Image Source: Bishop Perry of Chicago on the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary
“However crazily the Catholic hierarchy may behave, priests cannot take the place of bishops, nor can laity take the place of priests. Do we then think of setting up a huge worldwide league or association of priests and Christian layfolk to enter into dialogue with the hierarchy and force them to restore Catholic order ? It is a grand and touching idea, but it is unreal. That is because any such group, wanting to be a Church group but being neither a diocese nor an archdiocese nor a parish nor a religious order, will come under none of the categories over which and for which authority is exercised in the Church. It will be an artificial grouping, an artefact unknown to any of the Church’s real groups which are established and recognized as such.
“So, as with every grouping together of men, the problem of leadership and authority will arise, and the huger the group, the sharper the problem. Unfailingly it will come down to this: being an association, the group must solve the problem of authority; being artificial (no kind of natural or supernatural group), it cannot solve the problem of authority. Rival sub-groups will rapidly arise, war will become inevitable, and there will be no canonical way to end or wage such a war.
“Are we then condemned to being able to do nothing amidst the chaos, often a sacrilegious chaos? I do not think so. Firstly, the indefectibility of the Church guarantees that down to the end of the world there will be enough of a genuine personal hierarchy to maintain the sacraments, in particular the Eucharist and Holy Orders, and to preach the one and only unchanging doctrine of Salvation. And secondly, whatever be the failings of the real hierarchy, we all of us, priests and laity, have our little part of authority.
“Therefore let the priest capable of preaching go to the limits of his power to preach, to absolve sins and to celebrate the true Mass. Let the teaching Sister go to the limits of her grace and her power to form girls in the Faith, good morals, purity and literature. Let every priest and layman, every little group of laity and priests having authority and power over a little fort of the Church and Christendom, go to the limits of their possibilities and powers. Let leaders and inmates of such forts know and be in contact with one another. Let each of the forts protected, defended, trained and directed in its praying and singing by a real authority, become as far as possible a fortress of holiness. That is what will guarantee the continuation of the true Church and will prepare efficaciously for its renewal in God’s good time.
“So we need not to be afraid, but to pray with all confidence and to exercise without fear, according to Tradition and in the sphere that is ours, the power we have, preparing thus for the happy time when Rome will come back to being Rome and bishops to being bishops.”