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Dealing with Traditionalist Catholics

Source: Brian Holdsworth via YouTube

Music written and generously provided by Paul Jernberg. Find out more about his work as a composer here:

Spanish translations by Vélez Translations,

I’ve seen a lot of attention given to the disruption that is caused by those pesky radical traditionalists, or rad-trads, in editorials, podcasts, and the like and I think it’s fair to say that they have a fairly bad reputation, especially, online for being intolerant, rude, cranky, and uncharitable.

And since, by some estimates, I might be considered a traditionalist myself, I thought I’d share some thoughts that will hopefully shift or at least expand your perspective on those quarrelsome rad-trads.

A couple points of points of contention that I want to focus in on is the comparison to the Pharisees in biblical times and the apparent intolerance and combativeness of traditionalists.

I myself was accused of acting like a Pharisee when I refused to continue attending a liturgical environment plagued with abuse and contempt for the Church’s instructions on liturgy, preferring, instead, to attend the Extraordinary Form or the Traditional Latin Mass where I knew those problems wouldn’t exist.

So, is that an apt comparison – traditional Catholics and the Pharisees, and if so, what was so bad about those Pharisees that we Christians might want to avoid?

It seems to me that the comparison between the pharisees and traditional Catholics is often made on the grounds of their strict adherence to their beliefs and refusal to compromise.

But is that really such a bad thing? Scripture, over and over again, admonishes us to keep the commandments and stand firm in our faith. Joshua 23:6 says, “Be very firm, then, to keep and do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses…”

1 Corinthians 15:58 says, “Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:13 says, “put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground…”
And John 2:17 summarized Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple from all profane things with the verse, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

So religious zeal and steadfastness, is definitely encouraged in scripture and our faith tradition. So what is it about the Pharisees that we should be critical of? It was their pride and hypocrisy.

It’s a good thing for us to grow in our understanding and practice of the faith. There’s no doubt about that, but as we do so the focus of temptations that afflict us will be less concerned with a lack of courage and discipline and shift towards a lack of humility. The enemy would gladly allow us to grow in certain virtues if it means he can secure our soul through pride.

And yes, it’s not hard to encounter this kind of pride among traditional Catholics. But I think the impression that this is pervasive has more to do with public personalities who like to brand themselves as standard bearers of traditionalism.

And of course, celebrity Catholics are going to be even more tempted by pride and hypocrisy so I wouldn’t use some of those louder voices to shape your perception of the average traditional Catholic.

So what about the charge of being intolerant towards contemporary Catholicism? The current factionalism in the Church could be compared to something akin to a fight or a struggle and if you want to cast certain groups with a measure of blame, maybe the place to start is by asking who shot first. Because in any conflict, according to Church teaching, self defense is permissible and just.

Well, what we now consider Traditional Catholicism in the Roman rite, was, for hundreds of years, just Catholicism. It was what everyone believed and practiced. Then, half a century ago, certain Church leaders decided that the practice of the faith, especially the sacred liturgy, was inadequate.
In other words, they rejected it as it was and sought to renovate it with contemporary sensibilities. They didn’t consult the vast majority of Catholics who cherished their faith.

And in response, those who wanted to retain the practice of the faith that they been raised in rejected the innovations that were being imposed on them and for that rejection were branded as rigid and intolerant.

But in the whole transaction, that rejection goes both ways. Remember it was the renovators and innovators that first rejected the traditions of the faith as they were and used that as a premise to reinvent them.

So in my view, if we’re going to talk about Traditional Catholics as being intolerant, we should remember that it was the innovators who first expressed their intolerance for the traditional liturgy of the Church which means that the antagonism of traditionalists would be more accurately characterized as a measure of self defence rather than aggression.

Addendum: I’m seeing a few replies about my use of the phrase, “a few Church leaders,” thinking that that’s a reference to Vatican II. I’m always self conscious about length of the video, so sometimes I rush a detail to get to the point. By “some people”, I wasn’t talking about the council. I was referring to those who promoted abuses and unsanctioned changes which became normative after the council. Hymns replacing antiphons, bands and inappropriate instruments replacing organs and choirs, profane music, ad-orientum, loss of minor orders, loss of architectural appreciation of the mass, etc. And then there’s the flood of bizarre and terrible formation in the seminaries. In my diocese, there are multiple generations of priests that have no familiarity with Thomism.

Header image: Latin mass via