Conservatives reacted with outrage at Pope Francis' unexpected crackdown on traditional Latin Mass — and said it could drive many Catholics out of the church.
"This is a grave disappointment," said Joseph Shaw, chairman of the Latin Mass Society, in a statement obtained by Newsmax.
In a bombshell edict Friday, the pontiff said that for the good of Catholic unity, he was imposing severe restrictions on the Mass according to the Roman Missal, which was in use before the Second Vatican Council.
The papal order will overturn or severely restrict permissions first approved by St. John Paul II then further liberalized by Pope Benedict XVI.
Francis said while John Paul and Benedict had acted to recover "the unity of an ecclesial body with diverse liturgical sensibilities,'' their well-meaning moves had been "exploited.''
The Pope did not elaborate as to who had been exploited by allowing Catholics to partake in the ancient rite.
Still, the Pope insisted that the traditional Mass has been used to "widen the gaps, reinforce the divergences and encourage disagreements that injure the church, block her path and expose her to the peril of division," Francis stated in the jaw-dropping letter to bishops.
Priests who celebrate Mass in accordance with the old missal must now formally apply for authorization from their bishop to continue the practice. Such Masses no longer can take place in parish churches. And bishops must first the consult the Vatican before giving OK to such services.
Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect emeritus of the Apostolic Signatura — the highest judicial authority in the Catholic Church outside the pontiff himself — noted the grim tone of Francis' announcement.
"I pray that the faithful will not give way to the discouragement which such harshness necessarily engenders but will, with the help of divine grace, persevere in their love of the Church and of her pastors," Burke told the National Catholic Register.
Burke said the Latin Mass is "a living form of the Roman Rite and has never ceased to be so'' — and he noted he had not personally witnessed the "gravely negative situation" Francis describes in his letter.
Francis' shock move is seen as a major slap in the face to church conservatives and traditionalists by a pope who has made it his mission is to liberalize the faith while squelching any debate from critics.
Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, told Newsmax the pope's move was made to undermine Francis' conservative critics.
"The fear is that too many who prefer the Latin Mass are growing in number and may not be in sync with the [Pope's] reforms,'' Donohue said, noting that the Latin Mass has been especially popular with young Catholics.
In his letter, Pope Francis also said he was "saddened" use of the old Mass "is often characterized by a rejection not only of the liturgical reform, but of the Vatican Council II itself, claiming, with unfounded and unsustainable assertions, that it betrayed the Tradition and the 'true Church.'''
Francis has long been called the most liberal of the 266 popes who have led the Catholic Church, beginning with Saint Peter.
Francis has frequently caused eruptions in the church with his liberal pronouncements.
- He has claimed climate change is a major moral priority of the Church and that the world has "roughly fewer than 30" years to reduce carbon emissions and avoid the worst of climate change."
- Has called capitalism an "idolatrous system which excludes, debases and kills" and advocates for socialism to help the poor by addressing income inequality.
- He said same-sex couples should be allowed to have "civil unions."
- He stated atheists can go to heaven.
- He had a private audience with a woman who became a transgender man, and the man's fiancee.
- He said celibacy rules might be eased because of a shortage of priests.
- He broke protocol by phoning Joe Biden to congratulate him on winning the 2020 presidential election.
The Pope has been no stranger to controversy since he became pontiff in 2013.
A recent Wall Street Journal article is headlined "Is Pope Francis Leading the Church to a Schism?" and notes the growing movement of Francis-friendly bishops calling for accepting same-sex unions and women priests.
At 84 and in ailing health (Francis just left the hospital after having half his colon removed), the Pope may find his most important legacy is in the College of Cardinals.
To date, Francis has appointed 57% of the Cardinals who will vote in the next Conclave to pick his successor and many of his choices are said to be Church liberals.
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