What exactly does "Traditional Catholicism" mean?

Excuse my ignorance but since joining CA I have come across the term so frequently.

Short answer:

Catholics who prefer the mass as it was pre VII (the time period, and the actual council), and take most things post VII with a grain of salt (or outright suspicion). Also…those who prefer the older devotions, prayers, catechisms, etc…

There are many variations of the theme, but that is it in a nutshell.

It can mean lots of things! In a certain sense, all Catholics are “traditional.”

As far as I use the term personally, it just means a Catholic who has a fondness for some of the older things in the Church. This can include anything from artwork to certain devotions to certain styles of praying to certain authors, and so on. Someone who just loves the Douay-Rheims, for example, I would consider “Traditional” in their Biblical taste. :slight_smile:

It’s also used to refer to folks who have a particular fondness for the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. For example:


Lastly, it can also refer to folks who are a little bit reactionary in their mindset. They may, in a sense, treat their own tastes and preferences as if they were the gold standard of Catholicism. But frankly, I think it’s far better to focus on the positive aspects of Traditional Catholics, rather than on those who venture a bit into silly-land.

I prefer the term “faithful” or “orthodox” Catholic. Traditional Catholic is good, but it often attracts the kind of lunatics who think that, since the 1950s, the Vatican has been under the influence of Jews and Freemasons and Emmanuel Goldstein’s brain in a jar, despite Our Lord’s promise that the Gates of Hell would never prevail against the Church.

By the same token, it is a myth that there are “liberal” Catholics and “Conservative” Catholics. You are either Catholic, or you are not.

Thank you for the replies.

Based on those explanations, I’m probably a mixture of traditional and modern.:slight_smile:

Keep in mind Catholicism is based on a 3 legged stool, Scripture, Tradition, and the Living Magisterium. There was a tendency for some Catholics in the 1960s to forget that Tradition element. Sometimes they would justify all their good or bad ideas as a response to Scripture, or else to Vatican II. Some Catholics were rightly angry about the neglect of Tradition, and the misuse of Vatican II, that Catholicism is more than the Bible and 1960s; that to exclude Tradition is to exclude one aspect of the Spirit’s guidance. That anti-Tradition, anti-Magisterium movement is still powerful today.

Most of those other Catholics who, by the 1970s, began to re-appreciate the value of Tradition, remained firmly united to the current Magisterium. Many movements began, to revitalize apologetics, orthodox catechesis, and evangelism consistent with Catholic Tradition. I consider myself a Traditional Catholic; I seek to learn more about Tradition and spread its riches of wisdom, but also united with the current Magisterium, pope and bishops. I regard the past and present popes and bishops as guides as to what is true and important.

Other Catholics have essentially upheld Tradition, but only up to about 1960. They regard the Magisterium prior to 1960 as totally reliable, but the Magisterium since then as iffy. In other words, they choose to follow the pope when he says something they regard as true or important, but don’t derive from him or their bishop their standard of what’s true and important.

This is an oversimplification, because for many people it is a matter of degree, and there are many nuances and local situations. I prefer not to use words like Traditional, or Traditionalist, or “Trad”, etc as they are open to different meanings. But that’s the ball park. You have one group, anti-Tradition, anti Magisterium, and not all that Scriptural. You have the second group, supports the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the 3 legged stool; and the third group, pro Tradition (up to 1960), pro Scripture, but skeptical, or even anti, to the current Magisterium.

As long as we’re orthodox and true to the teaching of the Church, then everything else is just gravy. :slight_smile:


That is why after much reading, soul searching and pain I’ve come to think I’m a ‘cafeteria trad’…!

Thankfully, I’m getting the impression that the Church is producing more and more traditional priests.

I guess if I wanted to label myself that would be me too. An Ordinary Form-loving, Liturgy of the Hours-loving guy who likes it when both are done in Gregorian chant :smiley:

I would see is as meaning being obedient to the teachings of the Church. That would include full acceptance of the teachings of Vatican II. A traditional Catholic does not pick an choose what he wishes to follow - as might a liberal Catholic.

Interesting post. I always read that TCs viewed themselves as appreciating pre-Vat II immensely, and not as-of-yet, having come to terms with Vat II.

Either way, as another poster says, it is better to embrace all and pray for those who are not fully embracing the changes.

I also find TCs have much tension and tend to let their aversion to Vat II be known at any given opportunity which can be infuriating and I find myself often having to bite my tongue.

Ultimately, from what I gather, TCs view themselves as more pious, which for me doesn’t represent piety, and love the Extra-Ordinary Form specifically, which is fine, except that this ‘love’ is sometimes at the sacrifice of not participating fully in their hearts with the New Rite.

It is sad really and we need to pray for those who hurt and pray for unity, then hopefully healing will come, so that we can all be one.

Ditto. :slight_smile:

Yeah, but that’s not the common understanding. You can identify the, well, stereotypical—if you’d pardon the loose usage—trad by certain traits, such as:

  1. Exclusive preference for the 1962 Latin Mass (“radder” trads won’t touch anything 1955 or later with a ten-foot pole). And I mean exclusive.
  2. Suspicion or apathy at the very least of anything about the Second Vatican Council.
  3. … and anything that was either reformed because of it, or came after it: Mass, Divine Office, Catechism, Code of Canon Law, the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary
  4. An exclusive preference for the Douay-Rheims version of the Bible.
  5. It’s Fathers Smith, Jones and Onugbinde. Not Fathers Bob, Larry and Jack.
  6. Observance of disciplines in force prior to the 1983 Code of Canon Law and the current penitential requirements, including a three-hour Communion fast, observance of the Ember Day fasts (which do not exist in the modern calendar).

Yes, there should be no “trad” vs. “non-trad”; we all ought to be just faithful Catholics. But the distinction does exist, at least in people’s minds and these traits are hard to ignore.

I love the Latin Mass and would attend it exclusively and regularly. But circumstances also dictate that I need to sometimes attend the Ordinariate Use, the Ordinary Form (however badly celebrated), or the Byzantine Divine Liturgy. I recite not the 1961 Divine Office but the modern Liturgy of the Hours, as I consider it a great gift and the greatest success coming out of the Second Vatican Council. I use the RSV as my Bible, not the Douay. I may love traditional things, but I also love modern things because they are all good and holy things. I am therefore not a trad. I’m just a Catholic.

That would be 100% true. Except VII did not change anything. Remember…?

Someone who believes that the Tridentine Mass (Latin Rite) is the true Catholic Mass, and that the Novus Ordo Mass is not legitimate.

Some go so far as to say that if someone attends a Novus Ordo Mass and receives the Eucharist, he or she is committing a sin. I’ve heard them say that if you can’t find a Latin Mass near you, you are better off not going to Mass at all. Personally, I think this is really a tad extreme, to say that no Mass is better than a Novus Ordo Mass. They consider Paul VI and every Pope since him as an “anti-pope,” so therefore there are extremely few legitimate priests in the world because anybody ordained since Vatican II is not legitimate (since the pope wasn’t legitimate, all the bishops aren’t legitimate, so they couldn’t legitimately ordain anybody), and relate all this to our being in the Last Days.

Except that people that think all this may like to call themselves “Traditional Catholics” but really they are Protestants who like the trappings of pre-Vatican II (and for some pre-1955…) Catholicism.


Better still, why not simply conform to the title of ‘Catholic’, considering that this means ‘all embracing’?!


Depends on the person using the term. . .just as ‘liberal Catholic’ can mean anything from a Catholic who prefers the social justice groups to the Altar Guild. . .to an abortion-supporting, gay-marriage-supporting, women-priest-supporting, ‘cafeteria’ Catholic.

For the record, I find that the fact that many–too many–tend to use the terms "traditional’ and "liberal’ in hurtful, ‘these people are bigots and wrong’ ways, confuses the heck out of the larger group of people who use the terms correctly.

There is nothing wrong with being a traditional Catholic and nothing wrong with being a liberal Catholic if one’s definition of each word is correct; not biased, not stereotypical, not intended to devalue the person by painting them as irrational, foolish, deluded, or evil.

A traditional Catholic is a Catholic who finds beauty in tradition. This pretty much defines all Catholics, at least at some given point.

A liberal Catholic is a Catholic who finds value in liberality of thought and action, meaning freedom in the Catholic sense, as St. Paul and others mention, where one is free to choose RIGHT rather than a slave to evil. Again, this pretty much defines all Catholics, at least at some given point.

Now if ONLY we could get people to stop with the finger-pointing, narrow-minded, hateful, biased, inaccurate and hurtful wrong usage of these terms, we’d come a long way toward being UNITED Catholics.

I quite agree with this.

I go by the definition I read somewhere that defines a liberal Catholic as one who is orthodox, but, in matters where a genuine difference of opinion can exist, happens to prefer a more lenient perspective.

Ultimately, from what I gather, TCs view themselves as more pious, which for me doesn’t represent piety, and love the Extra-Ordinary Form specifically, which is fine, except that this ‘love’ is sometimes at the sacrifice of not participating fully in their hearts with the New Rite.

Most traditional Catholics I have met aren’t any more pious than anyone else. This is more of a stereotype accusation and inaccurate broad generalization.

Traditional Catholics don’t generally mix rites by attending the Tridentine and the Novus Ordo at the same time. Some do, but most do not.

Most die-hard traditional Catholics will only attend the Tridentine Mass primarily out of liturgical preference, but also because of family history. All our grandparents and great-grandparents attended Latin Masses going back many, many generations and centuries.

Traditional Catholics also tend to be more conservative, and family-minded. It is not uncommon to see rather large families with many young children attending Latin Mass.

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