Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Criticizing the Hierarchy--part II

Is it possible to not criticize the hierarchy today if you want to be an orthodox, practicing, traditional Catholic?  That's the million dollar question we'll be chatting tonight about in this latest installment of The Okie Traditionalist!

In 1950 virtually every Catholic just had to listen to their parish priest to know what to believe, how to believe, and what to do as Catholics. There were no camps of traditionalists, conservatives, and progressives in the mainstream. There was no need to follow the latest news coming out of Rome, or to analyze when the pope or an Ecumenical Council is infallible.  You were on solid ground going down the block to your territorial parish.  Is that the case today?  How do you even ask that question and make an evaluation when our forefathers weren't faced with the paradox of the Catholic Church being in a state of crisis, or even that hypothetical.  We are faced with a problem.  If Catholics have generally always been able to uncritically follow the hierarchy, how can we now criticize this same divinely instituted hierarchy as a habit generally applied to virtually all the bishops?

But when what you witness on the altar appears to contradict what you learned in the catechism, how do you carry about the business of dealing with that paradox?  On one hand Catholics always have been submissive to our pastors without reservation.  Not absolutely, but generally.

But then Father is celebrating Mass like a Protestant service.  The whole spirit of the Sunday liturgy is non-sacred. Rubrics are constantly broken.  Objectively irreverence is at virtually every Novus Ordo Mass (I can defend that observation).


Yet today's orthodox and traditional Catholics are forced by circumstances to evaluate these abuses, and almost always these abuses are actively tolerated if not promoted by the pastor.  The observations are accurate if the fundamental truths of Catholicism are really true.

When I became a trad, part of my reference point were the main negative experiences I had had with Catholic modernism, and invariably with a priest whose behavior wounded me.  Not so much in a personal way as in how being subject to their scandalous behavior was like being gaslighted. I think back to my liberal university parish, to toxic experiences I had at certain church events.  And it always came back to the issue of these abuses coming from the priest or bishop themselves.  

Is it even psychologically or logically possible to completely set aside problems with the hierarchy itself, but at the same time zero in on those sacrileges approved by them?  To set aside part of the cause to just look at the effect?

But then doesnt it get old and also toxic to keep beating our drums to the same war song lamenting the errors of the conciliar hierarchy? When you're gathered with fellow trads around an All Saints Day bonfire, and you talk about how you discovered the Latin Mass, is it even possible to leave out our criticisms of the mainstream priests and bishops.  Of the spiritual torture we suffered.  I mean even if you gritted your teeth, shook your head, and said "No I won't say anything bad about the pastors of the Church," the reality is at least part of the reason you attend the ancient and venerable Roman rite is because of the common abuses you experienced in your territorial parish, from the hands of your parish priest annointed to administer the sacred mysteries. 

One paradox with openly and habitually criticizing the hierchical Church is traditionally Catholics have never done that on the level traditionalists and conservatives today.  The truth is that part of our pious priorities is lamenting clerical abuses, scandals, and heresies.  Go to any coffee and doughnuts after Sunday Latin Mass, these conversations are part and parcel of being traditional Catholics--both by the laity and the traditional clergy, who will grab a doughnut and quietly nod their head confirming their criticisms.

The problem is how it affects each of our spiritual lives.  Where do we draw the line?  How much time do we devote to studying the errors of Vatican II or the new Mass, vs trying to attend daily Latin Mass or study our catechism.  When our soul is on the line.

On the other hand, there's the paradox of how to respond to common abuses and a humanistic liturgy conducted by your territorial parish priest.  Do you plug your ears and close your eyes and wish it's just a bad dream?  Do you continue as our forefathers did and obey and follow your pastor? When the government of the Catholic Church is not of this world, but divine, and divinely instituted by Christ, as a supreme religious authority to which we are intimately bound and subject.

It's like an enormous ecclesiastical "Catch 22."

There's an easy, pragmatic solution to this problem that over the years I've seen take different directions within those enclaves of traditionalism I've encountered.  It starts with the obvious conclusion: "I must keep my Faith and use common sense to evaluate what my five senses are telling me.  The errors and problems are at least partly caused by the pastors, so if I am going to evaluate the errors critically, invariably I must evaluate the pastors in charge."  But after that point, trads of all stripes take it to different limits.  Before you know it, you're burnt out on traditionalist polemics, the petty factionalism between trads (and conservatives) especially evident on the internet, the blogosphere, and in the Catholic forums. Before you know it criticizing Pope Francis and the Local Bishop becomes a hobby, almost a form of piety.  I myself have crossed that line in moments of my traditionalist experience.  But when you neglect saying your daily rosary because of obsessions with Pope Francis online, then hasn't criticism of the hierarchy become the devil's playground?

Despite having clarity about what's going on in the Church, and the necessity of reconnecting with Church tradition, after all these years I am still clear as mud what to think of the conciliar hierarchy, and how I should be thinking of it.
How much and how far should I go in criticizing them.

Lets face it.  Most of us trads are not smiling and singing praises about our present Holy Father.  Yet at the same time, if Pope Francis came to your town, to visit your parish, despite all your criticisms, Id wager a month's salary most of you would be happy and honored by his presence.  Eager to genuflect and kiss his ring.  Because he is the Vicar of Christ.  Mysteriously, he is the voice of Christ according to what the Church teaches about his office.

Tell me whatya think in the Comment Box below.  

Its August, so unless you live in Alaska or Greenland, keep cool.


  1. I think you hit that nail pretty square with a big ol' hammer. For me, it gets tiring, and makes me very sad that we even have to go down this road. But the Virgin Mother at Fatima says that this must be so. It is playing out before our eyes. The days of a N.O. priest understanding and giving councel about the problems in the churchare mostly long gone, mainly because his training in the seminary is so bad. Even many TLM priests will only, as you say, nod their heads and agree. Where are the St. Pauls, the St. Peters or the St. Lawrence of Brindishis' who would preach clear, concise catechism? There are non, not anymore. And the Bishops and Cardinals? Off nibbling on their doughnuts, mumbling.

    1. I'm just personally tired of both sides of the coin, the worsening state of crisis in church authority, and some Catholics (including sometimes myself) focusing on that rather than the errors themselves, and more importantly the Faith. I suppose it's like living under Communism in China. For as evil and oppressive as it is, and as much as one would need to resist it's errors, one could become so bitter and burnt out that the life is sucked out of their soul.

      But it's a paradox. A Catch 22. Youre kind of "damned if you do, damned if you dont" (ie criticize, resist modernist pastors). Do you know of some work of a saint or Doctor of the Church who lays down rules or a method for criticizing the hierarchy during a time of crisis like our own? It seems like we're forces to write the rule book ourselves. On one hand, we must keep our Faith; on the other hand it's necessary to obey and be submissive to the Church in order to do that, to keep our Faith. Quite the worrisome conundrum. How far should I back off from the conciliar authorities and mainstream? If not enough I risk watering down my spiritual life as a Catholic; too much I risk sins against church authority. This is partly why I'm sympathetic to all branches of traditional and conservative Catholics, and even to the very modern but orthodox novus ordo Catholic following the modernity of the conciliar popes. But that's just me from the vantage point of one blog in the ocean of Catholic blogs.

  2. I am eagerly awaiting a check for your one months salary. Thanks and better luck next time!

  3. How about double or nothing? If you were to believe Pope Francis is pope, and he visited your parish/chapel, you would not be happy and honored for the simple reason of honoring him as the Vicar of Christ? ie to show honor to Christ visibly reprsented in the pope. I have to believe even the most hard core traditionalist would take that attitude despite their severest misgivings (which I share). ie if they believe he is the pope--which is implied in the wager! :)