Saturday, October 18, 2014

The False Middle Way Rejects Traditionalism

Beware the liberals on one hand, and the traditionalists on the other. The first would turn stones into bread to be merciful, the other would turn bread into stones to cast at sinners. This was Pope Francis' message at the end of the council.

And who, do you suppose, positioned himself in the middle?

The author of this blog may be a disreputable old Bear, who has never been closer to the Vatican than the Parco Zoo. However, he was somehow licensed by the State of Illinois as a lawyer, and certified among less than 1% of the lawyers in the state to serve as lead counsel in death penalty cases.

In other words, he is a trial lawyer who recognizes a rhetorical technique when he sees one.

Not that there is anything wrong with rhetoric. Good speakers are permitted their "tricks of the trade." Francis' classic three-point homilies are good examples. But there's nothing wrong with pointing them out from the peanut gallery.

Ah, liberals and conservatives. The press is always calling non-liberals conservatives, or, better, arch-conservatives, or hardliners. What politicians or churchmen are identified as "liberal," though? Liberals are just "our sort of folks." They are right-thinking, the way people are supposed to be. There is literally nothing remarkable about liberals.

Cardinal Burke, however, is always a "conservative," or "hardliner." Has the mainstream press ever described Cardinal Kasper or Pope Francis as a "liberal?" Do fish feel wet?

You will hear this theme again from Francis. (Pope Francis almost obsessively repeats a small collection of tropes: walking, smelling, etc.) "Traditionalists" are unimaginative brutes who want to stone sinners. Jesus wouldn't have liked them.

Like the Bear said, he's no churchman. But he does grasp that you cannot make major change to practice without implicating dogma. It's like a game of Jenga. You pull out the ban on communion for divorced and remarried, and value the homosexual orientation. There goes the Real Presence. Uh-oh, now Holy Matrimony is teetering. Oh no! There went scriptural inerrancy! We just lost Papal Infallibility! It's all tumbling down!

Everything is connected to everything else. As a living thing, the Church is properly called the Bride. Those mean old Traditionalists have always stood between the Bride of Christ and those who would make her the Bride of Frankenstein through ignorant or malicious surgery.

So when the Pope tries to put himself right in the middle -- always the most sensible place, no? -- recognize the trick he is playing. Is he walking in the middle, or just talking about the middle? The Catholic center is always and only occupied by the Traditionalists. All proper Catholics are Traditionalists! It is the nature of the the Church to be she who keeps.

The Catholic center is where the sheep are safe from the wolves. Don't be fooled by any wolf who tries to convince you that, no, over here to the left, in the gloomy forest, is the real center. The Catholic center remains, and the path is easy to follow, having been beaten down by centuries of those on the way to salvation.


  1. You are correct, sir! Also, those who the Pope sees as being too liberal risk punishment because, as Fr. Z likes to say, Greg Reynolds is still excommunicated. But now, those who are seen to be too traditionalist also risk demotion, sacking, not getting the red hat, etc.

  2. Willard, I suspect that Pope Francis is far more liberal (although not convinced that captures him) than traditionalist. So I am not taking him at face value about being anywhere near what I would consider the middle. I think it is a position he is assuming. Do you think he was pleased with his people's Relatio? I do. I think the revolt was a bitter pill for him to swallow. He's a lot more concerned with the traditionalists than the liberals. Indeed he's counting on them to somehow turn the tables on the traditionalists come next year. Watch how many homilies he will give now criticising caricatures of traditionalist opinions. (Yep, throwing stones at sinners from our lofty settlements-- that's us traditionalists!)

    1. I agree he is a lot more liberal than traditionalist. I actually think he's a little more cunning than you do in that he designed the two synod process because he expected opposition in the initial synod and wanted to have the extra year to cajole that opposition toward his position. I think the only reason he included the line that he has “supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church” was to let people know that he's fully aware that he has the power to demote his opponents and promote his supporters. But is any of this new? The post V2 bishops have all pretty much reflected the post V2 vacancies. While there are many "conservative" bishops on the issues of sexual morality, I can't think of any that are against say ecumenism for example.

    2. I meant to write post V2 papacies not vacancies.

    3. As bad as ecumenism and interfaith is, Pope Francis has easily reset the bar and we have not had a Pope who was so unpredictable we had to worry about him on a daily basis. I don't think he is as clever as you do. I think he overplayed his hand because he simply doesn't see reality in the way you or I see it, whether he is not Roman enough, too Argentine, too unpredictable, or too upsetting to the faithful, including faithful churches. His conniving hast been been the most subtle, especially looking back through the lenses of the Synod. You might find him refreshing. I find him just odd.

    4. Spell correct didn't like churchmen so put churches.

  3. I really dislike the argumentum ad temperantiam. It's just such a lazy, boring way to avoid having to consider arguments on their merits.

    Father Longenecker (who is about as good as they get over at Patheos) does this a lot, with his Trendies vs Traddies dichotomy. Well, over here we have the Trendies with their womenpriests and gay weddings, while over here we have the traddies with the Ancient Mass, traditional devotions and their copies of Pascendi. Why, it's just obvious that the true position is somewhere in the middle of these two extremes!

    Over on Twitter today, Liz Scalia (Momma Bear of the New Homophiles, as she styles herself), tweeted the following in response to the Pope's speech:

    Popes remarks seem meant to warn both superprogs/supertrads that they hold their positions at expense of full encounter w/ Christ

    SuperMottramism to the rescue! as I tweeted snarkily in response (to my shame), but since the Anchoress is the lead weathervane over at Patheos, I trust we'll see this narrative entrench itself over the next weeks and months.

    And that leads me to conclude that maybe Pope Francis really is the brilliant Lex Luthor of this whole operation. This week's setback has shifted a whole bunch of former lukewarmers from uneasy silence to open criticism. In order to have a chance of carrying out his "reforms", he needs to shore up the Mottramist wing of mainstream Catholics, and what better way to do that than to flatter their own self-conception as the reasonable moderates (along with the Holy Father) standing between the unreasonable extremists?

  4. The people that count won't fall for it. It might appeal to the low-information types, but they were in his camp anyway. It immediately saves face with anyone who briefly woke up and wonders what the fuss is all about. It gives material for talking points, like you mentioned, for the "so above it all aren't I reasonable" bloggers to fertilize the fan base. Oh, the "soul searching" (our souls, to be sure) they can indulge in, and the 9 Things to Learn and Share About the Synod.

    If Francis is in the middle, which I'll charitably take as the sane and sound expression of Catholicism, then I'm a parsnip. If there was any doubt, at least his opinion on traddies is on record. So on one extreme we have womynpriests and gay marriage. And on the other Catholics who believe in the deposit of the faith. Heck , maybe I'm wrong and he's so far left he really thinks he's in the middle.

    1. Yeah, the more I think about the Scalia tweet the more it bothers me in its unreflective complacency:apparently the "full encounter with Christ" (whatever that means) is only to be experienced by those who maintain the correct judicious distance from firm convictions of one sort or another. I guess the Laodiceans were right after all!

  5. This playing the middle is a regular component of US jurisprudence. I can see where some applications of the law have judgment involved and both sides (eg, defendant and plaintiff) would make the "extreme" case and the judge feels he's doing the right thing by splitting the baby.

    But sometimes, right is right and wrong is wrong. The law says what it says clearly. This is when playing the middle is very unjust and misleading.

    I think that Francis IS bringing Argentine political methods to Rome-lots of corrupt cronyism involved to push through the agenda of those in charge Whether it's Personism, I don't know. Latin America is a shady place.

    1. I think he played it the best he could, and the Amen Corner at Patheos will back him to the hilt with that silly Golden Mean argument. But I tell you, this is a defeat for Modernism such as few seem willing to admit and we never hoped to see in our lifetime. The homophiles had EVERYTHING going for them, but the Church itself grew sick and spat them out. The Bear says more holy emesis!

  6. The Lord says He will vomit out the lukewarm. I suppose He meant the middle-roaders.


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