We remember from our history books that, after the barbarian invasions, the western half of the Roman Empire fell into disarray, becoming a “feudal” society, i.e., a haphazard conglomeration of small, disjointed political entities (kingdoms, principalities, duchies, etc.), most of which were often at war (“feuding”) with one another. Even Charlemagne’s Holy Roman Empire (the “bright spot” in the middle of the “Dark Ages”) was not all that cohesive – and was certainly short-lived.** The glue that really held Europe together then was not political, but religious, i.e., it was the Church that was the main uniting force during those “Dark Ages,” while Europe wallowed in political disunity.
It is ironic that, since then, the opposite has evolved: while Western Civilization became more politically united (or at least coalesced into “nation states”), the Protestant Revolt split Christendom asunder, dividing it into ever more factions. And today, although the “mainstream Catholic Church” survives organizationally intact, it is morally and spiritually splintered – and its doctrines watered down, ambiguously “interpreted,” or even abandoned altogether. It is unified in name only; functionally, it is “feudal”: one believes pretty much whatever one wants; and doctrines and morals (i.e., the ones still “intact”) are not really enforced anymore.
But “traditional Catholicism” is different, right? Wrong. All too often, traditional Catholicism is -- to borrow Belloc’s word – a “calcified” Catholicism, where the letter of the law reigns, but its spirit is notably absent. It is “the new feudalism”: a disunited mishmash of warring factions that is “Catholic" in name only. It (supposedly) stands for everything Catholic – but, again, only for its letter, not its spirit. And even in the “letter” respect, it often follows that letter selectively at best. Traddieleand’s factions are not so much “united in opposition to Rome” as they are “disunited in opposition to one another.” The shining example of that is, of course, the SGG cult center: “rival” chapels are disqualified or condemned for one reason or another (non-adherence to “sedevacantism,” “una cum,” etc.); and anyone who violates its “rules” is “excommunicated” by Daniel Dolan (as if he had the authority).
And, even with that “letter” of the law, he preaches one thing, but does another. For instance, Dannie “waxes poetic” about “Holy Innocents”; yet he condoned the watching of porn (and animal torture videos) on SGG’s school computer, and raised not an eyebrow (at least in the case of the boy) when one of the SGG school principal’s sons impregnated a fellow female student. And Tony? He doesn’t even preach the right thing: his “theological opinion” on Schiavo, i.e., his monstrous justification of Terri Schiavo’s murder, is diametrically opposed to official Catholic teaching (and to all morality, for that matter). What he said about Schiavo will -- like Pearl Harbor -- “live in infamy”; and his condescending rebuttals to those who opposed him on it will continue to serve as the textbook example of ARROGANCE (not to mention, ignorance). The “bottom line” is that he and Dannie say whatever they want; and anyone who questions them -- for any reason whatsoever – is anathema.
Actually, they don’t really care two straws for “the letter of the law,” but only for their “law” – and, in the end, not even that. What they really care about is, as always, how things look -- for the “cosmetics.” That is why they engage in all sorts of elaborate, over-the-top pageantry (that used to be rare in Catholic churches) on an almost weekly basis. They do it because it works – at least on the brain-dead. They put on this impressive ostentation, yet ignore basic Catholic teaching on the sanctity of life (as they did on Schiavo). And when they do “follow” the letter of the law, they use it to their advantage, as Dannie did when he went down during Lent to Mexico -- where the Lenten rules are “relaxed” and the weather is bueno – and where he could use those “relaxed rules” as a justification for pigging out on “copious quantities of beef,” while exhorting the cult-slaves back home to “keep a good Lent” (with fish sticks and freezing temperatures) – and, to add insult to injury, exhorting them to pick up the tab for his “excessive heating bills.”
And what have Dannie and Tony done for “traditional Catholicism” – or for Catholicism in general? Have they united it? No. Have they upheld its precepts? Not really. Instead, they make up their own: they boldly declare a Mass “invalid” just because the priest prays for someone whom they don’t consider to be a valid pope (as if these Roman-collared clowns had any theological basis for making such a claim, or the authority or jurisdiction to do so -- or the power to enforce it). Their reason for making it, of course, was not to uphold orthodoxy, but to keep the sheep in the pen – in order to fatten their wallets.
And are the SGG clergy unique in making such ridiculous claims (and in using them to keep their sheep from straying to ”rival” groups?) Not really. The SSPV folks, for instance, have proclaimed that the “Thuc lineage” of clergy is “invalid” -- and that anyone who goes to them for sacraments is a public sinner. Those claims are just as phony as Dannie’s and Tony’s. (However, we can say that these folks don’t seem to be as mercenary as the SGG cultists; and we do applaud them for their opposition to Dannie and Tony -- but not for their stated reasons.) There are other groups too, who, if they don’t outright disqualify other groups, at least discourage their members from going to them – hardly a shining example of “unifying spirit.” And, of course, many of Traddieland’s separatist enclaves argue about issues that are in fact non-critical, but which they portray as almost as if they were “articles of faith.”
The net result of all this bickering and back-biting is disunity, non-cooperation, and mutual distrust -- in effect, a feudal society – in every sense of the word. In all too many cases, rival groups give lip service to “unity” -- but they don’t mean it – nor do they want it. They want disunity. It is their raison d'être -- and everything they say or do is expressly for that purpose. They must keep as many of their sheep as possible to themselves, because more sheep means more power (and more money). That’s why they keep dreaming up ways of convincing their followers that they’re “the only game in town.”
For Traddieland to survive, it must unify. Right now, it is a pathetic mishmash of pilotless bumper cars, all going aimlessly in different directions, and at cross-purposes. It is also, for the most part, a bunch of amateurs: it really has no intellectual infrastructure. Most of its seminaries are “puppy mills” that turn out simplex priests at best – with no real theological expertise. (The SSPX is an exception, but most “trads” consider them pariahs). But to unify, it must first cleanse itself of those who want to keep it “feudal” -- especially those self-seeking hucksters who play the “control” game for their own material gain.
Then it must try to take back the Church – to fix it, not leave it (as it has done so far). This, of course, is easier said than done, because, being outside the institutional Church, it has no real authority (or jurisdiction) to “do anything.” So what can “good men with no authority” do? First, they must acknowledge those self-seeking hucksters just mentioned for what they are, and separate themselves from them. And, even if they have no power or authority to “make things happen” outright, these good men can at least lead by good example. And, who knows? Perhaps one day that example will “rub off” on others, and real Catholicism will once again take root. Such a renaissance will surely need divine help -- and much more than “good example” is surely required if it is to succeed. But one thing is for sure: it WON’T succeed in the disjointed, dysfunctional “feudalism” that is Traddieland today.
** The “Holy Roman Empire,” as a coherent political entity, lasted only a few generations -- and, of course, wasn’t “Roman” but Gothic. Charlemagne, or rather, Karl der Gross (for he spoke German, not French) was himself illiterate, and his “empire” was not all that cohesive (especially linguistically); nor was it an “empire” in the sense that it enjoyed a stable period of “peace.” There was no “Pax Carolina” to match antiquity’s Pax Romana: both Karl’s reign and his son’s were a continuous series of wars fought in an attempt to keep the empire together. After the death of his son (“Louis the Pious”) his empire was split amongst three of his grandsons: “Charles the Bald” (who got what is now mainly France), “Louis the German” (who got the eastern, German-speaking part), and “Lothair” (who got the German-speaking middle part, “Lotharingia” -- or “Lorraine,” as the French call it – which has been a point of contention between the French and Germans ever since).