Distinctions of Outlook
Analyzing Father Ripperger’s Essay
on "Extrinsic Tradition"
by I Shawn McElhinney

Father Chad Ripperger teaches moral theology for the Fraternal Society of St. Peter (FSSP) at their seminary in Nebraska. The theme of Fr. Ripperger’s essay is the difference in outlook between those he calls "neo-conservatives" with those he calls "traditionalists". It would seem that groups such as FSSP (which promotes the venerable Old Roman Rite) are the "traditionalists" in his schema. That would probably place those who are in some manner are not fully affiliated with groups like FSSP philosophically (yet who are loyal to the Magisterium) as the "neo-conservatives". As one who is not comfortably fit into either of these labels (and who feels that such labels only result in divisiveness), this writer refuses to use them as a general rule. However, in looking at Fr. Ripperger’s essay it is necessary to use them in this critique since he does.

In this essay when the term "self-styled 'traditionalist'" is used, what is being referred to is anyone who calls themselves a Traditionalist Catholic whether they are in communion with the Roman Pontiff or not. When the author says "so-called neo-conservatives"; he refers to those whom Fr. Ripperger would likely be referring to with the use of that term. Normally more precise classifications would be used but as Fr. Ripperger does not do this, this present writer will not do so in this essay.

At this point it would be helpful to note that when the author refers to "neophytes" and "amateurs", he is not necessarily pointing to anyone in particular with that statement (especially not Fr. Ripperger). Those terms are merely addressing tendencies and trends common to those not well formed in theology. In doing this, this writer makes no pretense at guessing Fr. Ripperger’s theological acumen even if the context of this essay in spots may suggest otherwise. (Nor is any criticism at any group in general intended towards anyone in particular who adheres to the theological paradigm being addressed.) Regardless of appearances in some spots, the author in no way questions the orthodoxy of Fr. Ripperger or his fealty to the Holy Father. Having clarified the terms, let us take a look at Fr. Ripperger’s views on the distinction in outlook of the two groups he has outlined. His article has been altered a bit in spots as far as its outlay to make it easier to address his points. Nevertheless, the substance of the piece as written by Fr. Ripperger remains substantially intact.



Father Chad Ripperger, F.S.S.P.

In 1996, a group of friends had lunch in Rome at the Czechoslovakian college. One of the priests who offers Mass according to the New Rite was a bit dumbfounded. He had written an article in which he had discussed certain aspects of the liturgical reform. His puzzlement came from the fact that the traditionalists had attacked his article and he could not understand why. A seminarian, who was a traditionalist, said to the priest, "we agree that something has to be done about the liturgy, but we do not agree on what should be done." Traditionalists(1) and neo-conservatives(2) often find each other mystifying and the reason for this has to do with the relationship each position holds with respect to ecclesiastical tradition.

The only noticeable alteration to Fr. Ripperger’s article that will be make in this essay (other than realigning a few parts to make the piece flow better) is removing the footnotes to save on space. Though this essay you are about to read was originally drafted substantially in April of 2001, it was not resumed and completed until September of 2001. This is noted here because in that interim, the essay was published in Latin Mass Magazine who omitted Fr. Ripperger's footnotes. (Therefore, no one should not feel that this action by the author is irregular.) Recourse will be had however to certain notes as needed to help in clarifying different points. They will be in the same colour font but in italics to separate them from the body of Fr. Ripperger’s essay. Let us start by allowing Fr. Ripperger to define "traditionalist" and "neo-conservative" for us to examine.

The term "traditionalist" has two different meanings. The first is the heresy condemned by the Church i.e. a philosophical/religious system which depreciates human reason and establishes the tradition of mankind as the only criterion for truth and certainty. This heresy denies the ability of reason to know the truth and so it must be gained through tradition alone. It is different from the current movement in the Church which clearly recognizes the ability of reason to know the truth but which sees the good of the tradition of the Church and would like to see it re-established.

The first question that comes to mind is whether or not what Fr. Ripperger repines for here is actually ecclesiastical traditions or mere cultural accompaniments and disciplinary protocols from the sixteenth through mid twentieth centuries that were (in many cases) offshoots of the Counter-reformation.

The term "neo-conservative" refers to those who are considered the more conservative members of the Church. More often than not, they are those who hold orthodox positions, but they would not assert that it is necessary or a good idea to reconnect with ecclesiastical tradition.

The reader needs to ask themselves if what is Fr. Ripperger referring to here as "ecclesiastical tradition" is an element that has ever been modified in previous periods of history or not.  That is the point of question and it is one that this essay will examine.

The prefix "neo" is used because they are not the same as those conservatives in authority in the Church right before, during and after the Second Vatican Council. The current conservatives, i.e. the neo-conservatives, are different insofar as the conservatives of that earlier period sought to maintain the current ecclesiastical traditions which were eventually lost. Obviously all of these labels have a certain inadequacy, but since they are operative in the current ecclesiastical climate, we will use the terms here in order to denote certain theological and philosophical positions. It should be noted, however, that the term "liberal" is often misleading. Many "liberals" are, in fact, unorthodox and do not believe what the Church believes. One can legitimately be a liberal, if and only if, one upholds all of the authentic teachings of the Church and then in matters of discipline or legitimate debate, one holds to a more lenient view. But often liberalism is merely another name for what is really unorthodox.

It appears that the assumptions of this author of the use of terms by Fr. Ripperger was correct. (And there is a 100% agreement between us on what constitutes legitimate liberalism — including how orthodox liberalism is a rare breed.)


In classical theological manuals, textbooks and catechisms, the word "tradition" was given a twofold meaning:

The first signification of the term "tradition" was taken from its Latin root word which is tradere, which means "to pass on". In this sense, the word tradition refers to all of those things which are, in any way, passed on from one generation to the next. This would include all of the divine truths which the Church passes on to the subsequent generations in any way, including the Scriptures. The second sense or more restrictive sense of tradition refers to a twofold division within that which is passed on and not written down, viz. divine tradition and ecclesiastical tradition.

Divine tradition is that tradition which constitutes one of the sources of revelation, i.e. a source of our knowledge about those things which were revealed to man by God. This means that divine tradition is intrinsic to the Deposit of Faith, which constitutes all of the divinely revealed truths necessary for salvation and passed on by the Church in an uninterrupted tradition. Since it is intrinsic to the Deposit of Faith, this form of tradition is sometimes called intrinsic tradition, a prime example of which is the magisterium of the Church and the sacraments since they were established by Jesus Christ and passed on and will be passed on until the end of time.

This is an area that there is no disagreement among orthodox Catholics.

Ecclesiastical tradition is all of those things which are not intrinsic to the Deposit of Faith, but which form the heritage and patrimony of the work of previous generations graciously passed on by the Church to subsequent generations for their benefit. Because it is extrinsic to the Deposit of Faith, ecclesiastical tradition is also called extrinsic tradition, examples of which include the Church's disciplinary code as set out in canon law and non-infallible teachings of the ordinary magisterium. This would include those things contained in Apostolic exhortations and encyclicals in which infallibility is not enjoyed, e.g. Pope Leo XIII in Immortale Dei asserts that the Church is a perfect society.

In some ways, the Church is a perfect society. In other ways, she is not. This writer is hesitant to run around pronouncing authoritatively that certain parts of the Ordinary Magisterium are not definitive, as Fr. Ripperger seems to want to do. This hesitancy is because (i) there is far too much casual disregard for the Teaching Authority of the Church in all quarters. (The impression is given that obedience is somehow contingent on infallibility or prudence of a given directive when it is not.) (ii) Most Catholics have no idea the full extent to which the Magisterium is endowed with infallibility. They tend to vastly underestimate this charism based on a gross misunderstanding of the intentions of Vatican I as well as being undereducated in Dogmatic Theology.

That is a subject, which is beyond the capabilities of this essay to address. However, the reason that it is dangerous to speculate on the authority of given teachings with the intention of downplaying them is because doctrine develops and what is not definitive today may well be tomorrow. It is not uncommon for a teaching to be given definitively before there is explicit evidence to countenance this. There seems to be this myth among most Catholics that teachings go from speculative to de fide dogma and that is never the case at all. There is a process involved in dogmatic theology that neophytes never stop to consider. Theologians and the whole Church generally (under the superintendence of the Holy Spirit of course) hash out a theory before it is accepted as magisterial in any form (if it indeed is). It goes from speculation to theological position to (often but not always) predominant theological position. From there it becomes magisterial in some form or another. It can either be given definitively or be recognized later on as definitive by the Teaching Authority of the Church if controversy is brought to bear on the matter. From the point it proceeds to the level of definitive doctrine (at some point if needed), it can either remain undefined or (occasionally) be defined as a divinely revealed dogma de fide. The latter two are definitive varying in theological degree though not in the adherence owed. The difference is that dogma is binding under heresy and is usually very precise whereas definitive doctrine is generally proxima haeresi (proximate to heresy) and usually is constituted in a manner that allows for a bit of speculation into its precise import.

It is not always easy to determine when a teaching has been set forth as definitive in non-defined form. This is why religious submission of mind and will to all teachings set forth by the Ordinary Magisterium is required; after all, there is much more to infallibility than a solemn definition of dogma. (This is a point that amateur theologians do not seem to comprehend.) Cardinal Ratzinger noted this in a Doctrinal Commentary on the Profession of Faith. It is referenced in the author’s treatise A Prescription Against 'Traditionalism' in the two sections of that work titled Vatican II and its Authority. However, to touch on it in brief:

[T]he intention of the ordinary and universal Magisterium to set forth a doctrine as definitive is not generally linked to technical formulations of particular solemnity; it is enough that this be clear from the tenor of the words used and from their context. [1]
This is why one should not make the mistake of recklessly proclaiming various teachings non-infallible. This is the case even when the ordinary teaching authority issues documents not generally definitive in nature. Amateurs miss these nuances in their properly assessing the theological qualifications of different magisterial teachings. Both Vatican II and Pope Pius XII made it clear that submission to the ordinary teaching authority was not optional and that even encyclicals and apostolic letters, etc. still in most cases appertain to Catholic doctrine. (Vatican II covered this more in detail than Pope Pius XII did but the import of both is the same.) Fr. Ripperger and others who are philosophically aligned with him should approach the Magisterium of the Church with a greater degree of deference than they often seem to do. Remember, individuals do not have the promised guidance of the Holy Spirit "all days even unto the consummation of the world" (Matt. 28:20) as the Magisterium does. That is not only applicable when the teaching authority is clearly defining as Vatican II spelled out in the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium .It is imperative that loyal submission of the will and intellect is given "in a special way, to the authentic teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not defining in such wise, indeed, that his supreme teaching authority be acknowledged with respect, and sincere assent be given to decisions made by him, conformably with his manifest mind and intention" (LG §25). According to the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church this "is made known principally either by the character of the documents in question, or by the frequency with which a certain doctrine is proposed, or by the manner in which the doctrine is formulated" (LG §25).

Because God Himself entrusted the Deposit of Faith to the Catholic Church, the Catholic Church is inherently traditional.

Precisely!!! To be a faithful Catholic is to be inherently traditional.

Since all men by nature desire to know,the Church cannot help but develop an ecclesiastical tradition. Once man was given the Deposit of Faith, he naturally reflected upon the Deposit resulting in a greater understanding of it. That understanding was then passed on. This also means that the Church herself would pass judgment upon the Deposit in magisterial acts and these magisterial acts become part of the ecclesiastical tradition. The ecclesiastical tradition, therefore, was formed over the course of time i.e. in the life of the Church throughout the twenty centuries of its existence.

Some examples will be dealt with later in this essay but in brief: Ecclesiastical traditions are and always have been subject to modification at the discretion of the Magisterium of the Church. This principle has not changed and never will.

Ecclesiastical (or extrinsic) tradition developed according to two principles:

The first principle, was the Deposit of Faith itself. The members of the Church used the teachings within the Deposit to develop schools of spirituality, Church discipline and legislation, as well as all of the other things which pertain to ecclesiastical tradition. Since the teaching of Christ must govern the life of the Church, it was necessary for any authentic extrinsic tradition (e.g. Canon Law) to be consistent with those teachings.

It would not be beneficial for Fr. Ripperger’s position if we actually looked at some of the "extrinsic tradition" of the past with regards to Canon Law and the regulations laid down by General Councils from earlier periods (to name one example of several that come to mind).

Anything that was contrary to the teachings contained in the Deposit caused the Church great affliction but over time it was cut off from the life of the Church.

Fr. Ripperger seems to be under the presumption that no one could make these same claims about regulations before Vatican II. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. This form of argument is mutually destructive.

The second principle was the nature of man. Since Scripture itself tells us a great deal about man and as philosophical systems advanced in an understanding of the nature of man, especially in the medieval period, the extrinsic tradition was fashioned based upon the knowledge of that nature. Furthermore, it was known to be a wounded nature, i.e. one affected by Original Sin and so the extrinsic tradition was designed to aid man in his condition. For example, many schools of spirituality and rules of the religious orders were designed in order to help man overcome his proclivity to self-will and concupiscence in order to conform himself to the ideals taught within the Deposit.

A number of examples could be brought forward to illustrate the problems with Fr. Ripperger’s sweeping generalization here but the focus instead will be put on the institution of matrimony. Matrimony was spoken of honourably as "gifted with great and divine blessings, so much so as truly and properly to hold a place among the other sacraments of the Catholic Church" by the Council of Trent. (Catechism of Trent, Tan Publishing Co., c. 1974, pg. 338). However, conjugal relations themselves, which comprise an essential property of the sacrament, were often denigrated by the Fathers of the Church as was the sacrament itself. The Fathers who did this were often influenced by the pagan philosophies of theirs and the preceding time periods. This is a trend that does not seem to bother those of the same mindset as Fr. Ripperger when it comes to pre seventeenth century philosophies. However, with later philosophies, this type of assimilation of sorts by the Church and her theologians is now unacceptable. This position is quite inconsistent and arbitrary.

Getting back to the topic of matrimony, the Stoic forms of philosophy which bordered on a Gnostic vision of matter and it reflected itself in the views of the Fathers of the Church particularly on issues of sexuality:

If one asks, then, where the Christian Fathers derived their notions on marital intercourse — notions which have no express biblical basis — the answer must be, chiefly from the Stoics. In the case of such an early and influential teacher as Clement of Alexandria, the direct descent is obvious; his work on the purposes of marriage is a paraphrase of works of Musonius. In the second century, Origen’s standard for intercourse in pregnancy is clearly Seneca’s. In the third century, Lactantius’ remarks on the obvious purpose of the generative faculties echo Ocellus Lucanus. In the fourth century, Jerome’s most austere remarks are taken from Seneca. It is not a matter of men expressing simply truths which common sense might suggest to anyone with open eyes. It is a matter of a doctrine consciously appropriated [from Stoic sources]. The descent is literary, the dependence substantial. [2]
Many a person must have benefited from the Stoic-influenced Fathers and Doctors views viz. "knowledge" of this nature. Such blazing insights as those of St. Jerome were on the extreme side but exerted quite an influence for centuries in shaping this so-called "extrinsic tradition" that Fr. Ripperger speaks of:
For as on account of the danger of fornication he (Paul) allows virgins to marry, and makes that excusable which in itself is not desirable, so to avoid this same fornication, he allows second marriages to widows. For it is better to know a single husband, though he be a second or third, than to have many paramours: that is, more tolerable for a woman to prostitute herself to one man than to many...he was a Jew to Jews, a Gentile to Gentiles, and was made all things to all men, that he might gain all: so too he allowed second marriages to incontinent persons, and did not limit the number of marriages, in order that women, although they saw themselves permitted to take a second husband, in the same way as a third or a fourth was allowed, might blush to take a second, lest they should be compared to those who were three or four times married. If more than one husband be allowed, it makes no difference whether he be a second or a third, because there is no longer a question of single marriage. "All things are lawful, but not all things are expedient". I do not condemn second, nor third, nor, pardon the expression, eighth marriages: I will go still further and say that I welcome even a penitent whoremonger. [3]
The author will save the reader some of the "pearls of wisdom" of Tertullian or Augustine or those of a similar Western juridical mentality in the Patristic and Medieval period. Does Fr. Ripperger know that both Tertullian and Jerome were former hedonists who indulged their passions in a manner contrary to Christian charity??? Then, after they converted, they in essence came out completely against even the legitimate use of sexuality within marriage as a debased dehumanizing activity. (Which indirectly insults God who created human sexuality in the first place so properly utilized the expression of human sexuality within marriage cannot be evil.)

In Augustine's case his Manichaean paganism is more known but how many people are aware of his fathering a child out of wedlock and his "shacking up" with his child's mother for many years before he was baptized??? Does Fr. Ripperger know that St. Augustine actually taught that seeking "the debt" was a venial sin??? Let us see (i) venial sin weakens charity and (ii) leads to mortal sin. Therefore (iii) logically to avoid fornication (mortal sin), or some other form of unfaithfulness, the spouse by asking for "the debt" commits a venial sin, which makes them predisposed to committing mortal sins!!! What a wonderfully circular theory this is. The very idea that a man or woman might actually want to give of themselves to their spouse sexually out of love was ruled out of court in advance. This is a dysfunctional sexuality as manifested by St. Augustine, not sound moral theology. Yes he was a brilliant man and his holiness is unquestioned. But even saints can commit errors and this error was a serious one, especially since many after St. Augustine's time merely copied his stuff rather then sitting down and analyzing it. (This is akin to no one testing Aristotle's metaphysics in the realm of heavier objects falling faster then lighter ones - a point Galileo falsified by demonstration. Why test what is "obvious" after all.)

As for St. Jerome, he even counseled married women at one point. Yes these men did have good intentions but they were not the best sources for advice on conjugal matters for reasons that should be obvious. (Trusting the advice of repentant ex-fornicators on discussing the sanctity marriage is more then a little problematical.) These men after they became Christians, veered so far off the radar screen in the opposite direction on matters of sexuality that one should take anything they say on this subject with a grain of salt. In Tertullian's case, he became a Christian and had a proper outlook which later became more rigorist the further he slid towards Montanism. He wrote three treatises on marriage - one in each period with To My Wife (c. 202 AD) being written in his Catholic period. (It is a good work and fairly well balanced considering the outlooks of the time.) By contrast, his second treatise An Exhortation to Chastity (c. 209 AD) was written in his Semi-Montanist period and he clearly regards even first marriages as degrading at this point. Monogamy, written about 217 AD, was from the Montanist period. It is absolutely worthless except for one small part which witnesses to offering prayers and the sacrifice of the Mass for the dead on the anniversaries of their passing. On matrimony it practically makes what Jerome says above sound charming by comparison. Tertullian's work in theology was heavily influential in the Church - particularly in Africa with later Fathers such as Cyprian of Carthage and Augustine of Hippo. He also heavily influenced numerous other Fathers including Jerome. (In the case of Jerome this was most notably on sexuality issues.)

But this outlook was not germane only to some of the early Fathers. Even St. Thomas Aquinas - the premier theologian of Church history in so many areas - contributed to this outlook in some degree. However, he also played a noticeable role in shifting the majority paradigm on this issue to one that was at least reasonably less legalistic than the Stoic concept of 'ends' and 'means' which was reflected in the early Fathers writings (i.e. Tertullian, Jerome, Origen, Clement of Alexandria, Lactantius, and Augustine). Compared to many of the earlier Stoic-influenced Fathers, St. Thomas' view was indeed a breath of fresh air. But even he could not make the connection between conjugal relations and love seeing the former as only bound up in sinful yearning to be "appeased" by marriage which was of course merely a "remedy for weakness". How is it edifying to speak in such a manner about what is supposed to be a holy institution of wedlock where husbands and wives are viewed as (using Jerome's terms) "paramours" and "prostitutes" respectively??? By this standard, the view of marriage put forth in the Roman Catechism  or by later theologians (such as Bellarmine and Ligouri) would be viewed as a form of "immanentism". Fr. Ripperger's favourite word (it seems) comes back to bite him with a vengeance. But then consistency is not a hallmark of 'traditionalism' much as to be deep in history is to cease to be a 'traditionalist' (to paraphrase Ven. John Henry Newman).

Those who fashioned the extrinsic tradition were often saints who were guided and helped by divine aid in establishing some custom or aspect of the extrinsic tradition which was passed on to subsequent generations. The extrinsic tradition came to form a magnificent patrimony and heritage of all Catholics. 

What about the "magnificent patrimony" on the subject of the married state as noted above??? Also, if Fr. Ripperger is referring to what it appears he is referring to, then what needs to be focused on is who has the final word on these matters. The final authority is no saint or doctor — however venerable or esteemed in learning — on these or any other matters. Policies and customs are and always have been subject to modification at the discretion of the Magisterium of the Church. The Council of Trent in its twenty-first Session noted the following:

The power of the Church as regards the dispensation of the Sacrament of the Eucharist. It furthermore declares, that this power has ever been in the Church, that, in the dispensation of the sacraments, their substance being untouched, (l) it may ordain, or change, what things soever it may judge most expedient, for the profit of those who receive, or for the veneration of the said sacraments, according to the difference of circumstances, times, and places.  [4]
This principle applies to all matters of discipline and government including the liturgy. The Universal Catechism promulgated in solemn governmental form (Apostolic Constitution) makes this point very clear as well:
Tradition is to be distinguished from the various theological, disciplinary, liturgical, or devotional traditions, born in the local churches over time. These are the particular forms, adapted to different places and times, in which the great tradition is expressed. In the light of Tradition, these traditions can be retained, modified or even abandoned under the guidance of the Church's Magisterium. [5]
All of this is congruent with the teaching of the Council of Trent as noted above. Also worth mentioning is the earlier Baltimore Catechism:
Our Lord left His Church free to make certain laws, just as they would be needed. It has always exercised this power, and made laws to suit the circumstances of the place or times. Even now it does away with some of its old laws that are no longer useful, and makes new ones that are more necessary. But the doctrines, the truths of faith or morals, the things we must believe and do to save our souls, it never changes and never can change: it may regulate some things in the application of the divine laws, but the laws themselves can never change in substance. [6]
If Fr. Ripperger’s criticisms fall in these areas, than he had better tread very lightly in how he approaches the subject matter. The Church has changed customs, devotions, modified rites of the liturgy, and imposed different disciplines at different times and places. She still has this authority and competence today regardless of how one might feel about the prudence of a given decision. Yet why does it seem as if the same people with no shortage of criticisms of the current Magisterial policies for some reason view policies as "all-wise" for the most part if they were implemented before Pope Pius XII??? What is good for the goose is good for the gander.

There have been arguably some very egregious errors in prudent judgments in the past including monumental blunders made by the Council of Trent and Pope St. Pius V!!! Yet to the self-styled 'traditionalist', Trent was all serene and perfect. She made nary a poor disciplinary judgment. In addition, (for some reason) all disciplines that were imposed in the sixteenth century - from Quo Primum on down - are eternally in force. However, previous judgments of equal authority that did not square with reforms of Trent were legitimately swept aside. Much the way liberals (acting in a bogus "spirit of Vatican II") seek to elevate their horrible misinterpretations of Vatican II (VC II) into some super dogma, so too do self-styled 'traditionalists'. They do this with the disciplinary regulations of Council of Trent and its aftermath (i.e. the Apostolic Constitution Quo Primum).

There have been twenty-one General Councils in history and none is more or less authoritative than the others. All General Councils either explicitly or by implication (i.e. in promulgating a Profession of Faith) recapitulate all doctrinal teachings of the General Councils that preceded them. Vatican II in this was no different than its predecessors. To quote Bl. Pope John XXIII at his opening speech to the Council: "It is necessary first of all that the Church should never depart from the sacred patrimony of truth received from the Fathers. But at the same time she must ever look to the present, to the new conditions and new forms of life introduced into the modern world, which have opened new avenues to the Catholic apostolate". And later on in the same speech he was even more precise in noting:

The salient point of this Council is not, therefore, a discussion of one article or another of the fundamental doctrine of the Church which has repeatedly been taught by the Fathers and by ancient and modern theologians, and which is presumed to be well known and familiar to all. For this a Council was not necessary. But from the renewed, serene, and tranquil adherence to all the teaching of the Church in its entirety and preciseness, as it still shines forth in the Acts of the Council of Trent and First Vatican Council, the Christian, catholic, and apostolic spirit of the whole world expects a step forward toward a doctrinal penetration and a formation of consciousness in faithful and perfect conformity to the authentic doctrine, which, however, should be studied and expounded through the methods of research and through the literary forms of modern thought. The substance of the ancient doctrine of the deposit of faith is one thing, and the way in which it is presented is another. [7]
Contrary to the self-styled 'traditionalist' stereotype of Vatican II, there was a positive agenda taken up by the Church which had been lacking in previous generations. Catholic writer Stephen Hand noted that:
There was, among these good intentions, a desire to understand and speak to modern man. There was the desire to discern and acknowledge the elements of truth in the varied philosophies which had arisen in the wake of the Protestant Reformation, the French Revolution, and the decline of the Age of Faith. There was likewise a desire to strengthen certain elements for kerygmatic purposes (e.g., gentle effectiveness of Franciscan spiritual praxis and teachings) and the redressing of imbalances which arguably existed in some places and times (e.g., the desire for a more personal and less one-sidedly abstract application of philosophical principles and catechesis). There was also the recognition that more and more laymen in the modern age were able to avail themselves of postsecondary school education and that they were asking more penetrating and sophisticated questions than was ever the case in the largely peasant cultures of times past. [8]
This is the factor that seems to get lost on those of the 'traditionalist' mould. The manner in which the faith is presented differs markedly from the substance of the ancient doctrines. Doctrine remains the same though some development in understanding or explicit emphasis is of course inevitable at any General Council. In matters of discipline and government, Vatican II takes priority over the General Councils that preceded it much as Vatican III (or whatever the next General Council will be called) will in the future. This is the natural order of things and is how it has always been with Ecumenical synods. The rules did not all of a sudden change in 1958 contrary to what most self-styled 'traditionalists' seem to believe.


As the Modernist crisis grew under the impetus of modern philosophy, the extrinsic tradition was eroded and subverted due to several factors. The first was a change of view about the nature of man. With the onslaught of rationalism,then empiricism and later Kantianism and other modern innovations about the nature of man, the Thomistic view, i.e. the realist view of man, was supplanted. At first, this occurred outside the Church and was kept at bay by formal teaching within the Church which maintained a proper view of man. The Protestants, not having an intellectual heritage, quickly succumbed to the modern philosophies. As the Modernist crisis spread within the Church and the curiosity and fascination with modern philosophy grew, the view of man held by Catholics began to change in the latter part of the nineteenth century and during the twentieth century.

To quote from the author’s treatise on the matter of philosophy with regards to Thomism and the self-styled 'traditionalist' complaint that taking into account modern philosophies is a "supplanting" or "abandonment" of Thomism:

[W]hen per se did the Church ever claim that taking into account modern philosophy and scientific progress is necessarily an abandonment of Thomism??? Thomism was certainly the dominant school of theology in the Catholic Church but there are other schools of thought as well that also had/has an ancient pedigree (like the Scotus School for instance). If the 'traditionalists' and their allies were around in the time of the Angelic Doctor, they would have been one of the groups that called St. Thomas a heretic and sought to have his teachings suppressed. Based on what they think of modern philosophies and sciences today, ask yourself if we should doubt this in any way about the 'traditionalist' tunnel vision tendencies. (With regards to how they would have reacted to St. Thomas' teachings in his time period.) After all, St. Thomas did not utilize the "traditional" theological methods of his time. Which brings up another interesting point of consideration.

If self-styled 'traditionalists' are going to dump on people like Fr. Henri de Lubac SJ, Fr. Yves Congar OP, and other similarly influenced as they were (including Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger) then they ought to be consistent. They ought to likewise dump on Ven. John H. Newman, St. Robert Bellarmine, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Vincent of Lerens, and St. Augustine for the same reasons. (Every single one of them to some extent had innovative insights on certain theological subjects.) But of course the so-called 'traditionalists' will not do that which underscores how utterly hypocritical they really are. Sure modern philosophy and science has its secular aspects to it but Aristotle and other Greek philosophers (not to mention Aristotelian philosophers like Averros and Avicenna and the Jewish philosopher Maimonides) preceded Aquinas and influenced St. Thomas' work in not a few aspects. Therefore, according to the so-called 'traditionalist', the Angelic Doctor if he used his formulary today would be labeled a "Modernist." Ven. John H. Newman was accused of being a Modernist after the Holy Office decree Lamentabili Sane was promulgated. The fact that his thesis and personal integrity were defended by Pope St. Pius X should shut these kinds of 'traditionalists' up. As for the rest, are 'traditionalists' going to impugn canonized saints with the charge of betraying the Church for their heavy involvement in secular philosophies and the development of methods that were "untraditional" for their respective time periods???  [9]

Yet another example of the inconsistency of the 'traditionalist' paradigm as expressed by Fr. Ripperger in his essay.

Rationalism also changed how man viewed revelation. Since rationalists do not believe that one can come to true intellectual knowledge by means of the senses, then that which pertained to the senses was systematically ignored or rejected. Since revelation is something introduced into sensible reality, revelation came under direct attack. Moreover, if one is cut off from reality, then one is locked up inside oneself and so what pertains to one's own experience becomes paramount. After Descartes, came Spinoza who systematically attacked the authenticity of oral tradition regarding the Scriptures and through his philosophy he began to change people's view of the world. As empiricism rose, the view of man as simply a material being led to fixing man's meaning in the "now" or always in the present. Since for the empiricist, man's meaning is found in what he senses and feels, this led eventually to a lack of interest in the past since the past as such (and future for that matter) cannot be sensed nor fulfil our sensible desires. With the advent of Hegel, the intellectual groundwork was laid for a wholesale lack of interest in and distrust of tradition. With the scepticism of Spinoza about the sources of Scripture, coupled with the Hegelian dialectic, the past (including all forms of tradition) was now outmoded or outdated and tradition was to be distrusted. As a consequence, those who wanted to impose some religious teaching based upon tradition or history became suspect.

Whenever a person does this in an area that self-styled 'traditionalists' object to, the latter whip out the term "antiquarian". However, when if they (the "trads") argue for a position no longer recognized as the norm by the Magisterium then they (the "trads") have no problem appealing to past custom. These actions are blatantly inconsistent and clearly arbitrary. In fact, their conduct in this regard is not unlike that of a group of renegade Chinese bishops in the 1950’s who were defiant in their unwillingness to comply with the discipline which prevailed at that time in the Church. Writing about this subject in 1958, Pope Pius XII was very terse in summarizing the error of such actions:

We are aware that those who thus belittle obedience in order to justify themselves with regard to those functions which they have unrighteously assumed, defend their position by recalling a usage which prevailed in ages past. Yet everyone sees that all ecclesiastical discipline is overthrown if it is in any way lawful for one to restore arrangements which are no longer valid because the supreme authority of the Church long ago decreed otherwise. In no sense do they excuse their way of acting by appealing to another custom, and they indisputably prove that they follow this line deliberately in order to escape from the discipline which now prevails and which they ought to be obeying… [10]
This principle is hardly one that has suddenly become defunct simply because the self-styled 'traditionalist' is on the opposing side of the disciplinary judgments of the supreme authority of the Church.

At the same time in which the intellectual underpinnings for trusting tradition collapsed in the minds of modern intellectuals under the impetus of modern philosophy, a growing immanentism arising from three sources became entrenched.

The first was Kant, who, through an epistemology which was founded on Cartesian and empirical scepticism of the senses, left one locked into one's own mind, logically speaking. This meant that everything is within oneself or one's own mind which means that man's experiences are essentially immanent, i.e. they are within or remain within himself.

What Fr. Ripperger is speaking of here would constitute a form of absolute immanence.
The second source of immanentism was the location of the theological experience within the emotions and this was done by Friedrich Schleiermacher. For Schleiermacher, religion was primarily an expression of piety and piety is found only in the emotions. Religion could not be satisfied with metaphysical treatises and analysis, i.e. a rational approach to religion; rather, it had to be something emotional. This led to the immanentization of religion since piety or religious experience was something within the individual. We often see this today: people expect the liturgy to be conformed to their emotional states rather than they conforming themselves to an objective cult, which conforms itself to God.

To expect the liturgy to be "conformed to [one’s] emotional states" applies at a minimum just as much to self-styled 'traditionalists' as it does to the so-called 'neo-conservatives'. In fact, the number of times this author has received responses that aim at pulling at the emotions (from 'traditionalists' who could not defend their positions on facts and logic) are far too numerous to count. Whether they like it or not the Pauline Missal IS the predominant liturgy of the Latin rite. Yet to listen to everyone from Michael Davies on down whine about matters such as Protocol 1411 it would seem that they are not inclined to follow Fr. Ripperger’s advice on this score.

The third source which led to immanentization and therefore provided an intellectual foundation for acceptance only of the present and a rejection of the past was the work of Maurice Blondel. Blondel held that: "modern thought, with a jealous susceptibility, considers the notion of immanence as the very condition of philosophizing; that is to say, if among current ideas there is one which it regards as marking a definitive advance, it is the idea, which is at bottom perfectly true, that nothing can enter into a man's mind which does not come out of him and correspond in some way to a need for expansion and that there is nothing in the nature of historical or traditional teaching or obligation imposed from without that counts for him..."

See footnotes 9 and 10 of this essay.

For Blondel, only those things which come from man himself and which are immanent to him have any meaning. No tradition or history has any bearing upon his intellectual considerations unless it somehow comes from himself.

To assist us in understanding the above comment, part of the footnotes of Fr. Ripperger’s essay mention the following with regards to Maurice Blondel:

Blondel, in fact, wanted to go back to an earlier tradition and ignore the tradition which was passed on to him. This essentially meant that Blondel and other Modernists wanted to get away from medieval traditions which begot the Mass of Pius V and go back to earlier traditions because they were congruent with the immanentized experiences of modern man.

But was Maurice Blondel endorsing immanence of a sort reconcilable with the Catholic faith or not??? That is the first question and if he was than Fr. Ripperger’s criticisms on this score would be to some extent neutralized. The Catholic Encyclopedia in its article on Immanence speaks of two forms: absolute and relative. Absolute immanence is that of the positivist sort and was developed by Immanuel Kant and Auguste Comte. To read the work of Fr. Ripperger, it would seem that he is criticizing all forms of Immanentism indiscriminately. However, to do this is to engage in unreasonable theological stifling. To quote a good friend of this author on the problems with the self-styled 'traditionalist' approach to philosophy and theology:

Many good people have been alienated from the Church because of propaganda that has misrepresented as Catholic orthodoxy what is only a nostalgic veneer. These objections stem from a narrow view of Catholic orthodoxy that equates the most prevalent positions of the recent past with immutable Sacred Traditions. One of the most common tactics of the Counter-reformation had been to limit speculation in theology along certain "acceptable" lines and to encourage uniformity in public actions, most notably in the liturgy. The aggiornamento of VCII was precisely intended to shatter these monopolistic limits and to allow a wider franchise of speculation and praxis into the Catholic mainstream. [11]
This is a serious error on the part of self-styled 'traditionalists' because it results in them being close-minded and treating any form of theological or philosophical speculations that differ from "traditional" approaches as automatically suspect. A fact that Fr. Ripperger does not bother to point out in his essay is that there are acceptable forms of immanence. The absolute immanence of Kant and Comte is obviously unacceptable as St. Pope Pius X noted in his Encyclical Letter Pascendi Dominici Gregis:
Agnosticism is only the negative part of the system of the Modernists: the positive part consists in what they call vital immanence. Thus they advance from one to the other. Religion, whether natural or supernatural, must, like every other fact, admit of some explanation. But when natural theology has been destroyed, and the road to revelation closed by the rejection of the arguments of credibility, and all external revelation absolutely denied, it is clear that this explanation will be sought in vain outside of man himself. It must, therefore, be looked for in man; and since religion is a form of life, the explanation must certainly be found in the life of man. In this way is formulated the principle of religious immanence. Moreover, the first actuation, so to speak, of every vital phenomenon--and religion, as noted above, belongs to this category--is due to a certain need or impulsion; but speaking more particularly of life, it has its origin in a movement of the heart, which movement is called a sense. Therefore, as God is the object of religion, we must conclude that faith, which is the basis and foundation of all religion, must consist in a certain interior sense, originating in a need of the divine. This need of the divine, which is experienced only in special and favorable circumstances. cannot of itself appertain to the domain of consciousness, but is first latent beneath consciousness, or, to borrow a term from modern philosophy, in the subconsciousness, where also its root lies hidden and undetected. [12]
The Holy Father continues speaking of "vital immanence" in the following manner:
It is thus that the religious sense, which through the agency of vital immanence emerges from the lurking-places of the subconsciousness, is the germ of all religion, and the explanation of everything that has been or ever will be in any religion. This sense, which was at first only rudimentary and almost formless, under the influence of that mysterious principle from which it originated, gradually matured with the progress of human life, of which, as has been said, it is a certain form. This, then, is the origin of all, even of supernatural religion. For religions are mere developments of this religious sense. Nor is the Catholic religion an exception; it is quite on a level with the rest; for it was engendered, by the process of vital immanence, and by no other way, in the consciousness of Christ, who was a man of the choicest nature, whose like has never been, nor will be. In hearing these things we shudder indeed at so great an audacity of assertion and so great a sacrilege. And yet, Venerable Brethren, these are not merely the foolish babblings of unbelievers. There are Catholics, yea, and priests too, who say these things openly; and they boast that they are going to reform the Church by these ravings! The question is no longer one of the old error which claimed for human nature a sort of right to the supernatural. It has gone far beyond that, and has reached the point when it is affirmed that our most holy religion, in the man Christ as in us, emanated from nature spontaneously and of itself. Nothing assuredly could be more utterly destructive of the whole supernatural order. For this reason the Vatican Council most justly decreed: "If anyone says that man cannot be raised by God to a knowledge and perfection which surpasses nature, but that he can and should, by his own efforts and by a constant development, attain finally to the possession of all truth and good, let him be anathema." [13]
Fr. Ripperger it seems does not realize that the criticism of Pope St. Pius X were of an absolute immanence (construed as "vital immanence") which was used to justify the alteration of dogmas of the faith. Or to again quote Pascendi:
Dogma is not only able, but ought to evolve and to be changed. This is strongly affirmed by the Modernists, and clearly flows from their principles. For among the chief points of their teaching is the following, which they deduce from the principle of vital immanence, namely, that religious formulas if they are to be really religious and not merely intellectual speculations, ought to be living and to live the life of the religious sense. This is not to be understood to mean that these formulas, especially if merely imaginative, were to be invented for the religious sense. Their origin matters nothing, any more than their number or quality. What is necessary is that the religious sense--with some modification when needful-- should vitally assimilate them. In other words, it is necessary that the primitive formula be accepted and sanctioned by the heart; and similarly the subsequent work from which are brought forth the secondary formulas must proceed under the guidance of the heart. Hence it comes that these formulas, in order to be living, should be, and should remain, adapted to the faith and to him who believes. [14]
Like all heresies, Modernism has its kernels of truth to it as well. These involved the non-essentials (such as devotional, liturgical, and disciplinary) being adaptable to "the difference of circumstances, times, and places" (Council of Trent: Session XXI) at the discretion of the Magisterium of the Church. With regards to the subject of immanence, the Catholic Encyclopedia noted the following about "relative immanence":
Actual Content of the Doctrine of Relative Immanence
This doctrine rests upon that innermost experience which reveals to man his individuality, that is to say his inward unity, his distinctness from his environment, and which makes him conscious of his personality, that is to say, of his essential independence with respect to the beings with which he is in relation. It, moreover, avoids all imputation of monism, and the manner in which it conceives of immanence harmonizes excellently with Catholic teaching. [15]
To quote the Catholic Encyclopedia article further on the method of applying this idea of "relative immanence":
There is another application of the method of immanence much more reserved than the one just described since it keeps within the natural order and confines itself to stating a philosophic problem, viz.: Is man sufficient for himself? or is he aware of his insufficiency in such a way as to realize his need of some help from without? Here we are not at all concerned - as the Encyclical "Pascendi gregis" reproaches the Modernists - "with inducing the unbeliever to make trial of the Catholic religion"; we are concerned only with; (1) compelling a man who analyzes his own being to break through the circle within which, supposedly, the doctrine of immanence confines him, and which makes him reject a priori, as out of the question, the whole argument of objective apologetics; and then (2) with bringing him to recognize in his soul "a capacity and fitness for the supernatural order which Catholic apologists, using the proper reservations, have demonstrated" (Encycl. "Pascendi gregis").
In other words, this method has in itself nothing that calls for condemnation. It consists, says Maurice Blondel, its inventor, "in equating within our own consciousness, what we seem to think, to wish, and to do with what we really do, wish and think, in such a way that in the fictitious negations, or the ends artificially desired, those profound affirmations and irrepressible needs which they imply shall still be found" (Lettre sur les exigences). This method endeavours to prove that man cannot shut himself up in himself, as in a little world which suffices unto itself. To prove this, it takes an inventory of our immanent resources; it brings to light, on the one hand, our irresistible aspirations towards the infinitely True, Good, and Beautiful, and, on the other hand, the insufficiency of our means to attain these ends. This comparison shows that our nature, left to itself, is not in a state of equilibrium; that, to achieve its destiny, it needs a help which is essentially beyond it - a transcendent help. THUS, "A METHOD OF IMMANENCE DEVELOPED IN ITS INTEGRITY BECOMES EXCLUSIVE OF A DOCTRINE OF IMMANENCE". In fact, the internal analysis which it prescribes brings the human soul to recognize itself as relative to a transcendent being, thereby setting before us the problem of God. Nothing more is needed to make it evident that the "preliminary and comprehensive demurrer", which it sought to set up against Revelation in the name of the principle of immanence, is an unwarranted and arrogant exaggeration. The psychologic examination of conscience which is just now being made, far from ruling out the traditional apologetic, rather appeals to it, opens the way for it, and demonstrates its necessity. [16]
There is a distinction of outlook here that escapes the 'traditionalist' who only sees in the condemnation of immanence in Pascendi as full and encompassing condemnation of all forms of immanentism. Whereas if they bothered to read Pascendi carefully, they would notice the absolute nature of "vital immanence" and realize that it differs from a relative application of the idea separate from any actual doctrine on the matter. But it seems that the interest of the self-styled 'traditionalist' is to not look too carefully into these matters. No, to the self-styled 'traditionalist' the only bearing on their intellectual considerations it seems are selective sections of past ecclesiastical traditions and church history, which conform to what they personally like. Everything else is disposable. It boils down to the canard of criticizing those they disagree with who appeal to antiquity as "antiquarian" while doing the exact same thing for customs, devotions, or practices that they personally like which they then claim is 'Traditional'. (As if being against their personal preferences is somehow "untraditional".)  Hopefully the inconsistency and absurdity of this selective approach is by now apparent to the reader of this essay.

These three sources of immanentism as they influenced the Church during the waning of an intellectual phase of Modernism in the 1950s and early 1960s provided the foundation for a psychological break from tradition as a norm. As Peter Bernardi observes, Blondel was "working at a time when the Church was just beginning to become conscious of a certain break in its tradition". The work of Blondel and the influx of the other modern philosophical points of view, which were antithetical to the ecclesiastical tradition, had a drastic impact on Vatican II. By the time Vatican II arrived, all of the intellectual foundation was in place for a systematic rejection of all of the aspects of ecclesiastical tradition.

Again it would be necessary to ask Fr. Ripperger for some kind of list here. As far as this "psychological break from tradition as a norm" assertion, it is much more accurate to say that what became conscious was the cultural elements that are often bound up in these "extrinsic traditions" that Fr. Ripperger refers to. Fr. Melvin Farrell’s short theology booklet covers this subject adequately so it will be referenced at this time:

Modernism was a doctrinal battle which gripped the Church at the start of the twentieth century. The crisis arose because of changes experienced in Western civilization by the advance of modern science and technology. As modern man became increasingly literate, mobile, and dynamic in his world view, tension mounted in the field of theology. Religious belief and practice, dressed in the garments of a bygone culture, seemed to lose credibility.
Many theologians begin to seek a radically new expression for traditional Christianity. They tried to preserve the essence of Christian faith, while updating its meaning for modern man in a way acceptable to modern science. Unfortunately, too many theologians failed. Some went so far as to accommodate the intellectuals of the day that they washed out essentials of Catholic belief. As a consequence, in 1907, St. Pius X resoundingly condemned the errors of Modernism.
After the condemnation of Modernism, a backlash occurred in the Church. Any theologian who did not uphold the traditional forms of Christian teaching became suspect. The situation continued throughout the first half of the [twentieth] century. Theology was in a kind of deep freeze of conservatism until the present renewal in theology got underway. [17]
Dr. Art Sippo noted this problem in his debate with Adam Kolasinski on Vatican II:
The entrenched conservative mindset in the curia was loath to espouse anything but the "manual theology" of men like Garrigou-Lagrange and Ottaviani. Others like John Courtney Murray, von Balthasar, and de Lubac were open to newer ideas and methods. They remained faithful to defined Catholic dogmas but did not always agree with either the methods or conclusions of the dominant "manual theology." Some like Teilhard crossed over the boundaries of safe speculation into unacceptable extremes. Since the "manual theologians" occupied offices of authority in the Curia, they used their power to suppress all of those who disagreed with them. Even the older Catholic schools of thought following such notable thinkers as Scotus and Suarez were suppressed. The situation in the 1950s was that no alternative way of doing Catholic theology was tolerated. This was despite the fact that the dominant school itself had no dogmatic support from the Extraordinary Magisterium. The Popes since Leo XIII had always given tacit support to the dominant Thomistic school but they had never done so to the exclusion of all others. [18]
This element of pre-Vatican II Catholicism seems to be one that self-styled 'traditionalists' like to either ignore or play down. There is a reason why things went haywire after the Council and it is really no mystery if you consider human nature. There was a long period of unreasonable theological stifling based on a paradigm of paranoia. Then there was a later shift in emphasis back towards the more divers theological speculation which constitutes classic Catholicism. A more traditional approach to theology begin to take shape once again; however there were those who in their exuberance failed to make some necessary key distinctions in their speculations. Of those whose objection was to undermine the Church, they used this period to sow their seeds of destruction, which quickly bore disastrous fruits. The documents of the Council were ignored and a "spirit of Vatican II" became the excuse to introduce errors into the Church cloaked in the mantle of an Ecumenical Council.

In summary: Blondel and others, under the influence of modern philosophy, thought that modern man could not be satisfied with past ways of thinking. They provided an intellectual foundation upon which the Church, with a Council as a catalyst, could "update" itself or undergo an "aggiornamento". With the foundations for the extrinsic tradition having been supplanted, the extrinsic tradition was lost. In other words, since the view of man had changed and since the view of the Deposit of Faith was subjected to a modern analysis, the extrinsic tradition, which rested upon these two, collapsed. We are currently living with the full blown effects of that collapse. The members of the Church today have become fixated on the here and now and the past traditions are not only irrelevant but to be distrusted and even, at times, demonized.

The core error in this assessment will be dealt with later on in this essay. It seems that what Fr. Ripperger is referring to here is not the ecclesiastical traditions he thinks he is but to something else altogether. However, that the attitude was taken with Vatican II by many people in positions of influence that the Council was some point of rupture with the past is indeed unfortunate and needs to be corrected. But correcting this erroneous misperception does not mean simply restoring things to precisely as they were before Vatican II (VC II). Or a Cardinal Ratzinger astutely noted in The Ratzinger Report:

Vatican II today stands in a twilight. For a long time it has been regarded by the so-called progressive wing as completely surpassed and consequently, as a thing of the past and no longer relevant to the present. But the opposite side, the "conservative" wing, it is, conversely, viewed as the cause of the present decadence of the Catholic Church and even judged as an apostasy from Vatican I and from the Council of Trent. Consequently, demands have been made for its retraction or a "revision" that would be tantamount to a retraction…
Over and against both tendencies, before all else, it must be stated that Vatican II is upheld by the same authority as Vatican I and the Council of Trent, namely, the Pope and the College of Bishops in communion with him… That also with regards to its contents, Vatican II is in the strictest continuity with both previous councils and incorporates their texts word for word in decisive points.
It is impossible for a Catholic to take a position for or against Trent or Vatican I. Whoever accepts Vatican II, as it has clearly expressed and understood itself, at the same time accepts the whole binding tradition of the Catholic Church, particularly the two previous councils. It is likewise impossible to decide in favour of Trent and Vatican I but against Vatican II. Whoever denies Vatican II denies the authority that upheld the other councils and thereby detaches them from their foundation. And this applies to the so-called "traditionalism", also in its extreme forms…Every partisan choice destroys the whole (the very history of the Church) which can only exist as an indivisible unity. [19]
It seems that Fr. Ripperger would agree on the necessity of continuity but at the same time claim that continuity equates to a mummified liturgy and discipline. The latter was the case for four hundred years after the Council of Trent and it seems to this writer that Fr. Ripperger is not properly recognizing the historical actions of the Magisterium in making these kinds of alterations. For better or worse, the Church has the authority to make these judgments. And loyal Catholics have no choice but to comply. Otherwise they cease to be in full communion with the Catholic Church. Quid pro quo.


This has had several effects on the members of the Church. The first is that those things, which pertain to the extrinsic tradition and do not touch upon the intrinsic tradition, are ignored. This manifests itself in the fact that some ecclesial documents today do not have any connection to the positions held by the magisterium prior to the Second Vatican Council. For example, in the document of Vatican II on ecumenism,  Unitatis Redintegratio, there is not a single mention of the two previous documents which deal with the ecumenical movement and other religions, viz. Satis Cognitum by Leo XIII or Mortalium Animos by Pius XI. The approach to ecumenism and other religions is fundamentally different from the approach of the Vatican II document or Ut Unum Sint by Pope John Paul II. Moreover, the problem is not just with respect to magisterium prior to Vatican II but even with the magisterium since the Council.

The approach to evangelization and inculturation before the Council of Trent was different than it was afterwards. The Church historically has made paradigm shifts in emphasis before and thus to postulate this as it occurs today as some kind of "problem" is to not be completely consistent. Ecumenism is conducted today differently for a reason: the Church is again in the mode of evangelizing nations and no longer playing the "Fortress Catholicism" mentality which set in after the Council of Trent. We no longer live in the sixteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth, or nineteenth centuries. As circumstances and situations change, the Church adapts her approach. This is by no means a novelty despite how it might appear. The pope has the right to set the tone for what is proper in our day and age as far as the approach that will be undertaken (much as his predecessors did before him in their respective periods). The self-styled 'traditionalist' though does not seem to understand this as they often confuse policy with doctrine consistently — which it seems at times that Fr. Ripperger does in this essay.

Between pre and post-Vatican II doctrinal teachings on ecumenism, there is nothing contrary. The difference is in emphasis. The Church handled herself as she always has done when approached with new philosophies and movements. The first step is negative in the sense that she outlines what is not acceptable within the given philosophy. This is usually in the form of condemning erroneous core doctrines in various philosophical approaches. (Pope Gregory XVI, Bl. Pope Pius IX, Vatican I, Pope Leo XIII, St. Pope Pius X, and Pope Pius XI all did this.) Once the areas of a philosophy that are not acceptable are outlined, it is from there that the Church looks at what is acceptable. In doing this, she incorporates the acceptable elements along with principles that enable the good elements of the particular erroneous philosophy to be harnessed in the service of the Gospel. (Pope Pius XII, Bl. Pope John XXIII, Vatican II, Pope Paul VI, and Pope John Paul II have all done this.) As this writer noted in his treatise on the subject of ecumenism:

Vatican II (VC II) defined the term "ecumenism" and outlined an acceptable policy for Catholics to follow in this endeavour: embracing what was good in the previous errors while reaffirming what was condemned. The core doctrinal teaching of Pope Pius XI's Encyclical Letter Mortalium Animos (MA) - that reunion cannot come at the expense of truth - was reaffirmed in the Decree. The errors outlined in MA §7 are worth noting in brief. Among them include (i) the idea that Our Lord's prayer for unity was merely an expression or desire that still lacks its fulfilment (ii) the opinion that the unity of faith and government, has hardly ever existed and does not currently exist (iii) that the unity of faith and government may one day be attained but in the meantime can only be regarded as an ideal. Further still, (iv) the Church either itself or its nature is divided into sections comprising of several churches or communities that remain separate, and though there are agreements on some doctrines and disagreements on others, that all of them enjoy the same rights (v) that the Church was one until the first Ecumenical Councils. Not only that but (vi) controversies must be entirely set aside and (vii) of the remaining doctrines "a common form of faith drawn up and proposed for belief, and in the profession of which all may not only know but feel that they are brothers" (cf. MA §7). Since every single one of these errors is directly opposed to the teaching of the Decree Unitatis Redintegratio, there is no reason to quote that encyclical letter in the Decree itself. (The policies of MA were modified because the Church unlike in the time of Pius XI was becoming an active partner in the ecumenical movement. However, the methodology of the Decree Unitatis Redintegratio was far removed from the methodology of the Pan Christian methods condemned by Pope Pius XI.)

The Second Vatican Council marked a definitive turning point in the realm of ecumenism wherein the Catholic Church "committed herself irrevocably to following the path of the ecumenical venture" (Ut Unum Sint §3) and outlined the principles that would guide her in directly involving herself in the ecumenical movement. Pope Pius XI did not set any sort of policy but was instead aiming to condemn certain errors at the heart of the Pan Christian movement for unity. The core error of course was indifferentism - an error that Unitatis Redintegratio declared was "foreign to the spirit of ecumenism" (UR §11). However, Unitatis Redintegratio sought to formulate an active policy for working towards Christian unity. By contrast, Mortalium Animos took the approach of reiterating the same "come back to Rome" speech which is hardly an approach that had any hope of working as long as every jot and tittle of orthopraxy was treated as immutable. (Not to mention the clergy of the Church continuing the charade of blaming the non-Catholics for leaving without taking any responsibility for the schisms herself because of certain actions committed by prelates in the past.)

As long as self-styled 'traditionalists' continue to prooftext documents instead of actually reading them, they will continue to tilt at windmills ala Cervantes' "Don Quixote" and fight a figment of their own imaginations. [20]

The major paradigm shift at the Second Vatican Council on the subject of ecumenism was to take the ecumenical movement seriously after watching its progress for some time. That many have disregarded what the Council actually taught is unfortunate; however the recent Declaration Dominus Iesus was issued to correct these misunderstandings and assert the authentic understanding of VC II’s Decree on Ecumenism. Not surprisingly, the response to this reaffirmation was that the Vatican was "abandoning the ecumenical movement" for "pre Vatican II policies". Of course this was not true at all. Nonetheless, such outbursts did highlight just how far from the straight path that many people had actually tread. (Some of good will and others of repute that is more dubious.)

To touch on a pre-Vatican II example of ecumenism, the 1595-96 Treaty of Brest with the Ruthinian church comes to mind. Here was an Eastern church which presented their own "requirements" for reunion which Pope Clement VIII accepted. Consider some of those "requirements" as compiled by the Ruthinians:

3. That the Mysteries of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ should be retained entirely as we have been accustomed until now, under the species of bread and wine; that this should remain among us eternally the same and unchangeable.
4. That the Mystery of Holy Baptism and its form should remain among us unchanged as we have served it until now, without any addition…
7. That we should not be compelled to take part in processions on the day of Corpus Christi - that we should not have to make such processions with our Mysteries inasmuch as our use of the Mysteries is different.
8. Likewise that we should not be compelled to have the blessing of fire, the use of wooden clappers, and similar ceremonies before Easter, for we have not had such ceremonies in our Church until now, but that we should maintain our ceremonies according to the rubrics and the Typicon of our Church.
9. That the marriages of priests remain intact, except for bigamists…
22. That the Romans should not forbid us to ring bells in our churches on Good Friday, both in the cities and everywhere else.
23. That we should not be forbidden to visit the sick with the Most Holy Mysteries, publicly, with lights and vestments, according to our rubrics.
24. That without any interference we might be free to hold processions, as many as are required, on holy days, according to our custom. [21]
Now Fr. Ripperger would probably claim that these were eastern "extrinsic traditions". However, any knowledge of Church history would reveal to him that these matters of western practice were still ones in which some in the west sought to impose on the east. (An example of untraditional theological and disciplinary uniformity which they sought to impose on the east for which the west should be ashamed.) This is one of the elements that led to the schism between east and west. It also fed into the polemical attitudes of many of our eastern brethren who speak so derisively of the traditions and practices of the west. They did not like having their liturgical, theological, and disciplinary "extrinsic traditions" expunged by the Latins and the resentment has reverberated as a result for over nine hundred years. (And it was a strong undercurrent behind the failure of the General Councils of Lyons II and Florence to reunite the west and east.)

And now we deal with the Latin obsession with legalities and find that since the Popes possessed the authority to make modifications to the various parts of the ceremonial (mass, sacramental forms, etc.) we find that the west modified the forms in accordance with the times, circumstances, and places. The east never saw this policy as a viable one for to them the "extrinsic tradition" was part and parcel to the Great Tradition as a whole. Consider the irony here for a moment.

The modification of various customs over time played no small part in the rift between west and east because in the east there is often not a distinction made between doctrine and practice. (Much akin to the problems in the self-styled 'traditionalist' movement as few make the kinds of distinctions that Fr. Ripperger is seeking to make here.) Bearing that in mind, we must apply these principles consistently. If the current magisterium is at fault for this than consistency demands that the magisterium in previous eras be chastised as well. Of course this will not be done by the self-styled 'traditionalist' for whom consistency is a foreign concept.

It does not take too long to unscramble these eggs if one reads with the eyes of faith and trusts that even if they do not fully understand the rationale that God protects the Church in these instances. That does not mean that the judgments made are necessarily the best ones but that can be said about any period in history where such modifications were made. There is no justification for presuming that the Tridentine modifications were the apex of disciplinary manifestation. And thinking that today's disciplinary provisions are superior would not constitute a de facto getting into bed with the Modernists either. On the topic of ecumenism this principle of altering the policy while reaffirming the doctrine comes to mind. Ecumenism as Vatican II defined the term was practiced at Brest. This differs markedly from the kind of Pan-Christian false ecumenism which the popes before Vatican II condemned (and which Vatican II and the subsequent popes have likewise condemned).

This type of behaviour coupled with the modern philosophical encroachment into the intellectual life of the Church and the bad theology resulting therefrom has led to a type of "magisterialism". Magisterialism is a fixation on the teachings that pertain only to the current magisterium. Since extrinsic tradition has been subverted and since the Vatican tends to promulgate documents exhibiting a lack of concern regarding some of the previous magisterial acts, many have begun ignoring the previous magisterial acts and listen only to the current magisterium.

Again, there is a difference between policy and doctrine. The Council of Constance approved of partaking of communion under one species and could be said to have (to use Father Ripperger’s own words) "subverted extrinsic tradition". What actually took place was a shift in policy to ward off a dangerous heretical view that receiving only under one species was an incomplete reception of Christ. In the sense of receiving the full Christ, it is indeed erroneous as Constance noted. However, it is an incomplete sign and this policy of Constance (and which was practiced in many areas before Constance) is blatantly contrary to the traditional manner in which communion was received. The Orthodox accused the Roman Church of subverting tradition for this much as they accused her of showing a disregard for the ancient mode of baptizing three times by immersion — which was the standard mode in the earlier centuries. The same with regards to communion reception by mouth, which (as this author has documented in different writings) was another "abandonment of extrinsic tradition" by the Roman Church. (This is the very kind of claims that the Eastern Quintsext Synod of Trullo in 692 accused the Latins of doing interestingly enough; albeit stated slightly differently.) If Father Ripperger is going to be critical of the current Magisterium for altering policies, why not be consistent and apply to the pre VC II Magisterium the same criteria. This is not an argument for antiquarian notions here, only pointing out that one cannot be critical of current magisterial actions if they remain mute about previous deviations from ancient practice. Otherwise, the critic is not being consistent in their philosophy.

This problem is exacerbated by our current historical conditions. As the theological intellectual community began to unravel before, during and after Vatican II, those who considered themselves orthodox were those who were obedient and intellectually submissive to the magisterium since those who dissent are not orthodox. Therefore, the standard of orthodoxy was shifted from Scripture, intrinsic tradition (of which the magisterium is a part) and extrinsic tradition (which includes magisterial acts of the past, such as Pius IX's Syllabus of Errors), to a psychological state in which only the current magisterium is followed.

There is nothing in the post-Vatican II magisterial documents that contradict the doctrinal content of past magisterial documents. The problem exasperated today is that self-styled 'traditionalists' do not have the same attitude of obedience to the Magisterium nor the same belief that God guides her. The Holy Spirit is hardly taking a catnap when the pope is not solemnly defining yet this is how self-styled 'traditionalists' seem to think. The problem is that the literacy rate is too high. It has in some ways "opened their eyes" and "made them as gods" (Genesis 3:5-7) when it comes to matters of magisterial policy and doctrinal teachings. If more self-styled 'traditionalists' were illiterate, they would have no choice but to act as previous generations of laity acted. This would mean submitting to the Magisterium’s teachings as well as regulations on discipline and government without basing one’s obedience on a personal opinion of their relative worth.

This is not to condone illiteracy of course, but it is important to consider what increasing the literacy rate has done. With increased literacy comes increased human pride that somehow the individual is more competent than the Teaching Authority of the Church superintended by the Holy Spirit. That was the crux of what drove the "reformers" whose movement of rebellion came on the heels of the recent (1445) invention of printing, the increase in literacy, and the easier proliferation of written materials. (Yes there was also needed reform also but the latter factors lent themselves to sustaining a movement that could not have succeeded to the extent it did without those vital elements.) The same is often true among those who arrogate to themselves the presumptive title 'traditionalists'. To be a Catholic is to be in accord with tradition (both large and small T versions). It is not possible for a Catholic to be anything other than a Traditionalist as the terms "Catholic" and "Tradition" are synonymous. Hence, the term ‘Traditional Catholic’ is a tautology, as the latter does not depend on one’s liturgical or devotional preferences. What makes one Catholic is to be submissive to the doctrinal teaching of the Magisterium and in compliance with the policies of discipline and government in force. It is to recognize that we are not Anglicans or Jansenists or Rationalists. We do not look at Tradition as something to be searched for in the records of the past but instead it is lived in the present. We do not view Tradition as comprised of mere theorems and statements of dogma/doctrine. Tradition is lived and vibrant. It is the soul of the Church. Doctrines develop as knowledge and insight coupled with the subjective grasp of a particular subject increases. As Ven. John H. Newman noted in his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine when speaking of the Development of the doctrine of the Trinity:

It is true indeed that the subsequent profession of the doctrine in the Universal Church creates a presumption that it was held even before it was professed; and it is fair to interpret the early Fathers by the later. [22]
The idea of following written magisterial documents from the past interpreting them for oneself against the Magisterium is Protestant to the core. Not that Father Ripperger is condoning this of course, but his tone seems to in spots condone such a practice as being licit. It is important to take into account the fact that some elements of policy decisions are culturally conditioned. This is not a reference to doctrine by any stretch, but instead policies of governing. This author will be completing a study of the Syllabus of Errors and demonstrating the cultural conditions that impact a proper understanding of what the Pope was condemning. The reason is because context is important and those who are quick to whip out the Syllabus of Errors or Lamentabili Sane have a serious habit of not taking these elements into account. Condemnations of error hinge many times on very specific phrasing where a slightly different statement can make the difference between what is orthodox and what is heterodox. These are points though that will be dealt with in the aforementioned study. Suffice to say, there is more to it then the rather simplistic portrayal of the situation outlined by Fr. Ripperger here.

Neo-conservatives have fallen into this way of thinking i.e. the only standard by which they judge orthodoxy is whether or not one follows the current magisterium. Traditionalists, as a general rule, tend to be orthodox in the sense that they are obedient to the current magisterium, even though they disagree about matters of discipline and have some reservations about some aspects of current magisterial teachings which seem to contradict the previous magisterium (e.g. the role of the ecumenical movement).

Since there is a scarcity of early magisterial documentation, we do not know that Trent did not contradict the Nicaea or First Constantinople synods. We do not have the actual acts of either Council after all. Many papal decrees were issued in the earlier centuries that we no longer possess. Thus, we cannot know with absolute certainty that Trent or Vatican I did not contradict any of them. We cannot know this except that at the time of the aforementioned Councils in question the people had to trust the Living Magisterium of its time period. As in every other period of history, we are not excluded from this obligation. Much as Fr. Ripperger might want to speak lightly of this creature he calls "magisterialism" in the end the only one whose word on these issues really matters is the Living Magisterium.

Traditionalists tend to take not just the current magisterium as their norm but Scripture, intrinsic tradition, extrinsic tradition and the current magisterium as the principles of judgment of correct Catholic thinking. This is what distinguishes traditionalists and neo-conservatives i.e. their perspectives regarding the role of ecclesiastical tradition and how the current magisterium relates to it.

So in other words, 'traditionalists' act towards the current Magisterium as the Montanists, Protestants, and the Jansenists did. The heretical Montanist Tertullian used Scripture, "intrinsic tradition", and "extrinsic tradition" and declared that Pope Callistus I was controverting "tradition". (Including going so far as to mock Callistus’ authority in the process.) St. Hippolytus likewise claimed that Callistus controverted previous "tradition" going so far as to get appointed as an anti-pope and deriding the followers of Pope Callistus as ‘Callistians’. This author is detecting a parallel in the modern so-called 'traditionalist' movement in the person of St. Hippolytus castigating those who follow the post-Council popes by calling them "neo-conservatives". (Which is basically the same as yesterday’s "liberal" or the third century "Callistian".)

We need to ask what St. Hippolytus and Tertullian did viz. the followers of Pope Callistus that the self-styled 'traditionalists' such as Fr. Ripperger are not currently doing. (Leaving aside for a moment their slides into schism on the parts of Hippolytus and heresy on the part of Tertullian.)

Inevitably, this magisterialism has led to a form of positivism. Since there are no principles of judgment other than the current magisterium, whatever the current magisterium says is always what is "orthodox."

Doctrinally of course this is and always will be the case. As far as practices go, what is licit and what is not is a movable feast. Likewise, the manner in which a given truth is explained changes with the passing of time — an admission made by Pope Pius XII in his Encyclical letter Humani Generis in paragraph 16. Of course since it was Pope Pius XII who said it, that makes it okay but if any of the last four popes say it, then we must act all suspicious according to the 'traditionalist' paradigm.

In other words, psychologically the neo-conservatives have been left in a position in which the extrinsic and intrinsic tradition are no longer included in the norms of judging whether something is orthodox or not.

Father Ripperger does not realize it seems that what he sees as "extrinsic tradition" is often considered by other Apostolic Christians (i.e. the Orthodox) in the same light that he views the actions of the current Magisterium which he would claim are "compromising tradition" or at least "seemingly contradicting tradition". What do you think the Orthodox think of the filioque, purgatory, papal universal jurisdiction, or papal infallibility (to name a few)??? To the Orthodox mindset these are not intrinsic or extrinsic parts of tradition. If not for the very "magisterialism" that Fr. Ripperger is critical of, how would we as Catholics know that they were wrong and we were right except for the very magisterium that loyal Catholics profess an assent to declaring that they (the Orthodox) are wrong???

For at one time, each and every one of these issues was a matter of the magisterium taking a position that would appear to contradict previous policy. Why was it okay for the West to cease baptism three times by immersion, giving confirmation and the Eucharist to infants, and other ancient parts of the early "extrinsic tradition" of both East and West that the Roman Church did away with??? The Fr. Rippergers in the ninth century during the Photinian controversy would apparently have aligned with the Photinian party claiming that the pope (in not condemning the addition of the filioque to the Creed) was "contradicting holy tradition" or at least "setting it aside without explanation". Or to quote the Catholic Encyclopedia on the matter:

[The Greeks’] national feelings had been aroused by the desire of liberation from the rule of the ancient rival of Constantinople; the occasion of lawfully obtaining their desire appeared to present itself in the addition of Filioque to the Creed of Constantinople. Had not Rome overstepped her rights by disobeying the injunction of the Third Council, of Ephesus (431), and of the Fourth, of Chalcedon (451)? [23]
There was a controversy over what constituted "intrinsic tradition" on both sides of the dispute so citing it for support in this instance would be begging the question. With regards to "extrinsic tradition", there is no question that the Roman Church would come out the loser in that comparison also (since the Nicene Creed was composed without the filioque and declared by Ephesus to be inalterable). The norms therefore of judging what was orthodox in the filioque controversy was not "intrinsic tradition" or Fr. Ripperger’s vaunted "extrinsic tradition" but the very Living Magisterium that he sees as inadequate when it does not square with his preferences.

As a result, whatever comes out of the Vatican regardless of its authoritative weight, is to be held, even if it contradicts what was taught with comparable authority in the past.

It is controverted if there can be shown to have been genuine doctrinal contradiction even in the simple Ordinary Magisterium. (To say nothing of the Supreme Ordinary Magisterium or the Solemn Extraordinary Magisterium.) Father Ripperger needs to separate policies (which can change) from doctrines (which in their essence do not). These are issues which this author dealt with in his treatise as well as his essay on Christian Unity.

Since non-infallible ordinary acts of the magisterium can be erroneous, this leaves one in a precarious situation if one only takes as true what the current magisterium says.

It appears that Father Ripperger has not have done much study on the subject of the Magisterium. First, before Vatican I there was not often made the distinction between ordinary and extraordinary Magisterium or between dogmas credenda and doctrines tenenda in the precise manner that we do today. Nor was the idea that one could dissent or call into question ordinary magisterium teachings even considered a viable option to the faithful Catholic. Therefore, he needs to apply his paradigm with more consistency. If Father Ripperger claims to follow the past extrinsic traditions, he should apply the principle that was recognized before Vatican I: submission to the Magisterium’s official teachings and guidelines of discipline period. That is traditional and the criticism he has of so-called 'neo-conservatives' (as he calls them) seems to be for taking the attitude towards the Magisterium now that the laity always had done. What he seems to be recommending here is an approach very similar to what the "reformers" and the Jansenists did. Luther himself at Worms bluntly claimed that the Popes and Councils had "plainly erred and contradicted themselves". Likewise, Fr. Ripperger’s concerns do not seem to be much different then the claims of Luther who initially was opposed to the Magisterium in areas of discipline and government (most notably regulation of indulgences). The only real difference it seems is that Fr. Ripperger strives to be obedient to the Magisterium whereas Luther was not (though initially he was).

While we are required to give religious assent even to the non-infallible teachings of the Church, what are we to do when a magisterial document contradicts other current or previous teachings and one does not have any more authoritative weight than the other? It is too simplistic merely to say that we are to follow the current teaching. What would happen if in a period of crisis, like our own, a non-infallible ordinary magisterial teaching contradicted what was in fact the truth? If one part of the magisterium contradicts another, both being at the same level, which is to believed?

This writer has addressed these kinds of "contradictions" from various periods of Church history. It is hardly irregular when you have Protestants and Orthodox (or even non-Christians) either of the curious sort or the polemical sort dredging up every possible potential "error" they can find in magisterial teachings or policies over twenty centuries. To Father Ripperger’s credit, he is only asking the question rather than asserting that there are actual contradictions. Again, if there are contradictions in policy than obviously we follow the Living Magisterium. If there were any doctrinal contradictions, well until one such contradiction is set before this writer that cannot be reconciled by him, he will not speculate on it. Thus far, none that are necessarily contradictory have been brought forward but then the author does not interpret magisterial documents of today apart from previous ones but instead in harmony with them. The recognition that doctrine can develop - and often does - as well as policies can change - and often do - is taken into consideration. Considering these factors, nothing problematical necessarily exists as far as teachings go when the sitz im leben of each magisterial document is taken into account.

Unfortunately, what has happened is that many neo-conservatives have acted as if non-infallible ordinary magisterial teachings (e.g. the role of inculturation in the liturgy as stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church) are, in fact, infallible when the current magisterium promulgates them. This is a positivist mentality.

The liturgy historically has undergone inculturation at different times. The author goes over this a bit in his essay Confusing Culture With ‘Tradition’, a work that Father Ripperger should read. (See the "other notes" section for a link to it.)



As the positivism and magisterialism grew and the extrinsic tradition no longer remained a norm for judging what should and should not be done, neo-conservatives accepted the notion that the Church must adapt to the modern world.

The Church has made accommodations in every age to varying degrees. As long as all dogmas and doctrines are upheld (which they always are) this is not irregular nor is it erroneous or problematical.

Rather than helping the modern world to adapt to the teachings of the Church, the reverse process has occurred.

We spent four hundred years trying to use terminology to explain our teachings that only resulted in greater confusion. To a Protestant hearing (for example) talk about "temporal punishment" in purgatory means to them that we are claiming that Christ’s atoning sacrifice was not fully efficacious. Obviously we are not saying that, but altering the manner in which we explain our teachings using terms that are more compatible with our brethren’s way of understanding things (i.e. instead of "temporal punishment" referring to purgatorial purification as "sanctification"). Most of the disagreements Protestants have with Catholics are with a caricature of Catholic teaching that is a combination of mistruths and poorly conveyed understanding of Catholic teaching. To quote Bl. Pope John XXIII "the substance of the Deposit of Faith is one thing, the way it is explained is another". The Church in every age has used the accommodations of the world’s philosophies, which she purified of errors and embraced the truths for which to promulgate the Gospel. Today be any different and in light of how the Church got away from this practice after the Council of Trent, going back to it now is both wise and prudent. That this has resulted in many apparently stark departures is also in no small part due to the Counter-reformation policies of running from the world. The current shift of engaging modern philosophies in the arena of ideas is more akin to what the Church has historically done than the "retreat into the bunker" approach advocated by many self-styled 'traditionalists'.

This has led to the neo-conservatives being overly concerned about politically correct secular matters. Rather than having a certain distrust of the world which Christ exhorts us to have, many priests will only teach something from the pulpit as long as it is not going to cause problems. For example, how many priests are willing to preach against anti-Scriptural feminism? The fact is that they have adopted an immanentized way of looking at what should be done, often from an emotional point of view. And this coupled with political correctness has incapacitated ecclesiastical authorities in the face of the world and within the Church herself where the process of immanentization, with its flawed understanding of the nature of man and his condition as labouring under Original Sin, has severely undermined discipline. Even those who try to be orthodox have become accustomed to softer disciplinary norms, which fit fallen nature well, resulting in a lack of detachment from the current way of doing things and a consequent reluctance by neo-conservatives to exercise authority - precisely because they lack the vital detachment required to do so.

To some extent, the author agrees with Father Ripperger’s comments here. However, it seems that Fr. Ripperger and the self-labeled 'traditionalists' are just as guilty of looking at these matters from an emotional point of view. (And  Fr. Ripperger continues to misapply the concept of "immanence".) Also, the subject of the breakdown in Church discipline is much more complex than Fr. Ripperger's somewhat simplistic analysis above. However, it is beyond the scope of this essay to delve into that subject. (It is easy to roll a bunch of problems together in a handful of pages that would take many times the same number to unpack and analyze - not that the author is accusing Fr. Ripperger of any duplicity in doing that here of course.)

All of the aforesaid has resulted in the neo-conservatives rejecting the extrinsic tradition as the norm.

It depends on what is considered "extrinsic tradition". Might we be so bold as to ask Father Ripperger for a list??? It need not be complete of course but some idea of what he is talking about helps. Odds are quite good that this writer would agree with many things he would put on that list.

This is why, even in "good" seminaries, the spiritual patrimony of the saints is virtually never taught. Moreover, this accounts for why the neo-conservatives appear confused about the real meaning of tradition. Since it is not a principle of judgment for them, they are unable to discuss it in depth. In fact, they ignore extrinsic tradition almost as much as the "liberals." Even when neo-conservatives express a desire to recover and follow the extrinsic tradition, they rarely do so when it comes to making concrete decisions.

Father Ripperger seems again to not realize how much of what he refers to as "extrinsic tradition" is little more than Counter-reformation polemic. To quote a Catholic scholar (and a good friend of the author) Dr. Art Sippo from a project that he co-authored with ‘Matt1618’ and this present writer:

Many Pre-VCII Catholics (especially converts) found the straightjacket of Counter-reformation rigidity to be a comforting "still point" in an ever-changing world. By doing so, they began treating many of the polemical stances adopted during the Counter-reformation as if they were normative for the Church at all times and in all places. The restoration of the legitimate diversity that true catholicity implies was perceived as a movement away from certainty to ambiguity - as a retreat from what was perceived as orthodoxy to heterodoxy.
But in reality, the only true "still point" is Christ Jesus himself. He did not leave us as orphans but sent us his Holy Spirit to be with us always who would, "teach you in all things and remind you of all that I have told you" (John 14: 26). As St. Peter told us, "We possess the prophetic word made more sure. You would do well to harken to it like a lamp shining in a dark place…for no prophecy of Scripture is a personal interpretation. Prophecy has never been put forward by man’s willing. Rather men impelled by the Holy Spirit spoke from God." (2Peter 1:19-21). This principle should apply equally for both Scripture and Tradition. We should therefore harken to the living Magisterium as Our Lord intended and not be led astray by our own personal preferences, concerns, or scruples. [24]

It now becomes clearer why there is a kind of psychological suspicion between neo-conservatives and traditionalists: they have fundamentally different perspectives. The neo-conservatives have psychologically or implicitly accepted that extrinsic tradition cannot be trusted, whereas the traditionalists hold to the extrinsic tradition as something good, i.e. something which is the product of the wisdom and labour of the saints and the Church throughout history. For this reason, the fundamental difference between neo-conservatives and traditionalists is that the neo-conservative looks at the past through the eyes of the present while the traditionalist looks at the present through the eyes of the past.

There are some eerie similarities between what Fr. Ripperger classifies as traditionalist protocol and the attitudes of many ancient dissent movements of the Magisterium. To cite from the Prescription treatise one of these parallels that he needs to be made aware of:

The authority of tradition (as drawn from and eventually equated with St. Augustine) was a central doctrine of Jansenism. Essentially antiquarians, the Jansenists were opposed to philosophical reasoning ("the mother of all heresies") in theology, indeed to all methods of theology apart from the true one of "memory" or study of tradition. Arnauld insisted that one has to interpret even the definitions of the Council of Trent and the popes by Augustine. St. Cyran campaigned for a return to the discipline of the primitive Church. And soon enough their ecclesiola began to identify itself with the "Invisible Church," the "true" Church," the remnant after the Great Apostasy, martyrs for the traditional faith against a decadent Church. For all the talk about grace, the possibility of authentic development of doctrine and practice under the guidance of the Holy Spirit did not seem to enter the Jansenist equation.
[Pope] Paul VI and [Pope] John Paul II identified a selective and contradictory notion of tradition at the heart of Lefebvrist theology. Like Jansenism, it canonizes a particular period of the Church's Tradition - here the century preceding Vatican II - as the litmus test for the authenticity of later teaching. It fails to take into account the ability of tradition to accommodate authentic organic development. For Lefebvre, being true to the Tradition - always with a capital T - required being ahistorical, being bound by a mummified magisterium, to be interpreted with the same fundamentalism with which some have used the Scriptures as the Jansenists used Augustine, and, symbolized by a mummified liturgy and discipline… [25]

This is the very danger that is implicit in what Fr. Ripperger seems to be stating. The only difference between him and the Lefebvrists is that he is corporately in communion with the Bishop of Rome. However, knowing that many clergy of FSSP are laced with the faulty theology of the late Archbishop Lefebvre, this writer is worried that a bit of the late Archbishop's paradigm may be influencing Fr. Ripperger’s operative point of view.

Historically, the mens ecclesiae or mind of the Church was expressed through the extrinsic tradition.

Then the mens ecclesiae was expressed in an "extrinsic tradition" that was hardly static throughout the centuries. This author asked in his treatise for a consistent and non-arbitrary explanation of why previous alterations were acceptable while current ones are not. This is not a point about personal preferences here only how Father Ripperger can reconcile the principle of a mummified tradition with what actually happened throughout Church history before the Council of Trent.

That is to say that the Church, since it receives both its teaching from the past and the labour of the saints and previous magisterium by tradition, always looked at the present through the eyes of the past.

In part this is true. However, this approach when taken to the extremes that the self-styled 'traditionalists' do is hard to distinguish from the approach taken by the Jansenists. Just as they sought to interpret the Council of Trent and the magisterium of their time through the writings of St. Augustine (a practice that was condemned by Pope Alexander VIII), self-styled 'traditionalists' seek to interpret the current magisterium by the writings of past popes and councils. (And so often they do this while failing to utilize the general norms of theological interpretation which any accurate understanding of said texts requires.)

While to some extent the magisterium "looks at the present through the eyes of the past", at the same time she judges the past from the present. Hence Bl. Pope Pius IX in defining the Immaculate Conception judged the consensus of the past as sufficient testimony for his dogmatic judgment. Hence, Vatican I in defining the dogma of papal infallibility judged the past consensus as sufficient testimony for their dogmatic judgment. By the same token, Vatican II in declaring the collegial nature of the episcopate in Lumen Gentium §22, judged the past consensus of antiquity as sufficient testimony for its declaration of teaching to be held. Countless examples could be noted here but these three definitive examples (two solemn definitions of dogmas to be believed and one declaration of doctrine to be held) are adequate to establish the point this writer is seeking to make.

In this, she looked at the present not as man under the influence of modern philosophy looked at the present, but through the eyes of her Lord Who gave her His teaching when He was on earth (i.e. in the past). Only at the time of Christ, is it possible to look authentically at the past through, what was then, the eyes of the present, since Christ was the fulfilment of the past. But once the work of Christ became part of history and He ascended into heaven, we must always look back to Christ and to our tradition for an authentic understanding of the present.

However, the ‘tradition’ referred to here is often nothing more than post-Trent cultural accommodations elevated to the realm of ‘untouchable tradition’.

This fundamental shift in perspective has left the traditionalists with the sense that they are fighting for the good of the extrinsic tradition without the help of and often hindered by the current magisterium. Liturgically, traditionalists judge the Novus Ordo in light of the Mass of Pius V and the neo-conservatives judge the Tridentine Mass, as it is called, in light of the Novus Ordo. This comes from the Hegelianism which holds that the past is always understood in light of the present, i.e. the thesis and antithesis are understood in light of their synthesis.

This is an error on the part of both sides. The past in some manner is understood in light of the present. If Father Ripperger disagrees then can he point to us the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception before the fifth century??? That this cannot be done only proves that we judge the past (the ancient doctrine of the Second Eve) by the present (Immaculate Conception as a development from the doctrine of the Second Eve) to some extent. If we do not do this, then there are a host of dogmas and doctrines that cannot be verified as accurate since they were in every case developments from previous more implicit teaching. Fr. Ripperger claims that there is a problem "verifying" certain post-Council policies with pre-Council ones. Well there is no reason to arbitrarily pick that as the dividing point when countless others historically can be brought up where similar proposed "ambiguities" can be summoned.

For example, the Council of Florence taught that the Church had "always" believed in seven and only seven sacraments. But what of the Catholic Encyclopedia which specifically notes the following with regards to the sacraments and their number???:

(1) Catholic Doctrine: Eastern and Western Churches
The Council of Trent solemnly defined that there are seven sacraments of the New Law, truly and properly so called, viz., Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Penance, Extreme Unction, Orders, and Matrimony. The same enumeration had been made in the Decree for the Armenians by the Council of Florence (1439), in the Profession of Faith of Michael Palaelogus, offered to Gregory X in the Council of Lyons (1274) and in the council held at London, in 1237, under Otto, legate of the Holy See. According to some writers Otto of Bamberg (1139), the Apostle of Pomerania, was the first who clearly adopted the number seven (see Tanquerey, "De sacr."). Most probably this honour belongs to Peter Lombard (d. 1164) who in his fourth Book of Sentences (d. i, n.2) defines a sacrament as a sacred sign which not only signifies but also causes grace, and then (d.ii, n.1) enumerates the seven sacraments. [26]
That is correct, the precise number of seven was not enumerated until around the time of Peter Lombard and the early Scholastics (eleventh-twelfth century). Likewise the consecratory formulas of the Tridentine Missal which many self-styled 'traditionalists' claim is Apostolic did not exist before the fifth century in the form that it did after that time. (And that was the rite of the city of Rome mind you, not all of Western Christendom.) At the point the liturgy was changed, those supporting the Living Magisterium probably had similar discussions with those who claimed to be adhering to ‘extrinsic tradition’. There were almost certainly those who wanted the older Roman liturgy along the lines of St. Hippolytus’ Apostolic Traditions to be retained rather than obey the Living Magisterium in their "innovative" canon prayers. These are prayers, which are now considered "untouchable" by most self-styled 'traditionalists'. Likewise, the 'traditionalist' insistence on the "necessity" of certain liturgical elements such as dual confiteors (to "highlight the separation between priest and laity") was a novum of the ninth century. Before that time the standard was the plural prayer forms which the Revised Missal contains. Many others could be listed others but this should be sufficient to make the point.

This leads to a mentality that newer is always better, because the synthesis is better than either the thesis or the antithesis taken alone. Being affected by this, the neo-conservatives often assume or are incapable of imagining that the current discipline of the Church may not be as good as the prior discipline. There is a mentality today which holds that "because it is present (Hegelianism), because it comes from us (immanentism), it is necessarily better."

Just as the so-called ‘neo-conservatives’ in some cases might feel that way, so do the self-styled 'traditionalists' feel that anything from the post-Trent period is superior to what preceded it and what was subsequent to the Second Vatican Council. Both extremes are problematical.

Yet let us apply this consistently. Granting Fr. Ripperger his premise for a moment, why should Tridentine disciplines be considered better than the disciplines of the Roman Church in the third centuries that were modified by St. Pope Callistus I??? Why should we not have confessions allowed once or twice in a lifetime and rigorous canonical penances as they used to have in days of yore??? Was St. Callistus I therefore an ancient proto-Hegelian??? Or was he the Roman Pontiff and thus capable of altering with the power of the keys different disciplinary factors as he saw fit??? The role of Fr. Ripperger in this situation would seem to have been played by St. Hippolytus, who took the same view of the pre-third century disciplines as 'traditionalists' often do of the pre-VC II disciplines. Why should we prefer the Lateran IV discipline of receiving communion once a year when such a restriction was a novelty in the early thirteenth century??? Was it an "immantist" notion of Pope Innocent III and the Fathers of Lateran IV??? They must have been "proto-Hegelians" for feeling that this discipline was necessarily better then what had been done previously. And arguing for this discipline simply because of long usage is to act like the Orthodox who profess to hold to "holy tradition" and who accuse the Roman Church of consistent "immantist" notions historically. (Or they would make this assertion if we put the crux of their disputes with the Roman Church in the terms being used by Fr. Ripperger.) If we dismiss the Living Tradition as Fr. Ripperger is doing here (in part), we open up an entire pandora’s box of problems. And there is no consistent way to get around this if we approach these subjects with consistently.

Furthermore, neo-conservatives love the Church and have a strong emotional attachment to the magisterium which causes them to find it unimaginable that the Church could ever falter, even with regard to matters of discipline.

No, those Father Ripperger styles as 'neo-conservatives' emphasize the importance of disciplinary adherence because that is one of the purposes of the Magisterium. Other than matters of faith and morals, there are areas of discipline and government. The Magisterium binds disciplines that they feel are right for our day and age. There is enough disobedience to the Magisterium today without encouraging more. Unfortunately, this is often self-styled 'traditionalists' do either by implication or by explicit calls for rebellion (depending on where the self-styled 'traditionalists' falls on the wide spectrum of 'traditionalists' of course). This does NOT mean that disciplines cannot be disputed as to their prudence of course. But far too often self-styled 'traditionalists' cling to cultural elements that they feel are necessary or preferable which in reality caused far more problems than they care to admit to. Again, this is covered in the essay Confusing Culture With 'Tradition'.

Like the father who loves his daughter and therefore has a hard time imagining her doing anything wrong, neo-conservatives have a hard time conceiving that the Holy Ghost does not guarantee infallibility in matters of discipline or non-infallible ordinary magisterial teaching.

Self-styled 'traditionalists' have a hard time conceiving that the Holy Ghost may actually have some role in guiding the Magisterium when the latter is not solemnly defining. And Fr. Ripperger is not completely correct in the above statement. The promulgation of a Missal or ceremonies for the administration of the sacraments - not to mention promulgation of a universal calendar - are areas that cannot contain errors in doctrine.

Traditionalists, confronted by a Church in crisis, know that something has gone wrong somewhere. As a result, they are, I believe, more sober in assessing whether or not the Church exercises infallibility.

No, 'traditionalists' are in virtually every case woefully ignorant of what constitutes magisterial infallibility. In addition, they fall for the mentality that teachings can be openly questioned even if they are not set forth as definitive. The author goes over the true and often misunderstood scope of infallibility in his treatise A Prescription Against 'Traditionalism' and a spin off essay on Vatican II and its authority. (The Vatican II essay is virtually identical to the section of the treatise with the same title.) It is also dealt with in an essay titled Christian Unity and the Role of Authority and a critique of the manifold errors of one of the pseudo-scholars at Remnant magazine.

What is required to be justified is not the Magisterium but the attitude of self-styled 'traditionalists' who need to (putting it bluntly) actually learn what they are talking about before being a critic. Ninety seven percent of the time (approximately) the self-styled 'traditionalist' has no idea what they are talking about when it comes to Magisterial infallibility. They ironically assert an understanding of the concept that the Relator of Pastor Aeternus Chapter 4 explicitly stated was not the sense that the dogma was to be properly understood. They cannot be "more sober in assessing whether or not the Church exercises infallibility" when they invariably have no idea what the full scope of infallibility is. Most priests have no idea and the same is the case for many theologians both self-styled 'traditionalist' as well as so-called ‘conservative’ (to say nothing of the "liberals" of course).

That, allied to their looking at the present through the eyes of the past, helps the traditionalists to see that the onus is on the present to justify itself, not the past.

The use of infallibility is totally immaterial to this discussion anyway. What is important is the authority of the Pope and the united episcopate, not whether they are teaching infallibly or not. To reiterate: infallibility is not the criteria for the truth or irreformability of a teaching.

The dominance of Hegelianism and immanentism also led to a form of collective ecclesiastical amnesia. During the early1960s, there existed a generation which was handed the entire ecclesiastical tradition, for the tradition was still being lived.

Again, much that self-styled 'traditionalists' would claim is "extrinsic tradition" was nothing but Counter-reformation polemic and artificially enforced practices/devotions which were raised to the level of "immutable tradition". Yes the attitude that came out of the Council in most areas was unfortunate. However, the artificial imposition of cultural prejudices that were often confused with inalterable ecclesiastical tradition exasperated this situation far beyond what would have likely otherwise happened if the proper distinctions were made to begin with. This is dealt with in the essay Confusing Culture With 'Tradition'. The author also dealt with this to some extent in a project he co-authored with Dr. Art Sippo and ‘Matt1618’. It was also a point dealt with in the Prescription treatise. The confusion of culture with 'tradition' is perhaps the most critical flaw in the self-styled 'traditionalist' paradigm. After all, no one who is orthodox would claim that they do not mean well.

However, because they laboured under the aforesaid errors, that generation chose not to pass on the ecclesiastical tradition to the subsequent generation as something living.

That many valuable elements of ecclesiastical tradition have been cast aside is indeed tragic but the solution is not embracing past cultural elements under the illusion that they constitute immutable ecclesiastical tradition. This is the reactionary attitude of most who style themselves 'traditionalist'.

Consequently, in one generation, the extrinsic tradition virtually died out. By the late 1960s and early 1970s, seminary and university formation in the Catholic Church excluded those things which pertained to the ecclesiastical tradition.

This is true. Now then, how do we solve this problem in a manner that does not smack of arbitrary antiquarianism???

Once the prior generation had chosen this course, not to remember and teach the things of the past, it was never passed on and so those whom they trained i.e. the current generation, were consigned to suffer collective ignorance about their patrimony and heritage.

This writer fully concurs and sympathizes with the intentions of those who call themselves 'traditionalists' and has no disagreements with Father Ripperger on this point. In fact, the author has yet to run across a faithful Catholic concerned about the status of the Church today who does not.

A further effect of what we have considered is that no prior teaching is left untouched. In other words, it appears as if more documentation has been issued in the last forty years than in the previous 1,960. Every past teaching, if the current magisterium deems it worthy of note to modern man, is touched upon anew and viewed through the lens of the present day immanentism. The impression is given that the teachings of the previous magisterium cannot stand on their own and so they must be given some form of "relevance" by being promulgated anew in a current document.

Often times it is necessary to reassert in the face of the growing skepticism of today the timeless teachings of the faith. As for the "more documents than the past 1960 years" line, the Council of Trent issued more written documents than all 18 General Councils preceding it combined. Yet this is not "problematic" for the self-styled 'traditionalist'. There was no significant area of the Faith that Trent did not view through the "lens of modern day immanentism" of the sixteenth century. (And this drew the ire of the Jansenists who accused Trent of being too "Humanist".) And yet since since Trent did this it was okay but if Vatican II does it, it is is seemingly condemned for it.

Moreover, the current documents often lack the clarity and succinctness of the prior magisterium, and, with relatively few exceptions, are exceedingly long and tedious to read in their entirety.

No offense intended but it sounds like an "MTV mentality" problem. Many people today would claim that praying the Rosary was "long and tedious". Many people would claim that the monastic life under the Rule of St. Benedict was "tedious", "superfluous", or some other dismissing term. Many people would claim that praying a litany was "long", "tedious", "unnecessarily repetitive", or other dismissive claims. Similar claims could be said about regular Bible study/meditation. Are these thus valid excuses for dispensing with timeless elements of our Catholic patrimony??? Or do we insist instead that modern man learn to acquire the proper frame of mind to potentially utilize some (or all) of these elements in a spiritually profitable manner??? This is likewise the case with magisterial documents.

There is a wealth of timeless doctrine in the Apostolic Letters, Encyclicals, and Exhortations of Pope John Paul II (JP II). Likewise, the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council contains such a depth and richness to its teachings that one must mull them over carefully to understand the full conformity of the Council with Tradition. As this present writer has dealt with in numerous dialogues with dissident "trads", Vatican II has more of an Eastern feel to it than any General Council of the second millennium. This is important to take into account when reading the documents of the Council.

This clarity and succinctness that Father Ripperger seems to repine for resulted many times in some flagrantly horrid misunderstandings and misrepresentations. The Justification ambiguities of the Baltimore Catechism come to mind offhand where the catechism sounds almost Semi-Pelagian in spots. Likewise, many self-styled 'traditionalists' have ignorantly proclaimed that laity touching the Eucharist with their hands was "sacrilegious" (as opposed to illicit) and that they were "taught this before Vatican II". There is a huge difference between something being illicit and something being sacrilegious. The latter cannot be accepted at any time whereas liceity is a determination made by the magisterium and it is subject to potential alteration.

In complaining about the length of post-Council documents or the documents of Vatican II, it is worth noting here that the Encyclical Letters of Pope Pius XII or Pope Leo XIII were not exactly economical either. Like Pope John Paul II, both of them were very profound theological thinkers and tended to expound on subjects in detail. Simplistic thinking is dangerous because it often polarizes or creates artificial conflict. Yes the attitude of the Church has moved beyond the simplistic Catholic = good; Protestant and all others = bad mentality prevalent between the sixteenth and the twentieth centuries. Thank God for it too. The wider praxis of theological, liturgical, and devotional pluralism is far more traditional than the false uniformity in these areas imposed after the Council of Trent. What was pastorally expedient at that time is not necessarily expedient for our times.

As a result, the frequency of the documents taken together with their length have eroded their authority because, as a general rule, people simply do not have the emotional or psychological discipline to plough through them.

That is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church is for as the important teachings are in there and it can be used as a building block along with the documents of Vatican II. The Catechism is not merely the post-VC II Magisterium speaking but is eternal Rome as the citations in the text are drawn from twenty centuries of the Church’s patrimony.


The differences between traditionalists and neo-conservatives are rooted in their respective attitudes to extrinsic or ecclesiastical tradition. Even if a neo-conservative holds notionally that the extrinsic tradition is of value, nevertheless in the daily living of his life and in his deliberations, he simply ignores a large portion of it, if not completely.

Again, maybe asking Father Ripperger for a list will be necessary. It is difficult to agree or disagree with his assessment if we do not know to what elements he refers. Not to boast in any way but this writer happens to be fond of Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament (and used to spend an average of 1-3 hours a week in the chapel). He also follows all the Church’s fast and abstinence guidelines, and prays the Rosary on a near-daily basis (among other devotions). Thus, this writer fails to see how he "ignoring" a large portion of this mythical "extrinsic tradition" simply because he does not attend the same rite of Mass that Fr. Ripperger does nor does he have much of a desire to most of the time.

But there is hope, even outside the circles that hold to tradition.

Again, to be a Catholic is to hold to tradition.

Many of the young, even those in neo-conservative seminaries, are no longer weighed down by the intellectual baggage which afflicted their counterparts in the previous generation. Because they have been taught virtually nothing about religion, they lack a perspective that might influence them negatively in favour of one particular view of extrinsic tradition.

Good. The more liberal deadwood that is broken up and heaved out of the seminaries the better. However, saying that does not constitute endorsing a full-scale return to post-Trent polemics and artificially imposed conformity.

Many of them are eager to learn the truth and do not have any preconceived ideas about the current state of the Church. As a result, if they are provided with or are able to arrive at the knowledge of their patrimony, many of them seeking it out on their own, then we can be assured of a brighter future.

These things are all cyclical. In 801 when the Iconoclasts were still wrecking havoc (14 years after Nicaea II which condemned Iconoclasm) the situation in that regard was much the way it was in the Church during the 1970’s and 1980’s with the upheaval. As occurred then and at every time in history, orthodoxy triumphs over heresy and error. In the case of the Iconoclasts, they were not finally overthrown until 843. In the case of the post-Council crisis, this writer has pinpointed the Stalingrad for the orthodoxy as the year 1984. With the exception of one very small concession from the Magisterium in the realm of discipline, you would be hard pressed to pinpoint any actual victories for the side of darkness. Indeed, since that time it has been one setback after another for them. (With one of the most significant being the Universal Catechism released in 1993.) Not only is the Catechism an in-depth and concise compendium but it highlights how despite the many things that have gone badly in the post-Council period that  "the center is holding" (cf. Fr. Brian W. Harrison). We are witnessing the liberal element dying out among those in positions of prominence in the Church. In addition, the Vatican the past ten years has been cracking down little by little on the dissidents of both the liberal and the extreme "trads". But things never move fast enough for any of us. Maybe that is a sign that we all need to learn a bit of patience. Or as it was commonly said in the generation of this writers' parents: "offer it up for the suffering souls".

But this requires knowledge of the problem and the willingness to adopt or connect to the extrinsic tradition by embracing it as something good. It is unlikely that the role of ecclesiastical tradition will be sorted out soon, but we can hope that its restoration is part of God's providential plan.

The next ten years will see some very noticeable strides taken as the failure to implement Vatican II is corrected. The Church is eternally ancient and forever young: a contradiction that is and always has been a stone of stumbling for those who are enemies of the Light. Since 1984, the Church has been gradually reviving herself and a slew of converts — many of them former Protestant clergymen and some entire Protestant churches — have been converting to the Catholic faith. In the meantime, the Vatican has sought to correct many errors in both doctrine and practice with the Declaration Dominus Iesus (on authentic Ecumenism as taught by Vatican II) and the revised General Instructions of the Roman Missal. The Roman Missal is being revised for a more accurate vernacular translation. (Which will be promulgated in the next couple of years.) Devotions such as the Rosary, Stations of the Cross, and Perpetual Adoration are growing in popularity. (Not to mention good quality apologetical material being turned out in the past eighteen years.) There are plenty of signs out there that the Church is recovering from the post-Vatican II firebombing she received at the hands of the liberal Modernist dissenters.

The latter foam at the mouth like the rabid dying animals that they are. Meanwhile, the Church has gradually moved from the appearance of being on life support to showing definite evidences of a renewal of life. She is moving from the dearth of winter to a New Springtime of Evangelization. In the end, the vision of Pope John Paul II, the long view of history approach that so many people (including this writer) ignorantly mocked, is slowly but surely being vindicated. And may Fr. Ripperger eventually learn to apply the kinds of distinctions in his outlook that are necessary to properly comprehend these issues - some examples of which are dealt with in this examination of his essay on "extrinsic tradition".

Dedicated to Richard Dunn McElhinney: my father and close friend. (3/04/41-6/12/01).

Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord and may perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace... May his soul and all the souls of the faithfully departed, through the Mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.



[1] Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone: "CDF Doctrinal Commentary on the Professio Fidei" (c. 1998)

[2] John T. Noonan, Jr.: "Contraception" pg. 48 (c. 1966)

[3] Jerome: "Against Jovinianus" — Book I, Ch. 14-15 (c. 393 AD)

[4] Council of Trent Session XXI: Chapter II (c. 1562).

[5] Catechism of the Catholic Church §83 (c. 1993)

[6] Baltimore Catechism: Question 126 (c. 1884)

[7] Pope John XXIII: Opening Allocution to the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council (October 12, 1962)

[8] Stephen Hand: "Traditionalists, Tradition, And Private Judgement" (c. 2000)

[9] I. Shawn McElhinney: "A Prescription Against 'Traditionalism'" (c. 2000)

[10] Pope Pius XII: Encyclical Letter "Ad Apostolorum Principis" §43 (June 29, 1958).

[11] Dr. Art Sippo: Excerpt from "Detection and Overthrow of the 'Traditional Catholics' Falsely So-Called" (c. 2000). (This quote comprises part of his Prefatory comments to Part IV of that project.)

[12] Pope St. Pius X: Encyclical Letter "Pascendi Dominici Gregis" §7 (c. 1907)

[13] Pope St. Pius X: Encyclical Letter "Pascendi Dominici Gregis" §10 (c. 1907)

[14] Pope St. Pius X: Encyclical Letter "Pascendi Dominici Gregis" §13 (c. 1907)

[15] The Catholic Encyclopedia: From the article "Immanence" (c. 1913)

[16] The Catholic Encyclopedia: From the article "Immanence" (c. 1913)

[17] Fr. Melvin L. Farrell: "Theology for Parents and Teachers", pgs. 32, 34 (c. 1972)

[18] Dr. Art Sippo: Excerpt from his debate with Adam Kolasinsi on Vatican II as cited in the author’s work A Prescription Against 'Traditionalism' (c. 2000)

[19] Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger: "The Ratzinger Report" pg. 28 (c. 1985)

[20] I. Shawn McElhinney: "A Prescription Against 'Traditionalism'" (c. 2000)

[21] Treaty Of Brest Document: "Articles Concerning Union With The Roman Church" (c. 1595)

[22] Ven. John Henry Cardinal Newman: "Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine" pg. 15 (c. 1845)

[23] The Catholic Encyclopedia: From the article "Filioque" (c. 1913)

[24] Dr. Art Sippo: Excerpt from "Detection and Overthrow of the ‘Traditional Catholics’ Falsely So-Called" (c. 2000). This quote comprises part of his Prefatory comments to Part IV of that project.

[25] Very Rev. Fr. Anthony Fisher OP: From his essay "Lefebverism: Jansenism Revisited?" (c. 1999)

[26] The Catholic Encyclopedia: From the article "Sacraments" (c. 1913)

Other Notes:

The author's essay "Confusing Culture With ‘Tradition’" can be read at the following link: http://matt1618.freeyellow.com/stickler.html

The citation from Cardinal Ratzinger and Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone's "CDF Doctrinal Commentary on the Professio Fidei" was obtained at the following link: http://www.geocities.com/romcath1/dogmaAAA.html

The citation from John T. Noonan was received courtesy of the authors friend Bill Bannon. The work referenced was John T. Noonan, Jr.'s book "Contraception" (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1966)

The citation from Jerome’s work "Against Jovinianus" was obtained at the following link: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/30091.htm

The citation from the Council of Trent Session XXI was obtained at the following link: http://history.hanover.edu/early/trent/ct21.htm

The citation from the Catechism of the Catholic Church was obtained at the following link:

The citation from the Baltimore Catechism was obtained at the following link:

The citation from Pope John XXIII's Opening Allocution to the Second Vatican Council were obtained at the
following link: http://www.rc.net/rcchurch/vatican2/j23open.txt

The citation from from Stephen Hand’s monograph "Traditionalists, Tradition, And Private Judgement" was obtained at the following link: http://www.thewandererpress.com/u1.html

The citations from the author's treatise "A Prescription Against 'Traditionalism'" were obtained at the following link: http://matt1618.freeyellow.com/shawn.html

The citation from Pope Pius XII's Encyclical Letter "Ad Apostolorum Principis" was obtained at the following link:

The citations from the treatise "Detection and Overthrow of the ‘Traditional Catholics’ Falsely So-Called" were obtained at the following link: http://matt1618.freeyellow.com/detection.html

The citations from Pope St. Pius X’s Encyclical Letter "Pascendi Dominici Gregis" were obtained at the following link: http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Pius10/p10pasce.htm

The citations from the Catholic Encyclopedia (1913) article "Immanence" were obtained at the following link: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07682a.htm

The citation from Fr. Melvin L. Farrell was taken from his book "Theology for Parents and Teachers", pgs. 32 and 34, HI-Time Publishers (c. 1972)

The citation from Cardinal Ratzinger was taken from "The Ratzinger Report: An Exclusive Interview on the State of the Church" by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (translated by Vittorio Messori); Ignatius Press, San Francisco, (c. 1985)

The citation from the "Treaty of Brest" was taken from EWTN’s Document Library and is located at the following link: http://www.ewtn.com/library/COUNCILS/TREATBR.HTM

The citation from Ven. John H. Newman’s writing "An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine" was obtained at the following link: http://www.newmanreader.org/works/development/index.html

The citation from the Catholic Encyclopedia (1913) article "Filioque" was obtained at the following link: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06073a.htm

The citation from Very Rev. Fr. Anthony Fisher's essay "Lefebverism: Jansenism Revisited?" was obtained at the following link: http://home.earthlink.net/~grossklas/lefebvrism-jansenism.htm

The citation from from the Catholic Encyclopedia (1913) article "Sacraments" was obtained at the following link: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13295a.htm

Fr. Ripperger’s article is located at the following link:


©2001, "Distinctions of Outlook", written by I. Shawn McElhinney. This text may be downloaded or printed out for private reading, but it may not be uploaded to another Internet site or published, electronically or otherwise, without express written permission from the author.

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