There are those who believe the Roman Catholic Church is embedded in 20 centuries of history that never change. That may have been the tradition, but those who think there haven't been any changes haven't been paying attention to the actions of Pope Francis.
This is a man who from the moment he began his papacy more than seven years ago began a series of changes in tradition and practice for Catholics worldwide.
Everything from little changes to other, larger ones, it has resulted in Catholics seeing news headlines about what the pope has changed and finding them shocking.
Can divorced people remarry in the church? How is the Mass celebrated? Who can receive Communion and under what circumstances? What about women priests? These moves put the Catholic Church closer to other religions and raise questions about the validity of Christ's teachings. These and many more.
Pope Francis also has taken strong positions on such international political issues as the worldwide green movement, climate change issues, immigration and war.
Washington, D.C., Archbishop Wilton Gregory was outspoken about the "level and intensity" of Catholic opposition to the pope. He said it is the "insidiousness of the opposition movement that I think is scandalous for us." He was speaking of the pope's statements and actions concerning those international and political issues.
As reported in Breitbart, the archbishop was referring to critics inside the church, including prominent theologians, bishops and even cardinals, who have taken issue with the pope's emphasis on political issues – while downplaying the importance of Catholic doctrine.
None of this is new. In 2017, Father Thomas Weinandy, former doctrinal chief of The U.S. Bishops Conference, wrote a strong letter to the pope about what he called the "chronic confusion" of Francis' pontificate: intentional ambiguity, disdain for doctrine, the naming of heterodox bishops, sowing division in the church, and vindictiveness in the face of criticism.
With all the changes he has instigated, none has had quite the shattering effect as the latest bombshell Francis just dropped on believers: the literal banning of the ancient Latin Mass, also called the Tridentine Mass.
He issued an apostolic letter, "Guardian of Tradition," which bans Latin Masses anywhere, eliminates the training of priests who want to celebrate those masses and demands that any such requests for a Latin Mass must go to a bishop and then to the Vatican.
Aside from the all-encompassing decision in itself is the fact that his move overrules the decision by his predecessor, Pope Benedict (who is still alive!), who had allowed the celebration of the Latin Mass where it was desired.
Many see that as a slap in the face; it's hard to take it any other way.
The "New Mass," Novus Ordo, has been the primary Mass since Vatican 2 in the 1960s – which led to simplification, use of the vernacular language of the country, guitar masses and dancing, among other things. Traditionalists among the congregations, since they had no choice, made their feelings known by stopping Mass attendance as well as financial contributions to parishes.
It was reported that the pope made the decision about the Latin Mass after consulting by letter with bishops. That information didn't sit well with Cardinal Joseph Zen. He was quoted in Breitbart as saying it came "as a bitter surprise to me personally that the 'widespread' consultation did not reach me, a cardinal and once a member of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments."
"Not having known either the questionnaire or the response to the questionnaire, I cannot judge, but only suspect that there was much misunderstanding (or perhaps even manipulation) in the process."
He echoes Cardinal Gerhard Muller, former chief of the Vatican's Doctrinal Office, who said the pope has "drastically restricted" the celebration of the Latin Mass with the clear intent to "condemn the Extraordinary Form to extinction in the long run."
Pretty powerful words, but while I agree with his evaluation of what Francis is doing, I disagree that the Latin Mass will become extinct. There are enough people who are mightily upset with this move by the pope that they will seek out the Latin Mass and will find it – as, in fact they are already doing.
There are those who believe that the very survival of the Catholic Church is threatened, yet there doesn't seem to be any unified effort to battle that movement.
On the one hand, there are the traditional Catholics who are loathe to make any move or statement against a pope. They were brought up to believe in honoring the sitting pontiff, never even entertaining the thought that a pope would or could do anything to harm the church or the Religion of Christ.
Yet on the other hand, there are those now who see malice in many of the changes, and the church being what it is, this means their only recourse is to leave. Church attendance has dropped dramatically over the last years, and it won't get any better with the latest move against the Latin Mass.
According to Cardinal Muller, the Catholic Church's real problems today do not come from so-called "traditionalists," but from progressives who undermine the core of Catholic belief.
Put Pope Francis down as their leader.
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