Many Catholic writers, including priests and bishops, have written or spoken about Pope Francis’s inhumane, vengeful, and rigid attack on Catholics who worship God through the Mass of the Ages—the Traditional Latin Mass.
No one denies that Francis’s motu proprio, Traditionis Custodes, is the harshest attack on Catholicism ever written by a pope. As Dr. Peter Kwasniewski writes in The Remnant Newspaper:
It is far worse than I had expected: a text that drips with contempt, miserliness, and vindictiveness, lacking even a rhetorical attempt to provide a context or (however insincerely) cushion the blow: a lack of rudimentary grace that has never been seen in a document of such magnitude, affecting so many Catholics. It is a historic slap in the face to Francis’s pontifical predecessors, from St. Gregory the Great to St. Pius V, even to all the popes after the Second Vatican Council who, seeing that the love for the traditional liturgy had not and would not die out, made provisions for meeting the spiritual needs of Catholics nourished by these venerable rites…In the new motu proprio, it is not the shepherd who comes to smell like the sheep, but the sheep who are told how they must smell in order to be shepherded—or else.
Lost in the rightful disgust at Francis’s personal and hateful attack on his flock (wolf in sheep’s clothing?) is Francis’s equally scathing attack on God’s will regarding worship. In 24 hours of reflection and discernment, I conclude that God, not homo traditionae, is the real target of Francis’s rage.
To Worship God as God Wants to be Worshipped #
While the modernists like ascribing to aesthetical preference the growth of Traditional Catholicism, like preferring red wine over white, Traditional Catholics know that’s all nonsense borne of ignorance and bad formation. Instead, the ancient Latin Rite is man’s best attempt, under the guidance of the Holy Ghost, to perfectly worship God as God desires. Traditionalists see the New Order of the Mass (as Pope Paul VI called it) as man’s attempt to worship God as man wants.
In the Book of Exodus, we learn just how precise God is about man’s worship. Dennis Prager writes in chapter 25 of his excellent textbook, Exodus: God, slavery, and freedom:
The remainder of the Book of Exodus is largely about the building of the Tabernacle, the portable sanctuary used by the Israelites in the desert. More chapters are devoted to the Tabernacle and the details of its construction and functioning than to any other subject in the five books of the Torah (Exodus 25-30 and 35-40).
Prager then offers an explanation for the exquisite detail God gave the Israelites about the construction and use of the Tabernacle, ending with this:
One other reason was to communicate the important role aesthetic beauty can play in the worship of God.
Sadly, Dennis Prager’s point of view is limited by his failure to see the Torah through the lens of the Messiah. Were the scales removed from his eyes, as I pray they will be, he would have another understanding of God’s reasons for such detail regarding the Tabernacle: the Tabernacle is the foreshadowing of the Mother of God, the vessel through which Christ would enter the world just as the covenant of Moses foreshadowed the New Covenant embodied in Jesus.
It is important to note here that God’s people worshiped God according to what made the people feel right up to this point in history. In Exodus, God relieves man of the burden of devising worship methodologies by telling us how He wishes us to worship Him. The chapters in Exodus on the construction and use of the Tabernacle were like a gift list on Giftster shared with family: no more guessing. God said, in essence, “Look, folks, I appreciate all the gifts you’ve given me. But we have different tastes. Here’s a list of what you can give me, and I’ll love it. You don’t have to guess. I’ll be happy that it came from you and that you listened to me.”
And that is the source and summit of this conflict. Do we try, imperfectly, to do God’s will by worshipping Him as He desires, or do we strive in vain to make God see the value of the gifts we offer because we want to offer them? Or, as C.S. Lewis put it, there are two kinds of men: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, “All right, then, have it your way.”
Why Does Francis Persecute God? #
Now, we get to the heart of the pope’s screed against the Latin Mass and, in particular, people who celebrate the Latin Mass.
Whether or not we, the people, are offended by Francis’s false accusations and angry restrictions of the Mass is irrelevant. The concern should be whether Francis’s motu proprio offends God. And the only way we can discern the answer to this question is to look to scripture.
As outlined above, scripture gives us one bright example of how God wishes to be worshiped: perfectly amidst exceeding aesthetic beauty with ornate detail in the finest materials on earth according to strict practices, purity, and proper intent of pleasing God.
But there’s more. God wants only specific, consecrated men to enter the Holy of Holies: He wants them to wash their hands in a certain way before touching sacred objects. He wants them to wear sacred garments that He designed, set aside from all other clothing for this specific purpose. He wants the people to witness these ceremonies, participating through their prayers and small sacrifices to make the priest’s offering more pleasing.
I grew up in the Novus Ordo and believed it normal. However, my father introduced me to the Latin Mass after I was out of high school. I found it challenging but beautiful.
But it was through Exodus 90, a 90-day ascetical fast, that I realized why the Latin Mass was so more appropriate than the weird and irreverent Novus Ordo mass of Paul VI. Of the two forms, only the Latin Mass attempts to worship God as God desires. The New Mass, by contrast, seems to be the pure folly of man. The New Mass is like a husband who ignores his wife’s Giftster list, choosing something “special she’ll really like.” As if his wife is unqualified to know what she wants for her birthday.
The New Mass, with all its false humility, is the epitome of hubris. The New Mass says to God, “Look, I know what you asked for, but you’ll like this better.” So, in hubris, they tear down the statues and the icons, paint the walls pink, replace the wooden pews with luxury stadium chairs (maybe cupholders would be a nice touch?), take a sledgehammer to the high altar, set up a flimsy Ikea table, push the Tabernacle off to the corner, and innovate with water guns and clown masses.
Let’s not forget telling the priest to turn his back to God and face the people so they can see his performance. And get the people—the impure, dirty people—involved in the Mass. Toss them a wafer and serve up some wine that they might imitate the priest.
And, God forbid, anyone should be bored by repetition. So remove the repetitions, both within and between Masses. Let no two Masses look alike. Hold brief choreography classes before each Mass, instructing the people on this New Liturgy crafted just for today. Teach them to think in the moment, forgetting the eternal for the eternal reminds them of death, and death is a bring-down we must avoid, for the Mass is about their happiness, their unity, their feelings. And God will be happy because His people are happy even if God didn’t get the gifts He put on His list but, instead, He receives the gift of the happiness of these people gathered in His name.
What Trads Want Is Irrelevant #
Again, while I have the greatest admiration for Dr. Kwasienski and agree with all of his arguments and lamentations, I maintain that the feelings of Traditional Catholics are irrelevant. What matters in all of life, but especially at the Holy Mass, is what God wants.
Scriptural evidence of what God wants from our worship is most clearly represented by Exodus 25-30 and 35-40. Those Divine instructions are detailed, ornate, precise, pure, repetitive, and exclusionary. They demand attention to strict detail and assign duties and limitations according to one’s state in life. To priests alone is the power to offer a sacrifice pleasing to God.
C.S. Lewis said that humility is not thinking less of oneself but thinking of oneself less. In his motu proprio, Francis finds no room to consider God’s will, only his vendetta against those who try to please God over man. Francis is not trying to offend God. Even that would be an act of humility as it would indicate the pope is thinking about God. Instead, Francis is, as usual, thinking of himself, his predilections, and his legacy. Just as he accidentally broke the First Commandment with the whole Pachamama scandal, with Traditionis Custodes Francis seems to have offended God by trying to please man.
The right way to respond to his vicious and rigid motu proprio is to update the popular JPII-era cliche and ask ourselves: What Would God Want?
Before answering, read and meditate Exodus 25-40.