Dialogue with a Troubled Semi-Traditionalist on the "Catastrophe" of the Post-Vatican II Church

I was Instant Messaging with a Protestant friend and came across your site
as I searched for defenses of Catholic positions on the usual sticking
points Protestants have with our faith.  In doing so I also came across your
critiques of traditionalism, and I've spent several hours reading them.

Thanks for reading!

I just wanted to give you some feedback, and perhaps ask for some sympathy and prayers.

Okay.

I'm one of those Catholics who is wrestling with traditionalism.  The crisis
in the Church today is a source of great heartache to me, and I long for
things in the Church to be vigorous, healthy, and unified, as I believe they
were in the decades before my birth in 1973, and which I do not believe they
are today, despite the reiterations of the Church being in a state of "renewal".

The Church has always had cycles of ups and downs. This is nothing new. I think you make the mistake common among "traditionalists": thinking the present situation is worse than any other (it is not),  and exhibit a certain lack of faith and inability to take a "long view" of Church history. There have always been serious problems (even chaos) in the Church. See, in particular, my paper:
Sins and Sinners in the Catholic Church. There I lay out an elaborate biblical case that the situation in various parts of the Church even during apostolic times is just as bad (arguably worse) than it is today.

But I hate the very idea of not liking what's official and authorized and coming from Rome.

Then don't do it! Bow to something greater than yourself. I don't know if you are a convert like I am, but I know firsthand what it means to have to figure out everything for myself, rather than accept in faith the magisterium of the Church, whether or not I fully understand it. It is a great blessing. I wish "traditionalists" would relax and avail themselves of it.

Though only 28, for spiritual purposes, I wish I were born several decades ago and had never seen the crisis of today.

If the roots of the present crisis hadn't been present in those so-called "golden years," it wouldn't have come about. Fr. Hardon (whom I knew) said that the "revolution" began around 1940. So not everything was rosy and peachy keen. It wasn't then and it isn't now. Liberalism had already infiltrated the seminaries and colleges. Many things now (e.g., apologetics) are far better than they were then.

That way my two strong inclinations:  a love of Catholic tradition and my strong
desire to not only be obedient but to want to be obedient, could be happily
married.  Unfortunately the way these are these days, they are in conflict.

I don't see how. But you never say what it is you can't accept (not that I want to get into a big argument about it: I don't).

I'm sure you would characterize that as a character flaw, but that's what
I'm faced with.  It's really a terrible thing to have to go through.

I think it is a lack of knowledge and faith, but I wouldn't characterize it as you do. I think you need to read some things and see that you needn't be in crisis or conflict. Knowledge is power. Knowledge bolsters faith, and vice versa. Apologetics is a great blessing and aid to faith, I have found in my own life.

In any event, I want to commend you on the quality of your arguments against
the traditionalist position, at least to some degree.  You are very strong
when you relentlessly hit on the ideas of non-defectibility, infallibility,
and especially the essentially Catholic quality of obedience and acceptance
of the visible Church's authority and pronouncements; as a traditional
Catholic, naturally that would be effective with me.

Thanks.

I have heard them before and to some degree have resented
non-traditionalists using it on waverers like me; as I have seen it, it
never seems to be done, or done sufficiently, on Modernists, "We Are Church"
types, and all the rest.  And yet folks like me who have the strongest
attachment to Catholic tradition are the ones who get it the hardest.  Maybe
that's just special pleading.

No one could claim that I'm not not just as hard on the modernists / liberals. I have a whole page on them, too. If something is erroneous, I don't care who is espousing it; I attack it. That's my duty as an apologist.

Moreover hitting us with that in response to nearly all our contentions
seems like a refusal to engage in some of the arguments that traditionalists
have, particularly about current-day abuses and scandals; with this heavy,
obvious, and useful club of infallibility/obedience/indefectiblity lying
around, why not just hit those people over the head with it instead of
engaging their arguments about the crisis?

My own position is that I like to look at the root assumptions of a position and vigorously critique those. I have stated from day one (in this particular dispute) that I won't engage in canon law disputes or obscure liturgical minutiae or conspiratorial schemes with "traditionalists." They bore me to death, and I think they are part of the problem of that mindset, so I refuse to get into that. Let other people engage those to the nth degree if they like. I'm simply not interested. It's the premises which need to be examined. They are what ultimately cause the differences of opinion.

To be fair, you've been very good in intelligently and respectfully (by and
large) engaging with traditionalists about other topics.

Thank you. You do seem very fair-minded. I can see that.

What to me is distinctive, new, and very interestingly and well done about your site is
that you also present or link to very well-done and intelligent defenses of
the New Mass, Vatican II (including ecumenism and religious liberty), even
things like Communion in the Hand; and they are defenses that strike me (for
what little that's worth) as being very much in the spirit of Catholic
orthodoxy, rather than Political Correctness or modernism.  That is very
valuable to me.  I'll have to return to them and re-read them more
carefully, because they are so-well done.  My compliments, and I think that
if you are right, you are doing a great service to those souls like me who
long to be in full Commmunion in every way, and without reservation, with
what Rome has done and is doing, and yet who love the Latin Mass and the
whole atmosphere that surrounded the Church when it reigned supreme.

This is precisely my goal, so I am delighted to get this report from you of your impressions.

Unfortunately, the traditionalist argument still has a great deal of
emotional and rational power to me.  Claims that we are in a "new
springtime" or "renewal" ring luridly hollow to me.

It always takes a bit of faith and foresight to recognize the beginnings of a revival when it is occurring. That's nothing new, either. So you can't see it, because you are concentrating on all the bad things that are in the Church (among Catholics, that is - I don't believe they have infiltrated the magisterium).

You might quickly and without much concern or effort dismiss it as subjective judgement influenced by nefarious persons and a fallacious post hoc ergo propter hoc logic,

I would. Bingo!

but I cannot easily dismiss the notion, regardless of Humanae Vitae, that Vatican
II and subsequent official actions by Rome and the bishops were responsible
for the current catastrophe.

Why, since this was the case after every single Council? After Vatican I there was the crisis with the Old Catholics, and those who couldn't accept the ex cathedra doctrine of papal infallibility, etc. Catholic liberalism and hyper-rationalism really began to pick up steam in that period (which is precisely why Pope St. Pius X dealt with it!) The Arian crisis continued in full force after Nicaea had settled it, etc. You have an excessively short-sighted view of history.

 Your analogy here would work better if Vatican II was founded primarily to
 combat the looming catastrophe of liberalism and modernism, but the Church
 had had to go on dealing with those threats afterwards anyway.

The emphasis and purpose of Vatican II was to re-think theology in ways which deal directly and forcefully with the intellectual currents of thought which have come about since the 16th century, so as to better reach (hence, the "pastoral" impetus) modern man with orthodox Catholicism and the larger gospel, which we hold in common with our separated brethren. The Church has always done this. It has always utilized new approaches and philosophies, insofar as they are consistent with its (always developing) doctrines and morals. St. Augustine utilized Platonism; St. Thomas Aquinas "baptized" and "co-opted" Aristotelianism for the Faith (as have modern Thomists such as Garrigou-Lagrange, Etienne Gilson, Peter Kreeft, Ralph McInerny, and Jacques Maritain); John Paul II uses phenomenology in the same way.

It was altogether to be expected that the liberals (fatally influenced by Higher Criticism, Protestant liberalism, and various relativist, existential, or ultimately irrational philosophies) would distort this clearly avowed and officially stated purpose and claim that the Church was thereby changing her doctrines: "progressing," as it were, and coming out of the Stone Ages of orthodox dogma (as they see it), to the modern "enlightened" approach, in accordance to the zeitgeist, passing fashionable intellectual and moral fads, fancies, follies, and whims of the current era. Their fallacy lies in thinking that legitimate development of doctrine is no different than evolution or corruption, or essential change. They don't seem to comprehend that differing approaches to evangelism and teaching (St. Paul said, "I have become all things to all people") are not changes in the teaching themselves, but rather, in how they are set forth and defended.

Again, the modernist, heterodox, dissident strategy was and is absolutely predictable, and it indeed occurred. But the liberal theological influence is rapidly fading, and they (like aged and irrelevant dinosaur Marxists on every college campus) know it, even if many of the shaken faithful do not yet know this, due to the harmful fallout from many Catholic institutions, having endured the devastating effects of the senseless "experimentation" and mindless "innovations". But the dissenters didn't expect to reckon with such a powerful adversary as John Paul II! That was God's counter-attack, and praise Him for it!

 But there's a reason the modernists praise Vatican II, carp on about the
 "spirit of Vatican II" and lavish praise on John XXIII; even Call To Action
 and We Are Church do it.  It's because they see Vatican II as the beginning
 of the Church in even a minimally acceptable form to them; all else prior
 was darkness.

Precisely, as I have just argued (I'm answering as I read). But this is pathetic illusion: plain stupid and irrational. Vatican II is entirely orthodox and in accord with legitimate development of doctrine.

If Vatican II was the beginning of a trend pleasing to modernists and liberals who hate the Church and anything it stands for that does not agree with modern Politically Correct liberalism, what does that say about it?

Nothing necessarily, because you have overlooked the possibility that they have not understood it in the first place, or else that indeed they do understand it, and proceed to unethically and cynically distort it for their own heterodox, schismatic, and ethically immoral ends. Either way, the result of their asinine efforts (conscious and deliberate or not) to undermine the traditional faith, liturgy, and what not, would be the same. And we see it all around us. I could argue, by your logic, that the Council of Nicaea was "the beginning of a trend pleasing to Arians and apostates who hate the Church and anything it stands for that does not agree with modern Politically Correct Arianism." Or I could argue that Vatican I "was the beginning of a trend pleasing to Old Catholics and conciliarists and Gallicans who hate the infallible papacy and anything it stands for that does not agree with modern Politically Correct (ultimately Protestant) Private Judgment." What's the difference? I don't see any. You are laboring under an erroneous and unnecessary logical conclusion.

 It seems to say at the very least that, unlike Nicaea, which was called to
 fight Arianism and did not quite finish it off, Vatican II was not called to
 fight modernism.  Instead it was either called to make concessions to it (a
 contention I hope is untrue and which you would no doubt forcefully
 dispute), or at least remodel and change the Church, sacraments, etc., to
 make the Church an easier sell in a liberal- and modernist-dominated world
 (surely you would at least agree to this one).  In either case, Vatican II
 created an environment in which modernism within the Church exploded,
 something that, in my view, clearly cannot be blamed on the surrounding
 society.

I've already dealt with this above.  The purpose of Vatican II was neither scenario you suggest. You don't seem to comprehend the utterly different approach to the modernist problem that the Council followed, as I tried to explain. Maybe that can resolve your "problem" and troubled heart. I hope so. In any event, I say that the Council indeed was intending to deal at least in part with modernism by making the faith more relevant and compelling to modern man, without sacrificing orthodoxy and its Tradition, or changing any of its essentials. In this it was successful, despite all the nonsense that also occurred. The world is a messy place. Things aren't resolved in a neat little package, as they are in soap operas and fantasy movies. Maybe you think they are resolved quickly because you are in this culture and can't see how you have been harmfully influenced by its false ideas.

What we have seen is that the Catholic Church has heroically and magnificently upheld traditional doctrine and morals, while virtually every other Christian group has caved in to more or less degrees. This is a major reason why I am a Catholic today (the stand on contraception was the first thing that started me on the road to conversion, because I desired the moral theology of the early Church and the Apostles, and looked around to see who had preserved it in its totality).

The Orthodox may not have a "modernist crisis" as we do (in a certain liturgical or "surface" sense), but the reason for that is  (arguably) because they didn't have the cultural and theological foresight (nor even the ability, without Councils and central authority) to confront modernism head on and defeat it. Consequently, they are compromising on contraception (even abortion in some important high quarters), whereas we have stayed true to, e.g., the universal Christian prohibition of contraception prior to 1930. We have, of course, many individuals who are compromising and selectively believing, but Church doctrine has remained inviolate, and that was the promise of Jesus to Peter, not that every believing Catholic would be fully orthodox and observant (which has never happened and never will).

Protestants (even evangelicals) are caving in and compromising doctrinally and morally all over the place. I need not bother documenting that (just look at the Anglicans if you want a clear, quick example of what they face). The "orthodox" amongst them are doing a good job chronicling the decline of evangelicalism without our help anyway (see, e.g., Francis Schaeffer's The Great Evangelical Disaster). When you face a great evil and a powerful opponent (as in any military conflict), you take some casualties, and there is much hardship, but in the long run, it is a better thing to do than to hide from reality or pretend that no problems exist, and engage in a pipe-dream that cultural isolationism will suffice to overcome them.

 Do you honestly believe that if the Church had not undergone the changes of
 Vatican II, that we would have officially santioned churches and cathedrals
 that look like toilet paper rolls, airplane hangars, or random piles of
 children's blocks, decorated with felt cutouts... oh I don't even want to
 get in to all the miseries.

Architectural mediocrity and outrage and the loss of the sense of the sacred and reverence are symptoms of the modern era and the larger cultural upheaval of the post-World War II period, and especially of the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s (I did major in sociology, so I know a little bit about this sort of broad cultural analysis). This nonsense simply cannot be found in Vatican II, and if you think it can, then prove it by citation. That these people cited the Council's "spirit" to justify themselves is no more a case against Vatican II than the "penumbra" of the Constitution nefariously used to "find" abortion rights in it is a condemnation of the actual US Constitution.

The Church is dealing with these problems now. Things take time. The pessimist always concentrates on present miseries, while the optimist, idealist, or person exercising faith look at the good things that will come in the future, as the present decadent cycle comes to a close and the new revival starts to gradually pick up momentum. We need only look back at Church history to see what is coming next (excepting Christ's Return, of course). If the Second Coming isn't imminent, then I am as certain that major revival will come in this century as I am that I am sitting here typing this.

Regardless of who was thinking or plotting what in the 1940s, it's impossible to imagine Modernism getting anywhere with official sanction within a Church that remained as it had been before the Council, complete with anti-Modernist oath, etc. etc.

It is not officially sanctioned, not on the magisterial level. It is by many bishops, but this is no new thing, either (look, e.g., at St. John Fisher: the lone faithful bishop in England at the time of Henry VIII), and is not nearly as easily dealt with as you seem to think. Heresy must be dealt with slowly and with great tactical and strategic wisdom, but it can be decisively defeated in the long run. Schism, on the other hand, is much more historically long-lived, as we see in the Orthodox-Catholic split, which is now 947 years old, and Nestorian and Monophysite sects which persist to this day (1500-1600 years old). So the Church must be very prudent in how it deals with heretics and dissidents in its own fold, lest they create a widespread schism which is to be avoided at all costs, for the sake of souls. It has not compromised its doctrine or moral theology, so the real debate here is in the particular strategy that should be adopted to "crack down" on heresy and dissent. Personally, I think that John Paul II has ingeniously, brilliantly upstaged the liberals and set the wheels in motion for what is now inevitably a tremendous defeat for the modernists and their entire agenda.

 Plenty of religions in our civilization have gone well into modernity (both
 the Christian and Jewish "Orthodox", the Mormons), essentially unchanged (OK
 the Mormons admitted blacks to their priesthood).

And even the Jewish Orthodox accept contraception and even abortion to some extent (remember Joe Lieberman, who ran for Vice-President)?

The modern era did not necessitate Vatican II so the Church could "sell itself" during it.

The point isn't to "sell itself," as if this were a Madison Avenue ad campaign or TV commercial (you again show, it seems to me, the influence of modern American cultural mentality). The point is to "be all things to all people that [we] may by all means save some," a very biblical (and Pauline) approach and evangelistic outlook.

In fact, in the 1950s, when many Protestant churches were already experiencing the problems
they and we have today, our Church was thriving as never before.  Not anymore.

The Church was not dealing straightforwardly with the modernist problem, and modern society. We could have taken the tack that the Orthodox took, and tried to ignore modernism, and pretend that it is not our duty as Christians to be the salt of the earth and light of the world, and the "city set on a hill," and outwardly it may have continued to appear that everything was hunky-dory, but we also would have found ourselves caving in to passing fads and fancies of morals and philosophy, and compromised, as institutions inevitably are when they decide to refrain from taking on their ideological enemies. In other words, it is Edmund Burke's maxim: "the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."

 You advocate joy.  Certainly the Christian message is one of good news for
 your eternal soul.  But at least insofar as things of this world are
 concerned, I don't see much grounds for joy outside of friends and family.

I'm not talking about the world. I'm talking about the indefectibility of the Catholic Church and its divine protection from the Holy Spirit. That is our grounds (in faith) that things will get better, and are, in fact, not as bad as they seem in the first place (at the deepest, spiritual level). Joy rests on grounds other than circumstances. Joy comes from inner peace of the soul, by the grace of God, and a Christian can possess it even in a concentration camp, or with incurable cancer. The saints even truly embraced suffering with joy, as a privilege and honor and a way to help save souls. I was talking more of the optimism of the eye of faith: the assurance that God knows what He is doing, and that history has a purpose: that all things are in His Providence, though He obviously doesn't will all things in His perfect will. He allows bad things, and then uses them for His own purposes.

It is not necessarily the mortal sin of despair, nor rejecting indefectibilty, to open your eyes and see; to recognize a grave and yes unprecendented crisis that will in all likelihood not be resolved favorably in our lifetimes.

It depends, I suppose, on what you mean by "resolved." There are always problems in the Church. That is a no-brainer. I documented that in a paper of mine I cited, from Scripture, but you have not dealt with it. That gives us something objective to grab onto, but instead you want to wallow in the mire of doom-and-gloom and Chicken Little pessimism. That is something I will not do, because I see it as contrary to faith and the true Catholic spirit.

I do suspect that a lot of this sort of analysis of "the crisis" comes down to temperament. Some people are of a state of mind and emotion that they are naturally pessimists. They may struggle with depression or find it difficult to be of good cheer, with regard to day-to-day life. They might be going through any number of things which are legitimately troubling (I've had my share, too, believe me). And sensitive souls will be harmed and troubled more by evil and "things gone wrong" than less sensitive types. We mustn't pretend that temperaments and personality types have no effect on our worldviews. They certainly do. And I'm the first to admit that it is probably easier for me to "look at the bright side" than it is for many others, because I have an easy-going, idealistic, optimistic temperament myself. Nevertheless, I think there are real, objectively-measured grounds for optimism with regard to the Church situation, other than simply a feel-good delusion based on mere temperamental factors and circumstances.

 What would you have said to someone in the twilight of the Roman Empire?

That God would build up a new and better civilization, which indeed happened (Christian Western Civilization), and that our citizenship is ultimately not of this world in the first place (as St. Augustine argued in his classic The City of God). Jesus said the same thing: "My kingdom is not of this world." It's not that these things pose no problem or inner conflict at all (I'm very troubled about the descent of America into a moral sewer and sound-asleep intellectual stupor), but that the Christian has a frame of reference which transcends them and offers ultimate hope. We are to work within our cultures to do what we can to transform and "baptize" them. That was the aim of Vatican II, but you ignore that by looking at historical events after it, rather than the content in it.

 The world's greatest civilization was in centuries-long slow collapse that
 would prove total; the worldly triumph of Christendom had seemed to have
 come and gone, pagan savages were rampaging and committing horrible
 atrocities and destructions.  Nothing but deepening night could be seen
 ahead, and for good reason.  While bearing in mind Christ's promise about
 the ultimate victory of the Church, was not deep sadness and even righteous
 anger over the devastation and those who caused it justified?

Yes. We should be concerned with decay and suffering of any kind, but the Church was not identical with the Roman Empire (thank God). So your analogy is again a false and inapplicable one.

Would you have insisted a better-than-ever revival was around the corner, surely in
the next century at the soonest?

I would, as Augustine did. It is true that there were several bleak centuries after that. That's a good point. The later Middle Ages were more typified by more frequent revivals. My basis for thinking that the coming century will bring revival, though, is seeing right now many good signs of a real, significant revival, and the fact that the 20th century was the absolute worst in history (at least in terms of murder and other sorts of human suffering due to despotism). Among many of those who died were Christian martyrs (more than at any other time, even in the early Church), and that is important to consider because "the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church." Their suffering will not have been in vain. When Christians suffer, it is for redeeming purposes. So I believe that all this suffering will bear fruit in a revival that I already see the beginning signs of.
God's mercy is such that He will pour out more graces after such a brutal century. Many Marian apparitions (approved ones) proclaim this same message as well.

 And it wasn't Catholic officialdom doing the bad things back then.
 How much more anger, then, when we see bishops and cardinals, at the very
 least, aiding and abetting the modernists, our latter-day Vandals?

So you would equate communion in the hand, lousy church buildings, the New Mass, terrible catechetical instruction, etc. (all the usual "traditionalist" gripes) with such historical events as the barbarian invasions, the more or less complete eclipse of learning and literacy, widespread sexual debauchery, Attila the Hun and the Moslem conquests, Arianism, Donatism, Monophysitism, and so forth? Curious . . .

 And what about the Pope and the Council?  That's what's so unprecedented.

What about it? I have no idea what you are talking about.

That's why the damage of Modernism will be so hard to undo.

It's already undone. The fatal blows have been struck. The implementation will take a little time (basically, people have to die off, like the wicked generation in the Exodus under Moses); that's all.

 Here's what I think the traditionalist critique is.  I know from what you've
 read you've encountered something like it many times before, but try it on
 for size in this cut; maybe you'll see something afresh.

You've got a deal! But I confess that I highly doubt you will give me anything new. :-)

 To justify as orthodox (or as not a step closer toward liberalism) Vatican
 II, the New Mass, pro Multis, Assisi, kissing the Koran, etc., etc.,
 requires a great deal of intellectual effort, winding down many twisting
 roads that are not visible and clear without much work (much of which I see
 you and those you link to have done).

I have defended many of these things in my own papers, and I truly didn't feel as if I had to expend an extraordinary amount of "intellectual effort." Personally, I don't regard it as that complicated of an issue. It takes far more work to refute an atheist, or a materialistic evolutionist, or a heretic such as a Jehovah's Witness, or Calvinist double predestination, or faith alone or Scripture alone. But Catholicism is a thinking man's religion; there is no doubt about that.

 Whereas, as we have seen with the liberals, it is very easy to go from these
 things on a broad, smooth, downhill road to Modernism.  The most obvious
 take any observer could have from these new developments is that yes, the
 liberals are right, the Church has backed away from its old "strident"
 positions, sees itself as merely one of many equally valid faiths, etc etc.
 They may well be lies, but they are obvious, intuitive, and easily defended
 lies.  Whereas orthodoxy must be pointed out with effort, reached by
 swimming upstream.

But that's always true. It's always easier to destroy culture than to construct it. Orthodoxy is always more hidden than the current zeitgeist. The fact that destruction and corruption proceed rapidly, by their very nature doesn't prove anything one way or the other. You can't argue from your average, relatively uninformed, and often misinformed layman to dogma and orthodoxy. The method is fundamentally flawed from the get-go (it's at bottom a utilitarian, pragmatic, or Protestant premise).

You are responsible as an intelligent, articulate, informed Catholic, who places a high premium on obedience and faith, to exercise the eyes of faith and your God-given faculty of reason and critical and logical distinction, and to put on your thinking cap and try harder to better understand things you currently find difficult to grasp. I'm trying to do my small part to assist you in that endeavor, but I know you need more technical, particular material as well, so I recommend studying and re-reading the links I provide, and others of like mind which you run across.

 Why go from situation a:  orthodoxy is blindingly obvious, monolithic, and
 not in serious dispute, especially in contrast to today; to today's
 situation b: orthodoxy is far harder to see than a vindication of liberalism
 and modernism is, even if that "vindication" is a lie?

We (the traditional, orthodox Church) didn't choose the current onslaught with which we have to deal. But God knew all about it, and He has a plan to defeat it, and He will communicate that plan to the people who need to know it in order to guide the Church to do His will in overcoming it (as He promised). We believe that in faith. If I didn't believe that, I would be in some small, strict, "traditional" Protestant sect which had no "liberals" in it at all (but in fact has as many "popes" as it has members, each determining his own theology). The Bible, however, tells me that the wheat and the tares grow up together in the Church, so this doesn't surprise or shock or scandalize me. The Protestant sectarian (or SSPX, sedevacantists, et al) response of leaving those folks and forming a new church of "perfect little Christians" is no solution because it is escapist and exclusivist (and unbiblical). The true Church reaches out to humanity at large. It's a city on a hill, not a bunker under a hill.

 The Modernists and sedevacantists may be wrong/lying when they say that
 Vatican II represented a break with the past and the creation of a new
 liberal faith.

They are, but you (at least in the impression you leave) seem to have trouble accepting that.

But I see a strong argument for saying that the truth that was credibly twisted and exaggerated by that lie is that Vatican II, etc., made Modernism's success possible by making it easy to see things as if there had been a break with the past and the embrace of a heretofore foresworn
liberalism.

The devil always builds upon truth in order to successfully promulgate his lies. That is some new and novel thing? So you wish to condemn truth in general, because the devil invariably uses parts of it for his own nefarious ends? That's the logical end-result of your position.

 The sheer seeming lack of necessity of Vatican II and the rest (pre Vatican II, tons
 of conversions annually, packed seminaries, thriving parishes, dioceses, and
 schools, knowledge and acceptance of teachings at great heights), and the
 disaster afterwards can't help but cause many to wonder why and hearken back
 to pre-catastrophe days.

Of course, if they don't think about it properly and with the historical hindsight necessary to see that it is the same old same old.

I know you'll insist it's totally coincidental and unrelated.  It's a hard sell, particularly when you listen to the liberals themselves.

It's not coincidental; it's based on the devil distorting truth to create a lie, as just stated. I don't see how that condemns truth. Just look at your letter! You spend your entire time bemoaning the fact that Vatican II has caused, directly, or indirectly, the present crisis, but you fail to cite a single word from the Council itself -- not one! Yet you expect me to rail against the Council (or condemn it) because it happened to precede historically a bunch of sheer nonsense in the name of Catholic theology? Sorry; that's neither logical nor the vantage-point of faith. It's plain lousy argumentation, which proves nothing at all, except that you are disenchanted, which I knew anyway, without all the bemoaning of Vatican II. I think you have a logical problem as well as a lack of faith. Just calling it as I see it.

You single out The Remnant, particularly, as a target, and I would agree
that there are people and columnists in it that I don't fully agree with, or
more importantly perhaps, whose tone I like.

Good.

Still, the following column I found to be very affecting, particularly the
contrast he drew between the vibrant, massively attended 100th anniversary
celebration in 1941, and the seemingly empty, pathetic one for the 150th.

http://ourworld.compuserve.com/HOMEPAGES/REMNANT/150th.htm

So what? We're in a bleak period, having taken the brunt of liberal nonsense and heterodoxy (teetering and dazed, but still afloat and very much alive). There have been many such periods. There were popes who went whoring around; there were horrible massacres in the Crusades, which we are still trying to live down. There was astonishing ignorance.

The worst periods were always followed by glorious periods. The 10th century was followed by St. Dominic and St. Francis of Assisi and St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Catherine. The Borgia Renaissance popes and numerous clerical abuses of that time (partially leading to the Protestant Revolt, as, e.g., Karl Adam freely admits) were followed by St. Robert Bellarmine, St. Ignatius Loyola, St. Francis de Sales, St. Teresa of Avila, and the glorious Catholic Reformation.

Again, I submit that you have a pronounced lack of understanding as to precedents for this sort of thing and how God brought His Church out of them, every time, without exception. Invariably, the best centuries follow the worst. So if that model holds, what do think will happen in the 21st century? Have you learned nothing from previous Catholic history (or are you just unaware of it, prior to your own lifetime, as so many are)? It's human nature to think that our own period is the worst ever: Chicken Little (and indeed very terrible and troubling things have happened in our age - no one denies that).

Our Church may not recover for a thousand years, or ten thousand.  I don't
see any reassurance that a recovery from disaster would take place within
any time frame.

Then you lack faith in God's promises, and can't see any of the good things which are right in front of you. Somehow you believe that this crisis is far, far more serious (exponentially more) than any the Church has faced before, which takes 10,000 years rather than a hundred or two to resolve. Even the liberals aren't that confident about their supposed "victory"! Quite the contrary. There is no question that you are lacking in faith, if you make comments like this: full of the bleakness of utter despair for the Church; not seeming to have any sense that God is in control.

Why be a Catholic at all, if you take such a low view of the Church? I don't get it. Why would I have ever converted if I believed as you do? There would be no reason to. So your view would turn out to be "counter-conversion" (just as the liberals offer no reason to convert to the Church - they don't urge it at all). If there were no hope for any earthly church then I would stay in my little self-chosen denomination, believing that one is just as good as another. The belief that God can guide even a human institution which is at the same time "His" in a special way takes more faith than believing that he can produce an inerrant inspired Scripture through sinful men, but we believe it because we believe in the Word made Flesh. In other words, God can transform even the human into something glorious. It all flows from the Incarnation.

 And human nature is certainly flawed, but it isn't necessarily wrong in its assessments.

No, but that is neither here nor there.

But the faith part comes in seeing that God has a plan through all the darkness and chaos, that all things work together for good, in His Providence (Romans 8:28).

 Just as long as we don't see that all of this evil is part of His plan; that
 denies His omni-benevolence.  Was the Fall part of His Plan?

In a sense yes, because He knew it would happen, and chose to create human beings, anyway. It is more accurate to say that He included it - took it into account - in His plan. It was part of the fallout of the wrong choices of human free will.

 Did He wishfor the Crucifixion?  I think He can take Evil and do a kind of judo on it,
 throwing the situation back against it, to produce an even more astounding
 good in the end.

Yes; precisely.

But we shouldn't act as if He intended Evil to happen all along, nor that the greater good that comes along in the end makes the Evil that preceded it OK or unworthy of great sadness.

Of course not. He knew it, but He didn't will it. But see, those things did work out in the end, didn't they? So why can't you believe that they will in the present instance, seeing that the same God is behind -- i.e., ultimately in control of -- all these bad things?

 I guess you know all that so it was pointless to say.  But I get irritated
 sometimes when I hear people dismiss tragedy and disaster with "well, it was
 his time to be called home," or "it's all part of the Lord's plan."  Free
 will means something.  People can and do cause terrible damage, in direct
 contravention to God's will and plans for us.

No argument there. I believe I am fighting this "damage" in my own way by speaking out against it, and showing people a different vision of what the Church is, underneath the surface of the ubiquitous "crisis."

If you can't understand the great and powerful pull an article like that has on the hearts of traditionalists or those who lean that way like me, you'll not really be as effective as you could be in persuading us to our point of view.  Maybe I'm using a "know they enemy" hook to get you to look at that page (if I pasted the article in, although it only takes a few minutes to read, I'm afraid my email would look even more prohibitively long than it is).  But I urge you to read it.  You must engage the idea, to fully persuade me and others, that things seem dramatically less Catholic today, and that in the absence of at least the appearance of the real thing, vocations, orthodox belief, and Mass attendance have catastrophically declined.

I understand the "pull," but in my opinion, with all due respect, it is based on lack of faith and knowledge, and a certain sort of pessimist, conspiratorial, "o woe is me" mindset that I utterly reject as contrary to the truly Catholic mind, and to the faithful soul. No one is denying the crisis. It's the interpretation of it and its causes and cures, and the prognosis for the future that causes disagreement.

 That's the kind of distinction, very important to you, that I might
 sweepingly dismiss with a "well are you for or against the modernist
 wreckers and the Council they cite as their vindication and inspiration?
 Huh?  Huh?" kind of argument that you tend (with greater softness) to use in
 the face of traditionalists trying to distinguish themselves from
 schismatics and sedevantists.

I take great pains to distinguish between the sub-categories, but I do try to show what I see are logical affinities or common mindsets (in part) of one group to another. That was almost the essence of my critique of The Remnant. The whole point was to show that whether those folks consciously accepted a schismatic principle or not (I casually assume they do not - I always try to charitably extend the benefit of the doubt), such as characterized the SSPX which they claim to disagree with, the inner logic and end result of their flawed thinking leads in fact to the very thing they disavow. That happens all the time, and I have been doing apologetics for 20 years now, so I think I am able to see such logical problems a bit quicker than many, through long experience in critiquing various viewpoints (including my own: remember I did convert to Catholicism).

 I think such a "clubbing" approach will simply increase despair.  It will
 cause traditionalists to see there being no way out but embracing Vatican II
 (which they strongly associate with the crisis, rightly or wrongly), or
 leaving the Church.

Strong logical arguments are intended, in a sense, to make people feel discomfort with their own positions. It's the old "horns of a dilemma" routine. That can't be avoided (much as I would rather make people feel good if I could do so). I went through that in my own conversion experience -- very much so. They say that the drowning man fights the hardest right before he dies. If "traditionalists" can't get past Vatican II as the boogeyman and cause of all ills in the Church, there's not much I can do. I'm simply trying to show - inadequately, no doubt - that there is a "third way," so to speak. People do lots of dumb things, such as leaving the Church or Christianity altogether. They don't leave because I drew a stark choice in argumentation. They leave because they no longer believe the Church is what it is. And I didn't create that in them, because I say the opposite.

Many Protestants are now joining the Catholic Church.  Yet "traditionalists" are tempted to leave it because Vatican II is defended as a legitimate Ecumenical Council???!!! How strange that is to me. People who are already Catholics are tempted to despair about the Church while outsiders (including myself, back in 1990) see it as full of wonderful (spiritual, biblical, moral, ecclesiological, theological, intellectual, historical) things that they lacked in their Protestant denominations. One could reflect for hours upon the irony and sadness of that.

 If you want to woo traditionalists, I advise stressing your sympathy with
 them over the crisis a lot harder,

One doesn't pull someone out of a pit of despair or lack of faith or adoption of various false principles of epistemology and Christian authority by getting down in the pit with them, do they? If I did a Clintonian "I feel your pain" pose, to me that would be adopting a form of modernist "politically correct" thought which I despise. Grown-ups ought to be able to withstand a critique of their view, and be able to compare two visions side-by-side and decide for themselves which is more sensible, plausible, true, consistent, and Catholic. The mutual derision of liberalism is quite enough commonality (i.e., if the other person accepts at face value one's own stated opinion as to his own likes and dislikes). I've been called a "modernist" more than once. That would surely make me the only one in the world who has a Theological Liberalism and Modernism web page lambasting and severely excoriating his own views. :-) This is some of the funniest stuff that can happen to an apologist! - being accused of one of the things he is taking pains to critique!

stressing that the Modernists are lying about how Vatican 2 vindicates them, and how Vatican 2 etc. are perfectly orthodox and (crucially important, and a tall order in my opinion) in no way
contributed to the crisis nor made it possible - much of which you have done.

Indeed.

I merely advocate a shift in tone and emphasis to sell the faith to a troubled group.  Wasn't that what "conservatives" say Vatican II was?

How I answer it is as I have been doing. It will be effective for some, and will turn off others. Welcome to reality and theological dispute. You can't please everyone. Jesus didn't, and I don't expect to. I try to do my best, and I critique the premises and false assumptions that run through "traditionalism."  And my writings have not been without some effect in that regard.

In any event, I want to thank you for the hard work you've poured into the site; it was at least fascinating to me and may eventually help me deal with my great unhappiness concerning the present day.

I hope it does. I'm quite as unhappy and disdainful about liberalism as you are, I assure you. I utterly detest it. I was despising it even as a Protestant, when you were learning to read and write.

 You tend to hit traditionalists pretty hard with the choice of being just
 thrilled to bits about Vatican II and related change; or with being cast into
 the outer darkness (literally).

This is nonsense, and a sheer caricature of my position. I've never questioned anyone's ultimate salvation. I don't even refuse the title "Catholic" to "traditionalists" (and I have been commended for that more than once). But I will not grant them the privilege of having sole possession of the word "traditionalist" when they distort the Catholic faith and introduce Protestant and theologically liberal concepts into it under the guise of both "Catholicism" and "traditionalism," just as I refuse to accord the title "Reformation" to what occurred in the 16th century or "Enlightenment" to what happened in the 18th century. It's a matter of self-consistent terminological honesty. Surely, I haven't been as hard on your party as they have been on me and those in my "camp" (supposedly "conservatives" - whereas we are simply orthodox). So your charge (apart from being factually false in the first place) rings rather hollow.

You in fact often question their claims of loyalty or attempts to hold on to it in the face of their horror over the ruination they see around them with their own eyes; which I believe they are
told by the Pope himself is a "new springtime".

I merely point out what the logical outcome of their position is, and the presuppositional similarities with both liberalism and Protestantism. One can make an argument that some position has internal tensions and inconsistencies which ought to cause it's possessor to question it's truthfulness as an overall worldview. That's what I try to do. In fact, my very assumption that the "traditionalist" is in good faith and sincerely troubled guides the way I try to respond. My goal is to show that this view is at odds with orthodox Catholicism at certain points, not to ascertain the state of someone's soul or their heart (which I seek to avoid like the plague in all my apologetic efforts).

 Let me try to do the same a bit here, if I can.  You claim below and
 elsewhere that you don't deny the crisis; that you understand the "pull",
 that you are against the liberals. I'm not convinced, especially on a gut level.

Well, if you don't acept my self-report, there's little else I can do, is there? If you require everyone to respond in the fashion you do to any given situation, or else you will question the fact that they are disturbed by it as you are (simply because they offer a different "cure"), then this is a problem of severe closed-mindedness. You did comment, however, that: "I hadn't seen your equally voluminous critique of the liberals and modernists.  I'm glad to see that you let them have it." So which is it? Am I "fer 'em or agin' 'em"?

Yet I have a thoroughly optimistic view about the Church's future, John Paul II, Vatican II, etc. Why is that?

You tell me.

I've stated why in many ways and in many papers on this topic. I don't like to repeat myself and do things over and over (as a matter of prudent use of time), so I'm afraid you will have to simply read more of my writing to see why I believe this.

Any prayers said for my spiritual peace and finding the right way would be appreciated.

I will pray, and please don't take what I have said personally. I see you as a victim of harmful thought, and that makes me angry. I would like to see you have the peace and joy, bright optimism and idealism, and love for the Church (today's Church, with all its problems) that I and many others have, by God's grace and through faith.

Thank you very much.  I so heartily wish all this weren't necessary.

You're very welcome, and I wish the same. God bless you.

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Uploaded on 14 December 2001 with the permission of my correspondent.