“I am of the opinion, to be sure, that the old rite should be granted much more generously to all those who desire it. It’s impossible to see what could be dangerous or unacceptable about that. A community is calling its very being into question when it suddenly declares that what until now was its holiest and highest possession is strictly forbidden, and when it makes the longing for it seem downright indecent. Can it be trusted any more about anything else? Won’t it proscribe tomorrow what it prescribes today?” —Then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (before he became Pope Benedict XVI), in his book-length interview Salt of the Earth (1997), published by Ignatius Press, pp. 176-177 (link)
“Three parishes [out of 21] were granted permission to continue celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass in their parish churches for a term of two years.” —Bishop Michael Burbidge, in his decree restricting the celebration of the old Latin Mass in his diocese of Arlington, Virginia, issued on July 29, 2022, three days ago. Even in those places where the old Mass will still be celebrated, the plan seems to be to continue for only two years, then to end the old Mass entirely (link)
Letter #94, 2022, Monday, Aug 1: Pathologies of affection
“Imagine a world,” I wrote last week (link) “where the ‘work of God’ [that is, the divine liturgy, which offers praise and thanksgiving to God as the first and most fitting of all human actions] is forbidden by the authorities.”
This week, there is no longer any need to imagine: we live in such a world.
It is a world in which Church leaders impose restrictions on the forms of prayer and liturgy that Catholics may use, saying they are doing this for the spiritual good of the people, to “help them” spiritually, and to “preserve the unity of the whole Church”… even as those who attend the old liturgy feel perplexed, powerless, abandoned, lost…
It is a world where a peculiar pathology of the spiritual leaders, a pathology that is cognitively dissonant, leads the leaders to act with great spiritual and psychological cruelty, causing great psychological and spiritual pain, yet all the while declaring their intentions to be great charity, broad benevolence, and paternal love. “We know this decision will be painful for you, but, though you do not understand it now, putting you through this suffering now is for your own good, and for the common good of the Church,” these modern Church leaders are saying with almost one voice.
Thus has the leadership of the Catholic Church in recent months fallen into a crisis of “affectional pathology” in its efforts to weed out all elements of alleged opposition to a revolutionary event from the 1960sthat they refer to as “the Council” — and to prepare the Church to make other changes in her governing structures and moral teachings at the Synod of Bishops on Synodality which will be held in just over a year, in October 2023, in Rome. This is the reason all this is happening now.
For the current crop of Church leaders, the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) — which threw open the doors of the Church to the world in the 1960s — must be finally and fully “implemented”… even if doing so frightens and leaves in spiritual desolation and darkness many who are in the Church’s care.
It is, seemingly, a seamless ideology of modernization, the cruel implementation of which willingly tramples under the souls of many simple faithful.
Again, it is the cruelty of these ideologues which surprises me.
An old person who wishes to continue to attend the liturgy he or she has been used to during a lifetime suffers when that liturgy ceases, when the church doors are locked, when there is no access to those channels of grace that had existed for centuries.
For this reason, Pope Benedict in 2007 arrived at a compromise solution, and said the old liturgy would still be respected, venerated, and celebrated, even as it was set aside in the majority of cases, and the new liturgy, introduced after 1970, was celebrated.
That compromise is what has now been abandoned.
It is not a time for compromise, in the Church today, on this issue, only a time for ideological purity and blind obedience from the cadres, whatever the cost to individuals, even as they approach the end of their lives…
One by one, these churches are being closed to the use of the old Mass, despite the suffering it causes to many souls.
Imagine a leadership of the Church that could be so cold, cruel, pitiless, ideological, as to tell an old couple, or a group of young children, that the Mass they love has been forbidden.
You do not have to imagine it: it has happened.
And the resulting scene is reminiscent of Bolshevik ideologues decrying the corruption of the Russian bourgeoisie and heartlessly destroying things precious to individuals who wished to cling to the beloved past, but whose “clinging” was seen as an “impediment to the revolution.”
So it is the cruelty of these “very good, very kind” Churchmen which astonishes me, and puzzles me. Do they not sense the strangeness and cruelty of what they are doing?
In recent weeks, many bishops — in Chicago (link), in Savannah, Georgia (link), in Washington D.C. (link) — at the request of Pope Francis, have restricted or forbidden the celebration of the old Catholic Mass — celebrated throughout the Church for 400 years, from 1570 to 1970 — in their dioceses.
The bishops’ announcements have come about one year after Pope Francis promulgated Traditionis custodes (July 16, 2021), a motu proprio which placed sweeping restrictions on the celebration of Mass using the 1962 Roman Missal, also known as the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, the Tridentine Mass, and the Traditional Latin Mass. (You can read a further explanation of the document here.)
The latest example comes in Arlington, in Virginia, a diocese which stretches west from Washington D.C. to the border of West Virginia, where Bishop Michael Burbidge just published his decree on Friday, July 29 (three days ago, link).
A traditional Mass celebrated in one local church in a small town in the sprawling diocese will be moved to a gymnasium some six miles away, and only for two more years — then it is (evidently) scheduled to cease altogether.
And the hearts of those who are carrying out this purge are not moved by the simple request of these people, old and young, to be allowed to continue to pray as they have prayed for generations.
Let us imagine something else. Suppose someone were to command the people could no longer pray the Our Father (perhaps because it has a patriarchal word, “father,” at its outset). Would that be acceptable? Or would it prompt outrage and protest?
Or let us imagine that someone were to command people to no longer pray the Rosary at all (perhaps because, it might be argued, it is too “rote,” too “repetitive”). Would that be acceptable? Would such a command be obeyed?
Here is a letter sent to the offices of Bishop Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, by a Catholic father of four children, who has given me permission to publish his letter here:
“July 30, 2022
“To whom it may concern:
“I am the father of four young children, whom we are raising in the Traditional Rite, and thus significantly affected by Bishop Burbidge’s recent implementation of the Motu Proprio Traditionis Custodes. We live in the Front Royal area, and will now be going to the Canons of New Jerusalem in West Virginia, or the SSPX chapel in Front Royal when that is not possible. I respect that Bishop Burbidge, who has been most generous with the TLM [Note: TLM stands for “Traditional Latin Mass”] in the past, felt that he had to do this, but the effect of his implementation is only to destroy or hurt several thriving Catholic communities, and thus endanger the souls of those faithful affected, which includes my family, whose salvation is my highest duty.
“I appreciate that Bishop Burbidge has reportedly permitted a TLM to be offered in a gym at Chelsea Academy (notwithstanding the presence of several fully adequate and dignified chapels nearby) for a period of two years, where we will presumably be catechized to appreciate more fully the blessings of the Council and its Mass, but from its inception, it will be a community created to die, and does not offer the stability that my young family deserves and needs. I add that the optics of relegating the community to a gym, when there are so many fine chapels available are extremely ugly.
“We have no intention of going to the Novus Ordo ever, at least on a regular basis. While we recognize it’s validity, as a father who grew up in it, I am also acutely aware that it is an insufficient bulwark against the world, and that Catholics formed in it and its “Catholic Lite” spirituality are much more prone to falling to the call of the world — drugs, homosexuality, birth control mentality, etc. As a father, I have a duty to avoid it at all costs.
“We can no longer trust the hierarchy to get us to Heaven. Sadly, the Church is like a dysfunctional family with dysfunctional parents. It is still a family, and we can’t change that, but as faithful, we have to manage up, and ‘cover the nakedness of our father.’
“We were never militant TLM Catholics, but we are increasingly becoming so, and largely because of the persecution of the Catholic life of faith and morals, and now the TLM by Pope Francis. I do not accuse Bishop Burbidge of this, but I have to note that his implantation of TC is nevertheless not helpful.
“While we will avoid the Masses in Virginia in communities that are engineered to be destroyed in a few years, to the extent possible, we will nevertheless maintain our visible communion with the Holy Father, for whom we pray daily, by going to the Mass with the Canons in West Virginia. When that is not possible, frankly, at this point, we will simply go to the SSPX [Note: SSPX stands for the priestly “Society of St. Pius X,” the traditional Catholic group founded by French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre] chapel in Linden. The SSPX is canonically irregular (for which reason we will prefer the Canons) but nevertheless preserves visible and unbroken unity with the Holy Father and the Roman Catholic Church. This has been attested several times by the most senior Roman officials, including Pope Francis himself.
“Please assure Bishop Burbidge of my continuing respect and prayers for him. I acknowledge that he made this decision under protest, but under protest or not, I still have to deal with its detritus, and limit its damage on the souls of my children.”
[End of letter]
“The maniacal crusade” (link)
“The maniacal crusade Francis has against the traditional Latin mass is simply bizarre,” writes American journalist Rod Dreher, who some years ago converted from Catholicism to Orthodoxy, at this link.
The article is worth reading. —RM
Note: All support for this free Moynihan Letter is welcome. Many readers are sending $10 to show their solidarity; some are making their gift monthly, which of course helps enormously. Thank you.—Robert