Sunday, February 15, 2009

Love Talks with Better Knowledge

I try not to think of the Catholic traditionalists (who are not traditional) very often, because they are such a depressing bunch of post-Christian Christians. But I often get drawn into indirect contact with them in the form of a phone call or letter from an old acquaintance still connected to the movement. This last time, however, it was a front page article in the local newspaper that brought back all my old memories of the ‘trads.’ (1)

The article reported that a local traditionalist group was alleged to be involved in financial chicanery and unspeakable sexual practices. I believe the accusations because I know the trads, but accusations are not proof. One should shun the trads because of their anti-Christian theology, not because of unproven accusations about their sex lives.

And the essence of trad ideology, whether it be that of Lefebvre, the Fraternity of St. Peter, the Society of St. John, or Mr. Independent Trad, consists of the elevation of human reason to a pinnacle above revelation and the elimination of the humanity of Christ.

When Uncle Andrew, the evil magician in C. S. Lewis’s The Magician’s Nephew, dreams of remaking Narnia over in his own image, he knows there is only one obstacle in his way: Aslan, the Christ Figure. “The first thing is to get that brute shot.”

“To get that brute shot”: that is the essence of traditionalism. Christ is the brute who stands in the way of the rule of the magicians. And that is all religion means to the traditionalists: “Who shall be master?”

Traditionalism, like modern, Novus Ordo Catholicism, is not based on Christianity but on modern Gnosticism wherein technique replaces religious faith.

The Dutch fairy tale, “The Two Wishes,” retold with slight variations in other European fairy tales, illustrates the traditionalist heresy quite well.

In the tale, Saint Peter comes back to earth to take a walk among the Dutch villages and see how the “people are faring.” On this particular Christmas Eve night, St. Peter knocks at the door of a prosperous-looking house. A middle-aged woman opens the door and quickly slams it again in St. Peter’s face.

“Beggars! I’m tired of answering the door to beggars!”

St. Peter trudges on through the snow until he finds a humbler thatched cottage. A bent little woman answers the door.
“Good woman—“ Saint Peter began.

Before he could go on, she cried, “Oh, you poor soul! Your shoes are wet and there’s snow on your shoulders. You must be cold to the bone. Come in! I’ve a bit of a peat fire, and a pot of broth—not much to offer you on a night like this, but you’re welcome to what I have.”

Saint Peter went into the small room where a meager fire burned on the hearth. But it was warm and pleasant, and the little old woman bustled about her kitchen, pouring the broth into an earthen bowl, cutting a slice from a homemade loaf, and bringing a pair of old slippers for Saint Peter to put on while she dried his shoes beside the fire.

After a while, he got up to go, but she said warmly, “Oh, no, you can’t go out in this weather! Wait till morning—perhaps the snow will have stopped by then, and the sun will warm you. My son is away; you can have his bed. Come, I’ll light the way.”

Saint Peter could not persuade her to let him go on. She saw to it that he was comfortable, and then went to put more peats on the fire.

In the morning she gave him breakfast, and before he left her he said, “You have been very good to me and made me welcome. I cannot repay you, but I can grant you a wish.”

“Oh, sir!” she cried.

But he held up his hand. “Do not make your wish now. Think about it a while, and when you have a good wish, say it aloud, and it shall be granted.”

With that he was gone, and the poor woman spent half the morning trying to think about what she would wish for. Then her eyes fell on the big, old-fashioned loom in the corner of the room. Her husband, who was dead, had been a weaver, and there was still a piece of unfinished cloth on the loom, just as he had left it.

“I ought to measure that cloth,” she thought. “I wish I knew how much there is.” Then she stood still. There was her wish. She said aloud, “May the work I begin tomorrow morning continue all day.”

Next morning she began to measure the cloth. When she had twelve yards, she cut it off and rolled it up neatly. Then she saw that the pattern had changed, and the colors were different. She measured that, and there was another twelve yards. She cut it off and rolled it up neatly and set it beside the first roll. She measured and measured—every twelve yards there was a different texture, a different pattern, a different color. The rolls grew and grew. She stacked them along the wall and then in piles on the floor.

The neighbors who came to see what she was doing could hardly get the door open. All day she measured and measured, and the cloth continued to roll from the loom. By nightfall the cottage was so full that she could scarcely get from the loom to the stove. There was enough cloth to last a lifetime. There was enough to sell in all the neighboring villages and towns. She would never want for money the rest of her life.
When the cranky rich woman hears about the good fortune of the poor widow, she is envious. She waits till the next Christmas Eve, determined that this time St. Peter will get a different reception from her.
It was Christmas Eve again when he returned. The moment she heard a knock that snowy evening the woman was sure it was the stranger. She flung open the door before he could do more than knock once.

“Come in, come in!” she cried. Her house was swept and garnished and polished. A delicious meal was cooking on the stove. “It’s a bad night to be out. You must rest before the fire, and have supper with us... This is my husband. See, he will take your cloak and dry it. Dirk, get some more fuel for the fire, and set another place at the table, and see that the big bed in the guest room is warmed.”

Saint Peter said he really could not stay. “I only stopped to ask my way,” he said.

But she would not hear of his leaving. “In the morning will be time enough. It’s dark; you would not be able to see the path. Supper is ready, and it’s a cold night.”

So Saint Peter stayed, and the next morning he thanked her. “I cannot pay you,” he said, “but whatever you do first tomorrow will last all day.”

The woman fairly danced with joy. She ran back into the house. “He said that whatever I do first tomorrow will last all day! This is what I hoped for! Oh, that foolish widow—measuring cloth! I will count money. There will be so much money before the end of the day that we shall be rich forevermore! First, though, I must make bags to put it in. If I get up right after midnight to make the bags I can begin counting my money by daybreak.”

She could hardly sleep for excitement. As soon as the clock struck midnight she leaped out of bed and put on her clothes and grabbed her scissors. She would have to work fast to make enough bags to hold all the money she intended to count.

As soon as she had cut up some old material she began on another piece, and when she had enough pieces she decided to sew them up at once. But, oddly enough, she couldn’t stop cutting! She took the sheets off the bed and cut them up, and the curtains from the windows. Her husband hurried out, “Woman, have you gone crazy?”

“I can’t stop,” she answered him. “I can’t keep these scissors from cutting!”

She cut up the bedspreads and the rugs and the tablecloths. She cut up her petticoats. Then she took her husband’s suits, one by one, and cut those to pieces. The poor man ran about, begging her to stop, but nothing could stop her. She snipped off her bonnet strings and then cut up the bonnet itself. She opened her wardrobe and cut up all her dresses. The napkins went next, and the towels, and the aprons, and the downstairs curtains. She wept in anger; her husband was bellowing in rage. But all day long, as long as there was anything to cut, she cut it up.

“Now I know what that stranger meant!” he shouted at her. “The first thing you did today—and you, you stupid, began the minute after midnight!”
Of course the moral here—the moral of many great fairy tales—is that the inmost heart, not the outward show, is what counts. One cannot substitute technique and intellectual acumen for the virtues of the heart.

To those who have become used to dueling-documents apologetics, it seems frivolous to bring fairy tales into a religious debate. But the European fairy tales represent the wisdom of our race. If the inner logic of the traditionalist movement goes against that wisdom, can the movement really be traditional?

The great deceit of traditionalist priests is that they outwardly try to appear anti-modern yet continue to infect their parishioners with the modernist mindset necessary for their successful triumph. They must inject into their adherents the Uncle Andrew virus: “The first thing is to get that brute shot.” All neophytes must empty themselves of all humanity and learn to look on God as devoid of all humanity as well. At that point, they will be ready to receive the true wisdom from the traditionalist gurus.

The true test comes when the trads speak of Him, the great lover, as the great hater—of the marriage bond, of the possibility of the salvation of more than a few, of all things human. If the neophyte swallows this he is no longer a neophyte but a traditionalist.

The great folklorist, William Shakespeare, speaks to the traditionalists in Measure for Measure. In the play, the Duke, in disguise, listens to the rogue, Lucio, defame him.
Who, not the duke? yes, your beggar of fifty; and
his use was to put a ducat in her clack-dish: the
duke had crotchets in him. He would be drunk too;
that let me inform you.

You do him wrong, surely.

Sir, I was an inward of his. A shy fellow was the
duke: and I believe I know the cause of his

What, I prithee, might be the cause?

No, pardon; 'tis a secret must be locked within the
teeth and the lips: but this I can let you
understand, the greater file of the subject held the
duke to be wise.

Wise! why, no question but he was.

A very superficial, ignorant, unweighing fellow.

Either this is the envy in you, folly, or mistaking:
the very stream of his life and the business he hath
helmed must upon a warranted need give him a better
proclamation. Let him be but testimonied in his own
bringings-forth, and he shall appear to the
envious a scholar, a statesman and a soldier.
Therefore you speak unskillfully: or if your
knowledge be more it is much darken’d in your malice.

Sir, I know him, and I love him.

Love talks with better knowledge, and knowledge with
dearer love.
Yes, no matter what traditional forms cloak traditionalism’s sinister doctrines, love talks with better knowledge and knowledge with dearer love. +

(1) When you make a mistake as big as I did, in becoming associated with the trad Catholics, it is quite easy to become a Montaigne skeptic: “Since I have been certain I was right in the past and then discovered I was wrong, I cannot be certain that any decision I make in the future is correct.” That type of reasoning is a satanic trap. The devil wants us to think we can never really know what is true and what is false.

But we can know; God has not left us bereft of guidance. Christ is at the center of our hearts. He is our touchstone of reality. I joined the traditionalists because of the liberalism of the Novus Ordo, not because I loved their church. When I saw how satanic the trads were and how they sneered at the Man of Sorrows, I left their church.

The answer to Vatican II liberalism is not traditionalism, nor, in my opinion, should we renounce all of Catholic history as un-Christian. In my heart I feel that the Catholic and Protestant churches are like a husband and wife who have separated but have not sought a divorce because they know in their hearts that they are mystically united. This is not the ecumenism of “You abandon your faith and I’ll abandon mine and then we can be united in our disbelief.” It is the ecumenism that says all things are possible for those who believe in the Lord. I have no faith in denominations, but every faith that the men and women who genuinely seek Him shall ultimately be united in Him.