||The neutrality of this article is disputed. (June 2011)|
Neo-Catholicism is a term that some traditionalist Catholics use to describe a set of beliefs pertaining to both theology and political ideology. While a person does not necessarily subscribe to Neo-Catholic thought on both the theological and ideological levels, it is often implied that a Neo-Catholic does in fact subscribe to both tenets of Neo-Catholicism.
The term "Neo-Catholicism" or "Neo-Catholic" was first used, in 2002, in a controversial book called The Great Façade: Vatican II and the Regime of Novelty by traditionalist Catholics Christopher A. Ferrara and Thomas A. Woods, Jr, as a term for writers who opposed traditionalist Catholicism. It later increased in usage with another book,The Neo-Catholics, Implementing Christian Nationalism in America by Betty Clermont, using the term in the title. The term was originally used by traditionalist Catholics to describe other Catholics that have a particular set of theological opinions and political ideologies opposed to most traditionalist Catholics.
These writers represent Neo-Catholicism as the liberal thought that came as a result of the Second Vatican Council, while they represent as orthodox Catholicism those who want to return to pre-Vatican II roots. According to them, Neo-Catholics often support a "reform-of-the-reform" mentality which, they say, is the belief that there was nothing wrong with the Second Vatican Council or the changes to the Roman Missal stemming from that Council, but rather that small clarifications to the documents and an authentic interpretation or "hermeneutic of continuity" are all that is needed to retain orthodoxy.
They describe the theological approach that those they call Neo-Catholics take towards what they themselves perceive as lack of orthodoxy following the Second Vatican Council as "an attitude seemingly dedicated to obscuring common sense with elaborate explanations, [and] selective citations".
One peculiarity of the term "Neo-Catholic" is that they often apply it to converts from Protestantism to Roman Catholicism. Two major Catholic apologists whom they often call Neo-Catholic, Scott Hahn and Jimmy Akin, are converts from Protestantism, and they have described EWTN, which they often call Neo-Catholic, as having a theological committee where "[t]he majority of the committee's members at the time, none of them priests, consisted of recently converted Protestants, two of whom were former Protestant ministers” and also as having a staff of 40% Protestants.
The term "Neo-Catholics", when used to describe a subset of Catholics who subscribe to a political ideology, refers to Catholics who align with the political ideologies of Americanism and/or Neo-Conservatism. Traditionalist Catholics often clash with Neo-Catholics politically because many traditionalist Catholics subscribe to the ideologies of Monarchism, Paleo-Conservatism, and/or Distributionism, and other groups of Catholics clash with Neo-Catholics because of their subscription to Liberalism or other political ideologies.
Neo-Catholic Attitudes towards the papacy
Neo-Catholics believe that the Popes since the Second Vatican Council were good and, sometimes, great Popes. When faced with criticism of the actions or words of one of these Popes, they are quick to defend these actions as either orthodox, misunderstood, or misrepresented. Further, they hold that it is against Catholic teaching, or, more moderately, "UnCatholic" to criticize the Pope even with regard to his personal opinions or public actions. One Neo-Catholic apologist (Fr. John Trigilio of EWTN, Catholic Answers, and Opus Dei) describes criticism of a Pope as:
Call me an Ultramontanist, but I echo Saint Ambrose, who said UBI PETRUS IBI ECCLESIA. Even though there were some prudential judgments of Pope John Paul II that I myself would have done differently, or even a few I did not personally like, out of respect for the office and the Petrine authority, I would never identify or mention them in public or private.[dead link]
This belief that the Pope in his behaviors and personal opinions is beyond criticism has caused some Catholics to accuse Neo-Catholics of "Papolatry" or "Pope-worship". Other Catholics cite the actions and words of St. Paul (see Galatians 2:11), St. Athanasius, and St. Catherine of Siena as good Catholics who criticized the actions and / or words of a Pope, arguing that at times criticism of a Pope is not only allowed, but obligatory.
- EWTN: A Network Gone Wrong. A review by Robert A. Sungenis, Ph.D.
- Seattle Catholic - Book Review: The Great Facade
- EWTN: A Network Gone Wrong p. 54
- Sungenis, Robert A. Review of EWTN: A Network Gone Wrong
- Fr. John Trigilio as quoted by Matt C. Abbot
- Laymen Advising and Rebuking Popes. By David Armstrong.
- Clermont, Betty (2009), The Neo-Catholics: Implementing Christian Nationalism in America, Clarity Press, ISBN 0-932863-63-9
- Ferrara, Christopher (2002), The Great Facade, The Remnant Press, ISBN 1-890740-10-1
- Ferrara, Christopher (2006), EWTN: A Network Gone Wrong, Good Counsel Publications, ISBN 0-9663046-7-5