When Traditionis Custodes is carefully considered, it’s clear that it’s not just an indictment against the celebration of the ‘Old Mass’, but instead an attempt to squash the traditionalist revival in the Church. In fact, some commentators have gone as far as calling the motu proprio a declaration of total war against traditionalists everywhere. It’s hard to argue with this sentiment.
Nonetheless, as righteous as our anger might be about this abusive mandate from the Holy Father, I think it might be a time for deeper reflection on where we find ourselves in relation to Pope Francis. Before I continue, I hope the reader will not confuse my talk of ‘healing’ or ‘wounds’ as a milquetoast sentiment that denies the severity of what we are going through; we are going through an assault on the faith of Eternal Rome, against the Barque of Peter from the very man who sits on the throne.
I will defend the ancient faith with every fiber of my being, and I will—God willing—never bend the knee to apostasy and heresy, even if it comes in the form of an edict from the Petrine Office. That being said, there is a great mourning taking place in the hearts of faithful Catholics the world over, and we find ourselves in a place where we ought to ensure the calibration of our filial piety is rightly ordered; it is one thing to be angry with the Pope, it is another thing to resent the man.
We’ve all heard the following: “I don’t respect Pope Francis, but I respect the Office of the Papacy.” I understand this sentiment, and it makes sense given our current situation. For many of us, this is as much charity as we can muster for Pope Francis, especially in recent years with what seem like accelerations in destructive activities from the same Vicar of Christ who refuses the very title.
We have been given every reason to resent so many statements—whether on an airplane or in a tweet—that emanate from the Holy Father. A strong argument could be made that there is nothing ‘respectable’ about the current Pope, and I do not believe it would be polemical to say so. However, given our fallen nature, it seems likely to me that we might go from disrespecting the man while respecting the office, to disrespecting the office itself.
It is a tired polemic from modernist and liberal Catholics that anyone who criticises Pope Francis is somehow “against the pope.” It is also a tired polemic that rejection of a wicked command somehow constitutes an amorphous sin of disobedience, as if the Holy Father bellowed forth divine acclamations like the Oracle of Delphi. However, it is also true that we are susceptible to the hardening of our hearts if we operate from a place of resentment. No matter how correct we are about the malfeasance of the pope, we gain nothing by preoccupying our minds with the things he says that make us burn.
In reality, those of us who try to maintain the faith of our ancestors are not unlike children who have been repeatedly scorned by their father. We have asked for bread, and he has given us stones; we have reached for his hand, and he has pulled it away. Traditional Catholics in particular have been especially abused by the papacy as of late, and we find ourselves in what feels like a constant tug-of-war between seeking fellowship with Rome or denying the faith of the saints and martyrs. Simply put, we have been wounded by the Holy Father, and each interaction with him or command therefrom feels like another dash of salt on our exposed flesh.
This is a dangerous place to be in spiritually, as we are capable of allowing that devil of resentment to creep into the forefront of our consciousness. We have every natural reason to dislike the pope, even to hate him, but we have every supernatural reason to resist that temptation.
Many of us may have to make very tough decisions in the near future with regards to where we attend Mass. This could mean uprooting our family and moving to a far-away parish because of a new diocesan restriction, or it could mean making the leap to the SSPX. Whatever happens, we will likely be very uncomfortable over the next few years, and it will be tempting to shake our fist every time we see an image of Francis hanging in a narthex. But this will only harm us.
I am not a psychologist, and offer no pretense of expertise in that realm, but I believe that I can say from a place of pragmatism that it is time to forget about the pope. For some, such a statement will seem impious, thus I ought to explain what I mean. I do not mean that we should reject Francis as pope, or that we should not concern ourselves with the papacy as such. Instead, what I mean is that we should distance ourselves from Francis the man, so that we can come to love Francis the pope. As G.K. Chesterton once said, “love means to love that which is unlovable; or it is no virtue at all.”
This does not mean looking past his errors, or pretending that everything he says is somehow orthodox; not at all. Rather, we should pay no mind to the things he says—as far as we can help it—and instead come to peace with the fact that for a time we have an abusive father. Distancing ourselves from him is good for both of us.
Anyone who has come from a broken home or who has grown up with some form of abuse from a parent can attest that the healthiest thing to do is to distance yourself from the problem. First, this is practical as it limits participation in the dysfunction. The space we cultivate between ourselves gives us time to heal and move on. Francis will not be the pope forever, in fact he may not be for much longer, thus any anger and resentment we have for the man will be as fleeting as his failed papacy.
Soon enough he will go on to his eternal reward—may God have mercy on him—and we will be dealing with a new pope, who may be better or may be worse. In the meantime, I contend that we can come to love Pope Francis; we just need to forget about him.
[Photo Credit: Vatican Media/CNA]