Traditionalism

An early nineteenth-century French Catholic response to European Enlightenment rationalism and the French Revolution, and instrumental in forming ultramontanism.* Its main founder was Louis de Bonald (La législation primitive, 1802), who was joined by F.R. Lamennais* in his early years, and Joseph de Maistre.* It was a search for a principle of authority, necessitated by what was seen as a collapse of rationalism and social order. Individual human reason was incapable either of discerning metaphysical or moral truth by itself or of establishing right order in society. Instead, they argued, it was God who revealed the truths to men, through the first man, and embodied them in tradition-the transmission of God's original truth from generation to generation through the organic development of history, by instruction, and within the structures of authority, specifically the papacy for things spiritual and the rulers for things temporal. Belief was the certain apprehension and acceptance of this tradition.

The doctrine represented in Catholic philosophy a swing toward the pole of faith, denying that “natural reason” could attain such “natural truths” as God's existence, the principle of authority, and the moral law. Its contributions to Ultramontanism were accepted while its doctrines of faith and tradition were periodically condemned in mid-nineteenth-century papal encyclicals as blind faith. The decrees of Vatican I* and the reestablishment of Thomism* by Leo XIII* (1879) further destroyed the doctrine.

E. Hocedez, Histoire de la théologie au xixième siècle (2 vols., 1948, 1955); L. Foucher, La philosophie catholique en France au XIXième siècle avant la renaissance thomiste, 1800-1880 (1955); G. Boas, French Philosophies of the Romantic Period (1964); “Traditionalism” in Sacramentum Mundi VI (1970), pp. 274-75.