Saturday, May 31, 2014

New Puritans/Same Old Pharisees

A friend recently experienced in a “traditional” chapel something strikingly similar to what habitually goes on at SGG (St. Gertrude the Great Church, Daniel Dolan’s cult center in West Chester, Ohio) -- things like dress codes, rules governing “conduct,” and other practices that were (and probably still are) “staples” at SGG:  first off (like this traditional chapel), SGG has a strict dress code.  Men and boys are required to wear suits with ties (or dress slacks, jackets, and ties) – and, of course, no “shorts” (and no “sports logo” jackets); and women are required to wear dresses (no slacks or “pants suits”) with hems well below the knees (ankle length is preferred), and some sort of head covering (hat or veil).  At one time, Dannie heavily hinted that women should also wear gloves (but stopped short of making it a requirement).  The women are required, too, to wear dresses with sleeves (the longer the better).  “Sleeveless” dresses are verboten.

Anyone who violates this “code” is forbidden communion, and told to sit in the back, where they can’t be seen (and, in some cases, they’re told to leave the premises altogether).  Even first-time visitors to SGG are subjected to this sort of treatment, and are made to feel as unwelcome as possible.  One wonders that Dannie and Tony don’t require some sort of covering over the crucifix itself; for, according to SGG’s dress code, our Lord is dressed immodestly as He hangs there!

Some of the SGG womenfolk look like they just got in from Amish country -- or Saudi Arabia.  Yet, at the same time, there are some who – if they were “favorites” of Dannie and Tony, could bend (or break) the dress-code rules at will.  Some of the “preferred women,” for example, could get away with wearing tightly-fitting dresses; and one man who was a “major fixture” at SGG habitually showed up in a pullover and “dockers.”  To those who were “important enough,” the rules did not apply.  But God help the “less important” -- the “nobodies” – and especially the occasional itinerants “just passing through” who showed up at SGG (especially “novus ordo” types).  These poor devils were treated like lepers, and, of course, were told not to come to communion if they had not “confessed their sins to a traditional priest’ or had not “followed traditional communion fasting rules.”

Besides the “dress code,” there are other “rules” at SGG, such as the “thou shalt not re-enter the church during the sermon” rule: if a person steps out during the sermon (for example, to use the restroom), he cannot re-enter church until the sermon is over.  This includes moms who have to leave if their babies are crying (a disturbance which His Self-Importancy will not tolerate while he’s talking).  Those mothers cannot re-enter until after the sermon – even though the unheated vestibule is almost at freezing temperatures during the winter.  Another “rule” – at least in the past -- was that children could not use the drinking fountain (in the vestibule) during Mass.  When the SGG school principal’s daughter (a choir member at the time, and whose throat was dry from singing), once tried to use the fountain, he shooed her away, humiliating her in front of everyone.

And, of course, talking (or making any kind of undue “noise”) is strictly forbidden (making too much noise while walking, for instance).  At SGG, even people outside the church building are not supposed to talk while Mass is going on (a former SGG church organist, for instance, who used to take a “smoke break” outdoors during the sermon, was chided by one of SGG’s priests for talking outside; this priest, by the way, was none other than Fr. Saavedra, the moron who skipped the consecration during one of his Masses).  Another time, a woman exiting church after Mass made the mistake of hugging a friend (whom she hadn’t seen in a while) before she reached the vestibule.  She was chided for “inappropriate behavior” (specifically, “turning her back on the Blessed Sacrament”).

And is SGG the only place this sort of nonsense has gone on?  Not really.  In the heyday of Schukardt, the CMRI faithful had to leave church after Mass by walking backwards, because they weren’t allowed to “turn their backs on the Blessed Sacrament”; and every woman in the congregation had to wear her dress down to her ankles (and long sleeves, of course).  Thankfully, this sort of lunacy is no longer enforced.  However, there are traddie chapels where women are still required to look “Amish,’ and where they can’t even whisper to each other while Mass is going on, without being tapped on the shoulder by some self-appointed traddie “policeman.”

Is this Catholicism?  The answer, of course, is a resounding NO.  Granted, the blatant immodesty that is tolerated in many Novus Ordo churches is not Catholicism either – but neither is the other extreme.   What we have in traddieland today is some prudish cult-master’s warped notion of what constitutes “modesty” and “proper behavior.”  This sort of nonsense has no basis in fact.  Catholicism was NOT like this prior to Vatican II.  Yes, immodest dress was not tolerated, but a sleeveless dress was not considered “immodest”; nor, by no means, were ankle-length dresses required -- or even encouraged.  And, although men usually wore suits and ties, they were not considered “improperly dressed” if they didn’t – and they were certainly not denied the sacraments.  As for young boys, suits and ties were NEVER required; and many young boys – especially pre-school aged ones – were often dressed in shorts.

“Professional prudes” like Dolan and Cekada have given today’s traddies the false notion that anything short of covering one’s entire body (excepting face and hands) is “indecent.”  The irony of it all is that Dannie and Tony really don’t care about modesty.  It’s all for show – to give their parishioners the impression that they care.   And the strict rules about conduct are employed simply because they are an effective cult manipulation tool in exacting obedience from people. If he really did care, Dannie wouldn’t have referred to the SGG school principal’s sons’ watching porn on the school computer as “boys will be boys” – and he wouldn’t have tolerated one of those sons’ fornicating with (and impregnating) a fellow student.  (Anywhere else, the boy would have been expelled.)  One wonders if the principal’s sons were wearing “proper attire” while they were watching those porno flicks – or if the girl with whom one of them was fornicating was wearing an ankle-length dress at the time.  Kind of makes the term “dress code” ring shallow, doesn’t it?

Besides the irony, what this really points up is Dolan’s consummate hypocrisy: preaching modesty and chastity, while completely ignoring them in practice.  But that is what Dolan and Cekada have always done: they preach one thing, and practice another.  They can excuse gross immorality on one hand (as long as it’s one of their “favorites” who’s doing it), yet can have a student threshed with a wooden paddle for missing a homework assignment.   They can tell their parishioners to “sacrifice” and “offer it up” during Lent, while Dannie does his “sun and fun thing” in Latin America; and mothers with week-old babies are expected to use an unheated vestibule as a “crying room” in the winter, while the dynamic duo live in comfort in their three-climate-zone rectory (and ask the parishioners to pick up the tab if they can’t pay their heating bills).

Dolan and Cekada certainly represent a worst-case scenario of traddieland (at least, we hope so!) – because they are men without principles or conscience.  But the rest of traddieland does share some common traits with them: like them, trads are usually preoccupied with appearances, and with being “letter-of-the-law.”  When the occasional “Novus Ordo” Catholic shows up at their door, traddies usually look down their noses at them, and treat them like lepers.  Instead of putting out the welcoming mat for these folks, they “turn them off” with their sterile, elitist attitude that is, at best, aloof – and, at worst, hostile.

Things such as “strict dress codes” and the like have little to do with real Catholicism.  Collectively, what they represent is a cruel caricature of Catholicism.  What traddieland lacks is balance: it fights one extreme with another extreme. And it is full of pharisaic hypocrites who think themselves superior to everyone else -- who confuse sanctimony with sanctity, and who are ready to pounce on anyone who violates one of their “protocols,” or who doesn’t measure up to their standards.  And the reason that they behave this way is simple: they lack charity.  They are the perfect example of St. Paul’s “sounding brass” or “tinkling cymbal” –of the Pharisee looking down his nose at the publican or the Samaritan.

Until traddieland rids itself of this mindset, where appearance -- not substance -- is paramount, and where extremism takes the place of common sense, it will go nowhere.  It will fall victim to its own sterility, and it will bear no fruit.  Traddies often think of themselves as the “real Catholics” – but, all too often, they are not.  In too many cases, they are the new Puritans – or, put another way, the same old Pharisees.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Telltale Traddie Traits

The “Traditional Catholic” movement promotes itself as being real Catholicism, the one and only truly Catholic answer to the debacle of Vatican II.  But the joke of it all is that it really isn’t.  First off, it is not one unified movement, but a motley collection of different sects, each with its own agenda, each going off in its own direction, each often trying to outdo its rivals – and each often condemning or disqualifying its rivals on this or that technicality.  The epitome of this cutthroat one-upmanship is, of course, Daniel Dolan and Anthony Cekada, who have set the standard for others to emulate.  And, because the different trad groups are answerable to no hierarchy (and therefore have no one to police them), they often become mini-potentates, developing the following traits that have come to typify the SGG clergy, and others like them:

1.   They’re overly authoritarian.  It is one of those ironies that, the less authority there is in traddieland, the more authoritarian it becomes – especially places like Dolan and Cekada's SGG cult-center.  They pass themselves off as “the only way to salvation” – “the only game in town” – and anyone who disobeys their precepts is denied the sacraments, or “disciplined” in some other way – as if Dannie and Tony were “mini-popes,” whose every utterance is to be treated as if it were “ex cathedra.”

2.    They’re above the law.  They can make (and break) rules at will – rules that apply to everyone else, but (of course) not to them.  If Dannie wants to fill up the church pews on a Friday, he simply decrees that anyone who shows up for Mass that day is dispensed from abstinence (and anyone who doesn’t come is not dispensed).  If Dannie doesn’t want to follow the Lenten fasting and abstinence rules he lays down for everyone else, he simply goes to Latin America, where he can exempt himself from our Gringo rules that don’t apply down there.  And he can make up whatever rites and rubrics he wants, so long as they look “traditional” -- because he knows that the culties probably won’t notice (and wouldn’t dare question him, even if they did).

3.  They really have no principles.  They will compromise (or even abandon) their principles, depending on the circumstances.  If the SGG school principal’s sons watch porn on the school computer, Dannie Dolan simply proclaims that it is a case of “boys will be boys”; or if one of those sons fornicates with (and impregnates) a fellow student, no problem!  But if another student misses his homework, that merits being beaten with a wooden paddle; and if student wears an “inappropriate” headband in church, that is a “mortal sin.”  And, of course, Tony Cekada can justify the starving and dehydrating to death of Terri Schiavo as “her husband’s right.”

4.   They never admit they’re wrong.  It is one of those universal truisms that people will readily believe rumor and hearsay, but not truth.   Truth, as they say, “is an orphan.”  This was never more evident than in the case of the accusations made against Bp. Paul Petko (see articles: Lie No. 1, Lie No. 2, and Lie No. 3), who was falsely (and unjustly) accused of wrongdoing by two men (Markus Ramolla and Thomas Drolskey).  Ramolla, who was pastor of St. Albert the Great Church at the time, convened a “parish meeting” (which Petko was barred from attending); and Petko was given “kangaroo court” justice by these men and by the parish lynch mob they convened (an audio recording, which this writer possesses, captures the whole sordid affair).  Although the accusations against Bp. Petko were later proved to be false, none of those parishioners (nor Droleskey or Ramolla) withdrew their accusations, nor did any of them ever apologize to Petko.  To this day, they all pretend as if the whole thing never happened.

5.   They take the moral high ground.  Because they never admit that they’re wrong (and are therefore “always right’), many traddies invariably take the moral high ground, even when they’re standing on quicksand (which is usually the case).  It’s always “the other guy” who’s wrong: sometimes he’s a “pompous doctor who presumes to pronounce on matters of faith and morals,” or sometimes he’s black-balled for using “inappropriate language” -- like the former SGG parishioners who referred to Dolan’s pack of lies about his deceased father as “bullshit” – and was roundly condemned for it (see A Pristine Example of Hypocrisy).  Like the Pharisee who looks down his nose the publican, they cloak themselves in their faux piety, condemning everyone else.

6.    It’s appearances that matter.  As has been pointed out so many times, it’s “the show” that counts – especially at SGG.  Whether it’s a pontifical pageant with wall-to-wall polyphonic music, or a sumptuous “triple-play” funeral for a rich parishioner's deceased spouse, or a Palm Sunday procession complete with donkey, the glitter of spectacle has always been Dannie Dolan’s modus operandi (as has been his flattery, syrupy sentiment, and all the rest of the saccharine insincerity that he doses out daily to the SGG gullible). 

The examples given in the foregoing have been confined, for the most part, to SGG; and not all of traddieland is so blatantly superficial (and mercenary) as they – but the tendency is there in varying degrees, just the same.  One traddie group, for instance, sanctioned a couple’s child getting a heart transplant – a couple who just happened to be major benefactors of that group.  What good is “being traditional” when one does not respect the sanctity of human life?  Harvesting an organ from a live donor, who is then taken off life-support and left to die, is just as clear a violation of Catholic morality as was the murder of Terri Schiavo.  And even for those traddies who do not partake in such travesties, they seem to tolerate it in those that do.  Who, for instance (save for a precious few), raised an eyebrow at what Cekada said about Schiavo?  This alone should have put the SGG vipers out of business – but it didn’t.

And, as noted earlier, traddies in general have this snobbish notion that they are superior to everyone else – that they are “the elect,” simply because they say all the right words and follow all the right rubrics.  All too often, they have failed to realize that there is more to Catholicism than "dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s."  They have become like the hypocritical Pharisee in the parable, who looks down his nose at the publican or the Samaritan.  The plain truth is that many “Novus Ordo” Catholics and protestants will make it through heaven’s door, while many letter-of-the-law traddies won’t, because of their pride, and their lack of charity, and their failure to be Catholic in deed as well as in word.

And until traddieland stops practicing its superficial brand of Catholicism that follows its letter but ignores its spirit, until it stops its sectarian bickering and in-fighting, and until it rids itself of self-serving, parasitic hucksters like Dolan and Cekada, it will remain a rag-tag pack of aimless renegades, going nowhere in a hurry.  What it needs is some clear direction -- and good men who will get back to putting truly Catholic principles into practice, not just preach them (and certainly not completely ignore them, as Dolan and Cekada have done).  Until it does this, it will not prosper.  It will not survive.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

A Trip to Nowhere

In recent weeks, we have been reporting about Daniel Dolan’s winter sojourns to Argentina and Mexico; and we have been speculating that the money spent on these boondoggles could have been put to better use.  Dannie’s laments about the winter heating bills (voiced in his Bishop’s Corner in SGG’s Palm Sunday church bulletin) reinforced our suspicions, and prompted us to comment about the dynamic duo’s preoccupation with money (see Show Me the Money), and about how their relentless appetite for extravagance necessitates the never-ending solicitation of money from their culties.

As it turns out, Dannie’s lament (in Palm Sunday’s Bishop’s Corner) was more than just idle chatter: reliable sources tell us that SGG was in arrears (about $3300) on their heating bills.  But, thanks to beggar Dannie’s whining appeals from the pulpit, some “generous donors” (aka SUCKERS) came forward to erase that deficit.  This, of course, came at a time when Dannie was taking his two unnecessary trips – one to Argentina and one to Mexico.  One wonders why he didn’t just CANCEL those trips, knowing that he was in arrears on the heating bills (and at a time when SGG’s cash-strapped parishioners had their own heating bills to pay).

But Dannie has always wanted to have his cake and eat it too, so it really didn’t matter to him that he was shamelessly begging from the pulpit for that heating money after sunning himself down in warm Argentina and Mexico.  He knew the culties would be good for it, and that they’d bend over and “take it up the tail-pipe” for him (as they always have) – even though many of them had to forego a lot of that heat that they were paying for: the young mothers, for instance, in the vestibule “crying room,” which is kept UNHEATED in the winter.  (There’s provision for heating; it’s just not used).

As long as Dannie and Tony are warm and cozy in their three-climate-zone rectory, what the hell do they care for the culties?  The latter are good for paying the bills, doing the grunt work for “the show,” and keeping their mouths shut.  As Dannie and Tony well know, “culties should be seen and not heard.”  If they’re worked to the nubs during Holy Week, no problem!  Just thank them profusely for their servitude -- showering them with flattery and all the rest of the Dolanesque BS that goes with it – and they’re good for another year!

In fact, what Dannie might want to do is to keep on begging for the culties to foot the heating bills.  That way, Dannie (and perhaps Tony too) could afford to go to Europe this summer on another “apostolate.”  Instead of the heating (or cooling) being paid for out of SGG’s “general operating fund,” it could be “a la carte”:  Do you culties not want to sweat this summer?  Then pay for it!  Do you young mothers want the vestibule heated for your newborn babies this winter?  Then pay for it!  Oh, and how about pay toilets in the vestibule?  If Mother Nature calls, then pay for it!  (And in an unheated vestibule, Mother Nature will call quite often!)  In time, this “a la carte” thing could become an effective generator of revenue -- and the culties would eventually get used to it!

Of course, besides the “studio audience” at SGG, revenue generation can also come from the “cyber culties” out there – the ones who read SGG’s web page.  And the “beauty part” about them is that, not being physically present at SGG, they’re not aware (for instance) of what the shivering young moms are going through in the vestibule.  All they see are the pretty pictures plastered all over SGG’s web page – such as the recent full-color, panoramic view of the altar all decorated for Easter, or the photo from SGG’s Newsletter depicting Dannie parading through a Mexican pueblito, flanked by a half dozen or so struggling campesinos hoisting up a heavy gold-threaded canopy over him to shield his self-importancy from the sun.  But not to worry – the “cyber culties” don’t notice that, but see only “happy, smiling faces,” with “a good time being had by all.”

The fact is, Dannie and Tony can do just about anything -- and create any impression -- that they want.  Being independent (and hence not answerable to any hierarchy -- or church board -- to police them or scrutinize their finances), they literally have a blank check to do anything they choose.  They are the epitome of that all-too-common traddie phenomenon: the tinhorn-turned-mini-pope, who passes himself off as whatever he wants to be: “scholar,” “theologian,” “interpreter of doctrine” – an easy enough thing to pull off, when dealing with the liturgically illiterate.  And with no hierarchy to police him, all one has to do is just hang out his shingle, and start proselytizing.

And don’t worry about “consistency.”  Dannie and Tony can “flip–flop,” saying one time that they’re not “sedevacantist,” and then, at another time, saying that they are (which they did) – and then use their “authority” to deny the sacraments to anyone who goes to a “non-sedevacantist” church (which they did).  They can dispense parishioners from Friday abstinence if they come to Mass that day, or deny dispensation to those who don’t come (which they did).  They can even declare a Mass as “invalid” if the celebrant prays for someone of whom they don’t approve (such as someone whom they don’t recognize as pope).  They can, in fact, make up (and change) whatever rules they want, then (selectively) punish anyone who breaks those rules.  In other words, they can say or do (or spend) just about anything they wish -- and who’s to stop them?

What all this autonomy has bred in them is an air of arrogant, tyrannical self-importance, where they demand absolute fealty from their cultie subjects, who must obey their decrees, accept whatever they spend, and perform whatever tasks they assign.  The SGG cult center now employs a small army of volunteers to help with “the show” -- a workload that has already claimed three sacristans (two nuns and a lay woman) -- and driven one of them to nervous collapse.  And since, again, there’s no hierarchy (or church board) to hold them accountable, Dannie and Tony can say or do whatever they wish – leaving the parishioners with no option but to accept it, or leave (which many have already done).

And, of course, the “mutual adulation society” of Dolan and Cekada hail each other as "ecclesiastical experts”: Tony is the “scholar and theologian,” and Dannie is the “keeper of the liturgy.”  The culties are expected to blindly accept Tony’s bogus logic and fractured, mistranslated Latin, his maniacal moral theology, and his and Dannie’s “make-it-up-as-you-go rites and rubrics – and they do.  With the dumbed down lot at SGG, Dannie and Tony don’t have to “sweat the details”; they can wow them with anything, as long as it “looks traditional” – and the culties accept it as “the real thing” (as one recent Pistrina article and another pointed out).  As they say, “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.”

What Dolan and Cekada are doing at SGG is reminiscent of what happened in the Church in the late Middle Ages, where the clergy became a worldly, privileged class who exploited their flocks instead of serving them – abuses that eventually brought on the Protestant Revolt.  Dolan and Cekada are basically doing the same thing – by using the sacraments as weapons, by convincing the gullible that they are “the only game in town,” and by using a combination of flattery and fear tactics to enforce that notion.  By using shibboleths such as “una cum” to determine what is “Catholic,” these renegades -- with no authority whatsoever to do so -- are passing off their private opinions as “articles of faith,” using them as criteria for determining who is allowed to enter church, who is allowed to receive the sacraments, and so on. 

And by ostracizing people whose private opinions clash with theirs, they are splitting up – not uniting – Catholicism.  People who have private opinions on things that are not articles of faith should be able to worship without fear of being disqualified on this or that trumped-up technicality – especially by self-proclaimed, self-appointed “experts” who make and break rules to suit whatever their purpose is at the moment.  And with Dannie and Tony, that purpose is invariably worldly; and their rules are made not to protect the Faith, but to protect their turf.  And until such renegades as they are put out of business, the rudderless ship known as traditional Catholicism will stumble along on its trip to nowhere.

And perhaps “traditional” Catholicism should go nowhere.  Catholicism should not be “qualified” by such adjectives as “traditional”; Catholicism should just be… Catholicism.  And if a person holds, for example, the opinion that Jorge Bergoglio is (or isn’t) a pope, the holding of that opinion should not be used as a criterion for whether or not that person is “Catholic,” or whether or not he can receive the sacraments – especially if the “judging” is being done by some unlettered idiot like Tony Cekada.  So long as articles of faith are not compromised, one should be able to “leave his private opinions at the door,” and worship unencumbered.

In today’s troubled times, what the Church needs are not counterfeits like Dolan and Cekada, who sow dissention and discord, but good (and competent) men who will unite and heal -- men who are selfless, not self-serving; who are spiritual, not worldly; who are truly Catholic in thought and deed (and who don’t misuse and misconstrue God’s word to promote their own worldly agenda).  Until the traddie establishment rids itself of such self-seeking tinhorns as the dynamic duo – and no longer tolerates them -- rudderless traditional Catholicism will remain on its present course – on a trip to nowhere.