The Heresy of Americanism
Response To Radical Traditionalists

The Heresy of Americanism: A Response to Radical Traditionalists

by Shaun Kenney

See Shaun's web site

I'll go over Americanism and I'll show you where I think traditionalists go wrong. Keep in mind that for Leo XIII, the last two are products of the first three:

1. That the "Church should shape her teachings more in accord with the spirit of the age."

If there is one argument that you hear the most from the neo-traditionalist side, it is that the Church is ensnared by "novelties," therefore we need to return to the pre-Vatican II era. A ridiculous argument, as the seeds that brought us the 1960's Cultural Revolution were already well planted. Likewise, progressives do the same thing, only they believe that the SVC simply didn't go far enough and needs to embrace the cultural novelties of our day.

Both traditionalists and progressives fall into the error of demanding swift and immediate changes in the Church due to contemporary events.

2. That greater "allowance be granted to the faithful, each one to follow out more freely the leading of his own mind and the trend of his own proper activity."

Both progressives and traditionalists freely interpret the Magisterium to include or exclude whatever "novelties" or "outdated traditions" suit them, be it the celibate priesthood, or homosexuality on the progressive side, or ecumenism and religious liberty on the traditionalists part. Either way, both groups feel free to voice an active dissent that borders on disobedience to Rome. Both sides feel free to appoint their own "theologians" who can carry the cause for them; at best their stances are nothing more than an extension of the Protestant belief of the "communion of saints," or that the laity should carry a greater voice within the Church, regardless of the teachings of the Church Councils (all of them) or the encyclicals of the Holy Father.

Both traditionalists and progressives fall into this error by seeking to actively alter the Magisterium to reflect their own vision of what the Church should be.

3. That the infallibility of the teaching office of the papacy now liberated the Church faithful from careful consideration of new doctrine.

Progressives and traditionalists insist on a notion that dissent can occur so long as the Vatican does not speak out against it infallibly. Leo XIII was very adamant against this in Testem Benevolantiae, insisting that Vatican I's teaching on papal infallibility should encourage all Catholics towards obedience to the Holy Father and the Magisterium, not encourage dissent.

Both progressives and traditionalists have taken the notion of dissent too far, especially when one side either (1) contradicts the Magisterium openly or (2) declares certain portions of the Magisterium to be heresy.

4. That "the Holy Spirit pours richer and more abundant graces than formerly upon the souls of the faithful."

Again, the Protestantizing effect on Catholics in the United States lends Catholic Americans to the notion that they -- as the most powerful and educated people in history -- are somehow more gifted and therefore can more appropriately address problems within the Church. Leo XIII again was very concerned about the implications of American culture on the Catholic faith, and this error is replete in both progressive and traditionalist rhetoric.

Both progressives and traditionalists have extrapolated their ability to speak intelligently on the Magisterium and Church documents and license to decide independently of the Church what should or should not be obeyed.

5. That virtue can be split into passive (contemplative prayer) and active (social justice) virtues, and furthermore that active virtues are preferable to passive ones.

When speaking towards polemics or social activist groups such as SNAP or Call to Action, both are simple ways of saying that active resistance is a preferable means of achieving one's goals rather than prayer. Not only is this a fallacious reliance on self rather than God, but it is a vivisection of passive and active virtues, something which Leo XIII cites St. Thomas Aquinas as an artificial separation. All virtues are active, and prayer is by no means less preferential to such actions as social activism (or in the traditionalist case, polemics and rhetoric).

Both progressives and traditionalists -- when they refuse to obey Rome, despair of efforts towards reconciliation with the Church, and take matters into their own hands -- fall into the error of relying on one's self rather than God as a means to virtue.

See Pope Leo XIII's encyclical Testem Benevolantiae Nostrae at the EWTN library.

It is a stunning comparison to say the least.

Shaun Kenney

Shaun's web site is

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