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A Letter from Chile: Surviving the Post-Conciliar Wasteland

From my perspective, it seems that Traditional Catholicism is booming in Europe and the USA. Masses filled with young parishioners (and Priests) are offered every Sunday in many places and even some Bishops offer the Pre-Conciliar Mass from time to time. The future of the Church seems bright (at least in the long run) but is it like that outside these countries?

Sadly no. In Chile it seems like a complete wasteland. Even though the sympathy for Sacred Tradition is present in some young Priests, a lack of knowledge, interest and action on the matter has left the restoration of the Church practically dead everywhere. To give an example from Chile, I have talked with my Parish Priest about the Pre-Conciliar Mass and even though he liked the idea, he dismissed it as “something not suited for us.” There is a general fear that if we leave behind the Spanish language, the hand clapping and the guitars, piano and drums with the 1960’s music, the Church will perish. But reality says otherwise. The average age (at least where I live) of Mass-going Catholics is above 60 years old, and the churches are almost always at 20% or 30% of capacity with most young Catholics leaving the faith before their 20th birthday. The percentage of Catholics in my country has decreased from 58% in 2018 to 45% in 2019.[1] To make things worse my diocese has no seminarians and other dioceses find themselves in the same situation. The Church is practically dead and they keep believing that the reforms of the Second Vatican Council were fabulous and the only way forward! (“The Council and Humanity together for a better future!” said the old propaganda poster.)

As a twenty-year-old Catholic I have no emotional attachment to the Council or its reforms, and to be honest I find them quite counterproductive. The post-Conciliar Catholicism has never made sense to me, nor did it make sense to my friends who left the Church years ago, and who constantly mock the unbearable boomer-style songs we are forced to endure! The situation here is so desperate that the FSSP and ICKSP practically do not exist, neither do the diocesan Pre-Conciliar Mass. The SSPX, although it exists (in some of the big cities), it is very small and therefore almost impossible to find, and they are also unjustly dismissed as a “schismatic sect.” To make things worse the people obey the Pope blindly, whether they approve what he is doing or not. But I think that if Latin Americans were exposed to the beauty of Tradition they would react very favourably like everyone else.

Even the adults seem to be starting to realise that maybe the reforms did not bring a “springtime,” “a rejuvenation of the People of God,” “a new Pentecost.” Many are quite worried by the state of the Church (although they do not blame under any circumstance the Council or its reforms). Some apparently are starting to look back to their teenage years or childhood before the Council for inspiration. For example, in my parish two old ladies suddenly started wearing veils, and some weeks ago there was an attempt to have an organ (which sadly failed). A couple have started to kneel when the Priest imparts the blessing at the end of Mass. The people unknowingly are starving for Sacred Tradition! The problem is that not even the priests seem to be aware of the deep theological and practical differences between the Pre and Post-Conciliar Masses, and the general idea is that only the language and the direction of the priest changed. Therefore, nothing is done.

But the greatest problem of all is that the majority of the faithful are still under the “Spirit of Vatican II,” especially the hierarchy which acts as if we were still in 1972. For example, in 2008 some Priests of the Institute of the Good Shepherd came to Santiago (Chile’s Capital city—what happens there decides what happens everywhere else) and tried to spark the flame of Tradition. But they were forbidden to do anything by Cardinal Francisco Javier Errázuriz Ossa[2] the then Archbishop of Santiago, they were given six months to leave and obviously left the Country to never come back.[3] Then the hierarchy started an inquisitorial persecution against every “Lefebvrist” or “crypto-Lefebvrist” Catholics (yes, Summorum Pontificum was “suppressed” by the Bishops for “pastoral reasons”). All the hopes for Tradition died that day. No matter what we do, the hierarchy crushes us without mercy. In comparison, every year the Jews, Muslims, Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists and other non-Catholics are invited to a national event in the metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago called “Te Deum Ecuménico”to offer their prayers and do their religious ceremonies. [4] The event is so important that it is transmitted by all TV Channels and radio stations but the opportunity to evangelise is always missed, the event is always a shameful and nonsensical spectacle full of “social justice” and “mercy” and a lot of weird things.

The situation is similar in other countries in Latin America. For example it is no secret how the Mexican hierarchy is persecuting the FSSP which is trying to establish itself in Mexico.[5] In the Caribbean, Father Sixto Eduardo Varela Santamaría in Costa Rica was suspended and sent by his Bishop to a psychiatric hospital for moderately attempting the “Reform of the Reform” in his Parish.[6]  (Tradition is a mental disease for the hierarchy.) And this inquisitorial persecution has just worsened after Traditionis Custodes, especially in Costa Rica were Traditionalists were “mercied” to death by their Bishops. Nevertheless, in places like Mexico, Perú, and Argentina, the traditional faith lives on even without the Latin Mass—it is burned into the heart of every mestizo race by Our Lady of Guadalupe, Empress of the Americas.

But why do you say that Tradition will save the Church? Is it really that important? Yes it is, because to the Church “it has been entrusted by Christ Our Lord the whole deposit of faith — Sacred Scripture and divine Tradition — to be preserved, guarded and interpreted.”[7] It is for that reason that the Church “which neglects a deeper search into the deposit of faith [Scripture and Tradition], proves sterile.”[8] The Faith is not contained only in the Sacred Scriptures as the Protestants and Modernists claim, but in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. To neglect one or both is to make the Church sterile. The Mystical Body of Christ needs both to work properly, in the same way that we need both water and food. This is why the Church in those places where Sacred Tradition has been neglected is perishing, and in those places where it is cherished is flourishing. The only solution to the current crisis is a complete return to Tradition. After all, the reforms have proved to be a great failure. But this should surprise no one. To quote Pope St. Celestine I, “the universal Church is affected by any and every novelty.”[9] “Every novelty” includes minor changes, and if a minor change is damaging to the Church one would need to be a fool to not realise that a new Mass, Sacraments, Breviary, et cetera would provoke a catastrophe. Why not stop trying to be “modern” since it becomes outdated every few years? Instead let us obey St. Paul the Apostle who commanded us to “stand fast; and hold the traditions which you have learned, whether by word, or by our epistle.”[10]

Please, stop with the innovations.

The only way forward is a return to Tradition.


Photo provided by the author: Msgr. Cristián Roncagliolo, auxiliary Bishop of Santiago offers Mass during the National Day of Solidarity

[1] “Encuesta Nacional Bicentenario 2019: Religión.” Universidad Católica.

[2] Cardinal Francisco Javier Errázuriz Ossa was appointed by Pope Francis in 2013 to the Council of Cardinal Advisors. He was forced to resign in 2018 as he was being investigated for sexual abuse cover up. His successor as Archbishop of Santiago, Ricardo Ezzati Andrello (who was made a Cardinal by Pope Francis in 2014), was also involved and forced to resign, and Juan Barros Madrid who was made Bishop of Osorno by Pope Francis was also forced to resign for his direct involvement in sexual abuse. Trying to protect them, the Pope personally dismissed as false the accusations when he came to Chile. But when these accusations were sadly proven to be true, the extremely close collaboration of the Pope with these three Bishops harmed greatly the reputation of the Church.

[3] Secretum Meum Mihi. (February 23, 2008). De nuestro buzón de correo: “Peligra apostolado del IBP en Chile.”

[4] The “Te Deum” has been a Chilean tradition since 1811 but before the Second Vatican Council it consisted of a Solemn Pontifical High Mass, followed by singing of the Te Deum prayer and some Canonical Hours of the Roman Breviary (like Lauds); after the Council it became an ecumenical gathering for dialogue and fraternity. But it is not the only ecumenical event: when a new President begins his administration the Archbishop of Santiago leads a ceremony called “Ecumenical Prayer for Chile and its new Government.”

[5] Religión, la voz libre. (September 22, 2021). Cardenal prohíbe apostolado a la FSSP (México).

[6] InfoCatólica. (September 22, 2021). Obispo de Costa Rica suspende a sacerdote por celebrar la misa «nueva» en latín y «ad orientem» como permite la Iglesia.

[7] Pope Pius XII. Humani Generis (1950), 18.

[8] Ibid., 21.

[9] Pope St. Celestine I. Epistle XXI addressed to the Bishops of Gaul.

[10] 2 Thessalonians 2:15

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