Against the False Charge of Rigidity

In a recent interview with Jesuit Fr. Antonio Spadaro, Pope Francis has once again demonstrated his continued misunderstanding of the Traditional Latin Mass and its adherents.  As reported by the Catholic News Service:

Asked about the liturgy, Pope Francis insisted the Mass reformed after the Second Vatican Council is here to stay and “to speak of a ‘reform of the reform’ is an error.”


Pope Francis told Father Spadaro he wonders why some young people, who were not raised with the old Latin Mass, nevertheless prefer it.

“And I ask myself: Why so much rigidity? Dig, dig, this rigidity always hides something, insecurity or even something else. Rigidity is defensive. True love is not rigid.”

There is literally so much wrong with this statement that it’s hard to know where to begin. 

First let’s note what a slap in the face it is to Pope Benedict XVI and his valiant efforts to reform the Roman Rite during his pontificate.

Anyone familiar with the liturgical landscape over the last five decades knows just how in need of reform the Novus Ordo is. Overcoming innovations introduced into the liturgy, some of which sought to intentionally profane the Mass, has been the focus of many throughout the Church in recent years. It is this effort at recovering the sacred which we call the ‘reform of the reform.’  

It is the Holy Father’s comments about the Traditional Latin Mass, however, that are more disconcerting, and frankly, infuriating.

Pope Francis told Father Spadaro he wonders why some young people, who were not raised with the old Latin Mass, nevertheless prefer it.

Really? The papacy of pastoral accompaniment cannot figure out why the young are drawn to tradition? Here’s a novel concept: ask them.

This is not the first time Pope Francis has expressed his lack of understanding about this. What is more troubling though is his apparent lack of curiosity. 

Thousands of words have been written about the resurgence of tradition (some by yours truly). But an even easier solution is simply to ask young Catholics.  You know, those very Catholics who have resisted an increasingly secularized culture, have remained faithful and orthodox, open to life, and who burn in their hearts with love for Our Lord and Holy Mother Church.

Such a rich, deep, spirituality that is formed and nourished by a liturgy two thousand years in the making deserves a greater respect than a dismissive shrug of the papal shoulders.

“And I ask myself: Why so much rigidity? Dig, dig, this rigidity always hides something, insecurity or even something else. Rigidity is defensive. True love is not rigid.”

This of course brings us to the crux of the matter.

So much of the last three years has been a demonstration of ambiguity vs. clarity. From off the cuff comments to Apostolic Exhortations, a lack of “rigidity” has permitted the most progressive of prelates at times to take the faithful, and the Eucharist, in directions that are both unprecedented and (frankly) dangerous.

The traditional liturgy imposes structure upon our worship of God, not rigidity. The distinction is key.

Any businessman understands that process actually fosters efficiency and success. Any educator understands that structure creates an environment conducive to learning. Both process and structure are the enemies of chaos. Chaos is simply the false freedom of the spiritually immature.

The far more prevalent  rigidity confronting us today is the tired ideology of an older generation who refuses to understand the very tradition that younger Catholics have rediscovered.

True love is not rigid.

This platitude, which sounds like something Ali MacGraw might have said in Love Story, is also troubling. 

The cultural revolutionaries of the organized Left argue similarly when told that marriage is intended only for one man and one woman. It is also reminiscent of the Kasperites who seek to give Communion to those in mortal sin.

Faithful, pious, Catholics worshipping God in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite do not deserve papal psychoanalysis anymore than those who worship exclusively in the Ordinary Form. Period.

For those who have discovered the beauty, sacrality, and spiritual depth of the Traditional Mass, these type of comments no longer surprise us. Claims of rigidity and nostalgia will continue to be hurled against us. 

It’s just unfortunate that the Holy Father’s pastoral accompaniment doesn’t appear to extend to so many devout, self-sacrificing, young Catholics.

Photo Credit: John Cosmas 

Posted on November 11, 2016, in liturgy and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 25 Comments.

  1. Pope Francis, like his brother Jesuits, is in the business of worshiping man in the guise of “the poor” instead of worshiping God. The theology of Pope Francis, like most Jesuit theology today, is warmed over Marxism, Communism and Socialism preaching endless class conflict between the rich and the poor. If Pope Francis loves the poor so much, he should join them.

    • “like his brother Jesuits” This is the crux of Pope Francis’s problem. He has failed to realise that he is no longer a Jesuit! He ceased to be one the moment he informed Giovanni Battista Cardinal Re, as senior Cardinal Bishop standing in for the Dean of the Sacred College, Angelo Cardinal Sodano, that he accepted his election as Supreme Pontiff. He still conducts conversations which are going to be reported all over the world as if he were a university chaplain trying to stimulate discussion among a group of 19-year-olds. This is related to his failure to utilise Castelgandolfo. A couple of months in quiet sequestration there during the Summer would give him the time think about, research and plan whatever points he might wish to emphasise in the next ten months. He needn’t then cut out the off-the-cuff remarks for having in advance given the matter sufficient serious thought he would know what he is talking about. Which all too often he doesn’t seem to.

  2. Pope Francis shows iron-clad rigidity (and no sense of the ridiculous) when he continues to accuse others of “rigidity.” He is adept at seeing the mote in another person’s eye, remaining blind to the beam in his own. Maybe he could follow his own advice and “dig” a bit deeper than thinking and repeating his shallow insults. Maybe this digging would include discovering why some young people seek solemnity, reverence, awe, and beauty in a liturgy centered on Almighty God rather than on an unskilled entertainer trying to entertain a church audience worshipping itself as “community.” This is his idea of evangelizing? Sad. He needs our prayers and our pity and our dismissal of his vapid ideas. May Our Lord give him the grace to preach the gospel of Christ rather than the sham gospel of sentimentality and political correctness.

  3. I should preface that the “reform” should have never went beyond the 1965 Missal in answering what is in Sacrosanctum Concilium and that while I pray for him and believe he’s the pope, Francis isn’t a good pope…. The Novus Ordo IS largely a disaster and a completely frivolous departure from tradition that lacks most of the reverence the Sacrifice of the Mass should have…

    Yet, I’m not sure he’s entirely wrong on this. Many trads tend to get toxic and too dogmatic on the liturgy, almost in a Byzantine way. Rome was traditionally always quite tolerant of diversity in her patriarchate, allowing divergent rites like Ambrosian, Mozarbic, and Gallican as well as local variations such as Sarum, Salisbury, Paris, etc and then for the Orders like the Dominican and Carthusians, which preserved old Roman usages that had fallen out of general use (sounds familiar?!). Can’t be said enough that St. Gregory the Great wrote to St. Augustine of Canterbury and specifically told him not to restrict himself to Roman usages but to use what he thought best. Rome itself adopted so many features from the Gallican Rite that we loved for so many years. This is contrast to the East, where the Byzantine way was the only way…

    Done right, something like the 1965 Missal would have been made optional (much like the Bea Psalter), would have seen sporadic adoption and not been universally imposed so chaotically and with such disregard…

    • Some young Trads certainly are rigid. I wouldn’t say “many” are.

      Most of the young people I know who appreciate the traditional latin mass, however, would seem to be anything but rigid. These are young people who are serious about their faith and are refreshingly open to participating in and exploring a multitude of faith expressions. They come from different backgrounds and have been formed by different faith experiences and traditions and tend to share in and support each other in their various faith expressions. They readily join with one another in attending traditional latin masses, charismatic prayer meetings, rosary and divine mercy devotions, weekly confession, Byzantine vespers, large youth events like “Rise Up” and of course regular diocesan Masses and liturgies. They are open to praying using Gregorian chant and other vernacular liturgical chant, praise and worship music, a variety of devotions. They will pray together using Latin, English, French, Ukrainian and Greek. They are hardly “rigid”.

      There are a few things they tend to be insistent on though. Among these are theology that is considerably more orthodox than what is found in most parish settings and what has been common in the past 40 years, obedience to established and articulated ecclesial norms, respect for legitimate ecclesial authority and their right to be exposed to, and have access to, their full heritage as Catholics. And, although they are open to a variety of faith expressions used in the right times and places, they are generally not favorable towards silliness in the liturgy. I would not call this “rigid”. I would say it simply exhibits good judgment.

  4. Why is it that some pastors value a diversity of charisms and expressions in theory, yet reject it in practice when it is not their experience?

  5. God has blessed the Mass in Latin and traditional Catholics are some of the best people i have ever met.

  6. Young English Priest

    This pope seems more at home pandering to communists and Lutherans than tending and rearing his own flock.

    “I know my own, and my own know me”. If Bergoglio wanted to follow the Good Shepherd he’d take time to identify where his own young flock ‘is’ as far as spirituality is concerned. To come to know them and nurture them. As it stands, he doesn’t know his own, and thanks to so many vague, indecisive and frankly cconfusing staements, his own don’t know him. Statements like this regarding liturgy mean they won’t want to know him, either. Lord help us!

    On one level he just sounds like every other pew sitter of a certain age all too ready to write off good traditional sound liturgy. His arguments are weak and tired and just show he has no grasp of where his own faithful flock ‘are’. As someone who tries so hard to be a relevant voice, he is so deeply out of touch. I know many young priests who long for a new Pope.

  7. There is no-one more rigid than a liberal.

  8. Wow, welcome the Lutherans with open arms but dig deep for the sins of the Catholics that love the Latin Mass? If the Church had been more rigid in preventing and appropriately dealing with it’s own scandals maybe there wouldn’t be so much division. What happened to digging deep to prevent scandal? Of course rigidity often masks other issues but so does lack of respect for the sacred and the bleeding of secularism into Catholic worship.

    • Times change. Jesus spoke Hebrew and Aramaic; relatively few speak those languages today. The Catholic expressions of Dogmatic Truth went through periods of great change. Art, and artistic creativity continues to evolve: Renaissance is just one gift along the way. Change is inevitable. From Womb to the tomb-and beyond, the Church, the Body of Jesus, has undergone changes, and will continue to do so. The Deity: Father God Almighty; Jesus God Almighty; Holy Spirit God Almighty, never change.

  9. “Rigidity is defensive.” Correct: it defends the authentic teachings of the Catholic Church and does not bend, distort or disguise Her teachings to be “pastoral”, “to create dialogue” or to “accommodate” an increasingly depraved secular culture.
    “True love is not rigid.” Correct again: authentic love for Christ, His Church and the one, true Faith recognizes and humbly admits errors, then seeks to correct them—for example, the extraordinary destruction wrought upon the Church by the 1960s innovations: massive decline in Mass attendance, on-going exodus of 80% of young adults from the Church, closure of parishes and seminaries.
    Ironically, those Eastern Churches which never abandoned their ancient rites, such as the Byzantine Divine Liturgy, understand better than modern-day “Latin Rite” aka Roman Rite Catholics that ancient Latin maxim ‘Lex orandi, lex credendi’.

  10. “to those in mortal sin”? And how would I, or you, or anyone else outside a confessional, know when someone is in mortal sin? When one of the three conditions is “full knowledge”. This does sound just a little rigid.

  11. I have thought at some length about this interview and the words attributed to Pope Francis. Perhaps I am experiencing “cognitive dissonance;” however, I wonder if the problem is Fr. Spadaro and not Pope Francis. After all, these words that are attributed to the Holy Father are both unmerciful (as though he really wants to tell devotees of the EF to “get over it”) and lacking of respect for what came before him, both in terms of the Church’s history and patrimony and in terms of the leadership and perspective of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. The alleged interview makes we want to mine for history on Fr. Spadaro and see if he is like most of the American mainstream media in approach and in pushing an agenda.

  12. Why young people like the Latin Mass??? Seriously??? I come home to God and I’m curious to understand and learn the old ways the full volume of the church. I’m not hiding insecurity I just want to deepen and cement my understanding of the faith, which I only will achieve when I deal with the past the present and give some serious thought into the future of the church. despite living in the end days one shall not slip and became intoxicated by greed laziness and letting the church slip into oblivion of the contest of popularity with the rest of society. Once again I say faith comes in the quality , not in the quantity !


  14. Nicholas Altenberg

    The Latin word “religio” (hard “g”) means, “to rebind, to reconnect”. To what? Who? To God, to the saints, and to our ancestors in faith. To facilitate this, religion is by its very nature conservative. When we play music by Bach we adhere to the notes that inspiration gave him. We don’t tinker with them, question their validity, wonder if they’re still “relevant”. We follow them and as a result, are brought to the presence of the Divine. So it is with the Mass of Ages, also divinely inspired. It’s a roadmap of sorts that brings us to a destination. No idea why Pope Francis can’t or won’t understand this. Then again, he’s a Jesuit, and today’s jesuits are a far cry from being the pope’s “shock troops” that they once were, champions of orthodoxy and tradition.

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