From an Internet Discussion List
In the past thirty-odd years, having dealt with a large number of "schismatic traditionalists," I have noticed a surprisingly small number of reasons that seem to answer your question, "Why Trads can't cooperate?"
The word "schismatic" is used here not in the canonical sense, but in the sense used by Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas -- as one who has no regard for the unity of the entire Church or of the local Church; one more concerned with his own opinions and affairs, mistaking them for the concerns and teachings of the Universal Church; one who even seems to take a positive delight in the disunity caused by his words and deeds.
In the most fundamental sense the schismatic sins against charity; against the bond of unity that should always join Catholics closely together, particularly in difficult times. This lack of charity often springs from a lack of understanding of the purpose of the Church which the schismatic claims to preserve, and of the priesthood which he has received as the apparent means of preserving It. In the rush to defend tradition, he has adopted the behavioral examples of previous generations of priests and bishops -- sometimes failing to distinguish the good behavior from the bad; sometimes emulating behavior that made sense for the hierarchy of the undivided Church, but trying to "shoe-horn" that behavior into the workings of a tiny group. Ironically, the schismatic tries to defend tradition by adopting some of the worst traits of its attackers.
For the most part, the bad behaviors are grounded in a lack of charity and humility -- the latter being a vice that often springs from a lack of reverence, or even respect, for truth.
The priests of the "old Church," remembered by many of us, mostly from the perspective of children or young adults, were faced with a number of "dichotomies," or "split reasons for doing things." The schismatics tend toward being guided by the bad elements rather than the good. The "old Church," for example, demanded unequivocal respect for its priests and bishops -- a good thing in the sense that these men were not only representatives of Christ, but were, in significant ways, actually "other Christs" -- but a bad thing when that respect fuelled their personal egos, exempted them from explaining the reasons for our beliefs, made them unchallengeable in their opinions, or (as we are now seeing so vividly) placed them beyond reasonable complaint and above the law.
The "old Church" did Its best to provide for the physical comfort of its priests -- a good thing in that it generally freed priests from the burden of taking care of the more menial tasks of life, so that they might devote full time and attention to the tasks of the priesthood -- but a bad thing if it made priests unmindful of the working class, accustomed them to luxurious and costly living at someone else's expense, made them dependent and therefore subject to corruption, gave them the time and means to get into trouble, or further expanded their egos.
The "old Church" quite rightly placed a great deal of emphasis on the external beauty of our Catholic worship -- a good thing insofar as that beauty edified the faithful, attracted converts, and served the general glorification of God -- but bad when the externals surpassed the essentials in importance (e.g. when the pageantry became more important than the validity of the Sacraments; when the beauty of the building exceeded the importance of the truths of the Faith), bad when the vestments glorified their wearer more than the One whom he represented.
The "old Church" owned a considerable amount of real estate and buildings, as any large institution must to carry on its mission. Traditional Catholics had to start from scratch, but did a surprisingly good job of acquiring decent places for Mass, and even a few places for seminary training and retreats. But some awfully strange things happened with these properties. For some groups, the price of having a priest say Mass in their chapel with some regularity was to deed the property to an outside organization -- of course they still had to keep the place up and support the traveling priest. Some priestly organizations were able to further acquire property by infiltrating the boards of directors of individual chapels. No trads in America will soon forget the debacle of Order J battling Order K in civil court for possession of the local chapel -- priests suing priests! -- often associated with questionable deed filings. I know three priests that were locked out of their churches -- one at night in the northern winter -- two had served their congregations for ten years or more -- lock changing is a trad sport. And, underlying all of the legal issues, we find the same lack of charity, humility, and honesty that always seem to be part of the inability to cooperate.
It was unquestionably correct for the "old Church" to present itself as the divinely instituted means of salvation and font of eternal truth. Yet, all too often we see those divinely established roles being arrogated by a handful of traditional priests, saying in effect if not always in fact, "We are the Order of X, or the Society of Y, outside of which there is no salvation." A claim that is absolute truth for the Universal Church, but a lie for any lesser group.
And lies must be supported by lies:
The resources that are expended trying to discredit the "opposition" instead of in trying to cooperate are staggering. One notable example is a 300+ page professionally published and widely distributed book, explaining why the "competitive" bishop (a former colleague in the splinter organization from their former group) was invalidly consecrated. But the lesser efforts in print, from the pulpit, or by word of mouth have consumed immense effort that could have been devoted to spreading the truth.
A lot of time has been wasted in finding arcane differences between "us" and "them" -- necessary, of course to "justify" the competition and telling people not to attend Mass at that "bad" Chapel on the two, three, or four Sundays a month when there was no Mass in the "good Chapel."
Even the truth starts to be supported by lies. Sloppy research yields to created "facts," fanciful citations, invented footnotes, and false translations. Once the decision has been made that falsehood is justified by the need to protect the faith, lying becomes routine.
There is reason for concern! I am by no means trying to say that everyone who claims to be a traditional Catholic is one by any reasonable definition. A chapel near to me that once was filled to the rafters by a retired diocesan priest from the North, was beset for years by schismatic dissention -- (I was threatened with arrest for visiting the retired priest to go to Confession) the locks were changed a number of times, priests expelled, "disloyal" factions locked out, and finally the place was sold to a group of liberal Catholics who will marry a man to a man if not to his goat. But, in my opinion, the place stopped being a Catholic church long before it was sold to the liberals -- it was in schism with itself!
It is not just a matter of opinion that there are "crazies out there"; some priests and bishops in the most respectable looking circumstances are willing to trade off non-negotiable items of Catholic belief or morality. The only remedy that I know is to be as well versed as possible in the truths of the Faith, to ask questions, and keep one's eyes open. But one ought not nit-pick over non-essentials -- and one ought to be very suspicious of those who do, particularly those who try to make non-essentials into real complaints about the priest or the congregation. The authentic Catholic Church was never the lockstep unvarying monolith that schismatic traditionalists try to claim it is.
What can be done? It would be pointless to post this without some attempt at suggesting "a fix" for the problem. Education is important -- if we don't know and love the Faith, we can expect to lose it, either to liberals or to overzealous "traditionalists." But given a reasonable level of knowledge, by far the most important remedy is to demand charity, honesty and humility, from ourselves, from our bishops and priests, and from all with whom deal in religious matters. There is something wrong, un-Christlike, and therefore un-Catholic, with those who regularly lie about themselves or about others -- and particularly if they do so out of hatred or to satisfy an inflated perception of themselves or of the organization to which they belong.
It is not a valid excuse to say "I am acting the way Father Smith (or Bishop Jones) acted before Vatican II." Bad behavior is bad behavior -- find the good things that those men did, and emulate those. Regularly accepting bad behavior encourages it -- so don't. All of the valid Sacraments and traditional Masses in the world -- as overwhelmingly important as they are -- will not save us if we cultivate hatred, dishonesty, and pride -- and particularly not if we direct those vices toward other Catholics who should be our brothers and sisters in the Faith.
I received a bulletin from Christ the King Abbey in
Cullman, Alabama. Their Abbot has given me permission to republish
their articles, and I think this fits well:
Traditional Catholics are a provincial kind of people. When a Traditional Catholic gets that certain complacent feeling that he is living out the unquestionably correct Catholic Experience in his own tiny and exclusive chapel environment, he becomes intolerant of anyone who differs from him, even if he differs in the most insignificant way. He has convinced himself that his own "home made" Catholic way of living is THE orthodox way and that everyone, under pain of sin, is bound to live and believe and act as he does. Anyone who fails to live out the same rites and usages that he has selected as proper Catholicism is forever anathematized. Until humility becomes the FIRST DEGREE OF CATHOLIC EXPERIENCE, there will never be unity amongst the various and sundry "Catholic provinces."
I think he should have capitalized "HUMILITY" as well, but don't want to appear too "provincial."
Oremus et pro invicem!
See www.rosarychurch.net/answers/rcf11045.html for followup on the meaning of "CHARITY."