Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

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What is the defintion of a “Traditonal Catholic”?

October 25th, 2009, Promulgated by Choir

I found this on the net quite awhile ago and it seemed pretty comprehensive, so I decided to post it. I can’t remember where I found it.

It’s a very good question that is hard to answer. Broadly speaking, it’s a Catholic who goes to the Tridentine Latin Mass– abbreviated here and elsewhere as the TLM. But it’s really more than that, it’s a cultural and theological point of view that goes hand-in-hand with the TLM but is not the same as a TLM-goer.

At this point, I’d like to make a note of capitalization: I refer here to traditional Catholics. It’s an adjective. Tradition with a “Capital-T” is the magisterial teaching of the Church and, though important, is not the subject of this post. If you use a Capital-T to write Traditional Catholics, you’ve created a whole new religion. Which does not apply to traditional Catholics. People who are are traditional Catholics are 100% Roman Catholics, just like any other Roman Catholics. These little things matter– there’s a huge difference between being orthodox and Orthodox.

A traditional Catholic is not a person who “prefers” the old Latin Mass. Neither are they people who simply passed Catechism class.

They are people who adhere to a type of spirituality that is largely lost in the 21st Century Catholic Church.

Truthfully, it’s easier to describe their outward signs than their character: the old Latin Mass is the biggest identifier… though there are certainly traditional Catholics who are marooned in Novus Ordoland; there are likewise non-traditional Catholics who go to the TLM.

Trads are people who listen to Catholic Radio… skeptically. They might have a blog. They can list their “top-five” favorite Ecumenical Councils… none of which will rhyme with “Attican Shoe”. Their friends think they’re fuddy-duddys. They’ve got Holy Water fonts in all the bedrooms and by the front door. They quote the Douay Rheims bible. They have an opinion on offering Mass in baroque vestments while in a gothic chapel. They’re tired of tinfoil hat jokes. They may not like Bishop Williamson, but concede that sometimes he’s right, and when he’s right, he’s really right. They can tell you about Assisi. When they’re at a Novus Ordo Mass, they’ve got their hands folded like a Catholic during the Our Father. The women have an extra mantilla in the van– just in case. The men have an opinion on the best type of pipe tobacco for any occasion. The boys have their own cassock and surplice hanging in the closet. The girls know how to play Dies Irae on the organ. They wear a t-shirt while they go swimming so their brown scapular doesn’t float away. They’re willing to drive an hour to go to Mass… every Sunday. They know the confession times of at least 4 churches. They invite priests over to play cards and smoke cigars. They pray to saints that you think may not really exist. They ask you to finish the sentence when you say “John Paul the Great”… the great what? They might own a live chicken. When they’re at a Novus Ordo Mass, everyone watches them to figure out why they’re hitting themselves during the “Lamb of God”. They’re kneel after Mass to pray… and miss out on the fun glad handing with Father by the parish gift shop. They cross themselves when they pass a Catholic church. They mutter something about the “poor souls” when they pass a cemetery. They mutter something about St. Michael when an ambulance passes them. Their girls’ first names are Mary. Their boys’ middle names are Mary. Cappa Magna doesn’t sound like a drink at Starbucks to them. They’ll tell you at length why being “charitable” isn’t always being nice and friendly.

It’s complicated. Trads are not easily defined. You just kind of know them when you see them.
A traditional Catholic is someone that views the traditions of the Church not just as an optional extra to Catholicism but praciticing our faith and living our lives with the wisom passed on from our fathers in faith is a necessary and intrinsic part of Catholicism.

Of course, falling away from the infallible teachings of the Church is worse than falling away from the practices of the Church, but there is the idea that being a Catholic is not just about believing as the Church has believed but is also about worshipping God in the way the Church has passed down to us.

Tradition is a living thing that evoles, the way we practice our faith evolves but this evolution must take place with respect to what has gone before us and must build on it.

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2 Responses to “What is the defintion of a “Traditonal Catholic”?”

  1. avatar Anonymous says:

    Very interesting article. Thank you.

  2. avatar Eric says:

    I hit all but a few of those descriptions. I'd be over 90% if I owned a live chicken. Most of my friends have several, does that count?
    Still nothing about beer, bumper stickers, or the Name of the Third Person of the Holy Trinity. The description could be lengthened I suppose.

    BTW: That's not the reason we wear t-shirts when we go swimming.

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