asymmetrical charity

I mean my title to describe a peculiarity of the current Pope, who speaks often of the need for charity but seems to have little for people he thinks err — or anyway err in a certain direction. Thus his new Motu proprio on the use of the Latin Mass. 

Francis is not at the moment completely forbidding the Latin Mass, but only because he finds slow asphyxiation more convenient than summary execution. As he says in his accompanying letter, he wants “to provide for the good of those who are rooted in the previous form of celebration” — but he also insists that these people “need to return in due time to the Roman Rite.” Note the forceful distinction between the Latin Mass and the Roman Rite — there can only be one Roman Rite; the Latin Mass is not a form of it but rather something … different. Indeed, those who adhere to the Latin Mass do not merely depart from the Roman Rite but effectively from the Church itself: they violate the Church’s unity, and “This unity I intend to re-establish throughout the Church of the Roman Rite.” Again: slow asphyxiation. He has not killed the Latin Mass but he intends it to die, and not in the distant future either. 

Why? Francis says that “ever more plain in the words and attitudes of many is the close connection between the choice of celebrations according to the liturgical books prior to Vatican Council II and the rejection of the Church and her institutions in the name of what is called the ‘true Church.’” An enormous weight is being placed here on the word “many.” I do not doubt that the attitude describes is held by some. But, for what it’s worth, the Catholics I know who are drawn to the Latin Mass are not drawn to it because it sets them apart from other Catholics but because it binds them to the great cloud of witnesses who have preceded them in their faith. They do not despise their Church but rather love it; the Latin Mass for them is an excellent means of expressing and strengthening that love. 

It is sad and strange to me that Francis can be so warm in his sympathy for those who openly reject his Church and its teachings, but so icy-cold, so corrosively skeptical, towards some of that Church’s most faithful sons and daughters. Sad, strange — and, I believe, profoundly unwise. 

July 16, 2021

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