How Francis is Attempting to Complete the Destruction of the Church Begun by Paul VI.
Author’s Note: I drafted the following text on August 6, 2016, but never published it. When reviewing it and slightly updating it in December 2019, I was struck by how much worse the situation has become since the summer of 2016, and how all of my evaluations had been confirmed by subsequent events. Although this document could be considerably expanded, it is better to leave it as a brisk pencil portrait of a Roman Pontiff who would beat the worst Renaissance popes at their own game.
IT HAS BECOME fashionable to say that Pope Francis is not a liturgical revolutionary. It’s true that he did not rush at the traditional rites of the Church with jackhammer and dynamite the way Paul VI did, leaving a pile of rubble and a sign marked (with mordant irony) “Renewal.” But in his own more devious way, he has made a series of strategic moves that seek to canonize the revolution and immobilize the opposition.
Since the religious are the heart of the Church, any lasting renewal must come from religious orders; therefore Francis has made it his special care to obstruct their progress.
The attack on the religious life so far has had three prongs.
- The suppression of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate. Imagine if the popes in the 13th century had chosen not to support Francis and Dominic. That’s what happened this time under Bergoglio. One of the most vibrant and growing orders in the Church was quashed because it had rediscovered and embraced the traditional liturgy. This was meant as a shot across the bow: “You existing orders, do not imagine you can take up again the old Mass. If you do, you know what fate awaits you. Those of you who are being permitted to use the old Mass, be careful not to cross me.” Thus the religious life is bullied into silence. How many times have I heard priests and religious confide to me: “If we did (thus-and-such)? Or said (this-and-that)? Well, then we’d suffer the same fate as the FFI.”
- The creation of stricter rules about bishops erecting institutes in their dioceses. It is true that this limitation cuts against any new orders, whatever perspective they may have. But since the most vigorous new blood in the Church is traditionalist, it is primarily directed at them (without seeming to be so).
- The step taken against the spread of traditional contemplative sisters through Vultus Dei Quaerere and Cor Orans. This is perhaps the most diabolical of all the things he has done to date.
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