What I have really been saying here in this "Accepting Responsibility" series with Part One - Is the Church Really a Rubber Room? and Part Two - Breaking the Illusion of Lawlessness is that even today, the Church is a society which is bound together by laws which have morally binding force. Amongst us traditional Catholics survives the only basis for anything that arises above the mere category of political power (which latter really does derive, certainly in practice, merely from the consent of the governed). They have power; we have authority, and the authority of our traditional clerics does not derive in the least bit from the consent of the flocks they lead, but from the direct and explicit will of Christ. When we use that authority as authority is meant to be used, what is bound on earth is also bound in Heaven.
Whenever some few of us scatter apart, ever splitting and parting of the ways, it is the result of a false context that comes from imagining a totally lawless condition in the Church. Without laws there can be no society. Without society there can be no real bond of charity that keeps us together and forces us to reconcile our differences, to love our brother, even our erring brother whom we seek to pull out of the fires. It is the divinely mandated laws that compel us to return to one another, and to be our brother's keeper. What is to be said of any among us who feel no such compulsion, but that they are properly to be categorized as false brethren?
I have come to the conclusion that love equals obedience. Not that love for each other is obedience to each other, but that love for each other is obedience to the higher authority which morally binds us together, and obliges us to remain together even when we don't like each other or don't agree on some gray question or don't want to be seen with each other or what not. This is true not only in a marriage, but also in a family, in the community, in fact in any assemblage of human persons meant to function together in a permanent way, and most of all in the whole Church as well. This is what makes all truly Catholic marriages last, even the unfortunate ones, namely that there is no divorce so the partners are forced to come to grips with each other and work out some way to exist together however uncomfortable it may be.
And it is the Church's job to provide the societal context within which those who find carrying out such loyal love most difficult will find support in that endeavor and also serious discouragement from departing from it. Secular societies and other religions and community groups have at various times also pitched in with this, but the Church enforces this with the whole authority of God behind Her. When we join the Church through the waters of baptism we are as much irrevocably joined to her (that is to say, all of her members) as a man is to his wife. Departure, though always physically possible, is also always damnable. The bond that glues us together and makes us work as a society is no less than the Holy Ghost, the very Spirit and Soul of the Church. When we pull away from that bond, it is that Spirit Whom we grieve, and when we break away altogether from each other, it is that Spirit we have sinned against.
This is a bond which is rightly stronger than life and death itself. I know of a man whose wife, in the heat of an argument, held a knife to his throat and threatened to kill him. But he was right with God and knew it, and was ready at all times to go see Him, and also fully understanding and practicing the true nature of the loyalty that the bond of matrimony enjoins. With the knife at his throat, he looked on her with the love he always had for her and said, "If you do not want me to live, then I do not want me to live either." His wife relented, the argument over. They have since gone on to become one of the most loving couples I have ever known. And so it is as baptized children of the Church. In this spirit we can say of our God, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in Him."
But in time of living memory, we saw the laws of the Church distorted and twisted and abused in order to be used against the very purposes of the Church and against the express will of God. We saw faithful Catholics high and low condemned by the Novus Ordo organization whose very non-Catholicism we had not as yet quite grasped or realized. We saw them treat us as outlaws, even as we were in fact the only ones actually keeping all the laws and teachings laid down by the universal and historic Magisterium of the Church. We watched "canonists" argue over whether what Archbishop Lefebvre did in continuing the Church's succession of holy bishops could even squeak by, legally speaking, perhaps failing to realize that any ecclesial laws of any applicability could never take the Novus Ordo apparatus as their lawful object.
Picture it: In a certain city, the entire police force was literally bought and taken over by the mobsters, the gangsters, and all manner of crooks and criminals. Suddenly, the "law" becomes nothing more than some gangster's way of enforcing "protection rackets" and putting away anyone who attempts a citizen's arrest of anyone selling illegal drugs to children and in short, enforcing lawlessness. Cannot a real distaste for the law have developed in the unfortunate citizens of that city?
What good is the law, if it is twisted towards the purpose of spreading only lawlessness? So it is easy to assume that all law has been done away with and no longer applies to anyone. The laws of society have failed us (or so it seems), so now we must turn to the "law" of the jungle, eat or be eaten! But then it gets worse.
The Church's own lawful representatives have also, at times, abused their authority as well. Having already been so deeply and gravely burned by the Novus Ordo group, we are particularly sensitive to any abuse (real or imagined) of authority on the part of our real Church authority existing today amongst our traditional clerics. The last thing anyone could ever desire would be to see such abuses now get somehow "augmented" by any realization that the authority they possess IS real and carries the entire weight of Heaven with it.
But such a fear as that flows from a serious misunderstanding of how the law works. Law does, after all, provide accountability, and this accountability works both ways. And when a particular law is abused in advancing some nefarious purpose, Law itself affirms not only our right, but even our duty to oppose such an abuse (through legitimate channels) or even resist it outright, and recognize that an abused law, exactly insofar as it is being abused, carried no moral weight and no obligation, other than to be opposed or resisted to the uttermost of our strength.
Going back to the illustration above of a marriage, the one can say to the other, "You can kill me if you feel you must and I will not defend myself, but do not attempt to compel me to commit a serious sin." Why? Because the very moral force that binds the two together also forbids both to sin. How is one mortal sin to be preferred over another? But in our present circumstance, something else has happened. When a spouse, the very definition whom includes the inability to lead us to sin, goes on to lead us to sin, then clearly something else has happened, say, an imposture. The laws of marriage that bind us to our partner obviously cannot bind us to an impostor, indeed those same laws require us to depart from an impostor (once recognized or even suspected to be such), lest we knowingly fall into adultery. Yet there are those who would insist on forcing us to remain with a known impostor merely because so many are as yet still deceived by the imposture.
In the case of the unjust misapplication of laws by the Novus Ordo apparatus, it wasn't really the law that destroyed the Church, but rather widespread ignorance of the law that destroyed it. For far too long, the Church had been blessed with a lengthy string of truly heroic and commendable popes, bishops, and holy priests, such that one really could have taken a simplistic "Father knows best" approach to practicing one's Faith with no fear of being misled. But one must never fall into such complacency, even when no harm seems to follow, since the absence of harm from such complacency is necessarily always temporary. It worked well enough for some few centuries, but now, thanks to Vatican II, it works no more. If only more Catholics back in the 1960's and 1970's understood the nature of authority and how it works.
In the Bible (Matthew 8:8-9), a Roman Centurion said to our Lord, "Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof, but only say the word and my servant shall be healed. For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me, and if I say to this one, 'Go!' he goes, and to that one 'Come!' he comes. And if I say to my servant 'Do this!' he does it." On hearing that, Jesus marveled and praised him for his great faith. (Note just how closely Faith and obedience to authority are related!)
The authority of all officers of the Church is, at its root, delegated by a superior authority, ultimately the authority of God Himself. Whenever God, or any other authority for that matter, sets up other lesser authorities under his own authority, that authority so given is always meant to serve the purpose of the supreme authority who delegates it. If I delegate to someone the task of selling my car for the best price possible, then it is incumbent upon that someone to act in good faith to find the highest-paying buyer he can and then to close the deal. Even if by some honest mistake he overlooks some buyer who might have paid still more for it, he has done what I have set him to do and his action carries the same authority as if I had performed it myself personally. But obviously if he abuses that authority to sell other things of mine that are not my car, and furthermore elects to keep the sale price for himself, obviously all such sales are null and void.
The Centurion had authority over other soldiers because he himself was under authority, namely that of Caesar. But if he were to begin abusing his authority over his soldiers to begin fighting other soldiers who are under other Centurions under Caesar, that goes outside the rightful use of his authority. Once Caesar learns of that going on, of course Caesar would at once have him removed and most likely put to death by some fantastically cruel means, and rightly so in the context of all the laws and oaths to which all Roman soldiers pledge themselves. And even before Caesar intervenes, it is incumbent upon the soldiers who are subject to the authority-abusing Centurion to disregard any and all such orders and commands as clearly operate against the purposes of Caesar. For if that Centurion's soldiers obeyed him and warred against their fellow soldiers under other Centurions of Caesar, would not Caesar be rightly as much at war with all of them as he is at war with the corrupt Centurion himself? But if the soldiers resisted such orders, once it became clear to them whose interest they were now attacking at the command of their corrupt Centurion, should not such soldiers be rightly praised by Caesar for having demonstrated their true loyalty?
Can we not see therefore that one who rebels against authority IS himself no authority? When Paul VI began ordering the dismantling of everything that Christ and His Church had built up over the centuries, could it really have been all that hard for everyone to see that Paul's own rebellion against the Lord of the Church truly demonstrated his own loss of authority, and as such ought not have been obeyed in any of that by so much as a single soul?
Now, until one can know that a person has lost their authority or failed to obtain it in the first place, one would still be constrained to follow that which pertains rightly to the purpose of what authority they may or may not still possess, or at least still seem to possess. But once it is ascertained that authority was lost, all further attention to the one losing it serves no purpose. How do we know Paul VI lost his (at least ostensible and nominal, or "material") authority as successor of Peter? The heresies of the man as officially promulgated by him certainly quite amply demonstrate the utter depth and thoroughness of the loss of papal authority, but they cannot be themselves the means of that loss on account of Church doctrines about the papacy and how popes, as popes, cannot lose the faith, at least in their official capacity.
But they can step down from the papacy by any of a variety of means, including that means of so stepping down as taken by Paul VI, namely by redefining his role as being one that lacks universal jurisdiction over the entirety of the earthly portion of the Mystical Body of Christ. As I have explained that formal and legal loss of universal (papal) jurisdiction on his part at the promulgation of Lumen Gentium elsewhere, I will not belabor that here. The key thing here is this.
Once Paul stopped being Peter, rebellion against Paul stopped being rebellion against Peter.
Perhaps one part of the trouble has been that not all have properly understood what the Catholic bishops who provided for today's few remaining authentically apostolic successions were doing. Perhaps some may have thought that Archbishops Thục and Lefebvre and Bishops de Castro-Meyer and Mendez were in some way merely "rebelling" against the admitted-by-all-to-be-corrupt Vatican leadership in providing that succession. But nothing could be further from the truth. They were obeying their apostolic mandate from the Church to continue the Church and enable its apostolic existence and mandate to continue on into all future ages. What they did was not rebellion at all but obedience. After all, when Peter himself told the Israelite leadership of his day that "We must obey God rather than men," (Acts 5:29), the very wording explains what he was doing, namely obedience to God and not rebellion at all.
But now, how does all that apply to the level of our own traditional clerical authorities? None of them are heretics (else we would not count such a one as one of our clerics), and all have been obedient to the will of God in continuing the Church's ministrations to the souls placed in their care, all under the Church's guidance and with the Church's authority and blessing. I know we are often tempted to fault one or another for this or that, and at times, it really has been the case that one or another really has seriously abused his authority, or else failed to exercise it where conspicuously necessary, to the scandal of all, and accompanied with great spiritual suffering on the part of those of us who are subject to it.
When this happens, if we assume a lawless position, then the only recourses open to us are to withhold all financial and practical support (and correspondingly for them to withhold us the sacraments), or else to attempt to "destroy" them in the public forum by exaggerating the sheer "badness" of what they have done, or else spread vicious lies about them. All of these things only lead to more chaos and disorder and overall disintegration of the Church. In time there comes to be none we are willing to support and none who are willing to give us the Sacraments, and then where would that place us if ever we came to such a pass? OUTSIDE THE CHURCH! You know, that place where there is no salvation. This is not to be confused with being accidently stranded on a desert island or the like; in this case it would be ourselves that made that island and confined ourselves there. And let us not forget that not only calumny (inventing lies against a person) but also detraction (reporting someone's actual faults needlessly or for uncharitable purposes or in an exaggerated manner) are both mortal sins, and only all the more serious (adding to it the sin of sacrilege) when committed against a cleric of the Church. And by the way, who will absolve us of either of those mortal sins if we alienate all who rightly have and exercise that power?
But if instead we rightly recognize and accept the lawfulness of our Church, our clergy, and our subjection to them, there exists a great many lawful recourses which we have, and providing we avail ourselves of them rightly and in an orderly manner, we commit no sin in pursuing these recourses but may instead actually solve the problem. How far better to get the "problem" sorted out so that we may all now continue together in all Christian charity instead of in effect damning each other to hell. Christ, after all, came to SAVE, not to DAMN. In all cases that a fellow Catholic behaves out of line, it behooves us to assist the fallen Catholic back to the ways of righteousness, in order that the Kingdom of God is built up. We must work to build up the weak and fallen brother in our midst in order that we may regain him, not stamp him out as some alien intruder.
It will not do to assert that "well, I am just some ordinary schmoe and it is not my job to shepherd the flock of God." And yet notice just how ready so many who would say that are so very willing to kick so many others irrevocably right out of the Church! In such dire times, we must ALL have such pastoral desires, for otherwise we merely become part of the problem instead of part of the solution. What kind of "shepherd" would it be if, whenever a sheep wanders more than yea far away, he takes a rifle and shoots it dead on the spot? Pretty soon he's going to run out of sheep. If Christ had been that way, or taught His popes and bishops to be that way, not even a miracle would have sustained the Church so far as the end of the First Century.
"How often would I have gathered your children together, even as a hen gathers her chicks under her wing, but you would have none of it!" cried our Lord (Matthew 23:27). When one acts in accordance with the law, one follows careful procedures to ensure that no wrong is committed and that no soul is scandalized. To refuse our duties, as parishioners to provide financial and practical support, and as clergy to provide the Sacraments and teaching of the Church unblemished and without partisan distinction or bias to the entire household of Faith, is always and everywhere a most grave scandal. And to speak ill of others, how monstrous!
Scripture itself lays out what to do. First of all, we must lay out the fault between ourselves and the person who offends us (Matthew 18:15). This is best done in person, or at the very least in a phone or video conversation, in which tone of voice, facial expression, and so forth all feature in the conversation and misunderstandings are kept to a minimum. I have found that doing these things over email or other texting methods loses much, and often can get tedious as one spends much time having to tediously type what the other person already understands. And over blogs is even worse, since others will join in and take the conversation in all directions, to say nothing of the fact that such correspondences would best be kept between the two parties, at least in this first stage.
Failing that, if nothing can be worked out between the two of you, then it is best to bring in only a very few others whose expertise or observations are of relevance to the problem (cf. Matthew 18:16). This serves to bring in more than our own personal opinions or interpretations of situations and teachings, along with that relative objectivity which outsiders can often bring to a situation. In such a setting, the truth has a far better chance and will then be able to serve as the unifying factor that reconciles one to the other as both realize what components of their own individual positions are unreasonable.
Finally after that, once it is clear that one or the other will not be reconciled to the other nor to the truth, it only then becomes necessary to take more unfortunate actions. If they will not hear the Church, let them be treated and counted as a Heathen and a tax collector (cf. Matthew 18:17). But you must see that such drastic action only comes at the very end of the process, which if properly carried out, should almost never arrive, and when it does it is something to mark officially and publicly. And even then, it is all meant to serve as a warning to the erring one that their pertinacity is wrong and perhaps in time they might rethink it. And in the meantime, or if they never repent, at least the rest of us are forewarned by way of dramatic example.
Is it not obvious how preferable all that is to taking a fundamentally lawless position? In a lawless context, whenever a person will not be reconciled, they can all too easily go somewhere else to take an unholy refuge in finding someone to throw in with. But that only lasts until some new difference of opinion sets in between them and they are forced to find yet another such unholy refuge and on it goes until there is none to take them in. It has to be obvious how much better, from a purely practical perspective, it would be to recognize our own lawfulness and abide by it.
But far greater still than the practical aspect is our obedience to God. It is always the right thing that God wants to do. And the rightness of what God expects us to do is easily seen by those whom God has rescued from selfish and egocentric perspectives. But there remains the fact that what God tells us to do is not only right in and of itself (as we can see from its practical outworking), but also there is the fact that God demands it. The authority exists, as God created it. To deny its existence, or go against it, is to go against the will of God, and that could never be truly practical, even if some individual instance of that might seem to have worked out well.
I think one other real problem some people might have with accepting the authority of God's ministers is that many of us don't remember how clerical authority worked "back in the good old days" (and also works today, if only we all have the good sense to use it correctly). For many of us, when we think of authorities, we remember how our parents determined much of what our daily life was as a child, or again how teachers at school and bosses at work are ever dictating practically every second of what we are to do when in school or on the job.
And it hasn't helped that some cultic religions have actually attempted to run their follower's lives in much the same way, dictating who they can marry, when (or if) they can take vacations or where they can go on them, what they can wear, what jobs they can take, or even what career paths, if any, exactly what to be doing with each and every waking moment, and what they can think. Perhaps the occasional cleric has faced a temptation to impose the same, or worse still yielded in some way to such a temptation. Yet that manifestation too is itself a product, not of rightful authority, but of today's illusion of lawlessness. After all, if there were no laws, then one can do anything they want, including becoming a dictator. In this manner anarchy ("no rule") promptly transforms itself into mob rule. Such mob rule, like cultic rule, or Vatican apparatus rule, is mere power without authority or constructive purpose.
Despite that, there is some leeway for an individual traditional cleric to use the Divine authority imparted to him in some variety of ways. An extreme example of that is from the life of Jacinta, one of the three Fatima visionaries. She was a little girl who loved to dance. Dancing was as much what she wanted to do as much as possible as computer games are for many kids today. But when her parish got a new priest who happened to be quite stern and strict, the parish was directed that no dancing was to be permitted. This was a great cross for her, and a genuine show of her sanctity that she obeyed, despite what a loss it was for her, and despite the fact that one might have been able to excuse her playfully exuberant and childish dancing as being quite distinct and different from the more "adult" and "serious" forms of dancing which was certainly the only real intended target of the incoming priest's strict new policy.
Even today, if your bishop saw you ogling the fold-out of a Playboy magazine, and he were to direct you to put it away or throw it away, he is acting absolutely within the scope of his authority. Were he to impose some proportional punishment for your refusal to obey, that too is absolutely within the scope of his authority, exactly as if you were a minor child and it were your natural father who was so directing you, or imposing a punishment if you don't obey.
There is much that rightly falls within the scope of discipline and which a bishop may impose on his flock, or else delegate to his priests to impose as they choose. This includes such things as which exact edition of the Mass is to be used, ranging from the Mass as purely existing immediately prior to any of the changes in the Holy Week liturgies clear up until the latest edition of the Mass that was current in 1964 at the time of the Roman schism. It is even within the scope of their authority to mix and match different editions of the Tridentine Mass, for example by incorporating more recently canonized saints into the original 1950 Missal. It is not, however, within the scope of their authority to create bizarre innovations or arrangements, such as celebrating Christmas on Ash Wednesday, mixing Latin Rite details with the details of different Rite Liturgies, or permitting any of the various sorts of Novus Ordo innovations and abuses. Likewise, it is within the scope of their authority to set such limits as the duration or nature of the Eucharistic Fast, providing one selects from some set of rulings actually in force in some known and documented Church period. It is not within the scope of any bishop's or priest's authority to fault another clerics liturgical discipline, provided they remain within this norm, apart from a bishops authority to mandate a particular discipline upon the priests of his own flock.
It is also within the authority of our bishops to decide whether to set up a Marriage Rota, whether by their own order alone or jointly with other orders, for the deciding of annulment and other similar cases. And it is within the scope of their authority to set up and canonically erect seminaries and religious orders and houses, and to grant or withhold the Nihil obstat and Imprimatur to religious works, catechisms, and liturgical books for publication. Provided there is nothing done that has not been seen before the instability of Vatican II, all possible sets of disciplinary policies may be imposed, and carry morally binding force upon those of his flock
In the same category would come such a sensitive and personal matter as what conditions a given priest might permit a married couple of his congregation to use the "less fertile" times of the month while avoiding the "more fertile" times. As many of us know, traditional priests can differ significantly from one to the next as to how generous they would be in granting such permission. Some are so strict that, though admitting the theoretical possibility of such permission being acceptable in some rare and unlikely circumstance, in practice no actual circumstance actually encountered by them ever seems to quite pass muster with them for being that circumstance. Others could be faulted for being so overly generous in that direction that it is never known for them to refuse any request for that permission, though again they must admit to at least the theoretical possibility that at least some such request might properly be denied, however rarely.
One must remember, they are pastors who are accountable for not only their own personal souls, but also for ours who are of their particular congregation or flock. It is often a very delicate and difficult balance that must be struck between being strict enough to uphold the high and worthy standards of Catholic practice and life, and being generous enough to show true charity for those who fail in their struggle for perfection and who need some breathing space and acceptance while working through their human weakness. It is a very human thing our pastors must do, and one in which it is easy to be faulted either for being too strict or too lenient or even both simultaneously!
But apart from such specific cases where their intervention is sought or obviously needed, it is not the duty of Catholic clerics to be spelling out each and every detail of how we are meant to live out our lives. The Church does not exist on a "mother may I" basis for everything. I recall a case of a man who worried over every little thing, wanting to do only and exactly the will of God in quite literally everything. It got to the point that he had to pray to God for the answers to such questions as what color socks to put on in the morning. But then God said to him "I'm your Father, not your mother," meaning that providing you are resolved to remain within the will of God, whatever you truly and sincerely think best is what you should be doing. Properly guided by the Church into what we must do and what is forbidden, within that context whatever we honestly and sincerely believe to be the best thing to do is what God wants.
One question brought to my attention during the writing of this is that of what our bishops and priests can and cannot direct us with regards to our reading. Can our bishop forbid our reading of a particular book or journal or web source, for example? I have observed that there are two different levels upon which this question must be asked, one being the moral one of limiting or forbidding our reading sinful or heretical literature, but the other concerning the limiting or forbidding of reading materials along Church-internal partisan lines, which comes under a fundamentally different category.
So let's look at an example of the former. Up until Vatican II, the Church used to have what was called the Index, which was a list of books not to be read by Catholics. It was not in any way intended to be an exhaustive list of all that is not to be read, but to settle questions over certain works that might, to an ordinary person, seem acceptable but in fact not be due to subtle errors that such an ordinary person might not be expected to pick up on. This Index was maintained by the Church, which is to say by an office of the Curia working under the Pope who indeed represents all the Church. As such, anything on the Index was forbidden, apart from where explicitly permitted under spiritual direction and guidance, for example for study purposes for a particular person to be permitted reading of a particular work. There is one work which was on that Index either right up to the end, or very close to it, namely the Poem of the Man-God. Since it is not clear whether that remains a work for the Index (with the Index, and for that matter the very papal office responsible for the Index suspended), opinions vary as to whether that work can be read or not.
If one bishop or priest (as permitted this decision by his bishop) were to say that it is OK for his flock to read it, and another were to forbid it, both are within the scope of their authority and an individual layman's permission or not to read it rests upon which cleric is the one whose flock he belongs to. This is within his authority and we are morally bound to obey our own cleric.
But this is different from the question of reading something which is plainly Catholic, whether accepted by the Church in former days, or else the product of Catholic writers today. It has been known for certain bishops and priests, in an obvious abuse of their authority, to forbid the reading of differing opinions regarding questions which the Church has not resolved. Of course, if ever all the traditional bishops and as many others as they designate and delegate were to gather in an imperfect council, or else if there were a pope who spoke dogmatically on the question, then that would change things in this regard. But until that happens, there is no index, and legitimate opinions, even if ultimately to prove false someday, cannot be censored (or censured).
Picture the days of the First Great Western Schism (we are in the second, owing to the lack of a pope). For any side to reject another's works is mere partisanship and as such cannot be morally excluded, as even saints legitimately disagreed with each other as to which group (if any) was right, but heretical or immoral works can always be lawfully ruled out. By the same token, Dominicans could never write that Catholics ought not read the writings of Franciscans or Benedictines or whatever, and vice versa. The very attempt would at once be seen for the illicit and invalid partisanship that it is. Why anyone should do this, especially in the case of any publication or writer that has appeal and respect for all traditional Catholics is beyond me, and clearly points to some intent on the part of any one such cleric to build his own little closed-in empire.
Obviously, one who begins building his own little empire in opposition to the Church (i.e. in opposition to all other traditional Catholic clerics and groups) is gravely abusing his authority, or arguably acting outside it, or perhaps even demonstrating a loss of it much as the Vatican leadership demonstrated the loss of their authority through their heresies and heretical mandates. And this brings up the one area in which the Church's true clerics are by far most likely to exceed their authority, namely in connection with their relation to each other, and for their respective flocks.
Think back to the "good old days." If a priest forbids a member of his congregation to attend a protestant church, he is acting within the scope of his authority and must be obeyed. But if that same priest were to forbid a member of his congregation to attend the Mass of a different parish priest of the same diocese, or of a different diocese, or even of a different Rite of the Church, then he is acting outside the scope of his authority and would be rightly ignored on that point, even while obeyed in all others.
So it is today. Our traditional clergy have every right to forbid us to attend protestant and Novus Ordo worship, but they cannot, within the scope of their authority, forbid us to assist at the Mass of a differing traditional order or priest belonging to the Church, and to do so is no different than for an ordinary parish priest of bygone days forbidding his congregation to assist at the Mass of other parish or religious order priests belonging to the Church.
RECOGNIZE AND RESIST?
So, what to do, when our own clerics act wrongly outside the scope of their rightful authority? Here is where the policy of "recognize and resist" would indeed apply. Note here that I speak not of "recognizing" anyone of the Vatican apparatus, as such, but rather of recognizing our own truly Catholic traditional bishops and priests. It is a great tragedy that any of the very few heroes of the Church today would ever have to be resisted in some matter, even while his authority given and mandated by God is not to be disputed. And it does not speak well of a cleric if he should have to be resisted, for where that has happened, he will have much to answer for in his own personal judgment, and what a shame to lose the salvation of any of those very few who enabled all the salvation of future generations!
The true root of any such divisiveness on the part of any of our clergy could very possibly be traced to a lack of personal discipline and mortification of their senses. The Apostle Paul explained it well when he wrote, "I keep my body under subjection, lest by any means, after having preached to others, I myself should be cast off." (1 Corinthians 9:27) What a tragedy and grave scandal when we, and especially our clerical leaders, fail to look honestly and purely upon each other as they know they ought, seeing each other's faults only in exactly the same light that they see their own, and with the same understanding.
In a lawless context, there would be nothing to do but refuse to be a good Catholic. But here in the Church, there is accountability. In any matter, do we suspect our priest or bishop of being out-of-line on some topic or another? It is a simple matter to consult other traditional priests and bishops to obtain the Church's consensus on the topic, and if indeed our own cleric is truly out of sync, this fact must be brought to his attention, first privately, then with the assistance of other experts, and only after that must the other clerics be brought to bear upon the situation by proclaiming what has happened, namely that the particular erring cleric is out of line. These sorts of declarations are best promulgated as joint proclamations, stemming from clerics of two or more orders or lineages or currents of thought on various issues, in order to give best witness that the declaration does not stem from one's own partisan position. And if the erring one "hears not the Church" and thus must be put out, it is the job of the Church, in the person of her clerical authorities, to put the pertinaciously erring person out, not our own little lay selves. If they do not, then by their inaction they have exonerated the erring cleric, and we for our part are obliged to accept that the erring cleric's good standing has been retained.
In consulting with other clerics in seeking a consensus, we may instead find that they agree without priest and find nothing that is out of line. In that case we must, in all humility, accept the direction given as being what God Himself would have to say to us. But if the cleric is wrong, but is not put out by his fellow clerics for this wrongness, then we at that point have the lawful recourse of recognizing that cleric while resisting him in where he is acting outside the scope of his authority.
That is a very good and orderly policy to follow in that it both encourages him in what is right (you do obey him in all that he does not command sin or exceed his authority), while at the same time discouraging him in what is wrong (you do not obey any sinful commands nor regard anything he says outside the scope of his authority as being of any weight), thus increasing the proper use of his authority and decreasing the abuse of it. Think of a parent with a child. The parent who spoils the child and lets him do anything he wants without reproof teaches him nothing, equally as does the parent who only punishes the child no matter what or how well the child does. It is the combination of rewards for doing what is right with punishments for doing what is wrong that most effectively conveys the moral lessons any truly caring parent should wish to impart to his children.
When any cleric has to be resisted (per these careful and strict standards), it is the cleric who is behaving like a spoiled child. The selective obedience on the part of his congregation in recognizing and obeying his authority in all that is rightly commanded while conspicuously disregarding all that is wrongly commanded sends a strong and clear message which should recall any such cleric to the original idealism that initially brought them to the priesthood. And thus, even in this we can regain our weak or fallen brother. For while he is our keeper, we together are fraternally also his collective keeper as well.
The last, and ultimate recourse of desperation would be transfer from one channel of discipline to another. Given the relative lack of organization the Church has today, and also the immense learning curve that all who would seek to obey God and join the Church must go through these days as they discover Sacred Tradition, and then later on its finest and most truly authorized custodians, such things as that might well be required some several times in the course of a lifetime. Ordinarily this would be something that happens not at all, or at most once, and then mostly for such reason as, for example, marriage between a Latin Rite and Byzantine Rite Catholic, in which one or the other converts to the other's Rite.
One must not take recourse to such transfers frequently, for doing that shows the one so doing to be himself choosing to operate in something of a lawless context. He is picking and choosing his clerics according to his whim and not in accordance with good solid Catholic sense. By that same token, it does not do for any Catholic to borrow some policy from one order, but another policy on another topic from another. Again, that is mere whimsical picking and choosing, little different from picking and choosing which biblical or other theological concepts one will believe (otherwise known as heresy).