A Latin Mass is celebrated in New York City. CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz

Charles Lewis: Pope sends discouraging message

  • July 23, 2021

Pope Francis has sent a message to those who attend the Latin Mass. In essence he has said: We do not really want you. It is time you went away. It is time to give up your “divisive” ways.

There are many serious problems in the Catholic Church — a depressing list of rejection and ignorance of core teaching. Combined they represent the rot of secular liberalism that has seeped into the pews and has the potential to hollow out the Church. 

Yet, the one place you will likely not find unorthodox views is among those who attend the Latin Mass, also called the Extraordinary Form of the Mass or the Tridentine Mass.

There is less confusion about Church teachings among those who take part in the Latin Mass than in any other corner of Catholicism. It is one of the places you can count on to be true to sacred teaching …  a secure anchor in a bed of orthodoxy.

But in July, Pope Francis essentially put those who love the Latin Mass on notice. It is a tragedy.

A bit of history: In 2007 Pope Benedict XVI gave permission to priests to celebrate the Latin Mass. For many, this was a Godsend as it allowed many Catholics, especially young Catholics, to discover a great and ancient liturgy that was in danger of going extinct. It also clarified the mistaken view that Vatican II had banned this rite. 

Now Pope Francis has undone that work. Bishops now have permission to quash the Latin Mass if they so choose. Priests will now need the permission of their bishops to practice the Extraordinary Form and recently ordained priests will also need the permission of the Vatican.

Pope Francis said he made this move to avoid division in the Church. “The Pope says he wrote the document in response to a 2020 survey of bishops, and explained that he was saddened by what he sees as a rejection of the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council,” the Catholic News Agency reported.

Rather than heal division I think Pope Francis has increased it by alienating a deeply faithful part of the Church.

Meantime, there are issues that are much more serious and dangerous for the future of Church unity. They represent the rot of secular culture seeping into the pews. 

The Catholic Church in Germany is promoting liberal views on female ordination, same-sex marriage and reception of the Eucharist to those not fully in communion. In the past few years the German Church has lost several hundred thousand members. Some observers see a real possibility of schism. 

In Canada a mind-boggling 70 per cent of Catholics support euthanasia. For those of you who are confused, euthanasia is a mortal sin.

A Pew Forum survey found 67 per cent of American Catholics, those who regularly attend Mass, said abortion should be illegal while one-third said it should remain legal. More troubling still, just 57 per cent said abortion was morally wrong. 

Another Pew survey found that 69 per cent of self-described Catholics did not believe in the real presence in the Eucharist. Rather than being the height of worship, the body and blood of our Saviour, it is seen as a mere symbol, a snack if you will.

In Western Europe roughly 75 per cent of Catholics support same-sex marriage. While no numbers were available for Canada, 61 per cent of American Catholics also think same-sex marriage should be allowed.

These views are far more dangerous than the Latin rite. 

Some examples:

The United Church of Canada undertook an experiment to align itself with the prevailing liberal culture. It has been a disaster. Membership in 1966 was about 1.1 million. It fell to 500,000 in 2012 and one notable Protestant historian believes membership could drop to zero by 2040.

The Episcopal Church in United States, another bastion of politically correct views, has seen its membership decline 17.4 per cent over the past 10 years. The Episcopal News Service called the situation “dire.”

These are churches that decided it was better to be popular than orthodox, places where recycling and fretting over global warming is more important than salvation.

What makes this all the more strange is the Holy Father is deeply pro-life. He once said abortion was like hiring a hit man to solve a problem. He has had no truck with the ordination of women. He has shut down the idea of married priests. 

So it has to be asked: Why an announcement so disheartening to those who do not question fundamental Church teaching? 

Why leave good Catholics discouraged?

(Lewis is a Toronto writer and regular contributor to The Register.)

Comments (1)

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The church around the world is under attack and there has been catastrophe after catastrophe within it and yet Pope Francis sets out after a group of Catholics who hold to the teachings of the church?

Thank you for sharing the statistics, if you...

The church around the world is under attack and there has been catastrophe after catastrophe within it and yet Pope Francis sets out after a group of Catholics who hold to the teachings of the church?

Thank you for sharing the statistics, if you dig further you also see that when those who attend the Latin mass are near 100% in support of church teaching on all of those. The growth of the Latin mass, especially in younger Catholics shows that what people hunger for are reverence towards God and the truths of the faith.

Pope Francis continually calls those who attend or celebrate the Latin mass rigid. Yet if the laity who attend the Latin mass are daily communicants, they likely attend the mass of Paul VI as there are few chances to attend the Latin mass daily. The rigid one appears to be Pope Francis who can't seem to stand the form of the mass that is more than 1500 years old.

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