According to this report from Zenit, Pope Francis met on Friday, February 19, 2015, with a group of Roman priests. The meeting was mostly not recorded officially and only a small part was shared with the media and we have only what those in attendance reported was discussed and what Pope Francis had to say. One item that I have seen mentioned was the pope’s comments that the issues of married priests might be too difficult to be resolved.
Another is his comments about traditionally oriented seminarians and priests and how so many of them have, well, mental problems, according to him.
His comments struck me as more appropriately directed at the seminarians of the “spirit of Vatican II” mindset, particularly the droves of homosexuals who entered the priesthood aided by the “lavender mafia”, many of whom acted out their pederasty on members of their parishes, especially as I read he warned that allowing these men into the priesthood
“is like placing a ‘mortgage on the Church.’ The underlying problem is that some bishops are sometimes overwhelmed by ‘the need for new priests in the diocese.’ Therefore, an adequate discernment among candidates is not made, among whom some can hide certain ‘imbalances’ that are then manifested in liturgies.”
That was said about traditionally minded seminarians and priests, but what he said was actually a scathing indictment of the other, which is and was, the far more serious and widespread problem, because they did indeed place a mortgage on the Church, one which we all are paying off for many, many years. As we have heard, Pope Francis doesn’t make judgments about them. Apparently, judgment is reserved for traditionally oriented seminarians and priests.
However, I am concerned here about his comment regarding the traditional Latin Mass, which we today call the Extraordinary Form of the Liturgy, and the reform of the reform initiated and pursued by Pope Benedict XVI when he issued Summorum Pontificum in 2007 which permits the use of the Tridentine Rite by all priests and without any approval required by their bishops. Pope Benedict was rightly concerned about the Novus Ordo Mass in the various ways its celebration was done with problematic novelties of ad libbing the rubrics, priestly showmanship, emphasis on the people in the pews and away from the worship of God, and by what had become a de facto break with the past life of the Church after Vatican II. Pope Benedict intended that the two rites should inform and complement each other and give rise organically in the future to what he saw as a convergence ultimately into one rite for the Church. As recently as 2011, it was reiterated by Cardinal Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, that the reform of the reform was continuing. Pope Benedict led by example when he reestablished the practice of kneeling for and receiving the Eucharist on the tongue at Papal Masses.
The reform of the reform that he sought and pursued has begun to bear some beautiful fruit. It has become noticeable and remarkable that there is less novelty and kookiness at Masses, seminarians and young priests are studying the Extraordinary Form, bishops and Cardinals are celebrating Mass in the Extraordinary Form at prominent places and times, more Latin is being brought into Novus Ordo Masses, more and more parishes have reestablished Adoration and Benediction, and past devotional practices have reappeared in parishes. Indeed, dioceses where more traditionally minded bishops reign have been producing much more seminarians and priests, as well as real nuns, than the others. Moreover, these effects have coincided with the new translation of the Novus Ordo rite in English, where the Liturgy is a more direct and accurate translation of the Latin, as well as the Faith, which, contrary to the cries of anguish by the “spirit of Vatican II” crowd, has not led to the ignorant pewsitters bewailing their lack of understanding of the “big” words they now hear and say, as they believed them to be and claimed they would. Another effect has been seen in more places where priests, bishops and Cardinals celebrate the Novus Ordo Mass ad orientem and the emphasis on the sacrificial aspect of the Mass has overshadowed the community meal emphasis of the “spirit of Vatican II” adherents so prevalent over the last few decades.
Because of Pope Benedict, there was a sense for me and many others that Catholicity was being reintroduced and starting to take root and bloom, after a few decades of a real loss of reverence, of real Catholic worship. Despite some complaints of the hippy crowd, there was a return to normality, with fresh air blowing out the unsettledness and egregious novelties that upset the Mass, and a certain sense of comfort restored. In most places, we are today more likely to encounter a reverential Mass than a puppet, clown or liturgical dance Mass, whereas previously it was the opposite.
Pope Benedict had also confronted the problem of homosexuals being admitted into seminaries and ordained because of the sexual abuse and pederasty many such men had perpetrated on a grand scale, causing great personal harm to scores of boys and young men, to so many vilified innocent and good priests, to the esteem, respect and moral authority of the Church and Faith, led many Catholics to abandon their Faith in disgust, and bankrupted many dioceses whose bishops had protected these intrinsically disordered men. Pope Benedict’s bar on active homosexuals and those with such tendencies brought new life back to the seminaries and priesthood, and the priests coming out of most seminaries are solid, real men, priests for the right reasons, and not the pansies of years past.
The reform of the reform was a direct reflection, implementation and manifestation of the restoration of the real Church which had been so abused, maligned and distorted by the “spirit of Vatican II”. Pope Benedict had made the point repeatedly that what he knew of the Second Vatican Council and what many in the Church at the time thought it would result in, had been something quite different in the way the changes, novelties, distortions and all the rest of the implementation had actually been carried out in subsequent years by so many, leading to emptied pews and the abandonment of the Church and the Faith by so many Catholics. The reform of the reform was an urgent and necessary undertaking for the restoration of the Church that Pope Benedict took, not just for his papacy, but for the future life of the Church. He foresaw a new rite would rise organically from the interaction and influence of the two rites on each other, where what is good in both would meld into a true, reverential, beautiful liturgy steeped in tradition yet still modern, with a renewed reverence, and with an emphasis and understanding of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, the source and summit of the Faith, which has been so profaned and abused in the past few decades.
Thus we moved with Pope Benedict, until he dropped his bombshell two years ago on it when he abdicated, paving the way to the return of the “spirit of Vatican II” and the opposite of what he sought and had begun. That bombshell has apparently really exploded on us last Friday.
However, the Pope noted that there are priests and bishops who speak of a “reform of the reform.” Some of them are “saints” and speak “in good faith.” But this “is mistaken”, the Holy Father said. He then referred to the case of some bishops who accepted “traditionalist” seminarians who were kicked out of other dioceses, without finding out information on them, because “they presented themselves very well, very devout.” They were then ordained, but these were later revealed to have “psychological and moral problems.”
Pope Francis seems to think that the Extraordinary Form is some kind of malignant infection that needs to be excised from the Church’s liturgy, not a positive influence as Pope Benedict believed. Rather than allowing it to thrive and organically meld into a rite of the future with the good of the Novus Ordo rite, he seems to indicate that it is something to be tolerated, but far out on the margins, isolated, where it can not contaminate, and where it will eventually wither and pass away.
We know Pope Francis enjoys puppet Masses and Tango Masses, but why would he be so quick to turn against and throw out the very real and good fruits of the reform of the reform begun by Pope Benedict, calling it “mistaken”? What bad fruit has the reform of the reform produced? I have not seen or experienced any such bad fruit and I have not heard anyone else point any out.
Perhaps, I am over-thinking this, or perhaps he was again “misinterpreted”. Unless and until Pope Francis addresses this again, I am left with the understanding that the reform of the reform will now be brought to an end, that the Novus Ordo, imposed from on high as it was, will not benefit from and be invigorated by the Extraordinary Form, to grow organically as all real Liturgy does and has into a future common rite for the Church as Pope Benedict envisioned, where reverence and true worship would be the norm everywhere, and where the Eucharist would be recognized again as the Real Presence of Jesus, and shown truly to be the source and summit of our Faith. Of course, this makes perfect sense in light of Pope Francis’ deprecatory comments and ridicule about practicing Catholics, about real Catholics being obedient to God’s Commandments, about his advice to adulterers to profane the Eucharist by receiving while in mortal sin, about his intention to unleash the “pastoral” practice of distributing the Eucharist to those in mortal sin in “irregular” families, about his demeaning of the office of the Papacy and tradition, and about his lack of holding the fullness of the Faith, as I and others have discovered and shown.
Pope Benedict did not provide a to-do list for the implementation of the reform of the reform for all dioceses to undertake according to a schedule. Instead, he showed us what small but necessary and powerful measures could be taken, such as kneeling for and receiving the Eucharist on the tongue and by his use of traditional vestments of the papal office. These measures were indeed powerful manifestations of traditional Catholicism that reform the reform, and in many places, reform the deformations that occurred.
Maybe Pope Benedict was wrong about the end result he envisioned, that the reform of the reform would lead to the organic rise of a common rite influenced by the good found in the Extraordinary and Ordinary Forms of the Liturgy in the future. However, there is no mistake in what he had begun, as evidenced by the fruits we see and experience.
Perhaps, now Pope Francis will ensure that it no longer has fertile soil in which to take root and grow and he wants everyone to know that.
I am deeply troubled by this. I have lived through the abominations heaped on Catholics by priests and bishops who cared more about the “show” than celebrating a proper, reverential Mass directed toward the right worship of God. I’ve lived through and still encounter the disrespect and profanation of the Eucharist, of Our Lord, first by those who ought to have known better and then by those who were deprived of the true opportunity to know better, which today is the majority of the laity and even some clergy. Pope Benedict had started to create the conditions to reverse that, and to prevent it in the future.
Pope Francis seems that he wants all that stuff back. I can wonder why, I can speculate ulterior motives, but I don’t want to believe the conclusions I am drawing. But, why else?