In today's climate within the Catholic Church, traditionalism is usually defined by one's preference of the Mass. If one prefers the Latin Mass to the Novus Ordo, one is usually labeled as a "traditional" Catholic. This label is also applied to those who are sympathetic to SSPX circles or groups of Catholics who may show concern for the climate of the Church since Vatican II. This label however is not a suitable to define what a "traditional" Catholic is. A traditional Catholic, if the term is going to be used is not someone who merely goes to the Latin Mass, it is one who actually thinks and acts with a Catholic mindset. One can go to the Latin Mass and still think with a modernist, Americanist, revolutionist mentality and completely miss the boat when it comes to orthodox Catholicism.
In the past one was simply defined as a faithful Catholic, which is one who was faithful to the Magisterium of the Church in its entirety. Everyone else was considered to be heterodox. Today however as the theological water has become muddied by many in the Church including the hierarchy, we have many Catholics today ignorantly calling themselves faithful Catholics who are not. We have a new category of those in the Church who follow most of what the Church teaches, but have no idea as to why they follow them. These are being defined as Neo-Catholics. Unfortunately many of these people are in teaching positions in the Church, when they should really be learning the faith themselves. In other words, they give lip service to the teachings of the Church, yet they do their own thing when it comes to theology. They do so even if it means that taking their theological positions to their logical conclusions would end up contradicting the teaching of the Church. They perform mental gymnastics to get around their convoluted theology. In some instances they even contradict Church teaching by upholding modern philosophical principles which have been condemned in the past by the Church.
Although there are many examples I could use, I will use one to make my point. Today most Catholics are confused as to what the Church actually teaches on the capital punishment issue. Most Catholics when asked about the subject think the Church has officially condemned the use of the death penalty, yet they have no sound argument to substantiate their claim. They will pull a JPII quote out of an encyclical and that is about the extent of their argument. Those who actually go further to present an actual argument, do so by redefining what punishment is. There are even some who would argue that we can no longer "punish" anyone because it is uncharitable. To a modernist, definitions mean nothing, they can simply be bent to fit into ones own ideology.
A traditional Catholic would start his argument on capital punishment by actually defining what punishment is, and then take the issue of capital punishment and plug it into the definition to see if it held up to scrutiny. For one, punishment is always defined as a redressing of a past injustice committed against someone. This means that it actually looks back at the crime committed before even thinking about the possibility of a future crimes. Punishment deems to use retribution to restore the moral order that has been disrupted by the injustice. It also seeks to inflict some sort of penance on the criminal to make reparation for the injustice, and after this is done if possible seeks to reform the unjust aggressor so the crime will be discouraged in the future. Does anyone remember what prisons were called in the past? Anyone remember the word penitentiary? Guess where that word comes from? There is also a level of authority when it comes to who can punish, which generally falls to the authority of the state who has competence over such matters. This is not left to individuals who carry out their own form of vigilante justice. That is another matter I do not have the time to get into here. I have discussed the death penalty in more detail on past articles.
Those Catholics today who are arguing against the abolition of the death penalty in the US for example, are doing so by removing the retributive aspect of punishment and are replacing it with future prevention of the unjust aggressor committing the crime again in the future. This however completely redefines the nature of punishment, which cannot be done. Punishment can never be looking only to the future possibility of the crime being committed again. The principle of redressing the crime which happened in the past cannot be done away with. It must be addressed and if punishment is to remain intact as defined objectively, one could never argue that keeping the criminal from committing the crime again would be enough to restore the moral order and exact a penance from the criminal. So when it comes to capital punishment, the unjust aggressor has committed such a heinous crime that the only way to redress the moral order and exact an appropriate penance to make reparation for the crime is to call for the penalty of their life.
For example, if a serial killer was convicted of murdering and raping 15 people, keeping them in prison would probably not be enough to make retribution for their crimes. The state would most likely want to redress the moral order by taking the criminals life. Obviously individual cases would have to examined to determine culpability, etc. But all things being equal, a list of crimes like this would exceed normal forms of punishment such as taking away individual freedoms, incarceration or probationary action. The punishment should ideally fit the crime. A kid stealing a sucker might get a slap on the bottom and be grounded for a month, while a convicted serial killer would deserve far more penance. If one could murder 12 people and only serve a few years in prison this would certainly rent asunder the moral order of a society. Even a life sentence may do so, and that is the state's right and obligation to determine such things. No one has the right to take away the state's obligation and duty of dealing out proper punishment. This could only happen if the government was illegitimate and incapable of carrying out a just punishment.
In the current climate of today's judicial system one could never make a rational argument that a criminal could make reparation and redress the moral order for every type of crime no matter how heinous, with only a predetermined time of incarceration. It is a wonder to one's eyes on what grounds many of the bishops are calling for the abolishment of capital punishment. Many have actually said that it is against human dignity! Any thinking man should see that this can never be the case otherwise the act itself would be an intrinsic evil, which it is clearly not. Many are now saying that it is not consistent with a pro-life position to be pro-capital punishment and against abortion. This foolish claim is absurd. This idea springs from the erroneous "seamless garment" theory that has been peddled for the past 40 years or so. I have written on that issue some years ago.
The problem with the state of the Church today is that many in the Church are not thinking like Catholics, they are thinking like revolutionary radicals. They are Americanists first and Catholics second. If I could have a nickle for every Catholic who has hailed the Americanist democracy as the greatest thing since sliced bread I would not have to go to work on Monday. It is astounding! Dr. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira wrote a book that all Catholics should read. It is called, 'Revolution, and Counter-Revolution.' I recommend ordering it, or reading it online. In the end you are either a traditional minded Catholic who loathes the revolutionary mindset or you are a revolutionary who is opposed to the Catholic mindset. The battle lines have been drawn, and whether you realize it or not, you are on one side or the other.
Excerpt from 'Revolution and Counter-Revolution'
1. The Counter-Revolution Is Traditionalist
As we have seen, the Counter-Revolution is an effort developed in terms of the Revolution. The Revolution constantly turns against a whole legacy of Christian institutions, doctrines, customs, and ways of being, feeling, and thinking that we received from our forefathers and that are not yet completely abolished. The Counter-Revolution is therefore the defender of Christian traditions.
B. The Smoking Wick
The Revolution attacks Christian civilization in a manner that is more or less like that of a certain tree of the Brazilian forest. This tree, the strangler fig Urostigma olearia, by wrapping itself around the trunk of another tree, completely covers it and kills it. In its "moderate" and low-velocity currents, the Revolution approached Christian civilization in order to wrap itself around it and kill it. We are in a period in which this strange phenomenon of destruction is still incomplete. In other words, we are in a hybrid situation wherein what we would almost call the mortal remains of Christian civilization, and the aroma and remote action of many traditions only recently abolished yet still somehow alive in the memory of man, coexist with many revolutionary institutions and customs.
Faced with the struggle between a splendid Christian tradition in which life still stirs and a revolutionary action inspired by the mania for novelties to which Leo XIII referred in the opening words to the encyclical Rerum Novarum, it is only natural that the true counter-revolutionary be a born defender of the treasury of good traditions, for these are the values of the Christian past that remain and must be saved. In this sense, the counter-revolutionary acts like Our Lord, Who did not come to extinguish the smoking wick nor to break the bruised reed. Therefore, he must lovingly try to save all these Christian traditions. A counter-revolutionary action is, essentially, a traditionalist action.
C. False Traditionalism
The traditionalist spirit of the Counter-Revolution has nothing in common with a false and narrow traditionalism, which conserves certain rites, styles, or customs merely out of love for old forms and without any appreciation for the doctrine that gave rise to them. This would be archaeologism, not a sound and living traditionalism.