What do you get when you cross a “traditional” Catholic with a “conservative” Catholic?
Unfortunately, this isn’t a riddle.
In our day and age there are untold millions of people who genuinely want to be Catholic, and who sincerely believe that they are, and yet externally manifest in their words, deeds and opinions something other than the one true Faith.
Needless to say, for this we can thank Vatican Council II; its rottenest fruit, the Manrite of Paul VI, and all of the Bishops in White who succeeded him.
This poses a particular challenge for people like me who write and speak publicly on contemporary Catholic matters. We need to find, and be willing to use, words and phrases that effectively identify certain aspects of this complex reality in concise and simple terms that are easily understood by our intended audience, even if we know full well that they are not literally correct. It’s the price we must pay for communicating efficiently within the limits imposed by human language.
The alternative would be to qualify every written or spoken colloquial expression with a mini essay that needlessly delves into details that have already been hashed and rehashed ad nauseum.
For example, the opening sentence of this post mentions “traditional” Catholics and “conservative” Catholics. No doubt readers know exactly what is meant, even though (as the name of this blog suggests) there is no such animal in strict theological terms; there are simply Catholics and non-Catholics.
The same can be said for phrases like “gay marriage” and “same sex marriage.” Every reader of this space knows that there is no such thing, i.e., it’s not necessary to provide a caveat lifted from Casti Cannubii every time those phrases are mentioned.
Perhaps the most frequently invoked expression of this nature these days, thanks in large part to Traditionis Cojones, is “Traditional Latin Mass” and its acronym, “TLM.” Every reader knows exactly to what this refers, just as everyone here understands what is meant by “Novus Ordo Missae,” the “new Mass” and the “Mass of Paul VI” even though there really is only one Mass of the Roman Rite.
So, back to the original question: What should we call a cross between a “traditional” Catholic and a “conservative” Catholic – a person who moves about comfortably in the Big Tent that presumes to take up real estate in both camps?
Some years ago, not long after the death of Fr. Nicholas Gruner, Cornelia Ferreira observed in this space, “A synthesis between many traditionalists and conservatives is taking place in front of our eyes. A new entity has arisen: Conservative-Traditionalism.” I seem to recall that she referred to its adherents as “trad-cons,” a name as good as any.
Even so, given that this group has only grown in number since, or at least has become more vocal and obvious, it may be time to up our rhetorical game just a bit. With this in mind, how about we go with the moniker, tradservative?
As far as effective communication goes, it seems to convey the notion of a hybrid between “traditional” and “conservative” fairly well. It also rolls off the tongue rather smoothly. So, it’s definitely a contender in my book.
I also like the opposite ordering, which gives us the name, conditional Catholic.
This has the added benefit of highlighting the fact that while tradservatives claim to accept everything that authentic Catholicism teaches, they really only do so on the condition that one believes in a Church that can occasionally err, and a papacy that can sometimes include an apostate.
In other words, tradservatives have more than a few “cafeteria” tendencies of their own: I’ll have the Summorum Salad, with Latin lettuce and conciliar croutons, add a side of religious freedom fritters, thank you very much.
Then again, Ratzingerian, a name long in play, is awfully good given that BXVI is the granddaddy of tradservatism, with Bergoglian being the opposite. At least that’s the theory anyway.
If we want to be literalists, I suppose we could just go with Protestant and be done with it, but that’s not very much fun.
So, for now, tradservative it is. I may even toss in the occasional conditional just for good measure.