What could I, or anyone possibly mean by such a title as "The Resurrection of the Roman Catholic Church?" Did it ever die? Could it? These questions, shocking as they would be to any truly devout Catholic, lie at the heart of understanding the true nature of the traditional Catholic movement, what it is, why it exists, and what is certain to become of it. There is no easy way to introduce so profound and radical of a concept as traditional Catholicism, at once as ubiquitous and invisible as the air we breath, and yet also so startlingly and eternally new that no dust has never been able to gather on it.
Adding greatly to the complexity of trying to explain and introduce traditional Catholicism is the widely varied experiences people have had with it as they have encountered it in their families, their chance encounters, their memories, the things told to them, and even in their own hearts. Many have been gravely hurt by the seeming death of the Roman Catholic Church. Many more have been baffled at how things could have gone so very wrong in the Church. "How is it possible that the Holy Spirit would allow such madness to prevail over the Church," Catholics have wondered.
In their anger, confusion, hurt and pain, many have resigned themselves to a life without moorings or guideposts. Many others have clutched onto any straw they could find: "Jesus," following one's own conscience, Do-Goodism, "Bible" Christianity, New Age Mysticism, prophetic speculation, Pentecostalism (both "Catholic" and "Protestant"), and so forth. Still others rationalized to themselves that the New Religion of the Post-Vatican II "Roman Catholic Church" must somehow yet be Catholic, and out of a sadly misplaced sense of obedience have gone along with the teachings and practices of the New Religion.
A small remnant of truly faithful Catholics have clung tenaciously to the Pre-Vatican II Roman Catholic Church, somehow sensing way deep down that it still exists despite all seeming evidences and even their own conscious belief that it doesn't. (By the phrase "Pre-Vatican II Roman Catholic Church" I refer not to chronology, since we all now live in a Post-Vatican II era, but to character. Previous to the Second Vatican Council, the Roman Catholic Church had a certain very distinctive "character" or "quality" or "nature" to it which anyone who knew it well would at once recognize. It is a character quite alien from the character of a certain new "Church" whose nature is most charitably illustrated with the exhortation, "Now, my brothers and sisters, let us gather around the table of the Lord, hold hands, and together sing a song of brotherly love.")
The following cases should illustrate that wide variance:
Bob is a young man who was raised in a devoutly Catholic home whose parents have attended an "independent" chapel, sponsored by one of the traditional Catholic orders described in this book, for as long as he can remember. For him, the order that runs his parish speaks for all truly traditional Catholics and all other such orders are counterfeits or crackpots. He is now at the crossroads, trying to decide whether to become a priest for the traditional Catholic order which sponsors his parish, or to simply get married. Either way, he knows what he believes and why.
Susan is a middle-aged widow whose truck-driving husband was recently killed in an accident. She and her family had long been regular parishioners at a "Catholic" parish affiliated with the local diocesan bishop in union with John Paul II. While attending the funeral of her husband at the Church of his parents, she is at first impressed with their old fashioned Catholic ways which remind her of what she vaguely remembered of the Church from when she was a little girl. She is shocked when she learns only after the funeral that the Catholic parish her husband's family attend and at which the funeral was held is not recognized by the local diocese. She is not sure whether to be more shocked over the fact of a parish operating without authorization, or over the diocesan "authorities" for neither recognizing nor accepting any friendly overtures from what is obviously the most Catholic parish she has seen in ages.
Gary doesn't go to Church anymore. With a wistful nostalgia he fondly remembers the Catholic Church he grew up in and loved and cherished. But when "the changes" had come through, to him it was as if the Church was done away with and no longer exists. Sunday morning now finds him on the lake with a fishing rod or else on the long green fairway of a golf course.
Like Gary, Mike also had his heart broken when everything he thought rock solid about the Church all got changed. What that (rather logically if mistakenly) caused him to conclude is that "Romanism" is just a man-made false religion, so now he devoutly attends a small Fundamentalist church and passes out Chick tracts.
Agnes is also a widow whose husband died some years ago after 58 years of marriage. She and her husband were raised Catholic and did their utmost to raise their 6 children in the Faith. She has been active in her parish for most of her life, even to having taught catechism for 20 years. When "the changes" came to her parish, it almost broke her heart, but out of a fierce and unswerving loyalty to John Paul II, she has remained in her parish and put up with, however grudgingly, all of the "new ways of doing things." She is very outspoken at parish council meetings where she is always pushing for a return to the old ways. She reads The Wanderer.
Sam converted to the Catholic Church some years ago when it became clear to him that the Protestant denomination he had been brought up in was not telling him the entire Gospel. When the Catholic parish he joined came to be even more Protestant than the Protestant church he had abandoned, he went on a quest to find the Catholic Church he intended to join and soon found an "independent" chapel and promptly became a member of it and never looked back. The fact that the priest of this "independent" chapel believes that John Paul II is an antipope and possibly an antichrist as well does not disturb him in the least.
Rose was an avid reader of religious literature who had long been in various independent parishes for a number of years, before concluding that all of them lack official canonical status, and that all parishes which have such status lack the Faith. She now stays at home and prays her rosary every day, along with the prayers from her old missal. She makes a "spiritual communion" every day but it has been years since she has literally consumed a consecrated host. Since she believes the Catholic Church has been done away with, she is convinced that the world is about to end and that the Antichrist now stalks the earth. She often goes on and on about the "Three days of darkness" as though they are happening right now.
James just happened to encounter a bit of Catholic literature which mentions that traditional Catholic worship and practice exist somewhere. He is intrigued by the idea and wonders just how he can find out if any such worship exists anywhere near his home, or at least at all. The literature he read could have been a traditionalist periodical such as Sursum Corda, The Latin Mass, The Remnant, Catholic Family News, The Angelus, Catholic Family, The Roman Catholic, Catholic Restoration, Sacerdotium, Fortes in Fide, The Reign of Mary, Salve Regina, The Catholic Voice, or The Fatima Crusader, or even any of quite an assortment of foreign language journals. Alternatively, it might have been a book, published by TAN books, or The Angelus Press, or any one of many much smaller traditional presses, or any of a large and growing number of traditional Catholic informational websites springing up all over the net. Such authors as Dietrich von Hildebrand, Michael Davies, Fr. Anthony Cekada, or Dr. Rama Coomaraswamy have done much to document events which have spurred the traditionalist cause. What James read could even have been some non-traditionalist publication critical of traditional Catholic worship or some traditional Catholic priest or order, and yet even so he wants to see it.
Marlene was so impressed when she saw passing by a large group of traditional Catholics making a pilgrimage on foot to Chartres that she joined them and finished the pilgrimage with them.
Bruce has heard of people who insist on Latin for their Mass and Altar rails and statues and incense, and he thinks it's totally stupid for anyone to make a fuss over such small details. To him, if someone wants that, and if his parish priest is willing to give them that, fine, and if not then they should just shut up. He even wrote a letter to a "Catholic" magazine about this viewpoint, and they promptly published it.
Jill had been raised in a Protestant family and regarded herself as a "Born-again" believer. At the encouragement of her Protestant pastor, she attended with her church a screening of Mel Gibson's movie The Passion of the Christ and was so moved by His holy sufferings for her sins that she sought to know more of this aspect of Christ, and also to know more of the spirituality of the man who produced this film. She then decided to become a Catholic, and after spending some few months in disappointment attending her local "Catholic" parish, she finally learned about the traditional Catholic movement and the Latin Mass. Now she attends the Latin Mass exclusively.
Bessie and Janice are two gossipy old biddies who are just full of scandalous but unverified (and unverifiable) stories about the "horrible" new priest who has just set up an "independent" chapel in their neighborhood and the "evil schismatics" who go there. Everyone they know has heard from them all sorts of horrible things about "that" chapel and "that" priest which they would rather have not. Neither one of them have ever bothered to check it out for themselves to see whether or not the rumors they spread are true.
Diocesan Bishop Thomas Beezlebub wrote a pastoral letter condemning as schismatic and excommunicated some local retired priest who says private Tridentine Masses for some of his parishioners and friends without having obtained the permissions now "needed" to do so. Fortunately, the only reaction on the part of the faithful in "his" diocese has been to attend that Mass in considerably larger numbers than before.
Diocesan Bishop Frank Tryhard granted every permission to a priest from the Fraternity of Saint Peter to say a Tridentine mass in one of his parish churches every Sunday. Without any publicity it soon became the most popular mass in his entire diocese. Catholics who haven't been to Church in years are coming to these Tridentine Masses in droves and giving generously of their time and money. Bishop Tryhard is contemplating having more Tridentine masses and perhaps maybe even a Tridentine parish or two.
Traditional Catholic Bishop John Blessed was consecrated bishop without a mandate from the pope, and has no regular jurisdiction and no diocese. Nevertheless he is in much demand at the seminary where he trains, forms, and ordains truly Catholic priests, as well as many "independent" chapels where he administers the sacrament of Confirmation and speaks at traditional Catholic Conferences.
Such experiences could be multiplied endlessly. In addition to that, there are many different understandings of what traditional Catholicism actually is. To some it is the Latin Mass; to others it is the One True religion which must never pretend that other religions are just as good or right; to still others it is the religion which tolerates no error, even in one elected to be pope.
I say that it is all of these things and vastly more besides. Really, for reasons which will become clearer as one continues reading through this book, the best way to understand the traditional Catholic movement is to understand just what the Roman Catholic Church itself actually is. I therefore devote the next chapter to that subject.
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