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It's becoming more obvious by the day that the so-called trad movement isn't all it was advertised to be. The well-intentioned return to a life centered more on the timeless truths and practices of our 2000-year-old faith has unfortunately been hijacked by individuals and groups with ulterior motives.
Personally, I became associated with the movement in the spring of 2019. It was in my second semester at a diocesan seminary that I began to really dive into the history of the Church and Her modern problems.
Before then, I grew up in the Church of Nice. I never considered myself in line with it, but I didn't know anything different. The Novus Ordo parish I attended didn't boast the clown Masses that now go viral on the internet, but it wasn't doing much in the way of producing saints either.
I also remember Pope St. John Paul II was held up in a way that made it seem like he must have been the greatest saint in the history of the Church. While I did and still do find many of his writings to be worth contemplation, I never understood why he was the only person anyone ever talked about outside the members of the Holy Family.
Going to seminary and learning about and beginning to attend the Traditional Latin Mass — as well as being introduced to Church Militant and many of the other popular Catholic podcasters in the traditional sphere — helped me to finally realize what I knew had been missing all along.
Throughout my whole life, I have never once doubted God or the fact that the Catholic Church is the One True Church established by Jesus Christ for the salvation of souls. All the experiences of my life have made me even more sure of that.
But in my time before seminary, I constantly wondered, "Is this really all there is? Is this really what God desires?" I loved the Church, but I knew the Church of Nice was lame and incomplete. I tended to shy away from inviting my non-Catholic friends to Mass because I knew it wouldn't impress them or move them to explore Catholicism. Most of the people in the pews were ignorant of the faith and lukewarm, so why would anyone want to convert?
Attending the TLM and learning the great depths of the faith — which are never taught in the Church of Nice — instantly struck me as what I had always been looking for from Catholicism. Everything that I found lacking in the Church of Nice was totally fulfilled in these more faithful and knowledgeable circles centered around the ancient liturgy.
I still attend the TLM every week and focus my intellectual formation much more on the Church Fathers and Doctors of the Church than on any modern saints or churchmen, but I have been increasingly distancing myself from those in the "trad" movement.
The well-intentioned and much-needed movement to revive ancient acts of piety practiced by innumerable saints has sadly been used as a way of rejecting — at least implicitly, if not also explicitly — the authority of the Catholic Church.
The movement is now too often associated with those who propose support for the schismatic Society of St. Pius X, reject the legitimacy of the Second Vatican Council, think that the Novus Ordo Mass is sinful or invalid and reject Pope Francis as the supreme pontiff — or at least reject his authority as pope.
Many of the stars of the movement have led well-meaning souls to believe in the aforementioned positions. The Francis pontificate has done little to nothing to prevent Catholics from falling into these traps, which I would claim is the biggest scandal of this papacy.
Those influencers are now leaning more towards — if not already actual members of — sedevacantism, at least implicitly. They have concretized what they deem the Church to be and will accept nothing else. If they don't get what they want, they will break off and do it elsewhere, all while still claiming to be in full communion with the Church. They almost seem to be excited at the thought of "going underground" in order to use it as an excuse to totally disregard Rome's authority.
What have been the fruits of Luther, Henry VIII, Lefebvre and the other breakaway artists? Their movements away from Rome have only resulted in increasingly more offshoots — even within their own sects. The rogue priests of different schismatic groups continue to pile on and ruin poor uninformed souls.
Good intentions don't get you to Heaven. The only sure means to Heaven is an authentic Catholic life in obedience to the Church, powered by frequenting the sacraments and practicing virtue — and then dying in a state of grace. According to the First Vatican Council:
Wherefore we teach and declare that, by divine ordinance, the Roman Church possesses a pre-eminence of ordinary power over every other Church, and that this jurisdictional power of the Roman Pontiff is both episcopal and immediate. Both clergy and faithful, of whatever rite and dignity, both singly and collectively, are bound to submit to this power by the duty of hierarchical subordination and true obedience, and this not only in matters concerning faith and morals, but also in those which regard the discipline and government of the Church throughout the world.
In order to save the Church, you have to be a part of the Church. This period of the Church is a painful one for faithful Catholics, but don't endanger your soul for comfort. Do the hard thing and become a saint, even under the abuses of power we see throughout the hierarchy. Be like St. Padre Pio, who accepted as God's will his unjust punishment of not being allowed to exercise his public ministry for a couple of years. God's providence is so far beyond our understanding.
Teach your children all the treasures of our 2000-year-old faith, but also teach them that authority is real, even if it's abused. Pray, fast, seek true dialogue with those in the hierarchy and entrust everything to Our Lord. Fight for the Church, but know your limits.
The failings of the Church anger Jesus much more than they anger you. The real question is: Will you be like St. John and the Blessed Virgin, painfully remaining at the side of the beaten, bloodied, crucified Christ? Or will you, like the cowardly Apostles in the garden, run for fear and some semblance of comfort?