This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Thaddeus J. Kozinski The Gnostic Traditionalist
Ed Note: In our March 2007 issue, we printed a letter from Thaddeus Kozinski, who wrote in to critique Chris Conlee’s January 2007 NOR article, “The Fever of Vatican II.” In his letter, Kozinski mentioned something he calls “gnostic traditionalism.” In our Editor’s reply (March) to Kozinski’s letter, we said, “What is ‘gnostic traditionalism’? You never define it.” Kozinski responded to our challenge by sending us this article, which he says defines “gnostic traditionalism.” We know that this article will upset some of our readers. Be it known that the NOR does not endorse his views; we are publishing his article in full because we challenged him on it. An Editor’s Reply follows.
am firmly convinced, and have been for some time, that the Tridentine Mass is vastly superior to the Novus Ordo Missae. Indeed, the Novus Ordo Missae represents a radical breach in liturgical tradition. As a friend of mine put it, “The Church’s single greatest treasure has been pillaged, scattered, squandered, and something manifestly inferior and discontinuous has been set up in its place.” Agreed. Benedict XVI himself, when he was Cardinal Ratzinger, suggested that Novus Ordo reformers must look to the Tridentine Mass as their model. Nevertheless, in this article I would like to discuss a problem I have
Thaddeus J. Kozinski, Ph.D., has a doctorate in philosophy from the Catholic University of America, and writes for various Catholic magazines and scholarly journals. This article appeared in much shorter form on www.tcrnews2.com.
noticed, not with the Tridentine Mass, or a more traditionally orientated Catholicism per se, nor with those who exclusively attend the Tridentine Mass. It is, rather, a problem regarding those who adopt the distinct identity of “traditional Catholic” — in an ecclesial situation in which the mainstream Mass of the Church is not the Tridentine Mass, and in which the identity of the ordinary Catholic is not distinctly “traditionalist.” As we know, traditional Catholicism has been unjustly and mysteriously marginalized, seemingly by the Church herself, and this cannot be supported by any means — in fact, it must be resisted! Yet, those who resist this marginalization and thus reside at the margins of the contemporary ecclesial structure need to be as vigilant as possible about the dangerous spiritual temptations that are the byproduct, so to speak, of such marginalization and resistance. I myself have not heard enough discussion about these temptations among traditionally minded Catholics, and so I would like to discuss them here. I have recently moved to the Santa Cruz, Calif., area, where there is no officially approved, weekly Tridentine Mass within a reasonable and convenient distance, and with three small children, convenience is not an inconsiderable factor. At first, I was quite upset at this situation, but over time, I have realized that regularly attending a well-celebrated Novus Ordo — as well as the Byzantine Mass and an Indult Tridentine Mass on occasion — has been a good thing for me and my family, spiritually speaking. Indeed, I believe it has produced more abundant fruit in my spiritual life than if I were still attending, by choice, a weekly Indult Tridentine Mass. What I have just said, of course, is outright heresy for the traditionalist. Well, this suggests the problem I
New Oxford Review
will be describing. In the traditionalist milieu in which I lived before I moved, I had developed what I now see as an ideological and neurotic consciousness of being a “traditionalist,” as distinct from just being what I now see that I am and always have been since my reversion, just an ordinary Catholic who loves the Tridentine Mass and the Tradition of the Catholic Church. Through circumstances outside of my control, I was enabled to see a large deformation in my spiritual consciousness and to begin the process of healing. I call this deformation gnostic traditionalism. In general, gnosticism is the attitude that leads one to believe he possesses an irrefutable insight into the truth of matters of great importance, whether natural or supernatural. It is irrefutable, because legitimate authority, external evidence, or basic logic can affect one’s certainty in the judgment of its truth. The strength and sincerity of one’s conviction is the only magisterium. Worst of all, the gnostic feels in his heart of hearts, though he may not recognize it, that he somehow deserves to know what he knows. Gnosticism is the temptation of the modern world, afflicting everyone, even traditionalists who define themselves as anti-modern. Allow me now to try to describe precisely what I mean by “gnostic traditionalism.” As I see it, it is the unwillingness or incapacity to take a step back, to adopt a Socratic stance toward one’s commitment and allegiance to the traditionalist narrative and critique of the post-conciliar Church, which may be a true narrative and accurate critique, but, nevertheless, is a narrative and critique that doesn’t come to us from the Magisterium, and so does not require submission by divine Faith. Having some Socratic distance from it is not a sin, but the gnostic traditionalist thinks it is. Traditionalist narratives, explanations, criticisms, attitudes, etc. are founded on nothing more certain than fallible judgments on concrete historical and ecclesial particulars. If you combine this kind of unwillingness and incapacity to take a step back, this absolutely unyielding stance regarding one’s traditionalist allegiance, as opposed to simply having the ordinary allegiance to the Catholic Church, which, of course, can and should include being committed to the Tridentine Mass as a vastly superior rite, with an a priori and intractable unwillingness to attend even just an occasional well-celebrated, reverent Novus Ordo (for, attendance at a Novus Ordo, regardless of the quality of its celebration, constitutes “spiritual contamination,” à la Donatism), you have the recipe for the spiritual poison
of gnostic traditionalism. Of course, one can exclusively attend the Tridentine Mass, but only because it is an approved option that one chooses in obedience. It is not the case, as the gnostic traditionalist thinks, that those with different approved commitments are somehow less Catholic, or that one’s commitment to the traditional Mass doesn’t depend entirely on the Church’s pleasure to permit and endorse such a commitment, but merely on one’s own gnostic insight that this is what “true” Catholics do. Such an attitude reflects Donatism, not Catholicism, and in today’s ecclesial situation, it can be called gnosticism. The essential mentality of the gnostic traditionalist attitude is “No salvation outside of us.” Now, one asks, has any bona-fide traditionalist group, outside of
The #1 Enemy of the Catholic Church
Richard Marshall, Catholic convert, was a member of Calvary Chapel for 30 years. He used Jack Chick’s anti-Catholic tracts to pull young and old Catholics out of the Church. He converted to the Catholic Church on Easter Vigil 2001. He gives his conversion story from Vietnam to Calvary Chapel to the Body and Blood of Christ. He has worked with high school kids and Christian rock bands, and taught youth seminars on the devil and MTV, the music and videos that destroy the soul! Richard does an extensive study of the history of Freemasonry from its beginning at King Solomon’s temple to the present influence it has in the Catholic Church. He also speaks on the ACLU, the Anti-Christ Legal Union in America, the Power of the Rosary, and Modesty in Dress. Freemasonry: #1 Enemy of the Catholic Church is now available in a 3-CD set. To order directly from St. Joseph’s Communications, please call 626-331-3549 (outside California, call 800526-2151) or visit www.saintjoe.com. For booking information and Richard’s speaking schedule, please call Evangela Ministries at 909-307-3919. References are available. Richard is a member of the Knights of Columbus, Council 1488, San Bernardino, California.
the sedevacantists, ever claimed such a thing? Of course, true heretics and schismatics rarely make explicit such damning heretical and schismatic confessions. Perhaps the most fanatical and prideful of them do, but the average heretic and schismatic tends to hold such sentiments in. However, heresies and an absence of charity are often hidden implicitly in words and actions, and a good theological dialectician can draw them out. Is there not some evidence of a no-salvation-outside-of-us mentality in the various independent traditionalist movements and personages? And even within the Indult milieu? For example, if one does not happen to buy a certain historical, political, or ecclesial narrative wholesale — one that is, at best, debatable, and certainly not de fide! — then, well, one is not a real Catholic, even if he happens to attend the Tridentine Mass, defend the social reign of Christ the King, and show forth abundant fruits of holiness in his life. Again, certain “traditionalist” writers say that anyone who attends Indult Masses is duped, a useful idiot of the modernists, and just not authentically Catholic. I have witnessed many Indult Catholics make their intense moral disapproval known if you attend a Novus Ordo, no matter how reverent and orthodox it may be, and no matter the legitimacy of one’s reasons. They may not declare the Novus Ordo invalid, but their practice speaks louder than their words. What these traditionalists are missing, in my opinion, is the deeply personal and prudential nature of the judgment as to how intensely and absolutely one should embrace a particular traditionalist, historical, and ecclesial narrative and practice, for such narratives are inherently fallible, and such practices are not morally obligatory — neither comes with a magisterial mandate. Like one’s embrace of a particular theological school, one is morally free in one’s choice in these matters, as long as one remains within orthodoxy and orthopraxis. One may not like Benedict XVI’s theological preferences, but that doesn’t make him a heretic! I don’t see why any Catholic is not perfectly within his rights either to lessen or increase the vehemence of his loyalty to a particular, non-infallible, traditionalist polemic, strategy, or practice — including one’s attendance at the Tridentine Mass, whenever he judges it to be God’s will and beneficial for the salvation of his soul. Indeed, I think one is morally obligated to relax his traditionalist vehemence if he senses spiritual danger to his soul, the danger of making a peculiar brand of idiosyncratic traditionalism a universal precept of the Church, of having a greater attachment to it than to Christ and to
His Church — in all her members. I think a Socratic attitude toward any of our opinions, attachments, devotions, etc. that are not clearly consonant with indisputable Church dogma and Magisterium-approved practices is spiritually healthy — even what we consider indisputable “common sense” needs to be skeptically examined once in a while. Cannot “traditionalism” become an ideology that, even though quite correct in its analysis of the crisis in the Church and world, nevertheless makes one spiritually sick, as one becomes more attached to the traditionalist movement, its narratives, personages, publications, polemics, criticisms, etc. than to the Church as a whole — and to Christ Himself? The apotheosis of idiosyncrasy is a formidable American temptation, is it not? What about the temptations to an “inner-circle” pride, an overly critical and judgmental spirit, and an “I-amattending-the-superior-Mass” self-consciousness? Aren’t these quite present in traditionalist circles? Can there not develop a certain fanaticism that prevents the traditional Catholic soul from experiencing deep, simple, humble prayer and self-forgetfulness? The phrase “Catholic Pharisee” comes to mind, and even if modernists and neo-Catholics hypocritically use this term against humble traditional Catholics, if it’s accurate for some, it’s accurate. One tell-tale sign of gnostic traditionalism is a penchant for coming up with air-tight theological syllogisms that, in reality, lead to insane conclusions, yet are given as much authority as the conclusions of the Magisterium. The spiritual error at the heart of this obsession with syllogisms is the belief in the infallible certainty of one’s own private judgments, judgments that a priori cannot be certain due to their being bound up with concrete particulars. For example, take a syllogism like this: A formal heretic cannot be a pope. Cardinal X is a formal heretic. Therefore, Cardinal X, who was supposedly elected to the papacy, cannot be the pope. Now, even though the major premise might be true, and might be the kind of judgment that one can know to be true with certainty, the minor premise, prescinding from the question of its truth for a moment, is the sort of judgment that is intrinsically debatable for any human being, especially a lay person with no official authority in the Church, because it does not pertain to an immutable idea or general truth, but to a concrete, historical, personal particular. And we simply cannot judge the truth of particulars with the same level of certainty that we can judge abstract statements.
New Oxford Review
Therefore, anyone who thinks that he knows that Benedict XVI is not the Pope is deluding himself. Whether he is or is not the Pope in reality, it is simply impossible for Joe Catholic to know the answer by the deliverances of his own private judgment. We can know that Benedict XVI is the Pope, of course, but it is because the Church tells us, not because we figured it out with some magical syllogism. What is worse, the gnostic Catholic evangelizes his sacred syllogism as if it were the Gospel, and woe to those who do not believe in it! They are cast to the outer darkness. But how can a belief of which the truth cannot be judged by us with absolute certainty, because bound up with concrete particulars, be necessary for our salvation! Of course, it cannot, yet the gnostic stakes the salvation of his and everyone else’s soul on getting the syllogism right! “For they bind heavy and insupportable burdens, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but with a finger of their own they will not move them” (Mt. 23:4). Being imprisoned in his own magisterial thoughts, the gnostic Catholic traditionalist is existentially isolated and alienated from the fullness of being that only intimate contact with Tradition can provide, and at the same time, he is absolutely convinced that he is deeply immersed in and in contact with Tradition. Because the gnostic traditionalist approaches Tradition with an inherently anti-traditional stance of soul — I am the final arbiter — Tradition can do little to help him, for, although he goes through all the traditionalist motions, he is not in existential and spiritual contact with Truth. He has developed a kind of impenetrable shell over his soul, exacerbated by his personal sins and his habituation in the modernist spirit of liberal culture. This shell must first be removed before Tradition can penetrate his soul, but he is too busy delving deeper and deeper into what he considers authentically traditional Catholicism to realize that he is digging a deeper and deeper hole to a self-created Hell. The ultimate irony is that the gnostic traditionalist is really an ultra-modernist and anti-traditionalist, because he has put himself in a position gnostically above all received Tradition, above all that would evoke in his soul a non-deliberative, non-critical, non-analytical, childlike “fiat” to the order of supernatural reality as it is incarnated in the visible Catholic Church under the reigning Pope (as well as a fiat to the dogmatic inerrancy of Vatican II and the validity and nonevilness of the Novus Ordo Mass as initially promulgated). Sola Traditio, with me, not the Magisterium,
having the final interpretive say. Dom Charbel Pazat de Lys, OSB, describes how certain Catholics who consider themselves to be “against the Enlightenment” are actually its unwitting advocates: [T]here are two forms of “exaggerated conservatism,” whose aims are opposed to each other but who work things out in similar fashion: those who hold that the old Roman liturgy represents the culmination of liturgical progress, which cannot be surpassed and should remain untouched, and those who think the same about the new postconciliar reforms, as if any reform of the reform would necessarily represent a backward step. In both cases, it is assumed that there has been a complete break, whereby those who hold these views are, without being aware of this, taking a view of history inherited from the Enlightenment, which sees it not as
All unsolicited manuscripts (articles or guest columns only) intended for the NEW OXFORD REVIEW should be sent to: Submissions Dept., NOR, 1069 Kains Ave., Berkeley CA 947062260. Rejected manuscripts will be returned only if the sender supplies a stamped, self-addressed return envelope with sufficient postage. Nonresidents of the U.S. who cannot supply U.S. postage should always send a copy of the manuscript which they do not need returned. Please send a dark, double-spaced manuscript, and include your phone numbers, indicating when you can usually be reached where. Do not submit your manuscript to the NOR if you are submitting it to any other periodical simultaneously. The NOR does not accept poetry. Letters to the editor of the NOR should be sent to: Letters Dept., NOR, 1069 Kains Ave., Berkeley CA 94706-2260, or faxed to 510-526-3492.
a chain at the end of which we stand, but as a kind of display cabinet from the shelves of which we make our choice, a choice determined in the end by the man and his rational thinking. (Looking Again at the Question of the Liturgy with Cardinal Ratzinger, ed. Alcuin Reid, OSB [Farnborough: Saint Michael’s Abbey Press, 2003], pp. 100-101) The gnostic traditionalist’s “choice” for tradition is not salvific for him, even though it may be the right choice, because the choice comes from the wrong spiritual place — it is not a humble, loving, childlike fiat of Faith, but a puffed-up, hyper-conscious, modernist choice of pride. G.K. Chesterton said that “all goods look better when they look like gifts,” but the gnostic traditionalist cannot see any good as a gift, because to do so he would have to admit that he doesn’t deserve it. One can never choose a gift. The Jansenist Port Royal nuns of France were once described as “pure as angels, and proud as devils.” And Edith Stein wrote, “Do not accept anything as the truth if it lacks love. And so do not accept anything as love which lacks truth! One without the other becomes a destructive lie.” Both of these quotes are suggestive. Catholics must be especially alert to the unrecognized — because much more subtle — malignant effects of having been habituated into the gnostic “tradition” of anti-tradition, infecting both the post-conciliar Church and the culture at large. Our daily immersion in the Luciferian regimes of today, with their state-sponsored empty shrines dedicated to the worship of nothing, can place our souls in an existentially alienating relation to the living Tradition of the Church, no matter how often we attend the Tridentine Mass or read preVatican II encyclicals. The temptation of gnostic traditionalism is dangerous, and, because of the smoky confusion and abysmal lack of authority in the human element of the Catholic Church today, we lovers of Catholic tradition must be especially wary. We must be wary of whatever endangers our childlike receptivity to the Church’s Tradition and a sense of the “giftness” of salvation. We must be wary of choosing Tradition, like modern, self-conscious spiritual “adults.” Instead, we must aspire to receive it, like Teresian spiritual children. It must be said: The documents of Vatican II do not contain any errors in faith or morals, and the “new Mass” is not, in any way, evil! Both of these come under the indefectible protection of the Holy Ghost, preserving all officially promulgated dogmas and Sacraments from any
error or intrinsic evil (of course, this protection does not apply to non-traditional interpretations of Vatican II teachings, and mistranslations or abuses of the Novus Ordo Missae). Traditionalists must accept this simple truth. Nevertheless, the seeming novelty of some elements in Vatican II and the Novus Ordo did provide an occasion for the faithful to make a choice for Tradition over this seeming novelty. Lovers of Tradition have thus been placed in the eminently non-traditional stance of having to choose what is not supposed to be chosen, but only received. Even if they choose rightly, dismissing the apparent novelty and adhering to the Tradition, they make such a choice with a consciousness of being “on their own,” seemingly in spite of the guidance and counsel of those who presently rule Holy Mother Church. It is akin to the abused teenager who must choose whether to run away from home and live on his own, or remain under the authority of his parents. There are adverse consequences consequent on both choices, but the mere consideration of such a choice is deeply traumatic itself. The false dichotomy with which Catholics appear to be faced is bound to cause psychological and spiritual disorders, even among the most good-willed and spiritually vigilant of Catholics. For the idea of being forced by the authorities of the Church into a choice whether to remain at home and suffer or run away and suffer is spiritually traumatic. Like in the case of the abused teenager, regardless of what choice is made, one feels “on one’s own” in the making of it, and such an attitude is antithetical to the kind of childlike trust Catholics should have toward their Mother. Of course, being treated with contempt by the Church’s hierarchy, as those Catholics devoted to the traditional Mass have been treated, is an unconscionable evil. However, such evil can lead to other more unseen and subtle evils that originate in reaction to them. An attitude of “I will never allow myself to be subject to that kind of treatment anymore!” can lead to heresy and schism as much as an attitude of cowardly resignation to such treatment, and not defending our Lord when He needs defending, as the neo-Catholics have done. What I am trying to describe is a kind of temptation or spiritual pathogen that is a product and symptom of the evil that seeped into the human element of the Church (or was deliberately allowed to come in) by virtue of the novel ethos and weird spiritual consciousness that pervaded the whole Vatican II event, and by virtue of the creation of a new rite of the Mass (which simply cannot have been what God wanted, although
New Oxford Review
the Rite is both valid and good, as Michael Davies demonstrates in his book I Am With You Always). This temptation or pathogen is essentially a new and unnatural spiritual consciousness, forced upon all Catholics, one entirely unprecedented. It is a consciousness of having to “choose” to be and subscribe to a certain type or quality of Catholicism, whether the “new” Catholicism of the Vatican II “spirit,” or the “old” Catholicism of the pre-Council Tradition. There is a certain inescapability to this choice-consciousness: Even if one’s choice is to “remain” with the Tradition, which is the only good choice because the object of the choice is good, plain, and simple, eschewing any innovations and deviations, it is still an unnatural choice in a subjective sense, one that shouldn’t exist, and would not exist without the Church mysteriously having created the occasion for it. To me, this is the real smoke of
new oxford review
¡ en español !
In furtherance of our mission to spread orthodox Catholicism to as wide an audience as possible, we have made available translations into Spanish of a selection of articles, guest columns, and New Oxford Notes from past issues of the NEW OXFORD REVIEW. These Spanish-language translations are now available free of charge on our website, newoxfordreview.org. We encourage our readers to utilize this feature of our website as a tool for evangelization by recommending it to those who would benefit from catolicismo robusto — and who wouldn’t? — or by simply logging on to our site, and printing and disseminating favorite NOR items among Spanish-speakers. You could even put them in the vestibule or in the missalette slots in the pews prior to Spanish Masses. We are always on the lookout for new ways to promote orthodox Catholicism, so if you or someone you know is capable of translating text into, say, Arabic, Chinese, or Russian, contact us at: Department of International Evangelization, NEW OXFORD REVIEW, 1069 Kains Ave., Berkeley CA 94706. ¡Adelante!
Satan, because it gets you coming or going. This kind of situation is deeply traumatic to the soul, and the fall out of it manifests itself in different ways depending on the spiritual and dispositional particularities of each person. It really is a “great façade,” because it is all ultimately an illusion. There really is no choice whatsoever, nor can there be. Christ is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, and His Church is His body — neither can change. All there is is ordinary Catholicism. I think that God-pleasing, ordinary Catholicism can exist within the milieu of the new Roman Rite, even though it is quite defective, as well as the Old Rite. I say, “can” deliberately, for I mean it for both cases. Some, or most, Novus Ordo ecclesial milieus are simply spiritually bad — but it is not because the Novus Ordo Mass is “bad”; it can’t be, because the Novus Ordo Mass, however defective and revolutionary in genesis and effect, is God-pleasing in itself, containing nothing heretical or evil, with no incitements to impiety, etc. It is, rather, because of abuses of the Mass, misbehavior on the part of the priests and people, and acquiescence to the enormous temptation to desacralize, humanize, immanentize, and horizontalize the liturgy, an acquiescence, one must admit, the occasion for which the promulgation of the Novus Ordo Missae provided a peculiar encouragement. But the occasion for the abuse and bad behavior was produced in the effects that have come from the obviously bad choice of “creating” a new Mass in the first place, and of having a Council whose ethos was not consonant with the sobriety and militancy of the warnings of our Lady through Sr. Lucia at Fatima. Irreverence, blasphemy, sloth, worldliness: these are the spiritual poisons one imbibes in a milieu that embodies the choice for the “new.” On the other hand, some Tridentine Mass ecclesial milieus can be just as spiritually dangerous. Of course, it is not because of the Tridentine Mass per se — on the contrary! — but because of the hyper-consciousness of “being a Tridentine Mass Catholic,” a consciousness that is, I must say, unavoidable in such milieus now that the original and traumatic choice-consciousness has infected the entire Church. It is quite unnatural and debilitating to have to fight off this consciousness, and it can have a spiritually damaging effect, with the sins of schism and pride, and the vices of paranoia, judgment, harshness, lack of meekness, spirit of criticism, Jansenism, and the like being the predominant spiritual fallout from habituation in this milieu embodying a “choice” for the old.
New Oxford Review
The Tridentine Mass is marginalized, and that, I think, is one of the main reasons it, and the whole apparatus around it, has retained its integrity. It is not simply because it is the “real Mass,” though, of course, it is. What if it ever became the norm again, or had never been displaced? In this climate, I think that the ecclesial milieu around it would begin to feel just like the typical Novus Ordo parish (banal and emasculated), just now with the Tridentine Mass — just imagine a woman coming up to the altar to “announce” the Tridentine Mass celebrant so we can “greet” him as he is saying the prayers at the foot of the altar! The mainstream culture would corrupt its ethos and overall spirit — at least in practice. As I said at the outset, I have found myself and my family better off in the Novus Ordo church I now attend, the Shrine of the Oblates of St. Joseph — a wonderful order of humble priests started by St. Joseph Morello — because of its ethos of ordinariness, simplicity, and humility. The Mass is lackluster, but it’s a price I am willing to pay. It would be better if the Oblates could say the Tridentine Mass, and still retain their lack of choice-consciousness, but I am not sure they would. If they did, of course, it would be better to have both the traditional Mass and the lack of the unnatural consciousness. In any event, I simply will not take my kids to the nearby SSPX parish, or even the Indult (at least not exclusively), because the unnatural consciousness is palpable in the former, and noticeable in the latter. In the SSPX chapel, the ethos is plainly schismatic. The SSPX constantly have to talk against Feeneyism and sedevacantism because those are precisely what the SSPX ethos and implicit logic and ethos lead to, and I think such logic and ethos pervades the traditionalist “movement” in general. Traditionalists are subject to the smoke of Satan as much as the non-traditionalists, but what I am concerned about is the lack of awareness of this subjection among traditionalists. They think that they will only be subject to it if they become, on the one hand, sedevacantists or, on the other, if they go to the Novus Ordo. This is naïve. There is virtually no discussion in the traditionalist movement about the dangers of which I speak, and that, to me, is a sign, not that I am creating a straw man or seeing things that aren’t there, but that the dangers are real, and that I am hitting a nerve. Allow me to give some specific examples of the dangers of which I speak. Two former spokesmen for a non-schismatic and non-heretical, that is, God-pleasJUNE 2007
ing traditionalism, have now denied the validity of the Novus Ordo Mass, have accused Vatican II of explicit heresy, and have denied that Benedict XVI (as well as all the popes since Vatican II) is the Pope: Thomas Droleskey and Gerry Matatics. Thus, not recognizing him to be Pope, they cannot possibly be subject to him, and hence they have themselves fallen into schism. In their minds, of course, they are the only ones staying loyal to the Catholic Church and to Christ, and it is seemingly impossible to convince the sedevacantists of their grave error. Indeed, it appears that the further away they go, the more they think they are entering deeper into the Church’s bosom, and thus the less chance they have of ever seeing their error. How many more will go off the deep end? How can we help to prevent it? Is it just their personal sins and errors, or is there something in the traditionalist movement itself that if not causes this disorder, at least doesn’t help adequately enough to prevent it? Another example: Let us hypothesize for a moment
Explore the NOR Archives
Every article, editorial, guest column, New Oxford Note, book review, and letter to the editor from each issue of the NEW OXFORD REVIEW dating back to 1994 (over 13 years worth of entries!) is now available online at our website, www.newoxfordreview.org. Single articles are available on a per-item basis; for a nominal fee, online subscribers receive full access to all features of the NOR website. As a bonus, a different featured article from the Archives is made available each day on a rotating basis to all visitors to our website.
that Marcel Lefebvre was a true hero whose actions of resistance were God-pleasing, both in his 1988 act of disobedience and in his prior resistance. But perhaps he made a deeply sinful mistake in his disobedience to John Paul II, even if his prior resistance was righteous. How can we know for sure? Perhaps this mistake put an ineradicable shadow over the entire Society of St. Pius X, making all its activities after that day, no matter how “pure” in its devotion and loyalty to Tradition, less than God-pleasing? At this time, there is only one thing one knows for sure — no one but God knows which of these possibilities is true — and to claim one knows for sure absent an official declaration by the Church of the moral and ecclesial status of the SSPX, as I have witnessed many traditionalists claim (or at least act like it by not even questioning their participation in or approval of SSPX marriages and confessions) is a clear symptom of gnostic traditionalism. Thus, SSPX priests and bishops are morally obligated, in my opinion, not to speak and act toward their
See What They Don’t Want You to See!
The NEW OXFORD REVIEW is “infamous” for its biting, satirical, and often laugh-out-loud ads. These ads have earned rave reviews, and have also gotten us banned from such Catholic periodicals as Our Sunday Visitor, Commonweal, National Catholic Register, America, National Catholic Reporter, and Crisis, among others. We have now made available on our website over 60 of our controversial trademark ads for the public’s enjoyment. Log on to newoxfordreview.org and relive some great moments in NOR advertising history, or see for the first time what many of the NOR’s critics would rather you not see!
flock as if they know that the sacraments of marriage and confession are valid in their churches — for they just don’t know. How could they know this unless the Church in her juridical authority made the truth clear? And she has not yet done so, as far as I can tell. Therefore, SSPX priests and bishops should communicate to their flock, as a pastoral duty, the ineradicable ambiguity of the question of the validity of these sacraments. (We do know that Catholics are permitted to attend illicit but valid SSPX Masses as long as they do not support the SSPX’s schism, and only if it is impossible or significantly difficult to attend a licit valid Mass; Rome has admitted as such: see http://www.catholicculture.org/docs/doc_view.cfm?recnum=3287.) But only when the 1988 excommunication of the four bishops is officially removed by the Pope, and when all the SSPX sacraments are officially approved, are we safe (at least juridically, if not spiritually — there may still be a lingering schismatic spirit there) to fully participate in all the SSPX sacraments; until then, Socratic distance is morally required. This lack of Socratic distance from one’s own opinions about the God-pleasing character of any personage, institution, action, etc. not officially declared such by the Church is a sign of gnostic traditionalism. Another example: I once attended a Confirmation ceremony for one of my students, which was celebrated by an SSPX bishop; his sermon did nothing but criticize Pope Benedict’s first encyclical. I must say that the sermon had an inappropriately hostile tone about it, and it was scandalous to the confirmandi to hear nothing but criticisms of a magisterially authoritative document at the moment of their reception of the gifts of the Holy Ghost. The bishop made no distinctions whatsoever in his criticisms, all but accusing Benedict of outright heresy. I have read the encyclical carefully — it is superb — and I can tell you that his sermon was full of distortions. It was redolent of Protestant propaganda against the Pope. It was wildly inappropriate to criticize a Pope in a Confirmation sermon. What would make the bishop act this way? And what would make the hundreds of SSPX members at the Confirmation unaware of the scandalous and uncharitable nature of the bishop’s sermon? Why was I disturbed, but they were not? Indeed, based upon comments I heard afterward, the other members of the flock thought the sermon “heroic” and “hard-hitting” and “courageous.” Well, gnostic traditionalism is whatever would influence them to have a gushing conclusion about an
New Oxford Review
obviously propagandistic and uncharitable sermon, and then be impenetrable to arguments to the contrary. Regarding protection against the spiritual disease of gnosticism, Alasdair MacIntyre provides a good analysis of its personal causes, and then a prescription: We may at any point go astray in our practical reasoning because of intellectual error: perhaps we happen to be insufficiently well-informed about the particulars of our situation; or we have gone beyond the evidence in a way that has misled us; or we have relied too heavily on some unsubstantiated generality. But we may also go astray because of moral error: we have been over influenced by our dislike of someone; we have projected on to a situation some phantasy in whose grip we are; we are insufficiently sensitive to someone else’s suffering. And our intellectual errors are often, although not always, rooted in our moral errors. From both types of mistake the best protections are friendship and collegiality. (Dependent Rational Animals, p. 96) The reason why schism is such a pernicious sin is that it deprives us of contact and communion with precisely those persons who would have been able to prevent us from the schism in the first place, and who would now be able to bring us out of it. I believe that this is what happened to me when I began to attend the Novus Ordo celebrated by some holy priests from the Oblates of St. Joseph. I was snapped out of my Tridentine Mass snobbery, if I may call it that. Although we are free to give more allegiance to some traditionalist groups than others (as long as they are officially recognized by the Church), I think it is prudent to associate with as many Catholic groups as possible as long as they are orthodox and love Tradition. This keeps us in constant Socratic dialectic with the “other,” which is good preventive medicine for the intellectual and spiritual narcissism that is rampant in our gnostic culture. Of course, the traditionalist might argue, the whole movement behind a “new Mass” and “opening up the Church to the world” is essentially gnostic. Of course! Nothing I am saying suggests otherwise. “But the real gnosticism is at work in the postconciliar Church!” the traditionalist insists. Yes, I know, but my point is that even Tridentine Mass chapels or churches, whether Indult or not, are inextricable parts of
this post-conciliar Church, along with the Novus Ordo churches. There is no other alternative but to accept the one, post-conciliar Church, and to think there is some escape from that, as many traditionalists do, is to adopt a gnostic stance. The smoke of Satan is in both lungs of the post-conciliar Church, both the traditional lung and the non-traditional one, but it has a different form and different effects in each. My only point is that there is not enough awareness of how dangerous it is now to breathe in either lung nowadays. Ultimately, gnostic traditionalism is a manifestation of pride and is tantamount to the sin of schism, which has its ancient origin in Lucifer, the first gnostic, and in Adam and Eve, his first disciples. It had its modern incarnation in the Enlightenment, and, if we are to believe Paul VI, the diabolical smoke emanating from this spirit of pride has now mysteriously (by God’s permission) taken up residence in the human heart of the Church. What I am trying to say in this article is that it is not possible entirely for Catholics, any Catholic, to escape the effects of this smoke, and I think to suffer under it is the mysterious will of God for Catholics at this time. The message of Jeremiah to the Israelites of his day is analogous. To think we can escape, by the “purity” of our “traditionalist allegiance,” will lead us only to suffocate on it unawares. We are all somehow involved in the passion of the Church, and the closer we
Get Into the Action!
Now you can add your reactions, convictions, and insights to NOR articles, editorials, New Oxford Notes, guest columns, and major book reviews. Log on to www.newoxfordreview.org to weigh in on the topics you’ve read about in this and every issue of the NOR dating back to 1994. Joining the lively discussion of issues facing the Church today with your fellow NOR readers requires an online subscription; comments can be viewed by all visitors to our website.
get to Christ, the more we must suffer with her, including suffering the spiritually disordering effects of her mysterious “self-demolition.” We know that unprecedented spiritual, theological, philosophical, cultural, and psychological evils were permitted by God in the past century, especially after 1965, but are we sufficiently aware of how even rightful resistance to this smoke of Satan, without Socratic psy-
chological distance, joyful obedience, and heroic humility, can bring us right into the Devil’s hands? Becoming aware of this will not immunize us completely, but it will ensure that our attempts at attaining holiness and preserving Tradition are God-pleasing. We must stay under the cross at all costs, and within the bosom of our suffering Church, even, sometimes, at the cost of our dearest convictions. n
The Editor Replies
our understanding of gnosticism is incorrect. You say, “In general, gnosticism is the attitude that leads one to believe he possesses an irrefutable insight into the truth of matters of great importance, whether natural or supernatural.” Many saints had “irrefutable insight” that God exists: Are you calling those saints gnostics? There is nothing wrong when we have “irrefutable insight” that God exists and Natural Law exists. There is nothing gnostic about that. In the same paragraph you say, “Gnosticism is the temptation of the modern world, afflicting everyone, even traditionalists who define themselves as anti-modern.” If it “afflicts everyone,” then you too are a gnostic. Actually, gnosticism is esoteric knowledge. If it is esoteric, it cannot “afflict everyone.” Gnosticism is also cosmic dualism where the spiritual is good and the flesh and the material are evil. But Jesus “became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn. 1:14). As the Nicene Creed says, Jesus “was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man.” Traditionalists believe this, so how can they be gnostics? You say, if you are not attending “even just an occasional well-celebrated, reverent Novus Ordo…you have a recipe for the spiritual poison of gnostic traditionalism.” You say, “Tridentine Mass chapels or churches, whether Indult or not [Society of St. Pius X]…. there is no other alternative but to accept the one, post-conciliar Church, and to think there is some escape from that, as many traditionalists do, is to adopt a gnostic stance.” Why is this gnostic? What does this have to do with esoteric knowledge? Most of us know the traditionalist viewpoint; it’s not a secret. And what does this have to do with cosmic dualism?
You say, “Ultimately, gnostic traditionalism is a manifestation of pride and is tantamount to the sin of schism [is it or isn’t it?], which has its ancient origin in Lucifer….” But are you not full of pride? You indict gnostic traditionalists as being “puffed-up,” but are you not puffed-up? You accuse the traditionalists of being “neurotic,” “Donatists,” “spiritual poison,” “spiritually sick,” “Catholic Pharisee,” “insane,” of “digging a deeper and deeper hole to a self-created Hell,” of being “malignant,” “anti-tradition,” of “daily immersion in the Luciferian regimes,” “psychological and spiritual disorders,” “sin of schism,” “paranoia,” “Jansenism,” “smoke
New Oxford Review
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue listening from where you left off, or restart the preview.