Why? Because the church ultimately needs the ecclesia docens (the teaching church, i.e. the bishops) in order for the ecclesia discens (the learning church, i.e. the laity) to be catechized well. There is only so much the laity can teach each other about the faith, as the magisterium is needed to weigh in on current aspects of doctrine and practice, which haven’t been addressed in the past, but are vitally important in order to remain steadfast in the faith (thus the need for a living magisterium).
Additionally, the laity may produce orthodox candidates capable of applying for seminary all they want but if the seminary has people who screen orthodox candidates and only accept dissident candidates then this approach won’t work. Clearly, a reform of the hierarchy is crucial for serious change to occur.
Reform the Priests
This approach says that the healing of the current crisis will be implemented through orthodox priests. As mentioned before, there is a problem with getting orthodox candidates to be admitted into the priesthood, but assuming this reform takes place with currently ordained priests, this approach is still insufficient. If a priest were to start to clean house in his parish, i.e. not allowing the laity to run the show, celebrating mass traditionally, preaching about conversion and the necessity of believing in Christ and His Catholic Church as the only means of salvation, he would get a call from his bishop Monday morning and would effectively be silenced or laicized. This isn’t to say we don’t need better priests; it is just to say that it is not enough to reform the priests.
Reform the Bishops
Some believe if the bishops were more orthodox then the church would be able to pull itself through the current crisis in which it is in. This is problematic because as soon as a bishop attempts to reform the church in his diocese, according to traditional orthodox standards, he is ostracized by his brother bishops, who swiftly go to the Holy Father and ask to have him removed as bishop. Imagine if a bishop told all of his dissenting priests to be out by Monday, returned to the traditional liturgy, and started preaching the Catholic faith (which inevitably includes a call to repentance from sin and the exclusivity of salvation in the Catholic Church alone), the Pope would be notified immediately and would be pressured to remove such a bishop from office (and so far the dissidents have been fairly getting what they want in this matter). Clearly, this approach won’t ultimately fix the problem of the current crisis.
A Martyr Pope
It would seem the only real hope for serious change (divine intervention excepted) is through a Pope who will clean house. Why a Pope? Because the Pope has the power to speak clearly on doctrine and practice without being removed from office, infallibly define dogma, excommunicate dissidents, laicize wayward clergy, etc. Yet without a Pope willing to implement change from the top down with a heavy hand, then the church would remain stuck in the current crisis for reasons shown above.
How could a Pope effectively clean house? This could be accomplished as follows: The Pope could lock himself in a room with tight security and a food taster, write a list of all dissident bishops in the world and immediately laicize them all. He could then assemble a select group of highly orthodox clergy, known for their staunch opposition to error, and use them to find new candidates to replace the recently laicized bishops.
Then he could write a letter to all the remaining bishops in the world and tell them they have one week to laicize all the dissident priests in their diocese.
The Pope could establish a select group of staunchly orthodox clergy to receive any complaints about heresy in regards to clergy. If evidence sufficiently demonstrates there are still dissenting bishops or priests remaining in a diocese, then it would be brought to the attention of the Pope who would immediately laicize the bishop and/or the dissenting priests.
The Pope could then write a new syllabus of errors, condemning all of the errors in the modern church. He could also establish a law that requires all bishops and priests to say the Tridentine Mass exclusively under pain of mortal sin and laicization (the reform of the Mass called for by the Second Vatican Council could be determined null and void according to said Pope). For those priests who don’t know Latin, they could be required to learn it by a certain date. In the mean time they would be allowed to say the Tridentine Mass in the vernacular but only until the date they are to have learned Latin.
The Pope could then set up another commission composed entirely of staunchly orthodox clergy to determine which acts of previous post-conciliar Popes need to be declared null and void. After this he could address the entire world with a document calling all people everywhere to repent of their sins, believe in Christ alone and convert to the Catholic Church as their only hope for salvation.
Granted, even with the best security, such a Pope would eventually be martyred, but before then he would have set in motion serious changes, which would allow for the church to get through the current crisis. It is also granted, if such a reform were to happen, the church would become much smaller overnight. But wouldn’t it be better to have a smaller church composed almost entirely of God-fearing Catholics than a large church dragging around mostly dead weight – which has almost entirely paralyzed her in her ability to carry out the great commission? Maybe this is just a pipe dream of a naive lay Catholic, but I am still holding out hope that God will one day send us such a Pope.