Editor's Note: The Readers have received heavy e-mail traffic this summer about one of the phrases we've been using lately. Since the following inquiry is typical, we thought we ought to supply a more public answer, in case others had the same question.
PL or Readers
You keep praising priests who have "been through the system" over the sede's. What system are you talking about? Do you mean a tridentine seminary? How can that be if they don't exist? (Don't get angry. This is NOT an attack. I want to understand what you mean.)
The only time we become angry is when we learn of additional abuses at the hands of the money-grubbing cult masters and their malformed "clergy." (Our latest ire-raising investigation concerns "The Case of the Purloined Chalice." We hope to report on it in the future.)
Our correspondent's question's a good one, and from the volume of mail on the same topic, it's worth a dedicated post, particularly since we hadn't considered the possibility the phrase wasn't self-explanatory.
By "the system," we mean day-to-day Roman polity, the Latin Church's distinct way of managing ecclesiastical affairs, which is only understood by having participated in — by having gone through — the institutional Church. Contrary to what the cult fibbers want you to believe, not everything was lost after the Vatican II catastrophe. A large portion of the bureaucratic mores and folkways —many of which had been transmitted directly and without interruption from ancient imperial times — survived. (Bergie's out to purge those now.)
Those who operate in the post-conciliar Church may no longer be Christian, but they still possess, in virtue of their membership, time-honored know-how and institutional memory. For informed students of organizational theory and behavior, our assertion will come as no surprise.
The sense of how things are done in the Church, an important part of ecclesiastical Romanitas, cannot be mastered without direct and prolonged contact with the Church quâ institution. A formation outside that sphere spawns babbling defectives, who resort to making it all up as they go along. Despite flabby arguments to the contrary, no amount of independent study can compensate for the missing concrete experience.
For that reason, insofar as all the U.S. cults' make-believe "seminaries" have never been part of "the system," none of their malformed completers can be said to possess the appropriate background necessary for the authentic practice of the Catholic priesthood and episcopacy. Therefore, in addition to lacking a commission from the Church, these outsiders haven't the essential cultural profile of a Roman Catholic churchman. The only men in Traddilandia, then, who've "been through the system" are the FSSP, the large majority of SSPX along with many of their former members, and ex-Novus Ordo priests and seminarians who have returned to tradition. Tradistanis don't count!
At this point, the question demanding an answer is whether the senior sede cult kingpins can be regarded as having "been through the system." Right off the bat, Pivvy must definitely be excluded since he's a home-grown product of the ever-alien, completely marginalized CMRI. What then remains is to assess whether Dannie, Big Don, and Phony Tony can be thought of as having "been through the system." To be sure, their online biographies could argue for that status.
Wee Dan began his priestly studies in 1965 in the Detroit minor seminary and then fled to the Cistercians before he scampered off to Écône, at last receiving, according to nine priests and at least two eyewitnesses, one-handed priestly orders in 1976. Bonehead Tone has a marginally better record, managing to get (only heaven knows how) a bachelor's from the Milwaukee seminary in 1973, spending a couple years with the Cistercians, and then somehow making it into Écône, with priestly ordination in 1977. Big Don, a.k.a. "Tradzilla," outshines the dullard Checkie: he graduated cum laude in classics from the Brooklyn seminary college in 1971, entered Écône in the same year, and was finally ordained a priest in 1975.But a closer analysis of their downmarket curricula vitæ is in order.
We'll start with the dumbest of the Terrible Trio. In his Wikipedia bio (autobiography?), there is absolutely no mention of Deficient Dan's receiving an undergraduate credential, so we may infer he lacks a degree. Furthermore, by his own admission, he had to use Waldo Sweet's much maligned textbook to get enough Latin to squeak into Écône. (Question: Why didn't he use Scanlon and Scanlon? Too challenging?)
He was therefore an academic outsider when he arrived in Switzerland, where, in Dan's time there, the archbishop was struggling to cobble together something that remotely resembled a Catholic seminary. Consequently, we may safely conclude that Li'l Daniel, with his exceedingly spotty formation, was never really "in the system." At best, the Wee One had his runny nose pressed against the steamy window as he longingly peered in from the outside on his tippy-toes.
In contrast to "One Hand's" lack of credentials, Checkie's and the Donster's undergraduate leaving-certificates from diocesan seminaries would seem to qualify them as having been "in the system." The considered short answer, however, is, not quite. Tony Baloney was just 21-22 years of age when he completed his seventies-era Milwaukee schooling, and Big Don probably about the same when he finished his bachelor's.
To really have been "in the system," you've got to devote several adult years on the inside, internalizing its ways, absorbing the organizational lore. Donnie and the Cheeseball, however, spent their formative early adult years only at newly established Écône and in the nascent U.S. SSPX, when things were still very much in flux.
As Bp. Andrés Morello, a former SSPXer, has written of his own experiences in those early years, the quality of formation he received back in the magnificent Argentine seminary he attended before entering the SSPX was far superior to that offered at Écône. From what we've learned, it was only in the late 1970s and early 1980s that the seminary found its firm footing. (That's why the younger members of the "Nine" who studied at Écône are so much better prepared academically and culturally.) Accordingly, we're forced to conclude that Tony Baloney and Big Don, while light years ahead of "One-Hand Dan," cannot themselves be regarded as having "been through the system." At best, we may say they had some contact with it, but not enough to transform them into anything like genuine Catholic clergy.
What, you may be asking at this point, is the practical value of all this for the morally centered, cult-hating trad, lay or "clerical"?
In our view, there are two lessons.
The first is for the lay leaders of independent chapels looking for a priest or hoping to replace malformed cult "clergy": interview only former Novus Ordites who have embraced tradition, and never consider any candidate from one of the hyper-inferior sede vocational-training programs. If you're concerned about the validity of these superior candidates' orders, don't be. There are many such clergy available who have been conditionally ordained by traditional bishops who possess multiple lineages; therefore, the threat of invalidity is greatly mitigated. Remember: the cult kings can boast of but one line, that of Thục. And as in the case of "One Hand Dan," a possible defect may have vitiated the validity of holy orders coming from him.
The second lesson is for those "priests" whom Tradzilla has targeted for membership in his new organization (that is, if he ever gets around to founding it as he promised way back in May). Why would they want to submit themselves to all the wacko demands Tradzilla will make on them, if he really hasn't "been through the system"? They're better off signing up for that new Pastor Bonus Forum founded by an ex- Novus Ordo nun who served in the institutional Church for many years (click here.) Having spent quite a bit of time in Italy, this "Arch-Abbess of Tradistan," who's fluent in Italian, has authentic experience, unlike the amateurish Donster.
All the cult meatheads could learn a lot from her. We wish her every success in her effort to organize sede "clergy" under someone who knows the Roman way of getting things done. Besides, there's a lot of Oedipal angst out there that needs Sister's firm hand.