Annie Gottlieb has gone on record about why, although she respects and sees the necessity of tradition, she is not a traditionalist. But she has painted a grotesque caricature of tradition and traditionalists as unbending, narrow, and refusing to admit to the validity of anything outside of itself, even self-evident truth. So it is no wonder she is not a traditionalist. Who wouldn’t refuse and detest such a thing? But this is merely a cartoon villain. I think Archbishop Fulton Sheen said something to the effect, “Few Americans hate the Catholic Church, but millions hate what they think is the Catholic Church.” Ms. Gottlieb does not help the case of tolerance and mutual understanding by advertising her disdain for that which she and her adoring readers merely imagine to be tradition or its hideous underbelly.
Most traditions and those loyal to them don’t look anything like the monstrosity she’s painted. Instead they are often quite fair and open-minded. Of course they express conviction in opinions of which they are convinced. But such is the natural state of mankind. Surely Ms. Gottlieb would not denigrate the honest holding of opinions, a right she seems perfectly willing to exercise herself. Indiscriminate doubt is no virtue, and neither is adolescent loathing of one’s own formation and traditions. And one is forced to wonder whether Ms. Gottlieb has actually gotten to know an actual tradition, and a few of its actual adherents. Does she even know the thing she so eloquently rails against? I think not. On the contrary, I suspect that Ms. Gottlieb is not a Traditionalist mainly because she doesn’t quite know what one is.