Sunday, May 09, 2021

When Trads Choose Barabbas

Sometimes the worst thing about blogging and writing as a traditional Catholic is having to deal with other traditional Catholics. The past few months I have had some of the absolute worst online interactions in my life, and they have regrettably been with other traditional Catholics. I am talking about matters of mere disagreement where trads tend to hold various viewpoints. I'm talking about rudeness, insults, detraction, crudity, malice, gossip, ad hominems, bullying, rash judgment, slander, and every vile character trait the Scriptures associate with the godless. It has been so discouraging. 

I am sure I am sounding like an old codger, but the one common thread with many of these interactions has been the youth of the interlocutors. Usually in their early twenties, sporting the shaved on the sides/long on the top hairstyle common amongst young men today, imbued with flaming machismo that is so ridiculous as to make them into little more than a Trad caricature. Many of them unemployed, living at home, or otherwise at the very bottom rung of the social ladder. Threads with young trad women are seldom any better.

I do not want to make this about youth; but at the same time, I cannot deny the pattern I have seen of late, and it's extremely depressing. Besides the evident lack of charity, it seems like a raw ignorance of what being a Traditional Catholic is even about. For many of these people Tradition seems to be primarily a social movement to "smash Western liberalism"; sometimes they say as much plainly. Obviously the entire ethos of Traditional Catholicism is opposed to the prevailing social mentality, but it would be profoundly wrong to view the Faith as essentially a contrarian social movement, even if it does oppose the modern zeitgeist. Why is this so wrong?

Traditionalism's conflict with modernity is ultimately incidental—Traditional Catholicism is not defined by it's opposition to anything else; if modernity and all its attendant evils disappeared tomorrow, Traditional Catholicism would still be as rich, vibrant, and life-giving as it ever was before liberalism ever existed. Traditional Catholicism opposes liberalism primarily because liberalism opposes it, but Traditional Catholicism itself needs no enemy, no antagonist to give it meaning. Evil is a perversion of the good, but the good subsists in itself.

Liberalism has always been different. As an ideology that is inherently "progressive", its existence depends upon its opposition to tradition. One can only walk up the staircase of liberalism by stomping ones foot on the steps of tradition. This is why things like racism, sexism, poverty, etc. will never go away under liberalism: not merely because liberalism is incapable of solving them, but because liberalism needs then to exist in order to have purpose. Regardless of how un-racists society becomes, liberalism needs there to be racism, just like a Marvel movie needs an uninteresting villain for the heroes to pound. Without an enemy, liberalism can't exist.

But what happens when Traditional Catholicism takes on this character as well? When one defines ones traditionalism solely in terms of opposition to liberalism? What happens when being a Traditional Catholic is reduced to a series of flexes designed to showcase your Traddy cred? When we stupidly define Traditionalism as some Hegelian antithesis to liberalism (Liberals oppose racism, therefore I will be racist. Liberals oppose sexism, therefore I will be misogyinist. Liberals care too much about feelings, therefore I will be unfeeling)? We when think of our Faith as just a "movement" in sectarian terms? When we think being a Catholic man means unfiltered testosterone-driven machismo? We we insult others on their faith journey instead of helping them? When our definition of what it means to be a good Catholic is measured on the barometer of how much we tear down the secular order? 

I'll tell you what happens—we choose Barabbas, not Christ.

I could go on about why this seems to be the case among the younger traditionalists, but I don't want to speculate. Rather, I will just say I have been disgusted by the behavior of many of them. And no, they are not just trolls pretending to be Catholics. Were these incidents isolated, maybe that would be a plausible explanation, but unfortunately these experiences are too endemic to be attributed to trolls. There is a real problem in the Traditional Catholic youth subculture, and I can't have been the only one to have noticed it.

See "Balancing Truth and Humility", USC, Dec. 2020)


Cam said...

I've been incredibly disillusioned by the conduct of this new breed of Traditional Catholics over the last few years.

You've captured my sentiment perfectly. It makes me feel theologically homeless. I have no home with progressive Catholics or this modern breed of Trads, who seem to believe God ordains their arbitrary viewpoints on the most mundane of social or religious topics and that evangelism is just being "edgy" on the internet.

I'm very sad and frustrated by all of it.

Anonymous said...

I would count myself as a traditional Catholic, and I fit the parameters of youth and strong opposition to liberalism you've mentioned. But I have to say, you're absolutely right.

The sheer level of aggression in these circles is very discouraging. People get furious over differences in dogma so tiny I simply don't understand how anyone could care so much. I see almost nothing about helping the poor, or about being a kind person, and far more about being masculine. Obviously the latter is very important, but the former two should be worthy of at least as much focus. I saw people talking recently about having sexual relations outside of marriage, and that they would just lie about it later in order to get a Catholic "tradwife".

I think it can simply be seen as the result of how socially contrarian this position is now. People who are drawn to contrarian viewpoints are going to have lower social status, because people with higher social status provides incentive to conform to the social order. Lower status people are more likely to end up bitter, and have less to hope for in the future. Also, less agreeable people with less empathy are going to be less likely to feel the need to comply with social expectations too.

Regardless, this isn't all traditional Catholics, just many of those on the internet, I think. Hopefully this brutish form of the faith will develop into a more reasonable one as these people grow up, or improve their lives.

Boniface said...


What a wonderful commentary my brother. Thank you for your insight.

Josephus said...

"But what happens when Traditional Catholicism takes on this character [Of liberalism] as well? When one defines ones traditionalism solely in terms of opposition to liberalism?"

They become exactly what they claim to fight: The modern zeitgeist.

As a priest I know once said, "Not even a homeschool family in the woods escapes the influence of our current culture." Many traditionalists have become heavily infected with the modern cultural attitudes (for lack of a better word) of virtue signaling, outrage culture, and cancel culture. They have become the flip side of the same coin.

Mr. Baxter said...

They're young and low on the social ladder, yet they're constantly told they're the root of all evil. Bitterness is bound to grow. As anon writes, it's only natural for some of the outcasts and outsiders to wash up on our shores. Let's hope and pray that, in time, Christ heals them.

I used to be one of them. It's almost ten years ago since my conversion. I haven't spent more than a few months in a state of grace since, but through my twenties, now coming to an end, I've grown and changed. Catholicism in its fullness is now a part of my nature, on it's own, without being a reaction to the world. And the anger? It's still there sometimes, but mostly it's replaced by peace and a deep longing to one day rest.

E said...

It’s very interesting you posted this today as I just listened to a talk on maturity yesterday from a Catholic perspective. What you’re describing very much seems like a lack of intellectual and emotional maturity. And the lacking in those areas leads to not as much spiritual maturity which probably contributes to the insanity we are seeing in the young trads.

I am so grateful to not experience any of these insane trads in person at my parish. I’m very sorry you had to deal with them online.

Jacob said...

Your post here is both solid but also lacking some needed depth. You mention the problem but don't really say what it is. Could you cite some instances with specificity? I don't necessarily doubt what you are saying, but I'm not too familiar with what you are proposing. In what circles do these people seem to come from?

Boniface said...

@Jacob any online forum where young trads congregate.

Michael Dowd said...

I agree. In a sense Christ was a Novus Ordo Jew. He criticized the the Pharisees for the pettifogging and mindless adherence to the Jewish traditionalism especially when used to condemn acts of charity. We should do the same. Love of God and charity to others should be our primary concern.

Jeffrey said...

This is a great post. What is it they say? Youth is wasted on the young? Well, I read this thinking of myself as an early twenties, ex-Protestant neophyte. I was filled with convert zeal and a bad habit of becoming monomaniacal about all the subjects that tend to come up in trad land.

Mea culpa.

Fortunately, traditis is a curable condition! Treatments include wisdom, experience, humility, marriage, kids and real responsibilities.

But, alas, to get that treatment you have to find your way out of the the maze of liberalism, which we are all born into. Some make it out. But some die in the maze and lose their faith.

Like those in Plato's cave, part of our predicament is being blind to this fact. The young, most of all. In fact, I heard someone once say that finding your way out of liberalism is a life long project. You don't wake up one day and say, "ah ha! I am not a liberal!" You find your way out by rediscovering the roots of organic society. More than once I've had to catch myself thinking this or that reactionary - or traddy - solution would the The Answer to fix all our Problems.

This sort of thinking always leads back into liberalism. It's futile. And it's diabolical. The enemy can make you hate yourself and hate the Church while having the best of intentions.

For, as you rightly point out, religion, and the Catholic faith are not vehicles of anti-liberalism. The cruel irony for young trads is that when they fixate on the liturgy or moral teachings as political tools they end up reinforcing liberalism by treating human society like an abstract subject we can apply our ideas to in order to get what we want.

Human organization doesn't work that way. Trads, like liberals, get the chain of human connection backwards by trying to work from some form of conservative religion toward the society they want. This doesn't work. Religion is a higher concept that comes at the end of the chain. Not the beginning. A healthy Church is a culmination of things. To grossly summarize de Maistre: a people emerge from kinship, language and culture; and then our religion, the Catholic faith, comes in, to sanctify and perfect mankind by regenerating our nature.

Religion doesn't provide a ready-made, off the shelve product that can generate the pre-requisites of human society. It's not a magic silver bullet for modern alienation.

So what to do? My opinion is that these young trads sense their imprisonment in liberalism, but to help them find their way out they don't need more books by Ott and Denzinger. Those come later. What they need now are real human connections, experiences which create belonging between themselves and their communities, and help finding a place in the world. To rip off the Protestants: they need a "church home." Not a reactionary proving grounds.

The battle comes later, after loving and being loved in return. Then, they'll know what they are fighting for.

FC said...

I agree for the most part but personally have encountered baby boomers in this category of Pharisaical Traditionalism or distorted traditionalism, often called Rad Trads. They do tend to care more about politics, Bill Gates implants to track us, the Illuminati ect than they do the Church. Many are anti-Semitic probably because you have people like Taylor Marshall discretely and indirectly bringing in the Jews as the source of our problems. I heard a Catholic professor once say no major Conspiracy Theory has ever been proven true and it is nearly impossible to change the mind of a conspiracy theorist. One thing for sure, all the facts, Scriptures, the catechisms in the world will not change the mind of a Pharisaical Traditionalist. Any attempt to do so will result in you being called a Freemason, a Liberal Catholic, and/or a Jew (I’ve been called all three).
I have learned that it is just not worth it to have a debate with these people. A waste of my time.

M. Prodigal said...

Very sorry you have encountered this--actually--sinful lack of charity and incidence of pride. Yes, pride. Number one of the deadly sins. I count myself also on the faithful side of Catholicism and love the 'old' Rites but I have to say that I have not encountered this attitude myself. Perhaps because we are so very grateful to have a Sunday TLM that we do not spend the time in criticism.

Richard Malcolm said...

Thank you for writing this, Boniface.

The Ubiquitous said...

It is the influence of the meme groups, 4chan, and the like. Chantalk is highly political, highly disenfranchised, highly disgusted. They believe in Clown World more than they believe in the Resurrection of the Dead. Why?

These are not individuals who have religious commitment in their families just as they do not usually have strong fathers. They approach the faith like this because they encounter it as an aesthetic; they first appreciate it in the terms Chesterton is famous for defending it, not in the terms that Chesterton best defends it, or most meant to defend it. It is not an accident that they have these flaws. It is the attraction of the faith that it stands against the corruption of a liberal order, as if a secular Jew at the time of Christ most resented the taxes he paid to corrupt officials he had no power over.

Let them come in---and let us teach them the true cause of sin, the true savior of the world, and the true effect of grace. Let them come in with their haircuts and meet holy men with beards. Let them come in with their hatred of the world and find a trust in the eternal God. Let them be taught, fed, shaped.

Liesa Gonzalez said...

Reactionary movements are never healthy.

Anonymous said...

This is an authority problem, not a youth problem. Youth need to be guided by their elders into maturity, of which this responsibility unfortunately has been almost completely abandoned by the leaders of the Church.
Catholics are rudderless and have been left to fend for themselves to figure out how to go forward in a world where the Church's constant enemies are attacking us while the clergy go about denying we have any enemies at all.

Paul said...

Boniface, thanks for saving me from having to write the same post. I linked to yours at my blog, hope you don't mind. Well done.

Boniface said...

@Paul of course it's alright! Excellent post, brother.

Paul said...

Cool. Must be something in the air/water I guess, as I was coming to similar conclusions a couple months ago (albeit, from a different angle):

Paul said...

Very true. They also become the very flipside of the modernists they abhor by establishing their own subjective dogma that they worship paralleling the very subjectivism they claim to stand against while committing the same root sin of pride.

Paul said...

As was stated above this post is lacking without providing readers specific examples. Anyone can paint an unflattering picture of those with whom they intend to use as a punching bag and the pagan,secular media uses this technique to attack Christians every day.
It is better to use real world examples to illustrate the exact vices and uncharitable behavior you have in mind rather than castigate a group in generic terms that allows you and the reader to use broad strokes that allow assumptions without the necessary context provided by reality.

Boniface said...

Even if I gave my side of the stories, it would still be "well that's just from your point of view."

Anyhow, I will be doing another post about some specific examples in the near future.

Paul said...

I can see where regarding the overall point of your post it's really not necessary to give examples since you quickly moved the discussion toward the philosophical perspective of RadTrads and away from the individual examples of uncharitable behavior.

Any examples shouldn't be just from your point of view if they are quoting the individuals who engaged in the behavior and the behavior is self-evidently lacking in virtue. Other times it may need more context but after rereading your entire post it really stands on its own even without examples. However, it can help in the future to quote those with whom you disagree rather than simply asking your reader to take your word for it like the pagans do for the purposes of maligning Christians through malicious falsehoods.

Boniface said...

I understand thank you brother

Anonymous said...

There are two interpretations of Vatican Council II and other Magisterial documents. One is rational and the other irrational.The irrational interpretation of Vatican Council II is created with the false premise, inference and conclusion. It is the common interpretation of the liberals and the trads. This is when the trads choose Barabbas.

Boniface said...

^Hi Lionel Andrades!