It's no secret that the Catholic Faith is divisive. It was Our Lord Himself who said, "Do not think that I came to send peace upon earth: I came not to send peace, but the sword" (St. Matthew 10:34). History is littered with people who took exception to some part of the teaching of Our Lord and His Church, set themselves against it, and were eventually broken upon the rock that is the Catholic Faith. We traditionally referred to such people with terms which, though accurately describing their situation, have been largely dropped from our vocabulary due to their "judgmental" tone: schismatic, heretic, apostate. Today, we often refer to such people with something far more innocuous-sounding: dissident. Despite the change in labels, however, the thing in question remains the same: disagreement with and/or rejection of some part of the Catholic Faith.
In times past, the Church was careful to expel from its body any members which did not accept the Catholic Faith whole and entire. This was commanded by the Apostle Paul:
But now I have written to you, not to keep company, if any man that is named a brother, be a fornicator, or covetous, or a server of idols, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner: with such a one, not so much as to eat. For what have I to do to judge them that are without? Do not you judge them that are within? For them that are without, God will judge. Put away the evil one from among yourselves. (1 Corinthians 5:11-13)
That this teaching was stressed repeatedly by countless Fathers, Doctors, Saints and Popes is so commonly known as to need no citation. Surprisingly, however, precisely this well-known teaching has fallen into disfavor today. Instead of expelling dissidents from amongst our midst, we are called to enter into "dialogue" with them, to "walk" with them, to "meet them where they are". Indeed, St. Paul would not have fared well in today's ecumenical climate.
The dissidents themselves have picked up on this change in approach. No longer do they fear censure or reproach for their now open dissent. Not only are they permitted to remain in the Church despite their rejection of one or more teachings of her magisterium, but they are allowed to propagate their dissenting ideas, teach them in Catholic institutions, and publish them in Catholic publishing houses. If anyone raises an objection that such things are inappropriate for the Bride of Christ, they are scorned as "judgmental", "narrow", "pharisaical". "Division," we are told, " is diabolical." It would seem that Christ's sword has, as a matter of principle, been replaced with the sending of peace upon earth.
Nonetheless, the question is often asked: Why don't Catholic dissidents leave the Church? Mark, gentle reader, this is not the same as saying they should leave the Church. Rather it is to inquire as to why it is that, given the fact that they openly and often fiercely disagree with the official teachings of the Catholic Church - teachings which are definitive and not liable to change - they choose to remain in her - if only nominally - instead of joining some other community which shares their beliefs and/or approves of their behavior?
To answer this question, we must learn to see things from the dissident Catholic's perspective. Virtually all Catholic dissidents base their choice to remain in the Church upon a dichotomy they see as existing between the "institutional Church", sometimes also referred to as the "hierarchical Church", and the "People of God" as the "true Church" of Christ. This dichotomy was described well by the dissident Catholic priest Fr. Geoffrey Farrow, now a full-time "gay rights" activist:
As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, if you think of the Catholic Church as the hierarchy then, there is very little reason to remain a Catholic. On the other hand, if you see the Church as the People of God, a living community of faith, then there are many reasons for hope. Catholics in the pews disagree sharply with their bishops on a host of social issues and tend to be far more progressive than their protestant counterparts. Eventually, the bishops will get it, or will die off and be replaced by bishops who do get it.
That, in a nutshell, is why dissenting Catholics do not leave: they are convinced that they are the "true Church". The visible hierarchy is, in short, an impostor Bride.
If you're still having problems understanding the dissident view, perhaps the following case study will help to clarify things:
In the Spring of 1988, a 36 year-old woman was arrested at Lincoln Tunnel in New Jersey for failing to pay the $3 toll fee. She was driving a $45,000 Porsche that she said belonged to her husband, talk show host David Letterman. The police ran the license plates and found that the car did, in fact, belong to David Letterman. The woman behind the wheel, however, was not David Letterman's wife. She was his stalker.
Margaret Mary Ray wasn't simply lying when she claimed to be Letterman's wife; she actually believed she was Letterman's wife. She had not confused her identity with Letterman's actual wife, whom he had divorced several years prior. She, Margaret Mary Ray, was Letterman's one and only wife. Ray was so convinced that she was happily married to Letterman that she even claimed him as the father of her three-year-old son. No amount of direct confrontation with the truth - she went on to be arrested for trespassing on Letterman's property on eight different occasions - was able to dissuade Ray. In her mind, they were married, they were in love, and they belonged together.
The case of Margaret Mary Ray is one of the more famous examples of the increasingly common phenomenon known as stalking, i.e. unreciprocated obsessive attention which often includes monitoring, intimidation and/or harassment. Unlike Margaret Mary Ray, most stalkers do not suffer from hallucinations or severe delusions. It is common, however, for stalkers to display other forms of mental illness, such as depression, substance abuse and various personality disorders. While commonly exhibiting above average intelligence, stalkers often suffer from low self-esteem combined with erotomania and mild to severe paranoia. In rare cases, stalking can be accompanied by grave psychological disorder and can lead to tragedy - something which has inspired numerous films, such as the 1987 psychological thriller Fatal Attraction.
Some might object to the analogy, but it does serve to shed some light on the situation of dissenting Catholics when they pit themselves in the role of the "People of God" against the "institutional Church": it is a case of the "true Bride" versus the "impostor". In the view of dissident Catholics, the Bridegroom, Our Lord, is actually joined to the prophetic "People of God"; the "institutional Church", for which the dissidents have nothing but contempt, has simply taken advantage of some technicality to assert her nearly 2,000 year-long control over the helpless Bridegroom. If she could only be exposed as the impostor she is, or - if necessary - be eliminated from the equation, the two lovers could be finally united, to live happily ever after....
And so the dissenting Catholics set about to monitor the Church, placing her every move under scrutiny, noting with great pleasure the failings of her loyal members; to intimidate her by putting political, financial and media pressure upon her; to harass her by spreading lies about her past and making veiled threats on her continued existence; and all the while telling everyone that they are the "true" faithful, the "true" lovers of Christ - some even going so far as to dress up for the role.
In short, they stalk the Bride.