During this week a question was supposedly asked of a local 'authority' to do with a liturgical matter. I say supposedly because I suspect the conversation went something like this;
Middle Manager: 'May we do X, Y or Z?'
He Who Must Be Obeyed: 'I'm not to sure. I'll have to check with Fr B. If you don't hear back from me presume it's OK.'
At that point the towering piles of Vatican questionnaires, conference minutes, petitions and delations come crashing down on the poor man's desk. The phone call is forgotten and the dubious passes into local mythology as having the permission of the ordinary.
There has been a lot of nonsense got through by default over the centuries however it has probably picked up speed in the last 40 years as the authority, particularly the teaching authority, of He Who Must Be Obeyed has been undermined by a lack of vigilance and the easy option of 'turning a blind eye'. Each of these 'cracks' has widened the distance between the faith and how it gets communicated to us at the lower end of the food chain. This is where a simplistic modern ultramontanism would be very dangerous. We are left in the sad position of being fairly sure that just because He Who Must Be Obeyed says so doesn't mean it's necessarily so.
So here we have the problem. As Catholics, and particularly as traditional Catholics, we take respect for the teaching authority of the Church very seriously, certainly more seriously than the cafeteria approach of much contemporary theology. And yet as we have been let down over so many years there is no surprise that anything that issues from 'on high' is taken with a grain of salt. So what do we do? Well the Church has it's catechisms to teach us, it's canon law to protect and organize us, and traditions which transcend the momentary fashions of the age. We need to get to know these much better.