Monday, February 2


A Good Reflection from Austin Ruse

Writing a memoir, "Up from Traditionalism", at The Catholic Thing, he recalls:

And it wasn’t just the bishops we hated. We really hated the documents of the Second Vatican Council; they were the root and branch of all the problems in the Church. We felt no need to read or know them, and certainly not to follow them.

We did not hate John Paul II; almost worse, we were indifferent to him. The rest of the Church celebrated each of his new utterances; we shrugged and ignored them.

I looked at myself and the movement and did not like what I saw. In addition to everything else, the mainstays in the movement began to praise the schismatic Society of Pius X. Chris Ferrara and my good friend Tom Woods wrote a vicious book called The Great Facade, a monumentally uncharitable attack on John Paul II (Woods later recanted privately).

And then there were the exotica. Love of monarchy and deep hatred of America and democracy, all presented as traditional Catholic belief. The movement bred oddness and unhappiness.

As our long-time readers know, the thesis of this blog is that it truly is a joy to be a Christian--to live in that love which is "the Holy Spirit poured into our hearts" (Rom 5:5), which by definition of course is the grace of belonging to the global fellowship (communio) that is the Church. The Christian life is relevant to the real world, because in wishing to be happy every person--knowingly, or unknowingly--longs for nothing else than communion with Christ and communion in Christ. And that makes us relevant to the world, because if we succeed in reaching out to people, we can offer them that very happiness. Ruse continues:

At the same time two guys starting pushing me to read Church documents. Bill Saunders pushed the documents of the Second Vatican Council on me and I came to the view that rather than causing the current problems, properly understood were a bulwark against them. Keith Fournier began pushing the writings of John Paul II on me. I came to understand what a monumental figure this man was, and to think I almost missed his papacy altogether!

I decided finally that I was a Traditional Catholic and not a Traditionalist one. Traditional Catholics adhere to the all the teachings of the Church including the Second Vatican Council. Traditionalists are more of a political party advancing an agenda. All I wanted to be was a regular pew-sitter holding fast to the barque of St. Peter.

This article has been well-received at Commonweal, where David Gibson concludes,

Ruse finally decided that he was “a Traditional Catholic and not a Traditionalist one.” That reminds me of the aphorism I first encountered, I believe in an E.J. Dionne column somwehere, and traced to Jaroslav Pelikan. It is probably a commonplace for many here, but bears repeating: “Tradition is the living faith of the dead, traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.”

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