I am becoming quite disturbed by what seems to be a prevailing protestant mindset in the Church today.
There is significant mistrust of authority in the Church. What began as a failure on the part of some bishops to protect the most vulnerable members of their flock has resulted in all bishops being cast into disrepute. This has evolved into a stance that claims loyalty to the pope while completely sidestepping the most fundamental discipline in the Church. Consecrating bishops without permission is merely the tip of the iceberg. Doing something that is illicit is not even seen as a problem because all that matters is validity. Style has replaced substance wherein people will argue over the cut of a priest's chasuble or the length of a candle but neglect the more serious demands of the gospel. We have become a Church of teenagers rebelling against their parents. What is even worse, we rejoice at the wrongdoing of others, pleased to become inquisitors.
The notion of a smaller, leaner, more faithful Church once discussed in one of Cardinal Ratzinger's interviews has given rise to a kind of impatience to get rid of the chaff. Somehow convinced that they belong to this elect, many have succumbed to this arrogance and wonder why excommunications are not handed out more freely. The Catholic notion of unity that regards any division or separation as a serious wound in the Body of Christ has been replaced by another, more sinister notion more reminiscent of Calvinism than Catholicism. Rather than mourning the loss of a brother, we are eager to see them go.
Thus the Church is seen as an inquisition or a court of law wherein we determine who has the right to be in her midst and who doesn't. The Catholic notion of the Church as a hospital for sinners in whose midst all are welcome is being lost. Rather it is seen as the assembly of the elect, those who are predestined for the kingdom. Again, Calvinism is slowly displacing Catholicism in the minds of many.
The mistrust of the episcopacy has given rise to the exercise of private judgement amongst Catholics. After all, how can you submit yourself to someone who is manifestly corrupt? They believe because it seems reasonable to them and they reserve the right to decide for themselves. This was not so in apostolic times as Newman points out in Discourses to Mixed Congregations:
Men were told to submit their reason to a living authority. Moreover, whatever an Apostle said, his converts were bound to believe; when they entered the Church, they entered it in order to learn. The Church was their teacher; they did not come to argue, to examine, to pick and choose, but to accept whatever was put before them.
Now, my dear brethren, consider, are not these two states or acts of mind quite distinct from each other;—to believe simply what a living authority tells you, and to take a book, such as Scripture, and to use it as you please, to master it, that is, to make yourself the master of it, to interpret it for yourself, and to admit just what you choose to see in it, and nothing more?
In the Apostles' days the peculiarity of faith was submission to a living authority; this is what made it so distinctive; this is what made it an act of submission at all; this is what destroyed private judgment in matters of religion. If you will not look out for a living authority, and will bargain for private judgment, then say at once that you have not Apostolic faith. And in fact you have it not; the bulk of this nation has it not; confess you have it not; and then confess that this is the reason why you are not Catholics. You are not Catholics because you have not faith.
The magisterium is becoming a book. This smacks of sola scriptura wherein the protestant reformers wanted to find some sort of authority that would allow them to ignore Rome, which they regarded as corrupt. In some Catholic circles this has transmuted into a belief that the magisterium consists of the sum total of the authoritative written documents of the Church. This serves the same function as sola scriptura, that is to divorce the living magisterium from the written documents, allowing the person to follow one but not the other. The modern mind rebels at the very notion of submission to a living person and it seeks any means of avoiding it. Reducing authority to a written record or to a person so remote as to be inaccessible accomplishes this quite nicely.
The Catholic Church has always had corruption in her midst and at times it extended to the papacy itself. We have had to cope with clergy whose sins were as scarlet. We have had to deal with power brokers who thought nothing of passing the papacy on to their illegitimate children. The list is endless. Anyone who is shocked at the current state of affairs is sadly ignorant of history. The real question is whether someone who is a sinner like myself may also speak the truth.