I know that many here almost seem to like to collect scandals. And of course an obliging Vatican institution has amply provided us with many such scandals to shock us, horrify us, and ultimately attempt to instill despair that our Church can ever recover.
How many traditional Catholics can rattle them off in their sleep: John Paul II kissing the Koran, praying with the Jews for some "Messiah" to come someday, receiving the Hindu Tilak red dot on his forehead, the frightful Assisi ecumenical meetings of 1986 and again in 2002, the doctrinal accord (compromise) with the Lutherans, Ut Unum Sint, the Priest-child-abuse protection racket, and so many many others like them.
It is easy to point fingers, especially at such a large target. And yes, these are frightful scandals in themselves, but why focus on them in particular. One might as well pay so much attention to the time Oral Roberts preached that God would kill him if he didn't raise 8 million dollars within a specified time, or Jim and Tammy Faye Baker's air-conditioned doghouse (with $4,000.00 crystal chandelier), or many many similar excesses within Protestantism.
But for me the biggest scandal comes far closer to home. And in this many of us traditional Catholics can point the accusing finger at ourselves. How quick we are to reject the Catholicism of our fellow believers on the scantiest of evidences! Recently I just had my nose rubbed in this truly horrid fact when practically a whole group of e-mailers all jumped on me and judged me for some opinions I expressed, going so far as to deny (the obvious fact) that I am a Catholic, in good standing, and in full union with the Church. How dare they! I must forgive them of course. God forgive them, for they know not what they do. But how to surgically separate the sinner from the sin? They seem so attached to their sin of schism that one can really suppose that they would willingly enter the fires of Hell with it rather than be separated from it.
No wound is as deep as that inflicted by your own family, your own brothers and sisters in Christ, for indeed that is what these persons are. They attend the Catholic Mass, send their children to truly Catholic schools (or homeschool where the other is unavailable), conduct their personal lives with truly Catholic piety and honesty, and yet put them in this particular forum and somehow they transform themselves into the electronic equivalent of a lynch mob. Where is Grace now? How can they, having acted thus, then go to Church, hear their very actions condemned from the pulpit, and yet then present themselves forward to receive Holy Communion as though they were in anything like a state of grace?
But how much is it really their fault, personally? Their excesses have not been reined in by their superiors, whose attempts at such (on what rare occasions they take place at all) are at best truly quarter-hearted. This of course falls back clear to the traditional bishops today. The SSPX bishops treat each other like the bishops that they are, but why cannot they be at least civil with the Indult bishop, the Mendez bishop, and the Catholic Thuc bishops (I say "Catholic" here in reference to those particular Thuc bishops who really are Catholics, since there are sadly all too many who are not) who are their canonical equals? For it is these bishops (and no others) who constitute the entirety of the legitimate Catholic hierarchy today.
Never has the Church been so disunified as it is today. Yes, I realize (as I state in my book) that God can and does providentially use their differences of opinion in order to achieve a number of seemingly conflicting goals, all of which are valid for the Church to be pursuing, but still, why all the vituperation? Why the bitterness? We are all Catholics here and as such we know better.
I do take some real consolation from the fact that the Church once before recovered from an almost similarly divided state back in the 1300's, but at least then the structures of the Church were more completely expressed by each of the three factions present back then. Each of Rome, Avignon, and Pisa could lay claim to having a Pope and Cardinals for themselves, and had any two groups just suddenly vanished, the third had all the canonical structures that had been built up by the Church all these years already in place, ready to continue the Apostolic succession of Pope and Bishops, priests, religious, and laity.
But today, no group has any real pope. Though two main categories of traditional Catholics claim the Vatican leader for a pope, neither gains any real spiritual direction from him. For Indult and SSPX alike, John Paul II, their alledged "Pope," is but a figurehead, a "Father" of the household so to speak in some technical or pedantic sense, but like a literal father who is a drunken reprobate who neither provides for nor leads the family in any way shape or form, he commands absolutely no respect and rightly receives none.
What does that leave? Next to the Pope, the bishops are the authority in the Church. In the earliest expression of "where the Church is," by Saint Ignatius, it was not "where Peter is," but "where the bishop is." How much we bemoan the current crisis, waiting for some dramatic intervention from God, but God is waiting for us. The crisis could and should end tomorrow, if only we choose for it to. But we don't. We would rather have our petty squabbles and quarrels over doctrinal and canonical matters we have not the slightest competence over.
We lay Catholics owe our traditional bishops and priests obedience, exactly as bishops and priests have always been owed obedience throughout the history of the Church. Absolutely no different! But today many put forth the excuse that "our priests and bishops are irregular and have no jurisdiction" or suchlike nonsense. They say this, not really because any real logic or facts could ever possibly support such an extraordinary position, but in fact as a license to make ourselves our own popes and decide for ourselves what we feel to be true and false.
Oh how perfect! How convenient for our fallen flesh is the present situation! We can ignore the Novus Ordo diocesan "bishops" since a) many of them are not even validly consecrated as bishops, b) they're all heretics anyway, providing no more real or substantial spiritual leadership than anyone in the Vatican these days, and c) they are utterly amoral, unmoral, or immoral, often either child molesters themselves, or at least culpable protectors of child-molesting priests. Throw their names or not in the Canon of the Mass if you like, but don't turn to any of them for anything, nor indeed heed anything they say. So then what of our own traditional bishops, who are all validly consecrated, who all uphold the Catholic Faith in its fullness, and who have all, to a man, proven truly principled in the tending of their respective flocks? Oh, well "they are irregular and have no jurisdiction" so we can follow them or not as we choose, or even pick which one we like.
Where is real obedience today? For the Faith is more than about merely holding to certain Divinely instituted doctrines and liturgical demands and moral standards. It is also about being obedient to Christ in His duly appointed representatives, carrying forth a legitimate apostolic mission to the world. Are our traditional bishops legitimate, with a legitimate apostolic mission, duly appointed by the Church? If you say yes, then you must see that you owe them obedience. If you say no, then you have defined the authentic historic Catholic Church right out of existence.
Some worry about setting up a "parallel church/hierarchy/magisterium" or whatever. But in reality, childish fears of monsters under one's bed would have more substance than this. Are traditional Catholic bishops legitimate? Each has been perfectly capable of proving at least their own legitimacy. Therefore they ARE the hierarchy. There is nothing for them to be "parallel" to, except each other. The modernist Vatican cannot even be described as being "parallel" to them since it continues to head off in a skewed direction into heresy, not parallel at all but very much at an angle.
And this gets down to the nub. Let's take the SSPX bishops as the starting point. Yes, they do well themselves, carefully avoiding extremes, trying to run their organization of priests, and the four of them have loyally stuck together though thick and thin. They have formed, trained, and ordained more priests than all other truly Catholic bishops put together, and now run the one Catholic organization with enough clout for even the modernists in the Vatican to take at least some small notice of them.
So far so good, and even better, when it genuinely looked like there just might be some real steps to a return to Faith in the Vatican, Bishop Bernard Fellay came, not walking but running, as a doctor who knows a patient's life may depend on his speed in arriving on the scene. This is good praxis, and something that many of the sedevacantist bishops would do well to learn from, as an example to follow. But it is enough that one bishop did so, in effect on behalf of all the others, and as such I applaud his promptness in service. Too bad the apparent Vatican "beginnings of repentance" proved only to be a chimera.
Yet these same four bishops, who have done such a commendable job in the above listed things, invariably sit passively by while certain followers of theirs (both lay and clergy), with an unaccountable bit of an "attack-dog" mentality, write and say all the most horrible lies against their fellow bishops and canonical equals the Catholic Thuc bishops. Some Thuc bishops have at times returned the "compliment," and of course many are familiar with the history of "bad blood" between the Thuc bishops and the Mendez bishop, again fully as unjustified and unwarranted. And as I pointed out in a earlier article, the Indult bishop is under continual pressure to sign on to the claim that all other traditional bishops are illegitimate and excommunicated for the heinous crime of daring to adhere to the authentic Catholic Faith.
Yet these very human, peccable, fallen men are our bishops, such as they are. As canonical equals, they do not have the authority to oust each other from the Church, and as clerics with separate and distinct flocks, neither are any of them in a position to judge each other's servants. And as their servants, we are obliged to obey them in everything but sin. If our bishop, however passively, participates in judging his fellow bishops, he acts ultra vires, sins grievously in doing so (the sin of schism), and of course we his faithful flock cannot follow even him in that.
We all know what needs to take place. Imagine all traditional Catholic priests and bishops forgiving each other all the bad things they have done to each other, agreeing to respect each other as the canonical equals that they are, resolving to set aside all ad hominem attacks on each other due to differences of opinion on topics that clearly are difficult to resolve, and cooperating together to coordinate their efforts at restoring all things is Christ. Imagine new bishops being consecrated, with co-consecrators coming from all different lines, to celebrate their unity that they all have with the same exact Faith and in the same exact Church. Imagine one being able to say to another, "OK, you can continue working on trying to convert the Vatican group back to the Faith, while I will continue to make the necessary preparations that must be made in the event they do not repent as an organization. How does that sound?" Imagine all traditional bishops being able to sit down in a room together and discuss whether they will elect one from among their number to lead the Church as the next Pope, or else continue to strive with the Vatican (as God strove with man before the Flood) for yet another year, and all are able to vote on the question, and submit to the answer. Imagine all traditional priests serving one particular bishop or another, as appropriate to both their geographical location as well as their opinions regarding some of the questions and particular approaches at bringing healing, no "autocephalous" priests. Imagine such priests as the Abbe de Nantes and suchlike accepting and recognizing their ecclesiastical superiors the traditional bishops one and all, and at last having his bright young men ordained. Imagine all of us lay faithful truly attached to and obedient to our priests, acknowledging their faculties over us and being instructed by Christ through them and through our obedience to them.
I guess you could say that I have "quite an imagination." Yet every traditional Catholic truly worthy of the name, would have to agree that the above would indeed be a good and wonderful thing to have happen. The crisis can be ended, if only we work together. But we don't and so the crisis continues. Well, whose choice is that? It's in our hands. We have no one to blame but ourselves.
There are several things one must do to be a real, authentic Catholic. Take away any one of these things and you have a non-Catholic, no matter how well the other requirements are met:
1) We must uphold the Faith whole and entire. No problem there.
2) We must worship God as God directs, which means using the authentic traditional liturgies. No problem there either.
3) We must receive, or provide (if we are clergy) the necessary sacraments appropriate to our state of life. No problem there, so long as we either have or are a traditional priest.
4) We must be in union with the Catholic Church, subject to Her. How can one do this today while doing the first three things, unless our traditional clergy in fact ARE the Church, and the Church being "Catholic," this means it must include ALL of them, not merely the ones whose opinions we happen to agree with?
But no, we argue, we squabble, we quarrel, this bishop dismisses that one as though he were a fly to be waved away, few take the necessary action, and fewer still learn the humility that comes from obedience to our lawful superiors. We don't obey our priests and bishops, who in turn almost obligingly pretend to having only "supplied" jurisdiction which we are therefore free to ignore as we see fit. But they have so much more than that, if only they take the time to study their situation carefully. I can readily understand and appreciate the caution that leads one to suppose they have less authority than they in fact possess, preferring to err on the side of too little than too much, but not to the point that they are immobilized and incapable of progressing further.
Returning to the case of the SSPX bishops, when Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre first consecrated them, four was just about the right number as the SSPX had about a hundred priests. Now that they have many times that many priests (to say nothing of many times more religious and lay faithful as well) to tend, the mere four bishops are spread incredibly thin and can barely maintain control over their Society as it is. What I fear is that they might wait until their dotage to select successors to themselves, and as a result end up choosing candidates far inferior to the sort they could choose if they acted on this need today.
Then you've got the Abbe de Nantes and others of roughly similar mind who won't ordain their trained young men at all, supposing that somehow they still require Vatican permission to do it (which we all know will never come), and sadly such canonical pessimism spreads itself far and wide as many otherwise good and traditional clergymen regard themselves as being in merely some sort of "holding pattern" waiting for some miraculous event on God's part (when in fact God is waiting for us). Each cleric can prove that he has proceeded carefully and legitimately, but how many are so ready and willing to distrust that "other fellow" who didn't do everything quite the way they did. All too many seem all too ready to excommunicate the hell out of everybody else, and their respective attached lay faithful have behaved like attack dogs.
To me, THAT is by far the greatest scandal. We have seen what clout the SSPX has, though they lead only about half of all traditional Catholics around the world. But if all of us worked together as the One True Church that we in fact are, I don't doubt that the clout would be vastly more than merely doubled. I can afford to be quite blasť about events in today's Vatican since I fully understand that the folks over there are simply not Catholics at all. Therefore I am neither surprized, shocked, nor even disappointed whenever they fail to act like Catholics. But when real, authentic Traditional Catholics fight each other like a room full of bratty kids with no adult supervision, that to me is horrible, odious, and disheartening. I am scandalized. Our Lord Jesus Christ once said that "He who does not gather with Me scatters." From where I'm sitting, those of us who HAVE gathered with Him don't seem to have fared any better at all. Why is that?