Rorate Caeli

Who is a Traditionalist?

See below for one religious brother's answer.

What do you think, dear readers?

The tiny village of Villatalla in the Italian diocese of Albenga-Imperia, where the Benedictines of the Immaculate live and where the little bell tower still summons people to attend the Traditional Latin Mass.

Traditionalism is an Affirmation 
by Brother André Marie January 17th, 2012 

One of the most important things for a person to have is an identity. This is why names are so important to us. Adam was given power to name things in the Garden of Eden, showing that he had dominion over the rest of creation, including Eve, whom he named. When a child finds out that a large, strange-looking animal has a name, he finds comfort in the fact, knowing that, if it has a name, and if Daddy can identify it, the thing must not be all that terrifying. It is known

Traditional Catholics, or traditionalists, name themselves thus because of their embrace of the traditions of the Church. That they do so in the face of large-scale abandonment of those traditions by hierarchy, clergy, and faithful alike is why the name “Catholic” is not always adequate, though it should be. Beyond that very generic concept of what traditionalism is, there are manifold and disparate understandings of what exactly defines the identity of the traditionalist. Avoiding a rigid dogmatism where the Church has given us no dogmatic definition — we must be willing to die for Catholic dogma, but not for our own opinions — I would like to consider what traditionalism is in its essence. 

Contrast clarifies the mind, so I will begin with what traditionalism is not. Traditionalism is not a negation. It is not a denial. It is not a finger-pointing followed by a “you’re wrong!” There is a name for that ideology: Protestantism. Protestantism is not a content, but an anti-content. It is not an affirmation, but a negation.

Certainly, the Catholic must assent to the Church’s condemnations as well as to her definitions, but a condemnation’s existence is contingent on two things: the truth that came first, and an error that denies truth. In other words, a condemnation, though good and necessary, only arises because some villain (perhaps Satan himself) concocted a denial of God’s truth. But God’s truth came first. 

The texts of the Council of Trent provide us with an illustration of this. Trent affirms Catholic truth in its decrees, which are comparatively lengthy texts that explain Catholic doctrine in detail. At the end of those content-rich decrees, the Council then condemns various errors in its brief canons. 

So, the short answer to the question concerning a traditionalist’s identity is that he is a Catholic who affirms the dogmatic truths, moral teachings, and liturgical traditions of the Church. This is substantial and primary. That he does so in the face of opposition, not only from the world, but from others calling themselves Catholic, is secondary and accidental. Let us not invert that order, lest we allow the enemy to dictate our identity to us. 

A word about the quest for an identity: I believe it is a very modern thing, a product of the rootlessness of modern culture, which severs us from our traditions, our land, and our people. Modernity homogenizes us all, effectively uprooting local customs and cultures. The Catholic is a member of the universal Church, but he is not thereby a citizen of the universe. He is localized, and his encounter with the Faith is in the context of place, language, and custom. A Catholic from fourteenth-century France and his coreligionist from fourth-century Egypt possessed the same faith, morals, and religion (with priests, bishops, Mass, sacraments, etc.), but the variety of language, ritual, and custom was great. 

That is as it should be. We receive the Faith locally. We live it in our families. We utter it in our own tongues. We practice it in this church building, with people from this community. (The Italian notion of campanilismo and the Carlist conception of fueros are cultural and political expressions of this.) The living out of the true Faith is what produces a Catholic culture, and that culture is what ought to impress itself on our young, forming their convictions, eliciting their actions, commanding their reactions. An identity — a genuine one, anyway — is forged in this organic fashion. We don’t put them on and take them off as an indecisive college student does his major. That is what the rootless, restless modern man does, and this is one cause of his insanity. 

In our day, of course, the Faith is not being lived in places where it used to be. The Italian bell towers that give those in their hearing a sense of home still toll, but they often herald the offering of a bizarre liturgy, the preaching of a watered-down doctrine, and a religiosity of conformity to the standards of this world. So campanilismo, “spirit of the bell tower,” does not fully represent what it once did. The same is true elsewhere in the universal Church. Thus is it that traditionalists travel, sometimes great distances, for a traditional Mass, with the catechesis and culture that go with it. 

 But we can still do very much to live the Faith in our families and our communities. In doing so, we must resist the temptation to make traditionalism into an ideology, a reaction, or a negation of what other people do. Traditionalism is what we are, what we know, and what we do. Here, then, I will catalogue some of the things traditionalists affirm, or ought to affirm: 
  • We affirm the Catholic Credo in all its integrity. 
  • We affirm that the Catholic Church is the one bride of Christ, and that its Faith and its religion are the only divinely revealed ways to believe in and serve the living God. Consequently, the Catholic Church is the only path to salvation. 
  • We affirm that divine truth is assailed by enemies of God’s Church, and that the faithful must “contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). 
  • We affirm the supernatural constitution of the Church, the natural hierarchy of the family, and the rule of Christ the King in society. To what degree we can, we will work to preserve or restore these things in our own families and communities; for the the world, the flesh, and the devil are undermining this order established by God. 
  • We affirm that the Church’s public worship of God, her liturgy, has been handed down to us with great care by our fathers in the Faith. This has been done in a beautiful variety of rites. It is wrong to cast off these treasures of centuries of careful development under the protection of the Holy Ghost. Therefore, we will practice them, honor them, love them, and teach them to our children. 
  • The authentic response to evil is a life of Christian virtue and holiness, which is none other than the faithful response to one’s primary vocation (the baptismal call to sanctity), lived according to the mode of his “secondary vocation” (i.e., priesthood, religious life, marriage, the single state in the world). 

There is much that is dark and evil in life, but if we choose to allow ourselves to be consumed by it, then shame on us. Saint Paul notes that what we lost in Adam is far exceeded by what we gained in Christ (cf. Rom. 5:15ff). One need not have Faith to see wickedness and despair; they are too evident to the senses. The real marvel is the amount of good that actually exists, and that does take Faith to see: water regenerating sinners as God’s children and heirs to Heaven, God Himself coming down on our altars in the appearances of bread and wine, the Gospel being preached to the poor. 

And that Gospel itself, the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ! It is the “Good News”: good because it comes from the good God, and news, because it needs to be told. 

We have a treasure in the Church’s traditional liturgy. We also have great commentaries on it, none better than Dom Gueranger’s Liturgical Year. We also have Holy Scripture, the writings of the Fathers and Doctors, and great intellectual and artistic monuments of Catholic culture that were born of Christian societies. All that we have, plus God Himself, the angels, the saints, and a promise of future glory if we persevere! And let us not forget that we have Our Lady, the Cause of All our Joy

If, with all that, we need to go in search of an identity, or define it in purely negative terms against some other class of people, then we really have no clue what tradition is.


  1. What a pleasure it is to see Rorate carry one of the "Ad Rem" essays of Brother Andre Marie.

    I read them every time they come out, and this one, like so many others, is great.

    This excerpt is exactly what I wish I would have said when questioned recently about my use of the adjective "Traditional", when the questioner insisted that "Catholic" should be enough:

    "Traditional Catholics, or traditionalists, name themselves thus because of their embrace of the traditions of the Church. That they do so in the face of large-scale abandonment of those traditions by hierarchy, clergy, and faithful alike is why the name “Catholic” is not always adequate, though it should be."

    As a convert, and a child of this age, it nearly brought me to tears simply to understand, to learn, this pure and perfect little word "campanilismo".

    It is such a sweet and beautiful word, and it conveys to my imagination in a powerful way, that Catholic world I have never experienced, and for which my spirit yearns.

    Very grateful for the essay, and I hope Br. Andre Marie's contributions will continue

  2. ben kulp9:02 PM

    On bended knee I say ....AMEN !

  3. Ferraiuolo9:32 PM

    I wish I could contact this monastery properly. Since they no longer update their website I have no access to anything they do. They also seem to have no email so it is difficult to know more about them. Does anyone have any information as to how to contact the Benedictines of the Immaculate?

  4. Jason9:33 PM

    Fantastic, and all VERY true!

    A Catholic from fourteenth-century France and his coreligionist from fourth-century Egypt possessed the same faith, morals, and religion (with priests, bishops, Mass, sacraments, etc.), but the variety of language, ritual, and custom was great.

    That's a point us Traditionalists often overlook; Trent certainly codified the TLM, but also every venerable form as well. I remember going to an Orthodox service and being dumbfounded by the solemnity of it!

    But, of course, they were/are Organic Liturgies, and not Liturgies by Commission (in the words of Cardinal Ratzinger).

    The rupture occurred when two rascals (one a Pope, the other a Cardinal), attempted to suppress all venerable liturgies, and impose a novel one, created in a liturgy-factory by Modernists, overseen by protestants and masons.

  5. Anonymous10:25 PM

    What a beautiful post.

    To me, traditionalism is the simple idea that if the past generations wouldn't have approved something as orthodox, then it isn't no matter how many bishops blabber it.


  6. My jaw is still wide open over the breathtaking words this religious of Our LORD uses and he punctuates his points with every word, just like Christ been the Word of God, this man is like 'in persona Christi' and thus the walking Word. Thanks be to God for these men who are still anchored to the faith of our forefathers and of our future !

  7. "... the name “Catholic” is not always adequate, though it should be."

    But it just isn't. I think Rome should float the idea of changing the name to something more welcoming of diversity. It's obvious we're just not theologically universal enough for modern man. Maybe change the name to, say, the Ecumenical Church, or the Church Without Walls. I'm thinking if you offered a preamble to all bishops anonymously, you might find quite a few in favor of it. I'm thinking something like 80%. How much more authority do you need?

    It could solve a lot of problems, you know. You could free yourselves from all that tradition stuff, and probably even move the capitol to some great location like Paris or San Francisco. You could design a new Vatican which better reflects modern man. And you could even offer the preamble to bishops of other religions, and other worthy religious leaders, and count their responses.

    Think it over. Why keep on putting up with these traddie schmucks. They're never going away, you know.

  8. This is the best essay I've read so far defining not only what it means to be Traditionalist but more so being Catholic in its truest sense.

  9. Tom the Milkman3:47 AM

    St Pius X said "not revolutionaries, but traditionalists are the true friends of the people".

    Given that the Church is beset unto death by Modernism, whose minions within the Church have proven to bear each and every characteristic that the holy Pontiff Pius X declared them to possess, his seems as fine a definition of traditionalist as any other.

  10. I met some 'Traditional' Catholics once....

    They were poor, humble, pious and of a simple Faith.

    I don't get to see them anymore since I now go to Mass with a bunch of Elitist, European centered Americans.


  11. Torkay4:26 AM

    This would be a good response to offer those who accuse us of being "holier than thou."

  12. Tell us more, Pablo. Don't make accusations and throw dirt if you're not going to follow through. You call others elitist at the same time as your message drips of it. Perhaps it is Pablo Schettino?

  13. There are two different camps in the area of traditionalism. One of the camps advocates disobedience in order to defend traditonal values, and the other believes that obedience is a traditional value, and that obedience is extremely important, even if it means that one must suffer because of it.

    Those who advocate disobedience seem to believe that it is a saintly virtue, and that those who disobey lawful Church authority in the name of tradition should be considered as saints. And yet, I know of no saints who themselves advocated disobedience as a saintly virtue.

  14. Salve Regina4:23 PM


    Here is a contact page with numerous options, including a mailing address and telephone number.

  15. Ecclesia Militans5:31 PM

    One of the primary marks of the Church is her militancy, a combat spirit, a spirit of fighting against evil for the glory of God. For best examples think of the great orders of warrior monks -

    Is not the Church in the world called the Militant Church? It is no coincidence that of all other names precisely this was chosen. To fight evil is one of the primary definitions of a Catholic - the author does not seem to reckognize this.
    Other than what the author ennumerated, a Catholic is determined also in the negative, i.e., other than being for good, he is indeed necessarily against evil.
    That is why the Church of before was always so vigorous and fervent in condemning error and heresy, foiling the plans of evil.

    It has been God's plan throughout history to permit some of this evil to attack the Church in order for the Truth to be shown more clearly.
    In fact, all the great and solemn dogmatic pronouncements, throughout the history of the Church, have come precisely because some heretics dared to deny a divine Truth.
    In this sense the identity of the Church is also defined by its enemies. It is what they are not.
    When the protestants denied the Body and Blood of Christ and the Holy Sacrifice of the altar, the Church proclaimed and accented it more.
    When they denied the rights of the Papacy, the Church proclaimed the dogma of Papal Infallibility, etc. etc.

    This article, however inspiring and true, seems to lack some of that militancy. This is what the SSPX has. The SSPX is not a "champion of disobedience" but a champion of Catholic militancy.

    How easily many accuse the SSPX of disobedience, following the example set by the unjust accusations of the modernists, and forgetting that this obedience which those people champion is really obedience to those who work for the destruction of the Church and who have accomplished a great deal of their goal.

    We must ask ourself a simple question.
    To be obedient and to keep silent in the face of those who actively and passively destroy the Church - is this a good thing?

    A true Catholic and a true Traditionalist is not a conformist. He does not agree to the false peace that the world offers, an ecumenical peace of all creeds and all beliefs, one of which would be his.
    He is the one who keeps the Truth in his heart, and will not stand idly by and let someone, no matter how great, abuse it or try to destroy it.

    He is the one that loves God more than men, Truth more than unity, Faith more than obedience.
    For without the former, the latter are nothing.

    Thanks be to God for Mons. Lefebvre and the Society of Saint Pius X!
    God bless the Catholic France, the chosen of God! She has given us an Apostle of the Faith - a holy archbishop, may she now give us also a holy king.

  16. Ferraiuolo12:58 PM

    Salve Regina,

    I meant of the Benedictines of the Immaculate.

  17. Ecclesia Militans asked:

    "To be obedient and to keep silent in the face of those who actively and passively destroy the Church - is this a good thing?"

    The Church cannot be destroyed. We have the word of our Lord Jesus Christ that it will not be destroyed. Do you believe Him? I do. No matter how hard some may try to change the Church, she will remain the ark of salvation - no matter how bad the situation may seem to be on the surface. The deposit of faith has always and will always survive; indeed, it has survived may a crises and weak popes. This is because it is not mainly the human element which guides the Church of Christ - but a supernatural element.

  18. Alphonsus Jr.11:37 PM

    Enoch, when we must obey God rather than men, obedience demands disobedience. See:

  19. Thanks to all the folks who had kind words about my essay.

    Ecclesia Militans,

    Thank you for your comments. I appreciate what you say about Catholic Militancy and the necessity of it. I am well acquainted with the need for Catholics to be militant in defense of the Faith. I am a disciple of Father Leonard Feeney, who was very militant himself. I also consider myself a disciple (via study) of the great Ultramontanist militant, Dom Prosper Guéranger. Further, I have the ignominious distinction of being the SPLC's "poster child" for evil "Radical Traditionalist Catholics" -- vide: (the ugly guy with the beard: that's me).

    My point in the essay was to state the positive basis of traditionalism, which many people lack. It is a lacuna in their formation.

    Perhaps you might like to read my apologetics offerings on to see me more in a fighting mood, e.g.:

    I do not detract the Archbishop. Without him, the cause of tradition would not be where it is today. That's a simple fact. I'm also half French, being a New Orleans Creole, so thank you for your kind words to my people.

    God bless and Mary keep you.

  20. Ecclesia Militans9:57 AM

    Brother André Marie,

    Thank you very much, and I congratulate you on your envious and honorable status as a "radical traditionalist".

    But I have a question, if you don't mind. I would be interested to know how the supporters of Father Feeney can explain their resistance to the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium in the matters of Baptism of Blood and the explicit and implicit Baptism of Desire, as expressed by numerous bishops, doctors and theologians, from the third century onward, including an ecumenical council, and all the pre-conciliar popes since - and including - Pius IX?

    It is, after all, a part of Catholic Tradition, and an infallible one at that.

    This article contains many of those quotes, I have others too:

    Also, to mention praxis, do you reckognize Saint Emerentiana and the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste, martyred in the 3rd century, as Catholic saints, since they are examples of both Baptism of Desire and Baptism of Blood?

  21. Ecclesia Militans,

    I refer you to the following postings on our site:

    Baptism of Desire: Its Origin and Abandonment in the Thought of Saint Augustine

    Doctrinal Summary

    Hopefully, the links I put up will work. I'm never fully confident posting HTML code in a comment box.

  22. Ecclesia Militans11:34 PM

    Brother André Marie,

    I've studied the articles and I must say that they do not make a convincing argument against the threefold Baptism.

    Other than quoting the many various forms of the dogma extra Ecclesiam nulla salus and discussions and speculations on St. Augustine's view, there are only two or three marginal quotes by doctors that speak against the threefold Baptism.

    As for St. Emerentiana, I see that Fr. Feeney decided to deny Tradition by saying she must have been baptised in water before martyrdom, although she has always been counted as an unbaptized cathecumen who died for Christ and received the Baptism of Blood.

    On the other hand, I present you a short list of those important documents, theologians, bishops and doctors that explicitly affirmed the threefold Baptism (most of the quotes are found in the article mentioned in my last comment, if you wish, I can send you the others by mail):

    St. Cyprian BM, Tertullian, St. Cyril of Jerusalem BCD, St. John Chrysostome BCD, St. Ambrose BCD, St. Augustine BCD, St. Thomas Aquinas CD, St. Catherine of Sienna V, Ecumenical Council of Trent, Catechism of the Council of Trent, St. Alphonsus Liguori BCD, Pope Pius IX, Baltimore Cathechism (19th century), The Cathechism Explained (1899), Cathechism of Pope St. Pius X, Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), Code of Canon Law (1917), Catholic Dictionary (1946), Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office (1949), mons. Joseph Fenton (1952), Archbishop Lefebvre FSSPX, Fr. Schmidberger FSSPX, Bishop Fellay FSSPX...

    The inescapable conclusion is that the doctrine of Fr. Feeney denies or contradicts the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium as expressed through the above teachings of the said theologians, doctors etc.

    It even goes against the Code of Canon Law which was valid at the time (canons 737 & 1239).

    I hope you can see that to assert that so many theologians, doctors, popes and Church documents were in error for so many centuries is to deny the indefectibility of the Church.

    St. Alphonsus Liguori calls the baptism of desire de fide, and St. Cyprian BM, back in the 3rd century, seems to call those who do not believe in the Baptism of Blood of the cathecumens "aiders and favourers of heretics".

    Finally a short and precise quote:
    "Outside of the Church, nobody can hope for life or salvation unless he is excused through ignorance beyond his control.“


  23. Tuesday, March 20, 2012
    Bishop Fellay, Fr.Schmidberger,FSSP,Joseph Fenton seem unaware the baptism of desire is not an explicit exception to the dogma

    Ecclesia Militans said...
    Brother André Marie,
    I've studied the articles and I must say that they do not make a convincing argument against the threefold Baptism.

    it is important to note that there is only one baptism which is explicit. It is the baptism of water.

    Ecclesia Militans
    Other than quoting the many various forms of the dogma extra Ecclesiam nulla salus and discussions and speculations on St. Augustine's view, there are only two or three marginal quotes by doctors that speak against the threefold Baptism.

    We can only accept the baptism of desire and martrydom in pinciple. Explicitly we do not know any case, we cannot judge.If the Church declares someone a martyr we accept it.


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