Catholic Traditionalism: I Just Want to Be Your Everything (But You Can’t)

As I’ve mentioned before with my posts on the “Obama Drama” and MLK, Catholic traditionalism assumes (or desires at least) a completely Catholic environment as much as possible and takes a dim view of those religious movements outside of the Church. A traditional Catholic should think like the Church and do what the Church says. In short, the Church should be “your everything,” if I may quote a popular song from the 1970s. However, I soon realized that as a black American that the Church simply couldn’t be my “everything,” because all of the most important figures in black history were non-Catholics. The Church wasn’t involved in abolitionism and was only marginally involved in the Civil Rights Movement. If the Catholic Church really believes in “the dignity of human life,” how could it be such a no-show for one of the most important and influential social movement in history? Furthermore, if the Catholic Church is the “True Church,” shouldn’t the Holy Spirit or someone alerted the hierarchy that this was something they needed to give their stamp of approval to? Or am I to believe that the Church was too occupied with more important things, like shuffling around child molesters (yeah, I just went there, but someone had to say it)?

The messages I was getting from fellow traditionalists, both online and in person, were not helping matters. I would go to Catholic blogs online and read the incredibly hateful things that they’d say about MLK, how slavery is permissible from a natural law standpoint, and why the Confederacy was the one place where traditional Catholicism could have flourished. They’d also complain about Catholic schools in black areas that had pictures of non-Catholics like MLK and Rosa Parks, rather than pictures of Catholics (once again, I have to reiterate that any white person who can’t figure out why a majority black school would have a picture of MLK and/or Rosa Parks is officially too stupid to live). The problem is that there is no Catholic equivilent of MLK, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, or any of these other important figures. They just aren’t there, and I felt like I had to “neuter” my heritage to be accepted in this subculture.

Looking to Latin America for black Catholic role models was a dismal failure. The treatment of slaves was even worse in Catholic Latin America than in North America. Similarly, slaves were treated worse in Catholic Louisina than elsewhere in the South. To be fair, I think it was nice that Peter Clavier tried to alievate the condition of the slaves he ministered to, but it would have been even better if he had advocated that they not be slaves at all. Alas, I don’t think that idea ever came into his head. While I was thrilled by the story of Palmares, it is likely the African residents of that settlement threw off the imposed religion of Catholicism once they regained their freedom and their ability to manage their own religious lives:

Eventually, I realized that my state of being was inherently non-traditional. What I mean is that the African-American, whether in North or South America, has no place in the idealized medieval European past that traditionalists harken back to. People like me didn’t join guilds, fight in Crusades, or become monks because they didn’t exist yet. The African American is a creation of the New World, built on an odd mixture of slavery, capitalism, and modernity, a motley assortment of African, European, and indigenous blood, mostly created through rape. It’s a history that’s too painful for many black people to deal with, much less white traditionalists, which is why the only times such topics come up is when they’re involved in their “Moonlight and Magnolia” fueled delusions about Pius IX giving Jefferson Davis a crown of thorns.

The tendency for writers like G.K. Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc, and their modern day distributist followers to try to find answers to modern problems in romantic neo-feudalism is a distinct step in the wrong direction. Unlike a lot of secular humanists, I don’t think of the Middle Ages as “One Thousand Years Without a Bath” but at the same time, to think of the period of “Throne and Altar”  as the zenith of human accomplishment (as many traditionalists do) borders on the absurd. I get the distinct impression that Chesterton and Belloc didn’t even like the idea of assimilated Jews living in Britain, so how would they react to the post-World War II influx of West Indians, Africans, Hindus, and Muslims moving en masse to the United Kingdom?  Somehow I think that the Chesterbelloc answer to racial problems involve mass deportation, something that becomes really clear when you read their pieces on the “Jewish Question” from the 1920s and 1930s. To Chesterbelloc, blacks and Southeast Asians belonged “out there” in the colonies, not as a next door neighbor with whom you’d want to invite over for tea or hang out with at the pub.

Basically, I realized that someone like me could never fit into the world envisioned by traditional Catholicism, so I left.