‘Et Tu, Francisce?’
My heart goes out to my Catholic friends who are suffering from Pope Francis’s outrageous abrogation of the Latin mass. When I was a Catholic, I was not a devotee of the Traditional Latin Mass, but I was very glad that TLM communities were part of the Church, and I could see real fruits from them. The only people who seemed to hate the TLM communities were liberal ideologues. They viewed the continued existence of the Tridentine mass as a threat to the glorious Vatican II revolution. It made no sense to me — rather, it made no morally defensible sense to me — for the Vatican to restrict the old mass.
The TLM is growing. Look at this story about the success of the FSSP parishes, which celebrate the TLM. Francis has all but killed this.
And among the clergy, Francis receives his greatest support from older priests, who are dying off, rather than younger ones who are the future of the church. … Finding young candidates for the priesthood, meanwhile, who support Francis and want to be celibate is like looking for Catholic unicorns …
What was done today by this pope was an act of abuse — not just by him, but by all the wheedling bishops around the world who have been clamoring for this for the past 14 years. Francis isn’t a liturgy guy, but he is very much concerned about things that affect the balance of his power and the spread of his ideology. Nobody has opposed him more fiercely than traditionalists who are seeking to stay within the Church and under his legitimate authority while fighting his agenda where it goes astray. He made sure to send a signal, issuing this instruction on the very month of the anniversary of Summorum Pontificum. He is grinding their faces in it.
I don’t know what things will look like going forward from here. I only know that they will be an even bigger mess. Chaos in the Church has become the norm.
But for the pope who uses “Hagan Lio!” as battle cry — “make a mess!” — this should come as no surprise. This is in perfect conformity with the entirety of his malignant pontificate. And as the faithful repeat, “Lord, to whom shall we go?” the abusive shepherd God has allowed to be placed over them — a man who sees himself as the harbinger of a more merciful Church — will continue the merciless beatings.
My friend Irenist, a well-educated and faithful orthodox Catholic who loves the old mass, let loose with some absolutely scathing rhetoric about Pope Francis and beyond. I link to it not to endorse that rhetoric, but to show people what some of the most stalwart Catholics I know are thinking and feeling in the wake of Francis’s decision. Irenist’s fiery blasts are typical of what I’ve been reading on Trad Catholic Twitter.
Here’s an editorial by Rorate Caeli, the leading Catholic Trad site. The boldface emphasis is in the original:
As confident as we were in our sources forecasting today as the day of reckoning for Summorum Pontificum and the traditional Latin Mass as we know it, in the back of our minds we had hoped it was merely an unfounded rumor. After all, Pope Benedict XVI is not only alive, but fully cognizant, dressed in a white cassock while living in the Vatican gardens. To that end, would a sitting pope be so arrogant as to publicly humiliate the 94 year old pope emeritus?
Alas, the answer is yes. Jorge Mario Bergoglio is without a doubt the most arrogant pope in the history of the Catholic Church. From day one, if not before, it has always been about him — whatever the subject. Labeled “humble” by the mainstream media due to token stunts such as carrying a bag and wearing polyester vestments, Bergoglio is in reality a man of vengeance. A pope of vengeance. An angry bitter Jesuit settling scores through vengeance.
What ought traditional Catholics to do in response to the latest attack on the Mass and all those who love tradition? Simply put: ignore it. Ignore its message. Ignore its motivation caused by pure hatred and vengeance. Keep calm and keep on going as if it does not even exist.
How can you do that and still be Catholic? How can you defy the Pope in good conscience, as if his order was never made? I honestly don’t know how one remains Catholic if that’s what one believes about the Pope and the exercise of his authority. The only truly stable thing within Catholicism of the last sixty years has been the papacy. If you cast that aside — and that’s what Rorate is calling for in effect here — what do you have left? If you defy the Pope, even in the name of Catholic orthodoxy, how are you not a de facto Protestant? How is that remotely tenable? Somebody needs to explain this to me.
It seems to me that some Trads are in the same place I was back in 2005 with regard to the faith. I found it impossible to believe — not just unpleasant to believe, but impossible to believe — that my salvation depended on being in communion with the Catholic bishops. I came to the conclusion that I had probably been wrong about papal infallibility, and about Catholic claims to exclusive authority. Protestantism was not an option for me, for historical reasons. That left Orthodoxy. I mourned losing my Catholicism for years, because it was extremely painful, but I eventually healed, and I thank God for my Orthodox faith, which is solid as a rock — but which I will not take for granted, as I once did my Catholic faith, and which I will never allow to become a primarily intellectual thing, as I did with my Catholicism.
That said, being Orthodox helped me understand why the Traditional Latin Mass matters so much to Catholic Trads. I came into the Catholic Church with the Novus Ordo — the new mass promulgated by Paul VI in 1970. I never knew any different. I never loved the liturgy itself; I only was grateful to it for producing the Eucharist. Years later, I attended some TLMs, but it just did not move me like it did others. I was a defender of the existence of the TLM, but it did not appeal to me.
The Orthodox Divine Liturgy — the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom — is a very different thing. The Orthodox typically celebrate it in the local language. My family discovered it at St. Seraphim Cathedral in Dallas. I had no idea that liturgy could be so beautiful and so reverent, that it could lift you out of yourself and place you in God’s presence. (Most Eastern Rite Catholics use this same liturgy, by the way.) Discovering genuinely beautiful, heart-shaking liturgy was a revelation to me. It was also a revelation to discover how small the priest was in the Divine Liturgy. The immensity of the liturgy dwarfed the figure of the priest, in a good way. You had the impression that you were being summoned to the presence of the All-Holy. To be sure, even in the shabby Novus Ordo, you are in the presence of the All-Holy. The difference is that the words and rituals of the Divine Liturgy reveals more fully Who is actually there in the Eucharist. It’s the difference between the King coming into a room with full ritual solemnity and pomp, and the King walking into the room wearing Dockers and a Polo shirt. It’s still the King, but in one instance you have been prepared to receive him as your sovereign, and in the other, not.
Anyway, however frustrated I might ever become with the Orthodox episcopate or priesthood, I would never, ever leave the Divine Liturgy. It, and the Eucharist at its center and summit, is the foundation of my Christian life. We are very, very blessed in the Orthodox Church that the bishops never, ever tamper with the liturgy. It’s simply Not Done. Well, yes, it has been tampered with before — it’s not the case that the liturgy was delivered in its current form to us through the hands of St. John Chrysostom — but the point is that Orthodox bishops are loath to tinker around with the liturgy. This is a safeguard against what has happened to Catholics since the Second Vatican Council, and boy, am I grateful for it.
Last night, when I got the Francis news, I thought about how I would feel if the Orthodox bishops took away the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, and replaced it with an ersatz, stripped-down modern liturgy, then forbade the celebration of the Chrysostom liturgy without the prior permission of bishops (which is not likely to be given). I would be incandescently angry. I would be filled with contempt for the bishops, even if it was their right to do what they did. It would call into question, in my mind, their authority. Which, to judge by what I’m reading on Trad Catholic Twitter, and on Trad websites, is what Pope Francis has done to himself in the eyes of some of the most faithful Catholics on earth.
UPDATE: A priest e-mails:
By his own admission the Pope has made his decision for prudential reasons, so there is no way this is an infallible pronouncement. One can dissent from his decision without committing heresy. So one can continue to hold the Catholic faith.By refusing an administrative act one could be in schism the Pope, but that’s not the same as leaving the Catholic faith.Such a situation is complicated, of course, but centuries ago there were 3 guys claiming to be Pope and yet everyone was still holding to the Catholic faith. The Pope is visible head of the Church, but he’s not he Church or the Faith.
It seems pretty simple to me:
A number of bishops wanted the tools to restrict celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass, and Pope Francis gave it to them.
There you go.
I mean, we can talk history, ecclesiology, theology and liturgy all day long, but that’s about as basic as it gets or needs to be. I was there. Well, not literally, but I can tell you that this generation of clergy and church activists – now maybe from their late 60’s on up – were formed in a way that they cannot envision a healthy Church in which the TLM is still a part. At all. I mean – it’s inconceivable and ridiculous in that generation’s minds. It’s almost as if they can’t believe they’re still having to deal with this, amiright?
What is striking, if not at all surprising, is the, shall we say, flexible use of various concepts in this document and letter, since that flexibility is characteristic of most people in positions of power and yes, of this papacy.
In short: a papacy that, in words, emphasizes synodality, accompaniment, listening, dialogue outreach to the margins and consistently condemns “clericalism” – has issued a document that embodies a rigid approach to the issue, and then restricts, limits and directs more power, ultimately, to Rome.
And shows no evidence of actually “listening” to anyone except bishops who are annoyed by the TLM and TLM adherents who conveniently fit the “divisive” narrative.
Shows no interest in generously and accompanying those who find nourishment in the TLM and may find themselves at the margins because of it.
Shows no interest in exploring any fruits of this aspect of Catholic life or even posing the question of how the “Spirit might be moving” in it.
There are a number of concerning and odd aspects to this document – but they are of a piece with what we’ve come to expect: presentism, catchphrases and a lack of engagement with theology, tradition or history at a deep level.
§ 2. is to designate one or more locations where the faithful adherents of these groups may gather for the eucharistic celebration (not however in the parochial churches and without the erection of new personal parishes);
No one seems to really understand what this means. It’s pretty terrible if it means what it seems to – you’re not supposed to have the TLM in a parish church?
But it’s expressive of the gist of the entire document: push TLM goers out of the mainstream. To, yes, the margins.
(So when they are on the margins again, does that mean they can get priority? Because they’re on the margins?)
And here’s the injustice of this, really:
In the United States, at least, there has been great growth in the TLM in diocesan parishes. Not everywhere – because of course, it’s dependent on bishops – but it’s certainly there. And it’s been emphasized over and over again that this is a good thing, and it’s certainly what’s implied in Benedict’s original decree. Mutual enrichment and all that. And thousands of Catholics, many of them young with growing families, have been faithful to this – and have engaged their interest and followed their pull to the TLM by sticking with diocesan and approved religious orders’ celebrations of the Mass and communities.
And now they are being told – nice try. You did what you were told, but that actually wasn’t what we wanted all along. Keep going. Maybe you can rent out the VFW social hall and have Mass there. Or, cemeteries. Cemeteries are nice.
Oh, and because, pastoral, too. Much, much pastoral.
This is another example of liberals not holding to their own principles. The American Booksellers Association is against banning books, but abases itself for having recommended an “anti-trans” book. Pope Francis is all about “going to the margins” — except when it’s time to exile Catholics he doesn’t like to the margins. It’s a scam.
UPDATE.3: A reader in England sends this from the Catholic Diocese of Clifton (Bristol):
Meanwhile, also in that diocese:
The fact that a Roman pontiff has effectively banned Latin masses, but tolerates LGBT masses, and celebrates the pro-LGBT ministry of his fellow Jesuit James Martin, is something that was unthinkable in the Catholic Church only a short time ago.
You really have to read Tim Stanley’s absolutely blistering response to the Pope’s action, published in The Spectator. Excerpts:
Why does this matter for Catholics and non-Catholics alike? Because it’s a lesson in how liberalism in this gerontocratic, Brezhnev-esque stage behaves – utterly intolerant of anyone who breaks from the party line. It is not enough to be quiet or even submit. You must conform.
Francis’ case is flawed on three levels. First, he is known as the Pope of mercy, but this is decidedly unmerciful to those parts of his flock who love the Old Rite. He routinely attacks rigidity in the faithful, meaning conservatism, but can be as rigid as steel. He has pushed for a more decentralised church but is now invading people’s very consciences. And he says he wants unity, but his decree is most likely to promote schism. In short: this is a classic case of hypocrisy, of a politician being everything they accuse their opposition of.
They will also leave the wider world scratching its head in confusion. Why, in the middle of a pandemic – with child abuse dogging the church and communist China suppressing religion – launch a crusade against a pretty liturgy that is said in very few places and does no harm to anyone? Because liturgical wars, like debates over art or architecture, are a cover for ideological obsession. We betray ourselves by our priorities.
Liberalism once promoted diversity; now it is in power, it has hardened into orthodoxy, a design for life that we must all follow. The conservatives used to run the Church and were often nasty with it, that’s true: but they lost the war. Now that they are out of power, all they want is the right to be left alone. Well, they can’t have it, and it’s naive to think peace is an option. The reason why what Francis has done matters is because some day the kind of liberalism he embodies will come for you — for the simple, sweet thing you were doing that wasn’t bothering anyone else but, by its mere existence, was an existential threat to the governing regime. You are next.
Read it all.He’s right: the Left today can’t stop talking about diversity, but diversity is the last thing they actually want.