Saturday, March 24, 2012


Ed. Note: Last week, Pistrina established that Sede priests have no supernatural or canonical right to govern a chapel (no office = no jurisdiction). Additionally, Traddie clergy most certainly have no natural right to control assets (no skills/experience/aptitude = no privilege). This week, the Reader will look briefly at the spiritual benefits of lay governance in the Sede Vacante.

While lay management assures the protection of the faithful's investment and rights, it also offers an enormous advantage to the priest. It frees him to devote all his energies (and often very modest abilities) to the spiritual welfare of the people whom he serves. While laymen and -women manage the finances, hire and fire, direct maintenance/building projects, and oversee all the business affairs of the chapel, the priest, unburdened by time-consuming administrative cares, will have many more hours available each day for counseling, home visits, catechism, confessions, evening devotions, preparation for feast days, personal spiritual reading, meditation, fervent prayer, recollection, and much needed remedial academic study.

Another advantage to lay governance of the business end of a chapel is the reduction of friction between the priest and the faithful. He can rise above the normal clash wills that comes about as human beings with differing motives and lights strive to choose between conflicting goods. In fact, he will be in the best position to arbitrate and guide, since all sides will more than likely regard him as neutral. The result will be an increase in his standing in the eyes of the people. Nothing, as many Traddies will tell you, is more unedifying than a priest politicking, conniving, and squabbling with laity over mundane matters.

The most important benefit, however, is that lay governance removes the priest from the temptation to lose himself in money matters. Without the dispiriting hindrance of earthly affairs ever on his mind, the priest can dedicate himself to sanctifying the members of his chapel and himself. We have all seen the effects of the world on Traddie priests and bishops who insist on limitless control of the faithful's assets, and we have seen how traditional laity almost always come out on the losing side of the issue when their priest has no check on his will -- or his control of the finances.

The conclusion is simple: During the Sede Vacante, lay governance is not only rational and just but is, above all, charitable.

Saturday, March 17, 2012


Ed. Note: Today Pistrina inaugurates a series of posts outlining the five main reasons for benevolent lay control of traditional chapels and Mass centers. It's time for the mountebanks, jokers, and flim-flam men who have usurped our rights and trammeled our hopes to get down from their deadly pulpits and try to do good for others, not themselves.

There's a great deal of misunderstanding about lay governance of traditional chapels. One of the most persistent errors falsely claims the motive is to exert malicious control over a priest.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

First of all, during the Sede Vacante no one--prelate or priest-- possesses an ecclesiastical office; therefore, no Traddie clergyman has subjects over whom to exercise the power of government. Accordingly, a Sede priest or bishop has no standing under the law to demand that he be the governor of a chapel invested with sole dominion over property and treasure.

Second, as Pistrina has shown, the majority of Traddie priests are unprepared to manage, let alone rule, the chapels they serve. They often haven't undergone any formal schooling, and their seminary formation has been so inadequate that they are hobbled by irreparable gaps in their theological and liturgical education. (Recall the goofy lost soul in Michigan who skipped the consecration at Mass or the forlorn Frenchman who couldn't bless holy water.) Furthermore, after completing their suboptimal "seminary" training, they get no experience serving under skilled priests with years of successful experience in the cure of souls and the running of an organization. Their only models are the sad-sacks and self-seekers who have appeared in this blog and elsewhere on the 'Net.

Chapels in the Traddie world are virtually Harvard case studies of the Peter Principle in action, where slow-witted, badly trained priests in stunted "organizations" swiftly rise to their own level of incompetence. Think of the case where one very well-known ineffectual, acting against the advice of a successful and experienced lay investor, refused to sell the bond of a tanking technology company and thereby lost close to $10,000 of the laity's hard earned money. Alternately, consider all the stories over the years about bungled construction projects, wasteful do-overs, and insolent refusal to listen to professionals with expertise, both theoretical and practical. Or, how about the case of one prelate "pastor" who bragged that he didn't know how to keep a checkbook and so left everything in the hands of his famously bumbling assistant, who maintained a childlike budget in near illegible handwriting?

Every veteran Traddie can tell you many such head-shaking anecdotes of cluelessly stubborn stupidity.

Let's wake up and smell the coffee. Most of these guys have never held a supervisory position of responsibility, let alone a real job. (Sadly, they haven't even flipped burgers for a paycheck.) Truth to tell, if they ever had to earn their keep in the real world, they'd soon be out on their cans to join the ranks of the permanently unemployable. The only life-lesson they ever learned from their similarly ill-prepared and wretchedly inexperienced mentors was get control of everything the laity has so you can feather your nest.

In spite of their glaring educational and practical-skills deficits, these men pass their lives in the mistaken belief that their orders make them fit to manage what is essentially a small business. On the other hand, most traditional chapels boast laymen and -women who actually do possess the knowledge, experience, and human-relations aptitudes needed to run the organization competently.

In the "good-old days," a diocese had ample resources to assist priests in the efficient management of parish business. There were also remedies for removing gross incompetents from positions of authority. (Plus, back then, young priests spent a number of years working under the louche and demanding supervision of successful parish administrators before they were given more serious responsibilities.) All that and more is missing in the Sede Vacante, where unvetted, ungifted men, who imperfectly know liturgy and theology, think they have a God-given right to control exclusively and without supervision the fisc and real property of chapels. Indeed, they act as though chapels' assets are in effect their personal possession, and they go to great lengths to muddy the financial waters by establishing multiple corporations (some out of state), of which they, their clerical pals, or their family members are trustees.

Until the Restoration, let's get one thing straight: there can be no ordinaries, no pastors, and no parishes (in the strict, canonical sense). One of the many implications of that hard fact is these men have no more right than a layman or laywoman to manage the civil affairs of a chapel or Mass center. To assert otherwise is an abuse--or worse!

In the Sede Vacante, when we have no hierarchy to appeal to for protection against injustice, misfeasance, and incompetence, it only makes sense for the paying laity to safeguard their hard-won investment by insisting on a lay governance model. Besides, given the woefully impoverished formation and deficient aptitude of the majority of traditional clergy, assuming the managerial duties of these priests is an act of supererogation.

Saturday, March 10, 2012


What is hard today is to censor one's own thoughts --/ To sit by and see the blind man/ On the sightless horse, riding into the bottomless abyss. Waley

The February MHT Newsletter finally appeared with the rector’s promised exposure of the “errors” of Msgr. Ocáriz Braña. As it turns out, the goof was Ocáriz Braña’s failure to acknowledge that, in the eyes of Montini and Wojtyła, Vatican II was intended to bind the faithful by its infallible magisterium and, therefore, cannot be so easily explained away.

Whatever the historical or juridical value of the rector’s point, the truth is, he misses completely the political and strategic significance of Ocáriz Braña’s article. A more insightful analyst than the Flushing Rat would have seen the piece as a sure sign of an inchoate revisionist campaign within the Novus Ordo, which will surely lead to a face-saving repudiation of Vatican II.

Ocáriz Braña’s argument was not meant to be a formal reconciliation of Conciliar teaching with tradition. Let's remember that his low-keyed article was printed in a periodical and by no means took the form of an academic thesis. It is, rather, a trial balloon, launched under the radar to gauge the “atmospherics”of a shrinking, embattled, and disgusted Catholic world grown weary of the effects of the Council-wrought disaster.

The article’s real purpose was to test how far the newly emerging reaction can go, how much revisionism will be permitted, and how the rank-and-file as well as the establishment leadership will react to what will amount to be a drastic reversal of a half century of policy. Simply put, attitude-shapers like Ocáriz Braña don’t care whether their interpretation squares with the party line of the past. What they’re interested in is whether they can concoct a palatable argument to “save appearances,” i.e., whether they can come up with something that will be accepted by large numbers of people as a tolerable explanation for the dislocation of the Council and tradition. If their first attempt doesn’t pass muster in its present form, they’ll go back, tweak it a little, and then float it anew. Eventually they’ll hit on the right formulation and go on to the next step (perhaps touching upon validity of post-Conciliar holy orders). The marginalized rector's two-cents' worth will count for nothing because he is not a player.

Whether all this is merely a sophisticated public-relations gambit or the beginning of the Restoration, only time will tell. Whatever it is, the rector has, as usual, misread what the tea leaves are telling him. The truth is that some influential members of the Novus Ordo are trying to find the path of least resistance so as to reject the Council’s teachings without causing too great an uproar. All they need to do is to find the just-right argument that will allow them to backtrack without actually having to condemn the Council formally. They know the benefits of such a move will extend into Traddieland.

The Novus Ordo’s intention is obvious. It means to steal the thunder of the likes of the rector and “One-Hand Dan.” All it may take is a carefully wordsmithed statement that Vatican II somehow lies outside tradition. Then many of the traddie young, who are sickened by the bad behavior of their traditional clergy, will be induced to abandon the un-Catholic cultism their parents have long endured in favor of something that appears normal.

The efforts of Ocáriz Braña, Gherardini, and the other Novus-Ordo revisionists should serve as a warning to the Terrible Trio and other grasping clergy that, unless they mend their ways, they stand to lose everything within a few years. Their egos and acquisitiveness, however, won’t let them see this threat to their already grossly diminished influence. Yet, if they want to withstand the whirlwind they will face when the Novus Ordo announces its nuanced rejection of Vatican II, they should stop all these amateur polemics now and refocus on serving the faithful.

But they won't. That’s why the rector and his kind, like primitives suddenly confronted with an advanced civilization, can only shout madly in anguished wonderment at a spectacle beyond their understanding -- and their reach.

Saturday, March 3, 2012


Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm. Jeremias

There's one question that perplexes thoughtful men and women of faith: Why do Catholics continue to support certain traditional clergy in the face of so much damning evidence? Many laymen, indeed, have left their chapels in disgust, but there remains a stubborn minority who ignore the shocking behavior and keep on enabling these clerics.

Attributing such irrational persistence to ignorance or to brainwashing or to social class rings hollow. For one thing, it doesn't account for the allegiance of the morally well-grounded, who assist at traditional chapels while shamefacedly acknowledging the manifold shortcomings of their priests. People who otherwise would condemn cultism in other confessions never tire of repeating the meme that Catholics in the Sede Vacante must submit to these poorly formed opportunists in all matters.

One explanation comes from a highly unexpected source, a new book titled Religion for Atheists. The Swiss-born author, Alain de Botton, argues poignantly and sympathetically that religion, especially Catholicism, fosters a deep sense of community through its rules, rituals, doctrines, and liturgy, which give men and women both supernatural values and a common purpose and direction. Most significantly, genuine religious communities help hold "our fractious and fragile societies together." Despite his avowed secularism, de Botton is captivated by the transformative power of a religious community to heal the loneliness and alienation troubling modern man.

But what does all this have to do with the problems we experience with many traditional clergy?

In a word, under "traditional Catholicism," self-seeking clerics have a pre-packaged, stellar model for success, so no excess of talent and ability is necessary. All they have to do is to decorate the setting, utter more or less the words people want to hear, mount the externals people more or less want to see, and wait for the money to come rolling in. If they've got a gift of gab, a sense of theater, and enough reference books, they can produce something that will almost pass, at first glance, for a harmonious and humanizing faith community.

The difficulty is that in many cases the image is inauthentic. The empty welcoming postures, the overproduced ceremonies, the holier-than-thou and saccharine words don't quite satisfy, because self-interested advancement and control, not unselfish surrender in service to the faithful, motivate so many of these priests and prelates. True, it's not always easy to put your finger on what's wrong. Often we have to rely on our inner sense that something's fishy. One example, will illustrate our point.

De Botton contends that, as a result of modern society's "worship of professional success," our only access to a community depends on what we do for a living. If we have the right kind of job title, we are welcomed; if not, we are rejected. However, in the Church, where we put aside worldly values, "[i]t no longer matters who is the bond dealer and who is the cleaner." Inasmuch as job status isn't important to the Church, she invites us to "surrender our attachment to it." Happiness, we learn, is found in the Church's embracing community, which could care less about the trappings of earthly achievement.

Whatever dispensation de Botton belongs to, certainly most traditional Catholics would agree with his analysis. Yet, when we scrutinize the behavior of so many traditional priests and bishops, we find an altogether different ethos. At community dinners, clergy sit segregated at special tables reserved for them, where they are waited on and sometimes served better fare. A few take expensive vacations at high-end resort properties and return with travelogues of the lavish treatment they received. In sermons, you often hear little asides made about grand meals and deferential service for a bishop. In newsletters and bulletins, there are frequent references to the priest's or prelate's personality, achievements, and the impression he makes upon the little people he meets. Then there's always a good word -- and special privileges -- for the big contributors. In sum, what you get in a many a traddie chapel is a careerist's paradise, with its constant reminder that they have status and you don't.

Perhaps in the Sede Vacante we can't expect mere men to behave well. With no hierarchy, there is no locus of control to keep an error-prone man from pursuing material advantages and earthly prestige at the expense of his brother and sister. For some stout souls, the answer is to cross these hungry status-seekers off and stay home alone. For others, however, the need for some form of Catholic community and the sacraments urges them to remain with such clergy notwithstanding the nagging doubts and the absence of longed-for consolation.

If you are among the latter, you have an option. You don't simply have to take it. You can start by taking back your chapels. You are not powerless or without resources. You hold the pursestrings, and you can demand that your clergy clean up their act. But you must act together -- as a community -- if you want the peace you've been searching for.

When at last the Restoration gives us a sovereign Roman pontiff, Catholicism can return to a monarchy, but in the Sede Vacante, we must have a democracy to protect us from men grievously ailing from the effects of original sin.