Rorate Caeli

Francis Has Already Lost

Although this article appeared prior to the CDW responses, the content remains incisive and hopeful. It was published in German at the website Summorum-Pontificum.

Francis Has Already Lost
Michael Charlier
December 16, 2021

With which particular measures Francis wants to force the end of the traditional liturgy and when these steps will take place is still uncertain in the details—there is no doubt that he is pursuing this goal with all his might. But we also have no doubt that he will fail miserably in doing so.

At present, Francis and his accomplices are pursuing a kind of detour strategy: they are not (yet) attempting a ban on the traditional Mass: that does not seem advisable to them at present, given the clear statements—not only of Benedict XVI—that such a ban is impossible. Instead, they direct the full force and fury of their attack against the institutes that have formed around the traditional liturgy and doctrine in recent decades. They are to be dissolved and their members pressed into the structures dominated by the spirit of the Council—or forced to take positions that can be denounced in public as “schismatic.”

The next logical step after the expected ban on the administration of the sacraments in the traditional rite would then be the ban on Sunday Masses. [N.B. This has begun to be done with Cardinal Cupich's policy.—PK] Since the tradition-oriented faithful are among the few Catholics who take the still-existing Sunday obligation seriously, they would then have to go to Sunday parish Mass where they would be served up not only a variety of liturgical abuses but also sermons on religious diversity and the status of same-sex unions, possibly with equal devaluation of the indissolubility of marriage and other principles of faith and custom. The generously granted possibility to continue to participate in a Mass in the traditional rite on every second Wednesday of the month would then only underline that it would be about the satisfaction of a predominantly aesthetic need, which would have little to do with the contents of faith and the overall shape of one’s life.

There, of course, lies a decisive weakness in the attempt to force the “old ritualists” onto the path of the spirit of the Council. The developments over the last decade, from the reception of Pachamama in St. Peter’s Basilica to the abandonment or relativization of all truths of faith along “synodal ways,” has led to a situation in which the “old ritualists” have, for the most part, actually become conscious and dedicated “Old Believers.” It is not habituation to traditional forms or mere nostalgia that determines the frequenters of the Old Mass, who are on average younger and younger, but a rather more than less distinct insight that the traditional forms have faithfully preserved the faith itself handed down since apostolic times, while the reinvention of the 1969 Consilium, in the fluidity and arbitrariness of its forms, can offer little resistance to the attacks of the various spirits of the times (as well as of the virus!).

Perhaps even more decisive for Francis’s foreseeable failure are elements inherent in the person of this unfortunate figure himself.

To set oneself in opposition to Paul VI and the liturgical reform he prolulgated was no easy matter. One might doubt the prudence of this pope, yet no one could question his orthodoxy and his seriousness. This was affirmed by his encyclicals and the Creed of the People of God, which came into being on his initiative, and which are still as relevant today as they were when they were published—and also, at the time they were released, harmonized with the faith of all times.

With Francis, the situation is quite different. His pamphlets, give the title “encyclicals,” drip with novelty and dubious expositions. He punishes cardinals who ask for clarification of doubts with disdain—he prefers to bask in the splendor of “soccer gods” during his audiences, when he does not receive Pachamama, a recently fabricated Andean goddess, in the Vatican gardens. His press conferences in the airplane are notorious for their entertainment value in the tabloid press, and there he even at times calls his own administrative acts injustices, as when he admits to having accepted the Archbishop of Paris Michel Aupetit’s resignation “not on the altar of truth, but on the altar of hypocrisy” (source). He lies to the face of the dignitaries of the Eastern Churches, without blushing, when he praises highly their richness of liturgical rites in Cyprus, while at the same time his executors work to radically eliminate the richness in rites of their own Church. In a word, whereas prior to Francis the question “Is the pope Catholic?” was merely a not-so-funny joke, today it is an expression of oppressive anxiety for many Catholics. And more and more often it finds the answer that, in any case, one is not bound in conscience to follow the ideas and the orders of such a pope if they conflict with tradition.

In this context, those who are faithful to tradition often refer to the reflections of the 16th century saint-scholar Robert Bellarmine, who said, “Just as it is legitimate to resist a pontiff who attacks the body, so it is legitimate to resist a pope who attacks souls and causes disturbance in the civil order...” It is little known that besides St. Bellarmine, numerous other classical theologians have dealt with this problem, reaching quite similar conclusions. Prof. Michael Fiedrowicz has collected a number of relevant evidences and published them under the heading “When the shepherd becomes a wolf, the flock must defend itself.” It is well worth the read.

To be sure, Francis has the power to set in motion his work of destruction against the traditional liturgy and teaching of the Church. But the faithful have the right and the power to resist it.