My Official “Neo-Catholic” Acid Test
Are you a "neo-Catholic"?
I've heard this classification bandied about in traditionalist circles for some time now. But I paid it particular attention recently, when I read an article in The Remnant, written by one Hilary Jane Margaret White.
As the term is used on the internet ... it refers to a "conservative" Catholic, often an American convert from evangelical protestantism, who adheres generally to and likes to make a show of defending the sexual moral teachings of the Church but is generally satisfied with the direction taken by the modern Church and the modern world.
Part of the difficulty with the term is that it describes a set of characteristics that can only clearly be observed from a certain vantage point, namely, that of the Traditionalist. Neo-Catholics themselves frequently become angry when it is pointed out ...
I take this to mean that a traditionalist is the most competent judge of whether someone is a neo-Catholic. So I must establish that I am a good judge of how one fits this classification. To put it another way, I must establish my "street cred." Here goes.
I attend the Traditional Latin Mass almost exclusively. I am the Senior Master of Ceremonies for the only Traditional Latin High Mass conducted every Sunday in the Washington DC area. I have trained dozens of young men to serve this Mass, and have assisted not only in the training of other priests, but of seminarians. And let us not forget how, just last year, I played the Palace.
Fortunately, I am not one to brag. Now then ...
I also required a set of criteria that could help me in this evaluation. I was then directed to a piece written on the blog authored by the same writer. Using myself as a case study, I shall determine how I rate with each one.
• A "Yes" answer (meaning, yes, this characteristic applies to me) is two points.
• A "Maybe" (meaning it applies in part) is one point.
• A "No" (meaning, no, it does not apply to me) is zero points.
Some require an explanation, especially the "maybes." In any case, the scores will be added up and divided by ten, so as to determine my "Neo-Catholic Index" (to coin an adjoining phrase) on a zero-to-ten scale. Strap yourselves in, kids. Here we go!
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- are often American converts from evangelical protestantism,
No. When my ancestors came over on the boats in the 1840s, the vast majority were Catholic. Most who were not were Methodists, but they eventually converted to Catholicism, and had to leave town. (Long story.)
- adhere generally to and defend the sexual moral teachings of the Church but are either ignorant of or opposed to the Church's teachings, as defined by the 19th and early 20th century popes, on the proper construction of the social order, ie: the Social Reign of Christ the King
Maybe. I do hear a lot of talk about a restoration of Catholic monarchism, and while I find the idea intriguing (and the subject of a novel I am writing), we may need a new generation of Catholic nobility, as some of them are not all that noble. I also read a lot about that "Social Reign" thing, everything but what it actually means.
- are generally satisfied with the direction taken by the modern Church with regards to "freedom of religion" and other beliefs, but believes that a return to the traditional sexual moral teachings is essential in both the Church and society
Maybe. As a Catholic, I believe in free will. At the same time, I also believe that, in the words of one pope, "error has no rights." The problem with denying "freedom of religion" in practice, is that there is no guarantee that yours will NOT be the one denied.
- indulge in a selective enthusiasm for the 20th century popes, with the usual exeption of Pius X. They normally believe that John Paul II was "Great" and should be canonised
No. Hell no.
- usually know very little about the Church's struggle in Europe and the US, through the 18th and 19th century with secularists and anti-clericals
- are convinced that the principles behind the US constitution (liberte, egalite, fraternite, freedom of speech, separation of Church and state) are entirely compatible with the Catholic Faith and are usually totally unaware of the writings of the popes
Maybe. Not entirely compatible. Workable, so far.
- often oppose what they believe to be "the Vatican's" objections to US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and will argue vociferously that this does not constitute opposition to the Pope
No. The bravery and nobility of servicemen in action in these two countries notwithstanding (and we are known for our moral support of their humanitarian efforts in at least one venue), neither involvement of the USA is compatible with the Church's "just war theory."
- believe that the liturgical reforms following Vatican II are mostly either innocuous or acceptable, and the ones that aren't were not direct products of the Council but unapproved aberrations
Maybe. Most of the Council Fathers believed the Roman liturgy was in need of reform, but not the one we ended up with. Both points are reinforced by the interview with the late Abbot Boniface, and the memoirs of Cardinal Antonelli.
- oppose "gay marriage" but believe that marriage should be an "equal partnership" between the man and the woman, don't see any problem with "natural family planning" and think feminism was generally founded on good ideas but went astray and can be "Christianised"
Maybe. There are three issues here, not one. There is also an implicit confusion between being "equal" and being "the same." And while some traditionalists have a problem with NFP, Mother Church does not when it is used according to the mind of the Church (in other words, being open to the transmission of life, as opposed to avoiding it).
- usually want to be seen as a supporter of "womens' rights" and like to say, often and loudly, that "women are just as much victims of abortion as their dead children"
Yes. You got me here. Probably because I've met at least one woman who was dragged against her will by her husband and mother-in-law to a doctor to perform such a procedure, in a country where abortion is illegal. Maybe it's just me, but I think that fits the "victim" bill very nicely.
- are strongly clericalist, particularly when it comes to Bishops and believe it is always wrong to criticise bishops
No. As anyone who knows me can tell you, I kiss rings, not asses.
- believe in the "reform of the reform" for the liturgy and (recently) that the two "forms" can and should exist side by side and "enrich" each other
Yes. Wow, nailed again! I actually DO believe in the "reform of the reform." So did Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, who had the unmitigated gall to coin the phrase. He's the Pope now. As a liturgical counter-reformist, I am in great company.
- believe that the Second Vatican Council itself was either innocuous or a good thing, but that it was hijacked by 'liberals' and its documents distorted and misapplied
Yes. Of the twenty-one ecumenical councils, some were subject to attempts at so-called "hijacking" (like that Arian thing at the first one in Nicea, a real cliff-hanger back in the day) and others did not necessarily end with everybody shaking hands and playing nice. Florence did not bring back the Orthodox, Trent did not stem the tide of Protestantism, and Vatican I did not prevent the Old Catholic schism. (That's just off the top of my head.)
- generally hate and fear Trads, but lately have learned to be polite to them, at least while Teacher is looking.
No. Actually, a few of them are more scared of me. I must be a scary guy.
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Again, we refer to our Neo-Catholic Index, a zero-to-ten scale where zero means totally bitchin' über-Trad, and ten goes to that movin'-and-groovin'-with-the-Spirit neo-Cath. The numbers for all fourteen criteria were added up, for a total raw score of 11. Divided by 10, we arrive at an Index score of
So, by the most reliable, objective means available, by an expert on the subject other than myself, I am a bona-fide certified Catholic traditionalist. My life can go on.
(H/T to Steve Skojec.)