Traditionis Custodes is a document in which Pope Francis singles out the Latin Mass Rite of the Church as being something which must be extinguished in the name of “unity”. The Pope’s definition of “unity” within this context is akin to Pax Romana, an imposed state which accepts no dissent and is enforced with an iron fist. It is rule from above with neither consent from nor concern for the governed. This Pax Francesco is far from the more horizontal Church structure envisioned by Vatican II. It also ignores reason and brushes aside prior legislation, thereby opening even deeper divisions within the Church it allegedly seeks to protect. It is so traumatic that it activates within the laity memories of prior clerical traumas stemming from abuse, such as those associated with McCarrick and the many little McCarricks who infiltrated the clergy to the great expense of the laity.
Disagreement with Francis' views is disrespect and rebellion, and such behavior is worse than that of clerical pederasty or the advocacy of heresy.
Superficially, from the document and the accompanying letter to bishops, the Extraordinary Form of the Mass no longer fosters Saints who strive for Holiness. Instead, it is now somehow a source of division which inevitably foments schismatics who constantly contest the will of Francis himself. It is, indeed, noteworthy that what was once for centuries viewed as being good and holy, has now become styled as a source of division and schism. And there is the rub of Traditionis Custodes: By directly overruling Pope Benedict XVI’s Summorum Pontificum in an effort to extend papal power and quash dissent, Pope Francis has inadvertently impliedly admitted that post-Vatican II and pre-Vatican II Catholicism are diverging doctrinally, and that this difference in spirituality is most highlighted within the context of the Liturgy. Moreover, he has showed clearly on which side he stands.
By issuing Traditionis Custodes, Francis concedes that he can extend his progressive notions of mercy, conscience and non-judgmentalism to all sorts of aberrant clerical and lay behavior, but he cannot show the same respect to the laity who wish to use the TLM. That is to say, his pastoral concern cannot extend to those who cannot understand how a “change of emphasis” is not resulting in a change of substance. The tone and content of Traditionis Custodes make it clear that, to Francis, disagreement with his views is disrespect and rebellion, and such behavior is worse than that of clerical pederasty or the advocacy of heresy.
Given the way that Francis has treated the dissenters who wish to attend the TLM, for many Catholics, including the heretofore fence sitters and the conservatives—and not just those who attend the Latin Mass—the cat is out of the bag, and it will now seem that the SSPX may have been right all along: hidden within Vatican II were the seeds of a new, changeable, Catholicism, and that new Catholicism is incompatible with the old.
Francis has revealed that he is in favor of not just a change in emphasis to the pastoral, but actual doctrinal change, since he has done absolutely nothing to silence progressive dissent.
Further, it may seem that this new Catholicism seeks to assert itself with violence and malice. There are no two ways about that. Moreover, Francis has revealed that he is in favor of not just a change in emphasis to the pastoral, but actual doctrinal change, since he has done absolutely nothing to silence progressive dissent. The change in emphasis ruse has been shown to be just a foot in the door to total revolution.
But Francis is afraid that his agenda will be reversed through those who adhere to the Latin Mass. His time is short, and he had to show his hand and reveal his true intentions now. If this were not the case, Francis would not have overruled and humiliated his predecessors and prohibited the Latin Mass. Instead, he would have sought a paternal way of calming the “unjustified” rancor of such groups and of convincing them that his pastoral willingness to be flexible and merciful was real. He did not do this, thereby betraying himself.
Many think that in reacting as he did, Francis used a sledgehammer to try to kill a gnat. But there is more to it than this. Traditionis Custodes is entirety based on pretext, as has been the pontificate of Francis. It is an exercise in Jesuitical duplicity and its reasoning is fatuous and facile. In reality, Francis knew that those Catholics who attended the Latin Mass were the ones who were most likely to highlight the difference between a “change of emphasis towards the pastoral” and a change of doctrine. Moreover, they knew and held fast in the belief that in Catholic thought, papal authority cannot be used indiscriminately and it is of limited power. To them, the pope’s job is to pass down Tradition, and not to innovate, for papal legislation must always be in context of the Tradition handed down, and if it is not, it is ultra vires.
His entire pontificate has been shown to be no more than a fabrication, an illusion based on smoke and mirrors, through which he hoped to change the Church from what it was, to what he wants it to be.
Unsurprisingly, the Catholics who understood Catholicism as being a religion based on both faith and reason were the ones most inclined to engage in what they considered to be legitimate argument, thereby contesting Francis’s ability to change Church doctrine on things such as sexual immorality, adultery, the worthy reception of the Eucharist, the nature of marriage, and the legitimacy of the death penalty—as he tried in Amoris Laetitia and in the Catechism. To Francis this is pure “rigidity”. Thus, in order to advance his notion of using a pastoral change in emphasis as a way of achieving doctrinal innovation, he knew that he had to eradicate the Latin Mass. If he could do this successfully, he could bully Catholics into accepting irrationality, and by so doing he could demonstrate that his grip on the beliefs of the faithful was all-powerful. Then, and only then, would he have free rein to do as he pleased doctrinally.
Traditionis Custodes, however, backfired, and its release completely delegitimized any and all claims Francis and his pontificate laid to mercy, compassion, and pastoral care as reasons for ignoring doctrine. His entire pontificate has been shown to be no more than a fabrication, an illusion based on smoke and mirrors, through which he hoped to change the Church from what it was, to what he wants it to be. But no more can it be said that the focus of his pontificate is on adjusting practice for pastoral reasons. No, the wound has been ripped open, and the blood and water of substance can be seen streaming from the side of the Church. As such, for many people Traditionis Custodes runs the risk of ripping away the underpinnings of Catholicism, itself. This is because, in that document the heretofore Bishop of Rome—now, again, styling himself as the Sovereign Pontiff—signals that all Catholics must be willing at all times to toss aside everything they cherish about Catholicism, whenever a pope says they should.
All of Francis’s rhetoric about mercy, conscience and compassion, notwithstanding, if anything conflicts with the pontiff’s primary goal of creating a progressive Church, it must fail. This can be seen from the terms under which the document is to be implemented. Francis has decided that the Extraordinary Form must be killed and killed it shall be. Priests must seek permission from the bishop to say the TLM, and no matter what, the TLM-dissenters are to be expelled from parishes.
Many will ask whether continuing to support the hierarchy simply results in facilitation of, if not outright cooperation, with evil.
Even when bishops are convinced that pastoral concerns dictate otherwise, the lives of these people are to be made as difficult as possible in terms of celebrating the TLM, and the future creation of TLM oriented ministries must receive explicit approval from Rome. Issues of rationality, pastoral care, dialog and synodality are thrown to the wind. The Pope of synodality rules by diktat, and he incorrectly assumes that many of those who follow the Latin Mass will simply fall in line and attend Novos Ordo Masses. Once this happens, he can do as he wishes. His authority is supreme over even Catholicism as it was handed down from the Apostles.
As for other dissenters within the Church, those who wish to change Her unchangeable teachings, such as the Germans and other “progressives”, Francis has said nothing, and by so doing he has, once again, given his tacit approval. It is those who wish to protect Tradition who are the focus of his ire, for those are the ones who stand in his way. Through trifling things like Tradition and logic—the weapons of the Scribes and Pharisees—they have irritated him throughout his pontificate. Now he has spoken firmly and with authority. In an incredibly rigorous and intolerant fashion he has announced that he is done with their rigorism and that they are in schism if they do not follow him into the peripheries and the Sartrean abyss which lays beyond. This is the situation post-Traditionis Custodes. It cannot be denied anymore.
No more is there a center under Francis, for the center could not hold. Post-Traditionis Custodes, the Vineyard that was the Church has become a desert, and the steward left in charge by the Master is beating its laborers in a fit of self-indulgent narcissistic zeal. A Pandora’s Box has been opened within Her concerning the very nature of belief in Catholicism itself. Not many in their right minds would expose themselves to this form of abusive and irrational clericalism.
Francis, who had portrayed himself in one way, is now revealed as being an irrational dictator who acts without compassion towards his own subjects.
Unsurprisingly, in the last several decades, the number of those who identify as Catholic has dropped significantly, of that number it is a fraction who attend Mass regularly. Undoubtedly these figures will further decrease since Francis, during the Covid pandemic, downplayed the necessity of receiving the Eucharist, and many priests refused to help their congregants for fear of contagion. Physical health was deemed far more important than spiritual health by those clerics whose job it is to preach the spiritual importance of sacrifice and the existence of eternal life as taught by Jesus. Catholics have noticed this, and many who had practiced their religion under the Novus Ordo rite before Covid will not be returning after it. Over 200,000 Catholics in Germany alone have left the Church in that time period. The clergy have allegedly sought solutions to this drop-off, but at no time have they bothered to look in the mirror. Many people feel abandoned by the behavior of clerics during the pandemic, others feel that their religion was a complete lie.
Factor into this the effect of the never-ending clerical sex and financial abuse scandals. Despite the promise to rid the hierarchy of such behavior, new scandals constantly emerge under Francis. On July 20, 2021, only days after Traditionis Custodes, it was announced that Monsignor Jeffrey Burrill, the General Secretary for the United States Conference of Bishops resigned because it was alleged that he had multiple homosexual Grindr liaisons.
In their statement announcing this scandal, the US Conference of Bishops stated only that “what was shared [by the investigative reporters with whom we spoke] did not include allegations of misconduct with minors. However, in order to avoid becoming a distraction to the operations…Monsignor Burrill has resigned.” Note that the severity is downplayed to the level of “a distraction” not involving minors, while no apology to the faithful is given. James Martin, SJ even questioned the morality of uncovering Monsignor Burrill’s deeds. The effect of the conduct itself on the Church was not discussed. After so many years of this unending scandal, the hierarchy’s reaction to it is chilling to the soul. This is “Who am I to judge” in action.
Those who do stay Catholic have two choices. They can accept all that Francis wishes, or they can take up their Cross and resist.
Within this context, the audacity of issuing Traditionis Custodes in order to seek to quash dissent is mindboggling and completely tone deaf. Heretofore otherwise loyal Catholics now feel punch drunk at the depth and quality of hypocrisy and clericalism to be found in the hierarchy. Francis, the Pope who has repeatedly spoken against clericalism and rigidity, seems now to be their main judgmental proponent. Regardless as to how one feels about his personal situation, Steve Skojec from OnePeterFive had a point when he stated:
When I wrote my piece back in May about the problem of “Crippled Religion,” I focused a good deal on clericalism — specifically the hubris that affects some as a consequence of their overinflated sense of power that comes with being clergy; it’s a phenomenon that is intensified the further up the hierarchy one goes. * * * [W]hen [a pope] ordering the firing of good priests investigating sexual abuse declares, “I am the pope, I do not need to give reasons for any of my decisions,” — this kind of clericalism is a form of spiritual abuse. It’s an abuse of authority given by God over people who have no recourse.
After all of this, many Catholics will undoubtedly scratch their heads and ask whether this is really what Jesus wants: to support such a corrupt organization. Perhaps Skojec has a point when he says that, even assuming one continues to have some sort of faith after all of this, we are now in a genuine state of emergency where only God can save the Church. Until then, many will ask whether continuing to support the hierarchy simply results in facilitation of, if not outright cooperation, with evil.
Thus, through Traditionis Custodes, the Pandora’s Box has been opened. Lay Catholics are not mere automatons whose role it is to obey the clergy. Vatican II made that perfectly clear. They are free and intelligent beings whose intellect must be won over by the hierarchy’s reasoning. Under no circumstances can an informed conscience be threatened or cajoled, least of all by a force that seeks to advance progressive secular goals, even if that force is the pope himself.
Indeed, Francis has made the concept of Freedom of Religion one of the main issues in his pontificate. As such, his use of the phrase “schism” towards Catholics seems inconsistent, at best. Now, in this new era, the questions will gush forth and Catholics must consider for themselves what it is they believe. In doing so, they will note that many in the hierarchy teach universal salvation and the primacy of conscience within the context of certain behaviors. However, people will undoubtedly wonder how many in the hierarchy simultaneously try to teach that conscience cannot be used to deny clerical commands on peril of one’s immortal soul. This, Catholics will see, is just pure self-contradictory nonsense. As Michel Barnier said within the context of Brexit, in things like this one cannot cherry pick. Mind tricks and brainwashing cannot be used to demand loyalty and sacrifice, where loyalty and sacrifice are not reciprocated. To hold otherwise is to encourage psychological and spiritual abuse, as Skojec notes.
People will now ask how popes have the right to tell them how and what to believe, when how and what popes believe is as changeable and colorful as clothing at a Versace fashion show on June 29 in Milan. Some people will reach atheism through such questioning, some Protestantism, and some will simply realize that a corrupt hierarchy that abuses and persecutes the people under its care does not have any right to contradict what people believe, when what they believe has been handed to them through the centuries. Undoubtedly Traditionis Custodes will usher in a great rush for the doors of the institutional Catholic Church. And, when the dust settles, and progressive Catholics look around at the rubble and ashes that remain, they, too, will have to ask themselves whether there is any point in following a changeable man-made religion devoid of beauty, truth and meaning.
Traditionis Custodes will also have major effects outside of the Church. In terms of ecumenical dialog, Francis, who had portrayed himself in one way, is now revealed as being an irrational dictator who acts without compassion towards his own subjects. He will be seen as someone who forces schism through the brutalization of his own people, the protection of corruption, and the encouragement of clericalism in order to introduce innovation. In short, he will be perceived as being the caricature of a pope that Protestants have believed in for centuries.
People will ask whether anyone should engage in ecumenical dialog with him for any reason, when he can change his mind on a whim, and turn from being seemingly kind to brutal, while labeling Catholics who disagree with him as schismatics. If so, Protestants must ask, how the pope of mercy actually views them and others such as the Eastern Orthodox.
In creating new divisions, we open old ones, too. This is a psychological reality, and it goes without saying that a man who mistreats his own children should not be trusted with the children of others. There can be no union of Christianity when popes are not constrained by reason and compassion, and there seems to be no reason to believe that the pope will be so constrained post-Traditionis Custodes.
But no summary of the effect of Traditionis Custodes would be complete if it were not to mention that those who do stay Catholic have two choices. They can accept all that Francis wishes, or they can take up their Cross and resist. Without offending the unity of faith and reason there can be no in-between anymore. As such, it is hard to imagine that a sizeable portion of Catholics who enjoy the Latin Rite Mass—or even, at this stage, Conservative Catholics who treasure the intellectual nature of Catholicism—can meekly obey the pope at the expense of what they love and know to be beautiful and true. For these reasons, many will not agree with Francis, although some will pretend to accept hoping that the next pope is better. But such silence risks the continued degeneration of the Church, since staying silent may be viewed by the hierarchy as acquiescence.
Of those who do not agree and cannot pretend to do so, they will find it extremely hard to attend the Novus Ordo Masses of the future. Instead, it is likely that they will vote with their feet and form a resistance which pushes for the abrogation of Traditionis Custodes. Part of this resistance will inevitably involve cutting off all possible funding from Rome and local parishes that push the new progressivism.
In addition, many will attend SSPX Masses on Sundays, while once a year going to a “regularized Latin Mass” and Confession. That the Church is now in a state of theological emergency cannot seriously be contested by any reasonable person anymore. Many in the hierarchy have engaged in schism, and the laity has no obligation to follow them under such circumstance. They must, instead, listen to the voice of their Master, who bleeds with the sheep who have been so brutalized. It is he who smells like them, and not the wolf which attacks. Thus, from now on, many Catholics will dedicate all of their energies and resources towards building up the SSPX so that the Mass of Ages is there when the hierarchy becomes poor and recovers its rationality. Then, Traditionis Custodes can be abrogated and full unity restored, as Christ would wish.