Spirituality and Radical Traditionalists

Spirituality and the Rad Trads

by A.L.

I was talking to my friend Steve the other day about how Rad-Trads attack the Pope for kissing the Koran. He is much smarter and I always ask opinions of those who are smarter and wiser than me. I gave him a link to my blog and he read my post on John Paul II and Islam. He said it was very good. The next thing he said was, "To criticize John Paul's action is to be spiritually immature." My friend Steve is very informed about his faith. He loves his faith and lives it. He reads a lot of things, but does not follow the debates between the so called "conservatives" and the Rad-Trads. But when we were talking about how Catholics themselves attacked the Pope for kissing the Koran, he said, "To criticize John Paul's action is to be spiritually immature."

So it's not just the Inquisitors who believe that to criticize the Pope is to be spiritually immature, but other people as well. I have experienced this with my many debates with them. Why would anyone criticize the Pope for such an action? As I have shown, at least the more plausible explanation, is that it was an act of politeness.

This also goes for John Paul asking John the Baptist to protect Islam. I was taught from childhood, from my parents and my Franciscan nun aunt, that we should love Jesus and our neighbor. To love our neighbor means to not look for bad things over a person. I also learned this from Fulton Sheen. And this was also the spiritual maxim of Teresa of Avila. She said, "Do not think of the faults of others, but of what is good in them and faulty in thyself." She said that people with pride are those who look for evil things in a person.

At the same time, I also learned that when a person speaks, we should always interpret his words in the most charitable way. This is called the Ignatian principle of charitable interpretation I believe. How about when our Holy Father speaks? I would think that when people with higher authority speak, I would be extra-charitable. For example, we may not be as charitable to our brothers and sisters, but we will always give more respect and be more charitable to our parents.

St. Francis of Assisi said that even when he meets the worst priest, he would give honor and bow down and receive a blessing. In our day, we may not give honor as much anymore, but when a Pope speaks, we must give him more honor because he has higher authority. Again, we must try to follow St. Teresa of Avila's instruction of, "Be ever ready to perform the duties of obedience, as if Jesus, in the person of the prior or superior, had laid His commands upon thee."

There are also times when Rad-Trads say, "John Paul II is contradicting past magisteriums! He cannot invent new docrtrine!" What do we say? Obey. Obedience always come first. The Holy Rule of St. Benedict Chapter 5 on Obedience says:

"The first step of humility is unhesitating obedience, which comes naturally to those who cherish Christ above all. Because of the holy service they have professed, or because of dread of hell and for the glory of everlasting life, they carry out the superior's order as promptly as if the command came from God himself. The Lord says of men like this: No sooner did he hear than he obeyed me (Ps 17[18]:45); again, he tells teachers: Whoever listens to you, listens to me (Luke 10:16).

"Such people as these immediately put aside their own concerns, abandon their own will, and lay down whatever they have in hand, leaving it unfinished. With the ready step of obedience, they follow the voice of authority in their actions. Almost at the same moment, then, as the master gives the instruction the disciple quickly puts it into practice in the fear of God; and both actions together are swiftly completed as one...For the obedience shown to superiors is given to God, as he himself said: Whoever listens to you, listens to me (Luke 10:16).

"Furthermore, the disciples' obedience must be given gladly, for God loves a cheerful giver (II Cor 9: 7). If a disciple obeys grudgingly and grumbles, not only aloud but also in his heart, then, even though he carries out the order, his action will not be accepted with favor by God, who sees that he is grumbling in his heart. He will have no reward for service of this kind; on the contrary, he will incur punishment for grumbling, unless he changes for the better and makes amends."

Applying this rule, when you think that it is not wise if the Pope teaches a doctrine or do things like kiss a Koran, we must forget what we think is best for the Church and obey the Pope instead. Philip Lawrence, OSB comments:

"Even when we think that the superior is stupid or wrong or stubborn, strong obedience gives us a wonderful grasp of what it means to seek God's will and not ours. We must face the modern thinking that says that we should seek truth together and discern it together."

and he also said:

"Obedience teaches us that we don't have to have the final say on most things -- in fact, on nothing except that which is immoral, and most of us will not have to deal with a person like Hitler in our lives."

A person who is spiritually mature will not ask things such as, "What if he tells us to murder my mom?" He will not try to even think of that. But what exactly is the answer? It is common sense that if it is self-evidently immoral, we should not do it. However, it is not in the nature of the Papacy to declare something like that. So the Rad-Trads' dissent is not justified by that kind of reasoning.

Whenever a Pope issues an encyclical, we must at least give submission of mind and will as Vatican 2 and Pius XII taught. Pius XII did not say, "See if the encyclical is on par with Tradition." He simply said to give submission or assent. However, many Rad-Trads don't follow this. They act as if they are the interpreter of encyclicals and Tradition. They will make statements such as, "John Paul II is a heretic! He teaches universalism!" A spiritually mature person would not even think of making that kind of statement because he practices the Ignatian principle of charitable interpretation, which many Rad-Trads lack. A person who is spiritually mature will not even say, "Look! JPII contradicts past magisteriums!"

As St. Teresa said:

"When one superior bids thee do a certain thing, do not say that another superior has given a contrary order; but obey in what thou art commanded, and consider that the intentions of all are good."

Thomas More once said, "If a man will not take the teachings of the Catholic faith as a rule of interpretation when he studies the Scripture -- but instead, being distrustful, studies the Scripture to find out whether or not the faith of the Church is true -- he cannot fail to fall into errors." (A Dictionary of Quotes from the Saints by Paul Thigpen, page 206)

And this should also be a rule for interpreting Tradition. "If a man will not take the teachings of the Catholic faith as a rule of interpretation when he studies Tradition -- but instead, being distrustful, studies Tradition to find our whether or not the faith of the Church is true -- he cannot fail to fall into errors."

And the Imitation by St. Thomas a Kempis says:

"IT IS a very great thing to obey, to live under a superior and not to be one's own master, for it is much safer to be subject than it is to command. Many live in obedience more from necessity than from love. Such become discontented and dejected on the slightest pretext; they will never gain peace of mind unless they subject themselves wholeheartedly for the love of God. Go where you may, you will find no rest except in humble obedience to the rule of authority. Dreams of happiness expected from change and different places have deceived many.

"Everyone, it is true, wishes to do as he pleases and is attracted to those who agree with him. But if God be among us, we must at times give up our opinions for the blessings of peace. Furthermore, who is so wise that he can have full knowledge of everything? Do not trust too much in your own opinions, but be willing to listen to those of others. If, though your own be good, you accept another's opinion for love of God, you will gain much more merit; for I have often heard that it is safer to listen to advice and take it than to give it. It may happen, too, that while one's own opinion may be good, refusal to agree with others when reason and occasion demand it, is a sign of pride and obstinacy." (Imitation of Christ, Book I, Chapter 9)

Spirituality and Rad-Trads Part 2

"It is only in obedience that we grow in wisdom." -- Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

I asked my friend Adrian, who is a Rad-Trad, if he has read any spirituality books. He said no. He admitted that his view of the Church is more Apologetic. I know that he is not the only Rad-Trad who has this kind of view. Some even have a political view of the Church. But no matter what kind of view they have, they are missing the "spiritual view." And that is the problem.

When one reads spirituality books, one will find that it always gives an emphasis on obedience. As St. Francis de Sales said, "The Devil does not fear austerity but holy obedience." (Thigpen, 156) This is because an obedient person cannot be controlled by the Devil. He is controlled by God. An obedient person knows that he himself is nothing. He himself cannot judge a person who is higher than himself. An obedient person is a person who knows that he knows nothing and he needs to be lead. An obedient person is one who looks at the man in the white robe and says, "He leads and I follow." He is the person who says to himself, "Who am I to criticize my Holy Father?" An obedient person is one who knows that he is blind and as St. Joseph of Cupertino said, "Obedience is a little dog that leads the blind." (ibid)

When we were little, we use to think that our parents were dumb and unjust. We use to say things like, "Hey! How come he can go to the mall?" or "Why do I get punished and they don't?" We simply could not understand. And when we get older, we see that our parents get smarter and smarter. This is the same with our Holy Father. We might see that some of the things he does are unjust like excommunicating Rad-Trads but not liberals. But what we might not see is that God is doing this for a purpose. We might not know exactly what the purpose is, but we should know that the purpose is good.

In other words, we must abandon ourselves and trust in the Divine Providence. As St. Vincent de Paul said, "The mind must be ever on the alert to discover the indications of Providence, and the will prepared to carry them out." (ibid, 155) So when a Pope makes a "liberal" a Cardinal, we should know that this is the plan of God. When a Pope teaches something, we must obey and not disobey. Those who have obeyed are those who are known to be orthodox. Tradition tells us that obedience to authority has always been the rule of orthodoxy. Those who have dissented are those who have fallen into heterodoxy.

Anglican convert Luke Rivington, in a book defending the early Papacy, wrote:

"The history of the Church consists of the record of her perpetual proposal of divine mysteries to the human intelligence, and of the acceptance or repudiation of her authority by a nature wounded through the fall in Eden. One result of that fall is the reluctance that men feel to submit to a master. There is no man that is not called at some time of his life to sacrifice his natural love of independence in obedience to authority. But it is not every man that will bind his intelligence on the mount of sacrifice and merit to receive it back again from God in a new supernatural life...The history of the Church is, therefore, the history of a series of conflicts between authority and the rebellious instincts of our fallen nature, which protests against rule, dominion, and lordship, even though submission be the portal of Paradise itself." (The Primitive Church and the See of Peter by Luke Rivington, Longmans, Green, and Co., London and New York, 1894, page 153)

I believe that spirituality is what most Rad-Trads lack. There is a "dimension" which they simply do not see. Spiritual truths are truths which have their source in the heart and through the head. Other truths touch the heart from the intellect. And this I believe is what most Rad-Trads have. However, they do not have some of the "spiritual truths" for them to see the "whole picture." A person who is spiritually mature will see the words of a Pope as something which is part of the Divine Providence while a spiritually immature person will look at it in a legal sense. Basically, Rad-Trads look at the Magisterium in a legal way and those who are spiritually mature look at the Magisterium in an organic way.

A spiritually mature person will not even think of disobedience. He will not dissent from the Pope's teaching, because such an idea is absurd in his mind. He will always follow the Pope wherever he goes. As John Henry Cardinal Newman said:

"Our duty is -- not indeed to mix up Christ's Vicar with this or that party of men, because he in his high station is above all parties -- but to look at his formal deeds, and to follow him whither he goeth, and never to desert him, however we may be tried, but to defend him at all hazards, and against all comers, as a son would a father, and as a wife a husband, knowing that his cause is the cause of God. And so, as regards his successors, if we live to see them; it is our duty to give them in like manner our dutiful allegiance and our unfeigned service, and to follow them also whithersoever they go, having that same confidence that each in his turn and in his own day will do God's work and will, which we have felt in their predecessors, now taken away to their eternal reward." (Pope and Revolution)

Just think of it this way. Are you 100% certain that you are criticizing the Pope justly? Are you 100% certain when you say that the Pope's teachings is heretical or contrary to the Magisterium? If not, just pray that come judgment day, God will not say, "You have disobeyed me. I spoke through my Vicar and you did not listen." You would not want to be one who went against God's Vicar.

We "neo-conservatives," "neo-Catholics," etc will be known as those who defended Peter and his chair, however little it may be, knowing that "God desires the least degree of obedience and submissiveness more than all those service you think of rendering Him." (St. John of the Cross)

This is not blind obedience. What is blind is ourselves, and therefore, we need to be lead until we can see God face to face.




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