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Thursday, May 19, 2005

If I had met more pleasant traditionalists earlier on, I'd probably be one by now.

Instead the first traditionalists I met were of the too-common internet variety I've come to call the "tradhole." First class sneering, merciless, triumphalist jackasses who gleefully informed me that I was a heretic a week after my confirmation in 1999. They were Feeneyites, you see. Ah, yes.

Not the best way to make a first impression.

In retrospect, they were typical Feeneyites--loud, insecure, and not nearly as bright (not even close) as they thought they were. But they made up for these deficiencies by going "hahahaha!" a lot and calling themselves "the Hammer" and "Heretic Crusher"--things like that.

It got to the point where I began to suspect they did actually wear homemade capes while web surfing for error to vanquish. Or at least adult-sized pajamas with the feet still in them.

It took me a long time to get past these first impressions. For about the first year after my conversion, I literally steered clear of any book with a pre-1965 publication date. Seriously. I sure didn't want to be anything like they were, and behaved accordingly. I remember passing on a cheap set of Fernand Prat's two-volume life of Christ--in the original slipcase no less--because the publication date was 1950.

[Sound of man kicking himself repeatedly.]

I've gotten past it, obviously. I even found another set of the Prat books. Without the slipcover, unfortunately. In retrospect, it was the discovery of decent traditionalists and traditionally minded Catholics that helped: people like Mark Sullivan, Shawn McIlhenney, Jeff Culbreath, Pete Vere, Hilary and Steve Skojec.

That, and discovering the profound beauty of Catholic Tradition and its impact on me, my wife and my children (more on that to come shortly).

But I'm still not there yet, and frankly don't know if I will be. The persistent problems are a few, but real. (1) Jew-baiting as a traditionalist pastime. Sorry. Not interested. Obviously, it doesn't apply to all, but there is a streak of Jew-bashing in traditional circles that is desperately in need of exorcism. (2) To say that the witness of too many traditional Catholics is dour and apocalyptic understates the case by several orders of magnitude. Not that I'm Mr. HappyPeppy Turn-That-Frown-Upside-Down myself, but Lord.(1)

Exhibit A: The Society of St. Pius I.

I'm sorry, but this is one of the more hilarious send-ups I've read. Moreover, it was written by two young traditionalists, to boot (scroll to the last link). It apes the hysteria of the fringe beautifully. Amy Welborn posted it. Quickly, the tut-tutting schoolmarms arrived, in full yardstick-wielding whiny splendor. "You wouldn't do this to Protestants."

Actually, I probably would. Gleefully. But that's not the point. The point is: It's a parody, for pete's sake! Get over yourself for thirty seconds and see that it's meant in fun--and not even directed at the average decent traditional Catholic. Not to mention far more gentle than the bile geysers you see from the far end.

Maybe more people would want to be traditionalists if they saw something of the joy of their faith shining forth. Including a willingness to chuckle at foibles.

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Footnote

(1) There are other substantive reasons I find myself in the no-man's land between "conservative" and "traditional" Catholicism, but I'll get into those another time. Maybe in the comments box, if you really want to know.

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