It is disturbing to see the pope, the Vicar of Christ, the Bishop of Rome, denying faithful to kiss his ring. A heretical priest doing that is, somehow, fathomable; but a pope doing so is not. And it does not matter if it was yet another episode of Francis showing off his “humility” (something now unmasked by Henry Sire as fake), or if His Holiness was in another of his legendary bad moods. (Perhaps he was frustrated for saying a Novus Ordo Mass ad orientem. I wonder that if it weren’t for this fiasco, we would now be talking about his saying Mass ad orientem as a friendly gesture toward traditionalists.)
People are now commenting on the episode all around. And why not? On the surface, this is another embarrassing point of a now plummeting pontificate. No one, not even the most radical Bergoglite, will deny that Francis’s is a depressing reign. But that is on the surface, only. Perhaps Francis Bergoglio wasn’t thinking of what I am going to say, perhaps no one in Loreto thought of it, but this episode helps to further the ever-widening gap between Catholics.
I like to think that most Catholics are somewhat traditionalists, or conservatists, at least. I like to think that Catholics still believe in tradition, reverence, and solemnity. But among these Catholics there is an internal division: there are those Catholics who think that dropping the Novus Ordo Mass, as yours truly did, and attending the Tridentine Mass exclusively is too much. They think that the desecration of the Mass is an aberration, not the norm, but at the same time say, “Look, I understand that you get frustrated with our Mass, and think that Fr. Bozo is bad. But that’s not Paul VI’s fault!—In Rome the rite is well celebrated! There’s is still reverence in Rome!”
Now, looking at the Loreto fiasco we must ask: Is there? Isn’t His Holiness bringing to the Holy See—the irreverence, the lack of solemnity we see in his World Youth Day’s discourses and Masses? In short, isn’t he normalizing the irreverence that is now rampant in the vast majority of parishes and dioceses around the globe?
This creates a grave and dangerous situation in Catholicism.
We know for a fact that irreverence and a disregard for what Catholicism means is almost normative; we know that priests no longer want to be treated as priests. But now it comes with the implicit approval of the Holy See with Francis as role model. (Too harsh? Well, not for Susan from the Parish Council.) And facing this reality we must wonder if this is not the very course that the makers of modern Catholicism, the bishops that bought us the Second Vatican Council and whose heirs now control the Curia and most of the important outposts of the Catholic Church didn’t desire in the first place. Because we know now that Francis’s pontificate is an organic continuation of Paul VI’s, John Paul II’s, and Benedict XVI’s reigns; it is intensification of what a post-Vatican II papacy should be. (On this subject, see the amazing editorial of Courrier de Rome 53, no. 618).
Like we were looking at a mirror, on one side we see faithful who want reverence, dignity, and solemnity. They want Catholicism. Panning our heads to see the reflection we meet an oppressive barrage of bishops, cardinals, and the pope who see this desire of the faithful as an impediment against their plans for the church. And what do they want? They want the diminishing if not the very neutralization of Catholicism. And Pope Francis has already signaled that he is more than willing to do so.
What was the deal with Communist China if not the neutralization of Rome’s power over its subjects living in that country? Or, rather, is the Communist control over the Church in China any different from the power of the national conferences of bishops?
Orthodoxy demands clergymen to condemn Socialism and Communism, but instead there are national conferences such as the Brazilian National Conference of Bishops, who spent almost two decades supporting the socialist policies of presidents Lula and Dilma Rousseff and were instrumental to the ascension of the left here in Brazil.
Eric Voegelin insisted that man has an inner inclination toward religion and “spirituality.” Borrowing from St. Gregory of Nyssa, he spoke of a “tension toward the beyond.” Suppress this and you have chaos and confusion.
Vatican II radicals, commanded by Francis Bergoglio, are trying to do exactly that: they want to suppress our tension toward the beyond, toward Christ, toward His Church.
This has visible social effects, such as the crack between “traditionalists” and modernizers. And, since the apex of the Catholic life is the Mass, it is no wonder that the liturgy is at the center of the battle around Catholicism. It’s been informed already that Italian bishops are all for remitting the Traditional Latin Mass back to kingdom past (see here). Some people say that this entices a division between Catholics, between parishioners. I agree: we have two substantially different Masses presided by two different kinds of priests.
And, in fact, we have two different kinds of parishioners: we have, in the Novus Ordo Mass, parishioners that,—not though their own fault, but because they no longer have the memory, or never knew, that the Church is different from what they see—that think it is normal and natural to be irreverent.
The other kind of parishioner, the one who goes to the Tridentine Mass, clings to the old liturgy as if it were a lifeline, trying to resurrect the former—but by no means fake—glory of the Church. And it’s not wonderful that, among the later, there are those that are living so long in the fringes of Catholicism that they are beginning to see in the seeds of the Church’s current decadence the Council of Trent, seeing doom in the end of the rood screens in Western churches. (Despite the fact that Trent did not prohibited its use.)
Between “traditionalists” and modernists, it is obvious that traditionalists are right.
The spirit of Catholicism comes to life in tradition, for tradition follows the tracks of those that came before us, beginning with Christ Himself. But tradition alone won’t do, we cannot live in a “parallel” church (even if it is their church that is the parallel one): we need our shepherds to come back into the spirit of Catholicism; this is why Christ put a visible head at the top of His Church. A visible, reverence-worthy head.
This why we fall into bafflement and confusion when this Head won’t allow us to kiss his ring.