Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Modestinus and traditionalism
He, Mark in Spokane and Christopher Ferrara might think I’m compromised and part of the problem, or at least on a rickety bridge, by being a libertarian but:
For better or worse, I have been accused of being a “traditionalist”... My response has always been to say that I am interested in traditionalism, albeit with the concession that to be interested in these sorts of things is to typically become sympathetic to them as well. “Sympathy,” however, is not tantamount to “agreement” or, at least, not “full agreement,” which is something I reserve for a very narrow realm of claims which have been made in human history. But why be interested in traditionalism and not, say, one of the more moderate or even liberal wings of Catholicism? Though this isn’t the post in which to hash out all of the details, I think I can briefly summarize the reasons. First, traditionalism, unlike other camps within Catholicism (or even Orthodoxy), rarely gets a fair hearing in the so-called “mainstream” and therefore represents a more enticing subject to study since it demands some actual legwork and sifting which is typically done in advance within other circles. Second, traditionalism offers certain “high level” claims about the meaning and integrity of Catholic Christianity which are not typically in play within other realms. Whether these “high level” claims are right or wrong are important to figure out, but first one has to find out what they are and why they are being promoted in the first place. Last, the seemingly uncompromising nature of traditionalism offers two possibilities which, in my mind, ought to be enticing to most serious-minded individuals: internal coherency and an alternative to the present state of affairs. Whether these two sub-elements are fully actualized within the context of traditionalism is another matter. But to the extent that they are at least promoted, I find that the traditionalist camp is worth examining.

None of this is to say that I think of myself as a “bridge.” I lack the requisite background and sophistication to mediate between all of the various claims out there, even though it is necessary, to some degree, to make semi-blind choices between contradictory claims from time to time. In other words, some sort of decision-making process or standard has to be adopted at some point lest one remains in stasis forever. And it is here that I probably find the real “value” or “utility” of traditionalism: A decision for or in alignment with traditionalism is the one which, in my mind, carries the lowest costs (or, to put it another way, lowest risks) with respect to abrogating my duties as a Catholic. Does traditionalism always offer the most fashionable path? No. Does it always offer the most convenient path? No. But does it offer a path which, if faithfully followed (which is something I can make no claim to being good at), will be more likely to keep me on “the narrow way which leadeth unto life”? Well, yes.

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