Skip to comments.The Shadow Tradition - Magisterium vs Murk
Posted on 03/08/2006 8:10:45 AM PST by NYer
I interact with a wide variety of Catholics in my line of work, and, sad to say, not all of them are cheering representatives of the Faith. Old Sin Is Not Apostolic Tradition Magisterium vs. Murk
Recently, I ran across (not for the first time, sadly) a fellow who was pining for the "good old days" of casual anti-semitism. He was a hard-bitten, reactionary fellow of the type that, in fact, despises where the Tradition has developed to, despises the teaching of Vatican II and despises every Pope since Pius XII, (especially John Paul II). He wants whatever is old, merely because it is old. And so, for this guy, it is axiomatic that, since a lot of Catholics were, in days gone by, hostile to Jews, why then that must be part of "Tradition." John Paul's (and Benedict's) beautiful gestures of love to the Jewish people (such as, for instance, John Paul's visit to the Synagogue at Rome and to Israel and Yad Vashem) were, for this guy, a "betrayal of the Tradition."
Now, what interested me about this fellow was that he voiced an idea that many people share: the notion that anything old in the Church must, ipso facto, be part of the Tradition. But is this really so?
After all, one of the oldest things in the Church is sin. We all do it and we all go to confession for it. Does it therefore follow that sin is "part of the Tradition" and something to be treasured and preserved? Obviously not. So there are old things in the Church which are not necessarily a part of the Church. In short, we can speak of a sort of "shadow tradition" which is always present alongside authentic tradition.
Does this sound mysterious? It should. But it is a mystery already spoken of in the New Testament. St. Paul, for instance, tells us that the mystery of evil was already present and at work even in his day (2 Thes 2:7). It remains a constant fact throughout the history of the Church and, because it is constant and very old, guys like my reactionary acquaintance can often think that it is the same thing as the Tradition.
The difficulty with the shadow tradition, like all evil, is that it is, as Lady Macbeth says of hell, murky. Evil doesn't show itself clearly. It prefers darkness, obscurity, ambiguity, fuzz, blur. Now and then, we can catch a glimpse of it, briefly. Now and then, as in a lightning flash, we see evil in almost chemical purity: in an airliner smashing into the World Trade Center, in a heap of bodies stacked like cordwood at Dachau, in a child dismembered on an abortionist's table. But typically, evil knows how to duck behind the legitimate moral ambiguities of life. And so the abortionist appeals to the Tradition's respect for choice, the Jihadist to the need for "tolerance" of his viewpoint, and the Jew-hater to a need to honor "Tradition." Attempts to oppose the evil can then quickly be cast as attempts to oppose the good thing the evil hides behind. Things can get muddled very quickly.
That, among other things, is why a Magisterium is necessary to, from time to time, distinguish that shadow tradition from the Tradition. For every now and then, someone gets the bright idea of asserting that the shadow tradition is the same thing as the Tradition. It happened in the fourth century when Arius said that Jesus, being the Son (and therefore not the Father, which is a legitimate part of the Tradition) was therefore, not God (which is not part of the Tradition). Similarly, the Church's teaching that the covenant is no longer limited merely to Israel is a part of the Tradition, but rejection of and malice toward Jews is a long-standing manifestation of the shadow tradition.
Why does all this stuff matter? It matters because those of us who style ourselves "conservative" Catholics (and that would include me) should take my reactionary friend's fond nostalgia for the "good old days" as a cautionary tale lest, in claiming to defend Tradition, we find ourselves merely engaging in the worship of old sin and error and opposing Holy Church. The mere fact that something has been present in the life of the Church a long time does not necessarily make it Apostolic Tradition. Anti-semitism, though it has long been practiced by Christians of many stripes, including Catholics, is not intrinsic to the Tradition, as the Second Vatican Council makes clear in Nostra Aetate. Now my more-Catholic-than-the-pope acquaintance is left in the last place he ever thought he'd be: dissenting from Holy Church simply because he confused his reactionary ideology with orthodoxy and mistook the shadow tradition for the Tradition. Orthodoxy is co-terminous with neither conservatism or liberalism. These ideologies are the work of fallen man and share in his fallenness. Only the revelation of Christ through the teaching office of Holy Church is a sure guide.
Old Sin Is Not Apostolic Tradition
Magisterium vs. Murk
We've all met these piners.
While I have met a few Catholics who pine for Tradition circa pre-VaticanII, I have yet to run into the anti-Semitic version personally. I hear a Lot about them, though.
I was not aware of this. It is not what I was taught, in fact I was taught that the Jews were the "chosen people". From that I concluded that God has a special love for them.
I've yet to meet these Catholics. I have, however, met non-Catholic Christians of this mind set. And I still don't get it, if you read the Bible, you know Jews were the chosen people.
In my experience, use of the word "reactionary" as though it were a legitimate concept is a huge red flag.
I'm prone to regard this as an attempt to associate love of tradition with anti-semitism.
This man is certainly entitled to his humble opinion, or rather, make that his proud opinion. I thinks he's as wrong as cornflakes on mashed potatoes. See how he introduces his antitheses: "a hard-bitten, reactionary fellow of the type..." and we all know we don't like that kind of fellow! Then he gets into laughable examples suggesting "beautiful gestures of love to the Jewish people" are only of recent origin. They are not, they are as old as the Church (as expressed by "love your neighbor").
Then to understand his truly twisted logic, here's his next example: "one of the oldest things in the Church is sin." Has anyone ever claimed sin to be Sacred Tradition? Of course not, but if you haven't been paying attention he's dragging you by the hair in the direction he wishes to take you.
"Anti-semitism, though it has long been practiced by Christians of many stripes, including Catholics, is not intrinsic to the Tradition, as the Second Vatican Council makes clear in Nostra Aetate." No sir, that was clear well before V2.
Do you see the unspoken point he's making? Anyone who does not accept modernism (such as Pope Saint Pius X warned) is opposed to the Church. "Now my more-Catholic-than-the-pope acquaintance is left in the last place he ever thought he'd be: dissenting from Holy Church simply because he confused his reactionary ideology with orthodoxy and mistook the shadow tradition for the Tradition."
CANON 67 The more the Christians are restrained from the practice of usury, the more are they oppressed in this matter by the treachery of the Jews, so that in a short time they exhaust the resources of the Christians. Wishing, therefore, in this matter to protect the Christians against cruel oppression by the Jews, we ordain in this decree that if in the future under any pretext Jews extort from Christians oppressive and immoderate interest, the partnership of the Christians shall be denied them till they have made suitable satisfaction for their excesses.
CANON 68 In some provinces a difference in dress distinguishes the Jews or Saracens from the Christians, but in certain others such a confusion has grown up that they cannot be distinguished by any difference. Thus it happens at times that through error Christians have relations with the women of Jews or Saracens, and Jews and Saracens with Christian women. Therefore, that they may not, under pretext of error of this sort, excuse themselves in the future for the excesses of such prohibited intercourse, we decree that such Jews and Saracens of both sexes in every Christian province and at all times shall be marked off in the eyes of the public from other peoples through the character of their dress. Particularly, since it may be read in the writings of Moses [Numbers 15:37-41], that this very law has been enjoined upon them.
Moreover, during the last three days before Easter and especially on Good Friday, they shall not go forth in public at all, for the reason that some of them on these very days, as we hear, do not blush to go forth better dressed and are not afraid to mock the Christians who maintain the memory of the most holy Passion by wearing signs of mourning.
CANON 69 Since it is absurd that a blasphemer of Christ exercise authority over Christians, we on account of the boldness of transgressors renew in this general council what the Synod of Toledo (589) wisely enacted in this matter, prohibiting Jews from being given preference in the matter of public offices, since in such capacity they are most troublesome to the Christians. But if anyone should commit such an office to them, let him, after previous warning, be restrained by such punishment as seems proper by the provincial synod which we command to be celebrated every year. The official, however, shall be denied the commercial and other intercourse of the Christians, till in the judgment of the bishop all that he acquired from the Christians from the time he assumed office be restored for the needs of the Christian poor, and the office that he irreverently assumed let him lose with shame. The same we extend also to pagans.
They are represented by a publication called "The Remnant" which seems like it's 'Traditional' but is really almost subversively 'murky-traditional'. They have printed some anti-Jewish (cabal conspiracy theory, Jews taking over the world stuff) that is uncharitable at best. At first it seemed like a nice advocate for the Old Mass, etc, but I finally had to cancel my subscribtion when I realized how reactionary and paranoid their position really is. It uses just the same sort of logic that this article indicates some individuals still fall prey to.
I kind of got the same impression.