The Common Origin of the Rad-Trad, Liturgico-Liberal...

Let me begin by defining my terms. I am not here speaking of what we in world of popular Catholic culture generally refer to as a Rad-Trad. I am speaking of a very specific type of Radical-Traditionalist, namely with regard to liturgical norms. There is a pious, and maybe over-pious, type that, though confessing the validity of the Ordinary Form (OForm) of the Mass, will practice gestures and postures of the Extraordinary Form (ExForm) in place of the legitimately determined norms - which carry the weight of law - for the OForm. For example, the OForm calls us to make a bow of the body (a profound or deep bow) during the recitation of the Credo at the words, "and by the Holy Spirit...and became man," but in spite of this norm, the Rad-Trad will genuflect or kneel as is common in the ExForm. As a side note, let me mention two things. First, the Church has maintained the tradition of genuflecting at these words on two solemn occasions, the Solemnities of the Nativity and Annunciation. Secondly, the reason behind this change was to elevate the expression on these two solemnities and not to lessen the expression at every other Mass at which the Credo is recited.

On the other hand, the type of person I have referred to as the Liturgico-Liberal (Lit-Lib), is one who espouses a form of worship that views adherence to the norms as a rigoristic false-piety. The Lit-Lib believes that true worship springs forth from the heart and in as much as this is the case it does not make much of a difference what form of expression it takes, since of course, each heart is unique. Ergo, an anything goes type of mentality is adopted so long as this sort of individual expression does not impede the worship of others trying to worship, to a degree. So, according to the same example, the Lit-Lib will avoid bowing, may only bow the head, or who knows, may even jump up and down at that part of the Credo.

Searching for a Common Origin

Already, a sort of commonality should be manifesting itself, namely a certain disregard for the norms of Mass. The problem in saying that this disregard is the common origin, however, is that there are two very different ideologies set forth as the reason for this disregard. Interestingly, these two radically different ideologies have a common origin. In fact, these two ideologies share a common origin with the entirety of Protestantism, which may sound shocking or unfounded, but I hope to make clear my point.

The Protestant Reformation takes as a preeminent principle the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. Catholics, on the other hand, rely on three integral principles, namely Apostolic Scripture, Apostolic Tradition, and Apostolic Magisterium. Because of Protestantism's wholesale rejection of Sacred Tradition and the teaching authority of the Magisterium, Protestantism had to adopt a new doctrine of interpretation.

In terms of theology, Scripture functions as the material principle for both Protestantism and Catholicism. In Catholicism, however, two additional principles exist, one being material and the other formal. The Magisterium, functioning as the formal principle, prevents misinterpretation of Scripture and Tradition, and it gives the deposit of faith, which is made up of the sum total of truths contained in Scripture and Tradition, its proper and definitive form.

Protestantism had to reject the Magisterium, on the grounds that the Magisterium and Tradition disagreed with the doctrines proposed by the Reformation. Thus, Protestantism was left without a formal principle by which Scripture was to be formulated into definitive doctrines. In order to fill the vacuum left by the absence of a formal principle the principle of private judgment was implicitly adopted. This means that every believer has the absolute authority to interpret scripture without recourse to the historically legitimized authority and the one laid down by scripture itself.

The Principle of Private Judgment

This individualistic principle became a cultural norm and the impetus behind the unbridled division of Christianity into so many Christian denominations (over 33,000).  Without a formal principle behind the  unformulated truths of Scripture, a multitude of interpretations erupted and caused division among ecclesial communities.

As a cultural norm, however, the disregard for authority in favor of private judgment has led to a widespread attitude of dissent that perfuses society. Now, I am not saying that the Protestant Reformation is the origin of Rad-Trad or Lit-Libs. What I am saying is that the principle of private judgment as having absolute authority is the origin of both the Rad-Trad and Lit-Lib mentalities, even if the absolute authority only pertains to communal worship.

The principle of private judgment has a place in Catholic theology. On matters lacking authoritative definitions and formulations our own private judgment is respected. We rely on well established dogmas and doctrines, however, as having a superior authority to our own private judgment.

The question we face is whose judgment is authoritative in matters liturgical. Both Rad-Trads and Lit-Libs implicitly resort to the principle of private judgment on these matters. In doing so, prayer en règle is regarded as either insufficient in light of the greater tradition or lacking 'heart.' In effect, the authority of the Church has been supplanted by authority of the individual, who determines what the Liturgy should be. So, the principle of private judgment can ultimately be determined to be the point of origin for both the Rad-Trad and Lit-Lib.

In reality, the Church does have the authority to shape and reshape the liturgy. She has always done so, however, organically and in light of Her tradition. Only by attempting to submit ourselves to the authority of the Church in liturgical matters can we avoid the pitfalls of error. Educating ourselves about what the Church teaches on these matters and assimilating them into our own lives can only strengthen our prayer lives.

In Medio Stat Virtus

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