For Traditionalists, A Time To Listen



I received a lot of email and discussion opportunities over last week’s column, which exhorted readers to stop using such insulting labels as “radtrad” and other labels created with the express purpose of creating division.  I argued that besides failing to accomplish its goal, such terms are beneath our calling as Christians, and should be dropped for that reason alone.   The positive outpouring I received was quite humbling.  I was also humbled by some of the criticisms I received, and the conversations that occurred as a result.  I also received some questions, such as wondering what loyal traditionalists could do to help our brethren away from these terms.

I’m no leader of a cause with deep insight, but if I had to offer anything, I would say that for traditionalists, this is a time for listening, not arguing.  Listen to what our critics say; not all of them are unreasonable ideologues.  Many of them simply don’t know a lot of traditionalists.  Approach them and listen to their concerns.  If we can do anything to help them, do it without complaint.

We also need to be happy warriors.  Far too often, we allow ourselves to be defined by what we aren’t, rather than what we are.  We are traditionalists because we oppose “ambiguity” and clown masses.  If we want to get a little more general and vague, we are traditionalists because we hate liberalism.  This cannot be if we ever hope to be something more than just an irrelevant fringe movement.   By all means continue to oppose error, but it doesn’t hurt to remind people that the traditionalist movement is full of beauty, and those are far better reasons to walk amongst us.

We do want people to walk among us, don’t we?  Catholics as a whole (not just traditionalists) have a problem with being a welcoming Church.  Despite that horribly banal hymn All Are Welcome, we don’t really do a good job with that.  Don’t believe me?  Ask anyone who has been to a Protestant Church who is more welcoming.  On top of this institutional problem Catholicism has (especially in America), we throw in a foreign language and relatively foreign customs.  As a result, we traditionalists need to be even better than our friends across the way.  Even if we think we do a good job, we can and should do better.  Those issues are ones that require immediate and pressing attention.  Some of the following reasons are still issues; it is just that the trend is has reversed in recent years, sometimes dramatically so.

For far too long, traditionalists did not put a face with the insulting moniker used against us.  For a variety of reasons (some justifiable, some not) traditionalists tended to self-segregate from the diocese as a whole.  Since Summorum Pontificum (which liberalized most of the regulations surrounding celebration of the Extraordinary Form), this trend has changed at a pretty remarkable rate.  In just the five years after the Motu Proprio, the Latin Mass saw explosive growth, and more and more people became aware of our existence.  Once we were welcomed into a lot of the dioceses, we turned out to not be the cancer many feared.  We staffed parishes, ran socials, poured money into churches, etc.  The newer Latin Mass groups (particularly the young lay organizations) tended to operate both within the Ordinary and Extraordinary Form, putting into practice Benedict’s desire that the two usages enrich each other.  There is always room for improvement.  If you are a traditionalist and aren’t supporting or joining these organizations with either your prayers or your resources, shame on you.

A final piece of advice would be to realize that there are those within our ranks that are bad Catholics.  We have no problem pointing out the bad Catholics in the other parishes; we should do so with ours, and have no problem admitting this.  We might hate these insulting names, but there’s no doubt that certain individuals will try to use the beauty of traditionalism to insert their own agendas which have nothing to do with the traditions of our fathers.  Call them out, but do so with charity.  One of the most common refrains was that it was functionally impossible to condemn these elements without assigning a name to them such as “radtrad.”  I say we prove them wrong.

The good thing about this problem is that as time goes on, it becomes less and less of a problem.  In previous eras, it was a lot easier to act as if the traditionalist movement was absolutely infested with extremists, and that these individuals posed an existential threat to the Church.  As the Latin Mass grew, people began to find out the truth was far more boring:  traditionalists are mediocre Catholics just like everyone else.  We have a bunch of boring parishioners, a few dissidents, and a few superheroes that make the experience an incredible one.  Since these individuals really are a minority (more often than not relegated to Internet comboxes as their last bastion of influence), we should have no problem pointing that out, to the outsider and to that individual trying to start trouble.

In the end, I would say that the last thing I mentioned should ultimately be our goal.  Sometimes we have attempted to prove we are better than others, or the best Catholics out there.  I think we will have a better chance reminding our brethren in the Ordinary Form that we aren’t that different.  We do our best to try and raise our families in a world which secretly (or not so secretly) despises us.  The one thing we do have in abundance is a desire to grow in holiness, and to use the charisms present in the traditionalist movement to do so.  We may be mediocre, but with our gifts and the sacraments, we look to rise above mediocrity.  We only ask a chance to let us do so.


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  • Jason

    Great stuff overall. The other thing I would add is that traditional minded Catholics should be out front when it comes to supporting and performing charitable works, in particular helping the poor and marginalized. Too often we lament the issues with many supposed Catholic charitable organizations (more often than not for very good reason). However, this does not absolve us from our responsibility to perform those works ourselves. We can show people how the Spiritual Works of Mercy are intimately tied with the Corporal Works of Mercy. Traditional parishes should have great food pantries and other good works going on. These should be tied in with prayer sessions. There are many other ways of approaching this as well For example, those Catholic organizations that do remain faithful to the teachings of the Church should be strongly supported by Traditional Catholics and Parishes offering the Tridentine Mass. In addition, we should come together with Catholics from other parishes, and at the Diocesan level, in the doing of these works and work hard to show people that we have joy in our lives, can laugh at a joke, and are basically just normal people trying to live Christian lives the best we can.

  • noelfitz


    great post. Thanks.

    you wrote about ” a problem with being a welcoming Church”. This is a problem for us all. Do I by what I say or write encourage or discourage fellow-Catholics and others?

    Are my posts in CL constructive?

    • If we asked ourselves that question before we spoke….. we would probably have to shut up about 90% of the time. Of course, what we did say would be a lot more effective!

  • Old Guard

    Unfortunately the integration of traditionalists into a typical diocese or even a parish is a mixed bag. In my diocese, it would be positively unhealthy: the two worlds are so alien to each other that tradition would be overpowered and overwhelmed. Until the mainstream hierarchy is, shall we say, re-oriented, good fences make good neighbors.

    • The truth is…. really, they aren’t. I’m not saying traditionalists give up their Latin Mass or the things that make us traditionalists so lovingly “odd” to the mainstream. I am saying that every now and then, it doesn’t hurt to make common cause with those who aren’t going to the Latin Mass, show up at their BBQ’s, and most importantly, just sit down and talk with them.
      So by all means keep the “camps” and the “fences”, but every now and then you still have to leave your house to go to work.

      • Old Guard

        I agree with this comment, Kevin. I would just remind traditionalists who try to get too friendly with their Novus Ordo neighbors that unbridgeable conflicts will eventually arise. Common ground is tenuous at best. But I’m all for making common cause when the cause doesn’t invert our priorities.

        • We get conflicts all the time at our Latin Mass Chapels. We are traditionalists! Conflict is what we do!
          Is there really that much an unbridgeable gap between those who attend an Latin Ordinary Form Mass Ad Orientam, and believe that because of the potential for ambiguities, you must read Vatican II in light of the greater Church tradition? Probably not.
          So what about the ones where things are certainly a bit more liberal, the guitar masses and all that? Don’t show up to Mass with a guitar. you might not even go to that Mass as not your cup of tea, and I’d probably agree. But it doesn’t hurt when they have events, just make yourself known.
          But it never hurts to have the “old guard” remind the young turks of traditionalism to keep focused. 😉

          • Old Guard

            Speaking for myself, I attend the TLM to *escape* doctrinal, moral, and liturgical conflicts. Everything is settled. I can take off my critic’s hat and just immerse myself in the liturgy and piety of the Church. When traditionalists fight among themselves, they fight over ridiculous little things and I feel perfectly entitled not to participate!

          • Old Guard

            By the way, where are all those Catholics who routinely “attend an Latin Ordinary Form Mass Ad Orientam, and believe that because of the potential for ambiguities, you must read Vatican II in light of the greater Church tradition?” I meet them occasionally on the internet, and at lovely (but tiny) enclaves like Thomas Aquinas College and Christendom College, but there aren’t any in my diocese, that’s for sure.

          • Speaking bluntly, they are a rarity, sometimes even rarer than us traditionalists! Makes me appreciate working with them even more. They know what it’s like to be an abandoned minority. 🙂
            The point was more simply that there are other Catholics outside of our little enclaves who want to work with us to varying degreees. We lose nothing by making ourselves available to them.
            Due to my wife’s pregnancy, I’m not able to get out to the Latin Mass as regularly as I want, so I’m stuck doing an Ordinary Form. I see a lot of those things that really irk me, but in the end, I still think our focus on the Extraordinary Form should be about beauty above all else. Everyone already knows we don’t like the liberal nonsense. No need to emphasize a point we already know.

          • Old Guard

            “I see a lot of those things that really irk me, but in the end, I still think our focus on the Extraordinary Form should be about beauty above all else.”

            I think that’s a mistake. The Novus Ordo also has the potential to be aesthetically beautiful, as do Lutheran and Anglican services. Beauty can direct the soul to God but doesn’t take you all the way there. The most important reason for attending the TLM is that it is the flagship of Catholic Tradition – doctrinal clarity, moral certainty, and orthodox spirituality that literally makes saints.

            Apart from orthodox faith and piety, which is its true source and raison d’tere, the TLM alone – no matter how beautiful – will wither and die.

          • And how can there be beauty without truth? Beauty without truth is a lie, I think we can agree upon that. So when I say I attend the extraordinary form beacuse it is beautiful, I do so for reasons of truth. I go because the symbolism teaches the faith clearly. I go because it helps one to order the things of this earth towards the eternal, something that is sorely lacking in most of what passes as Catholicism today.

            The only difference between us is my position is far more modest. The Church of God has declared that in the Ordinary Form, one can do these things as well. She isn’t changing her mind on that. So I’m free to say that with the Latin Mass, you get in actuality what in most places is still theory for the Ordinary Form. But if you want to work towards doing that in the Ordinary Form, make it a reality not a theory, let me give you some of the insights we traditionalists get that will improve your liturgy.

            I know it can be done, because I did it. When I converted, I had no clue a Latin Mass even existed. Yet somehow, through daily mass, daily bible reading and a prayer life (which looking back left a lot to be desired) I managed to learn and practice my faith, and it is a faith which I haven’t changed one bit since going to the Extraordinary Form. The Extraordinary Form simply made it easier for me to use my faith properly.
            I also share a common cause with my eastern brothers, who though they worship in a way that is pretty alien and foreign to those of us who worship in Western liturgies, we can appreciate they follow the same principles, and I am glad to call them my brethren and my allies in these battles.

            Think I’ll let you have the last word on this particular back and forth, as I think we are approaching the circle point. Unless there’s something else worth exchanging on, I think everyone’s gotten a pretty good view of where we stand. Or feel free to continue this discussion with an email. 🙂

        • Stu


          Point to consider. Should we even refer to our fellow Catholics as “Novus Ordo” in any capacity? I believe such language establishes a division right from the start and that only sets us back a step.

          You attend the EF for the same reasons I do. And I confident that you want to share the joy you have found there. I certainly do. I think first step in dong that is being aware that how we say things matters.

          I find there is A LOT of misconceptions about “traditionalists” among most Catholics. I even witnessed in clergy within my own diocese. Well, we have to overcome those misconceptions and we are going to have to “kill them with kindness” in dong it.

          • Old Guard

            Stu, it’s unfortunate but I think the labels are needed until the crisis is over – or at least on the way out. But for the time being distinctions need to be made in order to communicate clearly.

            The culture of “Novus Ordo” Catholicism is, for the most part, a foreign country with its own lexicon and worldview. Those immersed in the N.O. culture are poorly catechized at best, falsely catechized most of the time, and fall pretty much in line with worldly thinking and behavior on most issues. The quirky subset of Novus Ordo Catholics who watch EWTN and read Catholic Lane are, in my experience, seldom encountered in real life, and they are definitely not influential in most parishes.

            When a person asks you what your religion is, and if he cares enough to want the real answer but doesn’t have time to read a catechism, “Catholic” isn’t enough anymore. It doesn’t tell him anything important. When a person wants to know how to become a Catholic, the last thing you want to do is send him to the local Novus Ordo parish for instruction. That’s just how it is and our language should reflect reality.

          • Stu

            When has there not been a crisis in the Church? And when has there not been “faithful” Catholics in the ranks in need of instruction? That is, after all, why we have the Epistles.

            The need to modify your faith is ultimately self-defeating. It just creates tribes and animosity at a time when we should be talking and ultimately converting. I don’t need to label whole groups of people to steer a would-be Catholic to the right priest for instruction. I just need prudence and grace to use it.

          • Old Guard

            Stu, we’ve never had a crisis in the Church like the crisis we have today. Previous crises were about one easily identifiable heresy or another – gnosticism, iconoclasm, Arianism, Nestorianism, etc. Today’s crisis doesn’t attack just one article of Faith, it attacks them all. Modernism is “the synthesis of all heresies”, as Pope St. Pius X said, and today we are living the dream.

            I understand that labels can be inaccurate and counter-productive sometimes. They should be used prudently and charitably. But language doesn’t create reality, it merely describes reality. Words of some kind (e.g., labels) are necessary to describe the reality of non-trivial distinctions between Novus Ordo Catholicism on one hand, as it is experienced by most, and Catholic tradition on the other.

          • Stu

            Well, at least Christians aren’t being rounded up and summarily executed like in the past.

            Indeed the crisis is different, but the urgency is the same and approach also is the same which is evangelization and not cloistering and drawing lines around each other.

            There aren’t two forms of Catholicism. There is just one; the one we affirm in the Creed every Sunday. And within that one Church, we have people with varying levels of understanding of the Faith. It’s time to engage with them, not put walls up around ourselves.

          • Old Guard

            You can’t engage people on a substantive level without identifying what they believe. Hence, “Novus Ordo Catholicism”.

            I try to be charitable and avoid calling them heretics outright, since most don’t know any better, and you’re still giving me grief. Sigh.

          • Stu

            I have no problem engaging people on a substantive level without the need to put them in a “box.” It’s actually very easy. I simply talk about ideas and not people or groups of people. Avoids the “rabbit holes” of debating what beliefs are “in” or “out” for such a group or who is “in” or “out” of that group.

          • Old Guard

            Then you’re talking and not listening, Stu. Their own beliefs put them in a “box”. You can’t address them intelligently until you know what box they’re in – what they believe.

            OK, I think we’ve beat this horse to death. You’re just one of those “I don’t believe in labels” people and you’re never going to change. 🙂

          • Stu

            Not so fast.
            Who says I don’t know their beliefs? Who says I just talk to them and don’t listen? I know their individual beliefs and ideas because I take the time to discuss them and don’t just put them in a box labeled “Novus Ordo Catholic.”

            As to labels in general. Indeed there is a time and place. But all too often I think labels say more about the people making them than the people receiving them.

          • Old Guard

            Look, refusing to recognize that you’re talking with someone who is a Novus Ordo Catholic is just burying your head in the sand. Until you get into the details, knowing his “box” helps you make some important assumptions. You can assume that he doesn’t believe in biblical inerrancy, that Adam and Eve were our first parents, that the Catholic Church is the only true Church, that Jesus knew He was God from the beginning, that Jesus really fed five thousand men from five loaves of bread, that husbands are the head of the family (this is even missing from the new Catechism!), that capital punishment can be perfectly moral and legitimate, that hell exists and is eternal, that contraception is a sin, that skipping Mass is a sin, that receiving communion in a state of mortal sin is a sacrilege, etc. In fact you can also assume that your Novus Ordo Catholic friend doesn’t know the difference between mortal and venial sin, and if he does, he doesn’t think venial sin is a big deal. You can also assume that he doesn’t believe in purgatory, or the dogma of original sin, or doctrine of the male priesthood. One could go on forever,.That’s the box they’re in, and until you have information to the contrary, that’s what you can and should safely assume about any Novus Ordo Catholic you might encounter.

          • Stu

            I think you are the one not listening.

            I know exactly who I am talking to when I engage n dialogue. That’s because I don’t put them in a pre-concevied box and limit them accordingly. I don’t assume anything about their views but instead get to know them through listening. Then we can discuss ideas.

            All I can say is that my approach has gotten so-called “Novus Ordo Catholics” to my EF parish as well as converts. I simply don’t see merit in making tribes.

          • Old Guard

            “I don’t assume anything about their views but instead get to know them through listening.”

            With all due respect, either you’re not being honest with yourself or you’re turning off your God-given rational faculties. This discussion started with Mr. Tierney’s plea that we traditionalists mingle a little more with our Novus Ordo “brethren”. I’m merely pointing out that mingling, when it comes to religion, is not without its dangers and we need to make some prudent assumptions before doing so. You already do this when it comes to other groups, I’m sure, so why the blinders when it comes to Novus Ordo folks?

            Figuring out Novus Ordoism isn’t rocket science. We know what kinds of ideas are in their heads. It makes no sense to crash their retreats, bible studies, barbeques and swim parties as though we haven’t a clue. You’ll stand out like a sore thumb and be “marked” the first time you say or do something traddy.

            Now, one-on-one relationships are a little different, and there are more possibilities for influence. In either case you have to start somewhere, knowing whatever you know about the person or people, basing your dialogue on *tentative* assumptions that are of course subject to revision as the relationship develops. This “labeling” process, if done intelligently, is not limiting but liberating and will save everyone a great deal of time and effort, enabling you to cut to the chase in whatever dialogue you’re looking for.

          • Stu

            Putting people into your “Novus Ordoism” box might be comfortable for you, but it does nothing for changing minds. It’s limiting and can lead to false preconceptions about people. It’s the flip side of the “radtrad” label. In fact, both camps probably deserve each other because all they talk about is “us” and “them.”

            Standing out like a sore thumb isn’t my worry. Never has been. I just get to know people and kindly put forth the truth. It works.

          • CDville

            Please, crash our pro-life events; we always need more prayer support. If you can speak the truth in love, you are welcome to our Bible studies, too. I am sorry to hear that LMCs do not like to swim, or is that a doctrine left out of the new catechism? I would hope that the LMCs here in Texas eat barbecue, though.

          • Funny, go to your average “Novus Ordo Catholic”who goes to mass every sunday, prays every day, and they probably believe the opposite of what you think they do.
            But in order to do that, you actually have to relate to them. There’s a lot of things I’ll feud with individuals like Dave Armstrong, Catholic Answers, and the Wanderer with. Whether or not there is an all male priesthood, a difference between venial and mortal sins ain’t it.

          • That’s not really accurate. Why not look at the various Albegensian or Cathar heresies of the middle ages. Or Jansenism. These were incredibly hard to pin down, and could be just as hard to describe, because of the amount of “wiggle room” they had, especially the Jansenists. And gnosticism really wasn’t an easily identifiable hersey that only denied one doctrine, it pretty much denied every doctrine in one way or another. (It’s why Irenaeus wrote so forecfully.)
            To say that we haven’t had a time where a majority of catholics behaved badly…. again, I don’t buy it looking at the historical record. Just like in the Old testament, Catholics behaving badly seems to be par for the course. What makes something a golden age isn’t how many people were living out the true faith, but the opportunities for grace that were available, and how the actions of individuals strengthened the Church as a whole even in spite of those outright rotten catholics.

  • johnnyc

    How did protestants get into this? I really don’t understand Catholics who lament about the Church not being welcoming to protestants. We are supposed to evangelize them, right? There’s a reason for that, right? I guess it’s where you live or something. I am surrounded by them and guess what….they don’t like us. I’m not a big fan of CAF but one apologist said it right…..

    You want to feel welcome? Become Catholic.

    As far as the whole labeling thing……..I’ll happily live with any label that dissociates me from ‘catholics’ who support abortion, homosexual ‘marriage’ and women priests.

    • Stu

      “they don’t like us.”
      Why not try to change that? It can be done without compromising your beliefs or sucking up. In fact, it helps in changing minds.

      As for the labeling, why put yourself in a box? I’m Catholic. I’ll let other modify their faith with some adjective. Not me.

      • johnnyc

        Them not liking us doesn’t bother me….does it bother you? Comes with the territory especially where I live 🙂 I was just responding to the comment that Catholics are not welcoming. You can be the most welcoming charitable person in the world but once you get to the part about the Catholic Church is the One True Church that Christ founded and yours isn’t your not gonna be considered charitable no matter how big a smile you say it with. We are called to defend the faith and proclaim the Truth. That’s what I do.

        The ‘other’ is not modifying their faith with an adjective either so when someone says….’well Nancy Pelosi is Catholic and she says’…… lol.

        • Stu

          You and I have different experiences in changing minds I guess. It’s not about wanting people to “like you.” It’s about not giving them a reason to dismiss you before you can begin to share the Truth.

          As to the “other”, that’s not my problem. But apparently what others think about you bothers you.

          • johnnyc

            ‘it’s not about wanting people to “like you.’

            Yep….that’s what I said.

            It’s about proclaiming the Truth of the One True Church of Jesus Christ and His teachings. The Truth itself is polarizing.

          • Stu

            Absolutely is it polarizing. No need to preempt that by making your personality polarizing.

    • Johnny,
      With all due respect, I feel you jumped the gun here. I only mentioned Protestants to make a point: They do a lot of things to make people feel welcome. It’s one of the reason heretical sects are so successful. As Christ said in the parable, the children of the world are smarter than the children of light.

      I wasn’t saying “The Church isn’t welcoming to Protestants” It was more that in our individual communities, a lot of times they aren’t welcoming to ANYONE. That’s what happens when you have a lukewarm church. So take that lukewarm mediocrity, and add a foreign language and foreign customs. So now we gotta go above and beyond.

      • johnnyc

        So what do you mean by a lot of times Catholic communities are not welcome? What gives you that impression? What does lukewarm Church, foreign language and customs have to do with it?

        • Go to your average parish. Find out how many of them do things as a community. Not just Mass and the occasional Bible study. But they not just worhsip together, the majority of parishoners break bread together at their home’s once a month or greater.
          When they organize things off site so to speak (a theology on tap, a social function, etc) do more than 10% of the parishoners show to these things? When Catholicism flourishes, it does so for two reasons: her doctrines, and her community.

          Today’s Church is pretty crappy on the doctrine aspect (hey, I think even non-trads can agree with me on that!), is it really a stretch to say that we lack a communitarian understanding of our faith as well? Where are the Catholic Civic Organizations like we used to have them? Where’s the modern day Catholic Action like in its heyday?

          Catholicism as a whole lacks that real sense fo community, and bringing people into a community nowadays. A weak Church suffers in that area as well. Now enter traditionalists into the picture. Due to our small numbers, we face that same issue in regards to the community. Intensify that because many of us don’t live in the same neighborhoods, and drive 30 miles or more to get there. To the person who has absolutely no understanding of the Latin Mass, this is going to be a tough sell. Then add on the foreign language and custom.

          Those people can be won over, but we’ve gotta go above and beyond the normal mediocrity of today’s christianity to accomplish it.

  • NO/Trad

    My home parish is N.O., but I attend the TLM when I can. Both are enriching to my life and I love to live a blend of the spirituality expressed by both, faithfully in-step with the Magisterium. Kevin’s article is spot on.

    Want to dispel the erroneous teaching within some N.O. parishes? Don’t pull the Amish card. Join N.O.’s in their events. My N.O. parish happens to be far more orthodox and charitable than any parish I’ve ever been to, TLM OR N.O… At the same time, I was formerly a Protestant who went through an RCIA program at a different N.O. parish than the one I attend now. I ended up correcting the instructor on the ridiculous heretical views she claimed the Church espouses. Does that mean all N.O.’s are without solid teaching? No. The rich blend of the TLM tradition brings a much needed and often-missing element to the N.O. parishes….namely that of teaching, historical understanding, and theological depth. What do N.O. parishes often do better than TLM parishes?…Love. They know how to do positively oriented community in unity of what they stand for, not what they all reject. They know how to embrace outsiders with love and compassion. They know how to meet someone where they’re at instead of expecting them to come back when they’re at where the rest of us are. It’s not that the TLM is completely without any of these things, but I’m just being honest in my experience of both types of parishes, of which I have had a variety of in-depth experiences with. If one does not have love, they are nothing but a resounding gong (1 Cor 13). But then, what is love without truth? You see, we all need each other. In heaven, we will all be worshipping at the same altar, with one voice in unison. Why should we not work towards a better unity in all things always?