The perception that Pope Francis is more “liberal” than Pope Benedict XVI has been shaped mostly by his seemingly softer approach to hot-button issues such as homosexuality -- “Who am I to judge?” -- and his humble personal style. But not much attention has been paid to an issue that is a sore subject for a subset of Catholic traditionalists: the pope’s views about public worship.With that one off the cuff remark, Francis did incalculable damage to the Church's public witness. If I had a nickel for every time some Godless heathen has approvingly cited, "Who am I to judge?" as a rationalization for their favored sin, I could buy myself a fancy steak dinner. Eventually we'll reach a point where the greatest act of filial piety and love for the office of the papacy a Catholic can perform is to tell Pope Francis, "Holy Father, for the love of Christ, SHUT UP."
Take the comments attributed to him by Archbishop Jan Graubner of the Czech Republic. According to Graubner, Francis described affection for the old Latin Mass as a “fashion.”I'd bet money that centuries from now, Catholics will think of the Novus Ordo as a passing fashion, a noble experiment that failed, whipped up from scratch by a generation of prelates who craved the approval of the world and of Protestants.
Last week, Francis seemed to double down on his dismissal of Latin Mass traditionalists. On March 7, he celebrated Mass at the Roman church where Pope Paul VI exactly 50 years before had celebrated Mass in Italian for the first time.
On leaving the church, according to the Catholic News Service, Francis said: "Let us give thanks to the Lord for what he has done in his church in these 50 years of liturgical reform. It was really a courageous move by the church to get closer to the people of God so that they could understand well what it does, and this is important for us: to follow Mass like this.”It was inevitable that we'd get a pope like Francis one day. Saint JP II and BXVI were formed well before Vatican II. Francis is the first true post-conciliar pope. And like all bishops formed during and after the council, the pope was instilled with a fierce contempt for anything that smacks of pre-Vatican II Catholicism.
That attitude strains the credulity of the "simple humble Pope Francis" persona he and the media have worked so hard to cultivate. Isn't it wonderful, progressives implicitly say, that after nearly 2000 years of doing everything completely and horribly wrong, the Church finally got it right thanks to all the wonderful and courageous progressives of the 1960s? Isn't it wonderful that now progressives are calling the shots, the Church is finally able to get close to the People of God? Thanks be to God we got rid of all that boring old stuff, and only now the people understand what's going on at Mass!
This arrogance, not to say blasphemy, is one reason I regard liberal Catholicism with the same contempt they heap upon the Catholicism practiced by countless saints, martyrs, popes, and Doctors of the Church.
For many Catholic traditionalists -- not all of them elderly -- these were shocking words. It’s not just that they find the old Latin Mass more aesthetically edifying than vernacular versions. The old Mass is a proxy for a cluster of theological precepts that have been eroded since Vatican II, notably the ideas that the Mass is primarily a repetition of Christ’s death on the cross (rather than a communal meal) and that the Mass is primarily the action of the priest rather than of the congregation.The correct term is representation, not repetition, but I'm surprised a mainstream media outlet understands that preference for the TLM isn't simply a question of personal taste.
Separate vocabularies also have grown up: Traditionalist Catholics will say that a priest “offers Mass”; liberal Catholics call the priest the “presider” at what they are more likely to call the "Eucharist." The implication of the latter terminology is that the priest is the chairman of an essentially corporate act of worship. (Traditionalist Catholics see this as creeping Protestantism.)Those separate vocabularies sometimes make me wonder if we're not talking about two different religions these days. Take the word "pastoral" for example. To me, it's essentially a euphemism for permissive, a weasel word that cowardly prelates use to rationalize why they choose not to do their duty of warning their sheep to avoid sin. In conversation I always pronounce it like Michael Savage would: paaaaaastoral. Liberals pronounce it pas-TOR-al. Heck, my diocese calls its chancery the "pastoral center," because, I suppose, chancery sounds too harsh these days.
Traditionalists are used to being regarded with suspicion, contempt, and hatred by the hierarchy. The old timers remember the first painful years under Pope Paul VI. For younger Trads who can't remember any pontiffs before John Paul II, this is a new experience. Being happy or unhappy is a choice we make, but we shouldn't delude ourselves about reality.