Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Christopher Malloy on What Is a Reactionary

With a plethora of excellent Catholic blogs these days, it can be hard to keep up with them all. Given the limits of time and the complexity of our responsibilities, it can feel at times like trying to answer ten phone calls simultaneously. I sometimes wonder if the ephemerality, effervescence, and sheer volume of the medium tends to limit the extent to which bloggers feel comfortable going deeply into their subjects, and thus, if it exercises a kind of subtle pressure to adopt a sketchy journalistic style that offers little nourishment and has little staying power.

Happily, there are always exceptions to this trend, and a particularly notable one, in my opinion, is the recently established blog Theological Flint, manned by the formidable Thomistic theologian Dr. Christopher Malloy of the University of Dallas. For example, Malloy devoted four meaty posts to the traditional Catholic theology of the Holy Eucharist and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass (here are the links: Part IPart IIPart IIIPart IV). Malloy's writing is profound, accurate, and often rhapsodic, with the added benefit of serving as an apologetic for the Catholic Church's teaching. I really can't recommend it highly enough!

But it is from his post "What is a Reactionary?" that I wish to quote a few teasers here at NLM, whose authors and readers are accustomed to being called reactionaries (if not worse). Malloy gives us a fine analysis of the concept and reaches some surprising conclusions.
What does it mean to wish a “return” to a previous state? The definition is relative to what “previous” means; it is relative to what the current state of affairs is. Thus, the term [“reactionary”] is simply relative and temporally bound. It should indicate nothing but what is relative. In practice, of course, we know this is far from the case. The term is a pejorative label used to dismiss the labeled.
          ... [W]hat is the situation for someone growing up entirely after the Second Vatican Council? Even after the Novus Ordo is set in place? What is the “establishment” for this person? Anti-Traditional Catholicism? Catholicism which rejects its Tradition? Discontinuous Catholicism? …
          Although it makes sense to call “conservative” someone who grows up with the old regime and bemoans its departure, it does not make sense to continue wielding this term when the old regime is practically unknown, is almost completely disappeared. Nor, I submit, does the term “reactionary” have a place here. For “reactionary” and avant-garde seem poor bedfellows. Yet, the young man who is raised on a Catholicism that rejects Vatican I and Trent – however subtly – but who wishes to participate a real Catholicism and not a makeshift, rebellious Catholicism, and who seeks the full truth of the faith and therefore discovers the wider Tradition and discerns the faulty notions and conclusions of Karl Rahner and Hans Urs von Balthasar… this young man is avant-garde. Yes, the cutting edge of Catholicism is that which embraces the whole Tradition and rejects the rejection, negates the negation. This is the cutting edge of Catholicism.
          Is it reactionary? Well, let us say that this cutting edge indeed gains ground. Let us say that vocations were to abound in groups of men such as I have narrated above. Let us say that bishops were ordained out of these men. That the vocations of dioceses that reject such men shrivel up, that seminaries that reject such men with such views whither. Let us say that at some point the beauty of the whole Tradition were to shine again, undimmed and not persecuted but happily governing. And then some group wished to negate this. Some groups wished to return to the 1970’s. What is this group that wishes a return to the 1970’s—its taxes, say, and its deficient catechesis and retrograde liturgies? Reactionary?
          Because the term is relative and temporal, its use is rather fluid, or ought to be fluid. However, in the religious sphere, we find that the term with its same old evaluative connation is continually flung at whoever wishes for a Church that embraces the whole Tradition. This is an abuse.

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: