Saturday, January 24, 2015

Traditionalism is the 'right wing' of AmChurch

The "American Catholic Church" (or "AmChurch" as some call it) refers to the Catholic experience in America of practicing the Faith with a "don't tell me what to believe" type attitude that is characteristic of Protestantism. The term is typically used by Traditionalists when speaking of “Liberal Catholics” in America, but the problem is much more serious because the Tradosphere is actually founded upon essentially the same erroneous (Liberal) principles as the AmChurch’s 'left wing'.

Long ago Rome saw these dangers creeping in, and so Pope Leo XIII issued an Encyclical against "Americanism" in which he singled out three big dangers we face:
These dangers are: (1) the confounding of license with liberty; (2) the passion for discussing and pouring contempt upon any possible subject; (3) the assumed right to hold whatever opinions one pleases and to set them forth in print to the world. (Testem Benevolentiae Nostrae)
The first error is the chief characteristic of Liberalism, which states that man is not bound to any law beyond himself, including not bound to Natural Law. The result is that "Liberty" becomes defined as “the right to do or say whatever you want” - which is not true Liberty at all, since it lacks restraints.

Building on the first error, the second and third AmChurch errors listed above immediately find their justification. They now think they have the right to discuss, criticize, pour out contempt upon, and especially publish anything he pleases. This "assumed right" states that one can even smear the reputation of another, protected under the guise of "free speech" (another Liberal error).

It isn't hard to see how the Tradosphere has embraced these latter two errors, particularly when it comes to their relentless criticism and contempt of the Pope. It is without restraint, relentless criticism of everything wrong in the Church. They mistakenly think they have a 'right' to go off pouring out their contempt, even daily (!), in blog posts, Facebook, and YouTube videos. They don't realize this is, technically, heresy and a badly formed Christian attitude. They don't realize that this even crosses into sins against the Eighth Commandment (lying), which the Catechism summarizes as follows:
2477 Respect for the reputation of persons. He becomes guilty of (1) rash judgment who assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor; (2) of detraction who discloses another's faults to persons who did not know them; (3) of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others. 
So the next time you see a headline in the format of "Guess what the Pope said this time?" consider that often times this is (1) rushing to judgment, not knowing the facts, context, or even validity of a statement, and (2) even if something wrong was said or done, this is not automatic justification to broadcast it!

Now, surely, many would jump at the opportunity to justify themselves: But the Pope made these comments publicly! But we have a duty to stand up for the faith!

Ah, but how much of this 'spirit to criticize' stems from AmChurch and how much of it stems from a devout soul who spends more time in prayer than on Facebook each day? Moreover, who made you Sheriff of the Church? Or are you acting like a big shot Cowboy in the wild west of America? This "Cowboy Catholicism" has no place in the legitimate tradition of the Church.

And what of the innocent souls who are scandalized and even fall away when they are overwhelmed by endless reports of ‘how rotten’ the Catholic Church and the Pope are? Those who play a part in causing others to fall away will be judged severely (Mt 18:6). The fact is, there has always been dirty laundry within the Church, but that gives nobody a "right" to air dirty laundry! Even among friends and small groups, we must all watch our tongue, lest the Devil rejoice in stirring up resentment in others. The virtue of Prudence is virtually non-existent in all this, with many not stopping to think whether their "heroic deed" is causing more harm than good! The Saints tell us that the Devil loves to distract people with glitter, causing them to chase some lesser good at the expense of a greater good!

In Romans 14:13-17 (and 1 Cor 8:7-13) Saint Paul warns us to “never to put a stumbling block in the way of a brother” since your imprudent actions can often lead to the “destruction of one for whom Christ died.” I have seen with my own eyes Catholics scandalized and even fall away after being hit with so much negativity about the Church, be it something wrong with the Mass or something the Pope said.

The Church doesn't need our help, I can tell you that right now. Take that cowboy hat off. Next time Francis says something that bugs you, consider: (1) maybe he didn't really say it and the (Catholic) media or blog is just trying to rile you up; (2) maybe he knows the Faith better than you, meaning you’re the one in error; (3) maybe he's not talking to you, since American Catholicism is only 5% of the Church; or (4) maybe he wants to upset you, to see if you have the self-control and loyalty to stand by him as your father.

And, last of all, I'd like to bring up the point of how many of these in the Tradosphere are actually making money by keeping all this going nonstop, be it selling subscriptions, advertisements due to site traffic, constantly stoking their egos and looking for the next breaking story. (And to be fair, some are even doing these things to make money in “defense of” Francis!) All that sounds very "Americanist" consumerist, in so far as nothing is off limits when it comes to earning money!

We all face these temptations, but we should encourage each other to minimize it. Stop hitting the "Share" button, scroll past it all without reading or commenting, and stop patronizing any of those news sites (be it mainstream or Trad) that have become nothing but gossip outlets – be they for or against Francis. Ignore it all and you'll feel so much better.


Devin Rose said...

Good call Nick. Been waiting for you to blog again.

Dave said...

This is great. Exactly what I needed to read. Thank you, Nick.

Kevin Tierney said...

I was with you until the very end when you said:

"The Church doesn't need our help, I can tell you that right now."

My good friend, that's clericalism. "The Church" is not some impersonal force governing the people. The Church is made up of all baptized Christians, and that includes those who are troubled. We should not speak of "The Church" as an institution, and "The church" as a people. You can separate them in theology when you need to, but not when giving concrete advice to people.

Trads becoming so focused on the latest supposed outrage thousands of miles away is a problem, but I don't think telling them to relax, "The Church" will eventually figure it all out is the right solution.

Nick said...

Hello Kevin,

I didn't see your comment here until just now. I should make it clear that "the church doesn't need your help" in this context was not intended to suggest none of us should be blogging and doing apologetics. But rather I'm speaking of the mindset that it's up to us to save the Church while thinking everyone else is in the dark. We can all play a role in building up the Church, but we cannot go 'above our rank' to do so.

The overall lesson that I was trying to get across was that *nobody* has the right for unrestrained criticism, and that criticism must be done within careful parameters for the two reasons of (1) avoid scandalizing others, and (2) causing us to get puffed up with pride, thinking too highly of our lay authority.

The groups/people I had specifically in mind in writing this were those who seemingly desire to be first to publish the latest 'scandalous' news, and in fact make publishing dirty laundry their primary focus.