A Little Divisiveness, Please
Back in 2010, I grumbled to a traditionalist Catholic friend:
Every time some violent Muslim blows something up, all the peaceful Muslims complain about how unfair it is that everyone thinks all Muslims are like that, and they protest about it. And I'm thinking, Why aren't you guys protesting against the violent Muslims? Two birds with one stone. You make the world less violent, and you get a better reputation as a group.
The reason I was grumbling to him was because the complaints of the peaceful Muslims reminded me an awful lot of the complaints of the perfectly nice traditionalists. Every time some radiical traditionalist does or says something hideous, I hear a lot about how unfair it is that every thinks all traditionalists are jerks like that; but I hear almost nothing like, "Hey, my fellow traditionalists, stop acting like jerks."
Well, that's precisely what Dawn Eden did when she reminded us of a salient and relevant fact: that Argentinean blogger Marcelo Gonzalez, who is much quoted and much celebrated in ultratraditionalist circles for his criticism of Pope Francis, is a Holocaust denier -- or perhaps, as Mark Shea calls it, a "Holocaust Belittler." Apparently the fellow doesn't deny that millions of Jews were rounded up by the Nazis and tortured, starved, gassed, and burned. He just wants everyone to understand that it was probably only a few million Jews, not lots of millions, and that some of them were maybe not actually so much killed on purpose by Nazis, as that they just inexplicably died near the Nazis. Silly Jews, such a fuss.
So Dawn Eden, bless her, is simply asking traditionalists to do something, say something, to distinguish themselves from those who hate the Jews:
I would like to continue to urge other concerned lovers of the Extraordinary Form (traditional Latin) Mass to speak out so that the world does not judge us by those who spew hatred against Judaism and the Jewish people.
Reasonable, yes? But apparently she's been chastised for being divisive. Yeah, I guess so. Like Christ was being divisive when He said, "If your right hand offend thee, cut it off and cast it from thee." Some things are worth dividing yourself from.
You know what? The only time -- the only time, in my entire life -- that I've experienced anti-Semitism, it came from Traditionalist Catholics. Never from anyone else. And so I expected the most radical of the rad trads to defend Gonzalez; and I was not disappointed. But I was astonished to see more than a few normally sensible people objecting to Dawn Eden calling him out as a Holocaust denier. On Facebook and in comment boxes, I read the protest, "But -- but isn't that ad hominem?"
This question demonstrates a medical condition known as "being so open minded that your brain falls out." Let me put it this way: If someone says, "Hey, have you met the new first grade teacher, Mr. Bonbalez? He has such a way with phonics!" and I say, "Mr. Bonbalez?!? But he murdered six nurses back in 1985!" then that, technically, would be ad hominem: I'm attacking the person, rather than the argument. I haven't said a single thing about Mr. Bonbalez's phonics capabilities. And yet, my concern would be relevant.
This is the kind of concern that people have when they hear that someone is a Holocaust denier. Holocaust deniers are all either morons, or mentally ill, or evil. All of them. It's one of those things for which there is no excuse -- one of those things from which sane and decent people run away screaming, without stopping to stroke their chins and saying, "Hm, yes, hm, but on the other hand, there are many layers of historicity, and who among us can say with certainty . . ."
No. Here is what you can say with certainty: once you publicly deny the Holocaust, you are no longer allowed to say anything, about anything, ever. Shutting up: that's what's for you, from now on. The end, goodbye to you and farewell to thee.
Yes. I know not all traditionalists are like this. I know there are plenty of people who are completely in love with Latin and who are not anti-Semites. I believe this. I've met them. I get it. What I don't get is why more traditionalists aren't leaping, with gratitude, at Dawn Eden's invitation to reclaim their good name. Pro-lifers do it when some nutjob bombs a clinic: they understand how important it is, both for the benefit of their own members and for the sake of their reputation, to say, "That is wrong. We are not like that."
Just to be clear, here is what John Paul II said about the Jews.
If you are a traditionalist, here's what you can do: Got a blog? Write a short post decrying anti-Semitism. Just so people know. Got a congregation? Deliver a brief sermon on the fact that hatred of the Jews is a grievous sin, unworthy of people who are dedicated to preserving the integrity of the Faith. Got a family? Teach them that this kind of thing is repulsive, abhorrent, and has nothing to do with Catholicism. Got a website with a big traditionalist readership? Just put a small disclaimer somewhere reminding people that anti-Semitism is, according to Nostra Aetate, "foreign to the mind of Christ."
Because, as I said, I know that not all traditionalists are anti-Semites -- not by a long shot. But it's there. If you're a traditionalist and you hang out with other traditionalists, then sooner or later, you will run into anti-Semitism. If it's not in your particular neighborhood or community, then be glad. But it's not far away. And it's not going to go away on its own.