Some might say that a traditionalist is defined by practicing some traditional devotions. Some might say a traditionalist is someone who thinks Humanae vitae is correct in its essential teaching. Or in other words, one could label traditionalists by what they do or what they think. This is, in my opinion, the wrong way to go about defining what a traditionalist is. I put to you that a traditionalist is someone who considers that the argument "it has always been done this way in the Church, therefore we should continue to do it this way, unless it is actually necessary to change" is, prima facie, valid.
That might sound rather technical, but I think it encompasses the sort of person that is clearly and self-professedly a traditionalist, without reaching too far. The problem with the practice definition is that many practices labelled "traditional" are still relevant and edifying today, and so for instance, even non-traditionalists can benefit enormously from praying the Rosary. The problem with the what-they-think definition is that it is ignoring the fact that in many cases these are infallible teachings of the ordinary and universal Magisterium. Or in other words, if the subtle and implicit definition of traditionalism is orthodoxy, then not being a traditionalist is synonymous with putting oneself outside of communion with the Church. In other words, this latter definition would make non-traditionalists not really Catholic. I think this is clearly an excessive and simply untenable position, because it seems obvious that not all Catholics have to be traditionalists.
The definition I gave is true to experience, I think, or at the very least my own experience and that of my friends. Traditionalists will often argue by pointing to what is sometimes known as small 't' tradition as an authority in itself, whereas non-traditionalists are open to the small 't' tradition but do not feel particularly bound to it. Though he meant it slightly differently, when Chesterton said that tradition was democracy of the dead, one could more poetically say that the traditionalists would rather consider it to be the aristocracy of the dead.
I am not a traditionalist, therefore, because I do not consider the argument structure to be prima facie valid. I am perfectly content to change things other than out of real necessity, and I will give two examples pertaining to the liturgy: first, one difference quickly noted by anyone who has experienced both between the Vetus Ordo (Latin Mass) and the Novus Ordo is that the Vetus Ordo is very quiet, because the priest says most of the prayers quietly at the altar. I think the Novus Ordo, though perhaps tending in modern practice to lend itself to being "noisy", is an improvement in this regard. Similarly the use of the vernacular language is, in my opinion, an improvement over the sole use of Latin.
In other words, it can be said that I am a child of the Second Vatican Council. If one reads the documents concerning, for instance, the liturgy, one sees a spirit not of needless throwing out of ancient traditions, but of permission for the competent ecclesiastical authority to alter the liturgy in light of the development of society and culture. Its Dogmatic Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, says:
"In order that the Christian people may more certainly derive an abundance of graces from the sacred liturgy, holy Mother Church desires to undertake with great care a general restoration of the liturgy itself. For the liturgy is made up of immutable elements divinely instituted, and of elements subject to change. These not only may but ought to be changed with the passage of time if they have suffered from the intrusion of anything out of harmony with the inner nature of the liturgy or have become unsuited to it." (Paragraph 21, emphasis mine)
Too often, however, I am mistaken for a traditionalist because I am fully a child of the Second Vatican Council, which says in the very next paragraph:
"1. Regulation of the sacred liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church, that is, on the Apostolic See and, as laws may determine, on the bishop.
2. In virtue of power conceded by the law, the regulation of the liturgy within certain defined limits belongs also to various kinds of competent territorial bodies of bishops legitimately established.
3. Therefore no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority." (Subsections of Paragraph 22, emphasis mine)
In other words, because I think that things ought to be done properly, the mistake is made that I am a traditionalist or have traditionalist leanings. Indeed, all the things I opened with which give me "traditionalist cred" are really ones that give me "Catholic cred": that I can sing the parts of the Mass in Latin is what the council called for, that I have prayed the Vetus Ordo as well as the Novus Ordo, that receive Holy Communion kneeling, that I strongly prefer Ad Orientum celebration of the liturgy.
|If Pope Francis can do it, I think it is safe.|
Therefore, I think it is quite fair to say that I am not a traditionalist in the proper sense of the term.
 I am using the term validity here in a quasi-technical sense. If you have some training in logic, think of this as a inductive version of validity. That is not entirely accurate either, because inductive validity occurs, broadly speaking, when the premise being true adds likelihood to the conclusion being true, and I do consider that one can contently stick to the custom as a rule of thumb - however, this way of thinking about it will do. Another way might be to say that a traditionalist is someone who holds that what has customarily been done should, ceteris paribus, be continued. In my opinion, this definition is still too rough.
 This is slightly complicated by the fact that one can be Catholic by baptism but not by faith. Whether that makes the person part of the Body of Christ or not, I am not sure, though I would think not. I will not be using the definition of Catholic that bases itself on baptism, but rather, the one that basis itself on faith.