With Geoffrey Hull, I believe that while they are not currently allies, Roman traditionalists and Eastern Catholics ought to be more closely aligned. They share more common spillover at American parishes than most think. Both theoretically put a handed down liturgy at the center of Christian life rather than something concocted in a conference room. And above all, both share a very realistic view of the papacy grounded in reality and the historical experience through which we must read the Church's teachings on the papacy. The pope cannot be something other than what his predecessors show him to be.
In an interview with progressive blogger Anthony Ruff OSB, Robert Taft SJ branded all who disfavor the Spirit of Vatican II "neo-con whackos." A more realistic approach reveals that there are the Tradistanis and then the genuine "continuity" neo-conservatives on the "right wing" of the Roman Church. The Tradistanis, much like their Greek Catholic counter-parts, are unafraid of opposing or ignoring the pope when he is flagrantly wrong about something or damages the Church's praxis—not that the opposition mattered a tinker's bell in the 20th century. Many of them, like Msgr. Lefebvre before 1988, wanted to be Ultramontanists a la Pio Nono, but were at some point accosted by real life.* Others, like myself, view the pope as the center point of the Church's Communion and the custodian of the Roman tradition. This is a view amenable to Eastern Christians, too. Yet all these viewpoints and experiences contrast remarkably to the neo-conservatives, who will often admit to the on-going troubles in the Church and many, like the fellow in the video below, will go after the bishops for their mistakes, but never the pope.
I have said all I have to say about the Synod on the Family and I would rather not examine the video below on the merits of the host's views of Francis, but I would like to comment on his attitude, an attitude which reflects the neo-conservative view like still water. Mr. Voris quite openly attacks bishops, often by name, in his videos, earning him the understandable indignation of some, but does not go after the pope. Ever. Why? He admits freely that the vast majority of what the pope says and does has no doctrinal guarantee whatsoever and that those things are open to debate. Why, then, can we not debate them? An American priest whose name begins with the last letter of the English alphabet posted this video the other day, advertising it as a sort of key to a good attitude about the current papacy. This is essentially a via media approach to a problematic pontificate which acknowledges the bad and does not assign the blame for it out of piety and good manners. The host accuses Tradistanis of name-calling and nastily insulting the pope. Rorate Caeli no longer allows comments, so I am not sure what Mr. Voris has been reading. There is also the nonsensical moment at 3:00 when he assails the Tradistanis for wishing to uphold traditional teachings and practices, and then proceeds to compare the those people with the progressives who wish for a change in teaching, as if an equivalency exists betwixt the two. The message seems to be "The pope might theoretically be wrong, but in faith we must always pretend he is right. Nothing could be his fault." What. The. Heck.
Those who know history rarely adopt this high-Ultramontane view point. What is quite irksome is the occasional neo-conservative who does know history, but who has also grown up in the JP2 era and chooses to disregard the past. Yes Vigilius and Honorius were heterodox, yes John XII toasted the Devil, yes Benedict IX sold the papacy to chase a woman, yes Alexander VI killed a lot people, but that was then and the Holy Spirit guides the papacy, so it would never happen now; we have had St. John Paul the Great, after all! A friend, who I love dearly, told me "Ya gotta love Francis," to which I rebutted, "Why?" I was told, "He's the pope." I retorted, "That is not an argument, good or bad. It is just a fact." Much like at Vatican I—the council to define Infallibility, at the Synod the Holy Spirit acted through those who opposed the pope to preserve the Church's teaching and, ironically, the pope's own doctrinal infallibility. To the high-Ultramontanist, this is implausible. Say what you will about him, Benedict XVI seemed to be dismantling the mythology around the papacy while restoring its external dignity. I am afraid that is gone and we are, as we were in 1978, left with a cult of personality.
Tradistanis and Eastern Christians in Communion with the Apostolic See have slowly learned to worry about their local communities, both because of their isolation and because they depend on strong local churches to survive, and to keep a distant, atavistic eye on Rome. We do not ignore Rome. We love Rome, the city of the two greatest Apostles, the martyrs, our liturgical tradition, and the center of the Christian world. But we also realize Rome will always have her politics, her power struggles, her good popes, her bad popes, and her ugly popes. We delude ourselves if we think this was untrue in any era after St. Peter's crucifixion. Pray for Rome. Love Rome. Concentrate on the local church though. Christ had twelve Apostles, after all, and they traversed the known world. They did not issue online encyclicals. Our local churches have been devastated in the modern era and are in need of care. The Vatican will still be there.
Let the "neo-con whackos" worry about the rest!
* = Of course this is untrue of sedevacantists, who disregard the modern popes precisely because they maintain a high Ultramontane view. I am sure they have their own historical foundations for their opinions.