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October 31, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Traditional Catholics have been criticized, even punished, for their supposed “disobedience” to the Second Vatican Council—although no text of binding force is ever produced from which they actually dissent—while large numbers of parishes around the world are run by clergy who do not hesitate to dissent from the most basic Church teachings, including those of the New Testament and the first seven Ecumenical Councils. 

Throughout the Western world, heresy is not only commonplace but expected, de rigueur, a sign of sophistication and adaptation. Yet the Church makes few public moves against these heretics, except by promulgating documents which nobody reads (apart from those faithful Catholics who already agree with their contents).

The extremes on either side become every day more extreme, while the self-defined “center” is far from being obviously in continuity with Catholic tradition or even consistent with itself. Thus, heresy remains plentiful and unpunished, save for a few odd cases; liturgical experimentation and liberalization continue in many parts of the world; cathedrals and churches are still being destroyed, desacralized, profaned by so-called “renovations.” A counter-movement has gained momentum, without a doubt, but it sorely lacks institutional support. Recognizably Catholic renewal is almost exclusively lay-driven.

Perhaps saddest of all is the constant closure of church after church, for lack of worshipers. After the Council’s opening to the world and the corresponding reinvention of the Mass, the expected influx of believers never happened; on the contrary, the tide of preconciliar conversions rapidly shrunk to a trickle, many Catholics stopped going to Mass altogether, and priestly and religious vocations suffered a collapse from which they have never recovered.

How does the traditionalist view all this? Indeed, in what other way could he view it, except to see that the Western Church is still in the midst of a crisis of unprecedented proportions? The traditionalist has been given the gift of knowing and loving the usus antiquior, the Mass of the Ages, in its beauty, profundity, reverence, symbolism, and silence. He sees a Novus Ordo Mass where a priest gives a squishy homily, the cantor booms out third-rate folksy songs, women and girls invade the sanctuary to assume all manner of ministries, and the congregation just gets up and leaves right after the final blessing. It is clear that, in the old Mass, he catches sight of the awesome Sacrifice by which heaven and earth are united; but what about the new?

He is not satisfied with simplistic answers like “the Mass is always the Mass”; we should all just be humble and obedient to our pastors, regardless; we should not presume to compare or make judgments. These answers may be sufficient for a cold, clinical intellect, or for a Cartesian skeptic who does not trust his senses, but they will never suffice for the heart of a believer who has eyes to see and ears to hear, who takes seriously everything that pertains to the fitting worship of God, the well-defined faith of the Church, and the pattern of holiness given by indisputable saints.

The traditionalist movement is growing throughout the world. The traditionalists who are in an irregular standing with the Vatican (e.g., the SSPX) are thriving. They have big families (since they do not dissent from Humanae Vitae, unlike the majority of their coreligionists who are “in communion with the Church”) and their seminaries are overflowing. The traditional Mass parishes and oratories in union with the Pope are also growing; they attract young people and families with many children. Traditionalist monasteries and religious orders are being founded, and they too are attracting vocations. On every continent, in every country, Catholics are busy reconstructing a devout life from its essential building blocks.

There are many young people—I was one of them, and I have met so many others, every place I visit—who will not put up with the liberal liturgical establishment, who have learned to worship God in a traditional way, and who will be the future backbone of the Church. Never has the postconciliar propaganda been further removed from the actual situation on the ground.

This must be said as well: I know educated people who would have converted to Catholicism if the resounding witness to the Faith that they had experienced at a traditionalist parish were the rule, something to be expected throughout the world at every Catholic parish. But when they see that it is not so, they become disillusioned and cannot believe in the claims the Church makes for herself. They see that the typical manifestations of Catholicism bear little resemblance to what they have read about in history or in theology books, from the Fathers of the Church through the mid-twentieth century. They have trouble believing the true Church exists, because the traditionalists they admire are a minority. How can this minority, which carries forward in time what used to be taught and practiced by everyone, be persecuted by their own bishops (!), excluded, alienated, marginalized? How can the mainstream, with its insipid, trendy worship, ubiquitous doctrinal confusion, and moral standards equivalent to those of unchurched secularists, represent the Catholic Church?

These questions have to be answered sooner or later. The traditionalists will not go away—nor will their standing challenge to fifty years of forced modernization.

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Peter Kwasniewski, Thomistic theologian, liturgical scholar, and choral composer, is a graduate of Thomas Aquinas College in California (B.A. Liberal Arts) and The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC (M.A. and Ph.D. in Philosophy). He taught at the International Theological Institute in Austria and the Franciscan University of Steubenville’s Austria Program, then helped establish Wyoming Catholic College in 2006. There he taught theology, philosophy, music, and art history and directed the choirs until leaving in 2018 to devote himself full-time to writing and lecturing.

Today he contributes regularly to many websites and publications, including New Liturgical Movement, OnePeterFive, LifeSiteNews, Rorate Caeli, The Remnant, and Catholic Family News, and has published thirteen books, including four on traditional Catholicism: Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis (Angelico, 2014, also available in Czech, Polish, German, Portuguese, Spanish, and Belarusian), Noble Beauty, Transcendent Holiness (Angelico, 2017), Tradition and Sanity (Angelico, 2018), and Reclaiming Our Roman Catholic Birthright: The Genius and Timeliness of the Traditional Latin Mass (Angelico, 2020). His work has been translated into at least eighteen languages.

Kwasniewski is a scholar of The Aquinas Institute in Green Bay, which is publishing the Opera Omnia of the Angelic Doctor, a Fellow of the Albertus Magnus Center for Scholastic Studies, and a Senior Fellow of the St. Paul Center. He has published over a thousand articles on Thomistic thought, sacramental and liturgical theology, the history and aesthetics of music, and the social doctrine of the Church.

For news, information, article links, sacred music, and the home of Os Justi Press, visit his personal website,