[Chapter Seven is hyper-linked and can be read online. Substantial differences exist from the final book edit]
I General Characteristics of "Traditionalism" (pensees 1-30)
II Faith and Optimism vs. Pessimism (pensees 31-67)
III The Indefectibility of the Church (pensees 68-81)
IV So-Called "Conservative Catholics" or "Neo-Catholics" (pensees 82-97)
V Development of Doctrine vs. Evolution of Dogma (pensees 98-111)
VI Private Judgment and "Cafeteria Catholics" (pensees 112-129)
VII Fundamentalists and Insufficiently Converted Catholics (pensees 130-135)
VIII The "Good Old Days" of the "Pre-Conciliar" Church (pensees 136-141)
IX Ecumenism and Religious Liberty (pensees 142-193)
X The Theory of Evolution and Catholicism (pensees 194-197)
XI Is Vatican II a "Modernist" Council? (pensees 198-226)
XII Are the Vatican II Documents "Ambiguous"? (pensees 227-251)
XIII Post-Vatican II "Liberal" Popes (pensees 252-276)
XIV The Novus Ordo ("New") Mass (pensees 277-292)
XV Is Pope John Paul II a "Modernist"? (pensees 293-327)
XVI Schism, the Quasi-Schismatic Mentality, and Heresy (pensees 328-339)
Appendix One Cardinal Newman on the Catholic Conscience
Appendix Two Catholic Encyclopedia (1913) on Schism
Appendix Three Cardinal Newman on Dollinger and the Old Catholics
A brief explanation of the title of this book and my goals and outlook concerning it, is in order. The intended comparison to the French mathematician, physicist, and Catholic apologist Blaise Pascal's classic, Pensees ("thoughts" - unfinished and in unorganized sketch form at his death in 1662) is a methodological or structural one only.
The late, great journalist, social critic, and convert to Catholicism, Malcolm Muggeridge, was an avid admirer of Pascal and the Pensees; particularly with regard to its unsystematic format. He thought that Pascal's death before his material could be organized into a proper book was a "beneficent, if not miraculous circumstance," which enabled the work to appeal to "stragglers and vagrants like myself . . ."
Catholic apologist and philosopher Peter Kreeft, in his delightful commentary on the Pensees, Christianity for Modern Pagans (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993, 10-11), wrote insightfully about the organization and unfinished nature of Pascal’s Pensees, which he described as "raw pearls" and "scattered notes, like a scholar’s storm-struck study":The pensees . . . are more like "sayings" than a book . . . their very artlessness is the highest art. There is a higher and a lower mode of teaching. Books are the lower; living is the higher. "Sayings" are halfway between. They reflect and approximate the higher, the mode of Christ and Socrates and Buddha. That's why Socrates is the greatest philosopher, according to St. Thomas (S.T. III, 42,4): because he taught like Christ, in the higher mode. That's why he wrote no books . . . Pascal has the passionate impatience of a lover. He writes lyrics, not maps - like St. Francis.924 of Pascal's pensees were compiled in the Harvard Classics edition of 1910, translated by W.F. Trotter, and 993 appeared in the Penguin Classics edition of 1966, translated by A.J. Krailsheimer. I doubt that I could come up with nearly that many separate observations on any topic, but I have managed to compile 339 separate "sayings" or what might be called "observations" in this book.
There the meager comparison ends, and I hasten to emphasize once again that I am not intending to compare myself or my own "thoughts" or their cogency or import in any way, shape, or form, to those of Pascal, let alone to Socrates or St. Francis or to our Lord Jesus. I simply thought it might be worthwhile and helpful, for my purposes, to organize my writing on the topic of "traditionalism" in the same manner, and thus, I have sought to present some of the benefits of the unconventional structure of the Pensees. These advantages harmonize well, I believe, with the "philosophy" or "approach" that I myself have taken with regard to the present subject.
Rather than attempt a systematic "legal" critique primarily from canon law and all the various proclamations of the Church regarding schism and authority, and so forth (more akin to the method of St. Thomas Aquinas) - which others have done far better than I ever could do or hope to do, anyway -; rather, I have sought to analyze the premises, presuppositions, logical and ecclesiological "bottom lines" and (in a word), the spirit of a false and divisive "traditionalism" practiced and held by a distinctive sociological sub-group of Catholics.
One might regard such an enterprise as logically and conceptually prior to a formal critique (whether theological or philosophical) of the modes of thought involved. As Pascal sought to examine and "expose" the underlying assumptions of the unbeliever and the skeptic of his time (similar to Socrates' own modus operandi), so I am trying to arrive at the foundational assumptions or "mindset" of the self-proclaimed "traditionalist," under the further easily-verified assumption that ideas do not develop in a vacuum, and have a history, and a pedigree.
I have habitually put the word "traditionalism" in quotes because I think it is misused, similar to the ways in which a Catholic would regard "Enlightenment" or "dark ages" (as applied to the high middle ages) as misnomers and grossly inaccurate. This is partially a battle over terminology.
As I refuse to yield any such ground to the humanist or secularist, where it involves denigration of my beliefs as a Catholic and a Christian, or revision or distortion of history, likewise, I won't yield a perfectly good word to those who distort it, and try to exclusively "claim" it in a way which does violence to Catholic orthodoxy and practice, rightly understood (the parameters and outlines of which have been determined by the Church, not myself or any individual).
The valid use of the word is simply as a synonym for "orthodoxy," as traditionally practiced and developed and believed for 2000 years of Church history, and dogmatically upheld by the authority of the magisterium of the Catholic Church. In this sense I would classify myself as a (true) traditionalist. I fully accept the Church's teaching in faith (but not without many corroborating reasons of many sorts), and believe that it has been passed down from the apostles and protected from error by the Holy Spirit Himself (another huge subject in itself, beyond the scope of the present work).
When it is abused, it is a synonym for "traditions of men falsely made out to be the only proper traditions of the Church." It is a faulty and erroneous use of both dogma and private judgment (and often, selective judgment) contrary to orthodox Catholic theology and ecclesiology, and also Christian unity and charity. To describe this dispute over the very word at any greater length would be futile, and too complicated to lay out in brief introductory remarks, meant as an initial stimulus and broad outline only. That is a major task of what follows, in the book proper.
I should make it abundantly clear (for obvious reasons) that I (like the pope) have no problem whatsoever with a devotion to the Tridentine Mass, or traditional liturgical practice and devotion (not to mention traditional morality and catechesis). Quite the contrary: I myself have been a member, for eleven years, of a quite traditional parish, which celebrates the Mass in Latin (Novus Ordo) every Sunday.
I utterly despise liturgical and aesthetic, architectural mediocrity, and modernism. I was received into the Church (after informal instruction) by the late Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J. - a theologian renowned for his impeccable orthodoxy even by many "traditionalists," who was a catechist for Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity. He has formally recommended my writing. I strongly believe in Fatima, Lourdes, and the Rosary, and even fully accept the controversial proposed Marian definitions, and have written much about them.
I am particularly fond of John Henry Cardinal Newman (I maintain the largest Newman web page on the Internet) and love Chesterton, Belloc, and the Fathers and Doctors of the Church. A rejection of contraception and an aversion to the events and philosophy of the Protestant Revolution were two of the major reasons I converted to Catholicism in 1990.
Therefore, despite my strong, heartfelt, passionate disagreements with "traditionalists," indeed we have much in common, and nowhere (to my knowledge) do I claim that they are not Catholics (in the canonical sense of being baptized and adhering to the Creed, etc.). I usually prefer the description of "schismatic spirit" as opposed to outright "schismatic" (excepting sedevacantism). I refer to "un-Catholic" beliefs or principles, but not to "non-Catholics" - a crucial distinction to bear in mind.
I possess no knee-jerk or merely temperamental or so-called "progressive" or "neo-Catholic" objection to a legitimate traditionalism per se. I have no agenda other than the pursuit of truth and the "mind of the Church" on the matters of authority and true apostolic Tradition.
Last revised on 1 February 2013.