Those words came to mind late last night during a conversation with a Roman Catholic. Let's call him G for the sake of writing. G had used the word 'trad' several times this year (rather freely too, I might add), when referring to a plethora of church events, activities and people - from masses to priests to books. Time after time, however, I found myself raising eyebrows at the event/person/practice he gave that appellation to - and always due to stunned shock, disbelief or sheer disappointment. Needless to say, I began to suspect what he actually meant when he used that term.
Now, the common understanding of a 'trad' (i.e. traditionalist) is (almost always) a Roman Catholic who advocates a return to Tradition, namely the Tridentine mass, doctrinal orthodoxy etc. Also, a trad tends to oppose rather stubbornly against modernism and various innovations (such as communion in the hand).
I have been asked this before, but I don't think Orthodox traditionalists exist. Quite simply, how do traditionalists exist in a Church whose traditions have remained, for the most part, largely unchanged? The gulf between say, Old Calendarists (or even Old Believers for that matter) and mainstream Orthodox is not as wide and vicious as the one that exists between the Roman Catholic trads and mainstream Catholics, but I digress.
There are various degrees of Roman Catholic traditionalism, and to say that all traditionalists are one and the same would be nothing but sheer ignorance. Edward, longtime contributor to now defunct blog, The Cassock and Cotta, distinguished 3 categories of traditionalists (where 'X' indicates the New Mass, i.e. Novus Ordo, and 'Y' represents the Tridentine mass):
1) Those who believe the X is equally valid, if perhaps sometimes rather problematic. These people prefer Y over X for historical, cultural and various reasons, but do not see X as heretical.
2) Moderates. These believe X is seriously problematic and has heretical tendecies - Y is the solution to these modern heresies. These believe that while X is not invalid or graceless, they prefer to wall themseleves off, keeping Y and the true uncompromised faith, forming a sort of resistance, hoping for better times.
3) Extremists. These believe X is heretical and invalid and graceless. Those who adopt X have become heretics, outside the True Church, and that grace leaves that jurisdiction. Those who use X may only be saved if they renounce X and join Y, the only place where true believers may be found.
'Traditional' practices would refer to Catholic practice which began after the Council of Trent and largely died out since the reforms of the Second Vatican Council in the 60s.
Now that we are clear, one who would use the 'traditionalist' to describe something would refer to either one of the aforementioned categories. The terms are hardly, if ever, used to describe an event/practice or even person for that matter, if it is anything less. For example, A Novus Ordo mass celebrated in Latin is not 'traditional', and although traditionalists may attend or even form the bulk of the congregation, it does not change the fact that such masses did not exist before the Second Vatican Council. One would not use the word 'traditional' to describe it. I think the word Edward would use is 'pointless'.
G has applied the term to such masses. And to Stations of the Cross. And rosary. And confession. At which point, I'd stop and seriously question his definition - which I did last night:
Constantine: You seem to be applying it everywhere
G: ok firstly....my definition of traditional would be to follow what the catholic church has always taught till today
G: and that is how the catholic church defines Tradition
30 minutes of attempting to clarify later, the discussion (if you may call it as such) came to this:
G: strictly speaking....the catholic church is traditional
Constantine: No, no... not 'traditional', traditionalist.
Constantine: 'Traditionalist', as in an advocate of the Tridentine mass and various other Roman Catholic practices that have since fallen out of use
G: this is not an official ecclesial terminology right
Constantine: Never has been
G: anyway i am 'traditionalist' therefore but i also subsribe to the normative rite
G: as all catholics are oliged to...with the exception of sspx...(hence they are in an irregular position)
Another half hour of attempts later:
Constantine: When most of us use the word 'trad'/'traditionalist', we follow popular usage
Constantine: Else we wouldn't use it otherwise
G: when u say most...i guess u mean traddys right
G: cos many people i speak to are also non traddys
G: and they also use the 'traditional' term
G: but it wouldn't mean any of the above u named
G: but none of these people are 'traditionalists' per se
G: they are novus ordo catholics
G: who follow the tradition of the church
OK, never mind the fact that he probably didn't understand me, but this revealed why he was misusing the term: he has obviously confused 'tradtionalists' with Sacred Tradition. This is not unlike confusing Democrats with democracy...
This begs the questions: has he misunderstood my use (and very possibly, others') of the terms throughout the past year? Was he not confused himself? He reads the New Liturgical Movement; shouldn't he know?
This obviously doesn't make any sense, but G hasn't made sense for quite some time now. The conversation then moved to the recent World Youth Day in Sydney, and several negative comments (mostly centered around Stations of the Cross) from yours truly later:
G: on the positive side (of World Youth Day) about a 200 000 people went for confession
Constantine: Uh, that's a "good" thing how?
G: so well many souls were restored to grace...u wouldn't find this even in the vatican
Constantine: It's a given that a good Catholic go to confession regularly
G: it is not a given nowadays
Constantine: Please, don't lower your standards....
G: thats why the church needs to 'encourage' young people to go
G: through such means
Constantine: That's not the answer, you realise
Constantine: You might as well give out free beer with every confession
I think I'm beginning to see how he could have used the term so loosely. He has lowered his standards and expectations to the point that even something vaguely Latin would appear 'traditional'. I could very well blame the Second Vatican Council for the decline in faith, as some 'traditionalists' are wont to do, but I won't. Perhaps for G, his language truly is a reflection of his social condition - the climate of political correctness must have rendered him reluctant to offend anybody, while relativism blinds him to objective standards and so blurred the meaning of the term.
Standards are important. In morals, in faith, and also in language. Language is important. It turns a mass into something solemn and powerful - or into a farce. It can bring people to raise their minds and spirits to God - or it can get them to join their minds and spirits to each other, and forget all about God.
Let us not make the same error G has made, and stick to clear, concise meaning when we use words!