Articulating the “New Traditionalism”: A conversation with Larry Chapp

Left to right: Larry Chapp, Mark Brumley, Carl E. Olson

“A Manifesto of the New Traditionalism”, published on the Gaudium et Spes 22 blog on December 22nd, was co-authored by Sean Domenicic, Larry Chapp and Marc Barnes.

Written from a “Catholic Worker perspective but with an eye toward the broader Church,” it addresses four major topics: the nature of the Church, the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas as “a foundation for the valuable ‘New Theologies'”, how the “natural law and the preferential option for the poor have been united in Catholic Social Teaching”, and how the “necessary Liturgical Renewal was begun, betrayed, and left unaccomplished”.

Dr. Chapp recently spoke with Carl E. Olson, editor of Catholic World Report, and Mark Brumley, president of Ignatius Press, about the Manifesto.

Here is the conversation:

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About Carl E. Olson 1227 Articles
Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight. He is the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, co-editor/contributor to Called To Be the Children of God, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius), and author of the "Catholicism" and "Priest Prophet King" Study Guides for Bishop Robert Barron/Word on Fire. His recent books on Lent and Advent—Praying the Our Father in Lent (2021) and Prepare the Way of the Lord (2021)—are published by Catholic Truth Society. He is also a contributor to "Our Sunday Visitor" newspaper, "The Catholic Answer" magazine, "The Imaginative Conservative", "The Catholic Herald", "National Catholic Register", "Chronicles", and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @carleolson.
About Mark Brumley 66 Articles
Mark Brumley is president and CEO of Ignatius Press.
About Larry Chapp 56 Articles
Dr. Larry Chapp is a retired professor of theology. He taught for twenty years at DeSales University near Allentown, Pennsylvania. He now owns and manages, with his wife, the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker Farm in Harveys Lake, Pennsylvania. Dr. Chapp received his doctorate from Fordham University in 1994 with a specialization in the theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar. He can be visited online at "Gaudium et Spes 22".


  1. Thank you three for this rich and insightful conversation introducing the “Manifesto of the New Traditionalism.” The overall thesis echoes Jaroslav Pelikan: “traditionalism is the dead faith of the living, and Tradition is the living faith of the dead” (maybe this quote shows up in the document).

    My hope is that CWR will pick up the notion expressed at the end, that “mixed feelings” about Pope Francis might be aired out in a followup conversation. Points of possible discussion might unpack Dr. Chapp’s too-abbreviated endorsement of the Second Vatican Council—that the Manifesto accepts the council “full stop.” He then cruised over (too-implicitly) three points of greatest confusion (and post-council exploitation) in the view of so-called Rad Trads. And, therefore worthy of a more precise followup conversation (yes, to the time limitation and the different focus of the present conversation).

    But as a segue:
    (1) What about “religious freedom” which precisely means freedom from coercion, rather than any libertarianism, but which in the past decade also seems to prohibit proselytizing?
    (2) What about “interreligious dialogue” and how this now is tilted into “pluralism” of more or less equivalent religions (the Abu Dhabi Declaration), not to mention the antics well underway in the bellwether German “synodal way”?
    (3) What about the broad “People of God” which under “synodality” (the vanedecum) is now apparently a blurred replacement for the sacramental Mystical Body of Christ—you know, “the Church”—and yet is cast as a source of the Church’s sensus fidei?

  2. Well, I sense I am a member of the “new tradition.”

    On the final note on the liturgy, I would add that I too have found that it is in the English Ordinariate liturgy that I see the continuity with, and indeed the unveiling of, the treasure of prayers of the Extraordinary Form, especially the reverence for The Roman Canon of the prayer of the Eucharist, and the re-establishment of the orientation toward God.

    Two quick notes, both on the idolatry of the “Liberal, Capitalist, Surveillance State”:

    A. The Ultimate Need of Truth in the quest for Freedom: the very words of Jesus provide the proper priority regarding freedom – “I have come that you will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free.”

    B. On the “sacralization” of Capitalism: Abraham Lincoln gave a speech (in Milwaukee in 1861) where he analyzed, and recognized, the rights of both labor and capital, but he any prudently asserted that the rights of labor (citizens working) are superior to the rights of mere capital, because the accumulation of wealth (capital) was only possible because the labor of the many citizens produced the wealth.

  3. I guess I would add a coda that, wrt the Second Vatican Council, I join B16 in utterly rejecting any assertion that it is a super-dogma, it is another Church Council, and nothing more than that, and can only be interpreted through the tradition and councils of the Church that convened V2.

    V2 can be criticized for its problems, and the so-called implementation of V2 deserves a ton of criticism.

  4. Carl, Larry, Mark,

    Is there a distinction or difference between the “New Traditionalism” of this manifesto and the more general concept of “neo-traditionalism”?

  5. An orthodox Catholic, a ‘faithful-to-Tradition Catholic,’ I accept that VCII happened. A tragedy attends mere mention of VCII inasmuch as the intentions of its Fathers were not in fact honored.

    The Manifesto notes: “This millennial Tradition bears witness to God’s work in the midst of his people and ‘is called to keep the flame alive rather than to guard its ashes'(Querida Amazonia Section 66).” In what sense has God’s work in Catholic Tradition given rise to “ashes”? Such an assertion does not square with the God of tradition as a supreme being whose existence is synonymous with essential goodness, providence, benevolence, love.

    Further, when any document attempts justification through ‘spirit’ (Holy, or that which arose from VCII), without a concrete defining of what that spirit is, how manifest, and how men may test its nature, the concept opens to subjective disabuse and disagreement.

    With the Holy Spirit comes the Father and the Son. With them comes the LIVING Body of Scripture, Tradition and the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church. No one person, pope or otherwise, has authority to declare (non ex cathedra) what tradition or scripture is ‘ash’ to be disregarded and what is to be kept. It is all ONE.

  6. I also appreciate the discussion here. I feel the need to say, however that “accepting” VII – as a council convened by the Pope and whose enactments were ratified by the bishops – does not carry an obligation to agree as well that it was a huge success or that it was wise to call a council at that time. In terms of its stated goals, I have to rate it as a failure, an unfortunate demonstration that good intentions do not guarantee good results. Thus, while I can agree with Larry Chapp that there were some less-than-ideal liturgical practices prior to the Council, I nevertheless hold that it was monumentally unwise to tamper with the liturgy in the manner and to the extent that was done following the Council. At least those silent Rosary-praying folks believed to the last one in the Real Presence, didn’t they?

    • Would you list what these are/where please; ” there were some less-than-ideal liturgical practices prior to the Council,” I don’t know what this refers to. Thank you.

      • I was referring to Larry Chapp’s aside about the Mass as it was typically celebrated prior to the reforms of VII, most of which seemed unconnected to the Council’s actual document, Sacrosanctum Concilium. The high Mass was relatively rare, people silent or praying the rosary during Mass, etc. I’d certainly agree if what the reform had consisted of would have been to bring the more widespread use of Gregorian chant, more choirs able to sing Palestrina and Victoria, etc. My point was that, however less-than-perfect the situation may have been in 1963 when the Council’s document on liturgy was promulgated, it would have been far better not to tamper with the liturgy at all, than to open the floodgates to the root-and-branch that some observers at the time presciently warned against.

  7. From the Manifesto: “It has become evident that the Devil’s tool to ruin the traditionalism of the 21st century is the spirit of the Pharisees, who opposed the renewal of the Spirit and the Good News of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We reject the white-washed tombs of this dead traditionalism.”

    What do Chapp et al. mean by the above statements? What defines the ‘spirit of a Pharisee?’ If Catholics preferring worship and Eucharist within the confines of the EF are seen to demonstrate the spirit of the ‘Pharisee’ the Manifesto begins and ends, excluding those Catholics.

    What, in God’s name, is “the renewal” of the Spirit??? Such a phrase is similar to the USCCB’s planned “Eucharistic revival”. Does the Spirit of God need ‘renewing’?? Does the Eucharist need a ‘reviving’?? God needs no reforming. His Eucharistic Body needs no life support. God’s Spirit needs no renewal at the hands of man.

    Rather, the entire ‘people of God’ need returning, conversion, renewing, and reforming. They owe contrition to GOD. The people of God need a major penitential scourging of sin in order to begin to see the immutable light source of Life, Grace, Union, and Peace. Until then, darkness does reign.

  8. Couple more questions:
    1) For what purpose, to what audience, is the Manifesto directed?
    2) Considering the current pontificate’s faith in a new synodal path, what do the authors of the Manifesto see as the impetus or its relevance to a Franciscan synod? Will the Manifesto walk the synodal path?
    3) “However, we recognize that the liturgy (the Tridentine Mass) was unable to develop organically in this era,…” What era is referenced?, and specifically what are the bases for the claim that the liturgy failed to develop organically? What specifically prohibited or interfered with its development?
    4) “As the liturgical renewal necessarily continues,…” What necessitates a renewal? Hasn’t Traditiones custodes done what the pope has deemed needful? Hasn’t the NO Missae done its job?

    Finally, note must be made of a recent survey of belief among attendees of TLM. There was virtually no ‘doubt and confusion concerning the Real Presence.’ So here, again, the Manifesto appears to begin and end by excluding those Catholics. As such, that is a sorrow and a loss to a church which speaks and walks and celebrates Muslims, Hindus, atheists, every shade of immoralist, and all stripe of protestant.

  9. Change the world for the better rather than repudiate. Catholicism’s challenge in the modern world is retention of the heartbeat of Christ’s revelation, and designing it to address what challenges the world. +Heartbeat refers to a living heart that can transform itself and not change its essential character. That was the intent of Vat II and the intent of the Manifesto. Chapp is a Thomist. As applied to a dynamic process, Aquinas did not create a closed system. He developed a principled methodology to pursue truth. As such Chapp’s efforts have promise. +Rather than pursue questions on Larry Chapp’s reference to Martini, presumably Cardinal Carlo Maria SJ, creator of the perpetual synod concept for change. And sexuality as a social justice issue [that has dual moral implications] since it cannot be achieved here, and like many an appreciation of Pope Francis coupled with dissatisfaction, the challenge for Chapp and Manifesto is the perennial tension between an efficacious accommodation with the world, changing it for the better and Christ’s radical message of repudiation. +Taking all in consideration, the present waning grasp of orthodox doctrine leading to heterodox practice and apostasy, hierarchical disarray, this writer’s concern is that the method becomes the message rather than its content. That in appearance the Manifesto might cohere with the expected outcome of an unending universal synod. Multiplication of interests in which the Word is one among many. My hope is otherwise.

    • Chapp in his Manifesto rundown references religious freedom. An immense issue. Example, Dignitatis Humanae is deficient in defining religious liberty. Not in context of our religious liberty under the Constitution, as the document does well. Rather within the Catholic Church.
      Every Sunday we recite the Nicene Credo. That is not an exercise of personal judgment. It’s a necessary testament of our faith. Either we believe as we say, or we do not and renounce our faith. Coercive, as was the coercive words of Christ, “Preach the gospel to every creature. He that believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he that does not shall be damned” (Mk 16:15). “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town” (Mt 10:14-15).
      What I find both promising, and perhaps compromising in Chapp is articulated here: “Schindler argues that all governments are inherently confessional, and Liberalism most certainly so, and that we are not therefore really debating whether or not governments should be integralist with regards to some preferred and privileged concept of the good, since all are so. Schindler’s integralism differs from the more standard integralists like Waldstein. Schindler argues for a vision of church and state relations that are rooted in analogical rather than univocal concepts of power” (Larry Chapp review David C Schindler’s The Politics of the Real: the Church Between Liberalism and Integralism).
      Chapp understands a revised integralism as complimentary to shared values of the common good. That analogical integral good is also envisioned by Pope Francis. Again, unless Catholicism affirms its suzerainty of moral preeminence within any form of Church State relations it devolves into the alternative one among many syndrome.

  10. Traditionalist in France is a derogatory title used to denote people opposed to post 1968 Freemasonic New World. All tradition is rightly deemed the enemy of New World Order The extreme Protestantisation of the Catholic Church headed by political infiltrates in the 60s and 70s is entirely responsible for our considering what was normal in 1958 to be outlandish. But gentlemen, the world changes the cross remains: for Catholicism that means the mass. Michael Davies would have something to say… But I appreciate that Ignatius Press is here doing what Has to be done… post Politcoglio the Restoration must begin. But updating and slashing old paradigms: is Protestant and simply not Catholic for unschooled non-theological experts. God bless the editor of the Vicar of Christ: PPBXVI.

  11. ? I read and reread “A Manifesto of the New Traditionalism”, and came away with confusion. merion writes, “There was virtually no ‘doubt and confusion concerning the Real Presence.’ So here, again, the Manifesto appears to begin and end by excluding those Catholics.” I agree. There seemed to be more reverence, more awe of the mystery of our faith, more peace, more. Having a hard time expressing my thoughts today. But something is missing in the new Mass. Not saying there was anything wrong with looking at traditional practices, looking to see if they were doing all they should be doing. But outside of having the Mass said in the language used where you live, I don’t understand most of the changes. The priest wasn’t turning his back on us; he was facing the East. So many do not know that. I should shut up. Sinus headache is blocking my thoughts.

    • Moira,
      Sinus headache or not, I’m grateful we have this forum to share our thoughts. Whether Mr. Chapp reads or cares what we write is particularly moot.

      Writing is difficult. The incoherence I discover at re-reading my writing of a day prior never fails to shock. We somehow muddle through, and many people get the drift of our meanings anyway. Words tell a lot.

      Most posters tend to question the relevance, validity, or charitable intent of a manifesto on a new traditionalism according to Chapp and his other assorted chaps.

      NB: Trying to find a way to see such chaps as hail-fellows-well met, I checked the dictionary. The root of the name in old English meant “peddler, trader.” It also means “the lower jaw or half of the cheek, especially that of a pig used as food.” Suddenly lunch seems easy to forego!

      Happy Blessed New Year, Everybody!

  12. Perhaps it is not the traditionalists who are having a hard time with organic development, but Rome. In one decade the Latin mass is resuscitated, and the next it is smacked down, for reasons of politics versus doctrine. Although there are lots of interesting insights in this interview, the suggestion it is more important to give wholesale allegiance to a prolix set of conciliar documents like those of Vatican II than to allow faithful Catholics access to an ancient rite does not seem an especially well-timed project. It reminds me of Biden’s attempt to hard sell vaccination. Worthy intent, questionable strategy. On his blog Chapp repeatedly says he no longer cares what people think of what he says. I too often feel that way, but that spirit rarely gets me far.

  13. Re Joe above – “On his blog, Chapp repeatedly says he no longer cares what people think about what he says”.
    Mm. Maybe there’s a connection with resolve to excuse myself from reading Chapp from here on in.

    • I’m with you.
      Note: “chap” means the lower portion of an animal chin or cheek, particularly that of a pig, which is used as food! If that isn’t a way to jump-start a resolution to diet in the new year, what is!?

  14. The exhbitionism cited in Chicago happens in many places and it has been going on a long time; and so far, only Traditionalists would reign it in and only Traditionalists have the sense deal with it. I’m not labeling them Traditionalists -it’s a useful cognomen. And when they are right it is not something “unprogressive”.

    I say exhibitionism but could use stronger terminology. Like anti-liturgy. And there’s another anti-word I could apply too.

  15. I’ve read the manifesto at the Gaudium et Spes 22 blog. It ressembles Biedermeier to me – restoration of traditions, moderate path between rupturist, and so one.

    Hope that New Traditionalism does not end shortly with the onset of the Revolutions as Biedermeier did.

    • Collins English Dictionary:
      1. (Furniture) of or relating to a decorative and furnishing style in mid-19th-century Germany, characterized by solidity and conventionality
      2. boringly conventional in outlook; bourgeois

      Def. 1 – obviously doesn’t apply
      Def. 2 – Lukewarm, tending toward oblivion.

  16. Re Elias Galy above – I vote we retire the word progressive. It is most often used to shut up anyone who is not on board with “progressive” orthodoxy.

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