ROME — Pope Francis’ decision to radically restrict the celebration of the traditional Latin Mass was “theologically incoherent, pastorally divisive, unnecessary” and “cruel” writes George Weigel, an American Catholic intellectual and biographer of Pope John Paul II.
As Breitbart News reported, last week the pope issued an apostolic letter Traditionis Custodes (“Guardians of Tradition”) banning the celebration of the traditional Latin Mass in Catholic parishes and removing existing accommodations to priests who wish to use the extraordinary form of the Catholic liturgy.
In his letter, Pope Francis repealed efforts by Pope Benedict XVI to facilitate use of the traditional Latin Mass culminating in his 2007 letter, Summorum Pontificum.
In his essay Wednesday in First Things, Weigel calls Francis’ attempt to extinguish liturgical variety and punish conservatives who love the Old Mass “a sorry example of the liberal bullying that has become all too familiar in Rome recently.”
Benedict’s easing of access to the traditional Latin Mass “was an act of pastoral solicitude for those Catholics who find it more efficacious to worship according to the 1962 Missal,” Weigel contends. The Church’s wider experience of that Extraordinary Form also led in many instances to “a re-sacralizing and ennobling of the Church’s worship according to the ‘Ordinary Form’ of the liturgy.”
Weigel closes his essay with a broader indictment of the Francis pontificate, underscoring the pope’s tendency to autocracy and its ramifications for a future papal conclave.
“Progressive Catholicism has typically been characterized by an authoritarian streak — a tendency to bullying and intimidation that certainly bespeaks impatience and may suggest a lack of confidence in its proposals and arguments,” he observes.
“In the present pontificate, that has led to an extreme notion of papal authority that might make Pope Pius IX blush,” he states. “This has not gone over well throughout the world Church, and that fact will have a marked effect on the next papal election.”