Response to Pope Francis: Part One

“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” says the Lord. Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the Lord. Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, says the Lord.  Jeremiah 23

This is a good portion of the first reading in the ordinary form of the Holy Mass. The words, which assuredly Pope Francis heard proclaimed, are prophetic. For HE is the shepherd who had brought division to the Church by his latest motu proprio, Traditionis Custodes. In this document, he quite literally undoes the act of unity, charity, and pastoral solicitude of Pope Benedict in Summorum Pontificum. Whereas Pope Benedict liberalized the liturgical books in use in 1962, Pope Francis has rigidly revoked that magnanimous permission in this document in the name of unity. Clearly, he has not spent much time around those who love the Extraordinary Form, because never have I found a group more unified around the perennial teachings of the Church. Never have I seen a group more faithful and unified in their reception of the Sacraments. Never have I seen a group so unified in their life of prayer and devotion. If you want to see unity, go to a Traditional Latin Mass parish.

Many of us have become disturbed by this news and what it will bring. Let me offer a few thoughts.

  1. Have complete confidence in God who has allowed this for our own purification. He wants us to resist, for sure, but at the same time we must have confidence in God. God, who gave us Summorum Pontificum, can soon give it back. Confidence!

  2. Be incredibly careful that we do not fall into sin. Be kind and charitable. Just because Pope Francis has lobbed a liturgical bomb our way, doesn’t mean we should respond in kind, by becoming liturgical terrorists. If we have, we must go to confession. In fact, just go to confession, period.

  3. Following on this point, be careful what your tone is in writing to Pope Francis, your bishop, and your pastor. Be kind and charitable. Do not give them a reason to say, “well, just another angry, hateful, disunity causing traditionalist.” Simply, and respectfully share your positive impressions of the Traditional Latin Mass. Do not, even if you want to, rail against them. That just gives them the ammo they need to shut the whole thing down.

  4. Priests should be especially careful to be charitable and respectful of the office the bishop holds. Depending on your bishop he may change nothing, which deserves praise.

  5. Seminarians, if their bishop has asked your opinion should give it, even if that includes, “I will be looking elsewhere if the Traditional Latin Mass cannot be part of my priesthood.” If the bishop doesn’t ask, for Pete sake shut up and get ordained, or look elsewhere.

In the coming weeks I will be writing to Pope Francis, and my own bishop, who wisely has solicited the opinion of priests and seminarians before he begins to discernment as to how he will implement the document in our diocese. After I send them I will publish them here. They will, by their nature be somewhat repetitive.

My dear flock, do not fear. The Lord is in control, and as he promised in the reading above, I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, says the Lord. So, children, have no fear. Have confidence in the Lord of justice and mercy.