“It’s Crap,” says Mark Shea, and he rejects it. And so do I.

Mark Shea throws down the hammer on those who impugn Catholics (such as Karl Keating, myself, and others) as “Neo-Catholics,” pointing out that this epithet is simply a thought-stopping term used by some against those who, as Mark pegs it, are not “sufficiently bitter” toward Pope John Paul and Vatican II.

While Mark and I may disagree on a variety of issues, I think he’s right on target in his analysis of the connotations implicit in the snarky “neo-Catholic” put down. Frankly, his push-back on this particular issue is overdue, and I am happy to see it. Thanks, Mark. You said it better than I could have.

(See also my post on Catholic name-calling [with audio clip])

Sorry, but no deal. “Neo-Catholic” remains a swear word designed to impute the odor of heresy to faithful Catholics who are docile to the Church, to Vatican II, and to the papacy of JPII. To say that such people are not Catholic is a smear. And to say that calling them “Catholic” means that people with Traditionalist sensibilities are not Catholic is a lie. The Church is the home of many kinds of piety and many schools of opinion. Traditionalists are Catholic. So are people who think the Council was a good thing and JPII a good Pope. Indeed, sometimes those two classes of people overlap. All “neo-Catholic” does is provide Traditionalists who would like to reduce the Faith to their particular cultural obsessions with a tribal label designed to traduce the good faith of Catholics docile to the Church. It’s crap. And I reject it.


  1. Mary Rose

    Hmm. As someone who has returned to the Church (and consequently, found myself preferring a more traditional liturgy), I feel as though I've fallen into a field of landmines. It saddens me to see Catholics throw labels around because ultimately, each of us is responsible for the feeding and caring of our own soul. Although the feisty side of me is tempted to react when people misjudge me, I know that I am called to seek understanding and act lovingly.That was an eye-opening post by Mark Shea. Thanks for highlighting it on your blog.

  2. reddog

    How about progressives, can they be Catholics too?

  3. Jeff Miller

    Fr. O'Leary a preist in Japan use to troll commit boxes on blogs signing himself as "Spirit fo Vatican II"I was quite happy in one of his blog posts to be classed a Neo-Catholic along with Jimmy Akin, yourself and others.

  4. Nick

    What IS Catholic? How do you DEFINE Catholic? If Catholic is what you feel, taste, and smell, than Catholic is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.– Morpheus' Catholic twin in 'The Cathtrix'

  5. Just another mad Catholic

    PatrickAs a 'legal' traditioanlist (I attend an FSSP chapel) I would say that the reason most traditioanlists use the term neo-catholic is to describe people who they feel are seperated from the historical faith and have bought into the 'hermenutic of discontinuity', the feeling in the traditional community is also that supposed neo-catholics have a warped position of papal infalibility and defend every novelty imaginable e.g. alter girls even if they personally disagree with it , also remember that these people have in some cases suffered from decades of persecution by hetrodox bishops and priests who bought into every novelty and fad that jumped out of the woodwork after V2

  6. The Lady Dragon

    I don't know what a neo-catholic is. What I do know is that whether a person is a traditionalist or liberal, mainstream conservative or progressive, if they are not obedient to Rome they aren't Catholic in my opinion. Obedience to Christ's Vicar is for me the defining issue as to whether a person is Catholic.

  7. thetimman

    Patrick, I finally figured out how leave a comment, so I paraphrase my email:I agree with your essential point, and I wouldn't use the term neo-Catholic. But I have to say I have asked Mark on many, many occasions to stop using the "rad-trad" label as ubiquitously as he does, and he has always refused. It isn't enough to say that only "certain" trads are rad-trads; the entire labelling regime does a lot of harm. It is the flip side of saying that not all n.o.-ers are neo-caths. In short, it isn't helpful, it hurts feelings, confuses and obscures legitimate points of debate, is uncharitable, and ought to stop. I hope you might propose a general truce, as you have broad appeal to both sides. The not-well-kept secret is that most of us who would consider themselves now as traditional Catholics have benefitted from major conversion/reversion experiences through your efforts, or Catholic Answers, etc. Even those who think they are in different place now give credit for those who have helped lead them to Christ.

  8. LSFL

    Patrick,I love your blog, but come on. Come on. First, talk about the pot and the kettle – Mark Shea is one of the absolute worst for using the derisive "rad-trad" label.Second, people use labels because they are useful and efficient. Obviously they are not adequately descriptive for everyone to whom they are applied – they're generalizations. But to use the term traditionalist, which I would consider myself to be, is just as fair/unfair as to call someone a neo-Catholic. For instance, traditionalists don't all think VatII contained error, or go to the SSPX or, you know, write to one another using a fountain pen (exclusively in Latin) or any other such thing.Nevertheless, these labels are helpful to a certain extent and, if inadequate, are certainly not "crap." They are just as useful as "liberal" and "conservative," which, despite their occasional misapplications and over/underbreadth, help to convey information quickly. It would be ridiculous to argue that there is no difference of opinion along the spectrum of Karl Keating, Father Z, Archbishop Burke, and Archbishop Lefebvre. It would be just as ridiculous to break down every position they hold or action they have taken whenever we discuss them. So, we apply labels to their actions and the opinions they hold. Yes, we're all Catholic; yes, there are borderline cases; yes, there are overgeneralizations; yes, there are people on both sides who use the terms derisively as well as descriptively. None of these things mean that the term is not useful – only that some people don't want to be labeled. Oh well. It's still America (for a while), so we'll have to deal with it the best we can. Steve

  9. CathApol

    Catholics of all flavors need to be conscious of the potential scandal in attacking fellow professing Catholics in public. I believe some of the "Rad Trads" don't really care – thinking they are the only "true Catholics" – but those of us who ARE true Catholics must be careful not to cause even more scandal by making public accusations against other professing Catholics. "Rad Trads" may be "true Catholics themselves, just misguided by a zeal for tradition which overlooks the "novo cedat ritui" (they may recall singing this in Benediction). In their zeal – they may be causing even more harm to the Church, but we should not increase that harm in attacking them. Let us present the fullness of the truth as God continues to reveal through His Church. In JMJ,Scott<<<http://cathapol.blogspot.com

  10. Steve

    See the above post by CathApol for why this discussion is ridiculous. Labels are fine so long as you're not the one labeled. CathApol made sweeping generalizations about certain Catholics, dismissed their views by applying a clearly derisive label, and then topped it off with an entirely irrelevant quote from a traditional Latin hymn for good measure (What is the purpose of this quote? I'm sure you know to what this verse really refers).

  11. Patrick Madrid

    Steve, I am not clear what in that post you're referring to. Could you please be more specific? I looked but didn't see what you were pointing to.

  12. Steve

    I mean to say that he uses the term "Rad-trad" – why is this a label which is okay to use, as opposed to "neo-Catholic"? It is, to my mind, far more derisive. And it is used conveniently to dismiss a certain group of people with whom he disagrees – which is purportedly the gripe that Mr. Shea and, presumably CathApol, have with those who use the term "neo-Catholic."

  13. joan

    "May the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ preserve your soul unto life everlasting.Amen"This is what the priest prays before you receive Holy Communion.Isn't that beautiful?All the Saints worshipped with the Traditional Mass and many died for that Mass and Church.Steve is exactly correct…CathPol wrote:Rad Trads have misguided zeal and have done more harm to the Church……. Now THAT is alot of horse manure or rat/snake droppings. Sorry.Modernism is a sin….bigtime.To put down those who love Tradition is ignorant.

  14. CathApol

    Folks, I *am* a Traditionalist! I *support* the Traditional movement, and have since I converted to Catholicism back in 1988! Please don't misread me, I do NOT "put down those who love Tradition!" "Rad-Trads" are those who would throw out the baby with the bathwater, as if – if it is not in Latin, it's Modernism. Be real folks, there are some "Rad-Trads" out there who do indeed give the rest of us Traditionalists a black-eye. Now I, for one, would not shed a single tear if Pope Benedict XVI abrogated the New Order of the Mass (Novus Ordo Missae) and reverted the entire Latin Church back to the Traditional Latin Mass – but I am also not one who proclaims the Novus Ordo is invalid and/or that priests ordained after the Rite of Ordination changed (early 1970's? – I don't have the date handy) are not valid priests. There ARE those in the extreme of the Traditionalist movement who DO make these claims – and I have engaged and been summarily condemned by them because I have ANY tolerance for anything post Vatican II. I am of the mindset that IF there is ANY defects of the "novo cedat ritui" – that "praestet fides supplementum" (faith supplements). I threw in that piece from the Tantum Ergo, for those who have the English translation in their missals and/or hymnals – if you don't, here's that whole verse:Latin: Tantum ergo Sacramentum Venere mue cernuiEt anti quum documentum Novo cedat rituiPraestet fides supplementum Sensuum defectuiEnglish:Down in adoration falling, Lo! the Sacred Host we hail, Lo! o'er ancient forms departing, Newer rites of grace prevail: Faith for all defects supplying, Where the feeble senses fail. I hope that helps clear up what I was saying. As I said, I do not oppose Traditionalism. I support bringing more and more Latin back into the Mass – as Vatican II proclaimed as well, "the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites." I also participate more frequently in the extra-ordinary rite (as it is now called) than I do the novus ordo rite. In JMJ,Scott<<<CathApol Blog

  15. Tom

    What's been overdue is the a rejection of the bullying and condescension coming from the ranks of Mark Shea. By censoring arguments on his blog (such as the defense of Mother Angelica) he has done a good job of framing this debate as one between the intellectual convert and the sentimental cradle "rad trad." As the Bride of Christ has both the Truth and Beauty this is a false dichotomy. Both both sides have been guilty of forgetting that OUR Church is an institution founded by Christ for the Salvation of souls and NOT some movement we are to put our own individual stamp on. The pejorative Neo-Cath was first defined in The Great Facade and authors went to great lengths to say such people often had greater piety than self described trads. But at this point, I think the term is gratuitous. In the earliest months of the Benedictine papacy, I mused with a fellow cradle Catholic if what we might be witnessing was the beginning of the end of the Era of the Lay Catholic Apologist since Benedict seemed to be restoring a Catholic identity. The screams coming from some quarters indicate that we may have been on to something. I had resisted publishing anything on the topic because so many of my drinking buddies are converts but even they are finding all the conversion stories a little dull. Like our Holy Father (see Ratzinger Report) I never felt tempted by protestantism and at some point all of these stories from people who left those traditions sound as irrelevant to me as hearing a member of Courage describe how he broke from that perversion.

  16. Ken

    Mark Shea's entire online existence revolves around complaining about Catholics who attend the traditional Latin Mass.Yet when someone fights back he cries.Boo hoo hoo, Mark.

  17. Patrick Madrid

    Just to clarify, as a life-long Catholic, I personally LOVE the Traditional Latin Mass and try to attend it whenever the opportunity arises (there's a bit more on that in my bio..). I am not a party to any antagonism toward anyone because they, like I, love the Traditional Mass.My purpose in drawing attention to this particular comment of Mark's is that I believe he correctly identifies the problems surrounding mis-labeling certain Catholics as "neo-Catholics."

  18. CathApol

    Hi Patrick,I agree with you and the reasoning behind you posting Mark's comments. I apologize if by me not being clear in my intentions ended up stealing some of the focus/attention from your point. My intention was to say that attacking our brethren who profess to be Catholics is scandalous. If we have a disagreement with another professing Catholic, we should confront them in private first, then with a few others. If that does not suffice then we should seek out his/her bishop and then let him handle it from there. Our role in defending the Catholic Faith in the spirit of 1 Peter 3:15-17 is to present the truth to those around us. It is not our role to make public judgments about individuals. In JMJ,Scott<<<http://cathapol.blogspot.com

  19. Mark P. Shea

    Mark Shea's entire online existence revolves around complaining about Catholics who attend the traditional Latin Mass.False. You are either ignorant of the fact that my son often attends a Latin Mass or you are just another liar. I have no problem whatsoever with the Latin Mass. I have a problem with so-called Traditionalists who treat brother Catholics as second-class Catholics and half-breeds.

  20. Timothy

    If Catholics who believe in the objective superiority of the Latin Mass – as liturgy, that it – are defensive and combative, it is the result of forty years of abuse and marginalization. Without the mindless, bitter, fanatical persecution of the traditionalists, none of this conversation would ever take place. Have you ever met a "charismatic" catholic? I work with dozens of them. I can assure you, they treat all non-charismatics, and all Latin-Mass "nuts" (like myself) as second-class citizens.

  21. Tom

    Bingo Timothy:I hung around with RadTrads long before I ever liked their preferred form of Mass. They were just a heck of lot more inviting and accepting of different kinds of people. I was also drawn by arguments I couldn't refute. Otherwise, I'd still be at our local Dominican magnet parish: Beautiful Church, brilliant priests and very few liturgical abuses (I've not encountered an O.F. Mass with fewer. ) But the place drives away the poorly dressed, the divorced, the unmarried, the paroled, the homeless, the drug addicted etc. And though it's run by the ORDER of PREACHERS, if they want to draw a crowd, they have to invite in the celebrity converts. That, to me, reveals a disturbing lack of confidence. Too many former preachers who can't give up the pulpit? Give it a rest, they're becoming irrelevant.

  22. CathApol

    As I said, I am a Traditionalist myself. I typically go to the extra-ordinary rite – but when I cannot, my next choice is this one: http://www.olmctempe.com While they do play contemporary music, raise their hands in song and praise, they also use a lot of Latin and have a well-placed tabernacle – front and center. Fr. Bonavitacola always spends a few moments after the Eucharist in silent meditation on his knees before the altar and facing the tabernacle. We frequented this parish for over 3 years. So while I am Traditionalist at heart, I don't mind a bit of charismatics thrown in there when it is done with the proper perspective and respect. In JMJ,Scott<<<New Article on Sola Scriptura – Self Refuting

  23. dustthouart

    All the Saints worshipped with the Traditional MassYou do realize that the Mass celebrated by the apostles was not the same as the Mass issued in response to the Council of Trent?And you may have heard of liturgies conducted in Greek, Old Slavonic, the Sarum Rite? Any of that ringing a bell? I could go on, obviously.To be frank, the liturgical freeze from the 16th to 20th century was unprecedented.

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