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Pope Francis, Ever The Iconoclast

Pontiff tightens the screws even tighter on the thumbs of Latin mass Catholics. Why such contempt for the most faithful believers?
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I am not a Catholic, but I cannot fathom why Pope Francis is working so hard to tear the Catholic Church apart, and suppress one of its most vital communities. The Vatican today released even more restrictions on the Latin mass and the communities around it. From Edward Pentin in National Catholic Register:

In summary, Archbishop Roche has ruled the following:

  • If traditional faithful are unable to find a church, oratory or chapel to exclusively celebrate the older rite, a bishop can ask the Congregation for Divine Worship for a dispensation to use a parish church, but if allowed, such a celebration should not be advertised in a parish Mass schedule (this is not to marginalize the faithful who prefer the traditional form, he insisted, but to “remind them that this is a concession to provide for their good … and not an opportunity to promote the previous rite”).

  • The traditional sacraments in the Rituale Romanum (e.g. baptisms, nuptial Masses, extreme unction, confession) need a bishop’s permission and can only be celebrated in “canonically erected personal parishes” [Editors’ note: This applies to those already in existence, as the erection of future such parishes is not allowed in Traditionis Custodes]A bishop is not authorized to grant permission to use the Pontificale Romanum, that is sacraments celebrated by bishops, i.e. traditional ordinations and confirmations.

  • A priest cannot continue to celebrate the traditional Latin Mass if he “does not recognize the validity and legitimacy of concelebration,” especially at the Chrism Mass. A bishop should “take care to establish a fraternal dialogue” with the priest before revoking this concession.

  • A reassertion that readings must be proclaimed in the vernacular language and a stipulation that no new vernacular lectionaries may be published that use the old cycle of readings.

  • Bishops must obtain authorization from the Holy See to allow priests ordained after the publication of Traditionis Custodes to celebrate the traditional Mass.

  • It is “recommended” that the traditional Mass be celebrated for a defined period of time set by the bishop who can assess at the end of that time whether or not there are grounds for prolonging or suspending the permission, depending on how much “everything is in harmony” with the direction of Traditionis Custodes. 

  • A bishop can only grant permission to celebrate the traditional Mass in his own diocese.

  • If a priest authorized to celebrate the older rite is unavailable or absent, his replacement must also be given formal authorization.

  • Deacons and instituted ministers taking part in a traditional celebration must also have their bishop’s permission.

  • A parish priest or chaplain who is authorized to celebrate the traditional Mass but must also celebrate the ordinary form of the Mass during the week cannot then also celebrate the traditional Mass on the same day (binate).

  • A priest who is authorized to celebrate the traditional Latin Mass cannot celebrate it for another group of faithful on the same day, even if that group has received authorization.


In his introductory note, Archbishop Roche reiterated that Traditionis Custodes and Pope Francis’ accompanying letter “clearly express the reasons” for the apostolic letter, and that the Mass of Paul VI is the “unique expression of the lex orandi of the Roman Rite.”

“This is the direction in which we wish to move, and this is the meaning of the responses we publish here,” Archbishop Roche said. “Every prescribed norm has always the sole purpose of preserving the gift of ecclesial communion by walking together, with conviction of mind and heart, in the direction indicated by the Holy Father.”

And here is the pure voice of 1960s-era utopian fundamentalism:

The English archbishop said that the Second Vatican Council Fathers sought the reforms so that the liturgy would appear “ever more in all its beauty and the People of God might grow in full, active, conscious participation in the liturgical celebration.”

“As pastors, we must not lend ourselves to sterile polemics, capable only of creating division, in which the ritual itself is often exploited by ideological viewpoints,” Archbishop Roche said. “Rather, we are all called to rediscover the value of the liturgical reform by preserving the truth and beauty of the Rite that it has given us. For this to happen, we are aware that a renewed and continuous liturgical formation is necessary both for priests and for the lay faithful.”

They will never, ever, ever admit that there was a problem with the Council, or that there is anything worthwhile in what it displaced. As a former Catholic who has been Orthodox for sixteen years, the scandal of the ruling class of the Catholic Church sacking its own precious heritage, liturgical and otherwise, is both astonishing and painful. Painful, not only because I have friends and acquaintances who are not hotheads, and who have been deeply enriched in their faith by the Latin mass. Yes, of course there are some Latin mass fanatics who are a source of division — but they by no means characterize the mainstream of the Old Rite community, and besides, you can find far more anti-Tridentine fanatics, especially in power. In general, and in my experience, Latin massgoers are among the most faithful Catholics I know. And the leadership of the Church, from Pope Francis on down, spits on them.

Read all of Pentin’s report.

Just so non-Catholics understand what is going on here, Pope Francis wishes to crush observance of the Tridentine Rite mass, popularly called the “Latin mass,” because it is celebrated in what had been the Catholic Church’s liturgical language from ancient times, until the Second Vatican Council. From a Times story highlighting LGBT-friendly parishes in New York City, here is the kind of thing the Pope not only tolerates, but encourages through his embrace of pro-gay figures (e.g., Father James Martin) and organizations (e.g., New Ways Ministry) in the Catholic Church:

Gay-friendly parishes are something that many Catholics, and many L.G.B.T.Q. people, do not know exist. They are scattered in cities and large towns across the country, with roughly a dozen concentrated in New York City. Here, parishes have drawn worshipers from across the region by starting L.G.B.T.Q. ministries; organizing events like spiritual retreats, hikes and happy hours at local gay bars; celebrating Masses and other events during Pride Month; and by speaking up for the gay community.

Francis encourages parishes that have happy hours at gay bars, and Pride masses. But the Latin mass people must be suppressed. More from that story:

Father James Martin, a Jesuit writer and well-known proponent of outreach to L.G.B.T.Q. Catholics, said liberal parishes like these had long played an important role as “safety valves” for the church by providing a space for Catholics who might chafe at its prevailing dogmas.

“They are places, as the saying goes, for people who are on their way into the church or who may be tempted to go on their way out of the church,” he said. “They can go to these parishes and feel at home.”

Not Latin mass Catholics. Not under the rule of Francis the Merciful. More from that Times story:

One day he knelt in a confessional there and shared his inner struggle with a priest, who told him that “you have no sin in this, there is nothing to feel shame for,” he said. After that, he began taking communion for the first time in years.

“I think St. Paul’s probably accepts me right now more than I accept myself sometimes,” Mr. Browner said.

“Because the catechism of the church is so omnipresent, it is ingrained in us — or at least in me — that those are the rules,” he added. “I am still grappling with what the rule is versus what the message of St. Paul’s is. It is a process.”

This parish and its priests are leading people away from faithful observance of the Catholic faith. Francis loves this kind of thing, though, and has made that very clear. Just a few days ago, it emerged that Francis had written encouragingly to the leadership of New Ways Ministry, a pro-LGBT Catholic activist group pushing for the normalization of homosexuality within the Catholic Church. Some years ago, when he was head of the Vatican’s doctrinal office under John Paul II, Cardinal Ratzinger ruled that New Ways could not be considered authentically Catholic. Francis has brought them in out of the cold.

But the Latin mass community, he sends to the margins.

I think of Francis and those around him with the same puzzlement I have with regard to the senior members of the ruling class in the US. I wrote something about this last night. 

I understand them being concerned about extreme elements of the Right, but these people — particularly in the military — are going all-out to confirm the claims of hardliners, and both antagonize and alienate those who are not unfaithful to Catholic doctrine, and who only want to be left alone.

Why would you do this? Does Francis want to drive these people to the SSPX, or to Orthodoxy, or perhaps even to abandon Christianity entirely? If they were obstinate deniers of authoritative Catholic teaching, I could understand this or any pope saying, in effect, “Being Catholic requires affirming certain things, rejecting other things, and living in certain ways; if you refuse to repent, and are leading others astray, then you should leave the Church.” But this is not what he’s doing. Again, the Latin mass people are not demanding that everybody go to Latin mass, and while some of them may deny the validity of the Novus Ordo mass (the one that came out of the 1960s Council), they are not demanding that the Vatican suppress that mass, nor are they in any position to do so. They are tiny!

Yet Francis, in his pontifical wisdom, is attempting to strangle those faithful communities, while encouraging LGBT-positive priests, parishes, and organizations that openly defy Catholic teaching to flourish.

Why? What sense does this make? Why the contempt for Catholics who abide by the Magisterium (the teaching authority of the Catholic Church), and who only want to pray liturgically in the same language that was the Church’s since the earliest days of Latin Christianity, and in the rite that was common to all Catholics from the Counter-Reformation until the mid-1960s?

Let me be clear here: when I was a Catholic, I was a Novus Ordo Catholic. I didn’t love the new rite, but I never did learn to love the old rite either. I considered them both sacramentally valid, though, and I was glad that the Latin rite existed for those who were nourished by it. I don’t know that I ever met an ordinary Novus Ordo Catholic who felt threatened by the Latin mass’s existence, if they even knew about it. But professional liberal Catholics truly despise the Latin mass. And now one of them is the Pope — a Pope who knows that of all the billion Catholics over whom he presides, the Latin massgoers are the least likely to defy a licit papal order.

This is spiritual warfare, you know. May God strengthen those faithful Catholics persecuted by their own leaders. What Francis doesn’t understand, it appears, is that his actions undermine the authority of the Church itself. Look:

Traditionalist Peter Kwasniewski writes of today’s document:

It was not difficult to see, even before today, that the Vatican opponents of the traditional liturgical rites of the Church of Rome are animated by an animosity toward tradition that is totally incompatible with the Catholic Faith and an animosity toward the faithful who adhere to tradition that is totally contrary to charity and the much-vaunted desire for “unity” and “communion” (lip service for “diversity” and “peripheries” and “minorities” etc. notwithstanding—that’s the typical modus operandi of hypocrites).

However, by releasing a document like this—so full of malice, pettiness, hatred, and cruelty, and so abundant in its lies—exactly one week before the great feast of Christ’s Nativity shows, more eloquently than any other gesture possibly could, that we are dealing with mafia thugs who have set themselves against our spiritual good, our vocations, our families, in such a way that their attack on the Church’s common good could not possibly be more apparent.

Let’s remind ourselves of what our forefathers in the Faith said about such a situation.

Thomas Cardinal Cajetan (1469–1534): “You must resist, to his face, a pope who is openly tearing the Church apart.”

Francisco de Vitoria (1483–1546): “If the Pope by his orders and his acts destroys the Church, one can resist him and impede the execution of his commands.”

St. Robert Bellarmine (1542–1621): “As it is lawful to resist the pope, if he assaulted a man’s person, so it is lawful to resist him, if he assaulted souls, or troubled the state, and much more if he strove to destroy the Church. It is lawful, I say, to resist him, by not doing what he commands, and hindering the execution of his will.”

Sylvester Prierias (1456–1523): “He [the pope] does not have the power to destroy; therefore, if there is evidence that he is doing it, it is licit to resist him. The result of all this is that if the pope destroys the Church by his orders and acts, he can be resisted and the execution of his mandate prevented. The right of open resistance to prelates’ abuse of authority stems also from natural law.”

Francisco Suárez (1548–1617): “If the Pope lays down an order contrary to right customs one does not have to obey him; if he tries to do something manifestly opposed to justice and to the common good, it would be licit to resist him; if he attacks by force, he could be repelled by force, with the moderation characteristic of a good defense.”

God’s Providence is therefore clear, and I consider this instruction to be a Christmas gift. By showing that its authors hate Catholic tradition, hate continuity with the past, hate the faithful, they make it easy for us to see that they are acting against the common good and therefore deserve to be resisted. We are not only permitted to resist; we are obliged to do so, if we would avoid sinning against what we know to be right, holy, true, and good.


In its abundance of charity, the CDW [Congregation for Divine Worship, the Vatican agency that issued today’s ruling — RD] explains that the liturgies of such Catholics are not part of the ordinary life of the parish; the activities of this group should never coincide with those of the parish; the group should be jettisoned from a parish as soon as may be; their Masses may not be advertised in the schedule; and presumably no new members are to be invited, since the group is hermetically sealed off to prevent cross-contamination. All this, and yet Roche has the gall to say: “There is no intention in these provisions to marginalise the faithful”?

The response of a healthy Catholic to such offensive impertinence and worse-than-racist prejudice is to say: “To hell with you” (for that is where such ideas came from and belong). “We will announce our Masses far and wide. We will keep publishing our books, brochures, missals, and every sort of paraphernalia. We will advertise our activities and invite new attendees. We will promote tradition actively among friends, family, strangers, and potential converts. We will channel our donations to its support. We will, in short, do everything in our power to ensure that your unjust war against tradition meets with the embarrassing and inglorious defeat it richly deserves. Deus vult. You will never, ever win.”

Read it all. Straight fire.

UPDATE: A Reformed friend writes to say that Kwasniewski’s essay sounds very much like Luther. I find it hard to disagree. Steve Skojec, once a Catholic traditionalist polemicist, but now apparently struggling to hold on to faith, pens a painful essay pointing out that the position of Catholics like Kwasniewski is hard to sustain. Excerpts:

The idea that we only have to listen to the authority that was placed over us, allegedly by God himself, when WE decide that it’s being exercised legitimately, must be seen as the dangerous, quasi-protestant approach that it is.

When I say dangerous, I don’t mean in the objective sense, but dangerous to the integrity of Catholic teaching on the papacy and magisterial authority in general, and the submissions we lowly peons are supposed to offer in deference before it. Recognize and resist puts us all on the sede spectrum, as we say: “You’ve only got the authority of the papal office and can only demand my obedience if I say so, bub.”

This kind of response is justified with hand waiving towards “tradition” and “perennial teaching” and the rest, but the fact is, papal supremacy is a helluva drug. It’s completely autocratic and doesn’t give a fig whether you like it or not. One of the more noxious sede websites helpfully compiled some quotes from Pope Leo XIII to drive home this point, which I’ll re-post here:

  • “To the shepherds alone was given all power to teach, to judge, to direct; on the faithful was imposed the duty of following their teaching, of submitting with docility to their judgment, and of allowing themselves to be governed, corrected, and guided by them in the way of salvation. Thus, it is an absolute necessity for the simple faithful to submit in mind and heart to their own pastors, and for the latter to submit with them to the Head and Supreme Pastor.” (Epistola Tua)
  • “…it is to give proof of a submission which is far from sincere to set up some kind of opposition between one Pontiff and another. Those who, faced with two differing directives, reject the present one to hold to the past, are not giving proof of obedience to the authority which has the right and duty to guide them; and in some ways they resemble those who, on receiving a condemnation, would wish to appeal to a future council, or to a Pope who is better informed.” (Epistola Tua)
  • “That obligation, if it is generally incumbent on all, is, you may indeed say, especially pressing upon journalists…. The task pertaining to them … is this: to be subject completely in mind and will, just as all the other faithful are, to their own bishops and to the Roman Pontiff; to follow and make known their teachings; to be fully and willingly subservient to their influence; and to reverence their precepts and assure that they are respected.” (Epistola Tua)
  • “No, it cannot be permitted that laymen who profess to be Catholic should go so far as openly to arrogate to themselves in the columns of a newspaper, the right to denounce, and to find fault, with the greatest license and according to their own good pleasure, with every sort of person, not excepting bishops, and think that with the single exception of matters of faith they are allowed to entertain any opinion which may please them and exercise the right to judge everyone after their own fashion.” (Est Sane Molestum)
  • “…to scrutinize the actions of a bishop, to criticize them, does not belong to individual Catholics, but concerns only those who, in the sacred hierarchy, have a superior power; above all, it concerns the Supreme Pontiff….” (Est Sane Molestum)

Where this leaves us is in quite a pickle. How can we recognize papal supremacy but also resist it? How can we not resist it when resistance is clearly warranted? How can we live with all the contradictions without tying ourselves into knots?

The answer for me, at least, is: I can’t. I’m not going to break my brain trying to smash round pegs into square holes. If the pope can put heresy in the catechism, if he can promote adultery and sacrilege, if he can sign his name to religious indifference, all bets on infallibility are off, and I don’t care what absurdly restrictive conditions you think the dogma has.

I also know I am not, and could not be, in communion with the pope and the bishops who are on his side. I wasn’t before I stepped back from the Church, and I wouldn’t willingly do so now even if my other issues of faith were resolved. These pedophile-protecting, orgy-attending, faith-hating monsters in mitres don’t believe in the same things actual Catholics do. Accusing the faithful of schism for being faithful to the teachings that were handed down, rather than the tyranny of the present papacy, is laughable, but in a way, it’s also technically correct, since schism is canonically tied to refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff (Can. 751). If I still cared as much as I used to about such things, I’d embrace schism over faux communion in a second.

Catholics, what do you have to say to Steve?

UPDATE.2: Just checked e-mail today. This letter was in the stack:

I figured I’d say something from the perspective of someone who is set to be baptized and confirmed a Catholic in a few months: I don’t know that I want to become Catholic anymore.
I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve attended a Latin Mass. I like the Novus Ordo just fine and have gone there despite having Latin Mass options in the area. But if this is what the papacy means–totalizing control over how people worship, and even over what their bulletins look like–I don’t know how I can continue to believe that the papacy is God’s design. I think the dubia is essentially spiritual abuse. Again, I’m not affected, but I have good, faithful friends who are, and they don’t deserve abuse. I keep seeing people talking about how we should be obeying the Holy Father, but that’s exactly the problem: Why does anyone owe obedience to a pope who’s making abusive decisions? Do children owe obedience to abusive parents?
I was looking into Orthodoxy before this because of other concerns, but I’m doubling down now. I do hope the Catholic hierarchy understands that this type of stuff is faith-crushing, even to people whose faith doesn’t look like it would be crushed by this. I’m certainly one of them.
This is one fruit of Francis’s approach. Again: why?
UPDATE.3: Reader Alcuin, a Catholic, posts a quote from this essay on the New Liturgical Movement website:

The pontificate of John Paul II produced a generation of Wojtylian priests, that of Benedict XVI a generation of Ratzingerian priests. The current pontificate has inspired no such school or movement. Gentlemen of a certain age, who had already taken hold of positions of power, have consolidated their power, but there is no ‘Bergoglio generation.’ This pontificate, with all its hangers-on, must recur to the use of force as its solution to the traditionalist ‘problem’, a force which conquers, but does not convince, repression and censure.

Does the new rite as understood by Pope Francis, Abp Roche or Andrea Grillo inspire art, the spiritual life, or vocations? No? Fine, then we shall forbid the old one, and Ratzinger’s whole understanding of the problem. A senile, Brezhnevian Church, paralyzed and sterile, which continues to repeat the slogans of the 1970s ever more tiredly, will end like the power of the Soviet Union ended.

Have patience and trust in God, and put a good bottle of champagne in storage, to be opened on the day of liberation. It will come, later than we hope for, but sooner than we expect.

UPDATE.4: Oh wow. A priest of the Archdiocese of Atlanta compares some Latin massgoers to Kluckers:

UPDATE.5: From a comment left by Brendan, a former cradle Catholic who converted many years ago to Orthodoxy. He talks about how it is impossible to square the circle of being a traditional Catholic with rejecting papal authority, except when one agrees with it:

Ultimately that is the problem with the Latin mass approach. It’s based on this ideology of principled resistance which cites the guys that Dr. K does in his piece, but really it’s an almost impossible line for individual Catholics to take, as Steve Skojec points out. Catholicism is, and has been for too long, too tightly wound around the Vatican/Papal center as the sign, form, and proof of unity, and doesn’t function like Orthodoxy does, which is admittedly messier in its actual functioning as a result. The Catholic mindset — really anyone who had the Catholic mindset — struggles with the idea of faithful opposition, because what you are opposing is, under Catholic teaching, at the same time the very sign and surety of unity. To describe this approach as being laced with cognitive dissonance is to engage in vast understatement — it is simply untenable for many, even for people who are very well-versed in the issues and fairly nimble mentally like Steve Skojec.

This is, I think, one of the reasons why the Latin mass hardliners (like the ones who are now in charge of Steve’s former site) are so bitterly anti-Orthodox. It not only has to do with the “traditional” antipathy towards Orthodoxy expressed by the pre-Vatican II church (which was not always present anyway long before V2). With these Latin mass hardliners it has do with the fact that it is very difficult to distinguish their position from ours, in terms of what they are actually placing as their highest authority (the substance of tradition and not formal hierarchy itself when the latter is not in line with the former), so they have to bend over backwards and take great pains to explain why they are different from us, and why our approach is so very wrong in their eyes. It’s very much special pleading. You may have noticed that some of the people who are in charge of Steve’s former site have taken to posting anti-Orthodox articles there from time to time. These articles contain the standard bromides one would expect from a Catholic traditionalist about us, but they are motivated by a need to constantly justify — even to their own ranks — why they are not like us, why their approach is not like ours, and so on because their approach is, in fact, so tenuous from the perspective of actual lived Catholicism which is centered on the office of the Pope in a matter-of-fact way like the Weigelists are.

I quit reading the site after Skojec left it, but that is a pity to learn. But it’s also to be expected: if they don’t do that, they will lose some of their people to Orthodoxy, which actually does place primacy on the Tradition, and has never had a primatial figure like the Pope, who has the power to trash the tradition at will.

UPDATE.6: Prof. Kwasniewski sent this in. I’m pleased to publish it:

I appreciated that you quoted my article in your December 18th post. There is of course much in your writing (in general) that I can agree with, or at very least sympathize with. Nevertheless, I was surprised when a correspondent of yours compared me with Luther, and I hope you will allow me the opportunity to make a brief response. I cannot claim to be speaking for all Catholic traditionalists but I suspect most would agree with what follows.

I find it frankly astonishing that anyone would confuse the traditionalist position with Luther’s. Luther quickly moved from opposing papal vices to opposing the papacy as such, then a bunch of ecumenical councils, then many Fathers and Doctors of the Church. He called reason a whore, and heaped contempt on the scholastics, especially St. Thomas Aquinas (rather different from a trained Thomist who follows the master’s principles, makes frequent use of his reasoning, and looks to his life as exemplary).

Traditional Catholics can point to literally hundreds of catechisms published with papal or episcopal approval over the centuries that all teach exactly the same faith. They can point to extant liturgical books from every century and see the same Roman rite in various stages of its career, but always recognizably the same family—a family from which the Novus Ordo is excluded by every criterion. They can point to consistent teaching on all major matters of faith and morals from the popes of every century.

To base one’s faith on such a mighty witness of objective Catholicism, treasuring the unity of faith and reason, is the very opposite of the nominalism, voluntarism, and subjectivism of Luther and the religious pluralism to which it necessarily leads. Remember, the ones who are praising Luther and toying with his ideas are the progressives led by Francis. The campaign against the historic worship of the Latin-rite Church is nominalist and voluntarist to the core. For Bugnini and Montini, and now for Bergoglio and Roche, the Roman Rite is whatever we say it is, regardless of reality (e.g., as Matthew Hazell proves, only 13% of the euchology of the traditional rite survived unchanged in the new one). If we want the liturgical reform to have been necessary and successful, then it was and is necessary and successful, with no statistics or experiences counting for anything. All this is a parody of the rational faith to which Catholics adhere in their traditional doctrine and practice, inherited and passed on with utmost respect.

The unified witness of Roman Catholicism does not run into serious difficulties until the popes of and after the Second Vatican Council. And even these popes vary a great deal in the kind of problems they present to us: each is a mixed bag, at times a very large bag of very mixed content. Paul VI gave us Humanae Vitae and a ruptured, ersatz liturgy; John Paul II gave us Veritatis Splendor and the Assisi interreligious gatherings; Benedict XVI gave us Summorum Pontificum and a miserable abdication. Francis, nevertheless, is the outsized modernist who is slashing and burning much of what his predecessors revered, which is not and cannot be called Catholic by any stretch of the imagination.

Take two examples: the death penalty (about which I have written here) and communion for those living in an objective state of adultery (concerning which I was involved in a number of public statements). If Pope Francis is right, then all of his predecessors are wrong—and so, for that matter, are the Old and New Testaments, as interpreted by the Fathers and Doctors. But if all that is right, then Pope Francis is, quite simply, wrong. Now, which is easier to believe possible? Which of the alternatives is less destructive to the Catholic Faith? In fact, the former position destroys it altogether, while the latter only shatters an exaggerated ultramontanism extrapolated from but not necessitated by Vatican I.

Yes, some of the modern popes have let the “spirit of Vatican I” go to their heads and speak as if they are the Delphic oracles of the Church, but this is a far cry from what Catholics are obliged to believe by what is definitively taught in the extraordinary Magisterium or the universal ordinary Magisterium. It is commonplace to point out, for instance, that not everything in an encyclical is taught with equal authority and that errors are indeed possible. No less possible would be an erroneous manner of speaking or a faulty trend of thinking that does not compromise the faith and morals of the Church as such. Theologians have long distinguished between primary and secondary elements in papal documents, and between the essential content asserted and the accidents with which it is surrounded. If this leaves us sometimes in a muddle or a quandary, what’s the big deal? The history of theology, whether in the East or in the West, has been rather messy—I say this just in case it might have escaped someone’s attention. For a Catholic, the fundamental points of the Faith are luminously clear and nothing a pope can say or do will shake them. At least, that is what a traditional Catholic thinks. The progressives and modernists call such a one a “fundamentalist.”

Those who would be tempted to say in response to the last paragraph: “Then what good is the papacy?” have evidently not spent much time studying history to see the countless, often crucial ways in which one or another of the 266 successors of Peter have intervened when no one else could or would, in order to clarify or reaffirm Catholic truth when it was under attack, or to resolve an intractable administrative dilemma. The glories that can be attributed to a pivotal office that has endured for twenty centuries are not canceled out because of moments of shame and chaos.

Returning to our point of departure: for a Catholic to question and reject what Francis is doing is therefore nothing at all like Luther or Lutheranism. On the contrary, it has been Francis and his progressive allies who keep praising Luther, going so far as to put out a statue of him at the Vatican, and placing him, with Melanchton, on one of their official stamps. It was the Catholic liturgical reformers who most imitated Luther by creating a new liturgy from the bits and pieces they still agreed with from the old one plus lots of novelties, holding that they must overcome a thousand years of corruption. The parallels with Cranmer in England are even more striking (charts useful for a comparative exercise may be found here and here).

In any case, I have written a body of work that delves into all these questions. For a start, I’d recommend:

My Journey from Ultramontanism to Catholicism

Beyond ‘Smells and Bells’: Why We Need the Objective Content of the Usus Antiquior

The Byzantine Liturgy, the Traditional Latin Mass, and the Novus Ordo—Two Brothers and a Stranger

The Pope’s Boundedness to Tradition as a Legislative Limit: Replying to Ultramontanist Apologetics

Reclaiming Our Roman Catholic Birthright: The Genius and Timeliness of the Traditional Latin Mass

True Obedience in the Church: A Guide to Discernment in Challenging Times

I wish you and all your readers many graces this Christmas.



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