It is time to #UniteTheClans

Consider three data points.

  • The Pew Research Study about the Eucharist
  • Shifting Demographics
  • From 2007 to 2017 locations for the TLM grew from 50 to over 500.

The editor of The Remnant, my friend Michael Matt, has begun to promote something called

Unite The Clans!

What he is asking for is that Catholics who are on the traditional side of things should set aside small differences and work together – intelligently, strategically – to accomplish goals.

I’ve been talking about this for years.

Libs, the left, progressivists, modernists, whatever, set aside small differences all the time to work together.  Of course, that’s easy when you’re main objective is to tear something down, rather than to build or repair.

By contrast, conservatives and traditionalists tend to defend their own little wrinkle of turf to the point that they won’t unite and work with others.  They couldn’t organize a bird-cage.

Remember the great Mel Gibson movie about William Wallace?  Braveheart?  He managed to bring together otherwise squabbling clans which, divided, remained weak in the face of the Sassanach enemy.

Benjamin Franklin, said,  “We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”

Find a stick.  It breaks easily as you bend it.  Bind it together with a dozen others like it and try again.

Mr. Matt brings up the fact that some on the traditionalist side of things blast away at others, who really are on the same side, for not being sufficiently pure, or trad or militant or in your face, etc.   He points out that it is smart, strategic, prudent, in many cases not immediately to shoot every bit of ammo that you have all at once.  Pick your targets, your hills, your battles.  Figure out what you want to accomplish and then figure out how to attain your goal… rather than die trying.

Remember your Tennyson?

‘Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns’ he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Wasn’t Gen. Pickett’s march up the long slope magnificent?

Who can forget the legendary charge of Leroy Jenkins?

[For those of you who wrote: Yes, I know that those are examples of failure.  That’s why I used them.  It’s called irony.]

Here’s the bottom line.

Sometimes the best way to win the field or attain the hill or capture the flag, whatever, is to use a little stealth, or even to use some diplomacy.

There are time when we really do have to paint our faces blue and pick up the sword and move with purpose.


We don’t have to paint our faces blue every single day.


On those days when we really do have to paint our faces blue, we don’t have to charge without a plan.

I endorse what Michael Matt offered at The Remnant.  We have to unite the clans.

For some this will require a careful examination of what our goals are.  Without that, we can’t develop a plan to proceed.

This is precisely parallel with the spiritual life.  In order to pursue perfection in our spiritual lives, in order to make a good confession, we have to examine our consciences and lives diligently and sort our what it is that we really love.

To unite the clans we have to:

  • Clarify our objectives.
  • Examine our consciences.

The ends of ancient Rhetoric, which informed the minds of the greatest Catholic thinkers and writers for centuries, were to move, to entertain, and to persuade.  To do these things, the rhetor, the orator, had to know his audience and then choose carefully the style of speech.  Elevated?  Simple?  He had to choose arguments that he knew would move this audience to his purpose.  The orator has to figure out what is apt for this audience and this occasion in order to attain this goal.

Now, it could be that you are the sort of person who now has the opportunity to participate at Holy Mass in the Extraordinary Form regularly.  It may be that you are content and comfortable.  It may be that you don’t think you have to do anything anymore.

I say that to stay in one place in comfort is to risk losing everything you have.

I also say that when you love other people, you want them to have the best.  If you love the TLM, you want others to have it as well.

Are you caught in your little wrinkle in time, your comfort zone?  Are you locked into a singular trench, unwilling to coordinate and work with others.  Are you slapping away olive branches because the hand that holds them isn’t ideologically pure enough?

What’s your end game?


Frequent commentator here, and fellow ham – WB0YLE – who set up ZedNet, and who has been restoring St. Anne’s Shrine in Fall River, sent me a note with a link to the video Gettysburg.  He was part of the vast group of Civil War enactors in the movie.

WB0YLE, a native of Fall River, engaged in a diplomatic process of diplomacy with the local bishop, who eventually gave the group what they wanted. Now this group has a chance to prove that they can get it done. Had they Pickett’s Charged the bishop, had they Light-Brigaded, had they Leeroy Jenkinsed the bishop, that glorious church would have been closed and its magnificent decorations disassembled and sold for massive profit like Planned Parenthood sells baby parts.

They didn’t charge blindly. They determined what they wanted and chose a realistic path to get it.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, Be The Maquis, Si vis pacem para bellum!, The Coming Storm, The future and our choices, The Id of Traddydom and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Chuck4247 says:

    This post reminded me of Sabaton’s song “Blood of Bannockburn”, as well as the old Irish tune “The Rising of the Moon”. If one wants a good example of what to do and what not to do, perhaps comparing the various Irish revolutions to the war waged by William Wallace (and subsequently Robert the Bruce). As William’s uncle says in Braveheart “First, learn to use [your head], then I will teach you to use [the sword]”.

    (Yes, as an Irish-American, it is hard to give credit to the Scots where the Irish failed…)

  2. Philmont237 says:

    We actually show the Leroy Jenkins video at Air University to show Air Force Officers how the planning process does NOT work.

    [I can’t resist this: Can we assume, then, that the Air Force recommends NOT planning for missions?  o{];¬)  ]

  3. Hidden One says:

    In very practical and concrete terms, what does #UniteTheClans mean? It’s a great idea, but what will be different one month, three months, a year from now? What are the real consequences of this idea?

    [It’s a fair question. My first recommendation would be more inter-linking and inter-site dialogue (substantive) and a great deal grinding on each other. Also, perhaps some conferences (and Masses) together to emphasize common ground on themes and devotions of common interest.]

  4. G1j says:

    I pray every day for a glimmer of uniting clans and the hope of a semblance of reverence to return to our struggling parishes. In the 5 parish community that my family belongs to, the congregation for the most part wants 40 minute Masses, of which we had the misfortune of participating in this past weekend. I’m very fearful we have passed the point of no return. My wife and I are both praying for change through the intercession of Pope St. Pius V. My family would be overjoyed with a hybrid NO/TLM style Mass. Best case scenario would be one of our parishes within 50 miles to offer the TLM. Thank you Fr. Z for a breath of sanity and foresight.

  5. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    Given your advice in other contexts to think like the Maquis, is it possible to say fairly that, since it’s a target rich environment in the battle to restore Catholic identity and win souls for Christ, small victories are still victories?

    [Small victories are still victories. And given the current state of things, small victories are big in another sense. They build confidence and momentum. What we don’t need are PYRRHIC victories!]

  6. JTH says:

    Amen. The devil confuses and divides. We have the Eucharist as our “common ground”.

  7. MikeRogers says:

    Pickett’s Charge, my heart breaks for those brave men who died fighting for what they believed in.

  8. DRY says:

    I agree, good concept to have strength in numbers.

    Concerning Fr. Z’s reply to Hidden One’s comment, I notice at Mr. Matt’s site that a conference is indeed convening in the Pittsburgh area at the beginning of November. They are calling it the “Catholic Identity Conference.” Does anyone here have intel on this gathering—in other words, can one reasonably expect it to be a significant step forward in uniting the clans? It’s only a 3.5 hour drive for me, giving me reason to consider checking it out.

  9. mo7 says:

    The traditional side cares about the purity of faith and worship. This is a good thing until it becomes my way or the highway and the factions become entrenched. The only one who wins is the liberal who cares little for giving God faith or worship. It reminds me of mixed religion marriage, where the children grow up to be nothing at all.

  10. Geoffrey says:

    I think this will be easier said than done. For example, I am a firm believer in Benedict XVI’s vision of the so-called “reform of the reform”: the Mass of St Paul VI celebrated with fidelity to the rubrics, with a healthy dose of Latin and Chant, “ad orientem”, and instituted ministers. This was the intention and the faithful have more than likely never experienced this, save a televised Papal Mass from the Vatican. In my experience, “liberals”, “progressives”, and “traditionalists” are not interested in this. Even Fr. Z seems to foresee the eventual demise of the Ordinary Form and the rise of the Extraordinary Form due to demographic changes. Difficult times for us “JPII / Benedict XVI Catholics”, as it seems like we are losing on all fronts, i.e. the “reform of the reform” and the legacy of Pope St John Paul the Great ala the recent happenings over at the John Paul II Pontifical Theological Institute for Marriage and Family Sciences in Rome.

  11. JRP says:

    I don’t disagree with the premise, and I don’t mean to (only) throw cold water on the enthusiasm, but I think one of the reasons this side of things is split is because there is not a sufficient metric on who is trustworthy. We’ve been in a reactive mode for a long time, a lot of us have had to, guided by the Saints and Doctors, carve out from amongst the modernist nonsense a range of tolerable theologumena.

    My ‘table stakes’ – the point where it is not still evangelization directed towards, but where cooperation is possible – have become the Athanasian Creed, more than passing familiarity with Denzinger’s, and being able to entertain the notion that Scotus’ misreading of Aristotle (leaning towards a primacy of will/good, and the univocal predication of being) was the major intermediate cause of most of the bad things that subsequently happened – Luther, protestantism, the soi-disant enlightenment, Descartes, Kant, Marx and a bunch of really bad modern things that culminate in the tragedy of postmodernism. (For those who can’t manage the latter, I substitute the notion that protestantism is among the worst ingenuities of the Enemy, baptizing and then intentionally denying the sacraments that sustain the life of Christ).

    This leaves me in rarified company, but not no company. It’s not in a quest for purity that these sorts of strictures are put in place, but to avoid the most obvious (to me) of pitfalls in ‘getting I’m bed’ with those who definitely don’t get ‘it’. (I.e. in your regime, we ally with people who like Latin, but deny the devil is a person, &c). Ultimately, an cooperation not built on a solid enough foundation is going to fall, and that foundation has to be embracing, wholeheartedly, the truths of the faith that must be held, which in today’s world arises in often alienating forms: people at war with the world and the worldlings, but not made insane by the fact of war.

    Honestly, I am more inclined to trust people who would distrust me until, by grace, I may hit upon the shibboleth that betokens my bona fides with them, than those who, outside of human measure, extend the olive branch.

  12. MB says:

    At the risk of invoking the wrath of Fr. Z, I’m a little confused by this. What you’re proposing here is that everyone just attend the Latin Mass, and that will make everything OK? [I don’t know whose post you read, but it wasn’t the one I posted here.  o{]:¬)  ] I don’t think it will. I’ve been attending a Latin Mass for a few years, and I’m seriously considering leaving it. From what I’ve seen the Latin Mass crowd is so afraid of losing permission to have the Latin Mass, that they are inhibited from telling any sort of truth about the situation we are in. [It is true that there is a lot of anxiety in some places. That’s not, however, what I’m talking about.]

    Besides, in my experience Latin Mass folks are obsessed with architecture and vestments and the dates on their missals. For the Glory of God, I understand – that’s all very good. Praise God. But, if you’re in a hard spot and looking for some spiritual direction … oh no. No, no. They don’t have time for that. [Who are “they”?]

  13. Hidden One says:

    Father Z, I like the idea of interlinking and especially the substantive dialogue aspect–and conferences, which facilitate people actually meeting each other–sound good. If I may ask some follow-up questions:

    How do we the lowly/anonymous types determine who (of the notable folk) is committed to #UniteTheClans? There are people I don’t pay much attention to in part because of past sniping, whether directly or in their comboxes, etc. I’d be more inclined to read/listen if I knew they were done with sniping. [Yes, that’s a big obstacle for many.]

    Where should I expect to find public evidence of the dialogues and whatnot? Some public sign of commitment to #UniteTheClans might help that get set up.

    Finally, since for the good of my soul I do avoid most of Catholic social media and related non-news stuff most of the time, is there any traction for this beyond, well, here and Mr. Matt?

    [When people have strong feelings about important issues, they can become closed to alternatives. Manifestations of good will are important. People have to be able to talk to each other and work together in important matters.]

  14. Roy Hobbs says:

    My history may be a bit fuzzy, but didn’t both charges cited, the Light Brigade’s and Pickett’s, ultimately fail?

    Maybe a better analogy is needed?

    [Yes. They failed. That was the point. We don’t have to charge all the time. Please review.]

  15. GHP says:

    With apologies to Lord Tennyson. Perhaps the blog poet-laureate can polish up this attempt:

    Brick-by-brick, brick-by-brick,
    Brick-by-brick onward,
    All facing liturgical East
    Stood the brave Fathers.
    “Forward, the Sanctus Bells!
    Forward the Right Brigade
    “Say the Black, do the Red! “he said.
    Facing the stares of Death
    Stood the brave Fathers.

    “Forward, the Sanctus Bells!”
    Was there a priest dismayed?
    The parishioners knew
    No one had blundered.
    Theirs not to make reply,
    Theirs not to reason why,
    Theirs but to genuflect and cry.
    Into the valley of Death
    Stood the brave Fathers.

    Heretics to the right of them,
    Hetrodox to the left of them,
    Susan From The Parish Council in front of them
    Bullied and tamboreened;
    Lashed at with vitriol and bile,
    Boldly they turned towards the Lord ,
    Into the stares of Death,
    Into the mouth of hell
    Stood the brave Fathers.

    Flashed all their aspergillia bright,
    Flashed as they turned to the light
    Holy Water Sprinlkering ad-libbers in flight,
    Leading a holy army, while
    All Christendom wondered.
    Plunged in the Satan-smoke
    Right through the line of extraordinary ministers they broke;
    Liturgical Dancer, erotic prancer — all
    Reeled from the Aspergillium stroke
    Shattered and sundered.
    Then they strode back, but not
    Not all the brave Fathers.

    Heretics to the right of them,
    Hetrodox to the left of them,
    Susan From The Parish Council in front of them
    Bullied and tamboreened;
    While priest and bishop fell.
    They that had fought so well
    Came through the jaws of Death,
    Back from the mouth of hell,
    All that was left of them,
    Left of the brave fathers.

    When can their glory fade?
    O the wild charge they made!
    All Christendom wondered.
    Honour the charge they made!
    Honour the Right Brigade,
    Noble brave fathers!

    [Bravo! Thank you!]

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  16. Sportsfan says:

    Let us not condemn all charges. Less than 24 hours before Picket’s charge, Chamberlain led a charge born of desperation and self preservation that preserved the Union army’s left flank. Unable to go around, the Confederates had to mount a frontal charge.
    Chamberlain’s charge was successful, in part, because it was downhill.
    What is the high ground that trads can gather on to mount the down hill charge?

    [I am sensing that people may not be reading the whole piece at the top. I didn’t condemn all charges. Not at all. In fact, I wrote that sometimes that’s what we have to do. But we don’t have to do it all the time. Usually, there are alternatives. What Chamberlain did – amazing! and I have been on Little Round Top and looked down, and seen it also from below – they did when they had run out of ammunition and there was nothing else for it but to charge down. It was the right thing to do. But it would have been wrong to start with it.]

  17. Kathleen10 says:

    GHP, that was so well done. :)
    This would be a most unique effort and without doubt against all odds even in the organizing.
    I’m completely interested and hoping this gains traction. I haven’t yet read the Remnant piece but will.

  18. JonathanTX says:

    Before we unite the clans, we have to identify the clans. Conservative NOers? Summorum pontificum rad-trads? FSSP? SSPX? SSPV? Traditional minded protestants? Not asking rhetorically – we need to know who it is who is willing to work together.

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  20. Semper Gumby says:

    GHP: Excellent.

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