Location: Wisconsin, United States

I am a convert to the Catholic Church after serving in ordained ministry for more than nine years in another denomination. I hold a bachelor's degree in history, a master's degree in historical theology, and another in systematic theology, and am currently working (very slowly) on my doctorate. I work in Christian Education and Formation and teach at the University level. I am blessed with a wonderful wife and eight great kids! When I'm not studying, reading, or blogging, I enjoy eating and drinking! Like Bilbo Baggins, I have been specializing in food for many years, and my table has a high reputation!

Monday, May 10, 2010


Catholicism and Fundamentalism

I'm probably gonna get hammered for this post!

No, this is not a review of Karl Keating's book of the same name -- though if you are interested in my thoughts on the book, check out my review for!

What this IS, however, is some commentary on a trend I've begun to notice among a certain percentage of very conservative Catholics, and that is a trend toward what can only be described as a form of Catholic fundamentalism. Now please realize that while fundamentalist Catholics are very conservative, not all conservative Catholics are fundamentalists. This is a very important distinction to make. This commentary is not intended as a rant against people who prefer the Extraordinary Form of the Mass (I've not attended one, but plan to, at my earliest convenience) nor those who watch EWTN (my wife and I not only watch, but appeared on "The Journey Home" a few years ago) or those who prefer more traditional music (count me in!) etc. I'm not referring to your typical, orthodox, Pope John Paul II Catholic.

When viewed on the spectrum of "liberal" to "conservative" your dear commentator would most certainly fall considerably to the "right" of "center". From a theological standpoint, I'm probably more conservative than 80% of your typical "man in the pew"; and the same would be certainly true in my academic work as well.

What I am concerned about, however, are those on the very far right -- the ones who brand you as an enemy (or worse, a heretic!) because you only agree with them 95% of the time. The ones who seem to think that faith means disengaging your brain, and that all development of doctrine ceased in the Middle Ages.

Some tendencies I've noticed which concern me:

  • Geo-centrism -- the notion that the earth is fixed and immovable, and that the universe revolves around it. (Based on a total misunderstanding of the Church's "condemnation" of Galileo!)
  • The absolute rejection of any and all critical tools in the interpretation of Scripture (and history!) After all, higher criticism was invented by liberal German Protestants who wanted to destroy the Church, therefore all critical tools must be avoided at all costs! (So much for the Church Fathers!)
  • A literalist view of Scripture that would frighten an Independent Baptist! No allegory allowed! No figures of speech, either! (Example; The prophets teach that Jesus would ride into Jerusalem "on an ass, and on a donkey, the foal of an ass" -- therefore on Palm Sunday, Jesus rode two animals! Yes, I've seen this vigorously debated!)
  • An unhealthy obsession with Matthean Priority. Personally the Synoptic Problem is not my problem -- and is an unresolved -- and unresolvable question. But, as the (faulty) reasoning goes, theologians who accept Markan priority obviously used critical tools to arrive at this conclusion -- and all critical tools must be avoided at all costs! Se above!
  • An insistence that only the Douay-Rheims Bible can be used (and only certain editions of that!) if one is unfortunate enough not to be able to read the Latin Vulgate (and only certain editions of that!)
  • A misunderstanding of the role of the Teaching Authority of the Church, leading to bizarre claims of "infallibility" on issues upon which the Church has never claimed infallibility!
In each of these cases, the problem seems to stem from an ultra-montane view of the Church, and by the taking out of context (both textually and historically) the role of, and meaning behind, Papal pronouncements. The gift of Papal Infallibility is to preserve the Church from teaching heresy in matters of faith and morals. It does not necessarily follow, however, that every proclamation by every Pope on every issue is a matter of faith and morals!

Now, is it true that many modern theologians have gone beyond (and even against) the Magisterium of the Church? Of course it is! Sadly, such dissent is common on a number of levels. But sadly, the Church has always had dissenters, and, as Christ teaches us, the wheat and the tares will continue to grow together until the End of the Age. But the way to deal with dissent and heresy is to promote good theology and orthodox doctrine -- not to insist that the thinking process be shut down entirely. The Book of Proverbs teaches us that "iron sharpens iron". What a blessing for the Church that the iron of St. Thomas Aquinas was sharpened on the iron of St. Bonaventure! What a blessing that Franciscans are not Dominicans who are in turn not Benedictines! What a blessing that some of the finest astronomers in the world have been (and still are) Jesuits!

It seems to this commentator that the extremes of the very far right are every bit as dangerous as the extremes of the very far left; both extremes leave the Church open to the ridicule from Her enemies; and that neither serve to benefit Her primary mission, which is the eternal salvation of souls.


Papa Z.

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Blogger Dave said...

Yeah...I've come across them as well. You get a few in every Trad community. A lot of it stems from a type of Traditionalism which only draws upon the last 150 years, along with the "more-Trad-than-Thou" types like Tradition in Action. I've learned to ignore them, on the whole...

BTW, if you ever want to attend the EF, please let us know. I'd be happy to come along with you. Young David ought to come along as well, as he should learn how to celebrate in both forms.

Off-topic: Amy's blog is open again!

3:14 PM  
Blogger David Zampino said...

Thanks, Dave. Why is it that the "fringe" of a movement gets all the attention, while the majority are sane, solid, and sober? Rhetorical question, actually!

I would like to attend an EF Mass with you some time this summer, and it would be good for David, Jr. to experience it as well.

I did note that Amy's blog was once again open! I'm glad. I enjoy reading her posts, even when I don't comment.



3:18 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

Much of it stems from ignorance. Example: the Douay-Rheims-only folks. They don't realize that there is at least one other sanctioned English version of the Vulgate: Msgr. Knox's one-man translation.

It also stems from the prominence that the Internet gives. What was once restricted to the classified sections of the Wanderer and Remnant is now accessible to the world with a few strokes of the keyboard. This is true of any fringe movement.

Lastly, some Rad Trads have a "more-Catholic-than-thou" attitude. They will acknowledge that the "good old days" weren't as good as people thought, but that was because Catholics still weren't authentically Catholic. Tradition in Action is a prime example of this attitude, along with the Feeneyites.

I'll talk with Amy about a possible Sunday to go to the EF. Might 5/30/10 be practical?

5:29 PM  

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