Most media attention on Pope Francis' annual meeting with the clergy of Rome (held yesterday, February 19) has been focused on his remarks on married clergy. Of equal and possibly more immediate importance were his remarks on the liturgy, which have now been published by the ZENIT news agency.
The Pope could not have been any clearer in his view of the "Reform of the Reform". He speaks of the need for a more respectful ars celebrandi but anyone who has actually followed the liturgical debates of the last 20 years will know that this is not the same as the "Reform of the Reform". We sincerely hope that the "usual suspects" in the blogging world and in the social networks will neither ignore this talk completely, nor try to explain this away by constructing elaborate explanations as to why the Pope "really meant" something else, or that this whole thing is really a hoax, a fabrication, or whatever. Anything that will allow them to keep their heads in the sand!
Remarkably the Pope criticizes the "Reform of the Reform" outright but he did not say anything negative about Summorum Pontificum itself, quite the opposite. Nevertheless, his apparently condemning and contemptuous words about "traditionalist" diocesan seminarians cannot and should not be explained away as simply referring to the immoral behavior of some such seminarians -- behavior that can also be found, empirically much more frequently, among non-traditionalist seminarians. By specifically naming the ("Reform of the Reform"?) "liturgies" celebrated by "traditionalist" seminarians, once ordained, as the manifestation of their "moral and psychological" "imbalances", it is clear that the Pope's target is the traditional-friendly views on the sacred liturgy of many young priests and seminarians. By mentioning that the Congregation of Bishops is conducting interventions in this regard, the message is sent out loud and clear: bishops accept "traditionalist"-leaning seminarians at their peril. By declaring outright that moral and pyschological problems "happen often" in traditionalist "environments" a broad bush, apparently lacking in mercy, may now henceforth be used to tar these young men.
However, some excerpts of the Pope's discourse were released thanks in part to several priests who spoke to the press following the meeting. Some even managed to record the Pope's words. In addition to several phrases reported by a few Italian news agencies this morning, the 78 year old Pontiff touched upon the theme, for example, on the "traditional rite" with which Benedict XVI granted to celebrate Mass. Through the Motu Propio Summorum Pontificum, published in 2007, the now Pope Emeritus allowed the possibility of celebrating the Mass according the liturgical books edited by John XXIII in 1962, notwithstanding that the "ordinary" form of celebration in the Catholic Church would always remain that established by Paul VI in 1970.
Pope Francis explained that this gesture by his predecessor, "a man of communion", was meant to offer "a courageous hand to Lefebvrians and traditionalists", as well as to those who wished to celebrate the Mass according to the ancient rites. The so-called "Tridentine" Mass – the Pope said – is an "extraordinary form of the Roman Rite", one that was approved following the Second Vatican Council. Thus, it is not deemed a distinct rite, but rather a "different form of the same right". (sic)
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."
It is not a practice, but it "happens often" in these environments, the Pope stressed, and to ordain these types of seminarians 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. In fact, the Congregation of Bishops – the Pontiff went on to say – had to intervene with three bishops on three of these cases, although they didn't occur in Italy.
During the beginning of his address, Francis, spoke on homiletics and the Ars celebrandi, calling on the priests to not fall into the temptation of wanting to be a "showman" on the pulpit, perhaps even by speaking in a "sophisticated manner" or "overt gestures."
However, priests shouldn't also be "boring" to the point that people "will go outside to smoke a cigarette" during the homily.
(Source: Pope Holds Two Hour Meeting with Roman Clergy)