vacant]). It’s a bizarre and illogical conclusion for them to make… nevertheless I can see how they arrive at that.

    If your father permits the servants to beat you over and over again… eventually you will decide that you no longer have a father. And so many ultra-traditionalists begin to believe that the Chair of Peter is empty. (Their thoughts, not mine).

    I do not accept any of this and would describe myself as an admirer of the strategy of Abp. Raymond Burke. Nevertheless, I can see why our dear Holy Father wants the SSPX reconciled as soon as possible. They need us and we need them.

  4. Thanks Father for the post! I’ve been busy lately to come on (the whole giving birth thing:) and thanks for your prayers, BTW, Mary Margaret is a beautiful blessing from our Lady!
    In Archbishop Chaput’s book “Render Unto Caesar”, he states that the opposite of a “conservative Catholic” would be more appropriately called a “missionary Catholic”, that these two titles are more collaborative, and that anything else has way too much political bearing to be rightly stated in the Catholic realm. Just my two cents…

  5. Brownback – Turncoat

    I am not a politician, I am a priest. So I would like to give my priestly perspective about the recent endorsement of Senator Sam Brownback for the candidacy of Kathleen Sebelius for Secretary of Health and Human Services: Senator Brownback’s cowardly betrayal of his Catholic faith is even more damaging than his political permission for this renegade to take office.

    The situation is atrocious. An extremist abortion hack (called the most pro-abortion governor in the nation by many), who falsely calls herself “Catholic,” is given the opportunity to preside over the nation’s healthcare system and normalize abortion even further; this radical is then endorsed by a US senator who also calls himself “Catholic” and who, many believe, wants her job back home when she becomes the abortion queen in DC.

    With pro-lifers like Senator Sam Brownback, who needs pro-aborts?

    Moral theologians can work out what level of cooperation in evil the Senator’s endorsement represents – he is, after all, an influential senator whose opposition, if he had given it, may very well have stopped her nomination. Yet, those of us who do not breathe the rarified air of Washington DC and who have dedicated our lives to defending the sanctity of human life understand one thing: any covenant with the abortion industry or its promoters is consent to the killing. As a convert to the Catholic Faith, Senator Brownback seems not to understand the Church’s profoundly wounded heart with regard the slaughter of the innocents. The Church tells us never to participate in that slaughter, no matter what the cost; we do not give aid and comfort to the enemies of human life, we do not stand by while the innocent are being dragged off to a violent murder, and under no circumstances do we endorse the political aspirations of their executioners. Politicians who sell the lives of babies for political gains are the worst kind of turncoats.

    Yet, this Catholic Senator’s decision constitutes, I think, a watershed moment for all of us who want to see an end to the immoral industry of baby-killing in our country. We will never be served by the compromise of our principles in any form. Catholicism is the solution to this culture of death. If only Catholics ourselves would fully live up to our doctrine and put it into practice, there would be no “Tiller the Killer”s in Kansas, no partial birth abortions, no immoral sex education in the schools or Planned Parenthoods dominating our public life. Self-described “Catholics” like Brownback (in politics), Doug Kmiec (in academia), Hannity, Matthews and O’Reilly (in media) and others are not the solution to the problem – they are enablers of the problem. Despite their high-sounding lip service to the culture of life, they are compromisers. They will never end abortion because they don’t want to end abortion.

    I have often said that false Catholics, whether they be Cardinals, politicians or janitors, are the ones who have the most to account for on the Day of Judgment when they will have to account for ignoring Christ in His “least brethren,” the unborn. Whether through advocacy of the evil (like Sebelius) or negligence in stopping it (like Brownback), they have blood on their hands. They’ve been given everything the Church has to offer: the teaching, the sacraments, the example of the saints and the grace to stand against Satan and all his works and all his empty promises. In other words, they know better, and the Biblical warning applies to them: “To whom much has been given, much will be required.” Cowards and turncoats beware.


    Rev. Thomas J. Euteneuer,
    President, Human Life International

  6. Ave Maria!
    Congratulations Patty! I can’t believe I have to find out about births on Fr.’s blog!! You two have chosen such a beautiful name! We look forward to meeting your new blessing! God bless your beautiful family!

  7. I can’t believe that about Brownback. I thought he backed up the pro-life movement one hundred percent. You see, this is the struggle … unless we’re all devoting TONS of time into each candidate, we miss major things. How can we possibly investigate all of these political candidates, doctrines in our Faith, read about saints, etc etc?

    It’s overwhelming. I think they all wind up compromising because they’re trying to win the election and THEN they will put into action what they REALLY want. So the key is to find out what they REALLY want and not listen to all of the preliminary rhetoric. That’s not easy to do. Plus, of course,by then they’ve taken endorsements from compromising people whom they’re now in bed with.

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