The Numbing Down of the Church: Part Three: The Tridentine Traditionalists and their Vendetta against Vatican II

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By Larry Chapp

“You are the way the truth and the life. You are the beginning of the new creation. Give me the courage to venture this new beginning, not merely in the heat of the moment, but with the seriousness that knows that eternal fate is at stake. Let me see where the turning point lies, and bring it about in the reality of my daily life. And when I discover how entangled in my former ways I am, give me the loyalty that persists and the confidence that starts over again, however often all may seem in vain.”

Romano Guardini

“Prayers from Theology”

I ended my last post by indicating that the path forward must involve some form of “traditionalism” as the key to any true reform of the Church. The liberal and neo-con approaches, though not symmetrical or equivalent in the mistakes that they make (the neo-cons at least adhere to some version of orthodoxy), nevertheless both engage in a muting of the full eschatological message of the Gospel and opt instead for a transposition of the Gospel into the idiom of modern Liberal political culture. Therefore, my claim is that we must return to a full-throated and robust reaffirmation of the supernatural contours of Revelation that is unafraid to bring the Gospel as such into the public square. In other words, my claim is that the Gospel is a form of “reason” and does carry within its own unique theological categories a public dimension that isn’t merely a fideistic expression of a private and subjective disposition that lacks any “objective” warrant and which must therefore be “translated” into a form of secular discourse. Catholics of a liberal persuasion mute the Gospel message of sin, conversion, and repentance by translating the Gospel into, and thus reducing it to, a secular message of “social justice” and “amity” between all people of “good will,” while neo-cons appeal to those same people by attempting to engage the hot-button “culture war” moral issues of our time via the use of a putatively “neutral” (i.e. secular) form of natural law reasoning. Both projects have been abject failures in my view and need to be rejected.

Unfortunately, there has emerged of late a radical version of “traditionalism” that rejects for all practical purposes Vatican II and, by implication, the modern pontificates that have sought to implement its vision.  Vatican II is indeed the great bogeyman in this narrative – – a grand mistake in their view engineered by a cabal of Freemasons and allied modernists – – and is the watershed event that sent the Church down the path of destruction.  The Council, in their view, was secretly manipulated by that cabal which allowed for the deliberate insertion of theological and doctrinal “ambiguities” into the conciliar documents which could then be exploited after the Council when all the bishops returned home to implement the “reforms.”  Therefore, the traditionalist’s claim is that the obvious solution to the mess we are in is to repudiate Vatican II, either in whole (Vigano) or in part (Athanasius Schneider) and to return the Church to that Tridentine form and discipline, including a return to the Traditional Latin Mass as the ordinary form of the liturgy for the universal Church. 

The problem with the traditionalist’s analysis is that its diagnosis of the problem and its proposed prescriptive remedies are almost completely wrong, which I think should matter.  Their entire line of argumentation is disfigured by a simplistic “post hoc ergo propter hoc” fallacy that romanticizes and idealizes a past form of the Church whose putative vitality is greatly exaggerated which leads it to read the Council uncharitably and through the lens of a hermeneutic of suspicion lacking in theological nuance. Their position is that the Church before the Council was doing just fine, thank you very much, and therefore the only reasonable conclusion one can reach is that the nonsense that came after the Council was the direct result of the Council’s manifest deficiencies. 

Archbishop Vigano is out with a new interview in which he once again repeats this trope which has by now become a talking point in the circles of Tridentine traditionalists for whom Vigano has become a kind of folk hero. But in my view, the so-called “ambiguities” of Vatican II are not ambiguities at all, but mere developments of doctrine with which they disagree. They are of course free to disagree with these developments – – for example, the conciliar teaching on religious freedom – – but let’s not obfuscate the seriousness of what is at stake here with ambiguous talk of ambiguities and let’s instead call it for what it is: theological dissent from conciliar teaching. To cite another example, Bishop Athanasius Schneider (another Tridentine traditionalist favorite) says elements of Vatican II need “correction.” Specifically, those bits that were misinterpreted in a liberal direction. Well guess what… the misinterpretation of the Council by post-conciliar liberals was corrected, and by the magisterium itself, in the pontificates of John Paul and Benedict, a fact which Bishop Schneider well knows, which leads me to believe that what he really means by “corrected” is “rejected.”

So let us just be honest here about what is really going on.  The linchpin in their argument is that there is a direct line of theological interpretation that runs from the Council itself into the flawed implementation of the Council in a liberal direction. For example, in the post conciliar Church the Council’s teaching that there can be salvation outside of explicit membership in the visible Church via water baptism was interpreted by many to mean that a new religious relativism and subjectivism was being taught.  The Tridentine traditionalists further claim that this caused a widespread religious indifferentism in the Church. Ergo, this teaching at Vatican II is clearly “ambiguous” since so many misinterpreted it.

But I defy anyone to actually read the documents of Vatican II and to see anything other than a reiteration of what many Popes previous to the Council had already taught.  The Church is, rightly, teaching that it is false to claim that only baptized Catholics can go to Heaven.  And, therefore, it rightly seeks to chart a path between a rigid exclusivism with its adherence to some version of the massa damnata and the equally erroneous view that all religious paths to God are basically the same, with the Church and Christ being unnecessary for salvation.  It is admittedly a very delicate path to follow, requiring theological nuance and sophistication. But the Tridentines reject this “nuance” as a mere “word salad” of obfuscation and resort back to an exclusivism that has been rejected by the teaching magisterium of the Church even before the Council.  Theological clarity is indeed a virtue highly to be prized, but not at the expense of truth, and sometimes a theological “problem” needs to hold two extremes in tension which allows for a certain “suspended middle” wherein future theological “solutions” can be sought.  In other words, theological nuance is not necessarily a “word salad” and carries clarity as far as it will go into the deep mysteries of Revelation, without for all that merely seeking to “resolve” the problem by dissolving it into one of the extremes. And on this issue of salvation both liberals and the Tridentines seek to do just that.

But the Tridentines will just dismiss this as more ambiguity and even view this approach as something dangerously modern. For example, Vigano, in the same interview mentioned above, accuses Pope Benedict’s theology of being “Hegelian” since it seeks to chart a course between the two extremes mentioned above, proving that Vigano does not understand either Benedict or Hegel.  But this has not stopped the army of Vigano’s supporters in the Tridentine traditionalist movement from pushing this latest narrative of his as can be seen in their numerous posts on the topic on social media.  Suddenly, the Tridentines are now all Hegel scholars, despite, most likely, having never read him.  But that has never stopped them before since they excel at criticizing authors they have never read, confident that Taylor Marshall’s talking points on folks like de Lubac and Balthasar are sufficient for the necessary condemnations.  As a Balthasar scholar myself, I can say without any fear of contradiction that most of the internet Fiddleback fuss budgets who criticize him have never read him.  According to their traditionalist taxonomy of theological perfidy, Balthasar was a universalist (he wasn’t) and de Lubac taught that God owes us grace (wrong again.)   Put those ideas together and you get Vatican II, where God gives everyone salvific grace, all go to heaven, and the modern world is already engraced and in no need of correction or evangelization. Apparently in their taxonomy only Garrigou Lagrange is trustworthy even though I am sure most of them have also never read him either. 

But truth is not important in this narrative, and therefore nobody ever really needs to read anybody, which allows really stupid things to be said (e.g. Benedict is a Hegelian,) since what is really going on here is the pushing of an ecclesiological ideology rather than the pursuit of truth. Indeed, I will go further and say that what is going on here is an ecclesiological idolatry where the Church is further numbed down to its eschatological mission where Christ and his Gospel are eclipsed by an obsessive and singular focus on the form and structure of one particular era of the Church’s history at the expense of all others and at the expense of Christ and his redemption.  And insofar as this idolatry fetishizes a historically conditioned ecclesial form, essentializing it and freezing it ahistorically in an inauthentic snapshot, it indulges in a form of magical thinking that is contrary to the path of true faith and conversion from sin.

But this fetishization of Tridentine Catholicism also requires a revisionist reworking of the past 100 years of Church history where even previously revered figures come in for withering critique if they show the slightest sign of deviation from the woke cancel culture of the neo-traditionalists. Not content to reject an entire ecumenical council of the Church (as Vigano says we must do), and the entire papacy of Saint John Paul II (human rights, Assisi, and all of that humanist garbage), they are now setting their sights on Benedict the modernist Hegelian, as well as even Pius XII whose “dangerous” post-1955 “innovations” in the liturgy were some of the first signs of a Church going squishy.  Pius XI was great in condemning contraception, but even he did not emphasize enough that sex is first for making babies and for love second, and so he too was already putting on the Ritz of ressourcement.  And of course, it goes without saying that John XXIII, Paul VI, and Pope Francis were, and are, modernists, or even, as in the case of Francis, Freemason sympathizers.  Taylor Marshall’s book “Infiltration” makes this claim about Freemason and modernist inroads into the Church, and lots of Tridentine sites advertise that book and push it, so I defy anyone to say I am attacking a straw man here.  Once again, never mind that the book is a daisy chain of endless arguments of guilt by association without the slightest care for evidentiary journalism, it tells the “right” revisionist history and continues the fetishization of the Tridentine form, so it has become Gospel. 

And of course, to these denunciations of Councils and Popes are added a growing list of “crypto modernist” theologians who likewise deserve condemnation:  the entirety of the theological school known as “ressourcement” (especially de Lubac and Balthasar), Robert Barron (he promotes Vatican II and Balthasar!!), Joseph Fessio (hey, he published Balthasar!!), Thomas Weinandy (he dares question Vigano!!), and a host of lesser personalities whose only crime seems to be that they think the magisterium of the Church did not die after Pascendi.  Eric Sammons over at Crisis magazine published a puff piece lamenting the fact that Bishop Barron is unfair to the poor Tridentines, that he does not understand their irenic desire just to be “left alone” to do their thing, and is really just attacking a straw man.  But then scroll down and read the comments under the article, or read the emails I get after I say anything positive about Barron, or watch Michael Voris’s execrable and calumnious ravings on Barron and Balthasar, or just spend five minutes on Peter Kwasniewski’s Facebook page, and then tell me that Barron is attacking a straw man:  Ecce Homo

Barron really does seem to get under their skin, which pleases me, and I think it is because more than any other modern American prelate he is the face of the ressourcement retrieval of Vatican II, the face of the “reform of the reform” of the liturgy, and a man who, through his various forms of media evangelization, gives the lie to the Tridentine narrative that we need a Catholicism of hellfire and confessional States in order to save souls, and that the post conciliar Church is just a hopeless wasteland devoid of any resources for renewal.  As such, Bishop Barron is their mortal enemy, even more so than the liberals, since the latter at least share with the Tridentines the view that Vatican II was a definitive rupture with the past and that we now have, in essence, an entirely new “religion.”  Most bishops are not men of great intellectual sophistication and they tend to be “sympathizers” with either the traditionalist, neo-con, or liberal views, but remain largely silent as they seek to chart a bureaucratic middle path through the troubled waters and to “keep the peace.”  But Barron is different. He is a legitimate theological scholar in his own right (read his brilliant books “Vibrant Paradoxes” and “The Priority of Christ”) but also possesses that rare skill to translate that erudition into effective evangelization for the post Vatican II Church.  Therefore, the Tridentine traditionalists do not dislike Barron as a person, but they resent his success since it is a success for a form of Catholicism that they despise and seek to discredit.  As such, he is merely a shibboleth for their deeper agenda, which is why I choose to highlight their animosity toward Barron as an example of that agenda.

There are indeed lots of problems in the Church today, and I have noted many of them on this blog in a series of posts.  And Vatican II was far from perfect, made mistakes, and had flaws, some of which were serious.  I will deal with those strengths and weaknesses in part four of this series.  But it is important to get the diagnostics right in order to get the prescriptive remedy correct as well.  And if you think the actual documents of Vatican II, the papacies of John Paul II and Benedict, as well as theologians like de Lubac, Balthasar, Barron, Fessio and Weinandy are the problem, then I humbly submit to you that you are insane. 

There is a reason why the Church has a magisterium.  And therefore, the only true and proper interpretation of the Council – – a Council of that Church’s magisterium – – is the interpretation given to it by the magisterium.  The Tridentines point to post conciliar distortions and to theologians like Kung and Schillebeeckx as evidence of what the Council itself was “really” all about.  And yet why should they be the barometer for the true meaning of the Council rather than the magisterium itself? Even after Nicaea the Church had to contend with massive ongoing dissent from the Arian remnants in the Church, including from the Roman Imperium, and some loyal saints, like Athanasius, had to pay a high price to defend the truth.  But the magisterium held firm and the Council was eventually properly appropriated due to that magisterium.  That is how the Church works.  That is why we have a magisterium in the first place, in order for the Kung’s of the world to not have their way in the long run.  Which is why the Tridentines have to disparage not just the Council as such, but the magisterium that promoted and interpreted it as well.  It is modernist turtles all the way down, at least to Pius X and probably beyond, as the line for when the “rupture with tradition” happened keeps getting moved further back in time.  It will be interesting to see how far they peel back that onion of deconstruction before they realize that there is nothing left for them to peel away anymore.  It is an eerily similar ecclesial historiography to that of the Protestants who are in constant search for where the “rupture” happened that led to the rise of the false Church.

The liberal narrative won the day after the Council, not because of what the Council actually said, but because they were the beneficiaries of an amenable secular culture eager to spin the Council in their direction.  They were thus also the beneficiaries, as Benedict has noted, of a deeply liberal and favorable world of media who fawned over every pronouncement by a dissenting liberal theologian as an act of “courage” against an “inquisitorial” old guard intent on preserving their “power.”  Liberal theologians were thus able to act as fifth column quislings who paid lip service to the faith even as they sought to undermine it.  The laity had also been conditioned and propagandized by these same media outlets to expect big liberal changes – – changes that would make their lives more conformable to modernity and were, therefore, changes that many lay people were most eager to embrace.  But it also goes to show that those same lay people had been ill-formed by the pre conciliar Church and were ripe for the plucking.  Seen in this light, the papacies of the post Vatican II Church should be viewed as heroic attempts to retrieve the true Council and to maintain orthodoxy in the face of this tsunami.  Instead, the Tridentines vilify them as co-conspirators since they dared to agree with the Council that the Tridentine form of the Church had deep and festering problems. 

Despite these manifest realities, for Tridentines Vatican II remains the true scapegoat in this narrative and the litany of Tridentine complaints against the Council is indeed a long one. Just in the past week I have read: “No Council in the history of the Church has ever been just a pastoral Council!”  Well… so what? Now there is one.  Also I saw this one the other day: “This Council was a Council of theologians doing theology and was the most verbose Council in history!”  Again … so what? Now, finally, we do have a verbose Council of theologians doing theology. The Church is allowed to do that? Right? Or is it just “canon law and anathemas” that are allowed? And if so, who made that rule?  Taylor Marshall?  Vigano? Mattei? And by the way, most of the early Christological Councils contained theological discourse of a very high caliber.  They had to in order to properly counteract the various Christological heresies that were floating around.  And so the claim that Vatican II’s “theologizing” was some kind of dangerous novelty in the history of the Church is just empirically wrong.  Are the conciliar documents longer than usual?  Yes.  But were they unnecessarily “verbose” in a bad way? Maybe a tad, but not by much, and who cares anyway? Unless your deeper agenda is that in all of the verbosity is found the deceptions of wily theologians who planted time bombs in the texts. In other words, I doubt most Triedntines would complain if the Council had written 1000 pages on the glories of Latin and the index of forbidden books and so I find their criticisms hollow and opportunistic.

It never occurs to these types that the Church rightly saw that modernity represents a completely unique challenge to the Church, the greatest in her history, and is such because modernity is a grand rupture with all of the past and with all moral and spiritual traditions, thus requiring a theological response that was discursive, even philosophical, and which sought an answer in the realm of theological ideas rather than the purely internal realm of ecclesiastical house-keeping.  The Tridentines wanted a Council of more anathemas.  And they are angry that there were no sweeping denunciations of everything from democracy to electric can openers.

Then of course there is their complaint about the Church at Vatican II teaching that religious freedom is a basic right rooted in the dignity of the person as a free spiritual agent.  They were outraged, for example, that Bishop Barron did not tell Ben Shapiro in that now infamous interview that Shapiro was most likely going to Hell for being an observant Jew.  And, once again, lest I be dismissed as attacking a straw man and that this is just a screed, go and watch what was said by the Tridentines about Barron’s interview.  The mere fact that Barron told Shapiro that even though he was a Jew he still could gain salvation through Christ sent these folks into an orgy of accusations.  It is not so much that they all really believe that Shapiro is going to Hell, but rather that they think telling him he has a chance for heaven is just a bad pastoral strategy and is a form of milquetoast Catholicism.  So I guess Barron was supposed to lie in order to scare Shapiro into converting, or at least to get all “hell-spooky” with Shapiro in order to scare him straight.  However you slice it, it is just high silliness and an example once again of the fetishization of a certain form of Catholicism rather than a serious pursuit of the truth.  Barron gave Shapiro what the Church teaches.  But apparently that was not good enough.  More “hell cowbell” please.

I have written in a previous blog about why the traddies are wrong about religious freedom and so I do not want to repeat it all again here.  All I will say is this: their views on this topic, like so many of their other views, are identical to those of the SSPX.  Indeed, frequently in their writings you will see the SSPX praised and Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre referred to as a “hero” and a “prophet” who stood up to the heresies of Vatican II.  I am assuming that most Tridentines are allergic to schism, and rightly so, which is why they don’t just join the SSPX. Still, there is a whiff of deception and dishonesty here.  From where I sit, many, many Tridentines are just closeted SSPX followers but who won’t join the SSPX since they want to stay in union with Rome, despite the fact that there hasn’t been a Pontiff that they liked in about 110 years. 

We can debate the true legacy of Vatican II endlessly and the debate will, and should, continue.  I have my own criticisms of the Council and will expand on them in my final post in this series.  But from where I sit the pastoral and theological project of the Tridentine traditionalists is deeply flawed, lacking in both charity and nuance, and beholden to an ecclesiological idolatry.  Theirs is not a true traditionalism since it truncates that tradition and freezes it at one point in time.  The ressourcement theology that guided the Council was and is a far more authentic form of traditionalism since it pays attention to the entirety of that tradition. And therefore, the Council itself, especially in its clear turn to the Christocentric (Gaudium et Spes 22!) is far more traditional in this broader sense than the so-called traditionalists could ever dream of being with their arid and desiccated scholasticism as their sole barometer for truth.

The problem with Vatican II was not that it was too radical, but that it was not nearly radical enough.  Therefore, its project is just beginning.  Specifically, what needs to be doubled-down on is the Council’s only true hidden time bomb: the universal call to holiness.  And it is that piece of dynamite, as Peter Maurin noted nearly a century ago, that needs to be exploded. It is to that needed explosion that I will turn in the final post in this series.

Dorothy Day, pray for us.

52 comments

  1. So many accurate observations here. I’ve long been a member of the tribe you described here. I’ve begun to appreciate the dissent and/or schism apparent in their positions during the past couple years or so.

    I once longed for the church and society of the 1950s, thinking this was some sort of golden age. I’ve since come to realize as you noted, that if the church in the 1950s was so strong, why did the gales of the 1960s knock it down like a house of cards?

    One more observation, which you may have previously noted on your site. It appears as though scrupulosity is one of the common factors among members of this tribe. I say that as a person who struggles with scrupulosity from time to time.

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    1. A too suffer from scrupulosity and I do not mention it in this post since I think it is a problem for many and not just the traditionalists. Thanks for reading the blog and for taking time out from your day to comment. Greatly appreciated.

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  2. Great article! You hit many a great point. I would like to add a few if I could.

    In terms of magisterial teaching, I find a helpful mnemonic to be that non-Christians tend to reject first-level, divinely revealed teaching (as well as what follows); Protestants tend to reject the Church’s second-level teachings which either logically or historically follow from the former (as well as what follows); and Schismatics (and Tridentines) tend to reject third-level teachings which require of us religious submission of intellect and will. In other words, they fail most prominently in obedience to Church authority, even though they would hate to admit it.

    I also think that most of those that make the criticisms (such as T. Marshall) have read the Hegel, DL and VB to some extent, but on a level where they know just enough to be dangerous. Typically, this would be someone who has the equivalent of a B.A. in theology, but if their studies have been myopically concentrated on one school of thought (Marshall on St. Thomas?), the danger can extend even to someone who holds a doctorate.

    Finally, a crucial distinction needs to be made on the question of “reasonable hope,” which I consider to be an equivocal term. Do I reasonably “expect” all men, even most men, to be saved? Of course not. Both public and private (Fatima, etc.) revelation suggest otherwise, and the suggestion is crystal clear. On the other hand, I most assuredly should hope (in the sense of the virtue) that all men be saved since this is what Christ came for. If I don’t hope that the person who committed suicide or died in what appears to be a state of mortal sin is saved, then I’m not going to pray for him. Despair is the opposite of hope. I must hope! But it would be incredibly stupid to predict that all men will be saved — and this should in part color my efforts to evangelize, make sacrifices for others, etc. I believe this distinction ought to be made from both the Marshalls and Barrons of the world.

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    1. If I might clarify, Bishop Barron has never said we can have a “reasonable expectation” that all will be saved. And neither did Balthasar, for that matter. That’s a straw man.

      Bishop Barron’s own version of “dare we hope” is in fact more modest than Balthasar’s. For the details, I encourage readers to see this FAQ page at Word on Fire: https://wordonfire.org/hope

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    2. A great comment. I would only add with regard to the vision of Hell at Fatima that it is that same Fatima that gave us the prayer for the rosary where we pray that God lead all to heaven especially those in most need of thy mercy. So here we have at Fatima the very essence of Balthasar’s speculations. Namely, an affirmation of the reality of Hell and of the very real judgment we all stand under, as well as theological hope that God will indeed save all. It is hard to keep such things in dynamic tension with each other, but it is what Revelation demands. Thanks for your comments!

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      1. Thanks for this. I’ve always considered the “all” with regard to the Fatima prayer and our need for hope to be directed to each individual person that has ever lived since we don’t know for certain who is in Hell. That seems to be different than a hope that God will drain the swamp, so to speak and leave Hell empty. Balthasar himself attests that the latter is an “extreme” position in Mysterium Paschales. I’m open to the possibility theoretically, but I don’t know how it wouldn’t make God out to be a kind of mass deceiver of souls, since public and private revelation is so clear that a great many (whatever that means) souls go to Hell.

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  3. Speaking as a ‘tradvert’ who didn’t join the S.S.P.X., there’s actually one other reason I haven’t signed up with them besides being allergic to schism: Believe it or not, their view of the Traditional Liturgy is actually kinda stunted! As many traditionalist writers ‘inside the structures’ – including Dr Kwasniewski – have ably demonstrated, the opening salvo of the liturgical reforms (which, I think we can agree, were an absolute disaster in practise, as much as they might have been necessary in principle) actually came during the reign of Pope Pius XII, first with a major stripping-down of the Missal itself (most notably, the deletion of at least fifteen Vigils and Octaves, some of them very ancient), then with a complete overhaul of the ancient Holy Week rites. From Lefebvre’s perspective (and, I’m pretty certain, that of the traditionalists who clustered around him), even if those changes were a little unfortunate, Pope Pius XII was the last really trustworthy Pope we had, so we have to suck it up and do as he said – and Pope John XXIII was apparently okay until he started Vatican II, so we have to do as he said until after the Council started. Apparently, it’s only AFTER Vatican II started that the Popes’ actions suddenly become dangerous to right faith and right worship. (insert ‘raised eyebrow’ emoji)

    Thankfully, those so-called ‘Quisling’ Trads who decided not to go into de facto schism have had the breathing space and peace of mind to look closer at the 1962 Missal and realise the problematic nature of some of the changes that happened BEFORE Vatican II (especially the Holy Week changes) and try to correct them in the context of their parishes. That includes Mater Ecclesiae Parish in Berlin, NJ, whose Palm Sunday and Triduum liturgies I plan to livestream this year: https://www.facebook.com/MaterEcclesiaeChurch/

    But as I’ve seen when this or other pre-Vatican II abuses (e.g., priests celebrating Low Mass in near-total silence even when there are people present) get brought up on New Liturgical Movement and other such websites, you’ll always get a bevy of S.S.P.X. types in the comboxes screaming their heads off because someone DARED question the judgement of Archbishop Lefebvre – or their childhood parish priest – and accusing the author of being ‘schismatic’, ‘more Catholic than the Pope’, ‘disobedient’, ‘crypto-sedevacantist’, and pretty much every accusation that people throw back at them! (insert ‘banging head against brick wall’ emoji)

    Granted, the sedevacantists are also generally known for using the pre-1962 Missals (that was part of the reason why Frs Cekada, Dolan, Sanborn, etc. were kicked out of the S.S.P.X. back in 1983), but the S.S.P.X. approach is so riddled with philosophical fallacies (and just plain old tragic irony) that I don’t see how any self-respecting traditionalist can endorse it.

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      1. Thanks, Larry! Things are sort of in the middle right now – on the one hand, my mom’s family is in a major tizzy over whether or not to move my grandmother to a different nursing home (it looks like that WILL be happening, we’re just not sure when) and the reopening of our facility’s dining room has brought back a lot of old challenges (plus some new ones brought on by COVID); on the other, my choir has started having outdoor in-person rehearsals as of last Sunday and we plan to be back in our planned rehearsal space by June. Hope everything is going well on the farm!

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  4. Great series, Larry! Not only are you making excellent points, but your writing is spirited and memorable and sometimes funny!

    One question. “And insofar as this idolatry fetishizes a historically conditioned ecclesial form, essentializing it and freezing it ahistorically in an inauthentic snapshot, it indulges in a form of magical thinking that is contrary to the path of true faith and conversion from sin.”

    By “magical thinking”, do you mean the Tridentines’ belief that this is a utopian Golden Age of the Church that we could re-create just by wishing it were so (even though it never was)?

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      1. Since finding the blog last night, I’ve thought a lot about what John of the Cross says in the Ascent of Mount Carmel in Chapter XLIII regarding demands that the Mass be said in the precise way an individual prefers for it to be acceptable. I’m a Carmelite at heart and sometimes it’s comforting to be reminded our faults and personal attachments have precious little to do with councils, reforms, or cultural upheavals.

        I’m exhausted by all the infighting. I feel poisoned by the calumnies and detractions against living men and women as well as saints raised to the altar. I left the Church for a time because of it. More silence will be of benefit, so into the proverbial desert with me. I’ve enjoyed reading your work and will return. Peace to all, and best wishes for a blessed Easter season.

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      2. These debates do get tiresome don’t they? But this is going to be my last blog post on these traditionalist complaints in a long, long time. It has all left me feeling nauseous and worn out. Thanks for your respectul and insightful comment

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  5. This is excellent, thank you. Your comparison of trad culture to cancel culture is right on – I’m pretty good at understanding the dynamics of cancel culture and predicting its next moves, and that’s partly due to hanging out in traddie circles where there was an obsession with ferreting out heretics, assassinating the reputations of whichever Catholic apologists and theologians are currently popular or successful (e.g. Bishop Barron), and constantly identifying normal things that are Not OK to do, read, listen to, etc. (The other thing that gave me insights into cancel culture was the book Wild Swans by Jung Chang – highly recommended.)

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  6. I read all three articles, and I admit some of the language is unfamiliar. Most are enlightening and hilarious! At times I was shaking my head or nodding in agreement, and then disbelief. I find that Bishop Barron is the truthful voice, and that all others are noisy and cluttered. Because of him I started reading Balthasar and found my soul swimming in new light. Are there any others who you can recommend as kinder and better angels in such an age of hubris in our Church? I dare to hope.

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    1. Yes there are other voices! Balthasar, de Lubac, Ratzinger, Danielou, Guardini, Peiper, Gilson, von Hildebrand, Bernanos, Peguy, Bouyer, and a bunch more. You just gave me an idea for a new blog post. I think a post outlining these many other voices would be helpful.

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      1. Danielou’s book “Prayer as a political problem” in particular is topical. He shows, amongst other things, how cultural Catholicism is a double-edged sword, and though many of us bemoan it, and for good reason, we must nonetheless see a positive side to it for bringing the gospel to the poor. While the Catholic Church is getting its act together with this internecine warfare, we live in a society where increasingly the gospel is not being brought to the poor like it once was. Christianity was never meant to be an elite religion. Catholicism is at its healthiest when a parish has the look of “here comes everyone”.

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      2. Please do make such a post! The causes of Vatican II (that is the problems and era it was intended to address) fascinate me, but it’s difficult to know where to start having been born in the 90s. That world is so alien to me. A few years back I had a summer job helping to organise a large influx of books into a Dominican community’s library (they came from other Dominican centres which were closing down) and seeing all of those names, both resssourcement names like Bouyer and von Balthasar but also liberals like Rahner and Schillebeeckx, I felt as though I had stumbled onto the site of some ancient battlefield now long forgotten. For all factions within the Church history seems to begin with Vatican II, with only a vague two thousand year golden age or dark age preceding it, depending on your point of view.

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      3. Totally agree! I have some of these authors on my bucket list. Thank you! Yes! An article on these and other voices will be helpful to gain clarity on this albeit pressing concern in the life of the Church. Christ calls us into friendship. Our response is wanting. God remember us in your mercy. †

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      4. Looking forward to it. I just found Marcellino D’Ambrosio’s article on ressourcement and aggiornamento and was excited to see some of the names you just mentioned and associated interesting quotes. I kept hopping over to Amazon and Abebooks to see what was available.

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      5. Hi Dr. Chapp,

        Apologies for commenting months after the post, I just discovered this blog. I have a question about the “peeling back the onion” criticism of Traditionalists. In an earlier post you paraphrased Bernanos about the “Constantinian” arrangement the Church had been in for 1700 years vis-a-vis political power. Isn’t that just more onion peeling?

        Given that progressives also consign so many centuries of the Church as a dark age before Vatican II, it looks to me like the progressives & Ressourcement have more common ground with each other than either do with traditionalism. They both seem to allow or even require an understanding of the Holy Spirit’s guidance of the Church that make indefectibility an almost meaningless concept. The “RadTrad” idea of a century of less of the Church being off the rails, even when expressed with a lot of anger and shallow argument, seems more respectful than the Church having spent 85-98% of her history not just wrong but HARMFULLY wrong. (I’ve read similar things about how Aquinas was OK, but basically every Scholastic theologian after his funeral was useless, so it was up to the Nouvelle Théologie to rescue Thomism from itself. Variation on the same “The Church has been fundamentally screwed up ever since…” story.) It doesn’t help that “let’s ditch Scholasticism and go back to the Fathers and Scripture” sounds suspiciously like the Protestant “let’s ditch Scholasticism AND Patristics and just go back to the Bible”.

        My own thinking on Catholicism is a mix of the trad (no rad, no mad) Neo-Thomist school and the conservative JP2/Ratzingerian schools; I don’t claim to always know who’s right between the many shades of either form of pro-tradition Catholicism. I believe that the only way forward is to pick up what’s best in both. So I’d honestly like to be able to have more sympathy for the Ressourcement theology, but I’m uncomfortable with a theory about the Church that agrees so much with Protestants, Mormons, and Dan Brown.

        Any help?

        Thank you and God bless!

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  7. I would say more humility all around is presently needed by all three groups, liberals, conservatives and traditionalists. We need to develop an intra-Catholic ecumenism instead of being at each other’s throats. Certainly many traditionalists lack humility. But many liberals and conservatives will have no truck with the traditionalists. Unfortunately and surprisingly (to me), Bishop Barron is part of that group. As I’ve commented on here before, it’s almost as if it hasn’t registered with him that Benedict XVI passed Summorum Pontificum in 2007. There are some pretty important disagreements between the groups but they should be still be able to work together.

    There also remains a very strong opposition to the Latin mass in the church today. That’s just a fact, and it isn’t a good thing. You practically have to lawyer up if you want to get a Latin mass started in your diocese. What seems to freak many people out, including Bishop Barron, is that there is a youth movement toward the Latin mass. Until our current liturgy is seriously improved, I contend that this is a good thing. I take it as a given that both liberals and conservatives disagree. The vast majority of bishops don’t like it and don’t understand what’s happening. But someone way smarter than all of them, someone who was described by Cardinal Meisner (addressing a French Benedictine monk) as “intelligent like twelve professors and pious like a first communicant”, did get it – Benedict XVI. He passed Summorum Pontificum to effect a reconciliation in the church, to ensure a continuity between the pre-Vatican II church and the post-Vatican II Church, and to ensure that the Latin mass would remain as a point of reference for the new mass. You simply cannot have a proper “reform of the reform” if the old mass isn’t around as a reference point. And the “hermeneutics of continuity” will be deader than a doornail if the Latin mass is gone. Some liberals around Pope Francis are urging him to repeal Summorum Pontificum for that very reason. That’s why I say that the conservatives need to form an alliance with the traditionalists.

    So Dr. Chapp – Bishop Barron doesn’t get under my skin, I’m just mystified that he doesn’t get this. He cannot be, as you contend, “the face of the “reform of the reform” if he doesn’t get this. And I’m telling you – he has demonstrated time and again, that he does not it.

    We all need to heed Benedict XVI’s approach including Bishop Barron and maybe you too Dr. Chapp.

    By the way, I thoroughly enjoyed your podcast with Kale Zelden entitled the Numbing Down of the Church. Your passionate remarks often hit the bullseye.

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    1. Thanks for the compliment with regard to the Zelden interview. It was fun. But I thoroughly disagree with your analysis of Barron. He fully supports the TLM and even taught his seminarians at Mundelein how to do it and encouraged them to do so. He is well aware of Summorum Pontificum and supports it. He has NEVER spoken against it or the TLM. EVER. So I have no idea where you are getting the notion that he ignores it or opposes it. That is just a false assertion empirically. Finally, Bishop Barron and I both understand the value of the TLM as an agent of reform for the OF liturgy. We would love to cooperate with traditionalists in this endeavor and Barron DOES cooperate with them. Once again, you are making an empirically false assertion here that he does not cooperate with them. He is a traditionalist himself, as am I, and has on his staff numerous people who attend EF liturgies. What he opposes, as do I, are the radical traditionalists who reject Vatican II, idolize Vigano and Lefebvre, think there hasn’t been a good Pope since Pius XII or even Pius X and who want nothing to do with the reform of the reform. How do you make common cause with such scorched earth material schismatics like Taylor Marshall or Peter Kwasnieski? And while we are at it… long, long before Barron started criticizing these radical nut jobs they were throwing calumnies at insults at him. You cannot work with these people. They need to repent first. The other traditionalists … folks like you… are people Barron talks to.

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    2. Furthermore my approach and that of Barron is the approach of Benedict. Your whole analysis of Barron here assumes that he opposes the TLM and Summorum, which is false as false gets. Barron distinguishes between valid traditionalists and the material schismatic radical ones. There aren’t any bigger admirers of Benedict XVI than Barron and I.
      Finally, it is those rad trads who are giving the whole movement a bad name and a huge, self-inflicted black eye. Many TLM friendly parishes have now become little havens of hate where the TLM is weaponized and used as a cudgel against the OF and the Catholics who attend it. They have become hotbeds of material schism, Vigano style, and as such are unhealthy. That is not the reality of many TLM communities, but it is so in many others. And so a rift is emerging within the TLM community itself between Benedict/Barron style traditionalists and Taylor Marshall style traditionalists. I think it is the increasing presence of the latter type that has caused many bishops to react negatively. I am no fan of our bishops as a general class, as you know, but the existence of a “sub church” within the Church made up of material schismatics is a deep cause for concern.

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      1. “I think it is the increasing presence of the latter type that has caused many bishops to react negatively.”

        You know, and I know, that the hostility within the church to the Latin mass pre-dates the presence of the likes of Michael Voris and Taylor Marshall on the airwaves. I acknowledge, (as has Steve Skojec recently, incidentally), that there is an emerging type of misguided “political traditionalism”, that is clearly going off the rails and contributes to further division amongst Catholics. I think it is mostly an American phenomenon. I’m also told that some SSPX parishes in the U.S. have a very unhealthy cult-like atmosphere.

        I think you will agree with me that Latin mass traditionalists are a very, very small part of the overall church. They have a presence in the small French church and also in the U.S., but even in those countries they are a small, tiny minority. I’m no expert but my impression is that elsewhere they have an even more marginal presence, there are some tiny pockets in Brazil and the U.K. for example. Benedict XVI wrote these words around 2000 or 2001 but they are in many ways still very true today:

        “For fostering a true consciousness in liturgical matters, it is also important that the proscription against the form of liturgy in valid use up to 1970 should be lifted. Anyone who nowadays advocates the continuing existence of this liturgy or takes part in it is treated like a leper; all tolerance ends here. There has never been anything like this in history; in doing this we are despising and proscribing the Church’s whole past. How can one trust her at present if things are that way?”

        “Treated like a leper.” Strong words – by Benedict XVI himself. And we all know, don’t we, what Pope Francis called those young people who today attend the Latin mass, and he actually allowed his words to be printed in a book? So though Benedict wrote those words in 2001, they remain unfortunately true, even today. The strong majority of bishops are not favorable to the Latin mass and wouldn’t shed a tear if it were suppressed again. To the extent they allow it, they quarantine it, like a virus. In my view, the Latin mass would be at its best were it celebrated in the same parish as the OF. It should be integrated in the life of the Church and not ghettoized. The bishops think otherwise. That’s a fact. Summorum Pontificum has remained for the most part a dead letter.

        If you could provide me with some “empirical evidence” where Bishop Barron is reaching out to traditionalists or is defending Summorum Pontificum, I would love to see it. Seriously, I would like to see that. I won’t be holding my breath that you’ll come up with anything. And even if he hasn’t to date, it’s not too late for him to start doing so. It would be the right thing to do and what Benedict would like to see. But again, I won’t be holding my breath. Bishop Barron is well aware that he has a new boss, who’s definitely not the same as the old boss. Even if he was inclined to reach out to the trads or defend S.P., he’s going to proceed with caution at this point. I think one day, I’m not sure when, Bishop Barron and some of the traditionalists (and even some thoughtful liberals) will make common cause.

        As an aside, I’m born the same year as Bishop Barron, so also close to your age I think, and have been in an OF parish pretty well all my life until about five years ago, when I followed my children, who had started attending a diocesan Latin mass. We disagree about Peter Kwasniewski, I consider him a serious scholar who is following in the line of Benedict XVI.

        I look forward to your next segment, I’m thinking we’ll be more on the same page. We do agree that this is a very critical time in the Church and we have our work cut out, to say the least.

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      2. I don’t know Louis. Sometimes I think I am just being gaslighted by your posts where you pretend to agree with my overarching point but then go on to give little “tells” that you really don’t. For example, in your first post you said Bishop Barron is “freaking out” over the trend toward the Latin Mass. You gave no evidence from anything he has said or written for that claim. And yet now you have the nerve to ask me for citations from Barron to prove my point! Lol. When I pushed back against your “Barron is freaking out” claim and made it clear that you are completely wrong about that (Barron supports the TLM, taught it to his seminarians, loved Benedict XVI and Summorum, hires many TLM folks for his ministry) you then ignored all of that and moved the goal posts in the debate. You began by making a false claim without evidence, got called out, and then turn around and essentially say “well, Barron may not have said anything against the TLM but he sure as heck hasn’t said anything for it either!” And you wonder why I think Barron has indeed “gotten under your skin” and that you are gaslighting me? Because it isn’t enough that Barron has never said two words agains the TLM or Summorum, now, in order to avoid your inquisitorial condemnation, he must be more forthcoming with the requisite praise for your various theologoical hobby horses. The fact is I suspect you dislike Bishop Barron for reasons that go beyond those you have stated since only that explains why he seems to irritate you so.

        Of course there was opposition to the TLM by bishops even before Summorum. Heck, when I was in seminary our bishop banned even saying the Novus Ordo in Latin. Nobody is denying that. However, my claim is that there are an increasing number of solid, orthodox bishops, men I know personally, who are getting very nervous by how many TLM communities are becoming cult-like “churches within the Church” and increasingly devoted to Vigano.

        I like Steve Skojec very much and his blog which is why I do not ever cite him as an example of a radical trad. I think he is wrong sometimes, but he is not a humorless ass like so many of them and he also can be self deprecating and open to all points of view. In other words, I think he is an honest and sincere truth seeker and a real traditionalist. And what you cite is exhibit A as to why I like him. He too is getting a bit nervous about the growing tide of really radicalized traditionalists in the broader traditionalist movement, and he gets that they are bad news and will give the entire movement a bad name. So Louis, instead of posting long comments on here blasting Bishop Barron unfairly, and then turning around and asking that same Bishop to cooperate with you and your fellows, why don’t you go after Vigano or Taylor Marshall – – two men whose popularity in the traditionalist movement is a far, far bigger threat to that movement than Barron, and that by a country mile. Barron is not your enemy. These quasi schismatics are, and I will take you far more seriously when you write at length about that grave threat.

        You speak as if Barron and I are not on board with Benedict’s project. And all because, I guess, we have not gone out of our way to heap hefty praise on the TLM? I guarantee you I have a total devotion to the theology of Benedict as does Barron. Ratzinger is the greatest theologian of our time. And, quite frankly, I have zero idea why you think Barron and I do not support him. Especially since in the blog post you are commenting on I praise and defend him against the silly attack from Vigano – – an attack that is beyond moronic. And Peter Kwasniewski is a HUGE Vigano pusher and supporter. He posts Vigano’s stuff all the time on Facebook and has nothing but high praise for him. Furthermore, Peter has morphed into an Anti Vatican II dragon and has weaponized the TLM as a blunt tool for smashing away at the OF. Not respectually at all either. In fact he utterly rejects the OF and says a “reform of the reform is impossible.” So if you like him as you say all I can say in response is: yes, you have been gaslighting me. This, therefore, will be my last response to you.

        Oh… and I can provide evidence that Barron supports Summorum, but I am done playing your anti-Barron game. Because I am certain that nothing I would send you would be good enough and I am sure you would find some way to move those goal posts again.

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      3. Dr. Chapp, I can assure you that I’m not trolling or trifling with you in my comments. I don’t recall how I stumbled onto your blog, but I do recall printing out a couple of your articles on Dorothy Day at Catholic World Report some time ago that I found particularly interesting, and topical.

        As for Barron, I did reference a video a couple of posts ago, that Clayton Emmer also commented on, and where Barron bemoans the traditionalist revival. He refers to the revival as an “unhappy” development.

        While I’m sure we agree on much, we are nonetheless in different camps, to the extent that people can be pigeon-holed in camps. I was in the conservative camp, but now find myself in the traditionalist camp, a late arrival to that camp. But I’ve read many of De Lubac’s books, and also of Van Balthasar. Von Balthasar’s description and analysis of Therese of Lisieux’s “The Little Way” in his book “Two Sisters in the Spirit” is penetrating and deeply insightful. I have and like Barron’s book “The Priority of Christ”. You and Barron are in the conservative camp. I have no problems with that just as you and he should have no problems with people like me being in the traditionalist camp.

        The reason I moved to the Traditionalist camp is the liturgy. In my neck of the woods, the liturgy is a wasteland. I also realize the liturgy is not the be all end all. Personal prayer is also extremely important. They’re supposed to work in tandem. As Father Robinson said in an article on the liturgy “it seems odd to have to remind ourselves that personal prayer is an indispensable aspect of Christian life.” I think another reason I saw the importance of the liturgy was my experience with eucharistic adoration started in our parish by a Polish fellow in 1996 in large part as a result of JP II’s apostolic letter promoting its practice which came out that same year. By the way, the clergy in our parish were largely hostile to that endeavor over the years because it was, wait for it: pre-Vatican II. Finally I became a “liturgy guy” because of Benedict XVI’s relentless emphasis on the liturgy that has convinced me that promoting better liturgy is time more than well spent – both the TLM and the “reform of the reform” of the OF, which I do not consider to be mutually exclusive.

        We both love and admire Benedict XVI. In his homily for Midnight Mass in 2009 he said “The Liturgy is the first priority. Everything else comes later.” In part of the preface of the Russian translation of his liturgical works in 2015 he says:

        “In the years that followed Vatican II, I became once again aware of the priority of God and of the divine liturgy. The misunderstanding of the liturgical reform that has spread widely in the Catholic Church led to putting ever more in first place the aspect of instruction and that of one’s own activity and creativity. The action of men led almost to forgetting of the presence of God. In such a situation, it becomes ever clearer that the existence of the Church lives on the just celebration of the liturgy, and that the Church is in danger when the primacy of God does not appear anymore in the liturgy, and therefore in life. The deepest cause of the crisis that has subverted the Church is located in the effacing of the priority of God in the liturgy. All this led me to dedicate myself to the theme of the liturgy more widely than in the past because I knew that the true renewal of the liturgy is a fundamental condition for the renewal of the Church.”

        In his letter on the clergy sexual abuse scandal in 2019, Benedict XVI mentions, as one of the remedies, a renewal of the liturgy. He does wear his name well, a true son of St. Benedict.

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      4. Bishop Barron does not oppose the rise of traditionalism as such. As I said before, he is fully supportive of Summorum and the TLM. He taught it to his seminarians and has many TLM people on his staff. He opposes the radical traditionalists who reject Vatican II and the teachings rooted in Vatican II of the post conciliar popes. He opposes, in other words, Vigano/Taylor Marshall type traditionalists. That is what he is lamenting in the videos you mention. Maybe you don’t believe that. But I can’t control what you believe or disbelieve. All I know is that he does indeed support the TLM movement.

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  8. Dear Larry:

    Looking forward to our Zoom interviews. Contra your commentators, I found your article troubling and wrong for the most part. It seems to partake of the hermeneutic of attack while it diagnoses that in the traditional movement. Yikes- its hocus pocus to us. Blessed Passiontide to you.

    Pax,

    Dan

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    1. The article was not about you or traditionalists in general or about those who love the old Mass (as do I). I too am a traditionalist. The article is quite clear who its intended targets are: Vigano/Marshall style radical traditionalists who are, in my view, in material schism with the Church. And I DO think they are rage baiting propagandists who have fetishized a certain form of the Church and weaponized it against an entire Council, the OF liturgy, and every post conciliar Pope. I can read rad trad com boxes and you should read my emails that get from those types who use the vilest language. I am not attacking a straw man. That seems to be the latest talking point: Folks like me and Barron are attacking a straw man. Nonsense. Vigano is real and his followers are growing. So if you really care about the traditionalist movement you should fight them too, because they are doing nothing but giving that movement a bad name.

      And I reject your assertion that I am engaging in a hermeneutic of attack. My rhetoric is pointed and sarcastic. Yes. But that is not the same as framing the entire blog around a hermeneutic of attack. That IS what rad trads do as they just make shit up in order to discredit and vilify (e.g. Balthasar and Barron are universalists, Ratzinger is a Hegelian) or pass along totally discredited calumnies as does Taylor Marshall in his book (e.g. Paul VI was an active homosexual). My article, though snarky, actually mounts an argument rooted in verifiable truths even if we differ on how to interpret them. For example, what Vatican II teaches on salvation. I don’t just make stuff up when I discuss it as the traddies do … “Vatican II taught religious relativism!” It is that kind of nonsense I am calling out since a lot of theologically uneducated and decent lay people, rightly troubled by the modern Church and seeking answers, are easily duped by such rhetoric since the people engaging in it seem like such serious and knowledgeable Catholics. But my essay was not directed at traditionalists like you and I think that is clear.

      But since it is clear who my targets were it leads me to wonder if maybe you object to my article because you agree with Vigano/Marshall and that whole group of SSPX sympathizers. Please let me know where you stand on that since it would be clarifying.

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      1. I can’t give you an exact answer. I don’t do this for a living. From my casual observance, Barron is ok sometimes. But if he’s the trumpet to lead us into battle, Lord help us. And yes, I stand with Vigano more or less. Even if just for what he says about McCarrick. The mendacity and way in which so many priests and bishops and Popes are accessories to his crimes and similar crimes of others is beyond belief. So yes, I find Taylor Marshall ok, even if he has some of the naivete of a still recent convert. Some SSPX experiences I have had have been excellent (though only in France). I go to daily Mass in the NO and I received all the sacraments in the NO except my convalidated marriage. I hope my sacraments were valid given the unending string of revelations about the moral depravity of the men who dispensed them. Thus probably 90% of my liturgical life has been NO. I have always been and continue to be in regular parishes where there are more crazies, in my experience, in the NO congregations than in the Trad community. One thing is certain: no one of is is perfect. I am a just getting by lawyer who spends too many hours working to keep the lights on. I probably would have just suffered all my life in the NO until I had kids. Then I agitated for an indult Mass in my parish when my oldest son was born 26 years ago as I had a clear sense that the NO would bot be transmissible to him. Whatever the explanation, the state of the Church in my lifetime with the exception of the early years of JPII and the pontificate of Benedict XVI has been devolving through multiple Overton windows. Anyway, look forward to our conversation.

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      2. Well, I do not think there is any one single person who will lead us into battle. It is a group effort involving the vocational skills and talents of all of us. Bishop Barron is merely one arrow in a larger quiver of arrows. He does excelllent work and has helped to bring thousands into the faith. What I object to is the completely uncharitable and irrational manner in which many of the rad trads go after him. It is simply bizarre. As for Vigano … I too supported him at first over the McCarrick scandal. But since then he has jumped the shark in my view and is flirting with schism. He rejects Vatican II root and branch, engages in all kinds of bizarre conspiracy theories, dissents from a host of modern magisterial teachings (e.g. on religious freedom) and has called Pope Francis a false pope leading a false church. I am no fan of Pope Francis by any stretch, but this is open rebellion. And so it gives me pauase when I see rad trads pushing Vigano. Taylor Marshall too … he has written in his book that Pope Francis is “Satan’s Pope” and the modern Church is heretical. He has attended SSPX masses as well and offered the SSPX high praise. So I am afraid if you support that ecclesial vision and project that we most likely will have very little upon which we will agree.

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  9. Another great post; a well-balanced, if somewhat angry (or ‘robust’ as the Brits will say), analysis.

    I still cannot muster any great enthusiasm for Bishop Barron. I haven’t watched his interview with Ben Shapiro (if you are of a certain age and watching Ben Shapiro on YouTube, try setting the playback speed at 0.75 – you’ll see what I mean) but I hope he told Ben that being a faithful Jew unavoidably takes you to the Jewish messiah, who is Jesus Christ, and that the people of Israel fulfilled their mission in history in the figure of Mary, the perfect Jew, who allows the Son of God to be born into history. I did watch an interview of Bishop Barron with a gay interviewer on same-sex marriage and other issues of human sexuality, and I’m still cringing years later. I think Bishop Barron still thinks we can have our cake and eat it – that we can have sanctity without martyrdom – that you can be a ‘cool Christian’, but maybe I’m wrong. Personally, I think Cardinal Robert Sarah (who may or may not have been ‘purged’ recently) is a far clearer and brighter light for those who seek guidance.

    This whole thing about religious freedom and salvation outside the Church, I’m dumb enough that I don’t see what the problem is. Baptism is our sacramental death to this world – it allows us to start the race early, while still on this Earth, but all people are eventually baptized when they die, by their very death (of which baptism is an anticipation). Those who are able to accept this baptism of death are saved – but they do have to experience death, whereas only those baptised in life can hope to experience union with God without experiencing death. The question is not whether all non-Christians go to Hell, but whether all non-Christians who don’t go to Hell necessarily go to purgatory, and the answer to that would be yes. Whereas Christians can hope for sanctification in this life (although obviously this is not a foregone conclusion).

    I don’t think it is possible to discuss what happened after Vatican 2 without mentioning the interference of the Soviet Union and its satellites at the time. This may sound like a conspiracy theory, and it is, but not all conspiracy theories are paranoid delusions. I’d recommend the book ‘Disinformation’ by Robert Rychlack and Ion Mihai Pacepa to get a sense of this:

    (I can see the price is now ridiculous, maybe get the audiobook?)

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      1. This may be too much on the fringes of respectability for some, but on the subject of Soviet subversion I’d invite everyone to watch Yuri Bezmenov’s talk and think a little bit whether the sexual revolution was a wholly spontaneous revolution or whether it may have had a helping hand from people who were very keen on revolutions. Russia will spread its errors indeed:

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  10. Bishop Athanasius Schneider (another Tridentine traditionalist favorite) says elements of Vatican II need “correction.” Specifically, those bits that were misinterpreted in a liberal direction. Well guess what… the misinterpretation of the Council by post-conciliar liberals was corrected, and by the magisterium itself, in the pontificates of John Paul and Benedict, a fact which Bishop Schneider well knows, which leads me to believe that what he really means by “corrected” is “rejected.”

    I don’t quite see it that way. Post-conciliar liberals are still making those misinterpretations, if anything they are now ramping up their claims, so it logically follows that the corrections by John Paul and Benedict didn’t “take”, at least as deeply as we would like. So I read Schneider’s writings as calling for “better correction”, not “rejection”.

    When the rad-trads were all out calling Pope Francis a heretic and demanding that ‘something’ be done, it was Schneider’s essay on the possibility of a heretical pope that really defused the situation. It was a real tour de force, even better than Cdl. Robert Bellarmine.

    The one fault I find in Bp. Schneider is that he doesn’t always follow his own convictions. He has rightly pointed out the centrality of the Eucharist in Christian worship, and this has led him to (I think wrongly) oppose Mass restrictions to combat the recent pandemic. However, he plainly states in his Christus Vincit that the Eucharist is not necessary for salvation, only baptism is.

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  11. The Church is, rightly, teaching that it is false to claim that only baptized Catholics can go to Heaven. And, therefore, it rightly seeks to chart a path between a rigid exclusivism with its adherence to some version of the massa damnata and the equally erroneous view that all religious paths to God are basically the same, with the Church and Christ being unnecessary for salvation. It is admittedly a very delicate path to follow, requiring theological nuance and sophistication.

    It also requires humility and an acknowledgement of mystery. This is a subject with no clearcut answer. This question has come up at some of the more believable recent Marian apparitions, and the answer is always a flat variation of “People get what they deserve.” Ask no more!

    Cdl. Robert Sarah wrote a single sentence in his The Day Is Now Far Spent exactly one sentence that repeats the traditional teaching. I’ve posted it on trad sites (probably the one real act of trolling I have ever done) and been roundly condemned for it. When I pointed out to these people that they are condemning a statement made by the conservative that they most want to be Pope it makes no difference, nor does my admission that the sentence is followed by a full page of pastoral qualifications. The good Cardinal is just wrong!

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  12. They were outraged, for example, that Bishop Barron did not tell Ben Shapiro in that now infamous interview that Shapiro was most likely going to Hell for being an observant Jew.

    Funny thing about that interview. I was chatting yesterday with a lifelong Episcopalian friend from my Jesuit college, a religious studies major. She has become a big fan of Bp. Barron, and after she saw that interview (at my recommendation, though I had not seen it) she became a fan of Ben Shapiro. But yesterday she told me that “Much as I love Bishop Barron, he was wrong to answer Ben Shapiro’s question about being saved with a flat ‘Yes’. The answer requires a lot more nuance,” and she when on to quote St. Paul.

    Having seen and read the other (two?) ‘controversial’ statements by Bp. Barron that have stirred up the Trads, I do understand why they get stirred up. Just last month I was watching one of his Sunday homilies and he said another one: “The Holy Spirit is only the love of the Father and the Son for each other.” I turned to my wife and said “That’s not true!” She asked why. I replied “He needed to leave the word ‘only’ out. We have no idea what the Holy Spirit fully is. Even better would be ‘The Holy Spirit can be thought of as…'” She said “Are you going to email him?” and I replied, “No, he gets real hate mail, he doesn’t need me.”

    Crisis ran an article a couple of years ago lambasting him for one of the ‘controversial’ statements. Guess what? At the very last paragraph the author had one sentence that admitted it was no big deal, that with a small pastoral qualification there was no problem at all. So why bother with the rest? His words do occasionally stir them up, but their lack of charity does most of the work.

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    1. That “*only* the Holy Spirit” exemplifies very well what my problem is with the good Bishop Barron (and I do think he is good at heart); an attempt to provide uncomplicated answers for everything so that all problems can dissolve into a Norman Rockwell world were everybody gets along just fine – Ironically, at some level, I feel he may be the genuine rad-trad that thinks it is possible to go back to a pre-conciliar Catholicism in which you follow the rules, you know the *new* answers of your *new* Catechism and you find your comfortable middle-class place in a bourgeois society from which you send money to the missionary nuns who help ‘the poor’ in distant countries.
      I get a similar sense from George Weigel – a failure to acknowledge Fatima and its message and that we are so stepped in sin that the very stones are crying out to Heaven.

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      1. I think you completetly mischaracterize Bishop Barron here. Norman Rockwell? Bourgeois? Simple answers? Pre-conciliar vision? Pay pray and obey?? Just no. Sometimes I wonder if what it is that bothers his critics isn’t that they think his evangelizing method is unsuccessful, but that it is. I am moving on to writing my next blog post now. And so I will be leaving this thread. Oh… I did very much like what you wrote about the relationship between baptism and death, and the role death plays in our salvation. I think that is a rich well of insights that should be explored further. We disagree about Barron, but I think we agree on more. Peace

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      2. Bishop Barron is out there proclaiming the Gospel. He’s not perfect. When you speak in public as much as he does, often in settings that require spur of the moment responses, you’re going to say things imperfectly once in a while. I am amazed, frankly, that he doesn’t mis-speak more often. He gets it right about 99% of the time, in my opinion.

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  13. Dr. Chapp,

    Thank you for this excellent series. I think most of your analyses here are spot on. I grew up in the bourgeois Catholicism devoid of any true belief that you so aptly describe. After Vigano’s 2018 accusations against Pope Francis I began to really question what was going on in the church. I started reading Dreher and Skojec and now attend an FSSP parish, which I truly love. The liturgy is beautiful and the parish culture/liturgy I think has formed me in ways the NO never did.

    But the culture is also rife with the problems that you describe…Everyone believes every word Marshall and Vigano utter, despite valid criticisms. And don’t even get me started on all the Covid and stolen election conspiracy theories that are rampant in these communities. I think these particular conspiracies have become popular because it confirms them in their worldview: that evil (Masonic and communist etc) forces are out to get them and they must resist. Everything has become a conspiracy of some sort.

    I had a question regarding your criticism of Bishop Lefebvre though: if he hadn’t taken the stand that he did, do you think that the EF would be as available as it is today? I ask because I too find it a bit problematic to praise Lefebvre in his clear disobedience, BUT, in some ways I really respect him for having preserved the EF. In its current form, I see the EF as objectively better and more oriented towards true worship of God than any of the NO masses I have ever attended. Even FSSP, which takes a more conciliatory stance towards VII than SSPX wouldn’t have existed with Lefebvre/SSPX.

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  14. Larry, to your comment above if you still get to read this answer:
    Yes, I agree with most of what I have read of your writings. I’m not well read in theology (an understatement) but in my ignorance I am a fan of Guardini, von Balthasar and, of course, Ratzinger (and I have 0 patience for Taylor Marshall) – also, my greatest dream for this life is to be able to escape the city and move to a farm, so I think we may be slices cut from the same general area of the pie.
    Re. Bishop Barron, I’m giving my subjective reaction – I have not read any of his books – that is the image he projects to me. For some reason I don’t get the sense of spiritual depth I get from, for example, Cardinal Sarah. To reiterate a point I made in an earlier comment, the Faith is not a philosophical system, it is a bodily spiritual practice, and I wonder if Bp. Barron is not too busy managing stuff and making videos and writing books that he has no time to fast, and pray, and go on retreat. Or pull some weeds and put some fencing up.
    And if I can be a bit mischievous, you say somewhere that one of your pet peeves is people saying sins are addictions… I could swear I heard Bishop Barron say almost exactly that, I think in one of the videos of his ‘Catholicism’ series… I misremember, surely.
    (and yes, I think the baptism-death subject is very rich and also, I think, very well-grounded in scripture, so one does not have to stretch too far to see things begin to click in place)

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    1. My take: Bishop Barron and Cardinal are different men with different charisms. I think they are both great, just different.

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  15. We could use a thousand Bishop Barrons. Do I agree with him on every little niggling point? No, but I agree with 99% of what he says. The problem is not Bishop Barron but all the wacko liberal bishops. I mean, are there five orthodox bishops in all of Germany right now? We have bishops all over Europe who are openly dissenting from infallible Church teaching and who are on the verge of causing a major schism. Worse yet, the VAST majority of baptized Catholics agree or at least sympathize strongly with them. Would this have been possible but for the great liberalizing trend in the Church following Vatican II? I don’t know. I accept that Vatican II was and is a valid ecumenical council. It has borne some good fruit. However, regardless of the fact that the Council’s teaching was orthodox, I think any reasonable person would have to admit that the fruits have been decidedly mixed at best. Perhaps that is because the Council’s teaching has been falsely interpreted, or manipulated, or because it was implemented poorly. St. JPII and BXVI tried to keep the wheels on but were resisted vigorously all along. And somehow they managed to appoint and promote bishops who despised their teaching concerning the Council and either worked to actively undermine it or bided their time until they could get their own man in the Chair. We are in really bad shape at the moment.

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