Whither tradition?

Whither traditionalist Catholicism? One answer is that if God thinks it’s good it’ll end up doing OK, and if He doesn’t it won’t. It’s also possible to view the thing from a strictly human standpoint, though. And from the latter standpoint traditionalism does have certain strengths:

  1. Since tradition incorporates the whole Church throughout the ages, it’s seen everything and thought about everything. As a result it has something for all men at all times. An example is the text of the Tridentine mass, which assumes that the Church is often disunited and misgoverned, that clergy are often corrupt, that the people in the pews may not be much to rely on, that spiritual dry spells come, and that there might also be other more serious problems with the particular worshipper. Since it assumes those things, it can visibly function as a way of making God’s grace available to us no matter what the setting or what we have done. All the prayers for purification, and the emphasis on the saints and the universal Church throughout the ages, have a function. Something equally effective and reliable (in a this-worldly sense) can’t be written by a committee impressed with its own expertise.
  2. If traditionalism does express the inner reality of Catholic orthodoxy better than more modernizing views, then all the things that give Catholic orthodoxy its inner strength and have made it last as long as it has will also support traditionalism. If the Incarnation, the Real Presence and the authority of a hierarchical church with respect to certain matters all support each other as components of a satisfying explanation of reality, and if the Tridentine mass and other traditional Catholic practices better set forth those doctrines than more recent approaches, then doctrine and tradition together will form a more solid structure that is more likely to prevail in the end.
  3. Traditionalism gives the priesthood a more definite and necessary function, so trads are more likely to become priests and priests are more likely to be trads (other things being equal, like acceptability to gatekeepers).
  4. Traditionalism emphasizes doctrines and practices at odds with the assumptions and habits of the surrounding society. It is therefore more likely to create believers and church communities capable of resisting the “acids of modernity.”
  5. Darwin rules! Trads have more children (or such is my impression).

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