The recent series by Stephen Hand "Traditionalists," Tradition, and Private Judgment (which concludes in this issue) has elicited a virtual firestorm of rhetoric on the part of the authors and supporters of We Resist You to the Face, the subject of Hand’s monograph. More on that shortly, but first, it may be well to reflect for a moment on how these
"resisters" are arrogantly attempting to appropriate Catholic Tradition exclusively to their own interpretation and "safekeeping."
Any faithful, well informed Catholic knows that Tradition and Sacred Scripture "are bound closely together …. for both of them, flowing out from the same divine well-spring, come together in some fashion to form one thing and more toward the same goal."
"Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture make up a single sacred deposit of the Word of God."
"The task of interpreting the Word of God authentically has been entrusted solely to the Magisterium of the Church, that is, to the Pope and to the Bishops in communion with him." (All quotes above are from articles 80-100 in The Catechism of the Catholic Church.)
Despite this clear placement of Sacred Tradition, solely under the authority and guarantee of the Magisterium, the authors and signatories of We Resist You to the Face (and presumably its supporters) "respectfully suspend obedience to the Pope" and "declare themselves in a state of resistance relative to the teachings of Vatican Council II, Popes John XXIII and Paul VI, and to the teachings [of John Paul II] that are objectively opposed to the prior ordinary and extraordinary Papal Magisterium."
Now whatever legitimate questions and concerns the "Resist You" crowd may have regarding Vatican II or about certain statements or actions of the recent Popes, they have foreclosed any discussion with the Magisterium by setting themselves up as the arbiter of the issues – in other words, they have become the counter magisterium.
In fact, among all the tons of newsprint spent by the "resisters" in their wailing and gnashing of teeth over Mr. Hand’s monograph, not an ounce has been spent to explain why their suspension of obedience to the Pope and their "state of resistance" to Vatican II do not constitute objective schism.
It is remarkable how the "Resist You" statement is similar to the attitude of Archbishop Lefebvre toward the Vatican when he retracted his agreement with the Holy See in June of 1988. Here is how Lefebvre’s explanation of retraction was described by Cardinal Ratzinger in an address to Bishops of Chile.
"It was conceded, in addition, that the Fraternity of St. Pius X [ed. Note: known in the U.S. as the Society of St. Pius X] would be able to present to the Holy See – which reserves to itself the sole right of decision – their particular difficulties in regard to interpretations of juridical and liturgical reforms. All of this shows plainly that in this difficult dialog Rome has united generosity, in all that was negotiable, with firmness in essentials. The explanation which Msgr. Lefebvre has given, for the retraction of his agreement, is revealing. He declared that he has finally understood that the agreement he signed aimed only at integrating his foundation into the ‘Conciliar Church.’ The Catholic Church in union with the Pope is, according to him, the ‘Conciliar Church,’ which has broken with its own past. It seems indeed that he is no longer able to see that we are dealing with the Catholic Church in the totality of its Tradition, and that Vatican II belongs to that."
It is our judgment that the "resisters" have nothing to say, or to offer to their fellow Catholics so long as they continue to "suspend" their obedience to the Pope and remain in a state of "resistance." We appeal to them carefully and prayerfully to consider the consequences of their action. Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz, in his preface to Mr. Hand’s monograph, recalled a chilling observation once proposed by Abbot Marmion: "God resists the proud. Is it not terrible to be alienated from God? But how much more terrible it must be to be ‘resisted’ by God Himself."
We should pray constantly that neither we nor any of our Catholic confreres may ever fall into such a state.
To conclude on a more encouraging and hopeful note, it might be well to consider the work of tens of thousands of faithful Catholics, most known only to God, who tirelessly work to maintain tradition within the Church, sometimes in the face of hostility from their fellow Catholics – including certain Prelates and clerics.
We refer to those who organize and participate in Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration; who promote and attend Forty Hours Devotion of the Blessed Sacrament, Stations of the Cross; who daily say the Rosary – alone or with others; who spread the teaching of the Church by catechizing children and adults – individually or in classes; who promote sacred art, music, architecture, literature; who promote, participate in, and encourage attendance at, the Traditional Latin Mass encouraged by the indult granted by Pope John Paul II; who regularly attend Mass celebrated in the new rite and who promote its celebration in a reverent and devout manner; who are building truly Catholic grade schools, high schools, and even Catholic colleges; and finally, and in this category the numbers are probably in the millions, those Catholics who have steadfastly joined Pope John Paul II in opposing the "culture of death" – abortion, contraception, the denigration of the family, sexual libertinism, the consumer mentality, etc. – and who vigorously support the "culture of life" – our life in Christ, which liberates us from sin and places us upon the path to salvation. The list is not exhaustive, but it does illustrate the extent to which Catholic reverence, promote and practice Church tradition. Those who truly love the Church should work to persuade every Catholic to appreciate, reverence and observe tradition.
In fact, we Catholics should all be traditionalists.
We would urge every reader who has not yet done so to order Stephen Hand’s "Traditionalists," Tradition, and Private Judgment. It will not only help clear up the confusion created by so-called traditionalist "resisters," but will help provide a better understanding of Tradition and how it is taught and protected by Magisterium.