Pope Francis Campaign against Latin Mass Vindictive | National Review

Thirteen and a half years ago, Pope Benedict XVI boldly granted permission to priests and groups of Catholics to have their patrimony back, what’s commonly called the Traditional Latin Mass, and not just the mass, but the ancient prayers and liturgies for baptisms, confirmations, and ordinations.

Pope Francis Campaign against Latin Mass Vindictive | National Review
Pope Francis speaks during the weekly general audience at the Vatican, October 13, 2021. (Guglielmo Mangiapane/Reuters)

The language of the saints is now a problem for Francis.

NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLEThirteen and a half years ago, Pope Benedict XVI boldly granted permission to priests and groups of Catholics to have their patrimony back, what’s commonly called the Traditional Latin Mass, and not just the mass, but the ancient prayers and liturgies for baptisms, confirmations, and ordinations. The result of this permission was a massive growth of interest in the traditional rites and prayers of Catholicism, the growth of liturgical arts, the formation of choirs, and scholas equipping themselves to sing the Gregorian chant, or the great polyphonic compositions of Monteverdi, Mozart, Tallis, Morales, and so many others.

Pope Francis has always treated this enthusiasm as if it were toxic sludge, making fun of the “rigid” young priests who want to celebrate this Mass. Francis was formed by the revolutionary spirit of the Second Vatican Council that went deep into his Jesuit formation. This revolution held as a dogma that the traditional Mass of the Church was a dead end, a moribund rite that would repel the young. Only the new reformed rites, after the Council, would have the vital spirit that the Church needed. He has given homily after homily and sermon after sermon denouncing the spirit of rigidity that is, as he sees it, obsessed with upholding tradition, the spirit that says, in Pope Francis’s words, “it’s this or nothing.”

Unsurprisingly, Pope Francis is telling traditionalists attached to the traditional prayers of the Church, “It’s this or nothing.”

Over the summer, he issued a document dramatically reversing Benedict’s generosity with tradition. Francis instead held that the old rites were a source of division that had to be actively managed and brought to heel. (The bishops performing same-sex blessings in Germany — he seems not as worried about them.) Many bishops, particularly in America, simply announced that there was no division emanating from these communities, and they let them go on as they were.

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For Christmas, the Vatican decided to clarify what it meant. And what it meant to install was a campaign of vindictive micromanagement that would make a commissar blush.

First there was the Orwellian touch, explaining that Big Brother’s administration was for their own good. “There is no intention in these provisions to marginalize the faithful who are rooted in the previous form of celebration,” the Vatican announced, before going on to make everything about the traditional Mass seem onerous and taboo.

Under Benedict, bishops were instructed to grant wide permission for anyone who asked for traditional rites. Under Francis, bishops are meant to ask the Vatican’s office whether individual priests may be granted the right to such rites. The Vatican prefers that these permissions be granted with fixed terms rather than perpetually.

Priests are to be discouraged from saying both the old rite and the new rite on the same day. This particular provision is quite curious, since the act of saying both rites is precisely one by which a priest could demonstrate that his attachment to the old liturgy was in no way meant as a threat to the modern one.All Our Opinion in Your Inbox

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Also curious is the Vatican’s insistence that the Latin Mass not be said in normal parish churches, unless it is impossible to find another church, oratory, or chapel. The effect of this is to isolate traditionalists from the normal life of their parishes. If one did not wish to make the traditional Latin Mass into a separate “cult,” it would be a no-brainer to integrate its devotees into normal parishes, as Benedict’s reforms did.

Benedict himself explained that this was part of his motive. On inviting Latin Mass groups in from the ecclesial cold, he once observed, “I saw how returning to the bigger and broader Church enabled them to move beyond one-sided positions and broke down rigidity so that positive energies could emerge for the whole.”

Alas, the Vatican’s document goes on to specify that even the times at which a Latin Mass is held should not be printed in normal parish schedules. And in one inscrutable diktat, it seems to suggest that adherents of the old Latin Mass should not be accommodated at times when the parish serves the faithful who are attached to the new Mass. In other words, traditionalists are not even welcome at coffee hours between Masses.

This is meant not to “marginalize”? Please.

The idea that the pope in Rome controls what individual parishes print in their bulletins and on their websites makes an absolute joke of papal supremacy in Catholicism. Francis might as well pretend to set meal budgets for traditional priests, or determine the number of pets people who like Gregorian chants are allowed to own.

But his fans and apologists don’t see the joke. One of his more ridiculous hagiographers, the day after these instructions were issued, tattled about churches in the United Kingdom that still listed the times of their Latin Masses for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Progressive Catholics spent the better part of three decades complaining that the papacy had become too authoritarian, had usurped too many functions that belonged properly to local bishops, and was too paranoid about heresy. Why? Because John Paul II and Benedict occasionally intervened to publicly correct well-published theologians.

Now, in their hands, the papacy wants to dictate what appears in the weekly bulletin? It aims to control when and where traditional Catholics are allowed to worship in their own parishes? In one hilarious section, the Vatican announces that “no vernacular lectionaries may be published that reproduce the cycle of readings of the previous rite.” So now we have the progressive Vatican bringing back the Index of Banned Books, with only one sort of book on it: the traditional prayers of the Church.

Of course. If Pope Francis believed that the old Mass and the new Mass expressed the same faith, and that it formed people for the same faith, then the old rite would not be seen as a threat that must be hidden and stamped out. Combined with his tolerance for wild experimentation in the Amazon or Germany, the conclusion is rather obvious. The pope sees the faith once delivered to the saints as a problem to be overcome.

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