A guy who goes by the nickname "SPB" read my paper, Syllabus of 60 "Traditionalist" Errors, Fallacies, and False Principles (written in 2000) and wrote the following in a thread devoted to me:
Syllabus of Errors for Traditionalists - 60 errors! I must say, there are some things here, many things, I do agree with. Others seem to be laughable and outright fallacies. Others again I am on the fence about, and others I agree with one sentence and the next I disagree. Overall, this man has done a huge amount of work - not only in this whole document but also in other areas. I will post the page he has dedicated to trads. He basically has around 40 essays dedicated to the traditionalists.
One thing I do find... odd, I guess, is that he constantly berates traditionalists for using "rhetoric" by calling themselves traditionalists... and then he goes on to constantly point out that he is a positively "orthodox" Catholic. Oh, and prepare yourself for a few straw-men and red-herrings along the way; the most prominent being the accusation that no traditionalists have ever pointed out any examples of the difficulties they have trouble with, and only moan about things [though, I take this to be half true, as I also tend to agree that most trads that aren't scholars/clergy moan a lot].
I found this interesting, and it has given me a lot to think about. Overall, I found myself to be more and more sure that I personally must disengage with these arguments. Some are called to the fight, as it were. I believe such people are the clergy and lay theologians. Not me. I found this and I thanked God after reading it. I am not at all qualified enough, or in any position, to start talking about most of these things. Which is not to say I don't hold some of the same positions that I have always held.
First of all, most of my criticisms are directed towards what I would call "radtrads": not all self-described Catholic traditionalists. For clarification's sake, anyone wondering about my own general position should read the lengthy disclaimers and explanations at the top of my web page, Radical (Barely Catholic) "Traditionalism".
Secondly, SPB wrote:
. . . he goes on to constantly point out that he is a positively "orthodox" Catholic.
This must be understood in context. I don't habitually call myself an "orthodox Catholic." I only do so in order to clarify, when I am being classified as a "conservative" or "Novus Ordo Catholic" or (far worse) a "neo-Catholic." When that happens, I make the point that we shouldn't need to have to use qualifiers like "traditionalist" or "conservative": that the only useful qualifier is "orthodox": in order to show that there is a "correct belief" in Catholicism and heretical, dissident ones. Thus, if I call myself an "orthodox Catholic" I am saying that I fully, wholeheartedly accept all that the Church teaches. I laid out my opinion on this in detail, in a 2005 paper:
I am content to simply call both you and myself "Catholic." If I must make distinctions due to liberal or far-right rot in the Church, then I use the qualifier "orthodox" as well, to indicate that I accept all the teachings of the Catholic Church. You and others want to call yourselves "traditionalists."
Well, there is a right and wrong usage of that term. If one accepts notions that go contrary to orthodox Catholicism, and uses the term, I must object, because "Tradition" is a good Catholic word which must not be trifled with (and those who reject some of it ought not to be allowed to co-opt the term to themselves as if they actually exemplify a particular devotion to "tradition" as they themselves define it). Even if you are orthodox, but insist on using the term, then it must be because it is being used to distinguish yourself from the likes of me, who has supposedly somehow become simultaneously "liberal" and "orthodox" (by the application of the silly term "neo-Catholic").
So it is still attempting to create division in the Church and separate Catholic believers into a superior-subordinate relationship, with the "traditionalists" being the ones who "get it" and the "neo-Catholics" being dupes and fellow travelers of their liberal overlords in the lower hierarchies of the Church. Either way, it stinks to high heaven.
SPB's view was not the majority feeling in the thread (to put it mildly, and with a big smile on my face!). The first reaction (by "CollegeCatholic") was (I edited out the worst of it, as we are in "mixed company"):
Absolutely useless and a waste of my time. . . . let's just all pray alongside heretics like St. Pope John Paul the Great the Beloved and the Bestest Ever did.
I apologize for wasting your time. I only post what I myself find interesting, I can't cover everybody else unfortunately. I also post what I hope will help people become better Catholics in some way or another. This has helped me. I am sorry it didn't do the same for you! . . . I know that he's got a soft spot for Blessed JP II, and this is evident in his writing, but look past your clear dislike for Bl. JPII and his supporters and pay attention to what he says. To brush him off because he liked Bl. JP II is just as fallacious as some of the arguments he gives. He brushes you off for hero worship of Archbishop Lefebvre.. and you brush him off for hero worship of Bl. JPII! Stalemate. In any case, what I take from that paragraph I have always held to be true: that among trads there is a cult of personality, and hero worship of Archbishop Lefebvre. This is only my observation, but I see it a lot, and it mirrors a lot of what trads accuse neocons of doing.
If the things he says do nothing for you, give you nothing to ponder over, that is perfectly fine. God bless you on your way.
Someone else ("CrusaderKing") wrote:
Armstrong . . . usually gives the same old worn out, tired canards that the neo Caths are noted for. I wish I'd have saved on my Notepad the exchange between him and [Name], who used to blog under the name of [nickname], as [Name] schooled him big time, albeit politely.
I had a great discussion with the person above, whose name I removed, because he asked me to remove his name from our discussions, for important personal reasons. It was a five-part discussion (one / two / three / four / five). Make up your own mind who gave a better case. But we got along fine, as I do with most "traditionalists" who are not radtrads, and who are able to discuss issues calmly and rationally without name-calling and hyper-rhetoric. It is quite possible. But this is assuredly not the case with almost all radtrads.
"TrentCath" goes after one of my 60 points:
53. That ecumenism undermines, and is contrary to, evangelism and apologetics.
It does not at all - the two goals being distinct and complementary endeavors, not contradictory ones. I rejoice in the truths which I share with my Protestant or Orthodox brothers and sisters in Christ; at the same time, I try my best to convince them that the Catholic Church is the fullness of the faith. John Paul II operates from the same presuppositions.
Pope John Paul II also agrees with kissing the Koran, allowing altars to have budhhas on them, praying with false religions and allowing others to pray to false Gods in a city dedicated to the one true God and a whole host of other heterodox ideas, I suppose he would suggest that we agree and do all this too? Aside from 'Pope John Paul II does it so it must be right' he doesn't even attempt to provide another argument, its almost a relief as it would most likely have been as absurd as what we see coming from Rome as regards the dialogue with the SSPX.
This paper was written in 2000. It doesn't represent my final or most elaborated-upon opinion on everything. Brief points were obviously neither encyclopedic nor comprehensive in nature. I have an entire web page about ecumenism (that was present in 2000 on my website). On that page I have two papers about the Assisi conferences (one / two). I also have two lengthy treatments of the Koran-kissing incident (one / two).
TrentCath continues, caricaturing my expressed opinions, then giving his own:
I agree there's a crisis and its due to a modernism but everything's going to be alright... so I don't have to do anything . . . thanks be to God that we can actually see what is going on rather than obstinately denying it.
I guess that's why I have a web page about theological liberalism, too, and half of one of my books devoted to it. Odd, if in fact I am supposedly denying the modernist crisis. I am so far from denying it, that I wrote in my #13: the very one being commented on here:
I have "justified" no such thing. I have ignored nothing, either. My own opinion (directly influenced by Fr. John Hardon -- who has insanely been called a "modernist" by "traditionalist" friends of mine) is that the present crisis is the most serious the Church has ever faced, per Pope St. Pius X's summation of the evils of modernism.
But because I refuse to descend to despair, and remain optimistic that God is in control of His Church, and have a firm belief in its indefectibility because of God's supervision, I get accused of "obstinately denying" modernism. This is the pathetic radtrad mentality. Then this character who goes by "The Dying Flutchman" (heaven forbid anyone use a real name!) wrote:
I know many Novus Ordo Catholics that have made JPII the 4th member of the trinity despite the fact he was probably the worst pope of the last 200 years. . . . it was hard not to come to the conclusion that the Church after the late 60's professed a different religion than the one of the late 1950's.
What's wrong with this person's faith in God? It's just like the anti-Catholics. Instead of the Church dying with Constantine or Pope Gregory the Great or with the Inquisition or Trent (all equally arbitrary and historically and doctrinally absurd dividing-points), instead it was taken out by the devil in the late 60s. "Vincentius" then gives us his pearls of wisdom:
Like most new Evangelical converts to the Catholic faith, Armstrong is anti-traditionalist, and ranks along with the most prominent one, Mark Shea and a slew of others who have brought along their baggage of protestantism along with them as they crossed the Tiber.
"Spooky" adds the profundity: ". . . it appeals to their Protestant leanings with a sheer veil of Catholicism."
Right. This is the tired old canard of "converts are still half-Protestant." I've directly dealt with this absurd charge at least twice (one / two). Isn't it interesting that this false accusation invariably comes from one of two sources: radtrads and anti-Catholic Protestants. It's completely ridiculous to assert this, seeing that I am utterly despised by anti-Catholic Protestants and am regularly insulted in public by them, with every conceivable calumny and lie. I get accused now and then of being "anti-Calvinist" and "anti-Lutheran" and "anti-Protestant."
I have extensive web pages (containing many hundreds of papers) critiquing and disagreeing with Calvin, Calvinism, Luther, Lutheranism, Anti-Catholic Protestantism, Contra-Catholicism, and Protestant historical intolerance and persecution. I have written books critiquing Luther and Calvin and Protestantism generally. I have written two books (one / two) against sola Scriptura: one of the two "pillars" of the so-called "Reformation," and another mostly devoted to refuting "faith alone": the other pillar.
All this, yet I am accused of being in bed with Protestantism and remaining half or more Protestant (as if my conversion story is a big pack of lies). I have critiqued Protestantism and helped bring more people out of it than, I highly suspect, all of these loudmouthed critics of mine put together. I receive letters all the time reporting conversions and reversions, largely or partially as a result of my writings.
[Later added note: I am now being unfairly blasted about the above paragraph in a second thread devoted to me, mentioned in the combox below. The gist of it is that I am supposedly full of myself, filled to the brim with spiritual pride, and so woefully ignorant that I don't understand that it is God Who gives the increase and brings about conversions and not the bearer of the message. Examples:
I find it interesting how he makes a point of boasting about how many people he's converted (exact wording, I don't remember). Seems like a rather big ego to me.
Last time I checked it's God who converts the sinner, not men. Men are just His instruments. Armstrong might want to re-check the gospel.
It's not a Catholic thing to take credit nor a tally of "wins" as Ned Flanders from the Simpsons would describe it. Catholicism is not the standard, the testimony of untested Protestants and converts both for and against Dave's writings on the Church. You don't prove your Catholicism with yourself as the standard.
I converted from protestantism and was led by the Holy Spirit and nothing else.
This, of all the charges leveled against me in these threads, is perhaps 1) the most ridiculous of all, and 2) the one most easy to disprove from any rudimentary search of my writings. Here is just one example of what I am sure is many dozens that could be found:
For all these reasons I don't get weary, because I'm not trying to convert the world. Technically, I'm not trying to convert anyone personally, through my own efforts. I'm simply passing along the reasons I have come to believe, for why Catholicism is the fullness of Christian truth. If that helps someone else, great, but their (possible) conversion is not ultimately my responsibility at all. It is the Holy Spirit's and their own. I'm just trying to be a good steward of the gifts that God has given me; to play my role in the whole process, which is an extraordinary privilege: to be able to be used by God in any way whatsoever. I believe everyone has a vocation from God (including every occupation in the world); this is mine.
If someone compliments me for helping them become a Catholic, I'll accept it and say "thanks" but then I always try to remember to say "all glory to God" and "it's all by His grace." I absolutely believe those things. It all goes back to God. All of us are mere leaky vessels and greatly flawed messengers at best. But God uses us poor miserable sinners for His purposes, which is the amazing thing.
The fact is that I am constantly; constantly giving all glory to God, for any conversions or success of my writings. Anyone who follows my writing at all (here or on Facebook or in my books) knows this. Here I happened to not mention the thing I have a million and a half times. But nothing here "proves" that I don't believe it. Note also that I did qualify my remarks. I wrote that I "helped bring more people out" of Protestantism. Nothing wrong with that at all. I did participate. It's a true statement. I didn't claim it was just me or some such ludicrous thing; as if I were the sole cause, but rather, that it was "largely or partially as a result of my writings".
So, for example, if someone writes to me (as many have), saying that my writings were the main reason they became persuaded of Catholicism (just as Cardinal Newman's writings were in my own case, and one particular friend of mine whom God used to help convert me), that is a true description of a factual occurrence. It doesn't follow at all that either they or I are denying that God was the primary cause. I was the instrument God used (as one critic pointed out: as if I don't know that already).
The Bible (that these people claim I am ignorant of in this regard) even says that we are God's "co-workers": "we are God's fellow workers" (1 Cor 3:9: RSV); "I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God which is with me" (1 Cor 15:10; cf. Rom 15:17-18); "be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain" (1 Cor 15:58); "Working together with him"(2 Cor 6:1; cf. Eph 2:10; Phil 2:12-13).
Moreover, the Bible (usually St. Paul) uses the language of people "making converts" with the implicit background understanding that it is working with God (per the above examples). It's not necessary to mention God every time: "I magnify my ministry in order to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them" (Rom 11:13-14); "Wife, how do you know whether you will save your husband? Husband, how do you know whether you will save your wife?" (1 Cor 7:16); "I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some" (1 Cor 9:22); "by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers" (1 Tim 4:16); "I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain salvation" (2 Tim 2:10); "whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death" (Jas 5:20); "that some, though they do not obey the word, may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives" (1 Pet 3:1).
All this being the case, I have written nothing whatsoever that is improper or scandalous or denying any glory to God. The point in context (that I made very clear, above) was that I am being accused of being compromised with Protestantism. Thus I turned the tables and noted that I am helping to cause Protestants to become Catholics by the scores. Why would that be if I am supposedly so compromised with it? Is it even plausible? Of course it is not at all. This is a completely relevant point and refutation of the charge (among many). That was the context. And the point has not been overthrown by this ludicrous false accusation that I allegedly think I am bringing any of that about apart from God, on my own, in some idiotic spiritually prideful sense.
To close this note, here is an actual response I made exactly a week ago to someone who sent me a private message in Facebook. He was an Episcopalian who became a Catholic in 2004. He wrote to encourage my work, and said that during his conversion process, my "website was the first place I normally went for answers." My reply was altogether typical of how I answer letters like this: "Thank you very much for your warm, kind letter. Praise God that He chose to use this poor sinner to help you on your journey a bit. . . . I appreciate the encouragement and may God abundantly bless you!" That is my spirit. I try to give glory to God at every turn, even if someone compliments me.]
These quasi-schismatic radtrads and SSPX devotees, on the other hand, spend their time (many of them, but not all) bashing Holy Mother Church and popes (precisely as both anti-Catholic Protestants and liberal Catholics do: groups that radtrads highly resemble in many key ways), while I defend her and critique the errors and sins of her professed enemies. Radtrads and self-important "more-Catholic-and-reverent-than-thou" self-proclaimed pseudo-experts don't have time to defend the Church against calumnies, while I devote my life to it. The contrast couldn't be any more stark than it is.
Nor am I "anti-traditionalist." I am anti-radtrad. I attend an extremely traditional (and beautiful German Gothic revival) parish in downtown Detroit (St. Joseph's), where the liturgy is very reverent and the doctrine completely orthodox. Our cluster is one of the few in metro Detroit that offer the Tridentine Mass, and I have attended it on several occasions, though (gasp!!!) I dare to prefer the Novus Ordo Latin Mass.
"INPEFESS" chimed in with more ludicrosities in the "Bash Armstrong and Neo-Catholics" thread:
They act as though there was no Catholic Church before the council, or that the Catholic Church began in the 1960's. If you ever listen to EWTN or read any post-conciliar authors, they almost exclusively reference the Second Vatican Council and the post-conciliar popes: "as the Second Vatican Council taught . . .;" "as Blessed John Paul II once said . . .;" "as Mother Theresa [sic] used to say . . ."
It's as though the entire 2000-year history of the Catholic Church simply disappeared.
I don't know who the intended target of this nonsense is (though the thread is about yours truly, after all). It's certainly not an accurate description of me, seeing as I have web pages about the Church fathers, G. K. Chesterton, Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, and in the past hosted web pages (for several years) devoted to St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine and Medieval and Renaissance Culture. I have edited a book of Chesterton quotations (he died in 1936), and will soon have one published of Cardinal Newman quotations (he died in 1890). I wrote a book devoted to the Church fathers as well. Currently I am working on editing a book called Classic Catholic Biblical Apologetics: 1525-1925: my fourth volume where I have collected materials of great Catholics: all of whom lived prior to 1936. It really sounds like I am exclusively stuck in the post-Vatican II era, doesn't it?
Some things never change. You can't successfully defend falsehood by lying about or severely distorting what others believe (nor by any other method). This thread provided lots of unsubstantiated rhetoric and polemics and calumnies. I respond with facts and true Catholic principles and activities and beliefs.
If these folks wanna throw more mud and raise a big ruckus, let them. I can't stop them. Back to your regularly scheduled program and back to my work. The harvest is ready; the laborers are few (we Christians -- even us Catholics, sadly -- are too busy name-calling and fighting each other to care about the souls on the way to hell).
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