It is a particular term that I have only recently started to adopt. I had previously considered it rather disparaging towards well-intentioned souls who may be overgenerous in their defence of individual popes but who were otherwise orthodox in theology and morals. These types were my first contact with Catholicism, or dare I say it, a particular brand of Catholicism, so I may subconsciously retain elements of their thinking to my detriment. Let my readers correct me in charity.
The term itself is known from a book by Mr Ferrara and Mr Woods, 'The Great Façade'. I will not go into their arguments in this post for the simple reason that I am utterly ignorant of their work, having not read it. An awareness of the great differences between the self-identified 'Traditionalist Catholic' and those who claim to be Catholic, loudly proclaiming their obedience to the Magisterium, only made a real impression on me in the past few years. I was staying at the Scots College in Salamanca, Spain for a week and I had a few discussions on 'contentious' issues relating to the Council with two seminarians, one of which I had previously known. Likely now he has tried to pretend not to have had that privilege. My understanding of divergences had been entirely superficial, it was ultimately related to the question of personal preference concerning the liturgy. Admittedly I was generally aware of criticisms directed towards 'religious liberty' or ecumenism but it was to my mind, a matter of practicality in lieu of principle. It was through these late night conversations, interspersed with games of pool and soft drinks that I learnt that something more fundamental was the core issue. Their entire philosophy was skewed. I am not here to blast their mental processes as I actually still like them and they did treat this odd convert and two-time Faith conference attendee with courtesy. On the other hand, I now consider the philosophy of the Neo-Catholic to be utterly fatal to Catholicism.
The Neo-Catholic is fond of quoting the Fathers and it was through their apologetics material, often utilising the great men of the nascent Church, that I finally decided to convert. Yet, I continue to wonder what singular bishops like Father Augustine and the man who baptised him, St. Ambrose would have thought of their social and political philosophy. A number of years ago I read a letter from St. Augustine in reply to a pagan civil official who wrote to the Doctor pleading for his intercession in order to save some riotous pagans from severe punishment. Nectarius, the official, commends the bishop for his love of 'country' in the opening of his plea. In response Augustine responds that Nectarius may love his 'country' too but it is far better to love the 'heavenly city' of God. The rest of the letter is a call for our friend Nectarius to convert to Catholicism which quite amused me when I first read it due to what appeared to me as the sheer cheekiness of the part of my patron saint. Now that I meditate on his words I am astonished by the profundity of them. The 'commonwealth' can only truly be loved and honoured when the one true God is loved and honoured. Society has a higher purpose than the merely practical and economic demands of a societal animal. It is through society, the primary society being the family, that man comes to know God and His moral law. The coexistence of two distinctly thinking peoples can not form a true society.
It was for this reason that Spain treated heresy so harshly under their Inquisition. No society can be truly whole, existing for a greater good than that which believes the same and cherishes the same moral imperatives. Otherwise, society becomes a aggregation of individuals living in their own self-selected cells. As a result of this, we proclaim the Social Kingship of Christ. All individuals of whatever condition or original confession, groups, institutions, nations, agencies, powers must acknowledge His reign of justice and peace. I do not pray to God that I may be allowed to be left alone to worship with a close group of fellow believers but that the entire nation may join me in adoration. It is perfectly desirably to long for a Catholic confessional state where the rights of God are upheld and His commandments are taught and adhered to in public. Unfortunately, the Neo-Catholic would baulk at such a suggestion. It appears that they are completely wedded to their current form of society and its implicit principles. They are unable to imagine a good society apart from a liberal or social democracy which is inevitably pluralistic. Furthermore, they continue to be bemused that society can adopt such abhorrent mores all the while being ignorant of the fact that such a form of society generates actually it. Traditional Catholics have pointed out the Protestant background of such men, but since the best Catholics are generally converts (I proclaim seriously with a proud grin), it is the significance of their nationality and social formation that I wish to highlight.
To be continued...