Tradition and Traditionalism are two different things. The former is the living source of Truth given to the Church by Christ. The latter frequently becomes something very different — and the difference is palpable in the debate over the morality of coronavirus vaccination. By Fr. Richard G. Cipolla
Steve Skojec’s recent posting at OnePeterFive on the current Covid-19 Vaccine Debate is an excellent summary both of the details of the debate and of the problems it has generated within those who call themselves Traditional Catholics. His stated position is summarized in this statement:
Our beliefs are propositional — so they should be able to be explained simply in “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots” — and they are concordant with natural reason. Nothing about the absolutist position on this stuff — even though the evil of abortion is undeniably horrific — strikes me as reasonable or prudent, given our circumstances.
He welcomed comments to the post but warned against “moral grandstanding and beating dead horses, because a thoughtful, careful discussion on this would likely prove fruitful.” I went to the comments and what I found was moral grandstanding and beating dead horses. Commenters offered the same old arguments against the liceity of the Covid-19 vaccines. That, however, was not the really depressing thing.
Really depressing for me to see was the righteous attitude of those who have it all figured out. Even if the Magisterium of the Church has spoken on this matter in contradiction to the rigorist stand taken by those who offered comments, these super-Catholics knew better. “Here I stand. I can do no other.”
Tradition and Traditionalism are two different things. The former is the living source of Truth given to the Church by Christ Himself. The latter is a rigid, obsessive form of individualism that reminds one both of the Pharisees and the Jansenists.
I was the pastor of a parish that was important in the evangelical thrust to make the Traditional Roman Mass better known and accessible. It is with great happiness that I see more and more parishes celebrating the Traditional Roman Mass in my diocese, and the great number of young priests who have fallen in love with the Traditional Roman Mass.
It remains true that the hierarchy chooses to ignore this real movement in the Church and in some cases tries to oppose it in heavy handed terms. In the last few years, however, I have come to see that the greater threat to the Traditional movement is posed by those I have called the Rad-Trads, who confuse Tradition with ultra-Right causes of all sorts. And one of the causes du jour is opposition to the Covid-19 vaccines.
Another recent piece also on OnePeterFive talked about the nostalgia for the 1950s among some Traditional Catholics. As always, nostalgia is so often a denial of the reality of the past and works like a two- finger glass of single malt scotch that dulls the mind enough to disremember the real problems both in the Church and in the world during that decade.
To be a faithful Catholic in 2021 is indeed difficult, for the post-modern world has shed what was left of its Christian heritage and has embraced a dangerous subjectivism that is often a denial of reality itself.
The Church — and individual Catholics — must challenge this: not by unthinking and knee-jerk opposition that has no basis in either the Gospel or Tradition more broadly, but by an intelligent and intellectual encounter with the current manifestation of a fallen world. Above all, we must challenge it by living a life that is consonant with the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ and doing so with joy and hope.
Skojec asked for a rational and faithful debate on the vaccine question. That did not happen. This is what continues to sadden me deeply. In any case, I would implore all Catholics to respect the decision made on the vaccine by those who have decided to receive the vaccine.
I for one have done my homework, having read articles in scientific journals about the vaccines. I have also read what the Church has said about the morality of receiving the vaccine. I have also noted that the present Pope and the Pope-emeritus have received the vaccine. My age, my situation in life, have also entered into my decision. On that basis I have made a prudential judgment — and prudence is still a virtue when I checked — to receive the vaccine.
All I must ask of those who have made the decision not to receive the vaccine is to respect my decision: neither judge me nor imply that I have no place in the Traditional movement because of my decision.
Please, everyone, remember: At the heart of the Traditional movement is the Traditional Roman Mass, celebrated with great beauty and dignity, a reflection of the only true Beauty who is the God who sacrificed his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him will have everlasting life.
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