You can concede that on some things they may have a point, but they will want to concede that they are right on everything.
You can acknowledge that their stand rests in history, but then you will get beat up for not turning back the clock.
You can agree with them that rules must be enforced, but God help you if you enforce the rules on them
And you can even give them a few things that they dearly want--things that they have used to rally their own troops, that they have stood in front of you and demanded. In return, assuming the extremists don't see you as a weakling and laugh at you, they will in turn spit in your eye.
This story in the Reuters blog FaithWorld by Tim Heneghan is a case in point.
I suppose that every religious leader will at one time or another give in to their most optimistic fantasies of winning over the extremist with an appeal to their better nature. I've done it. I can't think of a good pastor, rector or Bishop who hasn't at one time or another.
Pope Benedict is “an absolutely liberal pope.” The United States is “founded upon Masonic principles of a revolution, of a rebellion against God”.
It is clear that the man who made these comments has lost some connection to reality. If I told you he had been the target of a Vatican charm offensive in recent years, you might think I had lost a link to reality, too. However, it shows how strange the relationship between the Vatican and the schismatic traditionalist Society of Saint Pius X has become that its head, Bishop Bernard Fellay, could utter the words quoted above.
Fellay, whose SSPX movement champions the traditional Latin Mass and wants the Roman Catholic Church to turn the clock back to before the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), thought its star was rising after the election of Pope Benedict three years ago. Benedict has gone a long way to accomodate the SSPX’s liturgical demands, bringing back the Tridentine Mass despite the fact very few other Catholics were asking for it. He has agreed to a new Latin Good Friday prayer that restored traditional phrasing even though it was offensive to Jews (and still not enough for the SSPX). Even Benedict, for all his conservative views, refuses to roll back the reforms of Vatican Two wholesale.
The Swiss-based bishop used the occasion of Benedict’s successful U.S. visit (April 15-20) to issue a declaration of disappointment that the pope was not giving in to his demands. His latest complaint, delivered on June 1 at the Paris church the SSPX has occupied since 1977, is a frustrated outburst that raises the question of whether the Vatican should expend any more energy talking with this group.
“And now, we have an absolutely liberal Pope, my very dear brothers. He went to this country [the United States] founded on Masonic principles of a revolution, of a rebellion against God. And, well, he expressed his admiration and fascination for this country that has decided to grant liberty to all religions. He went so far as to condemn the confessional State. And they call him a traditionalist? Yes, this is the truth. He is absolutely liberal and absolutely contradictory. He has some good sides, which we hail and for which we rejoice, such as what he has done for the Traditional liturgy. What a mystery, my very dear brothers, what a mystery!”
Since my orders are utterly null and void anyway, I am happy to leave this headache to the Pope. But this story is a helpful illustration of some basic lessons that anyone in religious leadership has to learn sooner or later:
- you can't negotiate with terrorists;
- never give into extremists because you can never give in enough;
- look out for those who use you own values against you and then demand respect;
- be wary of those who demand rules be enforced on others, while they do what they please.