Why We Should Stop Saying “Radical Traditionalist” and “Rad Trad”


Pope Benedict XVI with Coat of ArmsA few weeks ago, Catholic Answers live did a show on “radical traditionalism” that drew the ire of traditionalists across the board, “radical” and otherwise.  The two senior apologists hosting the show took to the Catholic Answers blog to defend their show from the “Radical Traditionalists” and “mad-trad” point of view.  They have also promised that on August 12, they would devote another show to the issue, in the hopes of clarifying any misunderstandings.  If they really want to help with these misunderstandings, the first thing they must do is the thing they will be least inclined to do:  drop the moniker “radical traditionalist” and “radtrad” entirely.  At best the phrase is a relic of a time that is no longer relevant.  At worst, the term is creating animosity and perpetuating a growing sense of tribalism within Catholicism, especially in America.

When these individuals used the phrase “radical traditionalist”, they offered what they felt was a useful distinction.  They had no problem with the “good” traditionalist who loves the Latin Mass, has a large Catholic family, and frequently do heroic work for the pro-life cause.  Their problem is with the “radical” traditionalists, those who believe the Second Vatican Council formally teaches error, that the Ordinary Form of the Mass is invalid/evil, and who separate themselves from communion with the Roman Pontiff.  That they find this distinction useful only proves one thing; they don’t actually know any traditionalists.

If we take this distinction seriously, then how can one not say that implicit in all traditionalists is a rebellious spirit that will embrace erroneous views or enter into schism?  Let us set the record straight:  Stating an ecumenical council actually teaches heretical doctrine is wrong no matter who makes that claim.  Deliberately separating yourself from communion with the Roman Pontiff is wrong no matter what language we like our liturgy in.  If you believe there are good traditionalists, then it must follow that these so called radical traditionalists aren’t actually traditionalists at all.

This leads us to the second reason the Catholic commentariat should drop the moniker:  it is counter-productive.  When is the last time Catholic Answers has done a radio show warning us of Radical Lutherans?    We don’t use such terms because it poisons the well.  If people are in error, Catholics should want them to abandon those errors, and remove anything that is an undue barrier to that goal.  Why do we show such compassion to our friends across the Tiber, but not to the SSPX?

The most important reason to abandon this talk is for our own sanctification.  If we abandon using phrases like “radical traditionalist”, we reject the darker side of our human nature; you add a moniker to a name to delegitimize it.  In politics, a conservative never talks about “radical conservatives”, or a liberal about “radical liberals.”  We reserve those epithets for those we don’t like, and those we don’t want.

Now you may be wondering:  yet why would we want those who proclaim heresy in our ranks?  To those who are truly obstinate and reject every attempt at mercy, they indeed will never be in our ranks.  This misses the point though:  you aren’t delegitimizing the radicals when you use that term, you are telling people that traditionalists (radical and otherwise) are the dreaded other.  That is how it works in reality.  It is akin to hanging a huge “Not Welcome” sign on not just your parish doors, but your own home.  Even if traditionalists rose above the imperfections of humanity to always be angels, we can never be equal Catholics in such an environment.  No matter how good and holy we are, we are under suspicion of being the radical.  Any traditionalist can tell you the stories of how they have always been under suspicion for absolutely nothing, and when confronted about it, the whole “radtrad” nonsense comes up.

As a way for both sides to protect themselves from this situation, we end up only surrounding ourselves with those who think exactly like we do and do things exactly the same way we do.  There is no legitimate diversity in expressing the Catholic faith, only one way:  yours.  Pope Francis condemned this mentality as a product of a “self-referential Church” and viewed it impossible to spread the Gospel to the nations with this mindset.  How can we welcome the outsider into the Catholic Church when we won’t even welcome our brother to the table?  Traditionalists self-segregate, and the growing isolation self-perpetuates.  At that point, we aren’t a Church.  We are bands of barbarians led by different warlords and personality cults.  We aren’t asking for much.  We are simply asking to be treated as equals.

In the past eleven years as a traditionalist, this is a reality I have slowly come to terms with in regards to my own conduct.    During the years I started writing as a traditionalist (2002-2005), we had a moniker for those who, in their attempt to oppose traditionalists, substituted their own pet ideas for the dogmatic teaching of the Church.  We called them “Neo-Catholics.”  Around 2005 I started dropping the term from my lexicon.  To this day, I can’t give one precise event that caused this to happen.  Maybe it was because there was nothing “Neo” that these individuals were doing.  The idea of substituting our own personal preferences for God’s law goes back not to the Second Vatican Council, but the Garden of Eden.   I also had to force myself into consistency.  I never used the phrase “rad-trad” when dealing with the SSPX and other groups for all the reasons I outlined.  I couldn’t in conscience abandon these principles when dealing with those who weren’t into the Latin Mass.

Perhaps the most important reason was that I had to start dealing with those who weren’t traditionalists.  After Summorum Pontificum (which relaxed almost all of the restrictions surrounding when the Latin Mass could be celebrated), people were coming to our Latin Mass centers who weren’t traditionalists.  We wanted them to keep coming.  Yet they aren’t going to stay when you are constantly suspicious of them being the dreaded “Neo-Catholic”, or being blunt, a second-class citizen.  In many ways they were just like me:  they were trying to give God the most glory they could through their worship, and they were doing the best they could to follow the traditions of our fathers.  I would wager my experience is not atypical.  The more a traditionalist works to spread the Latin Mass outside his own circles, the less he uses the term Neo-Catholic.

A final reason to drop the moniker is that we tell Pope Benedict XVI his efforts weren’t wasted.  He worked harder than anyone else in his life to reconcile the SSPX and other groups to full communion with the Church, removing every possible barrier, as long as doing so didn’t contradict defined Church teaching.  In Ut Unum Sint, Blessed John Paul II invited everyone to figure out a way that papal authority could be maintained, but presented in a way that didn’t hinder Christian unity.  We should be doing the same in our own personal lives to make that full communion a reality.  Or we could just continue perpetuating this pointless tribalism and make the situation worse.  The choice is yours.


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  • GuitarGramma

    I agree with everything you say. I appreciate that you no longer call someone like me a “Neo-Catholic,” and that you object to the phrase “Rad Trad.”
    Yet I have a point of confusion. I have friends who call themselves “Rad Trads.” I guess I thought this was a term of endearment. Is there a double standard here (I can call myself one thing, but you can’t)?
    I am not trying to undermine your essay — it is very sound. But can you help me understand why I’ve only heard “Rad Trad” from my “Latin Mass” friends?

    • Kevin Tierney

      I really don’t know your circle of friends/colleagues, so I will be honest, I cannot comment on their particular circumstances.
      I can say that the phrases were coined by people who were using it in a fashion to belittle and demean others, primarily as a tit for tat from the insults the “radtrads” would deliver. Perhaps your friends use it as a badge of honor?
      As far as my personal opinion, I don’t think there should be a double standard. Such terms like radical traditionalist and radtrad are seldom if ever helpful. We really should just disarm on that front. I say this as a Latin Mass attendee for the past 11 years.

      • GuitarGramma

        Thank you. Of course you’re right! How could I even ask you what my friends were thinking? We agree on so many fronts, the first of which is that name calling is always belittling and demeaning; how can it ever lead to productive dialogue? May God bless you.

        • GuitarGramma

          Ah — here is the missing post, suddenly re-appeared. Very odd. At least this time it wasn’t lost forever.

      • GuitarGramma

        Hi Kevin — As often happens on Catholic Lane, I posted a reply to you yesterday and it has disappeared. I will repeat to the best of my memory what I wrote then:
        Of course you are right! You could not possibly know the thoughts and motivations of my friends. I honestly thought that “Rad Trad” was a term they invented as kind of a clubby, chummy self-imposed nickname. In fact, that’s how it was first presented to me, and I quote, “We call ourselves ‘Rad Trads.'”
        I appreciate your article because it has helped me to see that I might have used the term in an offensive manner, having misunderstood its origen.
        Back to today:
        I see that this conversation has progressed and that tempers have flared. I am sorry to see that. Your article was sober and well written.

        • Hmph. Not sure what happened. I checked the spam queue and it wasn’t there.

          As far as tempers flaring, it’s the internet. If tempers can’t flare, what good is the internet? Very rarely do combox discussions focus on the sane and rational, before descending into flame wars.

          I still think there may be progress coming out of this yet. If not on the meta level, out of those such as yourself who, once they were better informed, stopped using the term because they wanted to be better at spreading the Gospel, even to those who least deserve our charity.
          So far the response has been overwhelmingly positive from both sides of the fence.

  • noel fitzpatrick


    You wrote:
    “We agree on so many fronts, the first of which is that name
    calling is always belittling and demeaning; how can it ever lead to productive

    I also agree fully with this, insulting comments, like referring
    to the President of the US as “the Kenyan Tyrant” is not constructive.


    I also agree with you. Again name calling is divisive.

    But I always agree with you, since I consider your views sound and

    • GuitarGramma

      Noel, my friend, I’m sure you didn’t mean to imply that I personally have ever called my President “the Kenyan Tyrant.” However, someone reading your post in isolation might think you were quoting me from some past post.
      And so, in defense of myself, I would like to go on record as NEVER having called President Obama any demeaning name whatsoever. I do vociferously disagree with most of his policies — particularly his pro-abortion stance — but I do not resort to name calling.
      I hope you’ll back me up on this!

  • David L Alexander

    When referring to any sort of collective, it is not unheard of to adopt a name for such reference. What do we call them now?

    • Bob Brown

      If you hold and submit to the teachings of the Church both Divine and Magisterial, then you would be Catholic.

      • David L Alexander

        Bob, I didn’t put conditions on it. Obviously, if all were on the same page, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. But we’re not, so we are inclined to draw distinctions in the form of “labelling,” if you will. My question remains.

        • Bob Brown

          And my answer remains.
          Either you are Catholic or you are not.

          • David L Alexander

            An answer that doesn’t address a question is not an answer to that question.

          • Bob Brown

            I directly answered your question.
            Your question: “What do we call them now?”
            My direct answer: “Catholic”
            It would appear you would like to avoid the premiss of the article in which you have chosen to comment on.

        • Stu

          What should all of us label you?

          I’m not sure such “identity politics” does any good.

          I say discuss ideas, not people.

          • David L Alexander

            Very well, here’s an idea *about* people.

            Distinctions by label are not so much driven by ideology, as they are a human need to be able to tell one thing from another. And to answer your question, my Facebook profile lists me thus: “Roman Catholic (old school, with a twist).”

          • Stu

            I can tell one idea from another without having to create an “us” vs “them” paradigm, especially if my goal is to capture hearts and minds.

            And I am confident that many so-called “Rad Trads” would characterize themselves as “Roman Catholic (old school, and even with a twist). So I’m not sure there that gets us. I am humored by a few apologists/bloggers out there coming up with their own definitions (that do vary) of what a “Rad Trad” is. I think better time would be spent reflecting on who we are.

          • David L Alexander

            “I can tell one idea from another without having to create an ‘us’ vs ‘them’ paradigm …”

            So can I, but distinctions are not always diametrically opposed, therefore that cannot be their essential purpose, but instead is an accidental purpose.

          • I guess David here’s the thing:
            think we all grant that it is some deep human need. So is rebelling against God. It’s kinda hardwired in our nature. Sometimes that nature needs to be overcome.

            The need to classify is one of the things that helps us advance, but also regress. It can lead to great things, but it can also lead to discrimination, hatred, persecution, etc.
            So if we can do it without the insulting monikers, why the heck not?

          • David L Alexander

            “So if we can do it without the insulting monikers …”

            Then don’t. This is not always possible in framing a scenario, and it is not always designed to insult.

          • Sometimes our designs end up not surviving contact with reality. We don’t mean an insult, but it comes across that way. If we can avoid it, we should.
            I think in this instance, it certainly is possible, and there’s evidence that it is possible.

            Still, an honest answer.

        • I just want a modest first step. Let’s not call names that were designed to insult people, and let’s not use names as a way to demean and belittle others, no matter how mistaken and wrong they are.

          So let’s accomplish that, then we can come back later and worry about everything else.

          • David L Alexander

            Fine, you go do that. Meanwhile, I have to be able to tell A from B, and B from C. All I have to do that are words.

          • A.) Truth

            B.) Error

            C.) Somewhere in Between

            D.) false, deceitful, rash, scandalous, injurious to the Roman Pon-tiffs and the Church, injurious to the Divine Gifts, derogatory to the obedience due to the Apostolic Constitutions, schismatic, dangerous, at least erroneous, and my personal favorite, offensive to pious ears.
            Seriously, I just read Auctorium Fidei for all of those condemnations, and not once did they label an individual person with a derogatory label, condemning only the ideal. how the heck did the Pope manage to do that?
            All these centuries later, it’s a pretty lawl encyclical. We’re all a bunch of amateurs when it comes for creative ways to condemn the sin but not the sinner.

          • David L Alexander

            Thankfully, I’ve started to forget what this argument is about. The day is done, gone the sun, and tomorrow is another day. God bless.

        • The answer? Wheaton’s Law.

      • Pax

        So? is it acceptable to attempt to ‘label’ the people who call themselves Catholics but who will not and do not submit to the Magisterium , even to the point of declaring the current pope as being invalid and Vatican II as being heretical? I’ve never been able to completely get on the ‘no labeling’ bandwagon, because although labeling a group as ‘other’ can and is often a way of marginalizing certain people , without the use of sufficient words communications simply become difficult. For the record I’ve generally don’t use labels to group Catholics , I encourage all to be orthodox in there belief and not focus on right or left, but higher and deeper truth. However, there are bounds outside of which on cease to be catholic, Some of them include supporting legal abortion and embracing birth control and / or denying that the pope and bishops have the authority to make changes to the liturgy. I tend to call all those folks ‘heretics’.

  • Bob Brown

    The Church is truly universal. She crosses all boarders with ease. She is instituted by Our Lord and belongs to Him.

    I enjoy the Latin Mass because I find people that go there are typically more modest. The FSSP Priests at the parish I attend are preaching in a way that edifies my soul and lifts my mind to the Divine. Also when I go to confession I get quality spiritual direction from them.
    All that being said. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with the current ordinary form of the Mass! There are certainly abuses in the parishes some worse than others. These abuses are not the fault of the form of the Mass, but rather the fault of those having free will to be reverent or not.

    It should be noted that there are actually more than two forms of Mass being celebrated legitimately around the planet. I have been to a Byzantine Mass once and was very pleased with the beauty of its form. That form of the Mass is neither “Missal 1962” or “Novus Ordo”.

    • Ben

      Minor correction, no offense meant: Byzantine Divine Liturgy.

  • Moniker

    Is it monikers that are truly at issue here or are monikers, including ‘traditionalist’, just a symptom of a deeper root cause? It seems to me the problem of monikers would dissipate when those at the foot of the Cross stop casting lots in the name of liturgy and councils.

    Yes, perhaps ‘lot casters’ would be the best moniker of all? Lot caster would seem to cover the whole spectrum.

    • I would say the biggest issue is that of inventing names to insult, demean, and separate. If someone wants to call themselves a charismatic, but works to help all Catholics grow deeper in touch with the Holy Spirit, even those who aren’t that big into a lot of what the charismatics are, good for them.

      When someone calls themselves a charismatic as a way of saying they have a hotline on the Spirit, or we call someone a charismatic to imply they are a quasi-protestant loon, bad.

      Likewise, someone calls themselves a traditionalist, loves the Latin Mass, reads the Church Fathers and Aquinas, participates in a host of obscure but frankly awesome ancient devotions, and tries to help everyone he knows, no matter what liturgy they attend, appreciate in greater depth the tradition of the fathers? Good.

      Someone who calls themselves a traditionalist implying that they have reached the epitome of Catholicism, which those mouthbreathers in the “Novus Bogus” are incapable of ascending to? Bad. Calling someone a “radtrad” as a way of showing how scary and bad they are? Bad. Really, I don’t call Miguel Cabrera a “radical” hitter.

      • Moniker

        So all the casting of lots at the foot of the Cross is okay just as long as noone is insulted, demeaned, and separated? I’m not sure I can agree with you on this point.

        • If one is casting lots over a Council, Pope, or Mass then yes, I would agree, that’s a bad thing. It’s kinda a heretical thing, minus the kinda. Yet you’d be surprised how few truly do this. Those people are wrong and deserve condemnation for their errors (without insulting the person!)

          • Moniker

            On this we can agree. I’ve long suspected that a very few have caused the corrupted perception of many. I also suspect that the very few are much less attached to tradition and much more attached to masonry.

  • Here’s my wager to those who feel the need to label….

    Drop it for 6 months.

    I wager you lose absolutely nothing, and you might even gain something. Prove me wrong, and I’ll send you a case of your favorite American Craft Beer. Once I’m proven right however, you have to send me mine, which for the record is Left Hand Brewing Company’s Nitro Milk Stout.

    • Dave Armstrong

      Bob Sungenis has stated on his website that Pope Paul VI was a practicing sodomite. That’s but one example of a billion, of outrageous radtrad proclamations (he also trashes Blessed JPII, of course — as radtrads have done for 30 years) and trashed BXVI for daring to beatify him).

      Such attitudes fully need to have some sort of label attached to them, because that ain’t mainstream traditionalism. It’s calumny from the pit of hell.

      I call that “radtrad.” You say call it nothing at all; but it is necessary to have labels for any major category in life. That’s how language works, and it is “sociologically” necessary. As I have argued with you in the last week (with no reply from you; but I do understand you’re busy with many things), if I say “traditionalist” only, then I get into all kinds of trouble, because my critiques are aimed at radtrads 90% of the time, not the larger mainstream traditionalist community. Therefore, if I don’t differentiate, I catch hell daily about supposedly arguing that all trads are of a radtrad nature.

      It’s absolutely necessary to make this differentiation, and is an act of charity towards my traditionalist brethren, with whom I have MUCH in common (as one who has attended Latin Mass for 22 years, etc.)

      • And that is where you are dead wrong Dave. I never said “call it nothing.” I said call it wrong, call it offensive, call it erroneous, just no need to attach a pesonal insult to demean the person, rather than the idea.

        Is denying the Holocaust, calling Paul VI a sodomite, do these things have anything to do with traditionalism of whatever variant? No. They have to do with some ideas that are sick, offensive and perverse.

        Why can I say that, and everyone understands I’m not indicting all, most, or barely any traditionalists outside of those who say those ideas, and you catch hell daily?

        You can continue beating your head against a brick wall, do so all you want. It’s your headache. I prefer simpler ways that lose nothing and gain a surprising amount of goodwill. Feel free to do what you want Dave.

        Our discussion is concluded for now. Enjoy having the last word, I know you’ll make the most of it. 😉

        • Dave Armstrong

          KEVIN: And that is where you are dead wrong Dave. I never said “call it nothing.” I said call it wrong, call
          it offensive, call it erroneous, . . .

          ME: Of course, I meant in context that you don’t want to attach the label; “radtrad” to it (which is what your article is about), so much ado about nothing . . .

          KEVIN: Is denying the Holocaust, calling Paul VI a sodomite, do these things have anything to do with traditionalism of whatever variant? No. They have to do with some ideas that are sick, offensive and perverse.

          ME: And it has to do with ideas that it is fully justified to label with the word “radtrad.” It’s right and justifioable to call it “sick, offensive and perverse” and also to call it “radtrad.” You’re just playing games with words to think that calling it those three words is warranted while calling it “radtrad” is an outrage against charity. It’s ludicrous!

          Bob Sungenis is regarded as a great apologist, still today, by many people, and at one time his books were recommended by many of the big names. That’s why his example is perfectly relevant of what can happen and why it has to be opposed, including by use of pointed labels. You can ignore him and go on your merry way if you like. I cannot, as an apologist whose job it is to combat error and to help folks avoid falling into it.

          KEVIN: You can continue beating your head against a brick wall, do so all you want. It’s your headache.

          ME: I agree. Attempted “dialogue” with you definitely is like that. Good description!

          KEVIN: Our discussion is concluded for now. Enjoy having the last word, I know you’ll make the most of it. 😉

          ME: Before it has barely begun. But that is so often the case these days. Just when there is a chance to have a solid, meaty discussion and resolve some important issues, one party is unwilling to continue on. Your choice. Let it be known that you’re unwilling to defend your public assertions against close scrutiny.

          Whether I’m dead wrong or right, it is clear that the bulk of my counter-arguments against what you are maintaining have been ignored. So be it.

        • Stu

          Now we can add calling Paul VI a “sodomite” as rhetoric indicative of being a “rad trad”. The list the describes “them” get’s bigger. I anticipated belief in chemtrails or being bad at math as the next set of indicators. It’s the Catholic blogging equivalent of the bogeyman. Watch out! He’s everywhere.

          • Dave Armstrong

            You show yet again, Stu, that you have decided to remove yourself from the sphere of rational, civil dialogue (which is a shame). I already explained why I brought up Sungenis: it is perfectly relevant to the discussion. Yet you want to characterize it as paranoid / conspiratorial-type rhetoric.

            I certainly won’t bother with you ever again, with attempted discussion on anything, barring some major change of methodology. You relentlessly mock or misrepresent my arguments. Flail away. I’m no longer interested. St. Paul tells us to avoid foolish discussions and needless controversies, and I always try to follow his example and advice.

          • Stu


            You clearly have a lot invested in being able to use your particular pet epithet. Suggesting that you change now is understandably a big deal. I mock your IDEA here because that is what it warrants. It creates a “needless controversy.”

            I’ve actually bought some of your books. You do a great job of researching and presenting the information and I honestly commend you for that. While I could certainly write a book, I know that I don’t have the heart to stick it out and actually do it. So again, you get respect from me on that. But even with that, you are way out in left field on this issue. Way out. So much so, I just don’t take you seriously on this.

            But don’t fear, I won’t categorize you into some “group think” label. 😉

          • Dave Armstrong

            I appreciate you buying my books, and the class of this answer; doesn’t change my mind about dialogue, though, if this is the sort of way you do it.

            Even if my reasoning on this is perfectly absurd and even worthy of mocking and guffaws (and some things truly are of that nature), in charity you still would have the responsibility to SHOW me why, specifically. But you have not; nor has Kevin or anyone else: not anywhere near the depth of what would be dialogically required, given the multi-faceted argument I have produced.

            So don’t expect me to change my mind, failing that. I won’t do so because I am mocked and have all kinds of junk attributed to me falsely. I will do so — if I do — because of REASON, just as I did in becoming a Catholic (read one of my many conversion stories) and changing my mind on many issues through the years (the most recent being a softening to some extent in my criticism of Michael Voris: that was only about two weeks ago).

            Be well and blessed.

          • Stu


            I have tried to show you in good faith “why”, multiple times, including on your own blog. You disagree. Not much more can be said. But don’t claim that no one has taken the time to make such a case. Even I wouldn’t claim that you haven’t tried to make your case. You have. I disagree.

            I don’t have to take your opinion seriously either. I don’t see merit in it. I’m sure you mean well in all of this. Well, well-meaning people can be really wrong too. It is what it is. At this point, it’s about presenting alternative viewpoints. I’m comfortable with that even if it means commenting on what I see as just plain silliness.

          • Dave Armstrong

            I’ve presented many new arguments in the last week. You couldn’t have replied to those because they’re brand-new, in their specificity. I’m saying I wont change my mind unless those are dealt with and refuted, to my satisfaction. That can hardly be done when you and Kevin ignore them altogether, and you mock and belittle as well.

          • Stu

            I’m beyond trying to change your mind.

          • Dave Armstrong

            I’m never beyond being willing to have my mind changed. And that is part of the essential silliness of these exchanges, as you have framed them.

            If you want to express (Kevin) or support a particular viewpoint (yourself), it seems to me that you should interact with a vigorous critic of it, and one who is a recipient of the criticisms. But you guys don’t want to, for the most part.

            You can conclude that I am beyond all hope, but there is no basis for that. I changed my mind about some aspects of Michael Voris just a few weeks ago. I’m perfectly willing to be persuaded, and if that were done, you would have changed the mind of the person presently devoting the most energy to defending the use of “radtrad.”

            The casual assumption that a person has a profoundly closed mind and can never be persuaded otherwise, is itself quite uncharitable and kills good discussion faster than almost anything. And it is demonstrably contrary to fact in my case.

            Staples and Coffin aren’t even doing that. They opted for “mad-trad,” which I myself think is considerably less defensible and more insulting than “radtrad” ever was, as well.

          • Stu

            I didn’t characterize the exchange of ideas as “silliness.” My use of that word is in reference to marginalizing of groups through labeling in lieu of discussing ideas.

            As to interacting with a “vigorous critic”, there are limits to discourse. I haven’t found exchanges with you on this topic to be very productive. Again, it is what it is. Does that mean I think you are “beyond all hope”? No, and I never implied such. It just means I don’t believe I am going to change your mind. Instead, I remain happy to simply put forth a countering viewpoint and let others decide on which side of the debate they lie.

          • Catholic

            So I think Sungenis assists at the OF. So how is he a radtrad?

          • Raguel

            He’s just a rad-trad because Dave personally doesn’t like him. Which is what a rad-trad usually is, just a traditional Catholic you personally don’t like. Rad-trad doesn’t even describe anything, it’s a derogative term and nothing more.

      • Stu

        Sounds like a Bob Sungenis proclamation. No need to attribute it to an entire group of people to address it. This deep feeling to categorize people into “them” just isn’t practical. In fact, it is increasingly farcical.

      • Raguel

        “Bob Sungenis has stated on his website that Pope Paul VI was a practicing sodomite. That’s but one example”

        Actually it’s not an example, it’s an unsubstantiated rumor that you are spreading.

        How about you back up your claims now with sources and tell us what he really said?

  • Dave Armstrong

    For anyone who is interested, I have replied at great length in two Facebook threads (and have covered this topic many times already on my blog). I’m one of the ones Kevin has directly in mind, in his article, and he and I have been discussing it on his site and mine in the last week.

    Here is the reply post on my Facebook page, which is public. Anyone is welcome to come comment and interact there:


    • Just to clariffy…. Dave really wasn’t on my mind when I wrote this. I wrote the first draft for this right after the CA show. 🙂

      But I also think it’s a good reference point for two different worldviews, how they interact, and more importantly, where they depart.

      • Dave Armstrong

        That’s fine. I still use the term “radtrad” (including in my recent book on the general topic) and am taking the slings and arrows for doing so, and providing extensive rationale for my usage, including interaction with you and lengthy analysis even of the etymology of the word in the last 20 years in Catholic circles. It was coined in the mid-90s by Sandra Miesel, and used early on by Mark Shea, Pete Vere, and Scott Windsor; and in the mid-2000s, by Jimmy Akin: all before I ever used it at all. In my 2002 book on “traditionalism” I sometimes used “quasi-schismatic.”

        If someone wants to see a serious attempt at definition (don’t go by Kevin’s skewed, cynical straw-man representation of what we supposedly mean by “radtrad”: those of us who use the term), see my papers:



      • Dave Armstrong

        “Just to clariffy…. Dave really wasn’t on my mind when I wrote this. I wrote the first draft for this right after the CA show. 🙂 ”

        My observation of me being in your head (to some extent) vis-a-vis this article didn’t come from nowhere. It came from your statement on your website yesterday:

        “Over the past two weeks I’ve been working on an article which calls for the terms “radical traditionalist” and “radtrad” to be dropped from the popular lexicon. Part of this was even done in a dialogue with Dave Armstrong one can see in previous posts.”

        Whether I was or not is irrelevant to my arguments. Just splainin’ why I thought that . . .

    • Dave Armstrong

      Excerpt from my Facebook paper (David L. Alexander below reflects some of this sort of thinking in his comments, too, and Kevin is not adequately rebutting these factors):


      My so-called “need” to label people comes not from apologetics or some personal thing on my part, but from the very nature of discussion where categories, and especially errors are involved. Kevin falls back on almost psychological analysis, rather
      than linguistic and theological critique, which is where it should
      proceed, in my opinion.

      I am differentiating categories, and some folks misunderstand that I supposedly put them in a category that I definitely do NOT put them in.

      Now Kevin comes along and says in effect that “we understand all that [though other motifs in his larger argument contradict this]; we still say, nevertheless, that the radtrad category comes and hits us in the butt, and tars us with the same brush, no matter how unreasonable that is, based on the definitions used, and no matter how many hundreds of times it is clearly stated that this is not the case at all.”

      When our Lord
      Jesus called the Pharisees “vipers” and other “epithets” while at the
      same time urging His disciples to follow their teaching, did He need
      “sanctification” too? Did He lack love for the Pharisees? How in the
      world could St. Paul call the Galatian Christians “churches” (Gal 1:2)
      and then say four verses later that they were “deserting” God and
      “turning to a different gospel”? He called them “foolish” (Gal 3:1, 3).
      Is that an example of terminology that Christians ought not use to
      “label” other Christians, too? Kevin worries about mere “radtrad” with
      all this in Holy Scripture itself? That just don’t cut it. Later, Paul
      says, “I am afraid I have labored over you in vain” (Gal 4:11; RSV as
      throughout). Paul says all these things, yet ends as he began, calling
      the Galatians “brethren” (6:18).

      Our Lord Jesus was far more
      of what Kevin would say is “uncharitable” and exhibiting concupiscence
      (using his reasoning about “radtrad”) when He rebuked the seven
      “churches” of Revelation. He tells the Ephesians, “you have abandoned
      the love you had at first” (Rev 2:4). Imagine the huge ruckus that would
      ensue if I had said that radtrads have abandoned God and their love for
      Him? But Jesus said this about those whom He still regarded as
      Christians. To the church at Sardis, Jesus said, “you are dead” (Rev
      3:1). To the Laodiceans, Jesus said, “because you are lukewarm . . . I
      will spew you out of my mouth” (Rev 3:16) and says, “you are wretched,
      pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” (3:17).

      Ah, then Jesus sums
      up, “Those whom I love, I reprove and chasten . . .” (Rev 3:19). That’s
      just it, isn’t it? Hard names and descriptions are totally consistent
      with charity and love and a desire for those in error to come out of it.
      Jesus and Paul are our examples. I try my best, always, to follow their
      example. Fall short all the time, but I try, as an apologist who has to
      deal with error all the time, by learning their model and godly

      Jesus and Paul
      talked to these wayward churches in extremely negative terms while not
      for a second denying that they were Christians and in the fold. The two
      are not mutually exclusive. That is the biblical and Catholic “both/and”
      — while Kevin’s analysis smacks too much (I submit) of “PC”
      pseudo-tolerance and touchy-feely Frisbee-throwing “love” of a sort that
      is very prevalent nowadays. We never want to (in this mentality)
      exercise “tough love” and call a spade a spade, no matter how outrageous
      and pathetic radtrad rhetoric gets (and it IS that, believe you me).

      There is unrighteous fury (that radtrads too often exhibit, as do too
      many of their critics who approach the issue in a dumb and inarticulate
      way), and there is also righteous indignation that is fully justified,
      and rebuke in love.

      • The same arguments are used for justifying “Neo-Catholic” and a host of other insults. Yet you object to “Neo-Catholic” saying it is imperissable, yet you go on a lenghty discussion of why you feel the need to say someone is a “radtrad.”

        I’m not looking at things from a psychological aspect. I’m talking about how they play out in the real world. There’s nothing wrong with righteous anger. Yet we should always question whether or not what we are doing is actually accomplishing anything.

        That’s where I part ways with you and Mr. Alexander. Looking objectively at how the label has played out, and with personal experience (up until recently you would call me a radtrad for example, even though I never once doubted the validity/lawfulness of the New Mass, never once doubted the orthodoxy of the Second Vatican Council, etc) that in this particular instance, labeling someone with an insult is counterproductive.

        And that moving forward, we should simply apply Wheaton’s Law and not look to invent insults for those we disagree with. That’s why I didn’t “address’ your arguments, nor those of Mr. Alexander. They are true enough but utterly beside the point.

        I guess in the end, why did Pope Benedict not refer to people as “radtrads” when he disagreed with them? Was he following some PC watered down gospel? Again, what do you possibly lose by dropping the insult and just saying “Those who oppose the Second Vatican Council, The Ordinary Form, and promote conspiracy theories are wrong, and are risking their eternal salvation?”

        • Dave Armstrong

          “The same arguments are used for justifying “Neo-Catholic” and a host of other insults. Yet you object to “Neo-Catholic” saying it is imperissable, yet you go on a lenghty discussion of why you feel the
          need to say someone is a “radtrad.” ”

          The two are not analogous at all, and I have explained why at great length. But you refuse to interact with my reasoning. You simply say you disagree. You can do whatever you wish, but that ain’t rational argumentation and it ain’t dialogue.

          “(up until recently you would call me a radtrad for example, even though I never once doubted the validity/lawfulness of the New Mass, never once doubted the orthodoxy of the Second Vatican Council,
          etc) that in this particular instance, labeling someone with an insult is counterproductive.”

          Thank you very much! Here you demonstrate your utter ignorance as to my own (and for the most part, others’) definition of “radtrad” (consistent for 15 years, though with different words used): thus showing that you haven’t even troubled yourself to read, or if you have read, to grasp my reasoning in the first place. So you continue to war with straw men.

  • Stu

    I’ve been Catholic for 21 years. I am a convert. In that time, I have been called a Neo-Catholic and Rad-Trad all while my beliefs were the same. Now since I was the same person in both instances, I believe that demonstrates that such labeling says more about the person making the distinction than the target of the label.

    At the end of the day, the practically minded (by that I mean those who are working personally one-on-one to build relationships withtheir brothers and sisters to bring them into the fullness of the Truth) the practice of creating and “us” vs “them” paradigm is just plaincounterproductive. At best, it’s an
    academic novelty with as much value as a “Football Bat”. At worst, it closes doors.

    I’m Catholic and thus will continue to speak out against any mindset that seeks to create divisions among people. Heterodoxy and other bad ideas are fair game for the attack. But people should be treated differently.

    Great article Kevin. It challenges me to be better myself.

  • Dave Armstrong

    Just wrote on my page, replying to someone, and it’s relevant here, too, I think:

    “Radical” means, literally, “taking things to the roots.” I have called myself a
    “radical Christian” or a “radical Catholic,” so it is not inherently a
    negative characterization; lest I wouldn’t have classified myself as

    “Radical traditionalist” has internal reference to how they see themselves: they think they have gotten to the root of the problems in the Church:
    locating them in the classic four identifiers of radtradism:

    1) Vatican II.
    2) The Novus Ordo / OF Mass.
    3) The popes since Pius XII.
    4) Ecumenism.

    Thus, the radtrad sees himself or herself as getting right down to the roots
    and “brass tacks”: these four things and related stuff have wreaked
    havoc in the Church, in their mind, and they think they are insightful
    and wise and radical in identifying them for what they are, whereas the
    rest of us reality-deniers have our heads firmly in the sand.

    The problem is that they are dead-wrong in their analysis of the causation
    of the serious problem of modernism and laxity in the Church, “on the
    ground.” But they see it as radically identifying the problems.

    In that sense, even “radtrad” is in a way, a nod to their own
    self-perception, which is one of the reasons I think it is an acceptable and useful term to use.

  • Dave Armstrong

    Even though Kevin and Stu seem to have given up the notion of constructive discussion with me, or persuading me, I’m still quite willing to talk about compromise solutions agreeable to both parties. I’m mulling over possible descriptive titles (with the necessary abbreviations for brevity in discussions) that eliminate the “trad” part, which seems to be the main bone of contention:

    “radically exclusivist Catholics” (RECs)
    “pharisaical exclusivist Catholics” (PECs)
    “anti-conciliar Catholics” (ACCs)
    “liturgically exclusive Catholics” (LECs)
    “legalistic / pharisaical Catholics” (LPCs)
    “quasi-schismatic Catholics” (QSCs: a return to my own former usage)

    If I used one of these, I would then use simply “traditionalist” for those who are characterized by love of the TLM, etc., rather than “mainstream traditionalist.” It would have no negative connotation at all, in my mind, though I will still put quotation marks around it. The wackos: what I now call radtrads, would then be called by one of the titles above, and shortened in any given article, for ease (REC, if I use that).

    Any of these, I believe (possibly excluding the last one), would be a new description that I basically have coined, myself. I didn’t coin “radtrad” (that was Sandra Miesel).

    I like the first the best. It gets to the heart of the matter, is appropriately wide in scope rather than specific, is fairly objective, and is relatively less judgmental (“pharisaical” being very judgmental, though, I think, accurately so).

    Kevin and Stu want to say that the offense is in positing a spectrum and calling the wackos even partially “traditionalists” (as they call themselves)? I’m willing to accept that, and in charity, be willing to address that concern by a possible change of terminology. I want to have a serious discussion about it and actually achieve something positive for a change.

    If Kevin or Stu aren’t willing to do that, I’ll seek out “traditionalist” friends of mine who will, and maybe something can be accomplished besides mutual monologue.

    Or if anyone here wants to have an honest, civil discussion with me, let’s talk.
    I am quite willing to go through all my papers, and even my last book on the topic and eliminate “radtrad” altogether, and substitute one of these terms, if that will put an end to this farce of a controversy that we have now, where reason seems to be nonexistent; it’s almost all emotionalism.

    I want a title that is practical and descriptive and can be used.

    Kevin doesn’t want any title, but he does want to get “trad” out of the equation altogether, when referring to the extremists and the kooks.

    That’s the compromise. I get a title; he (and anyone else who objects) gets the “trad” out of it altogether.

    That’s just me, of course, but I am in the middle of this debate and seem to be a target of a lot of “traditionalist” ire (though not remotely as much as Mark Shea is). Y’all can take CA to task with the use of the (to me, far more objectionable) “mad-trad.” That’s a separate goal or endeavor.

    • HeyDave

      Great. So now you can praise Faithful Answers for being “OK” since they don’t fit any of your new descriptions.

  • NickD

    I, for one, think of myself as somewhat traditionalist. I mostly attend the Novus Ordo, but mos of my behaviors/mindset make me traditionalish. Instead of rad-trad, I group some people as “mad-trads”; I’m sure you know the kind: many commenters at a specific blog whose initials are “R” and “C”; who spew hate every time Pope Francis is mentioned; who demonstrate bitterness towards all things post-Vatican II; who don’t technically hate the Novus Ordo but consider it the “B” team, and make that very clear. And so on ad infinitum et nauseam. It fits better than “rad-trad.”

    • So here’s the question for you NickD: what does calling someone a “madtrad” (questioning their mental stability) do that simply saying they are just plain freaking wrong doesn’t?

      • NickD

        Ah, my apologies, Kevin. I say “mad” as in angry, not neurotic; which is sloppy, as evidenced by this misunderstanding. Plus, “they are just plain freaking wrong” is a lot more words than “madtrad”!

        • See I view this as a classic example of why we shouldn’t use such labels. If we just focused on how wrong their ideas are without the names, no need to clarify.
          Do we have to write or speak a few more words? Sadly, yes. For the sake of peace, sometimes a little extra work is required. 😉
          Personally, I want as many “radtrads” as possible to be in full communion with the Church. If following Wheaton’s law makes it even a few percentage points more likely some of them will come across, its worth it.

          • NickD

            Good point. I try to limit my use of this term to among those to whom I’ve already explained the meaning of the term

  • Glendon Cheshire

    If he is to be believed, Chris Ferrara was the first or one of the first to call rigorously conciliar conservatives “neo-catholics.” The term refers to conservatives who have accepted a “soft” Modernism of reconciliation with the modern world, ecumenism and religious liberty, liturgical diversity, broad views on salvation and the entire program that unpins the overarching theme of Vatican 2. This broadly correlates with American neoconservatism, which is why the term neocat is now often just neocon.

    The entire conciliar age, conservatism, and traditionalism can be boiled down into a simple construct:

    Do you believe that the political and attitudinal change ushered in by the party of people that assumed control of the Church after the death of Pius XII is a credible and viable group of people to contol the Church, working to guard and protect the Deposit of Faith and Sacred Tradition, or not? Are they guarding and nourishing souls, which is their primary mission?

    Even though they say they do, it isn’t that the traditional Catholics reject Vatican 2 or the changes, per se. It is more basic. They reject the entire idea of the post Pius XII leadership and program of Church governance. To some extent, person by person from the mild traditionally minded conservative to the most rabid of sedevacantist, traditionalists believe in the traditionally oriented leadership of scholasticism, combativeness towards the modern world, eshewing of ecumenism, traditional attitudes towards non Catholics as unbelievers, heretics, schismatics or those that are perfidious, rejecting Modernism, Liberalism, Socialism, Masonry, and the Enlightenment, oriented towards rejecting doctrinal, liturgucal, devotional or social novelty and antiquarian or ecumenical liturgical reformation, and beleiving that the modern world needs reproof and rejection, not acceptance.

    They, generally, reject novel devotions, think the revisions to the Sacraments are at least unwise and a disiaster, and at worse doubt their validity. They don’t see this as affecting indefectability or infallibility because the current leadership don’t even like dogma or infallibility, so they certainly don’t invoke it. Even if the new Sacraments are doubtful , scxads of Eastern Rites are still valid, as are trads who didn’t go along with changes. Lastly they view everyone accept perhaps Benedict as suffering from some sort of theological problem, be it liberalism, modernism, or authoritarianism.

    Most trads view the new Sacraments as valid and the Pope as the Pope. Trying to tar all tads with the sins of a few is quite frankly dishonest and inauthentic.

    • Brennan555

      Glendon, I think that’s a pretty good summation. A distinction I tend to make is that “traditionalists” such as myself, are willing to, for instance, critique the New Mass itself, while “conservative” Catholics tend to think this is completely out of bounds if not quasi-schismatic (they will critique liturgical abuse, however, which is good). The same would go for practices like Communion in the hand, altar girls, and even the documents of Vatican II.

    • Glendon Cheshire

      You are correct. Because the leadership of the Church are the authors, if not at least the sanctioners, of not only the changes (doctrinal changes from the Council and liturgical changes after) but the most widespread of abuses (Communion in the hand, girl altar boys, laity touching Him, standing, face to face Confession), another new kind of error, which some have called authoritarianism — at least in Facebook — has been coined.

      Infallibility has crept in all over the place, and questioning that which would have been considered radically liberal in the past is now seen as questioning authority. Its a fundamental problem for neocons because we have a generation of them not merely griping about abuse, like the Wanderer in the 70s and 80s, but they have grown so accustomed to change and the new ways of doing things, they’ve become just as liberal as progressives of the past in aping authority and being “good Catholics.”

      But now there is a new threat — an ever growing crowd of traditionalists who question or reject the entire trajectory of the Chuch since the death of Pius XII. Its a growing no confidence vote, and Francis is only making it worse by calling trads heretics, Pelagians, and insisting that Vatican II, which explicitly rejected infallibility in the opening and closing speeches, is infallible and must be giving assent, and the new Form, even though radically different, is still the same, radically equal, and must not be opted out of as inferior to the old, even if by preference only.

      Conservatives are only good at two things — supporting authority, even if indiscriminately — and preeserving the status quo. Because trads reject the status quo in opposition to those that altered the status quo beginning in 1958, neocons are content in lumping trads in with liberals, who want to change the status quo to something more radical. The error there is changing the status quo is not a error in itself. What the desired change is is where the error comes in. Trads and liberals are polar opposites. Fr Brian Harrison, paragon of neoconism, drew this exact erroneous comparison between Charles Curran and MarcelLefebvre over Religious Liberty. Rejecting a novel interpretation is not the same thing as breaking away from a teaching fundamentally. Conservatives rwaaly should have a more Benedictine critical eye on things, but alas, it would seem to be too much trouble to do for many.

  • Micha_Elyi

    When is the last time Catholic Answers has done a radio show warning us of Radical Lutherans?
    –Kevin M. Tierney

    Watch out for Radical Grammarians, Mr. Tierney. As for the hypothetical “Radical Lutherans”, when they pose some extraordinary threat to the salvation of faithful Catholics I’m sure Catholic Answers will produce a program that warns Catholics in general about them.

    • Stu

      Does that mean so-called “Radical Traditionalists” pose an extraordinary threat to the salvation of faithful Catholics? I’m not suggesting particular extreme viewpoint are either correct or not dangerous, but does such a group, which many characterize as small, pose a greater threat than other questionable beliefs?

      • Glendon Cheshire

        Trads are a threat to the status quo, but I have a feeling the vast majority of conservatives don’t see themselves as doing that. You would think that a zealous group of people eager to uphold the traditions of the Church would be an asset, but that presupposes their zeal to combat the world and shun all the novel ideas that are the status quo of the Church now is wanted. In my mind, conservatives have adopted, in mindset, the things they once decried, and now see the past as a problem, not an asset. If our first duty is to know, love, and serve God worshiping Him in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and upholding the Faith He has given us, how can “trads” be viewed as a threat? Threat to whom? Threat to what? Order? “Trads” didn’t take it upon themselves to make a siesmic philosophical change, progressives did. It boggles the mind that upholding traditional Catholic teaching is perceived as disobedient.

        And please, do not traipse the trope “Living Magisterium” out. We believe in the Deposit of Faith, not the “Magisterium.” The Magisterium is the teaching authority to protect and defend the Deposit of Faith, it is not the Deposit of Faith. That is a heresy – it makes men the measure of Faith, and not the objective Truth of Divine Revelation and Sacred Tradition.

    • Question:

      How many traditionalists do you know in the flesh?
      How many “radicals” do you know in the flesh?

      Not reading a blog or a web forum. As in actually know, where you interact with them on a daily basis, to where they are a danger to your salvation?

      For most people, that answer to the first is not many. To the second, it is near zero. Am I saying the problem doesn’t exist? Oh it exists, and I’ve written about it for 11 years now. I could even remember when this could be said to be a legitimate danger. That was probably at least 6 years ago.

      So this isn’t some “extraordinary” threat. When you spend your entire day on blogs and internet forums, you might think it is. That just proves you need to get out more. When you overhype the problem, you make it into something it isn’t.

      That’s why Catholic Answers should just stop doing these types of shows, or if they must, invite someone who actually knows some. Even if they are going to use the “Radical” moniker (regretfully), they are at least smart enough to realize this isn’t some existential crisis to those attending the Latin Mass, much less the Church as a whole.

      • Paul Williams

        This is the thought that comes to my mind when I read bloggers’ rants about “RadTrads” and their need to purge Holocaust-deniers from their ranks, and that they are all bitter curmudgeons trying to suck the joy out of everyone’s life.

        You can find all manners of kooks in anonymous comment boxes on the internet, but they have almost zero relation to real life. I have attended hundreds of “traditionalist” masses in dozens of locations over the past several decades. All of the people I encounter are holy, joyful people. No one has ever come up to me whispering about Jewish conspiracies (there’s a reason such people take to the internet). Apart from the mantillas, skirts, family size and lack of hand-holding, the congregation looks and acts the same as one would find in a Novus Ordo parish.

        It’s hard for me to take too seriously this “traditionalist” problem reported on by people who seem to have produced a composite sketch based on caricatures of internet commenters. Too much time on the internet tends to skew one’s perspective, and reminds me my time would be better off in a church and around my fellow parishioners.

  • Again, very good discussion all!

    I tend to avoid terms like “Conservative” simply for the fact that they really don’t mean anything, and they are almost as impossible to define as “radtrad.” They don’t really have the loaded polemical meaning that radtrad was designed with, but it still really doesn’t tell you much.

    Now critiquing concrete ideas like a creeping authoritarianism, where people substitute (normally) their personal pet ideas for the Catholic faith, or an idea that is inherently skeptical of all authority, to the point where the office of that authority is functionally rejected, these are issues worth talking about. And the only way to get through them is to avoid the loaded labels.

    If anyone wants to give a serious shot at writing out these issues in under 1,000 words (closer to 900 the better!), let me know and you can run a guest editorial here. Or maybe you want to take the position that labeling the other as radicals is beneficial to the Church? Same principles. Keep it clean and concise, and lets talk.

  • Jonathan Francesco

    Liberals focus on how offensive labels are. And when we do that, we end up distracted from the real issues. We all use labels. If it is not this label, it will be another label that will offend. I have no problem if we stop using these monikers. But these monikers are not the problem. (And yes, I know real “traditionalists.”) Labels are rarely, if ever, the true problem. So getting rid of them ends up as mere semantics.

    Catholic Answers did a very great show on this topic. They do tons of shows on various errors in our age. Why not on this one? Because it’s an error on the “right” instead of the “left”? IMO, there is absolutely zero ground to attack Catholic Answers on this. Zero.

    • As I’ve said, I have no problem with classifications. Yet its clear that their apologists were using the term to denigrate and insult those they disagree with. In many instances, they also showed a complete unfamiliarity with those they were criticizing, and some basic Catholic teaching. (Pro-tip, there is no official teaching of the Church on whether or not the requirements of any private revelation were or weren’t filled.)

      And I agree labels in and of themselves aren’t the problem. The problem in this instance is a growing tribalism and marginalizing of those you disagree with through the use of insults and monikers. This makes it virtually impossible to be an effective witness to the Gospel.

      Holy Mother Church does not use these terms, but, as is typical, we think ourselves greater than the Church, and indeed, more Catholic than the Pope.

    • Had they simply done a show that said “Vatican II is a valid ecumenical council and the New Mass is as valid, lawful, and pleasing to God as the Extraordinary Form” people would’ve yawned, and very few would’ve called in.

      They know this. The term is used to stoke controversy, and they either knew it, or they really should have.

  • Dave Armstrong

    Fr. Dwight Longenecker weighs in with his usual trenchant, thought-provoking analysis:


    I agree with him at this point. And since it looks like “traditionalists” are not very willing to discuss with me other linguistic options which would please them more (my serious conciliatory proposal seems to have fallen flat), I likely will continue to do so.

    • Glendon Cheshire

      I don’t think anyone was taking the initiative seriously. It seemed staged, or rhetorical — for effect. Maybe you should have prefaced with “I’m serious about this. I’m not joking. I’d like a name or names to call people, to be accurate.”

      I pretty much summed up the problem below as a confidence issue with the entire leadership program of the Church since the 1950s, and it covers everyone associated with the TLM from “con-trads” to the “screaming mimi” sedevacantists, and the problems they have — from simple abuse, to profound deviations in theology and theodicity.

      As I said in the last line of my comment last night, lumping Fr. Longnecker’s whack-job commenter comments and the holocaust deniers in with the preponderant majority of traditional Catholics is both disingenuous and inauthentic, to use one of Benedict’s pet words.

      You don’t define the 99% by the 1%. That, at best, is a hasty generalization, and at worst, the grave sin of slander.

      I would disagree with Kevin on something, though. Conservative is not terribly hard to define in the context of Catholicism, especially if you call the person a conservative conciliarist, a term I’ve heard used since the early 1990s. As someone said, monikers or labels mean something both to the person and to others, as a meaningful way to associate certain beliefs with certain people, and vice versa. People actually do, generally, tend to fall into groups where they are comfortable with the identifiers.

      I would consider myself a radtrad, just for the sake of argument. I’m not a sede, nor do I trash the Pope nor think the OF Sacraments are invalid. It is a convenient label to have, since I’ve been tarred with it by many a person for defending my traditional pre-conciliar beliefs.

      Because of these beliefs, I am seriously, seriously disturbed by a pattern over the past couple of years, which follows my status quo argument.

      The instruction to the Institute of the Good Shepherd to stop critically assessing Vatican II is disturbing, since that is their raison d’etre. This occurred in early 2012. Soon after, the supposed reconciliation of the SSPX was somehow derailed in the May/June 2012 time period, when the SSPX were told, in essence, to “take it or leave it” on the Doctrinal Preamble. Now we have the Holy Father referring to traditional Catholics as Pelagians not once but twice recently. I’ll ignore that what he is typifying as Pelagianism is actually Semi-Pelagianism. A week later, we have the situation with the Friars of the Immaculata, who have had – for perhaps legitimate reasons – an activist minority ask Rome to step in and give primacy to the OF of the Mass in direct violation of Summorum Pontificum Articles 2-4.

      I saw the “tip of the iceberg” comment from I believe Fr. Geiger.

      The problem is that liking Bishop Williamson, or reading Rorate Caeli too much and their screeching tirades about Pope Francis (a stoooooooopid thing to do), or preferring Msgr. Gherardini’s method of critical analysis of the Council (something that is hardly aberrant as a theologian) or the holocaust denial stuff ….. none of these things have to do with having rules and norms allowing individual priests to offer the EF, which is explicit in Summorum Pontificum Art 2 and 4. Permission in Art 3 applies only to when entire individual communities (as a group) or entire societies (en masse) want to start offering or using the EF, when permission is then needed, according to the laws of the entity.

      The Holy Father’s protocol has expressly forbidden them from offering the EF at all, without permission. That directly contradicts S.P. More important though, is the political effect is has. That effect I doubt is lost on the Holy Father.

      I predict the following chill effect:

      “Hey, you can have your Mass, but if you get to uppety about anything else, or actually show preference for the EF and start questioning the Council the general trend of teaching in the Church nowadays, you will definitely be put in your place.”

      It makes that which was blanket permission in S.P., an indult again. I can hear:

      “You can like the old Mass, but if we don’t like where you are going with it, you get the kibosh. Continue to be a problem, and we’re going to give you the business end of our canonical stick.”

      Thus, the chilling effect is now in effect. What Rome giveth, Rome can taketh away.

      What underlies all of this is my “thesis” of the status quo.

      Putting aside the screaming nutjobs in the sedevacantist wings of the Church, more and more regular Catholics are expressing a lack of confidence in the path and trajectory of the Catholic Church since the death of Pius XII, and they are questioning the efficacy of the Council, the changes made since then, and the very underlying ideology of accommodation of the modern world and non-Catholics, which has led to:

      ambivalence in identity, loss of Faith, liturgical apathy and at times chaos (peruse the hall of shame on Youtube of liturgical abominations from around the world), poor catechetics, the utter abandonment of missionary zeal, collapse in vocations to the priesthood and religious life (except where the Faith is actually engendered, like with trad groups and traditionally minded conservative groups), and the pattern of accommodation and reconciliation with the modern world and non-Catholics.

      What has been abandoned is the unwillingness to confront so many of these things as not something to be dialogued with or pandered to, but something to be seen as erroneous, injurious to souls, and contrary to the public good and right worship of Christ the King. We orient on God. He gets pride of place. We seek to know, love, and serve Him first. In caving in to cooperation with modern man and secularism, we have essentially forgotten who we are. That cannot be a path to good fruits, evangelization, and right belief and a stable, growing Church.

      For more and more Catholics I know, it usually starts with being sick of the problems at Mass or lousy catechetics for their children. It also starts with being a diocese with crappy formation, no vocations, too few children, and tepid souls. The Holy Father’s free wheeling attitude, as well, has been a boon to traditionalism, because normal Catholics look at some of this and go, “What? what on earth did he say THAT for?” or “He said what? What does he mean by that?”

      Conservatives can, and probably will, lay claim to authority, in the negative sense of an exaggerated expansion of “infallibility” of the Ordinary Magisterium, or they might just ignore that there has been virtually nothing of a dogmatic character issued by the Church since 1958 (Ordination of Men Only and Papal Elections are notable exceptions).

      I can see more of the attempt to “radically” equate traditional Catholics with liberals. Charges of heresy and Protestantism and disobedience will continue to fly. But at some point, every Catholic who loves Our Lord, and is dedicated to Our Lady, the Church, its Faith, and the salvation of their soul, has to look around and go, “Are we really headed in the right direction here? I am no longer comfortable with this. There has got to be a clearer, better way to live out my life in accord with my Catholic Faith.”

      That person might then start reading old encyclicals, books on the course of Vatican II, re-reading the documents themselves, seeing comparisons to past teaching, finding out the old Mass and Sacraments, and then all of the sudden POW, it dawns on them:

      “Wow. Something is really wrong with all of this. This cannot be what the Holy Ghost intended, since it is soooo different from the way Catholicism used to be.” And then, another soul is no longer content with the “status quo.”

      • Dave Armstrong

        “Prophet once again” files:

        Seven hours ago I wrote privately to a friend:

        “Now, if I decide not to change my terms, no doubt, I’ll get accused of not being sincere in the first place; like this was just some sort of game or ploy on my part.”

        Now here comes radtrad Glendon Cheshire (about six hours after my prediction):

        “I don’t think anyone was taking the initiative seriously. It seemed staged, or rhetorical — for effect. Maybe you should have prefaced with ‘I’m serious about this. I’m not joking. I’d like a name or names to call people, to be accurate.'”

        I made it crystal-clear that I was dead-serious. Just read the post (anyone who doubts it). Anyone could see that, except for one who insists (ultra-typical of the radtrad mentality) on refusing to extend the minimal benefit of the doubt that every Christian is obliged to routinely extend.

        • Stu

          I found your proposal both sincere and absurd. That it is why I chose not to respond. But since you want to bring it up again in such a manner…

          • Dave Armstrong

            You’re not in Christian moral kindergarten. Delighted to see it.

            If you find conciliatory and bridge-building efforts absurd, what can I say? I couldn’t disagree more. But thanks for at least not classifying me as a liar and cynical game-player (thank for small favors, huh?).

            I was quite willing to stop using radtrad, which is what Kevin seeks: what this article was about. As one of the most vocal defenders of it at this time, that would have been quite a “feat” for Kevin to indirectly accomplish.

            After what has transpired, after non-response, then being called a liar or a court jester, now I am not, and will continue on as I was (failing some major development before this day is out).

          • Stu

            I found your proposal absurd, not your motives. Big difference. But so what? I have had some great leaders in my life sometimes express ideas that were simply…not good. So I guess you are in good company with the rest of the human race.

            You want allies in the fight against bad ideas, I’m right there with you. But I simply can’t follow into the realm of marginalizing groups or labeling people within the Catholic faith.

          • Dave Armstrong

            Do as you wish. You could have helped persuade me to quite possibly stop using radtrad (even to remove it from all existing uses of it on my site and in my books), which would have been a considerable net gain for you and Kevin. Instead you get no change.

            It’s called compromise, which is what adults try to do when they disagree and can’t resolve it to the total satisfaction of each party. I reached out; I got nonsense back, so there is no compromise.

            You ain’t gonna get everything you want here. You coulda got something that was said to be a primary concern among trads. But you end up with nothing because I was willing to negotiate and bend and your side only mocks, attributes insincerity, obfuscates or caricatures the opposing view, or ignores it altogether.

          • Stu


            Again, I am happy to make my case and let others decide. That’s all I want. Whether you do something along those lines or not is your choice, not mine. I can only control myself.

            If you decide to stop using the term, I will applaud you. That’s all I can offer.

          • We make our case, and sometimes people disagree. You can’t win em all.
            I think based on the reaction this editorial received, the impact has been made.
            I’m also confident that as my generation ages, my view will prevail. We are a lot more familiar with each other, and Catholics of all stripes don’t see us as the boogeyman anymore. They realize the “radicals” are a minority.
            Quite simply I’m content to let generational inertia work its magic, and every now and then doing what I can to give it a push. You disagree, and you think radtrad will be around forever presumably because it’s a great label.
            Stu, myself, and the several hundred others got all the time in the world to make our case, and unlike those using the label, it directly impacts us, and we are more motivated.
            So stop using it because you desire to be charitable to even those you don’t like, or one day your successors stop using it because the term is kicked to the dustbin of history due to the example of traditionalists, its a win win for everyone.
            When this is all said and done, I’ll gladly be able to say I helped bury this term of division in my own little way.

        • Glendon Cheshire

          How about I save you the trouble.

          “Traditional Catholics” pretty much encapsulates the entire content of the page.

          Once you’ve identified someone as a Traditional Catholic, you can qualify it with “middle of the road, sedevacantist, of the SSPX variety, diocesan,” and the like.

          I would be content with referring to you as a conciliar conservative, or neocon par excellence if you like something puffy.

          It is a descriptor, not an epithet.

          As for Kevin’s point, I read it as an unhelpful absence of charity, and the point is to increase charity by dropping incendiary labels, since most labels amongst factions are used as epithets, and uncharitably. At least that’s how I read it.

          Labels, for their utilitarian function, are needed, no matter how much we loath them, or use them for ill.

          In that respect, I consider labels to be morally neutral.

          • Dave Armstrong

            “I would be content with referring to you as a conciliar conservative, or neocon par excellence”

            I can’t express how much I appreciate the marvelous and perfectly timed display of comedic irony / abject hypocrisy. I will treasure this one for a long time, and was in need of a good belly laugh. Thanks so much!

          • Glendon Cheshire

            Oh, no… thank you. Neocons should be seen as “trad muses.” You bring out the best in those that differ in opinion from you.

            Here, let me channel a left wing emotionally dependent activist for my response:

            “I’m shocked and saddened at the rude lack of charity you have, Mr. Armstrong. You’re so cruel and judgmental. Who are you to judge my Catholicism? You think you’re more Catholic than the Pope? Jesus came to love, didn’t He? Where’s the love and compassion and understanding in your heart? Search your soul for the source of all of your mean-spirited insults. You should worry about what Jesus calls you than what you call other people!”

          • Children, go off on a date if you wish to whisper sweet nothings to each other.

      • Brennan555

        Great points about traditionalism, Glendon, I vote for you to write the guest column Kevin Tierney was talking about.

  • TheodoreSeeber

    At best, the phrase is a relic of a time that is no longer relevant. Just like the arguments after the “reform of the reform” took hold in the English Translation of the Mass.

  • Chris

    It is still puzzling why singling out and criticizing the “traditionalists” or whatever you want to call them is even an issue. All of sudden it is fashionable amongst certain circles to bash “traditionalists” and particularly with the charge of anti-Semitism. Why is the traditionalist crowd all of a sudden a problem and the subject of criticism? It also reflects poor ecclesiology and a hermeneutic of discontinuity, i.e., that the extraordinary form or other observances or views pre-VII are “traditional” while the novus ordo and other things are, what would you say, non-traditional? contemporary? modern? To set up a special category for “traditional” and labeling/viewing something in such a light introduces a false dichotomy. Ironically the tradition folks are the ones who probably pose the least problem to the Faith and the Church. Perhaps the critics are doing this to avoid looking at the problem in their own circles.

  • Julian Barkin


    I will give you due credit in this article that your overall tone does seem to be a more charitable bent than those who self-appoint themselves as the mouthpieces for the Latin Mass and Traditional Catholicism. However, after skimming the comment boxes here are reading the article. However, I must disagree with your overall argument of dropping the title, as well as siding with Dave Armstrong and a few of the other Commentators on the side of Catholic Answers. As to my perspective, I am a young, practicing adult male in a Canadian Archdiocese who altar serves in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. I found your article because of another blog that I monitor of whom the author operates in my archdiocese.

    You have said this in the article: drop the moniker “radical traditionalist” and “radtrad” entirely. At best the phrase is a relic of a time that is no longer relevant – …” This is something untrue, and that we cannot do at this current time, because, of what you have mentioned C.A. as saying: “… traditionalist[s] who [love] the Latin Mass, [have large Catholic families], and frequently do heroic work for the pro-life cause. Their problem is with the “radical” traditionalists, those who believe the Second Vatican Council formally teaches error, that the Ordinary Form of the Mass is invalid/evil, and who separate themselves from communion with the Roman Pontiff.” While it would be nice as Christ has said for us to “all be one”, this is a reality that does not exist in our imperfect world.

    There are good traditional Catholics who attend the Latin Mass with varying frequencies, follow teachings of the Church, acknowledge the Roman Pontiff, do charitable work, etc. These are the people who are living out the teachings of Christ and representing the Latin Mass truthfully. Is that EVERY traditionalist? No. Sadly not. What in reality is happening is that the “tradtiionalists” who are of the minority, are the ones coming to the forefront. These are the ones who are taking to the blogs and in person, and self-representing EF/Traditional Catholic communities. What do they do? These people aren’t afraid to negatively criticize, to a point beyond fraternal correction, other Catholic who don’t jive with their brand of the faith, they DO exhibit the behaviours described by Catholic Answers, call the SSPX their “friends” when those people are leaning or are of a “schismatic MENTALITY” (just not formally declared as schismatic by the Vatican), and have acted in vitriolic manners, even to other Latin Mass attending Catholics. Now, are those people like every other traditionalist? Are they the people who should be the public representation of the Latin Mass/Traditionalist Catholic? I am sure we can agree that the answer is “NO”. These people only give credence to the lies and falsehoods Lie-berals spew at those who are EF/Traditional Catholics and detract those of weaker resolve from ever becoming EF/Traditional Catholics.

    So what are we to do? In a barrel of apples, would a farmer let the few rotten ones with a bacterial or parasitic disease stay in the barrel to spoil the bunch? No. He would be responsible and pick those out to save the rest of the barrel. Now, applying that to our argument, should we EF/Traditional Catholics let those who have exhibited the behaviours above, have free reign of the place, and convert others to their mindset and behaviour patters, contrary to the Teachings of Christ? I bet you would agree too to a resounding “Yes”. Then clearly, there ARE people who are being truly Traditional and “Glad Trad” as it were, and those who are misrepresenting us and are the stereotype you are saying not to be.

    But then what to we do for our brethren who don’t know any better? Those just starting their faith journey in the Latin Mass? Those in the Novus Ordo who deserve to be spiritually nourished with the fullness of faith, and aren’t getting that in their community or parish or HIGHLY unlikely in the publically funded Separate/Catholic school system? They do not know that there are dark elements in this community waiting to snatch them up. They are like innocent children. For a child to be mature and right in his faith, he must be counseled by his Catholic community. Are we just to let our “children” in faith trade one form of sin and division with the Lord for another? I would hope you would agree with me with another resounding “YES!” And so we must point out who is not behaving righteously and who is not amongst those of the EF/Trad. Otherwise said “children” might just end up hanging out with the bullies and become one themselves.

    Now allow me to use another analogy. In science, every creature has a Latin taxonomical name. We call humans “Homo sapien” which would differ them from their ancestors, as well as other creatures. We would not call a human a “mus rattus” which is a common mouse. We refer to humans by their proper name, homo sapien. And so here we come back to your argument of the name-calling. If we are trying to protect our brethren who are coming into the EF/Traditional Catholic environment, than clearly we have to point out to them who is truly being an example and who is not. Using the name ananlogy, would we call the “rad-trad” as it were something like “ferverent in faith” or “doing the right thing” when they chastise a bishop, priest, young person for violating liturgical law X publically on his/her blog, or when they decide to harass a person by phone call over some liturgical scruple or perceived wrong, or when they decides not to acknowledge the Novus Ordo or the current pope? The actions themselves or the approach and manner of speech taken to carry out these actions would be sinful. Clearly as Catholics, we don’t call sins “lifestyle choices”. NO! We call them for what they are objectively, SINS. So as for the person doing the sins, to give them a nice name like “ferverent in faith” or “doing the right thing” would be an OUTRIGHT LIE.

    Therefore, we must keep these monikers for the sake of calling out the individual or group who is:
    – committing said violations of the teachings and doctrine/dogmas of the Church, or acting Pharisitical.
    – showing inappropriate example of what it means to be Catholic to the uneducated, and instructing the ignorant IS a work of Spiritual Mercy.
    – To demonstrate that one must do the contrary, that is carrying out one’s faith and conduct as a member and representative of the EF/Traditional Catholic community
    – To prevent further division/conflict/erosion from within the EF/Traditional Catholic community which these individuals are doing/have already done.
    So, until these misrepresentations of our EF/Traditional community curb their behaviour or are wiped out by authorities, civil and/or eccleastical (though let us hope the answer is not to eliminate the EF!), or the EF has spread to the point where these people become unable to affect the public opinion and viewpoints of the faithful, we must maintain the titles in protection and defense of all that is good and holy in this necessary implement in the New Evangelization.
    If I must add one additional point after what I have said, what is really sad is that these perpetrators love to use articles like yours to validate their actions in their self-righteousness, as an excuse to tell people to be silent at calling out these sinful actions, and to blame the rest of us “c”atholics for being the problem when it is a case of the “speck of sawdust” analogy Christ used in the Gospels.

    • Hello Mr. Barkin,
      You’re much better at this than the others. They should’ve just piped down and had you speak. 😉 I hope you don’t mind as I’ll be contacting you privately in regards to these. (far too long to respond with justice and charity in an internet combox.)

    • Guest

      Apologies, I made an error here: “Now, applying that to our argument, should we EF/Traditional Catholics let those who have exhibited the behaviours above, have free reign of the place, and convert others to their mindset and behaviour patters, contrary to the Teachings of Christ? I bet you would agree too to a resounding “Yes”. I meant to say “NO” in the quotation marks to the behaviours mentioned above the paragraph.

    • Stu


      I hear and understand your point. It is an understandable position. But I don’t think it will work that way practically speaking. Aside from the
      fact that I don’t like the use of labels to marginalize groups into an “us” vs “them” paradigm within the Church, I also believe that having the term “radical traditionalist” or “radtrad” will not sufficiently provide enough difference in meaning to achieve your desire. Keep in mind, as Kevin points out, a very small minority of Catholic are both online
      and tracking with Church issues like this. And of that group, only a small subset of them are so-called “traditionalist.” And of that group, a small subset holds some extreme views.

      You know that and I know that. But most of your mainstream Catholic bloggers don’t know that because they don’t have any real and sustained interaction with so-called “traditional” Catholics. And that is obvious by nature of the some of the views they espouse or “observations” they make. Now consider the Catholic population as a whole who hears “radtrad” or “radical traditionalist.” They aren’t going to make a distinction that you are hoping for but will instead associate “radical” with “traditional.” It’s textbook identity politics. Heck, I have seen other faithful Catholics in my diocese refer to our FSSP parish that is OBVIOUSLY in full communion with the Bishop and Rome as “schismatic.”

      Case in point. Look at Mark Shea’s comment today on his own blog which can be found here:


      In response to Manny who says, “I haven’t noticed that he’s “so hated.” Where have you seen that? If anything he seems to be getting more of a pass than any Catholic leader I have seen in my lifetime.
      Just asking, not criticizing,” Mark Shea responds, “You apparently are
      unfamiliar with the Tradosphere.” No distinction made. It simply all
      traditionalists. We’re all “radical” or at least the “radicals” represent us.

      Fight these labels. They are simply destructive.

  • john654

    Opinion: If a person is a “radical” (Latin Mass only type) Traditionalist, he or she is a Neo-protestant!

  • YouMissedThePoint

    It’s hard to believe this combox actually happened. I hope nobody else stumbles upon Dave’s argumentative comments and condescending tone, lest they become disillusioned and start to mistake healthy Catholic conversation for egotistically-driven debate that doesn’t understand when the horse is dead.

  • Raguel

    Neo-Catholic is not a perfect term, but it is does get across a certain truth.

    Personally I think neo-Conservative is a better word to use since it’s less offensive and more precise. People who cling to whatever the current status quo is while ignoring what the Church has always and everywhere taught in the past. That is why the development of doctrine is such a contentious and misunderstood topic today.

    Rad-trad is just a term made up by neo-conservatices who don’t want to confront people who oppose their positions with sound arguments and teachings, for example from a traditional approach to St. Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas really does smash most modern systems of thought if you really understand him and throw him in the face of moderns. Even people arguing with Aquinas would get enraged with how he would just stomp all their arguments in such a clear and calm manner.

  • MadTrad

    “Radical” seems to be related to “radix”. Radical Catholics are just those who believe the fundamental doctrines of the faith. They don’t make concessions and compromises with the world and are slandered by the world–which scripture says it means they are blessed. Those who make compromises and make concessions with the world and are praise–and woe to them. Have you read the syllabus of errors? Or is it false because you believe in contrary liberal principles? Can Church doctrine substantially change? Can false become true and true become false, good be evil and evil be good?