“Christian is my Name, and Catholic is my Surname” – Pope Benedict XV


Last week there was some trouble on our blog after a quote from the great defender of Truth (and tireless adversary of Modernism), Pope St Pius X, was published. In the ensuing discussion a commenter accused all those Catholics who try to follow in the footsteps of Pius X, renouncing the errors of Modernism that are out to destroy the Faith, as giving out “traditionalist diatribes”! One of our team responded very perceptively with: “Our precious Faith is founded on Sacred Tradition. To be Catholic is to be traditionalist. End of.”

So what is all this about?

Once upon a time, simply to call oneself Catholic was probably explanation enough. Anyone listening would have known that here was a person who believed that the Catholic Church was the One True Faith, and that She alone, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, contained “words of Eternal Life”. The Holy Mass was not a happy-clappy ‘community celebratory meal’, as liberals refer to it, but the actual re-enactment of Christ’s saving Sacrifice at Calvary. Dissent, novelties, banality and worldliness did not form part of what it meant to be ‘Catholic’.

Nowadays, however, with so many liberals, progressives and modernists running amok in the Church, it is not enough any longer. Hence, to make one’s position clear, those who hold to and defend the fullness of the Church’s timeless doctrines, beliefs, practices and sacred liturgy, often have no alternative but to use the adjective ‘traditionalist’ before the name, Catholic. But in reality this is an appellation that the enemies of Sacred Tradition twist to brand all faithful Catholics, in marking them out as intransigent, bigots, or (their favourite adjectives) ‘intolerant’ or ‘judgemental’. Father Z’s famous Fishwrap – the most unCatholic newspaper in the whole Catholic media – has a hilarious long list of derogatory names for Catholics who hold to what the Catholic Church teaches! They should take a look at this:

“It is…Our will that Catholics should abstain from certain appellations which have recently been brought into use to distinguish one group of Catholics from another. They are to be avoided not only as ‘profane novelties of words,’ out of harmony with both truth and justice, but also because they give rise to great trouble and confusion among Catholics. Such is the nature of Catholicism that it does not admit of more or less, but must be held as a whole or as a whole rejected: ‘This is the Catholic faith, which unless a man believe faithfully and firmly; he cannot be saved”(Athanasian Creed).

But now we come to another group in the Church: those who like to follow a middle way; in other words, neither proclaiming themselves in favour of Catholic Traditional values, nor running with the progressives and dissenters. These are the moderates, who like to blow “neither hot nor cold”. [And please note: I am not referring here to people who simply cannot take all these disagreements in the Church and simply want to live their Catholic Faith in peace. Many of these are old people, too tired and world-worn to get into discussions of this sort. Or else they are those who feel the need to stick solely to a life of silent prayer and practice. These are not moderates, but still faithful Catholics doing their own bit for the Kingdom of God on Earth.]

In a most insightful article on Courageous Priest the other day: The Error of Being Moderate: “A Compromised Truth is Always Falsehood”, Father Erik Richsteig had this to say about moderates in the Church:

“One of my former bishops was described, even by himself, as an extreme moderate. I would have called him a pathological moderate, but, hey, that’s just terminology. He was and is a nice fellow and a good man, but he made the mistake of assuming the the middle ground was always the truth. He also made the mistake of thinking that he was always in the middle ground. (Often his positions were liberal/progressive.)

This is a common way of looking at the world. Heck, I looked at the world that way during my stupid liberal college days. You just find what you consider to be two opposite and extreme positions, create a continuum and stake out a mid-ground between them, and then you are safe. Except, that it makes a lot of false assumptions.

He then goes on to explain what these “false assumptions” really are:

Falsehoods of Moderation

The first falsehood is that is assumes the things are opposites, like good and evil, male and female. Good and evil are not opposites. That view is heretical. Evil is a privation of good. It is nothing, a defect. Moderation between a thing and its privation is just less defective. Male and female are not opposites. The are complementary sexes of the same species. Neuter or androgyny aren’t a virtuous middle between two extremes, but rather something else entirely.

The second falsehood is to assume that the extremes are natural opposites. Consider fascism and Marxism. They are opposites, right? Wrong, they are both versions of socialism. They differ but that doesn’t make them opposites. Much of the time, the moderate will just pull two relevant things or positions out of a cocked hat and say, “Look at these two extremes. I am in the middle, so I must be right.” But the secret is that there is no middle between the two positions. […]

Watered Downed Gospel

Compromising on the Gospel in not possible. What is arrived at is something else with no power to save. To try, to present a watered down false Gospel does nothing but earn the presenter a great big millstone. […]”

Yes, truly, you have to be a “courageous priest” to speak like that today!

Finally, some sagacious words from Pope Benedict XV:

There is no need of adding any qualifying terms to the profession of Catholicism: it is quite enough for each one to proclaim ‘Christian is my name and Catholic my surname,’ only let him endeavour to be in reality what he calls himself.” — Pope Benedict XV, Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum 24 (1914)

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10 Responses to “Christian is my Name, and Catholic is my Surname” – Pope Benedict XV

  1. Robert says:

    Thank you.
    Nothing is achieved by weakness.
    If the Apostles had been yes men there would be no Faith!
    Love and Compassion for Our neighbours and yes poor sinners. But YIELD NOT ONE INCH OF THE FAITH because this is to deny Our Heavenly Father who so loved the world He sent Us His only begotten Son!

  2. toadspittle says:

    “Nothing is achieved by weakness.”
    Roger says that…So did Lenin. And Hitler.

  3. johnhenrycn says:

    Kathleen, this is an excellent essay. I would have “liked” it if I could, but my computer hasn’t had that functionality on this blog for about a year now. Reading it brought to mind a number of things:

    1. “Christian is my Name, and Catholic is my Surname”
    Last week, I took instructions from a couple (er, a male and female, which seems to be a required qualification these days when speaking of people in conjugal relationships) for preparation of their powers of attorney for personal (health) care decisions, and I asked them if they wished to have me include an ‘end of life’ directive, the standard one I use being as follows:

    “In my final days when there is no prospect for my recovery, I wish medication to be mercifully administered to alleviate suffering even though it may hasten the moment of my death. I do not wish to be kept alive by artificial means or extraordinary measures…”

    I don’t have such a provision in my own POA, but consider it incumbent on me to make it known to my clients. Anyway, they both rejected that idea out of hand, which led me to suggest that they must be Catholics like me, but the husband quickly corrected me: “We’re Christians”, he said. I chose to be diplomatic and did not pursue my inquiries 🙂

    2. “…those who hold to and defend the fullness of the Church’s timeless doctrines, beliefs, practices and sacred liturgy, often have no alternative but to use the adjective ‘traditionalist’ before the name, Catholic.”
    As I have said more than once on this blog, I’m a sympathiser of the traditionalist liturgy, and if I had my druthers, I would belong to a parish offering a regular Tridentine Mass. However, I think it is entirely sufficient – indeed preferable – to identify oneself as orthodox. That word presumes fealty to tradition without consigning Novus Ordo people to second class status. Furthermore, as our friend Toad is always eager to mention, there are Catholic practices from earlier centuries that we now eschew.

    3. “Nowadays, however, with so many liberals, progressives and modernists running amok in the Church…”
    So sad and so true. I think I’ve previously mentioned that I chose “Newman” as my confirmation name, despite him not (yet) being a recognised saint, and one reason, amongst others, I did so was because of his disdain for progressivist “thought”:

    “For thirty, forty, fifty years I have resisted to the best of my powers the spirit of liberalism in religion”

    JHN said this in explaining his life upon elevation to the cardinalate in 1879 (funny though, he wasn’t quite comfortable with the First Vatican Council’s doctrine of papal infallibility, and in light of recent developments…but let’s not go there). Everyone here knows of Pope St Pius X’s Oath Against Modernism published 105 years and 154 days ago, but here are two more resources that I’ve come across (thanks very possibly to CP&S) in trying to learn how to defend against that scourge:
    (a) Liberalism is a Sin
    (b) Conciliar or Catholic

    4. Pace (again) the quote from Benedict XV that introduces this piece: “Christian is my Name, and Catholic is my Surname”…just a quibble, but I am content to call myself “Catholic” and let others make of that what they will. Kathleen says: “Once upon a time, simply to call oneself Catholic was probably explanation enough.” It is still explanation enough, and to add adjectives to that venerable title is to play into the hands of the Newspeakers who also claim it and who insist that we (orthodox or traditionalist) are merely a sub-category of the whole. When I was a Protestant, I knew – or thought I did – very well what Catholic meant. It was a word surrounded with magic, mystery and history – not one to be played with. Now that I am one, I’m not about to let the cafeteria crowd claim that their beliefs are as Catholic as mine.

  4. mmvc says:

    Great post, Kathleen and great comment, JH!
    Consider my ‘like’ to be on behalf of us both :o)

  5. johnhenrycn says:

    Thanks, mmvc. I was hoping someone might correct my close italics error 😉

  6. Michael says:

    Another invisible ‘thumbs up’ for JH’s comment above – an excellent supplement to an excellent post!

  7. johnhenrycn says:

    Thank you to whichever CP&Ser (I see a hand from Malaysia in my crystal ball, considering the time of day) it was who fixed, not only my “close italics” error, but also my “154days” contiguous one, and also for not pointing out to all and sundry that when I said the “Oath Against Modernism” was published “105 years and 154 days ago”, I failed to consult my astrological charts and take leap days into account. God bless 🙂

  8. Michael says:

    That is educational. I thought to be Catholic was to follow tradition but that the term “Traditionalist” was owned by protestants who consider themselves more Catholic than the Catholic Church eg. sedevacantists.

  9. kathleen says:

    Many thanks to everyone for their comments.

    JH, once again we must thank you for your wonderful remarks and anecdotes that so liven up the discussions on our blog. I wonder if the husband in the tale you relate was inferring that to be “Christian” meant you could not be “Catholic” too….. hmmm! (Just saying – we all know that there are some misguided anti-Catholics who think like that!)

    Yes, to be “orthodox” in your Catholic Faith is another way of being “traditional”, i.e., holding to all the Church’s magisterial teachings; though I do not think that the description “traditional” (or “traditionalist”) necessarily excludes faithful Catholics who only follow the Novus Ordo Mass, either through preference, or for lack of availability of TLMs*. Besides, I have come across people who mistake that adjective, “orthodox”, for the Orthodox Church, and then you have to clarify.

    * Likewise, I seldom have the possibility to attend a Traditional Latin Mass, much to my regret.

    Anyway, you are quite right that we should not succumb to the bullying of those who vilify Catholics who are faithful to Tradition. For as you say: ” to add adjectives to that venerable title is to play into the hands of the Newspeakers who also claim it and who insist that we (orthodox or traditionalist) are merely a sub-category of the whole.” Indeed.
    I shall take a leaf out of your own book. There is only one way to be truly Catholic – anything else is a watered down imitation.

    P.S. It was yours truly who fixed the italics for you late last night…… (Burning the candle at both ends again! 😉 )

  10. toadspittle says:

    The post certainly did nail its colours to the mast, ran them up the flagpole and saluted them, and gave credit where credit was due – during which time every dog had its day.
    Gilded the pudding a bit, though. Not sure it didn’t over-egg the lily, as well.
    But now we know where we are. Don’t we?

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