In a characteristically thoughtful piece, Austen Ivereigh gives the background on the Pope (long overdue in my opinion) notification to the most prideful and divisive sect in the Church that they are not the center of all things and that the attempt to be conciliatory to them is over:
In December Rome’s Congregation for Divine Worship responded to queries from bishops about Pope Francis’s new restrictions on the pre-Vatican II liturgy. The fury and contempt that greeted this response were to be expected—more of the same that followed Traditionis custodes, the motu proprio in which those restrictions were announced last July. But this time the familiar objections from traditionalists found an echo of sorts among some more liberal-minded Catholics.
The Thomas Merton scholar and Bellarmine University theologian Greg Hillis, for example, wrote in America about the apparent contradiction between the pope’s call in Fratelli tutti for loving dialogue and his “uncharacteristically heavy-handed” treatment of the traditionalists. “At a time when we as a church are embarking on a synodal path,” Hillis wrote, “I have difficulty understanding why a more synodal—a more dialogical—approach is not being taken with traditionalists.”
This criticism in turn raised objections. As Rita Ferrone has pointed out in Commonweal, Traditionis custodes was the fruit of a process far more collegial than the ones that produced the liturgical edicts of Francis’s predecessors: Francis had consulted with bishops around the world before issuing the new liturgical rules. As for openness to dialogue, there are limits to what it can achieve with those who claim to be in sole possession of the complete truth. Traditionalist enclaves have become hubs of resistance to the very idea of a living tradition. Benedict XVI had not foreseen this when he relaxed the restrictions on the Tridentine Rite in 2007, but it happened, and now it has fallen to Francis to return the Church to its tradition of a single Roman Rite. The so-called ordinary form of that rite was not simply an alternative to the “extraordinary” form, but a reform of it—and a reform undertaken at an ecumenical council under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Still, Hillis was not questioning Francis’s right to impose new restrictions but asking whether there was not a better way. His point was that, apart from those who were using the liturgy wars to undermine the pope and the Second Vatican Council, there were ordinary adherents to the older rite who had nothing against Vatican II or Pope Francis, and felt, as a result of Traditionis custodes, hurt and rejected.
This was the essence of a letter sent in August last year from the superiors-general of the Ecclesia Dei communities to the bishops of France. They did not recognize themselves in the description of traditionalism in Traditionis custodes, which claimed that “the instrumental use of the Missale Romanum of 1962 is often characterized by a rejection not only of the liturgical reform, but of the Vatican Council II.” This “harsh judgment,” they said, “creates a feeling of injustice and produces resentment.”
The superiors-general went on to cite Amoris laetitia, which, given the ferocity of traditionalist rejection of that apostolic exhortation at the time, seemed a bit opportunistic, if not hypocritical. But it was also astute. Where was the merciful face of God in a document that ordered traditionalist Masses not to be advertised in parishes? Where was the attentiveness to the particular? What of the oddballs spotlighted by Stephen G. Adubato in the National Catholic Reporter—the non-ideological, neurodivergent traditionalists, the ones with Asperger’s, or extreme introversion? Had these innocents not been sledgehammered?
The question nagged at me over Christmas. What was the key to Francis’s discernment in this case? Then I remembered a talk he had given in March 1991, which was later published as an essay with the title “Some Reflections on the Subject of Corruption.” And in re-reading it, I understood.The so-called ordinary form of that rite was not simply an alternative to the “extraordinary” form, but a reform of it.
“Corrupción y Pecado” is one of Fr. Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s most finely argued and nuanced writings from the time of his so-called “Córdoba exile” in the early 1990s. It was a time of great desolation and suffering for the erstwhile leader of the Argentine Jesuit province, but also one of great fruitfulness, the period in which he produced his best writing. Bergoglio’s distinction between sin and corruption is both clear and fascinating. And the conclusion that follows from that distinction—that sin and corruption call for very different responses—explains why Francis chose to act as he did in the face of the traditionalist insurgence.
While corruption is of course connected to sin—resulting from sins repeated and deepened over time—in crucial respects it is different, not least in the corrupt person’s distinctive way of proceeding. Hence, writes Bergoglio, “we could say that while sin is forgiven, corruption cannot be forgiven,” for at the root of corruption is a refusal of God’s forgiveness. The corrupted person or organization sees no need of repentance, and their sense of self-sufficiency gradually comes to be regarded as natural and normal.
Unless corrected the corruption deepens over time, for the corrupt, far from being in reality self-sufficient, are in fact slaves to a “treasure” that has conquered their hearts—e.g., money, power, honor, or privilege. To conceal this enslavement, the corrupt energetically cultivate an appearance of righteousness and good manners. Always justifying themselves, they finally become convinced of their own moral superiority.
Conversely, the sinner—even when not ready to repent—knows that he is a sinner and yearns to throw himself on God’s mercy. This is the key distinction: the sinner remains, however obscurely and unconsciously, open to grace, while the corrupt deny that they sin. Enclosed by their pride, they shut out the possibility of grace.
Unlike sin, corruption is not forgiven but “cured.” Rather than dialogue, which would only serve to feed the corrupt person’s self-justification, the proper response is to put such a person in crisis. As Bergoglio observes in a footnote, the Lord cures the corrupt not through acts of mercy but through major trials: grave illness, bankruptcy, the sudden death of loved ones, the FBI raiding your office. Such traumas uniquely have the potential to “break down the armor of corruption and allow grace to enter,” Bergoglio writes.
To get a sense of just how massively self-absorbed the Trad cult truly is, one need look no further than to the time, just last summer when 1 Peter 5 seriously ran a piece in which a butt hurt Trad compared the slaughter at Hiroshima and Nagasaki to the release of Francis’ letter reminding Trads that they are not the center of the whole freaking universe.
Or just get a load of this weapons-grade narcissism:
Every time this sect of Francis-haters opens their mouths, they only make clearer why it was long past time to stop dancing attendance on their bullying selfishness. They need to rejoin the rest of us lowly vermin in the ordinary Church with whom they have been too good to associate.
Hi Mark. Thank you for sharing Austen Ivereigh’s article. I was surprised by Pope Francis’s actions, but I figured he had his reasons and did not do it out of malice. This explanation makes a lot of sense to me.
It stuns me again and again how uncharitable you can be in your sweeping generalizations and insults toward another group of Catholics, without serious analysis and examination of your words. You, Sir, have an issue, and it is not with other people.
It astonishes me how people like you can take comments made about a very clearly specified set of attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors, apply them to yourself, and then loudly bray that you do not fit the shoe that you yourself insist on wearing. You, sir, have an issue, and it is not with me. I don’t know and have never heard of you. So why on earth do you insist on acting as though I am talking about you? Conscience bothering you? And why did you delete your site?