What is "Traditional Catholicism"

What is “Traditional Catholicism”? And how does this distinquish itself from the rest of Catholicism?



It depends on who is asked the question I suppose.

If you ask it of one in union with Rome, loyal to the Magisterium, the answer should be we all are following the Traditions of Holy Mother Church.
If you ask those who have broken away from Holy Mother Church the answers will be as varied as the designs in a kaleidoscope…

While I am a firm believer in the Church, I have found this term to primarily be a construct of people who want to distinguish themselves as finding the post-Vatican II Church to be inferior to the pre-Vatican II Church, and to imply some kind of superiority in that.

I find that very sad as there are in my experience people across the spectrum of worship preferences who are devoted to God and Church. Creating artificial qualifiers to divide us is in my opinion a very bad approach.

I am Catholic, and don’t require any further “modifier”.




Tradition: an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior (as a religious practice or a social custom)

In reference to Catholicism, to me tradition includes the liturgy, teachings, practices, and identity that were handed down by Catholics.

The recent Popes have stressed that we see things in light of tradition so I guess it’s still an important element in Catholicism.

As Yaroslav Pelikan wrote, “Tradition is the living faith of the dead. Traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.”

All orthodox Catholicism is traditional Catholicism, technically, so (hearkening to my thread about unhelpful misnomers in current popular use) I avoid “traditional Catholicism” as a descriptor those who seek to worship in the Tridentine rite, whether inside or outside of the Church.

Those who have gone outside, i.e., have chosen an external ritual over and against the saving grace of Holy Mother Church, I call traditionalists. Just like the Judaizers did with the Law, the Orthodox did with the original Nicene Creed, and the Protestants did with the Bible, so the traditionalists do with the Tridentine Rite of the Mass: make of it an idol that they prefer to Communion with the Bride of Christ, as if the Holy Spirit vacated his human agents and took up residence in objects or codes.

Those who have remained inside the Church, whether they be FSSP or not, I simply call Catholics. :slight_smile:

I reckon I would consider it those who love the old ways. I am proud to call myself a Traditional Catholic

Let me pose a question to you. It’s simple. Do you or do you not agree that there are people alive today who were alive before Vatican II and alive today and that their experience of HMC might be significantly different from yours? This is not a qualitative question but rather an experiential question.

I have a frame of reference for both sides of the question. I don’t believe that it is a question of “artificial qualifiers”. For better or worse and without any kind of “artificial qualifiers”, the Church in which I grew up is not the Church of today. That is simply a statement of fact.

What gets really lost in this entire question is that what happened after Vatican II was not enthusiastically embraced by everyone in HMC. So, there is this dichotomy…

We have a large group of us who were born before Vatican II…and that includes my parent’s generation…I still have a 79 year old uncle and aunt still alive as well as myself, my sister, and my brother - all of us in our mid-50s who grew up with the Mass before Vatican II.

Like it or not, we have memories of what HMC was like BEFORE Vatican II. It’s not a question of which was better…It is simply a description of that which is - or was.

So, you’ve got this body of believers who grew up with a HMC that is significantly different from HMC today. Nobody’s casting aspersions on HMC today. But I, for one, believe that we threw the baby out with the bathwater back when I graduated from high school in 1969 and had to endure singing Simon and Garfunkle at my high school graduation.

One year earlier I served as an altar boy at the class of 1968’s graduation with Latin hymns. Please explain to me how in the space of one short year HMC could go from singing “To Jesus Christ, Our Sovereign King” as the entrance antiphon to “Sons of God, Hear His Holy Word”, “Sounds of Silence”, “Bridge Over Troubled Waters”, and that all time classic “They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love”.

I don’t suspect you’ld know any of the above referenced songs (I won’t call them hymns). In the very profound gap between these songs and the hymns which came before lies the realm of the Traditional Catholic. It is an entirely different mindset.

PS When was the last time you heard “To Jesus Christ Our Sovreign King” sung?

Traditional Catholicism is a ‘social term’; Catholicism is supposed to embody a respect for the traditions of the Church anyway. But the term has come to embody a reaction against those who didn’t implement the ideas of Vatican II properly. As I understand it, the rite of Mass was to be restored in a manner that augmented participation, re-balanced choir-priest-people in their respective roles, and removed accretions that had got added much as Trent did e.g. with tropes and sequences. It wasn’t supposed to lead to a festival of statue smashing, book burning, and clowning around. Alas, “traditional Catholicism” as a social term has come to signify an erroneous pattern of reasoning that incorrectly assigns to the previous form of the Latin Rite Mass and the other sacraments a virtue that they don’t have, reasoning that deliberately seeks to puff up the one and blow down the other. Once scandalized there is a great risk of “intellectual desolation” (a term I learned recently) as well as the endless attempts to make the old seem great and the new seem terrible. Both sides in the dispute are refusing to observe something important. Traditionalists won’t accept that the Church was trying to solve problems. In the Novus Ordo there is a refusal to acknowledge that the faith is being inadvertently sentimentalized by some of what goes on.

I think it is a Protestant mindset. One of the last NO Masses I attended sounded like Santana…I said you have to be kidding. I

This is My Favorite

Holy God, We Praise Your Name

Holy God, we praise Thy name; Lord of all, we bow before Thee.
All on earth Thy scepter claim, All in heav’n above adore Thee.
Infinite Thy vast domain, Everlasting is Thy reign.

Hark! The glad celestial hymn, Angel choirs above are raising;
Cherubim and seraphim, In unceasing chorus praising,
Fill the heav’ns with sweet accord: “Holy, holy, holy Lord!”

Holy Father, holy Son, Holy Spirit, Three we name Thee,
Though in essence only one; Undivided God we claim Thee
And, adoring, bend the knee, While we own the mystery.

Feast of Christ our King…:rolleyes: We still manage a few oldies but goodies. :smiley:

I look at it from a “that which is” perspective rather than a “that which ought to be” perspective. I lived through the period. I don’t think that those of you who did not live through this period have a complete understanding of the profound sea change that happened. Quite simply, you have no understanding of what went before.

No, it wasn’t a time of statue smashing, book burning, or clowning around. It was simply a shift from one day partiicipating in the Mass that our ancestors had known to something quite else. It was a paradigm shift of monumental proportions. And we, at the time, being good sons and daughters of HMC rolled over and played dead! Which was expected of us.

But how can I forget the way in which I was raised? How can I abandon the Missal which I was given upon my Confirmation in 1963? My conscience was formed before Vatican II. My wife’s conscience was formed before Vatican II. I know y’all don’t like to hear it but like it or not, both DW and I are in our mid-50s and the HMC that we grew up in is not the HMC of today.

What is this hostility to what was the norm of my youth? I am not ashamed of my Catholic past. I’m of Irish ancestry and I am not the least bit ashamed that my ancestors had to meet out in the boondocks to celebrate the TLM.

Someone. Plese explain to me this abject fear that is apparent about the TLM. EWTN does a perfectly good Latin NO. I simply don’t understand the abject fear I read about the TLM.

Introibo ad altare Dei. Ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam. See your St. Joseph Missal (ca 1962) for the answer to this.

What problems was the Church trying to solve? If anytime we need to solve problems is now. Europe, England, Ireland’s faith is about gone. Only 33% of Catholics in the US now practice their faith regularly because of the scandals. Churches closing left and right. Seminaries abandoned. Disobedient Bishops, Priests, new age techniques taught by nuns, new age techniques taught at RICA classes, sacriledges of the Eurcharist, the list goes on and on. Just look at the world compared to when the Tridentine Mass was being said all over the world compared to now You might say this is another endless attempt…no it is reality. Wake-up.

Even at my very reverent NO Cathedral, we sing this maybe once a year. When I was a kid, this was sung at least once a month.

Yeah, but, Marie, you know as well as I do that it wasn’t just sung on the Feast of Christ the King. How many 12 year olds today could sing To Jesus Christ Our Sovreign King?

The Church has been looking to increase active participation at Mass for quite a while now. (Yes I know the argument about actuosa, and that this doesn’t mean “active” in necessarily the same way.) I don’t think the Church was in all that great a shape prior to the Council. Look at it this way.

Suppose all of a sudden in your house there are termites running everywhere, on the floor, over the tables, into the drawers, etc. Would you say, “Hey, all of a sudden a bunch of termites got in here!” Or would you assume that for a long time the timbers were rotting.

The idea that the earlier liturgy somehow preserves orthodoxy is non-credible. That liturgy saw many earlier periods of difficulty. Over the centuries there have been numerous splits and problems. A particular arrangement of the liturgy doesn’t preserve orthodoxy.

I think they tried to finally put into place some changes that would restore certain liturgical principles, but things had got so far wrong that the process of change itself was sabotaged; furthermore well-meaning but ignorant people got the wrong idea and added their puff to the winds that were blowing the house down.

Liturgical and other problems go way back in the Church. I don’t know how to explain the collapses of orders, seminaries, and schools, but I don’t accept the argument that it all comes down to the liturgy one celebrates. The Church has a legitimate interest in restoring the liturgy when she sees a need. “Traditional Catholicism” is, these days, in effect a kind of bias toward reassigning the problems to one source and infusing the past with an aura of blessedness. But all over this board, people with experience in that time are saying that people prayed their rosaries–and not even that but simply would often say “the same, the same, the same”–and were bored at the Mass. Over centuries, the Mass became a remote experience for many people. There is no reason to accept that. One reason why it is not that at a trad chapel is that there one finds a self-selecting community of people who determine to see it in a certain way, and who are very eager to be blessed by the liturgy. On both sides there is stubbornness. If on the Novus Ordo side they would be more open about the real effects of bizarre experimentation, there would be a lot less bleeding to the trad chapels.

I would, of course, assume there is much hidden damage that had been occurring over a period of years. What I would NOT do is tear down the house and start over from scratch. I would assess the damage and then treat the affected beams with chemicals, repair the beams that were damaged, and replace those that had been damaged beyond repair.

Hi Brother. Good to see you again.

As someone who is the same age, and also grew up serving pre Vatican II, I will acknowledge that there are different perceptions of that period. But mine is pretty much exactly the opposite of yours.

The Catholicism I saw pre V2 was robotic at best in my experience. Nothing more than meeting the “Sunday obligation”. I’m sure that is not true of all people or all parishes, but it was my experience across at least a dozen parishes in two different states during my growing up years. Even within the Catholic schools I went to it was all about nothing more than memorizing the catechism. Never anything about holiness or serving the poor or living the gospel.

I see references in these threads about people spontaneously raving about the TLM, and those who attend it now probably are doing so because it’s almost surely much more reverent than it was when I was attending it, plus it is only attended now by people who really want to be there. But I promise you that I never heard anyone spontaneously praising it pre V2, and people all but dancing in the streets when we finally got Mass in a language we could understand.

Did we lose some things? Sure we did in some cases. Some of the “contemporary hymns” are abysmal. But then, quite frankly, so were some of the old Latin ones to my personal taste.

I do see this whole labeling of “traditionalism” as a false division though, created mostly by those who just detest the post V2 Church. I believe in the traditions of the Church, but I define them differently because I see them as being our belief in the gospel and the teachings of Jesus. I do NOT consider the man-made traditions of specific liturgies, which are simply disciplines of the moment and subject to change, to be the traditions of the Church. They are nothing more than personal preferences–different vehicles that speak in different ways to different people.

For those who prefer the TLM and the liturgical traditions of the past, go for it! I have no beef with anyone who does. But please, PLEASE stop implying that those of us who find God speaking to us through the current liturgical traditions are somehow NOT traditional and/or are somehow inferior. It just ain’t so, no matter how many times it gets repeated.

Our Catholic traditions are common. Throwing up meaningless labels to divide us into which preference is better rather than seeking to bring all to God, in whichever liturgical preference best does that for an individual, is to assume an arrogance in thinking we know what is best for all and that God isn’t big enough to speak to each person individually.

Yes Brother, there are different experiences. That is exactly the point. It’s not about the different liturgies being better or worse; it’s about them being experienced more or less completely in bringing us to God. Your experience is fine for you, but that can’t be the definiton of “best” for all.


Howdy John, long time no see! I read your post at lunch today and have mulled it over since.

I hate to say it but it has to come back to that “New Orleans thing”. I simply didn’t experience a “robotic” Catholicism. I can say I saw HMC living the Gospel with my own eyes.

You will recall in those days that the South (including New Orleans) was heavily segregated. In my home parish in a suburb, we had many black families - including the Marsalis family of musical note. In 1962 before the Civil Rights Ammendment, the Archdiocese of New Orleans began to desegregate the Catholic school system. You and I both know how this would have gone over in the culture at the time.

There were protests in front of the Chancery. Then Archbishop Rummel came out (on live TV no less) onto the steps of the Chancery and exhorted the crowd about their responsibilities to Our Lord. Two women (to use a modern term) “got in his face”. He offered them a chance to repent. When they wouldn’t comply, he excommunicated them (bell, book, and candle) on live TV and stated that we were all children of the Most High no matter our color. This image ranks right up there for me along with seeing Lee Harvey Oswald killed live on TV in November 1963. The Gospel in action. (Not Oswald! The sheer shock value of being on TV!)

Closer to home was an example I observed from my mother. Summer of 1963 - again during the Civil Rights struggle. My subdivision was getting sewer lines and back then there were no backhoes. The work was done by men with shovels - in this case black men. My mother saw that these guys were suffering in the heat outside. She made lemonade. She told my brother, sister, and myself that we were all children of God and God’s children should not suffer in the heat. So the four of us brought lemonade out to the workers suffering in the heat and you will know what I mean when I say we served them in our family’s glasses.

In 1965, I attended my Catholic high school in the French Quarter. There were homeless then as there are homeless now and the Brothers (still in cassocks) would stop the homeless around school and direct them to the Brother’s house for meals.

And piety? Or, I guess I should say acts of piety. I could regale you for hours. Up until the late 60s, every restaurant and movie theater in New Orleans closed on Good Friday.

So, what you experienced and what I experienced are two quite different things. I grew up in a city and culture which was overwhelmingly Catholic. And it wasn’t just New Orleans, it was all of south Louisiana. I’m not being judgmental in this, from an honest viewpoint, I can say without prejudice that my experience of HMC before V II IS different.

I don’t detest the post V II Church but then again I am fortunate enough to be a member of a reverent NO cathedral parish. There are several in the Baton Rouge area.

Let’s just say that when I needed permission from my geographic parish to join the cathedral parish in 1984 (because I was singing in the choir), I got a less than Christian response from my local priest even though I did not attend the geographic parish church. Thankfully, such permission is no longer needed. And I won’t even go into what happened when my mother-in-law passed away in 92 at this same parish.

I’ve never said anything but that my experience is different. It is. But just as well as you expressed your experience of people rejoicing to hear the Mass in their own language, so too do I remember that which I learned in New Orleans - Mass celebrated in the same language that my ancestors used.

I freely admit that I am an anachronist, John. It permeates my blood. I loved serving the Mass in Latin. I love singing Latin motets and Gregorian Chants. And I think these things have a place in HMC of today. I am not advocating a return to the past. I am advocating that the past be given a place in the future.

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