Oftentimes, when a person discovers some aspect of Tradition, say the Mass, or some doctrine and how it has been corrupted by the Modernists, one cannot help but get caught up in the enthusiasm of the find. As it takes a considerable work of God's Grace to see one or another point of being specifically a traditional Catholic, most do not come to this point at the same time as others, and those who do receive such graces at the same time proceed at different rates and discover different aspects of Tradition in a different order.
Not to endorse the Star Wars movies particularly, but there is a scene in the first one made back in 1977 that often comes to mind when I think of this issue. In the scene, a spacecraft with our heroes has arrived at a planet where they expected to meet someone, but the planet has been completely blown away. After encountering some few small ships they notice that one of them "is heading for that small moon." That "moon" one of the ships is heading for is big, round, and even has a large dimple on one side that looks rather like a crater. Now the fun begins. The most perceptive of the three speaking heroes in the cockpit senses the truth first and speaks it: "That's no moon; it's a space station!" The least perceptive (and owner of the spacecraft they are flying) says, "That's impossible. It's too big to be a space station." The third hero present then mutters a noncommittal "I've got a bad feeling about this" as the angular lines and edges of the "moon's" artificial construction begin to be discernable. The first speaker finally says "Turn this ship around" and the ship's owner finally realizes the need to do so but it is too late. They have been captured!
This scene, taking less than 30 seconds, so perfectly encapsulates how it was back in the 1960's and 1970's when various persons began to sense that things were not well in Vatican City. On November 21, 1964, the Vatican institution had officially redefined itself as something other than the Church with its Lumen Gentium document, and even enlarged on that distinction between itself and the real authentic historic Catholic Church with Orientalium Ecclesiarum and Unitatis Redintegratio. The Vatican war against the Faith had been engaged.
Before the calendar year of 1964 was out, Eric de Saventhem had already founded and organized Una Voce (which was far less Indultarian than it came to be in later years) and Fr. Gommar de Pauw founded the Catholic Traditionalist Movement. In 1965, upon hearing Paul VI bless the United Nations as Mankind's last hope for world peace, Patrick Henry Omlor had his first doubt about Paul VI's claims to the Roman Catholic papacy. In 1966, the saintly and mystic Padre Pio, who had been asked to say one Mass using the (relatively slight) mutilations then current in the latest editions of the liturgical books, begged and pleaded with all his might never to be asked to do such a thing again. In 1967, shortly after his ejection from the Blue Army and after founding the Fatima Crusade, Francis Shuckardt was already on the lecture circuit preaching sedevacantism. So persuasive was his teaching that hundreds of families, hundreds of others, and dozens of consecrated religious all followed him to Rathdrum, Idaho, then coming to be named the City of Mary.
On October 22, 1967, while attending a Mass (?) where for the first time the new vernacular canon had just been used, a little girl turned to her mother and said, "Mother, something's wrong; Jesus isn't there!" Also in October 1967 Thomas A Nelson, a concerned layman seeing the Catholic Patrimony fading away founded his publishing company, called TAN Books and Publishers, to reprint the works of Catholics saints and scholars, continuing to make their writings available to all to this day. In March of 1968, a book documenting the invalidity of the new vernacular canons was first published, written by Patrick Henry Omlor and endorsed by Fr. Laurence Brey. Also in that year seminarians, already disgusted with what had become of the seminaries by then, began to approach Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in search of a more traditional and Catholic priestly formation. The Catholic war against the heresy of Modernism had been engaged.
Obviously, not everyone was anywhere near as quick as these lights were to perceive the atrocious depth and horror of the rising situation. Many, all too many, like the owner of that ship in the Star Wars scene, merely replied, "Naw, it can't be all that bad. That's impossible!" As each new abomination first hit the individual parishes, they either fled to more conservative parishes (some even traveling hundred of miles to find a reasonably conservative priest) or else began trying to invent ways to reconcile themselves and their Faith to the increasing nonsense. With each new abomination this last group tried to convince themselves, "This is the last abomination. Things cannot possibly get any worse, so they have to get better." But of course, things did continue to get worse and some gave up religion, others gave up trying to connect it to what they had been taught all their lives, and still others finally finding Catholic tradition at last.
Unfortunately, those who found Catholic tradition later than the others found it difficult to accept in their hearts that those who had gone ahead of them back into tradition had been right all along. (And it didn't help when one of the above-mentioned heroes, Francis Shuckardt, subsequently fell into gross immorality and grave public scandal.) How long had those who were "sticking it out" with what they somehow continued to mistake for the Church bad-mouthed and denigrated those who had gone ahead of them back into tradition! "Oh, those dirty rotten traditionalists, sedevacantists, schismatics, deserters, all! They left the Church so they are not Catholics!" they had chanted so long. But then they too found themselves in exactly the same place. Like the other characters in the cockpit of that spacecraft, they just took a little longer. So again, more and more traditional groups, each a little less "hair-trigger" than the last, and few, way too few, having the humility to recognize that those who had gone ahead of them had been right all along, that those who turned to Tradition early on (most "hair-trigger" of all) had not been schismatics and deserters but perceptive Catholics with initiative and great spiritual insight.
So now here we all are, years later, the grand old-timers still being sharply criticized by the Johnny-come-lately types covering their spiritual sloth with "well, we moved prudentially and "slowly, not rashly." I know there are those who seem to equate sedevacantism with the younger generation. But this neglect the salient fact that nearly all of the oldest surviving original traditional Catholics are if anything far more vehement than even today's youthful sedevacantists. But also, what a confusing array there is of everything from Remnant-type resistors, Indultarians, SSPX'ers, sedevacantists (both absolute and materialiter/formaliter, which latter are otherwise called sedeprivitionists), Siri Theory enthusiasts, Bayside papal double enthusiasts, Conclavists, Mystical papal elections, Home-aloners, Conservative Novus Ordo types, and so forth. How will the Church ever come to sort these questions out?
The worst part is how each will so readily find fault with every position but their own, defending their own "position" at times quite shrilly and getting ugly in their attempts to defame and destroy the "opposition." Then along comes me with this Lumen Gentium thesis. Oh, joy! Just great! Yet another "position," oh well. "Take your place alongside all the restů" Yet for some reason I don't have to get all shrill about it. I don't have to get ugly. I don't have to go and excommunicate the hell out of everybody who doesn't just read it and sign right up to it. I don't have to go and insist upon it to everyone I meet. If somebody has read it and has some constructive criticism I can accept it and adjust my thesis accordingly, as has happened on occasion. How can I afford to be so patient?
I can afford to be so patient because time is on my side. If the current crisis ends in my lifetime, then most likely my thesis becomes largely moot. What matters to me is that things are righted, not what role if any I am permitted in helping to right it. There are only two ways this can happen:
1) The Vatican institution can repent and corporately return to the true Church and Faith (and also see to the ordinations and consecrations of its clergy in that case). Obviously, many place their faith in this idea, counting on the mistaken belief that the Vatican institution is somehow still the Church of God and as such God must one day intervene to being it back to His senses.
2) The world comes to an end as Jesus Christ returns to conclude history as we know it, put an end to all that is temporal (including Purgatory) and every living creature shall know as he is known.
There is no specific commitment from God that either of these things must happen in my lifetime or indeed anytime before the real end of the world. Certainly, if either one of those things happens, the crisis is over, and that would certainly be cause for rejoicing for all of us who are united to Christ, and why should I or anyone turn my back on a good thing? But since there is in fact no good reason for either of these events to occur anytime within the next century, I have braced for the long term. And in lieu of either of those two things happening, the direction of the trends is clear and irreversible.
I see the Vatican institution continuing to fall further and further into error, heresy, debauchery, scandal, bankruptcy, and utter disintegration. The slight "slowdown" stemming mostly from Ratzinger/Benedict XVI's reputation for archconservative Latin Mass classicalism can only be responded to by a flash rebound of liberalism which will at last be able to deliver all the permission for contraception, abortion, homosexual marriage, free love, and in short everything the liturgical ruin of the 1960's initially promised. And I see the various traditional groups gathering strength and numbers, continuing to gain something of a vision of themselves as what (my thesis teaches that) they truly are, the Church Herself, as protected from error and heresy as She has ever been. I see traditional Catholics gradually overcoming their disparate perceptions of the truth as the heroically perceptive Old-timers and the recent Johnny-come-lately types all become Old-timers as they all gain years of experience as Catholics.
Most of all, I see a growing realization that all traditional groups have in fact done the exact same things, whatever verbal explanations were given at the time, out of the exact selfsame desire to preserve and continue the Church. I see a time when traditional Catholics, already deeply and profoundly aware that the Church cannot be allowed to continue leaderless as She has for so long will seek such a leader, be ready to submit to him, and even arrange for a papal election. I do not fault the Conclavists for anything except their timing. What they desire must one day be done, not by lay amateurs but by the bishops of the Church, not by what miniscule few may be persuaded to join such a project, but by the whole community of those who hold to the authentic historic traditional Catholic Faith and endeavor to live up to it as holy saints.
It is at such a time as this that the question finally comes to the fore. "How can our bishops do this? What jurisdiction do they have to hold a conclave or elect a pope?" It is amazing how interested people become in something once there is a desperate need for it. For example, sedevacantist A has a sedevacantist priest conveniently near to him whose Mass he attends regularly. How easy for him to summarily dismiss as schismatic those fellow sedevacantists who for whatever reason attend SSPX or Indult Masses on account of their Mass being "una cum" with a known and noted heretic. But sedevacantist B has only access to a pious SSPX priest who permits him and his family to attend Mass and receive all the sacraments, providing only that he and his family don't get ugly about being sedevacantists and create a scene. Needless to say, he is going to look far more carefully into the moral ins and outs of attendance at an "una cum" Mass and find out the truth that it is canonically OK and not in any way a sin despite the priest and his congregation's material error about the papacy.
In like manner, most of us are sufficiently satisfied with our Lord's miracles, His voluntary death on the Cross for our sins, His Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven, and also the Church that He founded with such miraculous properties. What do those of us from a Gentile background care about whether Jesus was the Son of David? We scarcely even think of it! But picture a Jew, hungering for the Messiah long prophesied. He is profoundly familiar with all the Messianic prophecies in the Bible, many of which center upon the Son of David. He would like to recognize Jesus as that prophesied Messiah, but is Jesus really the Son of David? Obviously this question is of great import to him.
So let's look at what we got: Joseph the Carpenter is a direct male-line heir to all the kings of Israel (as the genealogy in St. Matthew's Gospel makes clear. But Jesus is not a biological son of Joseph, only a Son of David by adoption as it were. Recall the baby Moses, immediately recognized by Pharaoh's daughter as "one of the Hebrew children" thrown into the Nile by law but spared by virtue of his having been first put into a basket and then also washing up on the shore near where she bathed. Yes he was raised in Pharaoh's household, but there was never any question of his ever becoming Pharaoh himself, even if the other male heirs were to die. It would rather have gone to a brother or uncle or anyone else than this child in whose veins flowed none of Pharaoh's blood. So Jesus may well be a legal heir through Joseph, but not a blood heir.
However, as it turns out, His mother is also descended from King David, though through another son and an altogether separate lineage as documented in St. Luke's Gospel. So in fact Jesus really is a blood descendant of King David and therefore between the legal succession from Joseph and the blood succession from Mary, Jesus truly is the prophesied Son of David. It was good enough for the original Jewish Apostles, let it be enough for this (perhaps) hypothetical Jew who is considering converting to Catholicism.
Likewise, the traditional bishops were carefully chosen, sent, and consecrated by the bishops of the Church who were quick and perceptive enough to take action bright and early when the crisis was just getting started and such lawfully appointed jurisdiction-holding bishops existed capable of taking such action. But the traditional bishops and their clergy also have the lawful jurisdiction delegated to them by Lumen Gentium as my thesis demonstrates, and as such they do have the authority to act collectively for the restoration of the Church. It is at such a point (if not before) that some serious and qualified canonist will be obliged to look again at my thesis with the mindset of "what if this, or something very like this, is indeed what happened? Let us consider the possibility seriously." It will be enough for the Church in the future. And in the meantime, I most certainly can afford to wait. It is enough for me to exhort people not to do or say or think anything they will regret when the truth is revealed as we all know it must one day be.