Fish Eaters: The Whys and Hows of Traditional Catholicism

``Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church'' Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D

Toxic Traddism


While not at all a universal phenomenon in the trad world, "toxic traddism" is present enough to warrant being talked about in a straightforward, matter-of-fact manner. Though relatively few trads are "toxic trads," the "toxic trads" that be tend to be loud on the internet and, so, capable of tainting how traditional Catholicism is seen from the outside.

What is "toxic traddism"? It's psychopathology posing as piety. It's a sort of gnosticism that's used to put Band-Aids on feelings of uncertainty, anomie, and emotional pain, and to exert control over others. It's rooted in a failure to master the moral virtues, and a rejection of the theological virtues, especially Faith and Charity; when present in a group of people, it looks like spiritually dangerous, psychologically unhealthy cult-like behavior. It's a phenomenon found in those for whom Tradition is less about the Faith than it is about a means to instill order over their own chaotic minds and emotions, and over their personal world.

How is toxic traddism manifest? It's manifest in arrogance, busy-bodying, LARPing1, finger-pointing, paranoia, gossip, over-protection of children, spousal abuse, mistaking "modern" for "modernist," prudery, the raising of personal opinions to the level of dogma, hyper-vigilance against perceived evils and enemies, making the perfect the enemy of the good, inordinate "cancel-culturing," lack of humor, lack of empathy and charity for certain types of sinners (you know, the ones whose sins are different from those manifest by, or admitted to by, the toxic types), baseless conspiracy-mongering (which is not to say that some conspiracies are not true), and other such unpleasant behaviors. Though the gates of Hell will never prevail against Christ's Church, people who manifest these sorts of toxic behaviors work against the cause of preserving and spreading the Faith, whether they realize it or not (and they likely don't). These are the people who may well put decades of work into raising children who will flee from the holy religion the first chance they get because of the environment in which they've been raised, and the way in which the Faith has been shown to them.

Toxic traddism must be called out -- vehemently. These sorts of behaviors and attitudes destroy families, and drive people away from Christ's Church. Below are some things to look out for in yourself and your community.

Are you a toxic trad? You might be if you:

treat the Holy Faith like a mere philosophy (merely knowing what you know won't save you). Don't equate having a living, saving faith with coming to an intellectual conclusion (see I Corinthians 13:1-8). Don't treat having faith as something you've accomplished rather than as a supernatural gift -- a gift you've not at all earned, a gift offered to everyone on the planet, a gift you don't "own," a gift that must be embraced and lived and not simply acknowledged to exist (James 2:14-26 "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble")
treat with disdain good-willed and charitable folks who haven't come to your intellectual conclusions (do you speak of those who attend Novus Ordo Masses as "Protestants"? As not as "good" or smart as you are? With contempt?);
have no idea what Jesus meant when He said, "Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man: but what cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man" (Matthew 15:11);
pit Truth against Charity;
don't say (or intellectually believe) but act as if "the ends justify the means";
like the idea of people who disagree with you burning in Hell;
treat your chapel or parish like your personal club, closed down to newcomers, whom you stare at, never smile at, search for problems in, have no patience with, treat as irredeemable if they don't know all the rules and "culture" yet, and turn away with your sour attitude and demeanor;
are OK with turning folks away from Christ, His Church, and Tradition if it means you get to vent your rage or be proven right in an argument;
never admit you're wrong;
treat others as if you have no faith in grace, no trust that people can change, learn, and grow, and, therefore, you hold people's pasts against them;
are really fond of "admonishing sinners" without caring at all about the Church's teachings about whether, when, and how to go about that;
ignore Pope St. Pius X's words from E Supremi: "But in order that the desired fruit may be derived from this apostolate and this zeal for teaching, and that Christ may be formed in all, be it remembered, Venerable Brethren, that no means is more efficacious than charity. 'For the Lord is not in the earthquake' - it is vain to hope to attract souls to God by a bitter zeal. On the contrary, harm is done more often than good by taunting men harshly with their faults, and reproving their vices with asperity";
treat non-traditional Catholics and non-Catholics as immoral and bad rather than simply uninformed and beloved and, quite possibly, very naturally virtuous -- maybe even more virtuous than you;
mistake ignorance for innocence;
think that anything "modern" is "modernist";
mistake "secular" for "evil";
treat sins of weakness the same as sins of malice;
hear certain words ("homosexual," "modern," etc.) and have instantaneous and irrational reactions, coming to conclusions -- which you express with great vehemence -- without thinking for one minute;
love to copy-paste wallls of text out of context in order to win debates ("win" being the operative word) a discussion (wait: "discussion"? No such thing! There are only debates!);
have in mind a specific time period of the Church that you see as Her "golden age" (likely either the Middle Ages, the Victorian era, or the 1950s), which you romanticize inordinately;
treat the Faith in an escapist manner by engaging in LARPing, such as using words in an outdated way to prove how counter-cultural you are (e.g., "courting" instead of "dating," or "maiden" instead of "girl"), dressing oddly, feigning scandal at things you've seen pretty much every day of your life, etc. (note that "styling," having a preferred aesthetic, or being a tad quirky are different from LARPing). Some folks prone to LARPing tend also to be prone to drama, making everything an opera. They don't cry, they "weep"; they don't eat, they "dine", they don't marry, they "wed", etc. They crank everything up to 11 and wrap it in histrionic language (Ex. Once, after I had to ban someone from the discussion forum for rudeness and making false reports, I got a complaint about it that started out with "You have tied [name withheld] to a stake and burned him for heresy all for standing up to the True Faith" and was followed by his asking "why have you betrayed your own brother and symbolically cast him into the outer darkness?" Buh-ruther!);
you're more into warped ideas of "burning heretics" or joining a "Crusade" than of putting on Christ (note: Grasshopper, masculinity is a great thing -- a much undervalued and needed thing -- and men need ways to exercise fortitude and their instinct to protect. There are ways to go about this, though. And ways not to.);
 think attending the traditional Mass offered "inside the structures" is co-operating with evil;
never give the Pope the benefit of the doubt when possible, always interpet his words in the worst way possible, assign motives to him that you can't possibly know, and talk about it all with great disrespect for him;
love to find dirt on people and dish it up;
love to make things up about people or distort things if you can't fnd any real dirt to dish up;
hear what you want to hear and see what you want to see, with what you're wanting to see and hear being things that really get you mad and, therefore, having to admonish someone;
think "scandal" is defined as "a situation in which one is made to clutch one's pearls" or "a situation in which you pretend to feel 'shocked'" -- and love to find "scandal" and often claim to be "scandalized";
love to make assumptions and leap to conclusions about things you know nothing about and then proclaim "scanda!" (e.g., "They share housing? That means they're having sex! Scandal! Fornicators!");
put people into categories of "good" or "bad" and then expect no good from the "bad," and no bad from the "good."  The "good" (certain conservative groups, for ex.) are always right, and the "bad" (e.g., a liberal group) are always wrong, etc. That sort of group-think, identity politics-style gangbanging has no place in Catholicism;
are unwilling to see any wrongdoing in your own parish, chapel, family, community, group of priests, etc., and are willing to lie to cover up wrongdoing that needs to be made known;
are always making the perfect as the enemy of the good, and, don't just ignore, but excoriate and shun people who don't share your obsessions, or who make a mistake or sin, or who might be right 99% of the time but, with no malice, hold to some error (ex., "Mr. X does most things wonderfully and is almost always right, but he doesn't talk about Y. Therefore, he's a gelded modernist and a not-worth-a-damn enemy!" or "I thought Mr. Y's books were great. But then he said something I disagreed with or committed a sin I'm not prone to committing, so I burned all of his works. That's how good I am!" or "Don't go to that website/watch that movie; the person who made it is one of 'them.'"). In other words, you refuse to see any value in anyone or anything that is less than pristine (in your view);
ignore the subtleties and complexities of human psychology. Not only is your motto not "Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto" ("I am human; nothing human is alien to me"), but the human is terrifying -- and, of course "scandalous!" -- to you;
have a strange view of mental or emotional problems and ascribe all of them to the individual's personal sin or the demonic or some such;
lack a sense of humor;
advocate non-defensive violence;
think that an occasion of sin for you is an occasion of sin for everyone, and, therefore, accuse people of sinning by putting themselves in "near occasions of sin" that aren't near occasions of sin for them, but are for you (for ex., a song makes you feel/think X, and X is bad; therefore, no one should ever listen to that song because it makes you feel/think X.);
are incapable of nuanced thought and are always throwing out babies with their bathwater (e.g., you know that many psychologists operate with wrong premises about human nature, so you throw shade on psychology as a whole; you know that many scientists have materialist worldviews marked by scientism, so you are paranoid about actual science, etc.)
think anyone liking any music but Gregorian chant and maybe folk or country is being immoral;
hang on to a notion if it "sounds" trad, even though it isn't;
answer others' questions with authoritative-sounding guesses instead of "I don't know," and respond to their doubts with "how dare you?" instead of assuring them that if there's a teaching they don't understand, the answer is out there and you will help them find it;
treat objects or various technologies as evil in themselves;
are unwilling to face painful truths, especially painful truths about yourself;
hide likes, dislikes, and other aspects of yourself away not because they are sinful or simply private, but out of fear that someone might disapprove;
think it's worthy of a 20-page thread to ask and answer questions like, "Is it OK to sneeze while you pray the Rosary?" Seriously, God isn't retarded. And, if you're reading this, neither are you, most likely. Stop.;
act like a child and run to consult with a priest for every little thing. Grow up and quit foisting responsibility for your life and decisions on to someone else.;
call someone a "radical feminist" because he thinks things like equal pay for equal work are good things;
take out on your wife and daughters your (understandable) rage at feminists;
you think sex is dirty, have no humor about it, and mistake prudishness for chastity and modesty. Weirdly, though, you see sex and filth everywhere -- even where it isn't. You never say words like "penis" or "vagina" or talk frankly about sexual matters, and frown on those who do, even if they're careful to go about it in a manner that wouldn't incite lust in the average person;
judge, look down on, or gossip about couples who are childless or have no or "too few" children, assuming they practice artificial contraception;
equate modesty with ugly or outdated (think "Little House on the Prairie") attire, and force it on your daughters, thereby setting them up to feel like social freaks (who will likely rebel at the first chance they get);
treat a woman's wearing of pants as intrinsically evil, and raise your opinion on the matter to the level of dogma;
are female and a masochist who denigrates your own intelligence, dreams of fainting couches, and thinks all other women need to be like you, or are of either sex and engage in masochism while positioning it as sanctity;
are male and mistake cruelty or machismo for masculinity, treat your wife like a slave or child, and treat your children like products who need to reflect you back to yourself or be punished;
think that all women belong only either at home as homemakers or in a convent, no matter who they are or what their gifts and challenges are;
confuse the word "effeminate" (meaning morally soft, lacking in fortitude, given to luxury) with "feminine" (relating to women);
ostracize any man who isn't "manly enough" because his interests aren't typical of men (or like yours), or bully women who aren't "womanly enough" because their interests or personae are more typical of males;
seriously believe that "ideas aren't for girls";
are unwilling to differentiate between the general and the specific (e.g., you know that it's a fact that women, as a group, are more prone to neuroticism than men, as a group, are, so conclude that "no woman should ever be in a leadership position");
think that emotions are for sissies and "mere" women, unless it's anger, which is always "righteous" if it's coming from you;
focus only on Ephesians 5:24 ("Therefore as the church is subject to Christ, so also let the wives be to their husbands in all things.") and forget what comes after in Ephesians 5:25 ("Husbands, love your wives, as Christ also loved the church, and delivered himself up for it"), treating the Church's teaching on the submission of wives to their husbands as a right of husbands to treat their wives like maids, children, slaves, and general non-persons;
think not that fathers and husbands are the heads of their homes, but that men are the heads of women;
have a strange view of disease, deformity, poverty, and other afflictions such as you see them as punishment from God not in any general "wages of original sin" sense, but in individual cases;
hate homosexuals, and talk about them in a highly denigrating way that ensures your children would never be honest with you if they were to struggle with same sex attraction themselves;
think and write as if every homosexual is an active homosexual and a homosexual activists who is out to destroy the Church and Western civilization, and who is automatically willing to have sex with any other homosexual (such that you think things like "two homosexuals should never be left alone together because it'd be a near occasion of sin," etc., blah blah). You also think about homosexuality only in terms of sexual acts, forgetting about eros, the desire for communion with another, love and affection, and the complexity of human psychology;
are not merely a race realist (i.e., able to see differences in group averages), but are a supremacist, thinking one race is ontologically superior to another; devalue individuals because of race; and/or think "miscegenation" is against Catholic teaching (it isn't);
don't just simply know what post-Temple Judaism teaches, understand something about the history of usury and its effects, or about the power of AIPAC, etc., but talk about these things with no prudence whatsoever and think that anyone with Jewish heritage is a nefarious creature, in on some conspiracy, and automatically damned to Hell;
raise your children in a joyless environment marked by unnecessary rules that you rigidly, mercilessly enforce;
never apologize to your children;
over-protect your children so that they feel like weirdos who are unable to deal with the world;
lie or exaggerate to your children to make them afraid of the world (don't mistake ignorance for innocence!);
don't allow your children to pursue their interests, use their gifts, or express themselves (all within reason, of course -- where "reason" means "reason" and not concern over the lip-flapping of others) because those interests, gifts, or desires aren't typical of the sex they belong to, or aren't what you personally wish for them;
foster in your children the idea that sex is shameful or that their bodies are dirty instead of wonderfully-made temples of God with certain parts that are so beautiful and special that they should be kept private (if you don't teach your children about sex, the world will, and the world will get it wrong);
don't affirm your children emotionally, and teach them not to master their emotions (to understand them and act on them appropriately), but to quash them, to ignore them, to stuff them down and hide them away. And you likely do the same thing with your emotions, and your friends' emotions. You set a tone which makes it clear that things you find "scandalous" or unpleasant can't be mentioned or discussed with any reason or compassion;
are obsessed with the demonic or have a habit of attributing to the preternatural what is actually natural;
are involved in a cult of personality with regard to some alleged "seer" or "prophet";
converted from Protestantism and hang on to aspects of it;
are incapable of nuanced thought about things such as evolution, ghosts, women in trousers, astrology, amusement parks, the age of the earth, geocentrism or heliocentrism or other attempts to discern the center of the universe, tobacco use, poker, boxing, the color red, various symbols that look creepy to you (like black and white check floor tiling patterns, the mano cornuta hand sign, etc.), and other random things, but have extremely strong opinions about them which you go on about in the manner of Jack Chick;
never met a conspiracy theory you didn't adhere to (which is not to say that conspiracies don't exist, obviously, but you go for wacky, baseless ones by instinct, never attributing to coincidence or weakness what can be attributed to malicious conspiring by evil-doers);
like to quash the enthusiasm of priests who are new to Tradition and who are still in the learning phases of knowing how to offer the traditional Mass. You watch vulture-like for any mistake, any misstep, so you can run to social media and rant about it, making the priest sorry he even tried to make a move toward Tradition;
are prone to certain defense mechanisms, especially denial, repression, displacement, intellectualization, rationalization, and projection -- all of which you mistake for virtue;
notice (or not) that you have a record of spoil-sporting, ruining parties, harshing mellows, mucking vibes, and otherwise lowering the temperature of rooms when you walk into them.

I pray that those for whom any of the above are true will read Conversion of the Heart and Judging Others. I pray they start to take a deep look into their psyches and start to sort through it all, facing their fears, grief, rage, or shame with fortitude and humility, and looking for instances of repression, projection, and displacement. I pray they ask Christ for the gifts of Faith, Hope, and Charity. I pray they ask forgiveness of Christ and others. And I pray they seek counseling before they destroy themselves and their families.

A Note to Those Whose Lives Are Being Made Hellish by the Toxic: You Belong

If you find yourself surrounded by "toxic trads," don't let them make you doubt yourself, your "worthiness," or whether you belong in Christ's Church. If you don't fit in with their aesthetics and in-group ways of doing things, so be it; you nonetheless belong in Christ's Church. If you're a woman who always wears pants, has short hair, and fells trees for a living, you belong. If you're a misfit eccentric, an outlier given to doing the surprising and odd just for fun, you belong. If you're a man who suffers from same sex attraction, loves designing clothes, and speaks with very sibillant esses, you belong. If you love listening to heavy metal and hanging out in mosh pits, you belong. If you're a tomboy who hates to get dressed up and prefers softball over sewing, you belong. If you're covered in tats and spent time in jail, you belong. If you had a wild, sex-filled past that you've repented of, you belong. If you wear nothing but black and call yourself "Goth," you belong. If you're an addict doing his best to give up his sin but stumbles periodically and repents when he does, you belong. If you struggle with meth, have lost all your teeth, and don't have nice clothes to wear to Mass, you belong. If you're tormented by "identity issues," you belong. If you've had an abortion or helped cause a girlfriend to get one, you belong. If you're "on the spectrum" and find socializing excrutiating and inscrutable, you belong. If your faith sometimes wavers and you have doubts but you don't willingly resist the Church's dogma, you belong. Whatever may be your nationality, ethnic group, race, or former religion, you belong. If you're thrice divorced and came to Christ late in life, you belong. So long as you're baptized, love Christ, confess the Church's four creeds, embrace Tradition, repent of your sins as needed, and strive for virtue, you belong. Let no one keep you from Christ and His Church. Ever.


1 LARP is an acronym for "Live Action Role-Playing," a sort of game in which players dress up and act out the game's plot. It is used, too, for people who engage in historical re-enactment. Someone who "LARPs" in the sense used on this page is using a fake persona, a sort of social mask. He's a poseur.

Back to Being Catholic