Rorate Caeli

"Dear Pope Francis": A Letter to the Pope -- by Fr Richard Cipolla

Dear Pope Francis:

I write this letter to you with a heavy heart full of concern for the Church and for you as the Successor of Peter.  We Catholics are called to love you and support you in your difficult ministry in the Church.

And we do.  But there are many of us who are concerned that you do not have your pulse on the state of the Church as it is in today’s world.  You seem sometimes to act arbitrarily on important matters such as the liturgical life of the Church and moral teaching in a way that suggests that you think like someone from the 1960s.  While we must respect the Second Vatican Council as an Ecumenical Council, the ways of thinking that were in place at that time are very different from those of the present time.  In many ways that Council signaled the end of modernity, at least in the Church.  We are called now to try to understand what it means to live in a post-modern age, come to terms with it and then get on with the task of evangelization in a post-modern world.

It hurts us deeply when you talk in a disparaging way about those whom you call “traditionalists” and dismiss them as obsessed with the past, narrow minded, and uncharitable.  There may be some who fit this image, but those whom I know who love the Sacred Tradition of the Church, far from being obsessed with the past, are vitally concerned with the future of the Church and have no desire to live in a golden age of the Church that never existed.  
These men and women, including bishops, priests, deacons and lay, are quite happy to live in the world of today with its special challenges and seek to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Sacred Tradition that embodies the teaching handed down from the Apostles to the post-modern world.

You seem, dear Holy Father, to be unaware that unlike the modern world that has passed away with its rationalism and anti-traditional bias, the young people in the post-modern world are genuinely interested in Tradition and are fascinated by their experience of that Tradition whether it be in art, in architecture, in music, or in the Traditional Liturgy of the Church.  The problem is that the Second Vatican Council produced a liturgy that is the fruit of the modern era.  It is already stale today in the post-modern world.  If you should visit the seminaries in this country, what you would find is that a majority of our seminarians are quite positive about the Traditional Mass that was suppressed in the post-Conciliar years.  They are not carrying the baggage you and I carry from the upheavals of the 60s.  The young people today are like blank slates, which is to their advantage. They see beauty in the Tradition, they are attracted to it and wonder why that beauty is no longer experienced by most Catholics today.

At the very time when the unity of the Catholic Church is threatened within and without, you have actually deepened that threat by your recent changing of Canon Law to give power to local Bishops Conferences to make their own adaptations of the liturgy of the Mass.  Not only will we be divided by language, we will soon be divided by the rite of the Mass itself.  You are right in trying to free the liturgy from the bureaucracy of the Roman Congregations.  For the liturgical Tradition cannot undergo organic growth if liturgy is reduced to rubrics and law.  But the path you are following threatens the unity of the Church herself.  The Mass should not be used as an instrument of that “inculturation” that was the obsession of the modern Church of the past.

Dear Pope Francis:  I pray that you will think about what I have said in this letter and consider ways to find out where your flock really is in today’s world.  You will not do this by surrounding yourself with those who are still living in the 1960s.  Do not be afraid to embrace the Sacred Tradition of the Church.  That embrace will make you a happy man and a wise Bishop of Rome.

With filial affection,

Father Richard Gennaro Cipolla