Patrick Archbold is co-founder of Creative Minority Report, a Catholic website that puts a refreshing spin on the intersection of religion, culture, and politics. When not writing, Patrick is director of information technology at a large international logistics company in New York.
The online Catholic world, as is the world around us, is full of name calling these days. Not of all of it helpful, friendly, or even Catholic for that matter. Typically, we tend to label people in convenient political terms. Many online purveyors of Catholic commentary tend to lump people into two broad unhelpful camps--conservative and liberal.
Lately, however, I notice that the labeling is morphing into something else. Even among the press, I find that the conservative and liberal tags falling by the wayside in favor of traditionalist and progressive. But for many, even to call them a traditionalist is not sufficient since traditional is not ominous sounding enough for people, so now we have radical traditionalist or rad-trad is the common pejorative.
After being called one himself, Father John Zulsdorf commented that there really isn't a name for people like him and he opened the combox for suggestions. And boy he got a lot. But the most common answer I came across was something along these lines. "I am not conservative or liberal, rad-trad or progressive, I am Catholic pure and simple."
While I am sympathetic to this line of thinking, I don't think it is that simple. Further, I don't think that all labels are to be eschewed as unhelpful. I think the problem with many labels is that they are not specific or well defined enough to be useful. Since people will use labels no matter what, I think that our labels should be specific and well defined as possible.
In all this discussion, I kept coming back to the question, "If I am not Rad-Trad or Progressive, then what am I? And am I alone?"
The more I think about, it seems to me that the labels we seek are not so much about whether you are Catholic or not, since Catholicism can accommodate a broad range of views on many topics. I think the labels are more about what we see as principally wrong with the Church and the world today and what we see as solutions. The labels are really about where we think the emphasis should be to help the Church help the world today.
So what do you call someone like me?
I have a fondness for the TLM, but I attend a Novus Ordo mass probably +90% of the time. I am in favor of reforming the liturgy. You don't have to attend too many low masses in the old rite to understand what liturgical reformers in the 40's and 50's where getting at. You also don't have to be a rad-trad to know that the mass we got is nowhere near what was envisioned by these reformers or by the documents of Vatican II. If I had my druthers, I think that it is not too late to do what the Council called for. I also think that those who think any discussion of liturgy is a waste of time simply do not understand human nature at all, liturgy matters. Liturgy will always matter.
I also reject the idea that you must either be focused on doctrine and morality or the poor. I don't see how you can truly be focused on the poor if you are not focused on morality. I think that one of the great causes and perpetuation of poverty has to do with morality, particularly the breakdown of the family. I think that abortion (and its root contraception) are the key moral challenges of our time and rightly deserve a fair amount of our attention. With millions of poor babies dying each year and the consequent loss of souls, I don't see how a Christian can think otherwise.
But this certainly doesn't mean I don't care about the poor. However, I believe that when Catholics use government as a primary means of addressing the needs of the poor, we make a very big mistake. I can't think of a more ineffective way to deal with poverty than through the government. Further, when we make poverty the problem of the government rather than our problem, only bad things ensue. By doing so we empower our government in ways that can hurt the poor and everyone else and we lose that sense of personal responsibility so necessary to true charity. I think studies that show that "conservative" folks give more to charity than 'liberal' folks back this up. Further, human nature will always make government care more about the government than the poor and it is dangerous to invest the confiscatory state with sufficient capability to address such concerns.
I think that so much focus on charity via government and NGOs has dulled our missionary sense. Saving souls for Christ is the primary goal. There are no full bellies in hell. That said, I think that I and others like me do a very poor job of convincing people we care about the poor and people need to know that we care.
I also think that the principle and most effective societal safety-net should be the extended family. I think that public policy should encourage the proliferation of family as the most effective means to a truly civil society with private and Church based charities filling in the gaps. I think that history shows us that family works. I think that a century worth of public policy designed to undermine the family have wrought much of the destruction we see today and has culminated in the absurd debates we see today around family and marriage.
I could go on, but I think you get the gist. What label best suits me?
I certainly don't consider myself a rad-trad. I suppose that in reality I am just a tad-trad. Maybe that's it, maybe that is the proper label.
I am a Tad-Trad.
I suppose the only remaining question, does this label only apply to me? Am I alone or are there other Tad-Trads too?