Monday, July 22, 2013

How NOT to Speak to Traditionalists

One of the key ways to become a good apologist is to become familiar with those you disagree with.  For example, if one wants to do apologetics against Protestants, you need to actually read their works.  Reading a Catholic Answers tract and proclaiming yourself the next Karl Keating or Dave Armstrong is going to almost always end badly.  Chances are you will fail so epically, you will actually set back the cause for defending the Catholic faith, at least in the heart of one individual who will see your comically bad performance.

Most people would understand this when dealing with our seperated brethren across the Tiber.  Yet swap "Protestant" with "traditionalist" and suddenly all the rules change, and any attempt at due diligence is thrown out the window in mainstream Catholicism.  When Catholic Answers apologist Patrick Coffin does a show about "radical traditionalism", he invites Tim Staples to discuss it.  Tim Staples is a very brilliant man, but let's be real here:  his only exposure to traditionalism is reading a couple blog posts.  As a result, when they do their show, they royally anger not just the "radical" traditionalists, but the good traditionalists as well, those same individuals Mssgrs. Coffin and Staples praised as providing "heroic witness" to the Catholic faith.  They even wrote a follow up article, expressing amazement at this fact.  They spoke to their audience as Jane Goodall, seeking to educate them about the primate traditionalists.  Jane Goodall at least spent time studying the primates.

Over the next few days, I'm going to outline why traditionalists were angry, and more importantly, why the efforts of the Catholic Answers apologists are bad not just for loyal traditionalists, but bad for people attempting to understand traditionalists, and to avoid those who would try to use the good in traditinoalism to justify opinions that the Church has said we cannot.


  1. Hi Kevin,

    I didn't hear the show, but I did see the following disclaimer in the article you link to above:


    Tim took special pains throughout the broadcast to distinguish this phenomenon from the kind of "Traditional Catholics" who exhibit often heroic public witness to the Faith: that merry band of Latin-Mass-going, chapel veil-donning, homeschooling, nightly rosary-praying, great books-loving Catholics. In the courage of their faith and willingness to share it, these salt-of-the-earth Catholics deserve emulation.

    Take for example their invariably bold public pro-life commitment. Drive past any abortion facility in America or Canada and among the prayer warriors on the sidewalk you're bound to find at least one such Catholic. They love the pope, they love the beautiful Extraordinary Form (the Traditional Latin Mass), they love big families, and they love our Lord Jesus Christ and his mother.

    The subject of the May 31 show had nothing to do with any of this. And Tim Staples sharply contrasted a traditional expression of Catholicism with those who willingly break communion with the Church.


    Don't you think that is a helpful and conciliatory statement? You still think there is broad-brushing, despite this? But like I said, I didn't hear the show, and maybe there was objectionable stuff in it.

    I draw the same distinctions all the time, too. I've taken the greatest pains to do so, especially in the last five years. We do so precisely so as to be charitable to sensible trads, as opposed to the more extreme ones (hence the necessary distinguishing term, "radtrad" or some equivalent).

    Yet I still catch hell from some mainstream traditionalists about the mere use of that term. I think sometimes there is an unwillingness to hear what we non-trads are saying, too. I've made it extremely clear in many posts what *I* mean by it.

    Listening requires two parties (i.e., trad and non-trad Catholics). Both have to listen, and grant good will.

    I will not stop critiquing true radtrads. I will also never stop trying to build bridges whenever I can, with mainstream trads like yourself. We won't totally agree, but we can agree on a great deal, and on a great deal more, I think, than I would agree with any Protestant.

  2. Dave Armstrong: There is a very simple definition of radtrad and traditionalist. Both appreciate the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, but this really has nothing to do with the difference between them.

    This is the distinction:

    The radtrad considers the Second Vatican Council an enemy of traditionalism. The traditionalist considers the Second Vatican Council an invaluable ally.

  3. True as far as it goes, but the radtrad despises the Novus Ordo even more than VCII.

  4. For reasons I hope to make clear this week (and I've already teased some of them) I don't find the qualification Mr. Staples made as particularly comforting, and in many cases it is part of the problem. When I spoke with Mr. Coffin in private, let's just say I was given even less reason to be comforted by the distinction they made.

    In short, I really feel radtrad is a term that if it ever served a usefullness, it really doesn't serve one anymore.

  5. Round Two of trad bashing was yesterday. It did not go well for CAL. They started off trying to argue that they had gone to great lengths not to lump all "on the right" together (they didn't) but only confused people.
    Every time they were confronted with facts or had the flaws in their arguments exposed, they reminded me of the proverbial 3-legged cat trying to cover its own excrement.
    The archive of the show is not up yet and I don't know if it will be edited or perhaps they'll never post it and claim "technical problems." I hope I'm wrong because everyone needs to hear Caller #1 make his case against trads. It was a gem and probably a source of a lot of embarrassment. He was such a caricature of your typically modern Catholic, he may have been a plant.


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