The family split in the Matt family, which formed the two different conservative newspapers, the Wanderer and the Remnant respectively, is perhaps a microcosm of conservative movements in the Church here in the United States (in Europe, Latin America, and elsewhere, it is similar but different in many respects, e.g. European traditionalists I have known find the American Traditionalist obsession with women wearing skirts and veils puzzling. Thus not all issues are the same. So what I am going to say here is only intended with reference to the situation in this country).
The former, took the view that you cannot criticize the Council or the Mass, and in the chaos of the 1970’s and 80’s, that those who sought to restore or even make widely available the Traditional Liturgy were misguided or backward, instead what was needed was a “Reform of the Reform,” that was the only way to be truly faithful to the Church. Those in the Matt family who felt this way continued the “Wanderer”, and embraced the position which tends to be called “conservative” embracing the “reform of the reform” as its plan for protecting the Church.
The latter, on the other hand, embraced a wide range of views, which have these two in common: a) The ambiguous language of the Council which at least appear to be in error, and b) the New Liturgy is problematic and needs to be rejected in favor of the Traditional liturgy which developed organically. The side of the Matt family that felt this way went on to found the Remnant and moved in this direction, which is broadly called “Traditionalist”.
Those who are familiar with these issues need not have that introduction, and are no doubt aware that the issues involved are more far reaching, just as there are a multiplicity of views in both camps. Yet, the overarching point here is that the former, the “conservatives”, or as I call them the “neo-conservatives”, for decades denigrated Traditional Catholics, arguing that Traditionalist positions are schismatic, or lead to schism and pressed home their view that the Traditional Mass was abrogated, and there can be no debate over Vatican II, etc., were proved wrong on every single point by Summorum Pontificum of Benedict XVI. The Traditional Mass was never abrogated, moreover, prominent theologians who are anything but Traditionalist, such as Cardinal Brandmueller, Athanasius Schneider, et al., have questioned how authoritative at least some of Vatican II’s teachings are. So it is not schismatic to question certain parts of the council which at least, appear at variance with the Tradition.
Nevertheless, the neo-conservatives continued pushing the Reform of the Reform, arguing that the solution to the future was not the Tradition or the Traditional Mass and at best the NO and TLM will merge one day and produce the reform Vatican II had in mind. Once again, the neo-conservatives have been proven wrong, and by none other than the Pope himself.
On 19 February of this year, Pope Francis gave a conference to the clergy of Rome. In it, he made the following remarks, which are nothing other than a repudiation of the work of the conservative side for decades.
“However, the Pope noted that there are priests and bishops who speak of a ‘reform of the reform.’ Some of them are ‘saints’ and speak ‘in good faith.’ But this ‘is mistaken‘, the Holy Father said. He then referred to the case of some bishops who accepted “traditionalist” seminarians who were kicked out of other dioceses, without finding out information on them, because ‘they presented themselves very well, very devout.’ They were then ordained, but these were later revealed to have ‘psychological and moral problems.’ It is not a practice, but it ‘happens often’ in these environments, the Pope stressed, and to ordain these types of seminarians is like placing a ‘mortgage on the Church.’ The underlying problem is that some bishops are sometimes overwhelmed by ‘the need for new priests in the diocese.’ Therefore, an adequate discernment among candidates is not made, among whom some can hide certain ‘imbalances’ that are then manifested in liturgies. In fact, the Congregation of Bishops – the Pontiff went on to say – had to intervene with three bishops on three of these cases, although they didn’t occur in Italy.” Source (My emphasis)
The import of Francis’ statement cannot be merely explained away, as the neo-conservatives attempt with nearly everything he does and says which is opposed to their program.
Therefore, the first part of the analysis must concentrate on what does Francis mean by “traditionalist?” We know that in the whole of his pontificate he never names those who foster the Traditional Latin Mass, regardless of whether they are in the SSPX, or the FSSP, any other TLM order, or a diocesan supplied TLM, as “Traditionalist”. He calls them “Pelagian”, “self-obsessed”, “prideful”, “chasing fashions” etc. When he uses the word Traditionalist, he means those who take the conservative approach to the Novus Ordo. This is also seen in the context. These “traditionalists” that he is talking about, are priests ordained by “Bishops” in their dioceses. He is not talking about TLM orders and he is certainly not talking about the SSPX. He is talking more about the long suffering FFIs, and priests in parishes of the same or similar mind.
Next, let’s look again. He says: “Some of them [who seek a reform of the reform] are saints, or are in good faith, but are mistaken.” Given what Francis has said about those attached to the Traditional Mass exclusively, he is not calling them “saints”. He is talking about the mainstream of the Church. Translation: Those who think that the Vatican II program can be interpreted and refined along the lines of the Church’s immemorial tradition are “mistaken”. In my opinion, he is absolutely right in this.
The architects of Vatican II’s ambiguous statements and funny thinking, did so to convince the council fathers to agree to them, only to use them after the council for their own purposes. This is also true in liturgy. The spirit of the Novus Ordo liturgy, is pure accommodation to the whim of the priest and community. This was expressed by Bugnini, the architect of the Novus Ordo, and the visible implementation throughout the world. We can also look at the Congregation of Rites (later CDW) which responded to questions in the 1970’s about the fact that the Novus Ordo had no rite or rubric on how the altar should be incensed. Some bishops asked whether they could use the rubrics of the 1962 missal, and the Congregation of Rites responded: “By no means may the old rubrics be assumed.” This is the metaphysical principle of the Novus Ordo, it is a NEW liturgy, created by committee. It is NOT supposed to act in continuity with the Church’s immemorial tradition. It is a spontaneous creation of the “new pentecost”, and for Francis, those who want a Reform of the Reform, act against this spirit, by trying to import a foreign ideology (something from the Traditional Liturgy) into the Novus Ordo.
The import of Francis’ analysis, is that under his pontificate, the Reform of the Reform is dead. The work of Fr. Fessio and many others, decades worth of work, is “mistaken.” That is: wrong. This does not just refer to notions of the liturgy, but those who practice them. Let’s look again at the statement on seminarians promoting the Reform of the Reform. “He then referred to the case of some bishops who accepted “traditionalist” seminarians who were kicked out of other dioceses, without finding out information on them, because ‘they presented themselves very well, very devout.’ They were then ordained, but these were later revealed to have ‘psychological and moral problems.'”
Some have suggested that this refers to the Bishop of Paraguay having received the Society of St. John after they were kicked out of Scranton. The Pope does not name whom he has in mind but we can discard this explanation for the whole of what the Pope is talking about. Fr. Carlos Urrutigoity, the founder of the suppressed Society of St. John, worked as a secretary to Bishop Plano in the diocese of Ciudad de Este, yet he was accused of no crime while he was there in Paraguay. Certainly, Fr. Urrutigoity should be called to answer for his crimes here in the US without any question. Yet it does need to be noted, those who knew Urrutigoity relate he had a lucid mind, and was a brilliant thinker, but concerned with “aesthetics”. It is probably this side of him that ingratiated him with Bishop Plano in Ciudad de Este. Nevertheless, while in Paraguay he committed no crimes, nor did Bishop Plano, as Fr. Lombardi admitted. Rather, Bishop Plano fostered the Reform of the Reform in his diocese, and he was “out of touch” with the other bishops who did not. Bishop Plano was deposed because other bishops complained about his friendliness toward Tradition. Yet no particular “psychological problems” or crimes were noted amongst the priests of his diocese, let alone Urrutigoity. So as a particular of what the Pope is talking about of accepting priests with problems, this explanation is a non-starter. Yet, it may very well be what the Pope is talking about as far as the “Reform of the Reform” goes. Bishop Plano was “mistaken” on the reform of the reform. He is an exemplar of what Pope Francis is talking about in particular, by celebrating reverent liturgy, but embracing the Church’s tradition, which for Francis, means excluding mercy.
It is clear, as I noted, that the Pope is talking about seminarians in the normal dioceses, as in not those who exclusively celebrate the TLM. He is saying that these men are psychologically imbalanced, which “manifests itself in their liturgies.” Translation: Celebrating the liturgy reverently, with Latin, chant, ad orientem, is a manifestation of a psychological problem. Or, pursuing the reform of the reform produces psychologically imbalanced people, who manifest this psychological imbalance in their liturgies.
Without a doubt, such thinking will apply to Traditionalists too, but only as an effect of his main target: those pursuing the “Reform of the Reform.” When we view the outright persecution of the FFI, we can without a doubt draw the conclusion that there is no room in the Francis pontificate for Fr. Fessio, and anyone embracing that view point, because they are a “mortgage on the Church”.
Now we can stop and look again at the Pope’s remarks, and say, who are these psychologically messed up seminarians? If he were honest, he would have to acknowledge that the “mortgage on the Church” comes not from conservative or “traditionalist” clergy, but from the homosexual clergy who raped young boys, it is the latter who bankrupted dioceses and have crippled the Church’s moral voice. That does not mean conservative bishops have not been just as guilty in shipping these – things – around, or that no conservative clergy have been found amongst their ranks. Rather, those who exercised Francis’ brand of mercy and ordained homosexual clergy, have left the Church bankrupt.
Now let’s go one step further, are there no progressive clergy that end up mentally unbalanced? Aren’t they a problem? Apparently not for Francis, because that is the essence of the Vatican II reform, the progressive message of subjugating the inheritance of the Tradition which Christ entrusted to the Church to aberrant notions of tolerance and mercy – simply to surrender to the world. Those who try to reform that, protecting the inheritance of the Sacred Tradition, are not with the Vatican II program, and when we look at the implementation of Vatican II throughout the world, one can not but agree with the Pope on this point.
So again, as in everything else, the neo-conservatives are “mistaken.”
Update: The original had the analysis of the Matt family backwards, I had said that the neo-con branch went on to found the Wanderer, and the latter continued the Remnant, I meant to write it the other way around and made this error due to my time constraints. It has been corrected above. I apologize for that.