Conservative Catholics and Traditional Catholics: Similarities and Differences (Guest: Roland Millare)

The two main sources of criticism for what has happened in the Church since Vatican II are the conservative (“Reform of the Reform”) and traditionalist camps. How are they similar and how are they different?

Crisis Point
Crisis Point
Conservative Catholics and Traditional Catholics: Similarities and Differences (Guest: Roland Millare)
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Guest

Roland Millare, STD is the Vice President of Curriculum and the Director of Clergy Initiatives for the St. John Paul II Foundation (Houston, TX). He is the author of the book, A Living Sacrifice: Liturgy and Eschatology in Joseph Ratzinger (Emmaus Academic, 2022).

Transcript

Eric Sammons:

The two main sources of criticism for what has happened in the church since Vatican II, are generally considered the reform of the reform camp or the conservative camp of Catholicism and the traditionalist camp. How are they similar, these two camps, and how do they differ? That’s what we’re going to talk about today on Crisis Point. Hello, I’m Eric Sammons, your host and the editor-in-chief of Crisis Magazine. Before I get started, I just encourage people to smash that like button, to subscribe to the channel, let other people know about it. We appreciate when you do that. Also, you can follow us on social media @CrisisMag.

Okay, so the topic today, let’s get into it. Our guest today is Roland Millare. I tried to pronounce that correctly, the best I could.

Roland Millare:

That works just fine.

Eric Sammons:

Okay, great. He is the Vice President of Curriculum and the director of Clergy Initiatives for the St. John Paul II Foundation in Houston, Texas. He is also the author of the book, A Living Sacrifice: Liturgy and Eschatology in Joseph Ratzinger, which was published by Emmaus Academic in 2022. So welcome to the program first, Roland.

Roland Millare:

Okay, thank you for having me, Eric.

Eric Sammons:

So for our audience and our regular listeners, I just want to say this is going to be a little bit different than our interviews. Typically, when we have a guest, I interview them kind of straight, let them do most of the talking, but I might be a little more involved in this one, because what I’m hoping this would be a nice charitable discussion, not a formal debate or anything that, about where, for lack of a better term, conservative Catholics and traditional Catholics lie on the spectrum and how we view things that are going on in the church. I’ll represent, in some ways, the traditionalist camp, and Roland is going to graciously represent the reform of the reform, the conservative camp. I just want to note, to start off, I know some people have issues with labels and I understand that.

Labels are imperfect. They don’t always express the breadth of what we believe, and we’re not limited to our labels, but I would say in general, we could say, at least in America, since Vatican II, there are three main camps of Catholicism. That would be the liberal camp, somebody like Father James Martin would be a perfect example of this, somebody who thinks the church should be, frankly, changed into something it’s not. There is the conservative camp, the reform of the reform. Obviously, the recently departed Pope Benedict 16th, Joseph Ratzinger. He is considered, in some ways, the leader almost of that camp, in a lot of ways, and a great man, obviously. Ant then the traditionalist camp, the most famous member being Archbishop Lefebvre, of the Society of St. Pius X, but of course, a lot has happened since then, since he passed away.

And so we’re not going to care about the liberal camp here, because it’s not always actually Catholic and really Crisis readers, the Crisis audience is much more made up of the conservative and the traditional camp. In fact, I want to do a survey of Crisis readers sometime, of where people fall, because I know there’s been a change over the years of Crisis readers and I just would love to know what the percentages are. My guess is that we’re majority conservative, maybe 75%, maybe 25% traditional, something like that, but we’ll see.

So anyway, a lot of talking here at the beginning from me, but I just wanted to kind of lay that out. So let me just ask you about you first, Roland, your own experience as a Catholic. Are you a convert? Have you always been Catholic? And what has led you to this really being, in a way… Obviously you work at the John Paul II Foundation, you have written a book on Ratzinger, so what led you to embrace the somewhat JP II/Benedict way of looking at Catholicism?

Roland Millare:

Sure. I’m a Cradle Catholic. I sometimes tell people I’m a Texapino. My parents are both from the Philippines, so I grew up in the faith. I mean, there’s a large Catholic population, as most people know, in the Philippines. I grew up in Houston, Texas, so hence a Texapino and not just a Filipino, certainly a Filipino American. And probably like most Cradle Catholics, sort of fell away to some degree, not ever fully, and I was born in 1980s, so I grew up in the ’90s, so I had that typical kind of life teen experience, Franciscan University of Steubenville, Youth Conference, that was sort of a catalyst for conversion, at least at that kind of emotional level, and really a concrete encounter with Christ.

And then eventually, I became interested in studying theology, so for undergraduate I went to the Franciscan University of Steubenville. And at some point The Spirit of Liturgy was published, and so reading The Spirit of Liturgy, kind of pun intended, kind of reoriented me literally with respect to the liturgy or my views thereabouts. Then it was in our semester in Gaming, Austria, Fall 2001, I started reading… We had a small library, it was really more of a reading room, and I read issues of Adoremus Bulletin, and Antiphon. And so immersing myself in these different debates, these discussions about the liturgy through the lens of the writings of Father Aidan Nichols, Klaus Gamber, of course Joseph Ratzinger, Father Fazio, began to kind of transform my views.

I mean, there was a point where I was more interested in the kind of praise and worship may be more charismatic side of things, the life team, the kind of youth mass as it were. And then I certainly began to be more interested in what some people might refer to as the reform of the reform. I tend to prefer the new liturgical movement. I understand why people might call it the reform of the form. And then as far as kind of being a traditionalist, my struggle is as a dogmatic theologian, to certain degree I’m called to be a traditionalist, insofar as a call to preserve the tradition. So I probably don’t easily fit into labels. In the course of a week I might attend mass celebrated according to the missal of St. John the 23rd and the TLM, Usus Antiquior. Then I might attend mass celebrated according to divine worship, the missal. So the form, the liturgy used by the ordinariate.

In fact the ordinariate, it’s mother church, Our Lady of Walsingham, their cathedral’s based here. And then of course the mass celebrated according to the missal of Paul the 6th, the Novus Ordo or the Usus Recentior, so I’m kind of probably an oddball in that way that you can’t easily necessarily peg me into one category or another. So I tend to simply think of myself as a Catholic who prefers all these varying riches of our church experience.

Eric Sammons:

Yeah. First of all, you’re blessed to be in Houston with the ordinariate headquarters down there, it’s not called headquarters, but basically the mother church down there and having obviously a TLM available down there and everything. So that’s a blessing. A lot of people, Catholics who live in different places don’t have those options, so that’s great that Houston does have those. I think as I started off the program, I was saying that one of the things that is I think a common thread between both traditionalists and conservatives is that the acknowledgement that things have gotten off track, particularly since the 1960s.

Now, the cause of that and stuff, that’s the course of the debate. But what would say has gone wrong in the church? How would you word it? Like, “Okay. What has really gone wrong in the church?” At least in America, and we’ll focus mostly in America because I don’t have experience living in Africa or somewhere like that, so we’ll speak of the American experience of Catholicism. How would you describe what has gone wrong over the past 50, 60 years?

Roland Millare:

Yeah, I mean, where to start? But there seems to be at core this confusion just about what is Catholic identity? Which I think might be a reason why we grasp for labels because people say that they’re Catholic, but then when you start asking them varying questions, they’ve gone to the cafeteria in the sense of well, they’re Catholic, but then they would reject the church’s teaching on X, Y or Z. And then when you sit down and try to peg people down about their views about liturgy or anything else, they’re all over the map. And so I think it just becomes more convenient, I think, for people to try to grasp onto a label.

With respect to liturgy, following the council, the way I easily summarize it, and maybe it’s too easy-breezy, but what was normative has become optional. And what was optional has become the norm. I mean, we think for example of the celebration of the orientation of the liturgy. The ancient tradition is that liturgy was celebrated ad orientem, towards the east. And it’s still technically an option, at least in cases where it hasn’t been outright outlawed, for lack of a better word, within the local church. But it’s an option that as we know, for the most part is not taken. So it’s rare that you find a church that’s celebrating, a parish, for example, celebrating the New Mass, the Novus Ordo, the missal of Paul VI, ad orientem.

For the most part the default is versus populum mass offered facing towards the people. Or because of Benedict you might have his pastoral compromise of a crucifix on the altar. So there is that at least preservation of liturgical east. As you said, I’m fortunate to be in Houston, I’m also fortunate to be in a parish, in Sugar Land in St. Teresa’s where at least several of the masses are offered ad orientem. And if it’s not ad orientem, the setup is with the crucifix and six candles on the altar. So really it’s just become kind of normative. But this, as you know, as your listeners know, it’s not everyone’s everyday experience. What was normative has become optional and vice versa.

Eric Sammons:

Right. Actually, I did a podcast this week here in my home Archdiocese of Cincinnati, the archbishop released a decree that limits ad orientem. It doesn’t ban it, it does say it’s allowed. But basically the idea is that the versus populum is the preferred and has basically every parish has to have at least one versus populum every day. And they can’t use a high altar if they have a free-standing altar, things like that. And it is interesting, as you said, it’s the ancient practice of the church. It’s been around forever. But let’s get a little bit, the big issues of course to talk about are Vatican II and about the liturgy and some other things surrounding that. But since we brought up the liturgy, let’s talk about that first a little bit.

One of the drag critiques of the Novus Ordo is the option-itist, option-itist. That the fact is, yes, it’s true that the Novus Ordo can be celebrated ad orientem, you could say the first Eucharistic prayer and you have essentially the Roman Canon. There’s all these different things you can do that would make it much closer to a more reverent, traditional mass. And there are parishes that do this. The most famous one probably is Father Dwight Longenecker’s parish down in South Carolina that does this. But the fact is, as you said, that’s not the norm. And in fact, most masses you go to, it’s the second Eucharistic prayer, most masses you go to is versus populum, most masses you go to, it’s a very… Let’s just say the level of reverence is not probably in keeping with how traditionally the mass is celebrated.

So what would you say in response to the critique that the very setup of how they decided to do the Novus Ordo with all these options has tended to lead to almost why always choosing the worst options in a sense? And really now the experience of a layperson when they go to mass is very dependent upon the priest, the individual priest. And in fact, in a parish, you might have multiple ways. And so people choose to go the one they like better. And that seems to be a problem in and of itself.

Roland Millare:

Yeah. No, I mean this is actually something that’s highlighted in Ratzinger’s writing, I want to say, where he actually talks about the phrase, “The reform of the reform.” It’s in that conversation with Robert Spaemann and others, Benedict, but there is that in the way you put it, option-itist. In the current iteration of the missal, it says, “Here the priest may say this or other type of words.” And that’s where you open up this can of worms. In fact, that’s one of the reasons why some people have said, “Look, the reform of the reform is dead on arrival because it’s too difficult to…” Well yes, you can, as you say, opt for Roman Canon and X, Y, and Z. It’s just too easy to not do those things.

And I think it’s one of the reasons why I prefer the notion of new liturgical movement. It’s going to take… I would say the traditionalist route is kind of the quick answer. I mean that is, just let’s return to the old rite and then just forget about the new rite completely. Whereas the new liturgical movement is the longer road. Ideally, as it was under Summorum Pontificum, allow both forms of the Roman rites to coexist and then see what happens. Obviously post-Summorum Pontificum, that is post-Traditionis custodes, the situation will vary from one local church to the next. In some cases it’s been severely limited, in some cases there’s been restrictions or it’s been outright banned, or some bishops have dispensed, they’ve decided to go the faithful, will just keep on as if Traditionis didn’t even take place.

Regardless, I think the path forward, if there is one, which I think there is, is the wisdom we find in The Spirit of the Liturgy to help the faithful to understand what the liturgy is not just a faithful, but even those who are celebrating the liturgy itself with the hope that then maybe you don’t fall so much into the option-itist because you want to. And this is reflected to some degree in this article, I think it’s published, maybe it’s just yesterday or the other day in Crisis on active participation, but by speaking with Robert Spaemann, by Dr. Alexander Schimpf, this notion of you want the fullest kind of participation, which is the share in the life of Christ. The hope would be the more that you really know what the liturgy is, that is as an act of worship of Christ, the high priest, which involves both head and members, then you would want to conform the ars celebrandi and everything else accordingly.

That’s really the road of either you want to call it reform of the form or the liturgical movement, the liturgy conforms outwardly more to its actual inner nature. But the traditions would say, you don’t necessarily get there unless you get rid of the option-itist. So that’s hence why some have given up. I mean, the reform of the reform is seen as kind of a failed project of the ’90s or the 2000s, let’s say.

Eric Sammons:

Yeah. And I will say I fall into that camp because I first became Catholic in early ’90s. I very much was part of the reform of the reform conservative movement in Catholicism. The Spirit of the Liturgy, just for people to know, this is a book by Joseph Ratzinger, it’s named after actually an older book by, oh my gosh, his name’s just left me.

Roland Millare:

Romano Guardini.

Eric Sammons:

Thank you. Guardini, yes. I saw it in my head, but I just couldn’t quite remember it. Okay. And so it’s a beautiful book and I highly recommend it. When did that come out? Was that in the ’90s or-

Roland Millare:

Yeah.

Eric Sammons:

I feel like it was that long ago.

Roland Millare:

Early part of the 20th century. I mean, Romano Guardini was seen as part of the original liturgical movement in Germany.

Eric Sammons:

Right. And then Ratzinger’s book came out when though?

Roland Millare:

2000.

Eric Sammons:

2000. Okay. I knew it was right around then, because I remember when it came out and it was beautiful. So I like how you said the traditionalist is almost like a quick start in a way. And the new surgical movement, the reform of the reform is more of the long one. And I admit I have now gone to the quick star. Now, I just want to make sure our audience knows, I’m not calling into question the validity of the new mass or anything like that. I think it’s a legitimate liturgy that the church has legitimately allowed and everything like that, so I’m not calling that into question. However, what’s to say that the fact is that the liturgy, let’s just use the 1962, obviously there were some changes made in 1955 as well, but the 1962 liturgy, the prayers of that liturgy are fundamentally very different. There’s a lot of difference.

And a lot of people, I know you know this, but a lot of people don’t realize how different, it’s not just a matter of Latin, but the prayers are very different. Why could we not though, go back to the liturgy in 1962 and then build upon that The Spirit of the Liturgy, this understanding of what the liturgy is so that there would be active participation inside that? Now, and even acknowledging that at some point down the road, there could be modifications to the 1962 liturgy, just like there have been modifications before that, but make that the base rather than… To me, it seems like the foundation’s a lot sturdier if it’s founded upon the traditional Latin mass.

And if it’s founded upon the Novus Ordo, which has these inherent issues in it with the option-itist, but also with the prayers being very much reduced. And I think the argument is valid here. Why not build it on that foundation rather than on the foundation of the Novus Ordo?

Roland Millare:

Yeah. So here I think we could agree that the concern is really a pastoral and very human one. I mean overnight, if we’re going to tell people, “Hey, we’re just scrapping the reform liturgy, it was a mistake. We should have never done it.” In other words, the bell’s rung, the genie is out of the bottle, how can you put it back in? Now, the German liturgist, Klaus Gamber, had the idea of, “All right, we’ll have the,” what he called the ancient or he called the Roman liturgy and then allow for the celebration of what he referred to as the modern liturgy, the modern rite. So you had the Roman rite, and then what he called the modern rite, and let them coexist.

And so you see how that influences Ratzinger and then eventually the Benedict’s thought, but instead of taking up that thesis in that way and having two separate rights, let’s have one Roman rite in two different forms, and let there be a mutual enrichment of one another. Because I think at the end of the day, the so-called traditionalists and then the reform of the reform people, what is desired? What’s desired is reverence, silence, the sacred, that liturgy outwardly conforms to this reality as a sacrifice of Jesus Christ, of a clearer presentation of the pastoral ministry, because in many of the implementations you could easily, whether you talk about that crazy example, the priest celebrating mass out on a raft in the water or what other… We can come up with all kinds of irreverent, if not blasphemous, examples, but there’s at least that commonality that the implementation has not been good.

Eric Sammons:

Yeah. And I’ll be honest, it’s kind of admittedly a free market guy when it comes to the economy, I’m open to the idea of, which is what Benedict basically was doing with Summorum Pontificum was saying, “Okay, let’s let both of them naturally go the direction they’re going to go.” And I know he would never say it like this, it’s a little bit crude, but to say, “Let the market decide,” so to speak, which one is enriching people more, which one are people led to? And to be honest, I think the numbers were starting to come in because you see that there’s been a huge increase in traditional Latin masses since Summorum Pontificum in 2008. And there’s been a lot of young people, a lot of people just in general, even old people like me, who started going after that because it was becoming more available. Bishops were more open to it because they were kind of told, “You need to be more open to it.”

But then of course it all came kind of crashing down in a way that the idea of letting both coexist, Francis really has said pretty explicitly, “No, there should only be… There’s one Roman rite, it’s the Novus Ordo, and eventually the traditional Latin mass should basically stop happening in some unknown timeframe,” but to me it just seems like there’s so many abuses we see in the new mass that it’s hard for me to say that that’s not somehow inherent in the mass in the sense that the way it was set up, whether intentional or not, I actually think it was intentional, it has led to priests celebrating mass on a raft. I mean, I don’t think that the idea of a traditional Latin mass being celebrated on a raft just seems unheard of, but it doesn’t seem…

I mean, I’m not saying it’s so common you find it every day, but you do see at your typical parish a problematic understanding of the liturgy. And you have to ask yourself, “Do they not understand liturgy because of the Novus Ordo itself?” Whereas, I know what Ratzinger’s saying, you’re saying, and others saying that, “Okay, we have The Spirit of the Liturgy, we need to understand it.” But it seems like the Novus Ordo is almost mitigating against it from people having it because we have the experience now of 50 years of celebrating it and we’re definitely not getting closer to the average Catholic understanding of The Spirit of the Liturgy. Does that make sense, what I’m saying?

Roland Millare:

Yeah, no. I guess and some people might say, “Well, how does this guy hold out hope then?” In light of this, of where we are, and part of it is the experience of being in Sugar Land, Texas, suburban parish. We have, I don’t know, two Spanish masses, maybe five English masses. And there’s confession 17 times a week. There’s chanting of propers in not just both, but in English, Latin, Spanish. And it’s not just, sure you might get mass one, mass five. In other words, it’s not just limited to… Because I taught at a Catholic high school for years and the complaint would be, “Well, the problem with the chant is that it sounds so funerial” And I would just jokingly say, “Well, that’s because the default in many parishes is the funeral chant, right?” The song. That is the default mode for a funeral, so literally it is a kind of funerial, for lack of a better word.

And never people get exposed, even though we have all these rich documents that speak about the richest of our liturgical patrimony when it come to sacred music, it’s the thing written about but hardly ever experienced. The exception being there’s people like Adam Bartlett for example, Source & Summit, putting out resources with respect to the chant and renewing it. But once again, people say that’s the exception and not normative. But to hone in on this experience in this one suburban parish, it’s possible because it’s attracted all these young families, it’s vibrant, people are participating in sacraments, it’s reverant, they put out a kneeler and the pastor talked about the kneeler they put out, you can take it or leave it and most people kneel, most people may receive on the tongue, some may still receive on the hand, some may stand.

But as far as the option-itist goes, people seem to opt mostly for kneeling, receiving on the tongue. But the point is you have to have clergy that are well formed and rooted in The Spirit of the Liturgy, so it’s an issue of liturgical formation plus the faithful who have to be educated and catechized, so hence why I think new liturgical movement is preferable to the reform of the reform. The reform of the reform isn’t enough, you really need to reeducate people.

Eric Sammons:

Okay, I’m going to bring up the elephant in the room and that is Pope Francis. Wouldn’t you say in a sense that Pope Francis has kind of crushed the new liturgical movement in the sense that, just using the example of my own Archdiocese of Cincinnati, our bishop is a fine bishop in the sense that he’s not some radical, he’s definitely not radical. He very much is an administrator and he’s just following orders from the Vatican, so to speak, trying to keep in good grace with them. And so when even he is saying, “Okay, I don’t want ad orientem,” because what was happening is in our diocese, I think some young priests were starting to celebrate ad orientem more and more in their parishes, daily masses. I know one priest, every Wednesday and Friday daily mass would be ad orientem. And he even educated people about it and all that.

And this was happening and it’s like, my guess is, and this part is a guess, is that he got complaints from some people about this and so now he’s trying to put the kibosh on it. And if that’s happening with a bishop who’s just like your normal, not an ideologue or anything like that, what are the real chances of a new liturgical movement actually happening in our current environment when it seems like at the highest levels of the church down, there’s a crushing. Because it wasn’t like just that Pope Francis said, “Okay, we only have one Roman rite, we should only have one Roman rite.” But it was interpreted by a lot of people, a lot of bishops ask, “Okay, we need to even crush elements of the traditional Latin mass in the Novus Ordo like ad orientem and things.”

And as you know, there’s stories, a lot of stories that people can’t receive on the tongue for various reasons. And so what is your hope that the new liturgical movement really can be successful based upon the fact that it seems like most of the hierarchy of the church isn’t really on board with it?

Roland Millare:

So really it’s going to unfortunately depend locally, it’s going to depend locally on what kind of formation education is being given in the local seminary. It’s going to depend on who one’s ordinary is and so forth. Maybe the one silver lining is actually Desiderio Desideravi. There, Pope Francis points towards actually Romano Guardini, and then the ars celebrandi. And there’s really, if you were to take out the authorship, you could easily see how, hey, this was written by, maybe embedded, there’s certain parts of it that could easily be found in Sacramentum Caritatis for example. Or some suggest maybe Cardinal Sarah might have been the author of certain portions of it. But it boils down to liturgical formation, which unfortunately will vary.

To your point. As far as universally, I don’t know, it remains to be seen, I mean maybe the lasting gift that Pope Benedict has given us, which has been talked about a little bit. For the most part commentators focused in on, if you watch secular press, the greatest gift he gave us was the fact that he resigned, so progressive. I think there was a piece maybe in Our Sunday Visitor that mentioned it, written by Father James Bradley, “What’s the gift of the ordinary?” There you have another form of, if you want, of the Roman rite that’s offered in the vernacular taking some elements from either medieval practice or the so-called anglican patrimony that have been brought into full communion. But nevertheless, you get a form of the liturgy that’s ad orientem in the vernacular, it’s very, very reverent and people are turning to it. So I think only time will tell. Is that an expression of, or will that contribute to a new liturgical movement? Who knows?

Eric Sammons:

Yeah. When I wrote my article on, after Pope Benedict passed away, I say it’s two greatest acts as a pope, Summorum Pontificum and also the formation of the Anglican ordinariate because I do think those are beautiful, and charitable, are very generous moves on his part that really help bring more people, as I said, from the peripheries into the fuller life of the church. And also I just-

Roland Millare:

Yeah. As far as generosity, right? His generosity was that diversity is in no way opposed to unity. It’s one of the things that Catholics forget, especially in the West, that there’s all these other Eastern churches, you forget about that. And that diversity in no way threatens the overall unity of the church. I mean, to say that the missal celebrated according to St. Paul VI is the sole lex orandi is not fully accurate insofar as… I mean, the lex orandi also consists of what the Eastern church is bringing as well, it’s not limited to just the Western expression, that just tends to be our kind of myopic vision.

Eric Sammons:

Yeah. And I think that, you know what I would love? I would love it if the church could clear up and make official all the different definitions of you have your rite, you have your form, and things like that. Because it’s very confusing because really Benedict kind of invented the idea of two forms of a single rite. Not that there wasn’t, there aren’t… Just that terminology. And over time, I’ve found it more problematic. I would rather see it said almost as separate different rites. I understand they have a commonality on some level, but in my mind the traditional Latin mass for example, has more in common with an Eastern like a Byzantine, than it does with the Novus Ordo as far as the actual experience of it and how it’s done and things like that.

And I’m a big fan of the Eastern rites and the Eastern Catholic churches and things like that, and I think that diversity is wonderful in that sense. I guess coming from a more traditional point of view, it seems like one of these is not like the rest, and that’s the Novus Ordo. In that if you look at how it originated in comparison to the Eastern rites and the traditional Latin mass, it just seems like it was liturgy by committee. And that seems to go against The Spirit of the Liturgy, so to speak, that Ratzinger speaks of. And I think Ratzinger even kind of suggests that himself at times in his own writing.

Roland Millare:

Yeah, in his own writings, his concern is that the reform liturgy seems to be more the product of experts, of professors, rather than real pastors. And that’s the other thing. I mean, to critique the reform liturgy as it’s been implemented isn’t per se a critique of the council or a critique of Sacrosanctum concilium. I mean, those are not in one accord. Because that’s the concern, people are worried that if you critique how the liturgy’s been implemented, then you’re critiquing the council itself, which isn’t the case.

Eric Sammons:

Yeah. And actually that’s a great segue for the other major topic I wanted us to talk about, which is Vatican II itself. So let’s critique the council. And this is a big difference, this is probably the biggest difference between the traditionalist view and the more conservative view is that at least for me, when I was more of a conservative Catholic, I very much focused on critiquing the implementation of the council, critiquing the spirit of the council, the spirit of Vatican II as it was called by liberal Catholics. Whereas traditionalists and I fall more into this camp now are seeing that perhaps there are actually things about the documents themselves that at times have lended to this problem.

I think that probably the most common criticism, that I think I subscribe to as well, is that the documents, and this is a general statement, obviously there’s multiple documents and some are more than others, but the way it’s written, you could read it and interpret it in a very even traditional light. Or it’s also written in such a way that you could read it and have a very radical agenda and think the council’s supporting you. And I think that the fact is that… And so that’s one thing. The other thing about the documents themselves and the council, it was implemented the way it was and we can’t rewrite history and act like that didn’t happen. And in fact the people who implemented it were the same people in general who were at the council itself.

And so the conservative view that I espouse for a long time, which is, “Oh, it’s the implementation not the council itself.” What about the fact though is that clearly I’m saying as Eric Sammons in the 21st century saying the implementation was done wrong, but yet the people who implemented it were actually the people at the council. And so how can I say they were wrong when they were at the council? I wasn’t. And so I think that segues more into either one of two sides. Either you go the liberal Catholic route and say, “Yeah, it was implemented the way it should have been. It was great because we went all crazy and liberal and stuff.” Or the traditionalist, which is the council itself had some issues in the way those documents were written and it basically led to these problems.

So how would you then respond to that? And how would you describe the difference between the council and the implementation and things like that?

Roland Millare:

Oh, a tall order there.

Eric Sammons:

In three sentences or less, how would you…

Roland Millare:

I think back to the opening speech, we just celebrated the… What is it? The 60th anniversary. October 11th, 1962 is St. John XXIII’s words as far as the deposit of faith, it must be guarded and then taught more efficaciously. So to your point, that’s where we have to start to begin with the end of mind, doctrine has to be guarded and then it’s got to be taught more efficaciously. And so it’s working, as far as the council between those two different polls of aggiornamento, the Italian word, bringing up to date that engagement with the modern world and then are so small, a return to the sources.

That being said, Vatican II, the challenge of course is, as you allude to, it’s not like it’s one document, it’s 16 different documents. But I think it’s completely fair to critique maybe certain documents or things within the document. The key is I think what Benedict gives us as far as gifts, with respect to the council is the hermeneutics. Now, people aren’t fans of that either, but they’re helpful. The hermeneutic of discontinuity or the hermeneutic of reform in continuity. For shorthand people just say hermeneutic of continuity, but I think the key word there is reform. There are actual reforms, you do have changes that do take place. But the key thing is are they in continuity? Are they in continuity with what has come before?

And then the reality is over time, you will continue to assess teachings and implementations. That’s a constant purification. So to your point, we do probably have to move away from every single aspect of whatever council consider you’re teaching, it might be, even take Vatican II out of it is pure and pristine. And that’s why you have subsequent councils to kind of, “All right, look, where are things unclear or ambiguous? Where can we be clearer in our teaching?” So to my mind, as far as a real conservative view is to conserve the truth and then realize, “Well, these are accretions that are either ambiguous or antithetical. And so they don’t fit into that continuity.” And so the job of the magisterium is then to kind of clarify what is in continuity. And so, take for example liturgy. You don’t just look at Sacrosanctum Concilium isolated, you have to look at Mediator Dei, and you have to look at the magisterial teaching that comes post Sacrosanctum Concilium. And so on and so forth.

Eric Sammons:

I think the one example I always go back to when I’m talking about back into itself, the documents and the language used is of course that famous line from Lumen Gentium 8, which says that Jesus Christ subsist in the Catholic Church. And I wrote a lot about this in my book, Deadly Indifference, but essentially the debate is, shouldn’t it just say the Church of Christ is the Catholic Church, not subsist in? Now, the Vatican has released under Ratzinger, in fact, released I think three different documents that explain that passage to say it basically is equivalent to saying it is the Catholic Church in a lot of ways. Yet the words used was subsist in, it wasn’t is. And in fact, if you look at the writings of some of the people who were involved in that decision, it was purposely used in order to give a more broad view of the church of what is part of the church, so to speak.

And in fact, it was taken and run with by so many people in the ecumenical movement to say that almost the branch theory came out, the idea that the Catholic Church is one branch of the Church of Christ, because if the Church of Christ subsist in it, in the Catholic Church, well, that suggests it could subsist in other places as well, it could be in other places as well. And that’s exactly how it was interpreted in real life. And to me that seems to be, what Ratzinger wrote and the CDF wrote is true that that statement by itself can be read in an orthodox manner. I think there’s no question, I think that’s true. However, it’s clear that not only was it read in unorthodox manner, but it even was used initially in the documents in order to allow for those more unorthodox views to later come in because a lot of people were starting to have those.

And so for me that seems to be a real issue in where it’s like, yes, the Holy Spirit protected and people have a funny understanding of the Holy Spirit of councils, like it’s like an inspired scripture or something, which it’s not. But the Holy Spirit protected him from saying the Church of Christ is outside the Catholic Church or something like that. But yet at the same time it really is, in my view, it’s like a poor choice of words that we’ve seen in practice has become a real problem in the ecumenical movement and how people perceive the role of the Catholic Church in salvation.

Roland Millare:

Yeah. So thinking the section you brought up, Lumen Gentium 8, it does, it uses that language of subsist in, there was, as you alluded to, this whole debate, should it be subsistit in or adest in? Is present in, or should it be est? And of course, what Lumen Gentium 8 allows for is the latter part of that segment, there are elements of sanctification and truth outside of its visible confines. But then it goes on to say since they’re belonging to the Church of Christ, their force is impelling towards Catholic unity. And really, going back to something like anglicanorum coetibus, here you see what ecumenism is really ordered towards, it’s not just sitting around just dialoguing about the things that we have in common or writing about them and issuing these joint statements, although that’s certainly a part of it and prayer in common and study together.

But it is, as some people might put it, you come in-ism, it’s about restoring that unity that has been lost. And so I would still maintain that that’s the strength of subsist in. But to your point, there are certainly false forms of a humanism that want to say, “Hey, let things remain in kind of the status quo and not really make real steps towards unity.” But that’s not the point of a humanism, it’s about searching the truth together. And then once it’s known, we should be impelled and compelled to act upon it. And hence something like Anglicanorum coetibus that allows for these former Episcopalians, and Anglicans, and even Methodists to come back into full communion with the Church.

Eric Sammons:

Yeah. Wouldn’t it though, like for example… And also that was one of the things I said about the Anglican Ordinariate, that was actually an act of true humanism because the goal is for everybody to be united in the Church of Christ, the Catholic Church. But a lot of times the ecumenical movement, I’m not a fan of, I’ll just put it that way. I just feel like it’s just become only just sitting around at cocktail parties and having your writings, but they don’t really go anywhere. And that’s unfortunate. I think Benedict was definitely against that. But couldn’t you argue though, if the council had actually said the Church of Christ is the Catholic Church instead of subsist in, wouldn’t that have been much more clear to people? Because it is true that the Church of Christ is the Catholic Church. It’s what the Catholic Church has said for 2000 years in one sense.

And so it’s like wouldn’t it have been better to do that? We could still have ecumenical dialogue and do those type of things, but at least this would be very clear. And our side at least, that’s probably the better thing. Our side would be very clear about what it is. And even the Protestants would know, “Okay, the Catholics believe this, they believe that the Church of Christ is the Catholic Church. We disagree with that.” And then we can go on that solid basis, a more solid foundation. I feel like the subsistence language makes it a weaker foundation on which to have these discussions and the baits and dialogues.

Roland Millare:

Yeah. And it’s funny because to my mind, it allows for that recognition of what precisely what it goes on to say. It enables us to recognize those elements of truth that are outside of her visible confines, but yet ordered back to it. It’s been a while since I’ve read it, but I think a good article on this with the University of Dallas, Christopher Malloy, actually has done quite a bit on the whole notion of subsist in versus est. I’m trying to recall his thesis, but that might be a good source for your listeners.

Eric Sammons:

Right. He’s written for Crisis a few times. He’s a good guy, he’s really bright.

Roland Millare:

Yes, and clear.

Eric Sammons:

Okay, so boy, we could go for hours and hours because I was going to bring up, maybe I’ll bring up just briefly we can comment briefly. So the tread accusation of Vatican II being ambiguous at times is pretty well known, but there’s also the critique that it actually did contradict previous teaching, and I was thinking particularly of religious freedom. In the teaching of religious freedom, you have Pope Pius IX, for example, who is condemning the idea of liberty of conscience and of worship as the proper right of every man. He stated that in the 19th century. But then Vatican II says, “The council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom.”

And I’ll be honest, I grew up in America, I kind of admit that I just naturally think of religious freedom in a positive way. But at the same time, there is something to be said for how do we reconcile the fact that these statements do seem to be contradictory, what Pius IX and what really the church in general taught for a very long time does seem to be contradicted by what Vatican II is saying. How is that a legitimate develop of doctrine as Newman would explain it, not a rupture from what came before?

Roland Millare:

Yeah. Truthfully, that is a… I don’t know if I necessarily have a good answer for it. I mean, it’s clearly a development of doctrine, the traditional teaching is error has no rights. But honestly, and I’m just thinking out loud here because I haven’t thought about it in a while, how to square the two, I don’t know if I have the answer. Yeah.

Eric Sammons:

I know that Bishop Athanasius Schneider, he’s talked about this and the idea that there is in Catholic teaching, traditional Catholic teaching, the idea that that states do tolerate, can tolerate other religions. Like in America, we don’t have a tradition of a Catholic state. And so the idea of a Catholic state just isn’t going to happen anytime soon. And so therefore we would have a state that tolerates various religions is acceptable to Catholics. But the idea is in some places where there is a Catholic state or has been a Catholic state, the idea that that still is the goal to go towards. And it’s funny, your kind of non-answer, because I have the same non-answer. I’m sure we’ll get people in the comments who are explaining why we should understand it in the right way, but I feel like that’s one of those things that does seem to me to stretch the definition of development on to a breaking point almost.

And the reason I worry about that is because I feel like recent actions by the Pope about the death penalty, there’s talk about the teaching in contraception, and it’s always done in this context of development of doctrine. And yet it seems to me that these are breaks from, these are not developments, but these are actually evolutions or new doctrines. And so this is something that I think the traditionalists rightly have always been concerned about for a very long time, that once you kind of say, “This is a development that really most people would say it’s not, how do you stop these other things be developments?”

Roland Millare:

Yeah. There is obviously a legitimate development of doctrine. You go back to St. Vincent of Lérins, maybe most people want to turn to the, of course I can’t. Now I’m drawing a blank with respect to the phrase he has, the-

Eric Sammons:

Yeah. Well, it’s taught like always, everywhere, and for all time or something. Yeah.

Roland Millare:

Yeah, that which has been taught always, everywhere, and by everyone. The faith has been believed by everywhere always and by everyone. But even before Newman and the notion of development becomes popular, he also speaks about St. Vincent of Lérins, which speaks about progress. And then he gives a good definition, he says, “For progress,” and this is from his commonitorium, I forget which section, “that each thing is enlarged with itself while alteration implies that one thing is transformed into something else.” So there is a distinction, there is a legitimate progress or development. So something’s larger than itself, but then there is this alteration where something is transformed into something other. And so I think is to your point, with respect to the document, the decree rather on religious liberty, religious freedom, is that is it an authentic development or is it a break?

And I’m on the fence, and I have a non-answer, not because I haven’t thought about it, but I’m still truthfully thinking through it. I’ve read between David Shindler, and Martin Rhonheimer, and Russell Hittinger, and all these different varying thinkers on various places, John Courtney Murray. But still it’s one that I honestly struggle with, not because I don’t think… That doesn’t mean there isn’t an answer, but it could point to maybe in the document itself there are weaknesses. I mean, St. John says, “The truth shall make you free.” We could at least certainly all agree upon that aspect. But the question is whether, I think the point that is being made is given the dignity of each human person, they should come to the truth freely. But what does that mean practically with respect to the relationship between the church and state? And to that end, it’s a critical question and I’d rather do it service well, maybe that’s why like a good dogmatic, theologian, if I don’t have a good answer, I’ll give a non-answer.

Eric Sammons:

Yeah. Let’s be honest, our positions might not be best for a YouTube video because they’re not stating exactly what we think. And you must accept this, we’re both kind of, because I feel the same way because as I’ve gotten more traditional in my own views of the church and of church teaching of Vatican II, I will admit the teaching on religious freedom, that one’s one I’ve looked into a lot and I’m still not sure where I stand on that one. It’s just like I see-

Roland Millare:

But actually something that came up with Dr. Larry Chapp last month and he brought up… honestly, with him I wasn’t even thinking we were going to talk about Vatican II, but nevertheless we did because the conversations go all over the map and it’s good in that regard. But then we came to the same thing, Dignitatis humanae. I don’t know. But yeah, definitely. We’re probably not good for YouTube.

Eric Sammons:

Yeah. Right, exactly. Well, hopefully we’ll find out on the other side of this world someday exactly what the right view is on that one. Obviously we could go on for hours and hours, so I’m going to wrap it up here because we’re getting near an hour and I think that’s a good time to break it. One thing I want, and I’ll let you say something at the end too, but I just want to say that it’s my opinion that in general, in the crisis that we’re in today in the church, that the more traditional Catholics and the kind of conservative reform of the reform liturgical movement Catholics, we are on the same side in the sense that we’re battling against heterodoxy, we’re battling against bad orthopraxis. I think that in my mind, the traditionalists are much better at really seeing what the issues are at a deep level and trying to address them there.

But I feel like we’re still, though, we have common enemies, I guess, is the best way to put it. And so in general, like I always say like, “Hey, let’s fight our common enemies. And if we win, then we can really start fighting about what we disagree on much more. But until then, we might as well try to overcome the real battles. Like for example, trying to overturn the teaching on contraception. I mean, we’re all on the same on that one. So anyway, and I think all the conservative Catholics I know who go to Novus Ordo, were not happy with Traditionis Custodes because they just felt like that was prudentially at the very least, a poor thing. And so we unite on that. But I’ll let you also, if you want, just finish up with your thoughts on all this as well.

Roland Millare:

Yeah. I mean, at the end of the day, and you see this in Vatican II and the thought of John Paul, and Benedict, and of Francis, the real concern is this eclipse of God and society. I think we can all agree that where we are is a critical point. I mean, God has been eclipsed at all kinds of different levels. And I remember once lamenting, probably reading too much of the church news cycle, lamenting to my pastor at the time, and he poked me in the chest with his finger and he said, “You know what you can do about it?” And I said, “What?” He said, “You can answer the call to holiness.” I think that’s the critical teaching of the council, the universal call to holiness. It’s actually not… I mean, we start there, the call to sanctity, the call to sanctity that comes from grace.

When it comes to the larger culture, Christians make these mistakes of just being combative, only pointing out what’s wrong. Or they want to cocoon from it, they’re just going to hide from the culture and do their own thing. But most common is we conform to it, we’re no different than everybody else. We were really called to Christ for what? I mean, that’s the other aspect of Vatican II. There’s this Christocentric center, at Crisis, same yesterday, today, and forever in each of us, above all the liturgy, the sacraments, our personal prayer, answering the call to holiness, whether one is a traditionalist or more of the new liturgical movement, reform the reform, you have a preference for this or that type of liturgy, it’s the response to grace and responding generously via the sacraments that that’s going to win the day.

But at some point I think I saw somewhere where you wrote something about you needing to unite the clans. Well, we unite the clans by focusing once again on Crisis as the center. And sure, we might use different tools, for lack of a better word, or weapons if you want, but we’re all on the in the same fight. And it’s for the glory of God and salvation.

Eric Sammons:

Amen. Yeah. And St. Josemaría Escrivá, he liked to say that these Crisis we face, it’s a Crisis of saints. We don’t have them, in other words. And so our duty is to become saints, to become holy. And that is our best response no matter where we kind of view these different church issues. The last thing I want to do is I want to make sure, tell us a little bit about the St. John Paul II Foundation, what you’re doing there and what that’s all about.

Roland Millare:

Sure. So we’re based out of Houston, Texas. We’re nine years old. On the one hand, we have Together in Holiness marriage conferences, a daylong marriage conference for married couples. There’s mass, adoration, a time for a married couple just to be with one another. And then we help people with that pastoral hurdle, cheap babysitting, $5 a child all day long. We also have a formation series where we’re forming couples. They’re short videos, seven in a course of a year, three to 10 couples in a home watching short video and then recycling one another conversation and fellowship. And then we have Conversion Roads, a day-long medical ethics conference, beginning of life issues, end of life issues. It’s for Catholic healthcare professionals. And the thing I appreciate about those is there’s continuing education credit for healthcare professionals.

And then I’d say about 25% to 35% or sometimes more are medical students or nursing students. There are a lot of young Catholic students who are entering the medical field who want to be able to integrate their faith in the practice of medicine together, which is I hope a sign. And then finally we have a clergy initiative that’s serving priests and seminarians, so Shepherd’s Heart, and then serving deacons and deacon candidates… Excuse me. Yeah, called Servant’s Heart, and then Shepherd’s Heart for priests. And it’s presenting those two aspects of either the gospel of the family, or the gospel of life to those different groups. So we’re kind of on the front line forming the formators, married couples, healthcare professionals, clergy or future clergy.

Eric Sammons:

Okay, that sounds great. Well, thanks for letting us know about it, and I’ll put a link. In fact, I’ll make sure I write this down. I’ll put a link to the St. John Paul II Foundation on the show notes, so people, if they want to check that out, they can. And also check out, Roland has a number of articles at Crisis that have been great. I really love when you submit something to us, that’s a hint, by the way.

Roland Millare:

Okay.

Eric Sammons:

It’s great stuff, it really is. So I really do appreciate it. And also, I’ll put a link to your book about liturgy and eschatology in the thought of… What is it? Liturgy and Eschatology in the thought of Joseph Ratzinger or something like that?

Roland Millare:

Yes. A Living Sacrifice, Liturgy and Eschatology in Joseph Ratzinger by Emmaus Academic. For those who are interested, it’s got a forward from Cardinal Muller.

Eric Sammons:

Awesome. Okay. Well, thanks so much for being on the program today, Roland. I really appreciate it.

Roland Millare:

All right. Thanks, Eric. I appreciate the time. And yeah, when I get to it, definitely got to put some more articles out there. I’ve had a whole spate of, I mean it’s been like, as you know because of Benedict’s passing, there’s been articles crazy.

Eric Sammons:

Yeah. I mean-

Roland Millare:

I’m sure you probably had to reject some good articles about it.

Eric Sammons:

I did. That’s the hardest thing about being editor. I got so many submissions on Benedict. There were a few I rejected that were good articles, but I can only do so many. I mean, he deserved as many articles as he got. Yeah, so definitely that happens. Okay. Well, thank you very much and until next time everybody, God love you.

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