As Catholics, we’ve been treated to a steady diet of Church corruption, modernist agendas and weak bishops for literally decades now. The problem appears to be getting better in some areas, mainly in small dioceses, but simultaneously getting worse, mainly in bigger (arch)dioceses, the college of cardinals and the Vatican. As frustrating as this is, and yes it’s very frustrating, I believe this is to be expected. The problem is primarily generational, and it centers around the Baby-Boomer (or just for brevity “Boomer”) generation of priests and bishops, who are now working their way up through the higher ranks of the Church, before eventually retiring and going on to receive their eternal reward. Please understand, my use of the word “Boomer” is just for brevity. I do no say it in a derogatory manner, nor do I write it that way. This explains why the problem seems to be improving, ever so slightly, in the smaller dioceses, where we have younger (Generation X, or just for brevity “GenX”) bishops taking the reins of power. Simultaneously, however, it appears to be worsening in larger (arch)dioceses, the college of cardinals, and the Vatican, where the older (Boomer) bishops are cycling through the upper echelons of power before they finally fade away.
Here’s the bad news. Until the Boomer bishops start retiring, or dying off, the problems in the upper echelons of the Church will continue to get worse.
Here’s the good news. We can expect things to continue to improve as younger (GenX) bishops, in smaller dioceses, slowly implement their more conservative Catholic agenda. It’s going to happen gradually, because a lot of these younger (GenX) bishops are having to deal with older (Boomer) priests, who are so entrenched into the diocesan structure, that it makes it difficult for younger bishops to get what they want. In many cases, they have to settle for a piecemeal agenda, that is slowly implemented through attrition, as older priests retire of die off, and younger (Millennial) priests slowly move in to implement what the GenX bishop really wants.
Here’s some more good news. The Ratzinger Prophecy has come to fulfillment already. And while it is not completely fulfilled yet, it doesn’t have much further to go. This means that the very young Millennial priests are (for the most part) extremely faithful and orthodox. They’re practically in hiding in most cases, concealing their traditional and orthodox tendencies, but they will come out (so to speak) as their GenX bishops gradually place them into higher positions of power.
You see, the priesthood no longer has any appeal to watered-down Catholics, as it once did during the Boomer and WW2 generations. The priesthood no longer has the mystique it once had, and priests are no longer above scrutiny. This makes the Catholic priesthood undesirable to those who want to use it for hiding their sexuality and heretical beliefs. Besides, most watered-down Catholics can’t stand the prospect of giving up sex, or even presenting the appearance that they have. Most of them would prefer regular married life as laypeople. Some of them will go to the Anglicans, who will allow them to marry whomever they want, and still become priests with a much better salary, housing and benefits. A growing number of watered-down Catholics are leaving the Church entirely. Some are becoming Anglicans. Some are becoming Evangelicals. Must are just becoming non-religious entirely. On the one hand, this is tragic for the sake of their souls. On the other hand, this is cleansing for the sake of the Catholic Church. As painful as it is, it needs to happen. The Ratzinger Prophecy needs to be fulfilled, and it is being fulfilled, even as you read this.
The real question, of pertinence to any faithful and orthodox Catholic is: how to survive (and thrive) in the meantime, while this transition slowly takes place over the next 10 to 20 years? As we have seen, clergy tend to hold on to their jobs much longer than laypeople, working well into their seventies and eighties. The average age of a Boomer priest/bishop right now is about 65. The age range is from 55 to 75. (This is as of 2022.) These men still have a long time to cycle through the ranks of power in the Church. It’s going to be a while before we start seeing GenX archbishops, cardinals and popes. So, what do we do in the meantime? How do we maintain our catholicity, and our sanity, while this all plays out? I believe the following will help.
The greatest principle we orthodox Catholics need to grapple with is the Catholic Principle of Subsidiarity. This may seem hard to grasp at first, because it’s a principle previous generations of Church leadership have glossed over, and in some cases ignored entirely. Subsidiarity basically teaches that it is immoral for higher levels of authority to take over and do those functions perfectly capable of lower levels of authority. In the United States, this plays out in government in what is called Federalism or States Rights. In business, this plays out in the prominence of small business and worker-owned cooperatives. In religion, this plays out in smaller dioceses, where the bishop is more accessible, and in smaller parishes, where the priest is more accessible. In other words, the kryptonite of an orthodox Catholic is a large parish in a large (arch)diocese. Going to one of these practically guarantees you will have no say, and nobody will care what you think. Orthodox Catholics should seek out small parishes in small dioceses, whenever possible, following the Catholic Principle of Subsidiarity.
As I explained above, large parishes in large (arch)dioceses are going to be given over to Boomer priests, and Boomer bishops. While it is possible to find orthodox and traditional clergy in this age bracket (55 to 75), and yes there are some, it is nevertheless more difficult. Going to smaller parishes, in smaller dioceses, gives one a greater likelihood of finding younger priests and younger bishops, who are more accessible, and much more likely to already be trending things in a much more traditional and orthodox way. They’ll also be more likely to listen to you.
If you happen to live in a large (arch)diocese, and you cannot get out, then you’re going to have a much more difficult time finding a good parish, but it’s not impossible. Seek out younger pastors. (A pastor is a priest who runs his own parish. You don’t want assistant pastors. They’re powerless.) You’ll usually find young pastors at smaller parishes. They’re almost never given large parishes. Test the waters with him. Is he somebody who is working toward a more traditional and orthodox way of running his parish? Or is the poor guy so burdened by an unsupportive bishop that he’s basically paralyzed and can’t do what he wants? This is something only you can determine on a case-by-case basis. Keep in mind, that even some very liberal (arch)bishops might be willing to “allow” a traditional and orthodox parish sometimes, mainly because it appeases their orthodox opposition in the (arch)diocese and keeps the money flowing in. So, as I said, being trapped in a large (arch)diocese isn’t necessarily a death sentence to traditional orthodoxy. It just makes finding such a parish a bit more challenging. There is a resource that can be helpful in finding orthodox parishes. It’s not a guarantee, but it can help you narrow the field. It’s called ReverentCatholicMass.Com, but it’s only for the United States, and the administrators of this website rely on feedback from those who use it to keep it accurate and up-to-date. So, if you use it, make sure you send some feedback to the administrators, so they can keep it a reliable resource. Maybe send them a few dollars donation too. Hosting internet sites costs money.
In some places, you might have the option of alternative jurisdictions. This too follows the Principle of Subsidiarity because alternative jurisdictions are usually smaller and more responsive to the needs of their people.
For example, The Personal Ordinariates of English Patrimony in North America, the UK and Oceania, are usually excellent options. Their parishes provide a reverent and orthodox liturgy in traditional English, along with orthodox homilies and teaching. They might provide a suitable alternative, that’s easy to adjust to, for any orthodox Roman Catholic trapped in a large (arch)diocese. Just an FYI, if there isn’t one in your immediate area, it is possible to start one. Again, back to the Principle of Subsidiarity, there is a provision in canon law, thanks to Anglicanorum Coetibus, that allows for the creation of “English Patrimony Groups” which can potentially become Ordinariate parishes under the right circumstances. If you’re a Catholic, who has a background in either the Anglican or Methodist churches, or you are close to a Catholic who does, there is a way to get the ball rolling on this. The Anglicanorum Coetibus Society can help you initiate the process here.
Another option would be the Eastern Catholic Churches, which have an appearance of Eastern Orthodox, but they’re in full communion with the pope, so they are 100% Catholic. You can read more about them here. Any of these Eastern Catholic Churches would be a suitable jurisdiction for any Roman Catholic to find a traditional and orthodox refuge in a large (arch)diocese. Keep in mind though, this is Eastern Catholic, and it might be a bit of a culture shock at first, but their worship liturgies are very beautiful.
Then, of course, there are always the Latin Patrimony parishes, colloquially referred to as the “Traditional Latin Mass” or TLM parishes, which use the 1962 Missal. This is always a viable option for any Catholic. However, these poor folks have been enduring increasing persecution under the Francis pontificate as he, along with a host of Boomer bishops, seem to have it out for them. As a convert, for the life of me, I don’t get it. I never have and probably never will. Why do so many Boomer bishops hate the Latin Mass so much? It just seems insane to me. If the new mass (1970 Missal) is as great as they say, they would have nothing to worry about from a small percentage of Catholics who want to stick with the 1962 Missal. As I have said elsewhere on this blog, and I am on record insisting, the new 1970 Missal has everything an orthodox Catholic priest needs to revive his parish. So it seems their hostility toward the 1962 Missal, and those who prefer it, is a subtle admission of guilt. They’re not doing what they need to do with the 1970 Missal to revive their parishes, and they don’t want to. In fact, they have no intention of doing what needs to be done at all. So in that mindset, there is nothing else they can do but persecute those who aren’t going along with their shoddy program, and sadly, they’ve brought the pope in on it!
I digress. If you’re specifically interested in a Latin Patrimony parish, you can find them here. Many Catholics find them extremely helpful. While they’re not for everyone, they can solve a lot of problems for some people.
Keeping Catholicity and Sanity
Utilizing the Principle of Subsidiarity, and the options I described above, it is entirely possible for any orthodox Catholic to maintain both his catholicity and his sanity during these difficult and challenging times. The Boomer generation of clergy understands that this is their last great hurrah! So they’re going to do everything in their power to make as long of a lasting impression on the Catholic Church as possible, before they fade off into the sunset. Honestly, while they’re going to shoot for everything (married clergy, approval of homosexuality, and female clergy), along with complete disorientation of the liturgy and liberation theology (Marxism) disguised as social justice, very little will stick in the long-term. I suspect the most they’ll ever be able to get is the ordination of the viri probati. That’s probably the only lasting footprint the Boomers will leave for the Catholic Church in the 21st Century. Why? Because that’s the one and only thing they want that is technically within the realm of orthodoxy. Everything else is problematic, so as soon as the Boomers are gone, their problematic agenda will fade away with them. The only thing that might remain is the ordination of the viri probati — perhaps. Until that day comes, however, we faithful and orthodox Catholics have got to figure out how to keep our catholicity and our sanity.
I mean, what are the alternatives? We can’t depose the pope. We can’t rebel against bishops and start our own parishes and diocese outside of canon law. We don’t want to let them drive us into the sin of schism, or leave the Catholic Church, because of their infidelity to the gospel. Why should we pay the penalty for their sins? No. We have to remain faithful to the gospel and the Catholic Church, and in order to do that, we have to acknowledge a bit of helplessness when it comes to the problems in the upper echelons of the Magisterium.
The following is a mindset that might help…
Again, it all comes back to the Principle of Subsidiarity. We have to apply this to ourselves in our personal lives, and we have to start looking at our Catholic Faith that way. In our modern world, with satellite television and the Internet, we are more connected globally than we have ever been in the history of humanity. As Catholics, this is turning out not to be such a good thing at all. As they say, it’s possible to get too much of a good thing, and global connectivity is one of those things. As Catholics, we know far to much about what is going on in the Vatican, and the corruption of the hierarchy around the world. It’s discouraging, and frankly, it’s downright depressing too. If we are going to preserve both our catholicity and our sanity, we’re going to have to mentally disconnect from something.
I propose the first thing we should mentally disconnect from is the Vatican. Yes, you read that right. I said that we, as faithful and orthodox Catholics, need to mentally disconnect from the Vatican. No, I’m not talking about schism. No, I’m not talking about disavowing the hierarchy. What I’m talking about is mentally going back to the state of a Catholic mind in 1922 or 1822, rather than 2022. A Catholic living in the last two centuries wasn’t aware of everything going on in the Vatican, and might never even see the pope in his entire life! This is because we didn’t have telecommunications back then. And when it came to such things as encyclicals and apostolic letters, Catholics relied on their local bishops to handle that. They might have heard the pope issued an encyclical, but they almost never read it. Even getting access to it was somewhat difficult back then. The newspapers rarely even tackled such topics. This was considered “internal church business” and hardly news worthy. Instead, Catholics waited on their local bishop to see how he handled it. What I’m saying is we need to go back to that kind of mindset.
I propose that telecommunications has actually created a situation wherein the Vatican has (perhaps inadvertently) undermined the Principle of Subsidiarity within the Catholic Church.
It helps greatly if you’re living under the jurisdiction of a good, Boomer bishop (there aren’t many), or a good GenX bishop in a smaller diocese or jurisdiction. It helps greatly if you’re part of a parish where the bishop (good or bad) is allowing the priest to keep things traditional and orthodox, even if it’s just to appease the orthodox Catholics and not disrupt the money flow. Again, it’s all about Subsidiarity. If you’re in a good parish, and/or a small diocese/jurisdiction, you can let your priest and bishop worry about such things as papal encyclicals and apostolic letters. Let them figure out what it means (for your diocese) and how to implement it in your parish. You’ll be better off if you do. For example, my ordinary is Bishop Steven Lopes of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. When Pope Francis issued his apostolic letter, Amoris Laetitia, that permitted communion for the divorced and remarried without an annulment, my bishop just wrote his own pastoral letter, A Pledged Troth, that basically said this part of Amoris doesn’t apply to us. That was that. Then we moved on.
Bishop Lopes is the head of a relatively small jurisdiction, the Ordinariate, which is spread out over a very large area (most of North America). Incidentally, he’s also the chairman of the USCCB liturgy committee. He understood the dynamics of the converts who founded the Ordinariates, and the sensitivities we have about marital issues. (I cannot begin to describe to you what a touchy subject this is for us, as our ancestor’s entire schism with Rome was based on an annulment issue — King Henry VIII. We’ve spent the greater part of half a millennium trying to heal from that.) Again, that’s Subsidiarity. He’s a bishop of a small jurisdiction, who is close to his flock and understands our needs, because his flock is small. It also helps that he’s young. He’s a GenXer. So, he “gets it.”
This is what I’m talking about. A younger bishop, in a smaller jurisdiction, who is in touch with the needs of his flock (Subsidiarity), can take a papal document and make adjustments as needed, to meet the needs of his people. While everyone else was freaking out of Amoris, the source of the controversy was really nothing more than a footnote (literally). Our bishop in the Ordinariate said this doesn’t apply to us, and it doesn’t because we have ample access the marriage tribunals in multiple dioceses, so we can ignore it and move on.
In the end, much of what Pope Francis does is theatrics. Much of it looks terrible on camera. It makes the Church appear lost on television and the Internet. It really gives us all a bad name. However, when it comes down to the local level, if that’s all you pay attention to, and you’re in a good jurisdiction with a good bishop, the image of the Catholic Church looks very different. Things can be much more orderly and regulated, sometimes even quite normal. Again, you’ve got to get into a good diocese/jurisdiction, preferably with a good bishop, and you probably want to have a good priest too, but if you have these things, the Church looks quite ordinary. This is why it’s so important to apply the Principle of Subsidiarity to your Church life as a Catholic. The pope does not micromanage the Catholic Church. He may sometimes think he does. The mainstream media outlets may say he does. Uneducated Catholics may believe he does. However, in the end, it always comes down to the local bishop. The local bishop is the one in charge of implementation of Vatican decrees — 100% of the time.
So, if you’re in a megaparish, in a large (arch)diocese, you’re probably going to get exactly what the pope commanded, but in the most ludicrously insane way possible, especially if that (arch)bishop is a Boomer who has a problem with orthodoxy and tradition. Again, I know there are some good Boomer clergy out there. I’m just saying they’re the exception to the norm. However, if you’re in a relatively small parish, in a small diocese/jurisdiction, especially if the bishop is a younger man, you’re more likely to get an interpretation of the Vatican’s decree that is much more reasonable. If you limit your understanding of papal acts to something your younger bishop, in a smaller jurisdiction interprets for you, you’re probably going to be able to preserve your sanity as well as your catholicity.
The important thing to do at this point is try to apply that Principle of Subsidiarity to your Catholic life, as much as possible, in any way you possibly can. Then live a sacramental Catholic life. Go to Mass. Go to confession. Read your Bible and your Catechism (I recommend Baltimore #4). Pray the Rosary. Develop your personal relationship with Jesus Christ and his Catholic Church at the parish level, and forget about the Vatican, the College of Cardinals, and all the shenanigans going on at that level. It’s not going to go away until that generation dies off. Sorry. It’s hopeless. God will have to deal with them now. Keep your Catholic faith local. Implement Subsidiarity in your heart and in your mind.
Last but not least, let’s talk about money. If you want to kill orthodoxy, the fastest way to do it is to starve it of cash. Any orthodox parish, not bringing in money, is going to be shut down. Sorry. That’s the fact, Jack! Like it or lump it, that’s the way it works and always has, even before Vatican II. If you have an orthodox parish, and you want to keep it, you better fund it, and fund it well. Yes, it really is that important. I like my traditional English parish (Ordinariate) so much, I’ve put it on a bi-weekly bank draft, so my donations happen automatically, even if I forget or I’m out of town. That’s because I understand if you want to keep something, you’ve got to fund it. There is no exception to this rule.
I know many people have been upset about the revelations concerning the Vatican, the College of Cardinals, and larger (arch)dioceses surrounding the 2018 “Summer of Shame.” The sex-abuse and cover-up scandals surrounding McCarrick and others are unforgivable. Yes, I said “unforgivable,” and I mean it, as Jesus did not take kindly to sexual abusers in the ministry (Luke 17:2). According to him, their salvation is in question, and the threat of eternal damnation is very real and likely. In the end, Jesus Christ is going to have the last word on this. Some in the hierarchy have already faced Him. All of them will eventually.
That said, many Catholics have decided to stop giving to the Church entirely because of these scandals. I understand the sentiment. I get it. The principle I described above, however, does not change. Parishes that don’t get funded get shut down, and it does not matter how traditional and orthodox they may be. The Fifth Precept of the Church demands that we materially support the Church, but it does not specifically say where and how. That leaves us a lot of room to strategically place our donations. I place mine only in a parish I know is safe, in a jurisdiction I know is safe. I’m lucky that way. Some people have to support their orthodox parish, even if it means they know a small portion will go to a corrupt diocese. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than losing your orthodox parish and having it shut down. That said, all of us can boycott the national Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) and the international Vatican collection of Peter’s Pence. Boycotting those alone is going to make a dent, and send a message. In the end, it’s a matter of conscience, but the principle doesn’t change. Fund it or lose it. That’s just how it works. If this offends, it offends, but somebody has got to say it. If you have an orthodox parish, and you want to keep it, you better open up that checkbook.