A month ago, 18,000 young people walked on pilgrimage from Paris to Chartres Cathedral in order to demonstrate their love of the Traditional Latin Mass — an intricate and solemn ceremony which, to the horror of Pope Francis, is attracting an unlikely following among Generation Z Catholics.

Inside the 800-year-old cathedral, the Mass was celebrated by Cardinal Gerhard Müller, once Pope Francis’s doctrinal chief and now one of his leading critics. His meticulous ritual actions were followed with rapt attention by the congregation.

Very few of them were born when this rite of Mass was mothballed after the Second Vatican Council in 1970. Even the 76-year-old Müller was ordained priest long after it had disappeared from parish life. He has only recently learned to say it, in response to an unprecedented demand created by Pope Benedict XVI’s bold decision in 2007 to make the Traditional Latin Mass or TLM available to Catholics everywhere.

But will the annual Chartres pilgrimage ever happen again? This week Rome is buzzing with rumours that Pope Francis — a veteran opponent of the old liturgy, which he regards as reactionary and effeminate — is planning to ban the Latin Mass from almost every Catholic church in the world.

Three years ago Francis instituted a partial ban that ejected TLM faithful from churches that, in some cases, they had paid to restore. The retired Benedict was grief-stricken by the decision but had taken a vow of silence. In the United States, the heartland of the Generation Z renaissance, many traditionalists can now hear the old Mass only in church halls, basements or school gyms.

“Catholics who have never attended one of these services are alarmed by the Vatican’s increasingly fanatical hostility.”

The Vatican official responsible for enforcing Francis’s ruling, ironically entitled Traditonis Custodes (Guardians of Tradition), is his liturgy chief Cardinal Arthur Roche, a native of Batley, West Yorkshire, who has approached his task with Cromwellian zeal.

This year, the power-hungry Roche forced his old rival Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, to ban the celebration of traditional Holy Week services in his diocese. This piece of arm-twisting prompted the Conservative peer Lord Moylan, a traditionalist Catholic, to write furiously in a post on X: “I heard a wonderful Tridentine Maundy Mass this evening. I shan’t tell you where it was in case Arthur sends his henchmen round. I’ll just say that English Catholicism has a centuries-old tradition of underground Masses. All that has changed is who’s persecuting us.”

The perception that Francis is singling out traditionalist Catholics for punishment beatings is no longer limited to Latin Mass circles. Many mainstream Catholics who, like me, attend English-language Masses are outraged by the Vatican’s vendetta against faithful believers at a time when the Pope himself is mired in scandal.

Scrupulously devout Catholics are being humiliated by a pontiff who is implicated in the protection of a string of convicted or credibly accused sex abusers.

The most notorious case is that of the fashionable mosaic artist Fr Marko Rupnik, a close ally of Francis who was thrown out of the Jesuit order after former religious sisters accused him of stomach-turning acts of assault, including rape. Rupnik allegedly justified his disgusting acts by invoking a dark sexual theology represented in his mosaics. Incredibly, he is still a priest and the Vatican communications office continues to promote his artwork.

One possibility is that new liturgical restrictions will be published on July 16, the third anniversary of Traditonis Custodes. That document restricted celebrations of the TLM to churches with long-standing permissions to host it, and to traditionalist priestly fraternities founded as an alternative to the rebel Society of St Pius X (SSPX), which recognises Francis as pope but rejects the vernacular modern Mass as invalid.

For popes John Paul II and Benedict, dealing with the disobedient SSPX, half in and half out of the Catholic Church, was a nightmare. But Benedict, in particular, shared the dissidents’ love of the Latin Mass while recognising that most Catholics prefer to worship in their own language. His historic 2007 ruling was intended to allow the old Mass to flourish alongside the new.

What he didn’t anticipate was that so many Catholics would embrace the TLM, whose words and choreography have not changed for centuries and is celebrated by a priest facing in the same direction as a silent congregation. They may be a small proportion of the world’s nominal Catholics, but their services are packed and their priests are on average at least 20 years younger than their non-traditionalist colleagues.

The Mass of the Ages, as devotees call it, offers a numinous and intimate experience to a generation who are repelled by services in which ageing “empowered laity” lead them in “contemporary worship” that, in the worst cases, resembles a cross between a 1970s game show and a campus protest. Now this spiritual resource is being taken away from them by the man they recognise as Vicar of Christ.

How can Rome possibly justify such cruelty? One argument used by Francis and his anti-traditionalist circle is that TLM adherents, especially in America, behave like a spiritually superior elite. And there’s some truth in this. The more fervent “trads” have adopted a form of fancy dress: the men wear beards and smoke pipes; their wives dress in conspicuously modest long skirts. They sometimes slip into patronising language that has alienated Catholics who would otherwise be well disposed towards them.

But these haughty “rad trads” are not typical of Catholics who attend the TLM, often in tandem with the New Mass, regarding it as a spiritual resource that adds to the Church’s catholicity. After all, doesn’t the hierarchy love to advertise its “celebration of diversity”?

At a time when liberal bishops across the Western world are encouraging their flocks to genuflect before the Pride flag, why is Rome unable to tolerate Catholic communities who prefer to worship according to the ceremonies — and beliefs — of their forefathers? Why does it caricature and bully its own traditional believers in a fashion that the ancient non-catholic Eastern Churches find sinister, as do many Anglicans?

There can be no definitive answer, because no one really understands the thought processes of Jorge Bergoglio. The 87-year-old Pope’s recent decisions have been quixotic, contradictory and divisive. No sooner had he given his permission for blessings of gay couples last December than he had to withdraw it. He was caught using anti-gay slang, roughly translated as “faggotry”, and despite the outcry immediately repeated it. He has now doubled down on his opposition to ordaining women as priests and deacons.

One theory is that, having let down members of his progressive fan club on so many key issues, the Pope is trying to placate them by kicking traditionalists. If so, he is pursuing a self-defeating strategy.

Put simply, Francis is losing the confidence of his bishops. It sticks in their throats that a pontificate that bombards them with jargon about “synodality” forced Traditionis Custodes on them without warning, undermining their authority in their own dioceses.

Many mainstream bishops who don’t particularly like the old form of worship nonetheless enjoy warm relations with local Latin Mass communities. They regard them as loyal Catholics. In England, especially, Traditionis Custodes has revived memories of the Tudor persecutions. What will happen to Old Rite Catholics if the Vatican turns the thumbscrews yet again? It’s worth noting that the heroic Elizabethan clergy who emerged from priest holes to say Mass for recusant Catholics were celebrating a liturgy very similar to the one Francis is trying to suppress.

The sense of a scandal-ridden pontificate losing its grip is now so strong that, to quote a Vatican source, countless bishops think it would be “both nasty and stupid” for the Pope to employ religious police to snuff out the Traditional Latin Mass.

Ordinary Catholics who have never attended one of these services are alarmed by the Vatican’s increasingly fanatical hostility to a beautiful expression of worship. Until now they have remained silent out of loyalty to the Holy Father. But their patience is likely to snap if their traditionalist brothers and sisters are subjected to yet another mauling by their shepherd.

view 2 comments


Some of the posts we share are controversial and we do not necessarily agree with them in the whole extend. Sometimes we agree with the content or part of it but we do not agree with the narration or language. Nevertheless we find them somehow interesting, valuable and/or informative or we share them, because we strongly believe in freedom of speech, free press and journalism. We strongly encourage you to have a critical approach to all the content, do your own research and analysis to build your own opinion.

We would be glad to have your feedback.

Buy Me A Coffee

Source: UnHerd Read the original article here: https://unherd.com/