It has been a tough week, friends.
Now there is news which will make a lot of the traditionally inclined go bonkers. My email is filling up with panicky bile.
Before any of you readers have a spittle-flecked nutty, in a spittle-flecked nutshell, the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate (FFIs) underwent an Apostolic Visitation which finished 3 July. There was division among the FFIs about Summorum Pontificum, their use of the older form of Mass, and criticisms made by some of Vatican II. As a result of the Apostolic Visitation, a decree dated of 11 July, signed by the Prefect of the Congregation for Religious, João Card. Braz de Aviz (remember him?) and the Secretary Archbishop José Rodríguez Carballo (a Franciscan and one of the first appointments Pope Francis made). It was approved by Pope Francis before its publication.
The decree appoints “Commissario Apostolico” ad nutum Sanctae Sedis, a Capuchin named Fidenzio Volpi, over the all the FFIs. It also requires – and this is the point some will freak out over and some liberals will crow over - all FFIs must celebrate the Novus Ordo and that they can celebrate the Usus Antiquior only with permission from competent authorities. This goes into effect on 12 August.
At a first glance, this move seems to contradict dramatically the provisions of Summorum Pontificum. We shall have to see how it plays out for private Masses, etc.
I’ll bet most, if not all, of the Friars will obey. They won’t do an SSPX sort of move or go postal. Their obedience will edify us all.
That being the case, let’s think about this for a bit.
First, and I don’t think the Prefect of the Congregation, or the FFIs that sparked this take-over by the Holy See, should get a pass: this decree will hurt a lot of lay people. It will also stimulate the bitter element among those inclined to a traditional expression of the Faith. I had sensed over the last years that some people were finally starting to unclench. This is a set back for their morale. In short, a small group of people ruined something great for a lot of people.
What we need to keep in mind is that this decree is more about a division in a religious community than it is about Summorum Pontificum.
The FFIs were not founded as an Extraordinary Form community, as some others were (e.g., the Institute of Christ the King). After Summorum Pontificum, a faction within the FFIs were making the Extraordinary Form the only form. As I understand the situation, other FFIs were unhappy about this, for various reasons. Division ensued. A Visitation resulted. The Holy See executed a take-over with regard to Summorum Pontificum. The FFIs will now have supervision, because they couldn’t get along over this matter.
All this was set in motion long before Benedict XVI announced his abdication. Remember also that the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei“, now a part of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, wouldn’t have competence in this matter because the FFIs were not founded under their auspices.
Take-overs happen when something is not working. Think about the LCWR. (No, I am not drawing a moral equivalence.)
I suspect that faults in charity and prudence on the part of the more traditionally inclined among the FFIs (and the fact that liberals are always ready to shove traddies to the back of the bus) set the stage for this. Others were caught in the middle. The result, however, is that the harder-core traditional types and those who lean in that direction are the ones who lost ground. The FFIs who wanted only or mostly the Novus Ordo won the day. Let’s let that sink in for a bit.
I think… think… Pope Francis is not against the Usus Antiquior. Francis, however, was a Jesuit, a religious. He was a provincial. In his day, Fr. Bergoglio dealt with huge divisions in his community. He has insight into problems in religious communities. I think… think… Francis thought that the FFIs needed a way to heal their internal divisions as religious. He hit the “reboot” button for them. Moreover, the somewhat draconian restriction of the older Mass could have more to do with Card. Braz de Aviz than Pope Francis. We shall see.
At the same time, I suspect that neither Francis nor the Prefect (nor the problem elements in the FFIs) gave much consideration to how this will affect the lay people in parishes that the FFIs staff who are attached to the Usus Antiquior. If that is the case, then this move could be a manifestation of the sort of clericalism that Pope Francis seems to want to diminish. We shall see what happens when FFIs start asking for permissions from competent authorities for pastoral reasons. I hope people monitor this closely and let everyone know what happens one way or another.
In any event, this decree probably has more to do with a matter internal to a religious community than it does with the older form of Mass, though the older form was an issue of the division.
It probably also concerns the manner in which some of the FFIs approached or spoke of Vatican II. Everything “Vatican II” is even more of a third rail now than it was four months ago! Under this Pontificate, even more voltage is going to that rail.
At this point, I remind everyone that the provisions of Summorum Pontificum are still in effect… but they can be lost.
Therefore, I urge all of you who are interested in the older form, who want to obtain celebrations of the older form of Mass in your parishes or communities, to push ahead with energy and a cheerful attitude. Do not relax. Do not slow down. Do not flag in your resolve. Get to work. Now. And be smart about it. Get whatever chips there may be off your shoulders and get to work.
Traditional, hard-identity Catholics, need to press forward and be prudent. Leave aside harsh polemics or comments about Vatican II. Stow them, at least for now. Be smart. There will be time in the future for people to sort what Vatican II means and what it doesn’t mean. But, mark my words, if you gripe about Vatican II right now, in this present environment, you could lose what you have attained.
I have some suggestions.
Make some holy “lío”, as Francis would call it. Stir things up in your dioceses. But make it a smart and a positive ruckus.
First, work to get Masses established and work to get as many young priests and seminarians trained up as quickly as possible and as well as you can. Stick a crowbar in your wallets and spend money if you have to. Set aside the smaller differences you have over certain hotly-debated issues and band together. Encourage and persuade with good cheer and without sticking your thumb in the eyes of those who can help you.
Second, get involved in your parishes or in the place where you attend the older form of Mass. Get involved especially in what the parish might have going in regard to spiritual and corporal works of mercy. If that means getting involved in a less-than-perfect RCIA program as a group leader, do it. If that means volunteering to visit the sick, do it. If that means offering to wash altar linens, do it. If that means helping with a food or clothing drive, or even starting them, do it. Do these things, firstly, because they are the right things to do. Do them also because traditional, hard identity Catholics are treated like second-class citizens in the Church. You need to give the lie to the impression which the controlling liberal class has about you. Don’t just go to your Mass and then go home without thinking about the parish again for another 6 days.
Libs have been energized in the last few months. They think that the momentum is in the favor right now. I don’t buy that, but they do. Thus, in parishes and schools they will rise up against you more vigorously than of late. They are still mostly in control, too! When they shove you to the back of the bus, again, be better than they are. Stay cheerful and remain energized, and keep pressing forward.
This next part is going to sting a little.
You more conservative or traditional Catholics out there and in here…. clean up your act and be smarter.
Liberals and progressivists seem to be able to set aside some of their differences to band together to create a larger force and lobby. Together with the effects of Original Sin and the help of the Devil, their ability to work together is one of the reasons why they usually win. They still control most of the structures and entities in the Church. The Biological Solution is working on them, but slowly. It works on all of us, by the way.
On the other hand, traddies, conservatives, call them what you will – self-righteous debating about these imperfect labels is tedious and you know what I mean by them – seem to want to defend every wrinkle of turf they think they own. They don’t want anyone who doesn’t agree with them perfectly in the sandbox with them. They bite at those with whom they have far more in common than they have differences. That has got to stop now. The terrain is shifting quickly and we need a new approach lest we screw up and lose the good ground we have gained.
Be smart about this. I’ve watched the combox here and on other more traditional blogs which have some focus on the Extraordinary Form and blogs which would surely identify as being “moderate” but which manifest a kind of no-risk conservatism. All of us still over here on the ‘C’atholic side of things have to do better.
Nevertheless, I’ve also been watching the growing division between hard-identity Catholics and those who are a little squishy around the edges. We have to do better! We can’t afford mud fights with those who are for the most part fellow travelers.
I call on both traddies and – I don’t know what word to use – neo-cons? You probably know the range of people and bloggers, etc., I am talking about – to find more common ground.
To those on the trad side of things, you are going to have to stop biting in such a nasty way at those with whom you mostly agree. Moreover, bitchy moaning about Pope Francis in the comboxs of blogs is going to bring about the realization of your fears. Cui bono? You are going to spoil everything gained in the last years through your petulance.
To those on the – I dunno – neo-con side, it is time to rethink your no-risk conservatism and toughen up your Catholic identity a bit. You have your nasty moments too, especially toward those who have more traditional inclinations than you.
Goodness gracious! It’s like something from a fable by Aesop!
The time has come for hard-identity Catholicism, but hard-identity in a smarter tone.
This is going to cost something on both sides.
Let us all start with an examination of our consciences. We have to root out our personal faults, especially through the sacrament of penance.
We have to be smarter about what we are doing.
Some links from FFIs which you should look at.
UPDATE 30 July:
From the blog Maria Victrix, run by an FFI:
Many of the comments in the blogosphere about Pope Francis concerning his decision in regard to our Institute are simply disgraceful, and “justified” by the most tenuous rationalizations. He is the Vicar of Christ. It is less than twenty-four hours since this hit the Internet and so many think they have got it all figured out. I have also seen sheer fabrications about the situation in our Institute within some of these comments. May God have mercy on us. Thank God for all the holy popes we have had for the past fifty years, who all have had much to suffer.
See this statement from the FFIs.