He said unto them: Therefore every scribe instructed in the kingdom of heaven, is like to a man that is a householder, who bringeth forth out of his treasure new things and old.
The Catholic Church is the guardian of the Sacred Tradition passed on to the disciples by Jesus Christ. In this age of deracination, it is no wonder that new generations are returning to tradition, rediscovering their forgotten heritage, both in the Church and in the world. But whenever the Spirit guides men to Truth, the Devil will strive to pervert their good intentions. As Catholics, we hold fast to all that is good in the movement for the restoration of lost traditions and oppose all appearances of evil. It has become evident that the Devil’s tool to ruin the traditionalism of the 21st century is the spirit of the Pharisees, who opposed the renewal of the Spirit and the Good News of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We reject the white-washed tombs of this dead traditionalism.
Rather, we stand for the living flame of a very different traditionalism, a beautiful, living thing, ever ancient and ever new! In the words of the Holy Father, “Here we see the authentic Tradition of the Church, which is not a static deposit or a museum piece, but the root of a constantly growing tree. This millennial Tradition bears witness to God’s work in the midst of his people and ‘is called to keep the flame alive rather than to guard its ashes’” (Querida Amazonia § 66). In every age, this living flame of Tradition has burned ever brighter by “scrutinizing the signs of the times and… interpreting them in the light of the Gospel” (Gaudium et Spes § 4).
Therefore, we affirm not only the validity of the Second Vatican Council, but the primacy of these dogmatic and pastoral constitutions, in our present era, to instruct the people of God to be “an instrument for the redemption of all” (Lumen Gentium § 9). We reject the rupturists on both the right and the left, who both assert that the Council taught modernism. We likewise reject the lukewarm liberals who, despite their formal acceptance of the Council, have muted its full message and compromised for either the conservative or progressive form of the bourgeois individualism of modernity. Without the full flowering of the Council, the modern world cannot be redeemed for if “to doubt the Council is to doubt the Holy Spirit Himself Who guides the Church” then to dilute the Council is to dilute the work of the Spirit.
Just as the Council of Nicaea, the Second Vatican Council was, and remains, mired in an era of crisis. But an ecumenical council cannot be reduced to its imperfect participants nor to the corruption and chaos which persisted before, during, and after the council. We trust in the providence of the Almighty Father to work all things for good and in the promise of the Lord Jesus to Peter at Caesarea Philippi. Therefore, we reject the current trend among rupturist traditionalists to treat Vatican II as a “failed Council” that should be ignored or even annulled. Faithful criticism is one thing, but wholesale rejection is another, and we affirm that the Council and its aims were the result of a genuine movement of the Holy Spirit that remains relevant, and is even more so now than ever. We affirm as a movement of the Holy Spirit the Council’s emphasis upon the universal call to holiness, inter-religious and ecumenical dialogue, liturgical reform, moral theology renewed by a return to a more scripturally grounded approach, the liberatory dynamism of Catholic Social Teaching, and the Church as a nested hierarchy of relational and mutually enriching charisms. The Council has already born a plentiful harvest in these areas, but the laborers who will preach, defend, and live these teachings are still too few.
We do not write to initiate an undeveloped school of thought, nor to promote unestablished practices, but to describe the ressourcement of radical and orthodox Catholicism which has been widely professed and practiced for over half a century, producing many holy apostolates and saints. For those who stand with us, and for those weary of rupture and liberalism alike, we offer this outline of the philosophy, practices, and program of a new traditionalism.
I. The Church is not primarily a defensive castle but, above all, a missionary people united in love.
Contrary to the individualism of modernity, we are not saved “merely as individuals, without bond or link between one another,” but rather as “a people which acknowledges Him in truth and serves Him in holiness” (Lumen Gentium § 9). Therefore, we require both “those ministers, who are endowed with sacred power” (LG § 18) of the ecclesiastical hierarchy and Christian communities of fellow laymen or religious with whom we can follow Our Lord. Communities of consecrated religious “give their members the support of a more firm stability in their way of life and a proven doctrine of acquiring perfection” (LG § 43), but the laity likewise, instead of accepting the state of our atomized post-Christian society, must “imbue culture and human activity with genuine moral values”, so that “by their combined efforts [they] remedy the customs and conditions of the world, if they are an inducement to sin, so that they all may be conformed to the norms of justice and may favor the practice of virtue rather than hinder it” (LG § 36).
But we do not imagine that the Church can be reduced to a castle or a bunker wherein to hide away the righteous, but rather She “receives the mission to proclaim and to spread among all peoples the Kingdom of Christ and of God and to be, on earth, the initial budding forth of that kingdom” (LG § 5). The community we proclaim is not afraid to preach the Gospel for, even in times of bitter persecution, the saintly martyrs rejoiced to receive their crown. The Cross proclaims that even bodily death is victory. Our desire to evangelize is founded on the knowledge that “the Church… is necessary for salvation” (LG § 14). This does not prevent us from prayer and dialogue with protestants, as long as we continue to “pray, hope, and work” that all Christians “desire to be peacefully united, in the manner determined by Christ, as one flock under one shepherd” (LG § 15), the Pope, who is “the perpetual and visible principle and foundation of unity of both the bishops and of the faithful” (LG § 23). Therefore, we particularly applaud and appreciate the ecumenical efforts of the personal ordinariates, who have allowed protestants to reunite with Rome while retaining their liturgical and spiritual patrimony. Our feelings are similar for our elder brothers, the Jews, who remain “most dear to God, for God does not repent of the gifts He makes” (LG § 16), and we deplore the virulent anti-semitism which remains among certain traditionalists. Likewise, to Muslims, to indigenous peoples, to Hindus, to Buddhists, and also “those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God” (LG § 16) in the new pagan religions of our era, we proclaim that “whatever good is in the minds and hearts of men, whatever good lies latent in the religious practices and cultures of diverse peoples, is not only saved from destruction but is also cleansed, raised up and perfected unto the glory of God, the confusion of the devil and the happiness of man” in the light of Christ (LG § 17). Therefore, while we have no interest whatsoever in syncretism and religious indifferentism, and remain always eager to tear down idols, we praise the efforts for the true inculturation of the Gospel in non-Christian cultures and the New Evangelization of the post-Christian West, knowledgeable that “the obligation of spreading the faith is imposed on every disciple of Christ, according to his state” (LG § 17).
To accomplish this lofty goal of universal redemption, many laborers are needed for the harvest. We are particularly inspired by the emphasis of the Second Vatican Council on the universal call to holiness, the teaching that “all the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity” (LG § 40). We do not imagine that this means that the proper roles of the lay, the clergy, and the religious should be confused or blurred, but rather that every Christian has a vocation to sainthood, to be lived out in different ways, but always with the same radical devotion and virtue: “if therefore in the Church everyone does not proceed by the same path, nevertheless all are called to sanctity and have received an equal privilege of faith through the justice of God” (LG § 32). Therefore, it is all the more necessary that the laity make use of the traditions of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving recommended by the saints. We recognize, of course, that the practice of this ancient piety accomplishes nothing without the pursuit of perfect love. And so we practice and encourage various traditional devotions, such as frequent fasting and abstinence, Our Lady’s Scapular and Holy Rosary, and countless other novenas, consecrations, and feasts, because they were recommended and practiced by saintly men and women, filled with the joy of the Gospel, who burned with the love of God and neighbor. “The authentic cult of the saints consists not so much in the multiplying of external acts, but rather in the greater intensity of our love, whereby, for our own greater good and that of the whole Church, we seek from the saints ‘example in their way of life, fellowship in their communion, and aid by their intercession’” (LG § 51). Because new saints are always being raised up in the Mystical Body through the work of the Spirit, we both welcome and practice many of the new devotions in the Church, such as the Divine Mercy chaplet, not because they are recent innovations, but because they are shown to inspire saintly zeal and charity.
II. The perennial philosophy of Saint Thomas is a foundation for the valuable “New Theologies”
As we struggle to find the fullness of Truth while under the tyranny of relativism, we look to the sure foundation of “sacred tradition, Sacred Scripture and the teaching authority of the Church” (Dei Verbum § 9). More than any other school of thought, we ground ourselves in the teachings of Saint Thomas, the greatest of the Scholastics, who synthesized the Patristic tradition and the philosophy of Aristotle. We are encouraged by the words of Aeterni Patris “to restore the golden wisdom of St. Thomas.” However, our regard for the Angelic Doctor does not deceive us into thinking that new theology is unnecessary. There is always a temptation to make an idol out of any great philosopher, which ironically destroys the value of his thought, for the fullness of Truth comes only from God. We know that “sacred theology rests on the written word of God, together with sacred tradition, as its primary and perpetual foundation”; and because God never ceases to speak through the Scriptures, “theology is most powerfully strengthened and constantly rejuvenated by that word” (DV § 24). Therefore, when new errors and challenges arise in the course of history, re-reading the Scriptures will always provide us with new theological responses to the fresh snares of Satan. In our age of so many evils—capitalism and liberalism, totalitarianism and materialism, the sexual revolution and militarism—we have a great need for new theologies. Ressourcement theology, which is at the heart of the Second Vatican Council, was the first of many theological approaches which developed the Sacred Tradition, in a way entirely compatible with the foundations of Saint Thomas. We continue to study and learn from other new schools of thought, especially the Theology of the Body, the Theology of Liberation (as guided by the Vatican Instructions), and the Theology of the Common Good, developed in the light of personalism. We rejoice also at the new fruits of ecumenical dialogue with the East, which has produced the insights of Sophiology. While all of these new theologies have, at times, been dismissive of other traditions or even promoted by heretics, we, grounded in the solid rock of orthodoxy, have no fear of fruitful dialogue as we seek “the harmony which exists between elements of the faith” (DV § 12).
We affirm that a truly Catholic theology will embrace the “both-and” approach of the Universal Church, rooted in the philosophical principle of analogy and the Christology of Chalcedon. While nevertheless defending the absolute necessity of doctrine, the Mystery of God revealed in Christ must never be reduced to stale propositions, so that “as the centuries succeed one another, the Church constantly moves forward toward the fullness of divine truth until the words of God reach their complete fulfillment in her” (DV § 8). Thus all theology, in order to be really Catholic, must be christologically oriented in order to avoid all of the false, oppositional binaries that are the mark of every heresy which, through an exaggerated elevation of one truth at the expense of others, so often distort the heuristic fulfillment of all things in Christ. As we open ourselves to the indescribable gift of Truth, we must approach Revelation in all humility, for “in Sacred Scripture… while the truth and holiness of God always remains intact, the marvelous ‘condescension’ of eternal wisdom is clearly shown, ‘that we may learn the gentle kindness of God, which words cannot express, and how far He has gone in adapting His language with thoughtful concern for our weak human nature’” (DV § 13).
III. The natural law and the preferential option for the poor have been united in Catholic Social Teaching
The modern world has witnessed the development of many forms of secular materialism, which are all thinly veiled idolatries. Liberal capitalism, Marxist socialism, and fascist nationalism have, in the last few centuries, all taken their turn in persecuting and perverting both the people of God and the poor of this world. These historical events are not neutral to Christians, for “the joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ” (Gaudium et Spes § 1). “Hence the mission of the Church is not only to bring the message and grace of Christ to men but also to penetrate and perfect the temporal order with the spirit of the Gospel” (Apostolicam Actuositatem § 5). Tragically, however, many Catholics have sought to defend the rights of the Church or the rights of the poor by accepting the errors of various modern idolatries, despite the fact that “the Church, by reason of her role and competence, is not… bound to any political system. She is at once a sign and a safeguard of the transcendent character of the human person” (GS § 76). Therefore, we reject the limitations of the Right and Left political paradigm of modernity and embrace the tradition of Catholic Social Teaching as our foundation. We believe simultaneously in the “the permanent binding force of universal natural law and its all-embracing principles” (GS § 79), which puts us at odds with Marxist and progressive liberal doctrines, and that “there must be made available to all men everything necessary for leading a life truly human, such as food, clothing, and shelter”, which puts us at odds with reactionary and conservative regimes (GS § 26). In short, we believe in family, property, justice, and hierarchy just as much as solidarity, dignity, peace, and liberation.
These are not abstract principles: we stand for the unborn threatened by the abortion regime and for the poor and working classes threatened by tyranny of the technocratic State and Market; nor are they limited to elections, for we desire to “exhibit the witness of an evangelical life in contrast to all forms of materialism” (AA § 31). We reject the pernicious errors of liberalism, which removes religion from the public sphere, and accept the “traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ” (Dignitatis Humanae § 1), but readily affirm that “the human person has a right to religious freedom” (DH § 2). We stand opposed to the sexual revolution, but have compassion, not hatred, for souls led astray by LGBT ideology. We stand opposed to those forms of feminism which oppose motherhood and modesty, but reproach the misogyny often espoused by reactionary traditionalists, who deny “the legitimate social progress of women” (GS § 52). And we stand opposed to all forms of racism and nationalism because “the Church admonishes her own sons, but also humanity as a whole, to overcome all strife between nations and race in this family spirit of God’s children” (GS § 42) without failing to “cultivate a generous and loyal spirit of patriotism” (GS § 75) with constant prayers for the conversion of our homelands.
While many will continue to portray the Church’s radical post-liberalism as fascist in its defense of the rights of God or socialist in its defense of the rights of the poor, we refuse to doubt our mission to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, for “the expectation of a new earth must not weaken but rather stimulate our concern for cultivating this one. For here grows the body of a new human family, a body which even now is able to give some kind of foreshadowing of the new age” (GS § 39). Our urgency to promote and practice Catholic Social Teaching, both in local communities and popular movements, is increased by the economic and ecological catastrophes that await us if mankind does not repent and submit to the common good. Therefore, we commend, or seek to live out ourselves, the practices of the Catholic Worker Movement, according to its origin and traditional inspiration, and to build up—as did our first parents Adam and Eve in the harmony of the Garden, the Lawgiver Moses in the nation of Israel, and the countless saintly princes and rulers of Christendom—a Civilization of Love.
IV. The necessary Liturgical Renewal was begun, betrayed, and left unaccomplished.
In the early days of the Church, the Sacred Mysteries were celebrated by men of outstanding faith, who were frequently sustained by the Paschal Feast to endure a martyr’s death. In the medieval ages, when the Church steadily transformed all social institutions in the light of the Gospel, the Holy Mass developed in beautiful and ornate ways through the lives of many great saints and the history of Christendom. But when modernity began with the disasters of the corrupt Renaissance Church and the Protestant Reformation, the liturgy was, for the first time, centralized and stabilized in the Council of Trent. We love this Tridentine Mass, which has spiritually nourished us and given us access to the lost culture of Christendom. However, we recognize that the liturgy was unable to develop organically in this era, all while Christian culture endured centuries of militant secularism and industrialization; “hence some changes have become necessary to adapt them to the needs of our own times” (Sacrosanctum Concilium § 62). Nonetheless, we abhor the undeniable and widespread liturgical abuses which accompanied the implementation of the Novus Ordo. We know that “the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows” (SC § 10), and so we refuse to accept the status quo of irreverent, worldly, or simply unimpressive liturgies which make it difficult to experience “a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the holy city of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims” (SC § 9). According to the very constitution initiating these reforms, the Sacred Liturgy should emphasize organic development (SC § 23), Latin (SC § 36), public Vespers (SC § 100), Lenten penance (SC § 109), choirs for sacred music (SC § 114), Gregorian chant (SC § 116), and noble beauty (SC § 124). How rarely is this accomplished! It is no wonder that there remains a continual dissatisfaction with liturgical life. We do not doubt the validity and value of the Novus Ordo in the slightest, nor do we deny its dignity and potential, but we yearn to see it universally implemented as the Council Fathers decreed. As the liturgical renewal necessarily continues, our assistance at the New Mass draws mutual enrichment from more reverently practiced liturgies, such as the Tridentine Mass, the Anglican Use, the Monastic and Gallican Rites, and liturgies of the Eastern Churches in communion with Rome. As a rule, we all pray that we continue to have access to the ancient form which has nourished us most. Above all, we profess our faith in “the eucharistic sacrifice” of Christ’s “Body and Blood” (SC § 47) and therefore, in a time of so much doubt and confusion concerning the Real Presence, practice the reception of Holy Communion on the tongue, pray that Eucharistic coherence is carefully safeguarded, and strive to advance, in the words of then-Cardinal Ratzinger, “a new Liturgical Movement, which will call to life the real heritage of the Second Vatican Council.”
It is to this prayer of the Church, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, that we turn for strength to work, pray, and suffer for the faith of Jesus Christ, guided by the Council to redeem the modern world, for “the renewal in the Eucharist of the covenant between the Lord and man draws the faithful into the compelling love of Christ and sets them on fire.” (SC § 10).
In short, we stand alongside those countless souls who yearn for orthodoxy and renewal, who profess Thomism and ressourcement, who embrace hierarchy and liberation, who pray with traditional forms and active participation, in a word, the prophets of the New Traditionalism. We trust that new and great saints will continue to arise in witness against our doomed age of death, despair, and Mammon. Guided by the four theses above, as faithful children of Holy Mother Church, we invite all people of good will to join us in the work of the Gospel through the practice of these principles, received from the Second Vatican Council, in families and apostolates, intentional communities and popular movements, parishes and cities, diocese and governments throughout the whole world. “Now to Him who is able to accomplish all things in a measure far beyond what we ask or conceive, in keeping with the power that is at work in us—to Him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus, down through all the ages of time without end. Amen.” (Eph. 3:20-21).
An examination of conscience must also consider the reception given to the Council, this great gift of the Spirit to the Church at the end of the second millennium. To what extent has the word of God become more fully the soul of theology and the inspiration of the whole of Christian living, as Dei Verbum sought? Is the liturgy lived as the “origin and summit” of ecclesial life, in accordance with the teaching of Sacrosanctum Concilium? In the universal Church and in the particular Churches, is the ecclesiology of communion described in Lumen Gentium being strengthened? Does it leave room for charisms, ministries, and different forms of participation by the People of God, without adopting notions borrowed from democracy and sociology which do not reflect the Catholic vision of the Church and the authentic spirit of Vatican II? Another serious question is raised by the nature of relations between the Church and the world. The Council’s guidelines—set forth in Gaudium et Spes and other documents—of open, respectful and cordial dialogue, yet accompanied by careful discernment and courageous witness to the truth, remain valid and call us to a greater commitment.
Saint Pope John Paul II, Tertio Millennio Adveniente § 36 (1994)
Dr. Larry Chapp
Dorothy Day Catholic Worker Farm
Harveys Lake, PA
Director of Tradistae
Holy Family Catholic Worker
Editor of New Polity
Concluding Note: We humbly offer this manifesto to the Church on the 22nd of December, 2021 A.D., the 16th anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI’s “Christmas Address to the Roman Curia,” in which he countered the “hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture” with the “hermeneutic of reform.” We invite others to join us in signing, sharing, and practicing it, and we beg all those it reaches to pray for the flourishing of the new traditionalism throughout the Church and among all people of good will.
Additional Signatories (updated 28 December 2021):
Dr. Rodney Howsare
Professor of Theology, DeSales University
Deacon David Oatney
Diocese of Knoxville, Tennessee, USA
Lecturer, University of Notre Dame, Australia, Ph.D. Candidate
Highlands Ranch, Colorado
Logos Project Podcast
Jacksonville, North Carolina
Brian C. Harris
Dr. Mario Ramos-Reyes, M.T.S., J.D., Ph.D
Professor of Philosophy and Latin American History
Institute for the Study of Culture, Ethics and Development
Br. Anselm Dominic LeFave, O.P