ROME — An Associated Press (AP) analysis showcases Pope Francis’s clampdown on the traditional Latin Mass as one of his most significant accomplishments in 2021.
Citing the measure as an indication the pope has taken “the gloves off,” AP praises him for sticking it to conservative Catholics who preferred to worship God according to the traditional liturgy, in which Catholics have prayed for centuries.
The occasion for the yearly review was Francis’s 85th birthday, which he celebrated on Friday. At that ripe age, the pontiff is still going strong, AP declared, committed to his campaign to make the world “a more environmentally sustainable, economically just and fraternal place where the poor are prioritized.”
Francis has responded to conservative Catholics “with the papal equivalent of ‘no more Mr. Nice Guy,’” AP notes approvingly, without elucidating when the pope had ever been “nice” to conservatives.
Despite the pope’s oft-repeated commitment to inclusiveness and diversity, he opted to eliminate a venerable liturgical form that had seen a marked revival in recent years ever since its use was expanded by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in 2007.
Under the new rules, the liturgy has been homogenized to eradicate the popular alternative form.
AP asserted that Francis’s decision “to reverse his predecessor” was made to quash the freer celebration of the old rite that “had divided the church and been exploited by conservatives.”
When they were effected in July 2021, the pope’s sweeping restrictions on the traditional Latin Mass were hailed by progressives and vocally opposed by conservatives, including at least three cardinals.
Cardinal Gerhard Müller, for instance, the former chief of the Vatican’s doctrinal office (CDF), chided Pope Francis for his selective clampdown on the traditional Latin Mass while allowing progressives to reject basic tenets of the faith with impunity.
Pope Francis has “drastically restricted” the celebration of the Latin Mass with the clear intent to “condemn the Extraordinary Form to extinction in the long run,” Müller observed.
By punishing the conservative peripheries, Francis “ignores the religious feelings of the (often young) participants in the Masses according to the Missal of John XXIII” without the “slightest empathy,” he wrote.
“Instead of appreciating the smell of the sheep, the shepherd here hits them hard with his crook,” Müller declared, with an allusion to one of Francis’ favorite sayings.
The Church’s real problems today do not come from so-called “traditionalists,” the cardinal stated, but from progressives who undermine the core of Catholic belief.
For his part, the redoubtable Cardinal Joseph Zen, the former bishop of Hong Kong, insisted that the measures were unreasonably harsh and hurt “the hearts of many good people.”
The pope’s letter “considers the very existence of a parallel rite to be an evil,” Zen declared, and reflects wishes “for the death of the [traditional] groups.”
Cardinal Raymond Burke, a canon lawyer and the former head of the Vatican’s highest court, also published an essay lamenting the pope’s crackdown on conservative Catholics.
Those who are attached to the Traditional Latin Mass, sometimes called the Tridentine Mass, “are deeply disheartened by the severity of the discipline” imposed by Pope Francis in his letter and “offended by the language it employs to describe them, their attitudes and their conduct,” Burke wrote.
“It is apparent from the severity of the document,” Burke said, that Pope Francis issued it “to address what he perceives to be a grave evil threatening the unity of the Church,” a perception Burke clearly does not share.
The pope’s letter places restrictions on the Latin Mass that “signal its ultimate elimination,” the cardinal added, such as “the prohibition of the use of a parish church” and the “establishment of certain days” for celebrating according to the old rite.
The pope’s message to the “devout faithful who have a deep appreciation and attachment” to the Traditional Latin Mass is that “they suffer from an aberration which can be tolerated for a time but must ultimately be eradicated,” Burke declared.