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Opinion: Not so pastoral

A papacy that, in words, emphasizes synodality, accompaniment, listening, dialogue, outreach to the margins, and consistently condemns “clericalism” issues a document that embodies a rigid approach and then restricts, limits, and directs more power, ultimately, to Rome.

(Image: Screenshot from vatican.va)

Let’s do an Occam’s Razor on this new Motu Proprio.

It seems pretty simple to me:

A number of bishops wanted the tools to restrict celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM), 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 60s 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.

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 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.

But perhaps the most startling is the demand that TLMs not take place in “parochial churches.”

§ 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 XVI’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…the cemetery, maybe?

Because, unity!

(Editor’s note: This post originally appeared in slightly different form on the “Charlotte was Both” site and is reposted here with kind permission of the author.)


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About Amy Welborn 20 Articles
Amy Welborn is a writer currently living in Birmingham, Alabama. She is the author of over twenty books on spirituality, saints and history., including the recently released Loyola Kids Book of Catholic Signs and Symbols: An Illustrated Guide to Their History and Meaning. Her website is www.amywelborn.com.

55 Comments

  1. I’m not a Latin Mass-goer. But unity? When unity doesn’t seem to matter when it comes to the Eucharist? So, if I understand correctly, the Latin Mass is a threat to the Church, but widespread confusion about the significance of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, isn’t. I need someone to tell me what I’m missing.

    • You seem to be voicing a concern for, I suspect, many Catholics. When a priest loses his ordained faculties bc ahe calls out abortion and those Catholics who support it but the priest who promotes same sex marriage, lbgtq ideas is given credence even by the pope! It is truly a conundrum.

  2. The core attributes of the Marxists and their sympathizers are resentment and hypocrisy—and this latter attribute is where the Marxist takes particular delight. And so it would seem with our current Pontiff, who has made it a point many times over to dismantle the traditions of the Church, while referring to his current motu proprio as a “guardian of tradition.”

  3. Decades ago, any Catholic could walk into any Roman Catholic parish in the world and hear the exact same Mass being offered, just like at home. It transcended all languages and cultures. What was more unifying than that?

    • Kind of like — and, I don’t mean this in a disrespectful way — walking into a McDonald’s restaurant anywhere in the world — back then, you always knew what you would get. There are many good reasons for having the Mass in the vernacular; but, it hasn’t stopped the outflow of “Catholics” from the Church.

      • Well there are two different things here – the “vernacular” language and the liturgy. When the Council declared the language of the Mass should be in the local vernacular, the liturgy was still the same 1962 Missal for another 5 years or so. Then they changed the liturgy of the Mass (1970 Missal) and pretty much ruined it. I believe that the changes were sincerely well intended, though the suspicions that it was populist pandering and an attempt to Protestant-ize the Mass are not without merit. In any event, they did occur in correlation with many other destructive changes in the clergy and Church, as you imply.

  4. Big hopes for the National Eucharistic Renewal has just been scratched by the pope’s announcement. Many love the Latin mass with its solemnity and its music. So what will happen to those who love it? Will they just stay home? Or watch a Latin mass on TV? It is easy to rebel and quit all masses after this announcement today. A sad decision by one not in touch with the deep concern of the laity for the condition of the church today.

  5. The pastor of my parish where the TLM is celebrated has just announced his intention to defy the pope, and the local bishop if need be. This Sunday is going to be interesting. I cannot imagine the bishop exerting pressure, as this is the most-attended Mass in the largest parish in the diocese, and the only one producing any vocations. But who knows?

  6. From Traditionis Custodes: The New Atom Bomb, by Peter Kwasniewski, Ph.D.:

    The article begins:

    Seventy-six years ago, on July 16, 1945, the first atomic bomb was detonated in a lonely desert 210 miles south of Los Alamos, New Mexico. Today, on July 16, 2021, Pope Francis has dropped an atom bomb on the Catholic Church that will harm not just those who “adhere to the Latin liturgical tradition” but everyone who values continuity and coherence, reverence and beauty, our heritage and our future.

    [Pull-quote]
    The document is dripping with condescension and heartlessness, designed like a Swiss Army knife to equip bishops with as many ways of inconveniencing or hounding tradition-loving Catholics as possible.

    [Later]

    It’s as if—for all the world—as if we are dealing with a global pandemic of traditionalism that must be stopped by any and every method. The language of the motu proprio suggests that the traditional Latin Mass is being regarded very much like an ecclesiastical version of COVID-19: it is a disease which must be carefully quarantined, monitored, and limited by whatever social engineering is deemed necessary by central authority. Indeed, since the Latin Mass is supposed to be removed from parishes and no more personal parishes are to be set up for it, those who attend might as well wear yellow stars and ring a bell as they walk around. The ghettoization that Benedict XVI labored mightily to overcome has not only returned but received a ringing endorsement.

  7. Joyful news! I have just learned that the bishop in my diocese has announced in writing to all his priests that they continue to have permission to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass anytime they wish in their respective parishes. Since the largest parish already has the TLM, and a number of priests and seminarians are known to be learning the Latin Mass, it seems that the real liturgical renewal will continue here uninterrupted. God be praised!

  8. This is beyond unbelievable! This man is upsetting thousands of people. This beautiful Mass has produced numerous saints, martyrs, and holy people. Has the “smoke of satan entered the Church?

  9. I find it amusing that the excuse for this move is promoting unity.

    I thought that diversity was supposed to be our supreme value.

    I’m guessing that this directive was not promulgated from the Chair of St. Peter and so is not infallible. If it had been infallible, I am certain that the Holy Spirit would have inspired a far more plausible rationale than “unity.”

    How does Bergoglio issue these statements with a straight face?

    Even an ill-educated, non-theological polemicist like me can see that his edict is not going to promote unity.

  10. Francis is not a man of faith. In a certain sense, he is very atheistic, a mindset that is not limited to an abstract denial of God’s existence. Constructing false and ridiculous notions about God is not at all different than a denial of God’s existence. Francis has denied immutable truth, and identified himself with process theology, which postulates a struggling God still in the process of learning.

    Francis identifies with the progressive elites of the world. His fundamental ecclesial contempt is not for “tradition” as much as for Catholic doctrine conceived and promulgated with the understanding that truth, because it is the reflection of the perfect mind of God, is unchanging. People who need to manufacture meaning in their lives become progressive. Received wisdom is never enough.

    Received truth impeaches the narcissism of the world’s elites, including prelates with sufficient moral amnesia to forget precepts brimming with warnings against vanity. How easily can the world’s College of Cardinals, that has clearly drifted with secular currents for almost 50 years, elect as pope a personality so frivolously disrespectful to the very idea of preserving our obligations to those who preceded us, who live in eternity and are never our inferiors, the Communion of Saints, the Church Triumphant? How easily has the Chair of Peter become frivolously disrespectful of our obligations to liturgies that remind us that we gather to worship Our Lord, not ourselves.

    • Edward: I agree there are problems with this pope, but “atheistic”? Come on! Let’s be serious. Hyperbole like that only destroys your credibility and makes all of us here look rather silly.

      • Sometimes I think that the picture of P.Francis smacking the hand of a woman who held on to him as he passed is the true Francis.

      • Please, everyone takes timeouts from faith. What do you think is meant by sin? Aside from self-worship, it is the abandonment of God. And every moment we lie to ourselves about God we don’t merely drift towards disbelief, we embrace it. Atheism is obviously a matter of degree. Take it from a fromer outright atheist.
        Process theology, a popular theological movement in the seventies, promoted by theological idiots like Kasper and Kung and many Jesuits, influenced Francis according to his own admission. Sillyness involves not recognizing the infinite repercussions of pride in the human experience. Pride, which is a turning away from faith, is the central sin that breeds all other sins. Even something like a sexual sin represent moments of thinking we know better than God, which might not mean atheism, but it is a moment of diminishing God, thinking we know what is best for us.
        Francis mangles his narative of Catholic history and the Gospels almost every time he speaks on the matter. So yes, he is very atheistic in his thought. I don’t force anyone else to have an extremely low opinion of him, but if those of us who do are right, this in itself is an enormous crisis event for the Church.
        Any man granted the Sacred duty of pope owes it to God to have humility on his mind all the time. Does this seem to be the case to you, especially since he began his pontificate with in-your-face gestures of inviting disgraced Cardinals with him to the logia Central and hasn’t stopped since?

    • Your post is in no way hyperbolic and no way damages your credibility. What you’ve said is heartfelt. A clear intellect sees the essential truth of what you say. God bless.

      • Third try. I kept mislocating my thank you to you merion with Reply errors. Anyhow, Thank you and God Bless.
        The moderators can eliminate the other two.

  11. I have refrained from excessive characterizations regarding this pope. I have never called him evil or wicked. While I no longer give him the benefit of the doubt, I have been open to the possibility that he has good intentions, though misguided in many cases. Though I have for quite some time concluded this is a disastrous papacy,I have not concluded yet that he is not an authentic pope.

    But I am starting to believe I have been naive.

  12. As a post-Vatican II convert, I am glad to have the Mass in a language I speak. I think many who promote the Latin Mass are looking for exclusivity and a “holier than thou” division in the Church. No matter what language is used to celebrate the Mass, it is the Eucharist that matters. It’s possible that many Catholics don’t understand or believe in the Real Presence in the Eucharist because they grew up with the Mass in a language they didn’t understand. I was once asked by a member of the Way, if I belonged to the Way. I responded, “No, I belong to Jesus Christ.”

    • It’s possible that many Catholics don’t understand or believe in the Real Presence in the Eucharist because they grew up with the Mass in a language they didn’t understand.

      Nonsense. The ignorance of the Real Presence is rampant amongst the poorly catechized who “worship” in the ordinary form, not those who put forth the effort to learn Latin and worship Almighty God in the Extraordinary Form.

      • And even those who didn’t understand Latin knew quite well what was happening at the Mass, and knew of the Real Presence. Or does Miss Farrell think that all the people who were illiterate and didn’t know Latin, for all the centuries when the Mass was in Latin, didn’t believe in the Real Presence or know about it? Seriously, read a history book some time. I recommend Eamon Duffy’s The Stripping of the Altars.

    • Donna –

      I have no malice toward you, so I reply simply to indicate that you are wrong.

      Most Catholics today did not grow up with the TLM, they grew up with the New Order of the Mass, and most Catholics today do not believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

      Conversely, as all evidence in Catholic surveys do prove, the vast majority of Catholics who “grew up with the TLM” believed in the real presence, and in the USA, 76% went to Mass on the Sabbath. Now, just like loss of faith in the Eucharist, less than 20% go to Mass onnSunday.

      That’s just a plain fact.

  13. My God bless Pope Francis but let’s face it he is NOT a leader! What leader would say one thing and do another. This has been the theme of his pontificate all along. After the pandemic the world needs hope. This documents falls far, far short of that goal!

  14. The Pope is asking for a new schism. His very liberal views and,now this, will find more churches defying his authority. I agree with Cardinal Burke that if a particular church is problematic – take it up with them, their priest, their Bishop. No need to rock the whole Church for the problems of a few.

  15. The most divisive Pope in the last 100 years. The irony! I’m not a TLM guy either, but with all due respect for Pope Francis, he does remind me of a school principal we once had. He was very soft on the drug dealers and thugs of the school, who were gradually taking over and running the place, but he’d be ridiculously tough on the young and frail girls who would be slightly out of uniform, wearing the wrong socks, etc. Of all that needs to be done in the Church today, out of all that needs to be addressed, we focus on the Latin Mass? The Latin Mass is divisive? Lord have mercy.

  16. I have attended masses done in various languages, Italian, Hispanic, and other European languages. So why is Latin singled out? Destroy tradition, culture, history and et al are the motto of communism.

  17. “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division; for henceforth in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against her mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”-Luke 12:51-55 (RSVCE).

    Unity at the cost of Truth is a false unity. Unity imposed by diktat by a bully who thinks he is greater than the Church’s two thousand year history is false unity.

  18. This Pope Francis is trying to save those who don’t have faith at all. “US” Latin Masers

    do not need the help like alot of Catholics in the Church. Good Lord knows who is who.

    Scripture says the Almighty knows: “… the single strand of hair on every head…..

  19. Unity? I just spoke to a strong supporter of the Latin mass who in anger said, “Unity? our local parish has mass in English–a mostly white haired group speaking only English unless it is German or Chinese–and the local parish has a Spanish mass where a majority have limited English and a vastly different cultural experience of the church. There is no unity in the local parish.”
    The neighboring Latin mass church? A true mix drawing from many cultures united in the mass.

  20. I am am old man. Pius XI was pope when I started elementary school. I have had great respect for every pope in my lifetime up through Benedict XVI. I must confess that I have a great deal of difficulty respecting this one. However, I believe that the Holy Spirit guides the Church, and therefore, although I do not understand it, Pope Francis must be what the Church and the rest of the world need right now. I pray for understanding.

    • No, this is all wrong, and the bitter fruit of poor catechesis. The Holy Spirit offers his guidance to church leaders —they are free to refuse it and follow their own inclinations. And the fact that someone is elected pope does not prove that he’s the guy that God wants. It frustrates me to see so many Catholics buy into this kind of silly substitute for the Catholic faith.

    • By that argument, John XII must have been what the Church and the rest of the world needed right then. Somehow I doubt it.

  21. I am a priest. No pope or bishop can stop me from celebrating the TLM. They simply don’t have the authority and I’m not ceding it to them. Bergolio will eventually die. Truth and Tradition won’t.

    • I grew up with the Latin Mass, every Catholic Church I went to I could follow the Mass.
      Seven years ago I was in France for the Baptism of a granddaughter, We attended Mass at Notre Dame, because of the large crowd we could not see the altar. I was lost because I neither speak French or understand it.
      As A child in grade school we
      told that no matter where you went the Mass was the same. We even learned to sing the Mass
      In Latin.
      Momof13children

  22. I am a priest, and though I am personally not involved with the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass, I respect those who have turned to it and grown in their faith. I find this Moto Proprio to be very harsh, and will cause much pain and further division in an already divided Church. It is sad when the man chosen to be the leader of the Church on Earth is the one sowing so much division in the Church. His teaching is so often ambiguous in terms of traditional teachings. Not so here. Sadly, he left no room for ambiguity, he made it clear he is against the traditions of the Church.

    • Thank you, Father. You caused my tears to flow, knowing that some have sympathy for us lost sheep here without a good shepherd of a pope who is slapping us for our faith and our desire to reverently worship in silence, in peaceful transcendent beauty, in the mystery and strangely familiar and comforting dead language, with incense, bells, and beautiful chant. Thank you, and may God bless you.

    • That the Pontiff Francis opposes traditio, and indeed scripture, is declared openly by his spokesman “Reverend” Thomas Rosica, another liar and fraud exposed as such, and brazenly redeemed and hired out by the Pontiff, like so many others, because being a morally compromised man is an adavantage in the mind of “the contemporary Church ruling party,” who are nothing if not “the New Saducees,” who as Rosica declared, are “free from the disordered attachments” to Scripture and tradition,” and are “ruled openly by a person.”

      Thus the superstructure of the “contemporary Church” reveals itself with brazen idolatry in Rome in 2019, having grown tired of wearying mere men for 6 years by showing contempt for the lower 7 commandments, especially 6 and 8, that could only find “satisfaction” in showing contempt for The First Commandment.

      The men who engineered the election of the Pontiff Francis are false shepherds, and in the reading ftom The Old Testament today, on 18 July 2021, they are condemned by the Wird of God, whom they betray every day they preside in their office as false shepherds, making mockery of the apostles from whom they claim to succeed.

  23. I attended Mass in the “extraordinary form” as a young child so my memory of it is very hazy. I haven’t participated in one as an adult. I’m grateful for the Mass in English, because I am able to pray with the presider and understand the words. That would not be the case for me if the Mass were in Latin (or most other languages; I can follow along in Spanish pretty well). I assume that the motu proprio does not limit the celebration of the ordinary form in Latin. Article 4 seems rather obnoxious to me: does a young priest wanting to celebrate in the extraordinary form rise to the level of an intervention from Rome? That struck me as very odd. It also seems to me from my reading of the document that it really amounts to this: those bishops who want the extraordinary form to continue will allow it and those bishops who do not will forbid it. Such an outcome would be terrible for any instruction, in the Church or in any institution. The one item I do have sympathy with is that the presider should know and understand Latin well, and really so should the assembly. We don’t want to return to priests “saying” the Mass and people “hearing” the Mass. Both priest and people should pray the Mass together.

    • “We don’t want to return to priests “saying” the Mass and people “hearing” the Mass. Both priest and people should pray the Mass together.”

      So, you’re condemning all those centuries of good, devout people who participated in the Mass because they weren’t talking while doing so.

  24. Francis has unleashed a flood of Modernists, bashing Traditionist Catholics. Traditionalists are firing back. Is this the unity Francis called for? Yes. Francis could care less as he is only concerned with the power he has. When he was elected the people of his own Country spoke out against Francis such as, “Bergoglio is not humble, he is power-hungry and when he attains power he will not let it go”. Many Argentinians voiced similar accusations and worse against Francis, the thing is they were all true.

  25. It’s about time they did away with Latin mass!!! You’ve had a declining Church attendance for decades because it appeals to the elderly more than the new generation. Sounds like a wonderful opportunity for traditionalists and the elderly to embrace the obedience of the Holy Father. Latin doesn’t make the mass more holy, filling the pews with our lost and nominal brethren does! Sure, the elderly give more $, but better to have a poorer Church and attract souls back in the language that attracts them. During your focus on your distaste of Christ’s Shepherd’s decision, aren’t you forgetting about the needs and more necessary return of the nominal, complacent, and lost sheep? The faithful are to remain faithful. The non faithful and younger generations need a Church that they can identify with simply through their own language. Way to go Pope Francis!!! This decision is right on!!! THANK YOU!!! 😊😃🙏👍!!!

    • Hi! This is Dan again. Banning all Latin words and Latin hymns during every mass will also attract more people. Latin is way past it’s prime. Time to attract more people in this simple way the nominal, lost sheep, and complacent ❤️ desires to identify far more clearly what the Church is saying to them! EWTN and all our wonderfully incredible churches please jump on board!!! 😊😃🙏👍!!!

    • Dan, thank you for a much-needed smile today. Your parody of a historically ignorant, cluless snowflake is spot on, and including the multiple emojis was a stroke of genius. Brilliantly well done! (not sure how to include emojis since I never use them, but envision a symbols of applause and laughter).

  26. Amy’s scenario of an unsympathetic or just uncaring bishop confining a Latin mass group to a cemetery was an actual fact before 2016 in a West Coast diocese which shall remain nameless. Sunday mass was offered inside an open-air mausoleum at the cemetery. A few sensitive souls found the environment too spooky, but a large group of the faithful attended the Mass said by a self-taught diocesan priest, who just may have the best homilies in the state, let alone the diocese, active at that time. It is to his credit and to the deep faith of that TLM community that it produced a priestly vocation–a currently active FSSP priest. Since 2016 the community has been integrated into a territorial parish with a Latin Mass chaplain assigned to it. Its fate now hangs in the balance.

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