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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 

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