Some people have no doubt heard the expression “traddie sins,” which usually refers to the tendency of some (perhaps many) traditional Catholics to believe that their localized iteration of traditionalism is the pure expression of traditionalism at the expense of every other. “I go to a Society of St. Pius X chapel, not those of compromised groups like the Fraternity of St. Peter…”; “I attend a church run by the Institute of Christ the King and have nothing to do with quasi-schismatics like the SSPX…”; “The garage my vagante bishop says Mass in once every third month uses the 1954 Missal…;” etc. There are others, of course, ranging from uncharitable judgmentalism toward so-called “Novus Ordo Catholics” to a chauvinistic attitude toward the Christian East. Ah, but the list grows. A fairly new, and rather pernicious, tradide sin is the tendency to assume that if a priest, bishop, or pope supports a socio-political position connected in some way with the platform of the American Democratic Party, then then such a position is not only evil, but the espouser has fallen into some deep abyss of doctrinal error and must be renounced immediately.
There was a time, not long ago, when one could still find authentically Catholic reflections on the full array of political problems facing us, the poor heirs of late modernity. Instead of adopting present-day ideologies, these Catholics would attempt to confront topics like economics, law, war, and so forth using the age-old wisdom of the Church coupled with the light of natural reason. Sometimes the results of this thinking aligned (loosely) with the political platform of some party or another, but oftentimes the conclusions were quite different. For instance, both Democrats and Republicans support capitalism; they just disagree marginally about the level and manner of government intervention required to keep the system running “smoothly.” Catholics, on the other hand, know better. They know, from both the Church’s social magisterium and natural law, that capitalism is avarice by another name and that a just economic ordo must provide workers just wages while also upholding the common good.
What about current “hot button” issues like immigration, gun control, and climate change? Here matters are a bit murkier due to the dearth of intelligent commentary on all three. Although Pope Pius XII set out some principles on immigration and refugees, for the most part Catholic thinkers have deferred to the rhetoric of international bodies rather than tried to come to grips with the dynamics of the problem in a truly Catholic way. In the U.S., the bishops have largely folded on the issue completely without bothering to interject nuance into their pro-immigration position while certain sectors of traditional Catholicism have come out howling statements that would make Donald Trump proud. Both “sides” miss the point, and each seem to be more concerned about aligning with a particular liberal-secular mindset than drawing on timeless principles.
The same can be said of gun control and climate change. While the latter topic is more controversial due to the contested science on which it is based, there is no way any Christian can deny that we are not free to do to God’s creation whatever we so please. As for gun control, while the hyperbolic squealing of certain Left-leaning pundits needn’t be taken seriously, has any Catholic thinker explored why, in the United States at least, there is such an appalling gun fetish to the point where the Second Amendment is practically perceived as the highest law of the land? No, curtailing access to certain types of firearms probably won’t stop mass shootings and other acts of violence, but that doesn’t mean anyone ought to have open access to purchasing a small armory. Do traditional Catholics recognize this? Or do they believe that any pastoral statement against widespread gun ownership is ipso facto bound up with some creeping super-liberal agenda which must be resisted at all costs?
One of the great fruits of traditional Catholicism is reminding contemporary Catholics what the Church has timelessly taught while looking for ways to apply past teachings to today. While some traditionalists continue to work hard at this meta-project, traditional Catholicism in America—like all forms of Catholicism in America—has a difficult time thinking past American-style ideological categories. America first; Catholicism second. Escaping the horizon of liberalism is no easy task, but there’s not much of a future for Catholicism (or any other form of Christianity) in these lands unless we do.