Is Traditionalism Being Hijacked by Anger?

man screamingDear Kevin,

I was greatly moved by your last piece. It’s uniquely evident in your writing that you have a strong faith and genuine concern for the Church, regardless of any disagreements I may have.

“There will always be a need in the Church for the prophetic voice that traditionalism provides. Like the Old Testament, in times of crisis and renewal, prophets came to remind the people to, in the present, return to the God of their past (their tradition), so that the future may be different. Such a call is always valid and needed.”

I admire and agree with this call, and I’ve personally witnessed its fruit in local parishes, especially among young people (OF Millennials and TLM Millennials alike) . From what I can tell, Eucharistic adoration, confession, the observance of Holy Days of Obligation, and proper fasting are on the rise. Some might scoff at this and ask why Catholics meeting the requirements of their faith is something to celebrate. But that would be to ignore the reality of the last 50 years. At this point in time, we are witnessing a small resurgence of obedience in the Church, and we must welcome the Prodigal Son.

I have no doubt that Summorum Pontificum has played a key role in reviving reverence and tradition in Ordinary Form parishes, and I agree with Notre Dame professor Margot Fassler that “in order to restore balance going forward, future reforms of the Roman rite will need to be able to access the pre-Conciliar tradition, not merely as a text in a book, but as a living form.”

But I think the conservative direction of the Church is experiencing its own “70’s Church” moment; where a certain momentum in the Church, likely spurred on by the Holy Spirit, is hijacked by ideologues. As I’ve mentioned, I have serious qualms and concerns with the traditionalist Catholic ghetto mentality, where “modernist Church” bashing and Vatican II conspiracies run rampant. I think it’s a result of the tragic fact that Michael Voris and Fr. Z are admired by many traditionalists. Guys like Voris and Fr. Zuhlsdorf have massive influence and a huge following, but they accomplish very little. Their biggest contribution is coining phrases like “the Church of nice” or the drawing distinctions between those who are “Catholic” and those who are “catholic” — items useful only for the maintenance of a Catholic bunker mentality.

The Church Militant/Fr. Z crowd worry me much more than say, Fr. Reese and the National Catholic Reporter crowd, because while both are ideologues, the former has tenfold the influence of the latter.

Over the course of this dialogue it’s become clear that you’re no more like Voris or Fr. Z than I am. But it’s also likely that you’re not as worried about those guys, and the movement they embody, as I am. Perhaps that’s not true. But I would like to know your assessment of those two very popular Catholic traditionalists (do you consider them traditionalists?) and the degree to which they harm the Catholic mind.

[editor’s note: this letter is part of a series on the role of traditionalists within the Church today. Read the entire discussion here.]

William Bornhoft is a freelance Catholic writer based in St. Paul, Minnesota. You may contact him wmbornhoft@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @WilliamStPaul