Labelling other Catholics as “radical traditionalists” is immoral – here’s why

“A little historical awareness, humility, respect and basic human kindness would go a long way.”

Image: David Gilbert Wright, ‘Queuing for Holy Communion at the top of the mountain.’ This article is an expanded excerpt from our essay What does Michael Lofton mean by “tradition”?

In order to address this topic, we have to remember whose heirs modern-day traditionalists really are: the generation who lived through and after Vatican II.

Let us recall the absolutely certain facts, shorn of all interpretation or explanation.

The period following Vatican II was marked by massive apostasy from the Church, a collapse in vocations and defection of very many priests, nuns and religious, an almost-total breakdown of the passing on of the faith and enforcement on the part of the hierarchy, and extensive changes in the week-to-week experience of practising Catholics across the Latin rite.

It is obvious that many of a younger generation today do not really understand the devastation of that period – but these are the facts.

One can explain or justify these facts as one wishes, and even say that the changes were good. But these facts are not open to dispute.

In the face of all this – especially the changes – what were Catholics to do?

The Duties of Catholics

In one of his epistles, St Paul tells us to “stand fast, and hold the traditions, which [we] have learned, whether by word or by our epistle.” (2 Thess. 2.14).

This is our first duty, when confronted with something that contradicts or requires us to abandon what we have received: to stand fast and hold to tradition. It is our first duty because it is the clearest duty: we know that what we have received is good and true.

But the situation cannot be resolved with simplistic claims that the changes came from authority, and that we should therefore accept them. As we all know, St Paul also tells us the following:

“[T]hough we, or an angel from heaven, preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema.

“As we said before, so now I say again: If any one preach to you a gospel, besides that which you have received, let him be anathema.” (Gal. 1.8-9)

With all this in mind, I invite the reader to imagine himself in the position of a convert who has solemnly professed his loyalty to the “ecclesiastical traditions” and the “accepted and approved rites” in the Profession of Faith already discussed, in his parish’s sanctuary, with his hand on the Gospels.

Perhaps this profession was made with the great social or familial costs that can accompany conversion to the Catholic faith.

Alternatively, the reader could imagine himself in the position of a bishop or priest who has publicly professed the same loyalty – perhaps having made this profession multiple times, for each new office.[1]

Given all this, it should not be surprising at all that Catholics were suspicious of, or rejected outright, the changes of the 1960s and 1970s. The shocking collapse of faith and practice which accompanied such changes simply confirms this course of action.

When confronted with a radical departure from the ecclesiastical traditions and the traditional rites – and in the face of warnings from the hierarchy about the dangers of such departures – can such persons (or their heirs) be blamed for holding themselves to be bound by their solemn professions, and by these magisterial warnings?

Should they be blamed because they stood fast, and held to the traditions which they have received? This would be blaming the victims, and would be far too simplistic.

And yet, “conservative” apologists – many of whom are quite recent converts, and as such should be exercising more caution both in speaking publicly, and in condemning others for insufficient catholicity – call these persons and their heirs “radical traditionalists.”

In so doing, they are taking the side of those responsible for all this destruction. Let’s see why.

“Radicals” and “Moderates”

The word “radical” is a word which is too political and imprecise to be much more than an insult. It is normally used by those who wish to establish their own views as normative, and themselves as reasonable “moderates.” Naturally, it is also used to designate various groups as “other,” and as vaguely disreputable.

But this very word “radical” can help us – and those who use it to “otherise” their opponents – to understand the present ecclesial landscape.

Some have tried, over the years, to reclaim the word “radical” as a badge of honour – but in fact, the word typically denotes a favouring of fundamental change, and has strong associations with revolution and revolutionary politics. Nothing could be less appropriate in reference to traditional Catholics.

Along these lines, we can see that those who seek to shore up a conservative settlement of the Vatican II changes are playing a role that has recurred in various major revolutions in history.

There is nothing new under the sun. After the initial period of frenzy – be it of the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, or the English Reformation – a more moderate faction emerges, and seeks to restore some level of equilibrium. In some cases, as with Kerensky or the Girondins, these moderate factions fail and are swept away; and in others, as with Napoléon or the Anglican Elizabethan Settlement, they succeed (at least for a time).

There may have been many noble and admirable men in these moderate factions (including the moderate conciliar faction today). But each of these factions remained the products of the revolution in which they were born. They continued to accept the revolution’s “Year Zero”, and they continued to be imbued with its ideals, presuppositions and agendas. This alignment is all the more clear for their condemnations of those who pre-dated their revolution and took no part in it at all.

One thing is certain: no matter how good their intentions, under no circumstances can these moderate factions be considered as the legitimate heirs of the older orders – any more than the Elizabethan settlement represents the continuation of the Catholic Church in England. They are the heirs of a “radical” rupture with each older order, and they seek to moderate their given revolutions only to the degree that their own private judgment dictates, or to the degree that is necessary to stabilise the “advances” made.

As far as the various anciens régimes would be concerned, these moderate factions are just as “radical” as their more obviously destructive colleagues.

In short, the term (along with terms defined in opposition to it, such as “Glad Trad”) is little more than “virtue signalling” – showing that the user is not like those whom he wishes to condemn. How ironic, that this is often done under the guise of being charitable. In fact, it recalls the words of the Pharisee in the parable:

“O God, I give thee thanks that I am not as the rest of men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, as also is this publican.” (Luke 18.11)

Regardless of the intention, the word does not apply to traditional Catholics. If this regrettable and largely meaningless word “radical” is to be applied to anyone – and it would be better if we refrained from such wanton language – then it should not be to those who stood still and simply continued to practice the Catholic religion.

Rather, it should be applied to these would-be “moderates,” who are the heirs and defenders of the conciliar revolution.

Ceding control of language and discourse

Everybody thinks that his own position is moderate, and is the mean between two extremes. But we are always someone else’s radical. We are always “too much” for someone else’s standards.

Positioning ourselves as moderates or centrists is a fool’s endeavour. Nobody – least of all those attacking Catholic tradition – is convinced by this tired rhetorical move.

One of the key reasons that revolutionaries have made so many inroads over the last century is that they avoid such virtue-signalling, and avoid criticising or condemning their fellow travellers. In general, they stay silent when their more “radical” colleagues push further ahead. After all, “there are no enemies on the left.”

The same cannot be said for those who seek to defend the Catholic Church in this day, many of whom spend time criticising those they consider to have gone “too far.”

Everyone wants to be as simple as doves – but few want to be as wise as serpents.

“[F]or the children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light.” (Luke 16.8)

Analysing this phenomenon, the Gordon brothers wrote the following:

“This sort of opportunistic virtue-signaling is to be avoided at all costs. It’s as if naïve mod-cons think that they will earn the respect of radicals [ed: revolutionaries] by appearing sufficiently just to mete out chastisement to members of their own tribe. […]

“Don’t fall into this trap. Radicals will not hold the traitorous mod-con in higher regard than the rest of his ilk; instead, they’ll happily accept the services of the useful idiot, and then discard him when he has naught left to offer.”[2] (Line breaks added)

This is especially so in terms of language (including calling traditionalists “radical”) As the Gordons write elsewhere:

“Language matters. A lot. And radicals [viz. in the revolutionary sense], are highly cognizant of this.

“If we continue to cede control of the English language to scoldy, imperious SJWs; then we might as well just officially surrender Western society to them, as a fait accompli.

“Stand your ground. Use the words that most faithfully describe a concept, not the unwieldy, hyphenated euphemism that the radical would prefer because it tends to paint his agenda in a positive light.

“Conserve the rules of our language, and don’t capitulate when radicals attempt to change them to conform to the asinine presumptions of ‘critical theory.’

“Language is a tool for communicating truth. If language is manipulated, then truth is manipulated.'”[3] (Line breaks added)


Even if “moderate” influencers believe that some aspects of the traditionalist critique goes too far, they should nonetheless recognise reality: both they and the traditional Catholics whom they attack have often been defending the very same doctrinal points against the same set of attacks.

Although the plethora of would-be influencers use this term “radical traditionalist” as a stick with which to beat their online rivals and their followers, it is clear that the insult passes through such persons and onto those who have suffered for the Catholic religion under the conciliar revolution for decades.

These “moderate” influencers wish to defend Vatican II and the conciliar popes, but there is no doubt that the traditional Catholics whom they condemn – particularly the older generation, many of whom are still alive today – have been the confessors of the faith in a ghastly period of apostasy and tyrannical misrule.

Abusing them is a strikingly unjust way to behave towards those who have lovingly suffered for Christ and his Church, in a myriad of ways. A little bit of historical and situational awareness, humility, respect and basic human kindness would go a long way for these influencers’ credibility.

Finally, the use of the term “radical” is not only meaningless, but also dangerous. It has become clear that it is used by political and governmental forces who are arguing for the necessity of infiltration and surveillance of perfectly law-abiding, kind and decent people.

And what should we say of those who are themselves traditional Catholics, but try to put this term “radical” onto their co-religionists – almost as an attempt to ingratiate themselves with the various surveillance agencies and left-wing organisations, at the expense of others? We have no words for such conduct.

But we can state the general points in even clearer terms.

If there was ever any doubt, following the various FBI leaks in 2023, we should not hesitate to say that the use of the term “radical traditionalist” by any Catholic is contrary to the eighth commandment, unjust and immoral.

Those who use this term to further their online “apostolates” and to stir up controversy are bad people.

They should be treated as having no moral credibility whatsoever.

Going forward, anyone who uses this term (or its analogues) in good faith should be directed to this essay – which we hope will help them set aside this disreputable conduct.

Further Reading

What does Michael Lofton mean by “tradition”?

Tradition and Antiquarianism in “Judith’s Marriage”, Fr Bryan Houghton


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[1] Canon 1406 (1917). Cf. also Cardinal Ruffini: “How can you claim that the Church, Mater et Magistra […], to whom it pertains to judge the true sense of sacred scripture — as we have sworn many times before the altar (cf. the Profession of the Catholic Faith) […]”. Roberto de Mattei, The Second Vatican Council (an unwritten story) (and for UK readers), Loreto Publications, Fitzwilliam NH, 2012, p 142.

[2] Timothy and David Gordon, Rules for Retrogrades, 2019, Tan Books, Gastonia, North Carolina. Rule 18

[3] Ibid., Rule 17.

2 thoughts on “Labelling other Catholics as “radical traditionalists” is immoral – here’s why

  1. K.

    Excellent essay. The designation “Radical Traditionalist” is really an oxymoron, as to hold fast to Tradition, custom, doctrine cannot be radical at all. Perhaps it was in Christ’s earthly life, as Christianity was quite radical. But after 2,000 years of fidelity to the Church and the Faith, the term radical can no longer be applied to the Church. It applies to the V2 schismatics from the Traditions and doctrines of the Faith, and their corrupting infiltrators, who project their own radicalism on the holders to the Faith. The Gordons are correct on this corruption of language. The left understands very well how language affects thought. Because of the deceptive tactics of the infiltrators, it is difficult to determine which R&R Traditionalists are sincere, and which are simply controlled opposition. It is not surprising that there should be so much dissarray and discord among Traditionalists though, as we are without a pope, and are scattered sheep, fearful of the wolves posing as shepherds and prophets. But, as Mr Robbins at Catholic Eclipsed noted in his article “The Church Hyperion”, the scattering of the sheep may be for our own protection.

  2. Lucius

    “[F]or the children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light.” (Luke 16.18)

    This is Luke 16:8

    I assume it’s just a typo.

    The WM Review:

    Thanks for this Lucius. Not the first typo and certainly won’t be the last…!

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