To the Editor of This Rock;
Just as I really began to think you guys had finally given up Catholic-bashing forever, there comes this Lulu from a "Steven D. Greydanus" which somehow managed to sneak past the editors:
I have a friend who is flirting with a
radical form of Catholic "tradition-
alism. Sometimes he talks about
modernist heretics taking over the
magisterium and betraying Catholic
tradition. He has canned arguments
about things like religious freedom
and dialogue, universalism, liturgi-
cal norms, and so forth. He says he
can’t be in schism since he’s just
clinging to Catholic tradition. What
can I say to him?
Point out that his claim about "cling-
ing to tradition" is precisely what is
claimed by all schismatics—Ortho-
dox, Donatists, even, in their own
way, Protestants, who say they believe
only what was "handed down" by the
apostles in Scripture.
Everyone says that what he is
clinging to (as against Rome) is "tra-
dition." But when you ask these peo-
ple how they know that their views
rather than Rome’s represent the true
tradition, they fall back on private
judgment: "Look how this Roman
practice or decree contradicts the
earlier council or text of Scripture!
Our view—not Rome’s—represents
tradition (or biblical teaching)."
In practice, schismatics do not
receive their church’s teaching on
their church’s authority; they accept
their church’s authority because their
church agrees with their preferred
beliefs. They don’t accept the mes-
sage at the word of the messenger;
they choose the messenger based on
Ask your friend who is the arbiter
of what does or does not constitute
tradition: the individual or the mag-
isterium? Either we judge our ideas
by the teaching of the Church
or the teaching of the Church by
Steven D. Greydanus
Aside from the obvious likelihood that the "letter" was simply written by the same person as the "response," there are quite a large number of logical fallacies contained in that crude attempt at Catholic-bashing. It is unlikely that anyone who is obviously confronting traditional Catholicism (or anything else for that matter) for the first time in their lives would ever use the expression "canned arguments," since only those who have run into those arguments on repeated occasions would think of using it.
Nevertheless, the phrase "canned arguments" bears some brief discussion. The reason the same arguments are used again and again is that they are always entirely effective. They are always entirely effective in turn, because they have never been refuted, nor can they be. Once one hears the case made by traditional Catholics, one can only accept that case and join them or else turn their back on all integrity and join those who know they are in the wrong.
For the sake of the soul of this (I think) hypothetical friend, but also for any and all others out there who really are like him, I most earnestly do pray that they may not merely flirt with a radical form of Catholic Traditionalism, but that they may all jump into it with both feet and never look back. May the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary continue to draw them to the Father by bringing them to union with that "radical form of Catholic traditionalism" which alone is One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. Amen.
Now for the point-by-point Catholic response to that "response": "’Clinging to tradition’ is precisely what is claimed by all schismatics." Wrong. Schismatics claim to be "restoring" tradition, by which they invariably mean "going back to some ancient practice long since abandoned." Do the historic study and see for yourselves. The East Orthodox of the tenth century blamed the fifth century Church for "changing" by giving primacy to Rome. The Jansenists of the eighteenth century blamed the tenth century Church for lightening the penances, the fourteenth century Church for recommending frequent communion, and the sixteenth century Church for condemning Calvinistic predestination.
There is a very simple reason why schismatics and heretics must always make the claim of returning to a supposed "ancient practice." That reason is that what the heretics and schismatics wish to impose not only doesn’t exist, it never existed. Their vision for the early Church is invariably inauthentic, or else they would not be heretics or schismatics at all. It is easy for them to speak on behalf of those of ancient times since none of those who lived in the ancient times are still alive and in a position to expose the falsity of the heretic’s or schismatic’s ideas and practices.
There has never been any sort of heretic or schismatic who can hark back to an alternate faith or practice known to living memory, and advocated by the Church, since such a thing has never existed. The Church, like Her Lord, Whose Mystical Body She is, is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Traditional Catholics on the other hand most certainly do hark back to a faith and practice which is known to living memory and was advocated by the Church, namely that faith and practice which any lifelong Catholic 50 years of age and older grew up with, a faith which is clearly alternative to that faith and practice advocated in the name of "Catholicism" today.
If the Church could truly and validly be changed from one thing to another (such as Vatican II did to the Vatican establishment), then the Church could have been similarly changed at any point, or any number of points, in the past, and there would be no reason to believe that either of the Catholicisms of the twentieth century have anything in common with any Catholicism of any previous century, or that of the early Church. To admit the possibility of such sweeping change inside the Church is to deny the doctrine of the Indefectibility of the Church, at least as taught throughout most of Her history.
Such a denial carries with it a denial that Christ is with His Church always, or that the Church is his Mystical Body, or even that He had founded a Church, the Church which is One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. As the logic of the situation forces itself upon them, that is why schismatics soon veer off into heresy. Interesting to note, even many of the periti of Vatican II, the architects of the new religion, talked of "restoring" various ancient practices of the Church, just like all the other schismatics and heretics have done. Their purported "restorations" have absolutely no more authenticity than the "restorations" done by Luther or any other schismatics or heretics.
It is now only the traditional Catholics who demonstrate the Indefectibility of the Church, as any older Catholic can see for himself. Let any lifelong Catholic, 50 years of age or older, visit any traditional Catholic parish, and study every detail of their belief and practice. What he will invariably find is exactly the Church he was brought up in. Such stability is absolutely impossible for "small schismatic groups" and the presence of it among traditional Catholics of all groups (sedevacantist, SSPX, indult, etc.) is proof positive that all of these parishes are standing fast to the Barque of Peter, where, alone can be found such stability fit to last until the end of the world, and thus preserving that "faith which was once and for all time delivered to the saints." (Jude 3)
Such Unity, Holiness, Catholicity, and Apostolicity which exist in such abundance among traditional Catholics of all stripes (and in the classical sense of what the Church has taught that those qualities mean) is simply not found in the Novus Ordo "Church of the People of God," where each parish is practically a "religion unto itself," holiness is practically unheard of, Catholicity is lacking, and the Apostolic mission to convert the world has been suborned by a false "ecumenism" which seeks merely to unite and pacify the world without bothering to convert it to the Gospel.
It is not true that "everyone says that what they are clinging to (as against Rome) is tradition." For example, many Protestant groups deny the validity of any tradition whatsoever (even while practicing certain traditions of their own, such as Altar Calls). Whenever one talks about traditions "against Rome," one has to ask which "Rome" he is talking about: The Eternal Rome of 260+ Popes and all of their Councils and Synods which have had over 1900 years to teach most clearly and in excruciating detail precisely what Catholics are to believe and why; or Modernist "Rome" consisting of those who blithely disregard everything that has gone on before?
To the extant that the present Vatican leadership coincidentally parallels the previous teaching of the Church, traditionalist Catholics have no quarrel with them, but to the extent that the present Vatican leadership deviates from the Magisterium of the Church, as long and clearly established over 1900+ years, traditional Catholics opt for that previous and well-established Magisterium of the Church, and against the synthetic new pseudo-magisterium created at Vatican II.
This is not a question of private judgment. The Church has already clearly and most emphatically taught that if ever a new teaching were to contradict the old, the old is to be preferred over the new. (I suppose one difference this new pseudo-magisterium has from the old Magisterium is that it now teaches that new teachings are to be given precedence over the old!) What those reliable popes from Peter to Pius XII and reliable councils from Nicea I to Vatican I have taught is perfectly clear and there is no element of "private judgment" involved in obeying or applying it. The teachings are clear and in no need of any further interpretation, and the traditional Catholic simply obeys them.
If that is supposed to constitute private judgment, then everything you think you know is only your private judgment on what others have taught you, and the phrase "private judgment," thus applying to everything, has no real meaning. That mention of "this earlier council or text of Scripture" (quietly omitting "this earlier Pope" for fear the reader might catch on) provides a clue for the source of authority for traditional Catholics to function as they do. Would he dare to accuse all these popes and councils of indulging in "private judgment" while pronouncing their doctrines? Was Pope Pius IX indulging in private judgment when he condemned as heretical the notion or proposition that "The exorbitant pretension of the Roman Pontiffs contributed to the division of the Church into Eastern and Western"? (Syllabus of Errors, Condemned Proposition number 38) Novus Ordo types like Mr. Greydanus might be willing to accuse traditional Catholics, who likewise condemn that heretical proposition, of practicing private judgment, but the accusation is obviously empty and all he has done is make a fool of himself in public.
The papal statement itself is perfectly clear and needs no further interpretation or adjustment; Rome has spoken and the cause is finished. True Catholics hear and obey the words of the Pope and refuse to countenance any purported "Catholic teacher" who dares to teach that which the Pope (Pius IX) has condemned, no matter who that "teacher" is. Vatican II all but contradicts the Pope (Pius IX) by affirming the condemned proposition when it states "... much more serious dissensions appeared and large communities became separated from full communion with the Catholic Church—for which, often enough, men of both sides were to blame." (Unitatis Redintegratio, Paragraph 3) Granted that may escape the charge of full and explicit acceptance of the condemned-as-heretical proposition on the basis that the "men" of the Catholic side of the "both sides" need not include the Pope nor any supposed "exorbitant pretension" on his part, but you know as well as I that is only a minor technicality which places the Vatican II statement only a hairsbreadth away from affirming what Pope Pius IX condemned. In the recent (and ongoing) spate of embarrassing pseudo-apologies going on by John Paul II, how long will it take for him to affirm that which Pope Pius IX condemned in exactly the same words?
The next paragraph, describing the behavior of schismatics, is fine enough in and of itself, but its inclusion at this particular point can only be described as an attempt to imply guilt by association. Traditionalist Catholics are not schismatics and have never been shown to behave that way at any time nor in any way whatsoever. Traditional Catholicism has never been a matter of personal preference. For example, I personally have no objection to having priestesses ordained in the Church. However, the teaching of the old Magisterium (and coincidentally, the new pseudo-magisterium created at Vatican II as well, at least so far) is that such a thing is impossible. For me as a traditional Catholic, that finishes it then and there. Whatever my personal preferences, there can never be priestesses, and I cannot involve myself with anyone who would try to make there be priestesses. Even if some successor of John Paul II were to grant permission for there to be priestesses, I as a devout and traditional Catholic cannot go along with that, nor can I regard such a move as having any authority whatsoever. Will you?
On the other hand, many bishops, archbishops, and even cardinals in full and bilateral union with John Paul II, such as Weakland of Milwaukee, Bernardin of Chicago, or Mahoney of Los Angeles, are and have been quite supportive of many groups, such as Call to Action, which have been criticized (and rightly so) on the pages of This Rock. Clearly, it is the new pseudo-magisterium of Vatican II which goes along with the preferred beliefs of private individuals instead of the Church’s authority. Why do liturgical abuses even of the sort still condemned by the likes of Cardinal Ratzinger still take place? Because certain individuals on that parish’s "liturgical committee" happen to prefer it.
"Who is the arbiter of what does or does not constitute tradition"? Answer: the Traditional Magisterium of the Church, as based on Sacred Scripture, documented in detail by the Ancient Fathers of the Church, demonstrated by example in the lives of the canonized Saints of the Church, theologically and philosophically developed and expounded by the Doctors of the Church, decided upon by the ecumenical and doctrinal Councils of the Church, and authoritatively promulgated and enforced by each and every Bishop of Rome who is in union with his predecessors, and through them, with Peter himself, and through Peter, Christ Himself. Any Catholic catechism worthy of the name would have said something which amounts to that.
In 1964, Paul VI and the entire hierarchy of what had up until then been the Church (but which was already falling into error by means of ambiguity and ill-advised disciplinary moves) jointly and publicly signed a document by which they all renounced their identity with the Roman Catholic Church, the universal jurisdiction of their leader, and their obligation to uphold what has been taught by the Roman Catholic Church up until that point. That fact, which is a matter of legal and public record, is what has permitted them to invent a new pseudo-magisterium so contrary to the Roman Catholic Magisterium and so alien to it that even those who are unaware of that 1964 Roman Schism have correctly sensed its contrariness, and it is also the legal and moral basis for the fact that all Catholics are free to disregard everything promulgated ever since. We Catholics don’t have to discern whether or not "the pope" is orthodox enough, Paul VI has already publicly professed his own incompetency, and John Paul II implicitly does likewise so long as he upholds Vatican II.
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