I have been thinking about the divide between “conservatives” and “traditionalists” over 20 years. I put those terms in quotes, because they were never adequate (for reasons I will explain later elsewhere).
I nearly completed a paper about it which never saw the light of day: when Benedict became Pope, the issue seemed much less pressing. Then came Pope Francis, but this introduced a new difficulty: the lines between “conservatives” and “traditionalists” became blurred–thankfully…because we are to be one.
A major point of the paper was that the debates are a waste of time: in round numbers, I would estimate that the number of people converted by them has been 0 (which, after all, it a round number). And yet, we are basically forced into such debates over the issue of the way forward from here.
The paper was written as an irenic (Chestertonian type) debate between two good friends–one “traditionalist” and one “conservative”–with some heart felt conclusions at the end. The below was a small part written in the voice of the traditionalist:
- You can’t praise other religions, and Protestant denominations, enough to convince their followers of the importance of being Catholic–nor of Catholics to remain Catholic.
- You can’t be silent enough about hell to convince people that it really matters whether or not you are Catholic, go to confession, etc.
- You can’t be ambiguous enough to help people understand the faith clearly.
- You can’t allow enough dissidents to teach in the name of the Church for people to understand the importance of truth, and the protective love that the Church is supposed to have.
- You can’t fawn enough for the secular world to respect the faith.
- You can’t “engage” incoherent modernity enough for modernity to become clear.
- You can’t urge enough officially Catholic countries to stop being officially Catholic in order to convince the citizens of the importance of being Catholic.
- Even with the best of intentions, you can’t kiss enough Korans to combat religious indifference…nor bow to the ground to enough carvings in the Vatican garden–while not bowing that deeply before the Eucharist itself.
- You can’t have enough inter-religious prayer meetings to convince people that only Christ is the way the truth and the life.
- You can’t dismiss prior Church teachings enough to convince people that objective truth exists and is unchangeable, that the deposit of faith ended with the death of the last apostle, or that the Church was founded by Christ–and protected ever since.
- You can’t change enough words, approaches, and visuals to convince people that there has been no real change in the substance of faith.
- You can’t assemble all the component parts of religious indifferentism, and then be surprised that Catholics become religiously indifferent.
- You can’t cater enough to radical feminists to make them love Christ–who was true man as well as true God.