Former Vatican Chief Chides Pope Francis for His ‘Harsh Disciplining’ of Conservative Catholics

Pope Francis appears on screen at "Vax Live: The Concert to Reunite the World" on Sunday, May 2, 2021, at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

ROME — The former head of the Vatican’s powerful doctrinal office (CDF) has criticized Pope Francis for imposing harsh restrictions on the traditional Latin Mass while allowing progressives to deny basic tenets of the faith with impunity.

In a hard-hitting essay Monday in The Catholic Thing, German Cardinal Gerhard Müller observes that 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.”

As Breitbart News reported, in his new apostolic letter Traditionis Custodes (“Guardians of Tradition”), the pope has banned the celebration of the traditional Latin Mass in Catholic parishes while lifting existing accommodations to priests who wish to use the extraordinary form of the Catholic liturgy.

In his reflections on the pope’s move to impose liturgical homogeneity and punish conservative peripheries, Cardinal Müller notes that Francis “ignores the religious feelings of the (often young) participants in the Masses according to the Missal John XXIII” without the “slightest empathy.”

“Instead of appreciating the smell of the sheep, the shepherd here hits them hard with his crook,” Müller states, in reference to one of the pope’s favorite quips.

The real problems for the Church and the Vatican do not come from so-called “traditionalists,” the cardinal proposes, but from progressives who undermine the core of Catholic belief.

A “majority of German bishops and lay functionaries,” he states, heretically deny Church teaching “on the uniqueness of redemption in Christ, the full realization of the Church of Christ in the Catholic Church, the inner essence of the Catholic liturgy as adoration of God and mediation of grace, Revelation and its presence in Scripture and Apostolic Tradition, the infallibility of the magisterium, the primacy of the pope, the sacramentality of the Church, the dignity of the priesthood, the holiness and indissolubility of marriage.”

“Here we have a threat to the unity of the Church in revealed faith, reminiscent of the size of the Protestant secession from Rome in the sixteenth century,” Müller proposes, underscoring the disproportion between the pope’s “relatively modest response” to the massive attacks on the unity of the church and the “harsh disciplining of the old ritual minority.”

The image of the misguided fire brigade comes to mind, he adds, “which – instead of saving the blazing house – first saves the small barn next to it.”

In his not-so-subtle act of fraternal correction, Cardinal Müller suggests that Pope Francis could benefit from a bit more attention to theology and Church history to avoid these regrettable gaffes.

“A little more knowledge of Catholic dogmatics and the history of the liturgy could counteract the unfortunate formation of opposing parties and also save the bishops from the temptation to act in an authoritarian, loveless, and narrow-minded manner against the supporters of the ‘old’ Mass,” Müller declares.

“Let us hope that the Congregations for Religious and for Divine Worship, with their new authority, do not become inebriated by power and think they have to wage a campaign of destruction against the communities of the old rite,” he concludes, “in the foolish belief that by doing so they are rendering a service to the Church and promoting Vatican II.”


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