Over the last forty years, the face of the Catholic world has changed greatly. Due to the declarations on religious liberty and freedom of conscience, one is able to find a great deal of dissenting voices within the Catholic Church. Some of these believe that the work of Pope Benedict XVI and his predecessors did not liberalize the Church enough, while others are tempted to believe that it is time to go back to the 1950s. In between these, there are a great many variety of opinions and views. Indeed, some of them are much more controversial than others. For all of the squeaky wheels, however, there are also pious Catholics that are simply trying to live their faith and are above any label or grouping. Today, I would like to focus on what conservative Catholicism is and how it differs from traditionalism. For the most part, these are my observations and insights.
First of all, conservative Catholics are neither fence sitters nor are they sedevacantists. Conservative Catholics believe that Pope Benedict XVI is the Vicar of Christ and the successor to St. Peter. He was lawfully elected by the College of Cardinals under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The same goes for his predecessors: John XXIII, Paul VI, JP I, and JP II. Therefore, the Seat has been filled for the last forty years by a valid Vicar of Christ.
There are paralells between conservative Catholics and traditionalists. Conservative Catholics insist on the solemnity, beauty, and reference that are to be found in the Mass. Whether the Mass is the TLM (Tridentine Latin Mass) or the NOM (Novus Ordo Missae), conservative Catholics insist that beauty persist. Indeed, they may be outraged by the many innovations that they see in their own parishes and the abuses that occur therein. Tradition is the center of their lives and it is this that drives so many of them to their conservative points of view.
Mother Angelica is an example of a conservative Catholic religious, who has refused to bend in more ways than one. Although she is far from my own brand of conservatism, her nuns admirable in that they have preserved their habits and continue to live a very traditional life within the confines of their beautiful monastery in Hanceville, AL. Yet Mother Angelica’s example extends not only to the monastery, but also to EWTN. Although EWTN has changed a great deal since Mother stepped down from its presidency, it is still viewed by many Catholics around the world as a voice of authority in a world that has no authority. Although I may not agree with EWTN sometimes, I do listen to it because I find it to be an important source of information. In particular, I enjoy Bob and Penny Lord’ s “Super Saints” series.
Mother Angelica, however, is just one of a number of conservative Catholics that have stood up for what they believe in. TAN Books is another example of a conservative Catholic publication that has managed to withstand the test of time. By providing those materials that so many of us thought had disappeared after the Council, TAN has managed to preserve for so many of us those priceless treasures that we thought were unavailable or could only be found at second hand bookstores. Not only this, but TAN has continued to patronize authors that are important to our times and staunch in their conservatism. If you want good Catholic reading, then turn to TAN. You can trust them, as they say, with your faith.
Conservative Catholic organizations such as the above are only the tip of the iceberg. There are also numerous blogs, magazines, and newspapers that cater to conservative Catholics all over the world. The Remnant and The Wanderer are both newspapers that are read in various very conservative circles although I do not read them myself. There are also blogs such as What Does the Prayer Really Say by the indefatigable Fr. Z. that cater to such an audience.
Yet what on earth do conservatives believe that separates from traditionalists? Aside from their belief in the Pope, there is a wide rang of beliefs with regard to what happened after Vatican II. I won’t go into the details here, but the opinions vary all across the board. Yet it is once again love of tradition that impels these Catholics to continue to pray for better times in our century and in the future.
In writing this article, I have realized that much of it is as much about myself as it is about the conservative Catholic movement. In a way, my sedevacantist background and ultraconservative ways found a home in the conservative Catholic movement because it strived for many of the same ideas that I believed only existed in the traditional movement. I have realized, however, that these similarities are important. At some future point, I will write a more thorough comparison. For now, this will do.
Our Lady of the Angels, pray for us!
St. Joseph, pray for us!