In today’s disastrous state of Church and world there are, amongst others, two central principles in play, the one permanent and primary, the other temporary and secondary, but both are central. Their interplay should be decisive to guide our actions.
The permanent principle is that “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb. XI, 6). This is because all men come from God endowed with a free-will which they are meant so to use as to be able to go to God when they die, and enjoy the beatific vision of God for eternity. These obligatory terms of our earthly existence constitute an extremely generous offer on God’s part, given how relatively little is required on our part (Is. LXIV, 4), but the very least that we can do, a bare beginning, is to recognize his existence. Given the goodness of his Creation all around us, it is “inexcusable” not to recognize it (Rom. I, 20), and therefore without the most elementary faith in him it is impossible to please him.
The temporary principle is that the Shepherd is struck and the sheep are scattered (Zach.XIII, 7), text quoted by Our Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mt. XXVI, 31). After 4,000 years of man’s repeated decadence, God took a human nature to found a Church to enable men to save their souls for the last 2,000 years of men’s existence on this earth. For the first thousand of those years the decadence was seriously interrupted, but after a few more centuries it picked up again to the point that with Vatican II the very leaders of God’s own Church, the Popes on whom it was designed to depend, became seriously infected by the decadence. Thereupon it became much more difficult for men to see how God meant them to save their souls.
Therefore on the one hand, objectively speaking, the permanent truths of salvation have not been changed one little bit by the fall of the Conciliar Popes, and these truths must be maintained if any souls at all are still to be saved. It was Archbishop Lefebvre’s glory to uphold those truths against the fallen churchmen and world, while it is his successors’ disgrace to be compromising them for the sake of rejoining those churchmen and their world.
On the other hand, subjectively speaking, that disgrace is mitigated by the temporary eclipse of those great truths, due to the fall of the Popes. It is not easy even for bishops to see straight when the Bishop of Rome is seeing crooked. It follows that those who by the grace of God – and by nothing else – see straight, must have a 360-degree compassion for souls caught in a confusion not entirely their own fault. Therefore, it seems to me, if James is convinced that to save his soul he must stay in the Newchurch, I need not hammer him to get out of it. If Clare is persuaded that there is no grave problem within the Society of St Pius X, I need not ram down her throat why there is. And if John can see no way to keep the Faith without believing that the See of Rome is vacant, I need urge upon him no more than that that belief is not obligatory.
Yet in all this scattering of the sheep, somebody must maintain and make available to them the objective Truth if the poor stones are not to have to do it (Lk. XIX, 40), because upon at least the seeking of that Truth depends the saving of our souls. However, let Catholics seek it with all due regard for the blindness of their fellow-sheep, for at least as long as the Shepherd remains struck.