Having assembled a “who’s who” of (mostly) American traditionalism for this year’s Catholic Identity Conference, the annual symposium organized by Michael Matt and The Remnant, attendance this past weekend in Pittsburgh was bustling — more than 700 people, and it was sold out for weeks. Despite a rather somber overall tone — occurring just weeks after Francis’ declaration of war on traditionalism — and with global tyranny on the march, unopposed — this was certainly no Trump rally. Yet it wasn’t defeatist, either. This assortment of booksellers, homeschooling mothers, retirees, and college students had little to celebrate, save the consolation that it’s back to the catacombs for us pesky rigid Catholics.
Attendees were treated to more than adequate accommodations at Pittsburgh’s Doubletree Inn — Green Tree, albeit when combined with the full cost of admission, made for a $1,000 weekend (excluding airfare). For most, it was either a first opportunity to assist at Holy Mass offered by Bishop Athanasius Schneider, or a first Pontifical High Mass, or both. Despite the fairly steep price tag, there seemed to be a real cultivating of solidarity among a geographically dispersed group of faithful Catholics who are freely — joyfully, even — traveling into a dark, unknown abyss — together.
The names were standard fare for anyone long in the movement of restorationism. Schneider. Vigano. Marshall. Ferrara. Kwasniewski. Rao. Pendergraft. Mosher. Yet, there were a few new (notably, Abby Johnson) presenters, and I dare say some unexpectedly electrifying commentary, even from familiar faces. Diane Montagna, for example, amplified her standard “shock and awe” to reveal some of the frankly unsavory details behind the Traditionis Custodes timeline. Dr. Peter Kwasniewski, after delivering a well-footnoted and characteristically academic exegesis on the nature of obedience, struck a downright fiery tone, in which he encouraged the so-called Ecclesia Dei orders to resist, even to the last breath. Abby Johnson brought the house down with a spirited rebuke of the abortion-tainted COVID-19 “vaccines.” And Father John Echert, a military chaplain, and the original “parking lot” priest, well outperformed the expectations for his presentation on globalism and the apocalypse, with many attendees citing his as their favorite discussion of all.
As conferences go, the schedule was predictable (excepting the large time accommodation made for Pontifical High mass). Coffee. Presentation. Break. Presentation. Lunch. Presentation. A neat addendum to one of the nights was a viewing of A Man for All Seasons, the classic film about St. Thomas More’s defiance — even unto death — in defense of the teachings of the Church. How timely.
The vendors present were indeed familiar for something like this — book publishers like Loretto and Sophia, rosary and jewelry makers, Franciscan University (just a couple hours away from Pittsburgh), and a couple religious orders. The demographic mix was mostly laity, and they seemed to be from all over the continent. This was no regional conference. The other obvious visual was the decidedly diverse age mix. This conference was not teeming with silver-haired recalcitrants, stubbornly clinging to their nostalgia. There were as many young as old; and probably as many new as tenured. This fact not only bodes well for the future of traditionalism as we enter an era of suppression, but it defies, even rebukes the ever-shrinking, homogeneously boomertastic tambourine religion. The CIC was alive and vibrant.
Michael Matt is of course an apt emcee who not only kept the train on its tracks but demonstrated a sense both of humor and of the sheer weight of his family’s investment in the cause. In fact, a four-generational lineage of the Matt family, and their ownership of The Remnant (and its predecessor, The Wanderer) adorned the check-in table. New folks quickly understood that the Matt Family takes their duties seriously. And thankfully too, that they do. My personal thanks to Mr. Matt for assembling an enjoyable, enlightening, and I dare say entertaining lineup of like-minded Catholics whose sorely needed convivium was, for many, a balm to weathered souls amidst this nightmarish, and sometimes hellish “springtime of the Church.”
Mike is the founder of Restoring the Faith Media, an online apostolate dedicated to the magnificence of Catholic Culture and Catholic Identity. He is a father of six, a two-time combat veteran, a former Wall Street banker, and a frequent commenter on both current events and devotional materials.