“Respect must everywhere be shown for the feelings of all those who are attached to the Latin liturgical tradition, by a wide and generous application of the directives already issued”

— Pope St. John Paul II

Ecclesia Dei, #6.b


Semina verbi

It is undeniable that much of the resistance to Pope Francis’ magisterium, reforms, and pontificate comes from some Church quarters with a certain traditionalist leaning. In fact, one must also acknowledge that this resistance runs even deeper, into the heart of the Second Vatican Council (even if Francis has led to an increase in this resistance from people who did not completely reject the council previously.)

This sector of the Church is also well known for sacrificing mercy, accompaniment and pastoral guidance in the altar of “truth” (i.e. a mere spewing out of doctrinal statements without concern for the charity with which they are presented.) We see this in their usual criticism against what they have pejoratively dubbed “the Church of Nice.” Furthermore, their presence on social media denotes a strong, public and sometimes outright disrespectful contempt for the hierarchy, going all the way up to the Pope.

In this sense it is not strange that traditionalists have come to be well known for their “bitterness, anger, and lack of evangelical spirit.”

It is not me saying it, but rather Steve Skojec. For those who do not know him, he is one of the people leading this assault against the Holy Father. He has been one of the founders of notorious dissenter site One Peter Five and regularly tweets against Francis in very nasty terms. So, imagine my surprise when I saw that one of the people lamenting the “bitterness, anger, and lack of evangelical spirit” in traditionalist quarters was… Steve Skojec himself! Granted, it’s not current-day Skojec, but it’s Skojec nonetheless.

During my investigations on the topic, I have come across this 2008 article from Steve Skojec, and I can’t say that I was not moved. In it, Skojec makes a very insightful soul-searching in the traditionalist movement’s shortcomings.

“There was a time when I was an “angry trad,” when I lashed out at others as I clawed for a spiritual inheritance I felt was stolen from me. While this is probably a natural reaction, I now know it gained me nothing. There is no value in promoting the beauty of something when one’s conduct in so doing is itself repulsive (…) However justified it may be, traditional angst has always been counterproductive. If we desire to help build a better Church, one that honors its traditions and pays them the reverence they are due, we must conduct ourselves in a constructive fashion (…) I want to argue that position on its merits, and not be dismissed because I’m perceived as a member of a rancorous and unpleasant sub-group of Catholics. Those of us seeking to restore what we believe has been lost have some reputation-building to do if we want to avoid being painted with the broad brush strokes some of our peers have earned for us.”

Unfortunately, it seems like Skojec has already forgotten his own admonition. We can’t separate his article from the fact that it was issued soon after Pope Benedict XVI’s motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, where Benedict established new guidelines for the celebration of the traditional liturgy (the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite). This was seen at the time as a vindication of some traditionalist claims, so it is not strange that it might have appeased some of Skojec’s anger in a way that was reignited when Pope Francis was elected.

Still, we should not dismiss this 2008 confession, for it demonstrates that Skojec has the ability to grasp the problems raised by his conduct and the conduct of those who are swayed by his online presence to imitate him. The grain of mustard lies there, even if dormant, so the potential for it to be reawakened exists, even if it is contingent on the free will of the heart where it lies. Of course, there is a chance that Skojec has asphyxiated this grain of mustard irreversibly. We should not presume either way, for only God knows the heart of Man. However, I believe that this 2008 article may also plant mustard seeds in the hearts of other people who may have their ears more open to Skojec than the Holy Father. These may act as semina Verbi, i.e. seeds of the Gospel. If they are not smothered in their hearts, it is not our job to smother them ourselves, but to care for them so that they may yield abundant fruit.

The chance of conversion exists, even if it never fully materializes. As evangelists we should try to help God’s grace act and achieve fruition.


The Culture War mentality – an obstacle to evangelization and mercy

It is my firm belief that one of the strongest sources of dissent and division today comes from a sectarian view of the Church. This sectarian view is heavily influenced by American politics (Republican vs. Democrat) and ideologies (conservative vs. liberal), but ultimately it also exists at the doctrinal and liturgical level (traditionalist vs. progressive.) This has led to a Culture War mentality, whereby the other camp is demonized and scapegoated as the reason for all the ills of the Church. Popes and bishops are not viewed as authoritative interpreters of our faith to whose teachings we must give assent. On the contrary, the popes and bishops themselves are categorized according to which ideological camp they belong to and conditionally given assent only insofar as they validate one’s own faction. The Church ceases to be viewed as a unified Body of brothers and sisters, tied together by a Head (whose visible Vicar is the Pope,) but as a battlefield between competing worldviews, where victory over The Other is seen as the most important goal. Doctrine is weaponized to serve an ulterior agenda.

To be sure, this sectarianism has been promoted for many decades by the conservative camp. They tended to view their faithfulness to often-ignored Church teachings (namely Humanae Vitae) as a sort of stamp of approval that made them mouthpieces of Catholicism in their own right. A kind of Eucharistic police was set up, whereby they saw themselves (even if they had no authority to do it) as the ones who should decide who did not get access to communion, and to lobby for the excommunication of those belonging to the other camp. Those who would not perfectly fit in would be decried as CINOs (Catholics In Name Only) or Cafeteria Catholics… meaning, they were viewed as “not true Catholics.

This, in turn, led them to believe that anyone who didn’t divide the Body of Christ according to their preconceived boundaries was an enemy of the Church, even bishops (or, as we see today, the pope). Any attempt to reach out to the “imperfect” was seen as a watering down of truth, an intolerable compromise. This created in them a repulsion to words such a mercy and love, which ultimately makes Francis’ pontificate unfathomable to them. It is just too foreign to the way of thinking they have become accustomed to.

Pope Francis brings a perfect antidote to this way of thinking. Time and time again, he has warned us against turning Christianity into an ideology. By trying to reach out to the spiritual peripheries, he is indeed urging us to resist this sectarian, combative, and unmerciful view of the Church.

Nevertheless, this needs to be vigorously pointed out, because I see the seeds of sectarianism also being planted in the hearts of those who are faithful to the Holy Father. This malignant seed has not bloomed yet, but it lies in there, side by side with the semina Verbi. The one that thrives is the one our heart more earnestly esteems.

The ferocious (and sometimes Satanic) attacks made by papal critics has led some of his supporters to develop a natural and understandable reaction: push back in a militant fashion. Traditionalists are viewed as “not true Catholics,” they are mocked and insulted in social media, they are viewed as an enemy one needs to defeat, they are often confronted with more wit than substance in ugly debates. Sometimes laments are heard because the Pope and the bishops do not take a stronger stand against them, going all the way up to excommunication. This mirrors the radical traditionalist rhetoric perfectly.

However, I have tried to incorporate Pope Francis’ teachings and pleas into my own spirituality. For years I have been a part of that sectarian mindset that divided Catholics into “orthodox” and “CINOs.” If I desire to be truly faithful to Pope Francis, I must be cautious to not make the same mistakes again, even if I still occasionally fall into them. I’ve grown sensitive to signs of warning that people may be going down that malignant path. We must be wary of not betraying Francis in the hopes of defending him. There is no worse way to betray Francis than to sacrifice his teachings on the altar of expediency in the “battle” for the heart of the Church.


The papal strategy: mercy

This Culture War sectarianism towards traditionalists contrasts profoundly with the strategy employed by successive Popes, including Pope Francis. In this article’s opening quote, Pope St. John Paul II asks for respect for people with attachments to the Latin liturgical tradition. In a letter clarifying his own motu proprio on this topic, Pope Benedict XVI had this to say:

“It is a matter of coming to an interior reconciliation in the heart of the Church. Looking back over the past, to the divisions which in the course of the centuries have rent the Body of Christ, one continually has the impression that, at critical moments when divisions were coming about, not enough was done by the Church’s leaders to maintain or regain reconciliation and unity. One has the impression that omissions on the part of the Church have had their share of blame for the fact that these divisions were able to harden. This glance at the past imposes an obligation on us today: to make every effort to enable for all those who truly desire unity to remain in that unity or to attain it anew.”

I really think that this quote is very “Franciscan” (i.e. consonant with Pope Francis’ pontificate.) In fact, I believe the most striking act of papal outreach  (more than liturgical accommodations to satisfy traditionalist demands), came from Pope Francis himself. At the end of the Year of Mercy called on by Francis, he issued the apostolic letter Misericordia et Misera, in which he allows the faithful who attend churches officiated by priests from the quasi-schismatic Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) to receive the sacrament of Penance.

The status of the SSPX in particular, illustrates the papal strategy. To be sure, the Popes had the right to simply declare this society as schismatic. After all, Pope St. John Paul II, in the same motu proprio where he asked for respect for traditionalists, explicitly described the ordination of new bishops by the SSPX (without the approval of the Holy See) a “schismatic act” and excommunicated those bishops. But even though the Popes had the right to declare the group in “schism,” they did not do so. Right now, the SSPX enjoys a more grey-area status, a society in an irregular situation.

I cannot avoid but see the parallels between the Pope’s attitudes towards the irregular situation of SSPX and the irregular situations of the divorced and remarried. In both instances, we see not a blanket condemnation of those who do not follow adequate procedures (and actually, those who do not adhere to the fullness of the Church’s doctrine,) but an almost desperate, maternal attempt to take any vestige of attachment to the Church to try and bring those who have strayed back into the fold. This is what mercy looks like. How ironic that those who are enjoying such mercy, vilify mercy so much!


Avoiding collateral damage

Nowhere is a Culture War mentality more obvious than in the attitude one takes towards “collateral damage.” The acceptability of collateral damage is part and parcel of a warrior outlook, but not of a Christian one.

What do I mean when I say “collateral damage“? I’m talking about those who are traditionalists, but who are unjustly targeted through guilt by association. I mean, those who have traditional-minded liturgical preferences, but who exercise those preferences in full communion with the Vicar of Christ and within the bounds specifically granted by the Church. For me, these are the true traditionalists, for as John Paul II says in his motu proprio Ecclesia Dei, there is no more traditional belief than the need of unity with the Pope.

A Culture War mentality mandates that people are categorized into very well-defined ideological camps. These camps serve a manicheistic function, in that one camp will be assigned the role of “evil” and the other the role of “good.” The end-result is that people get labeled (namely as “evil” or “enemies”) on account of very shallow categories. One of them, is the traditionalist label.

As soon as someone manifests his/her traditional preferences, he/she will be automatically considered as one and the same as all those radical traditionalists at the root of the resistance and division against the Pope and the legitimate bishops. They will be labeled as anti-papal and anti-council extremists, even if they submit to the authority of the Pope and Council. This is unjust and is actually more akin to the mentality of the papal critics than to the mentality of the Popes: an extreme lack of nuance and incapability to discern that people are more complex than simplistic ideologies can ever account for.

There are many virtues in progressivism that I admire, and one of them is the ability to not judge people based on discriminatory labels. This is why progressives can grasp that, just because a large number of terrorist attacks are carried out by Muslims, this does not allow us to discriminate against all Muslims as if they were terrorists. The actions of a few rotten fruits can’t be the source of further hatred, like Islamophobia, for this creates a vicious circle out of which one can only break out of through the power of love.

Using discriminatory labels to lump all people together in order to scapegoat them breeds nothing but contempt. It pushes moderates further down the path of extremism. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy, for by cutting off the chances of dialogue and integration, it generates fundamentalists in the same groups accused of fundamentalism.

Popes, on the other hand, have been very precise in differentiating between legitimate traditionalists and the unlawful ones. Both John Paul II and Benedict XVI call “legitimate aspirations” to their yearning for a traditional liturgy that fulfills them spiritually. In their motus proprios, both pontiffs have urged bishops to be “generous” in attending their calls. And Pope Francis says about traditionalists: “we have to meet with magnanimity those who are tied to a certain way of prayer.” In the end, even if we can’t fulfill their liturgical requests, respecting them is what Popes unequivocally ask us to do.

Another noteworthy target for collateral damage, though not as important as people, is traditional Catholic culture. It has become commonplace among Francis supporters to make fun of the liturgical paraphernalia that characterizes traditional sensitivities. The capa magna, the red shoes, the pomp, all are mocked as anachronistic, over-the-top, incompatible with the Gospel demands for simplicity and poverty.

Though I sympathize with this, I also note that these have been a part of our history and culture. They have been, for the most part, relegated to our chronicles and museums, but still, they should be respected. It is my firm belief that only by knowing who we have been (with the good and the bad, the comprehensible and the incomprehensible,) can we really know who we are right now, what we have forsaken and why, and what we have built upon. And only by knowing who we are right now can we know who we can become while staying true to ourselves.

Another admirable virtue in the progressive camp is the ability to not judge bizarre cultural expressions in light of our own cultural preconceptions. A progressive would rightfully criticize someone mocking a Sikh turban or an African tunic. Likewise, most Catholics would frown upon someone making fun of the attire worn by some Eastern Catholic priests, or their liturgical traditions. Why would we have a double-standard towards traditionalists? We should be consistent in how we apply our principles and tolerate first and foremost the strangeness of the Other whose strangeness we feel more compelled not to tolerate.


Listening and understanding

When asked about why so many people prefer the traditional liturgies, Pope Francis answered:

“I always try to understand what’s behind the people who are too young to have lived the pre-conciliar liturgy but who want it. Sometimes I’ve found myself in front of people who are too strict, who have a rigid attitude. And I wonder: How come such rigidity? Dig, dig, this rigidity always hides something: insecurity, sometimes even more… Rigidity is defensive.”

One may disagree with the Pope’s diagnosis (I, for one, think he is spot on,) but one must also see in this answer one thing: the Pope “always tries to understand.” When faced with such a person, we have to “dig, dig.” Why is this person behaving like this? What are his/her concerns? How can I help him/her get back to full communion with the Church’s teachings, namely the post-conciliar ones?

Reading Skojec’s piece has given me some insights into the concerns of traditionalists and radical traditionalists alike. Of course, “understanding” in no way means “legitimizing.” Radical traditionalists are wrong for behaving the way they do towards the Pope. However, it is only by understanding their arguments and concerns that we may be able to more effectively establish dialogue. And only through dialogue may we be able to persuade them. As I said in a previous piece, only by extending love, even to sinners, are we able to open up their ears to what we have to say.

For me, in all honesty, the liturgy wars brouhaha is extremely trivial, focusing too much in externalities and not on the core of Christianity. For me, these divisions are too unimportant to exist. But I have to understand that for many people, it is not like that. And I should try to understand their concerns even if (or especially if) I don’t partake of them.

Or, as Benedict says in his clarification of Summorum Pontificum:

“It is true that there have been exaggerations and at times social aspects unduly linked to the attitude of the faithful attached to the ancient Latin liturgical tradition. Your charity and pastoral prudence will be an incentive and guide for improving these.”


Balancing orthodoxy and mercy

Of course, one of the papal critics’ many problems is their inability to balance orthodoxy with mercy. For them, mercy can only come about through a watering-down of orthodoxy. We should not fall into this error.

The mercy we extend to them is not to be made at the expense of post-conciliar doctrine. In his Ecclesia Dei, John Paul II clearly defined and condemned the errors of Lefebvrites as “an incomplete and contradictory notion of Tradition.” Benedict XVI, on his end, specifically stated that he did not want the application of his motu proprio to be a source of divisions or to detract from the authority of the bishops, so using the Extraordinary Form to foment this is obviously illegitimate. And Francis has also stated that, in spite of our magnanimity towards those who prefer this kind of prayer, “the Second Vatican Council and Sacrosanctum Concilium should carry on as they are.”

In Amoris Laetitia (AL) #243, Pope Francis states, regarding the divorced and remarried: “The Christian community’s care of such persons is not to be considered a weakening of its faith and testimony to the indissolubility of marriage; rather, such care is a particular expression of its charity.

Likewise, the mercy extended to radical traditionalists cannot be considered a weakening of the liturgical reforms from the Second Vatican Council, but be a particular expression of it. In the end, what’s at stake is an ecumenical council and Pope Francis’ ordinary magisterium. On those, we can never compromise.


The problem of the unrepentant ones

Unfortunately, many radical traditionalists will remain unmoved even if we show them all the mercy and love in the world. In this case, what should we do?

It is noteworthy that even in Francis’ mercy-oriented pontificate, mercy is not seen as unlimited. Pope Francis has said many times that we should not presume on God’s mercy, for God’s justice eventually comes.

Regarding the accompaniment of the divorced and remarried, Francis has this to say in AL #300 (emphasis mine):

For this discernment to happen, the following conditions must neces­sarily be present: humility, discretion and love for the Church and her teaching, in a sincere search for God’s will and a desire to make a more per­fect response to it.”

Love for the Church and her teaching” — this includes the teachings from Pope Francis and the Second Vatican Council. A person with no humility and love for the Church and her teachings cannot be a part of this process of accompaniment, as defined by Pope Francis’ mercy.

Later on, AL #297 reads:

“Naturally, if someone flaunts an objective sin as if it were part of the Christian ideal, or wants to impose something other than what the Church teaches, he or she can in no way presume to teach or preach to others; this is a case of something which separates from the community.”

“Something other than the Church teaches,” I remind you, includes inventing excuses and cop-outs to justify not granting assent to the Second Vatican Council or to Pope Francis’ magisterium.

What to do about those who behave like that? If their hearts are closed to any call of conversion, at least in the meantime, we should not force them, but also remain vigilant in order not to stoop down to their level, lest by doing so, we blemish our own testimony. For these cases, Jesus Himself tells us to shake the dust from our sandals (Mt 10:4) and to not cast pearls before swine (Mt 7:6). In this sense, I think Pope Francis’ silence regarding his critics is imbued with a great deal of wisdom.


Humility

In the end, we should not be as concerned with how we should handle traditionalists and papal critics as we should be with how we handle ourselves. We should take this opportunity to reflect on the mistakes that led so many once orthodox people down the path of dissent and rejection of papal authority. We must try to convert ourselves before we try to convert others. Once we do, then the correct way to handle the papal detractors will just flow naturally from there. On that regard I confess I am still a little green, but I’m working to get better.

I think that one of the mistakes we are more prone to, along with the Culture War mentality, is the Chosen People mentality. This mindset has been at the root of much of the rejection of God’s will since Old Testament times. We spend so much time defending the Church, that we start to think that the Church owes us something, that the Church can’t act without our blessing, that the Church is some kind of shared property.

Our defense of the Church is a noble effort to be sure, but not necessary. God does not need us to defend Him. He does not owe us when we defend Him. On the contrary, we are just being “useless servants,” doing nothing more than what we ought to do (Lk 17:10).

In my previous article, I explained how I think those who follow Pope Francis and all the rest of Church doctrine are the true remnant. People might think these words of mine are presumptuous and proud. Not so. As I explained there, being a remnant is not an honor, but a responsibility. It is not something we earned, but something bestowed upon us. The remnant does not exist for its own sake, but to perform a function. What function? To show God’s mercy to sinners, including papal detractors. In fact, it is even more important to show mercy to those, in order to overwhelm them and “shame” them with that mercy they so constantly denigrate. If a person boasts of being a part of the remnant, that person has already shown not to be a part of the remnant. I sincerely think that this has been one of the crucial errors done by radical traditionalists.

Another part of being humble means that we should accept diversity within the Church, even (or especially) the diversity we do not understand or do not agree with. The Catholic Church has a variety of legitimate liturgies, and this includes the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. To accept (and even celebrate) this diversity and not to impose on others our own liturgical preferences is also extremely Catholic (meaning “universal“). Only the Pope and bishops in communion with him have the authority to set the limits of what is liturgically acceptable or not. And they have stated that the Extraordinary Form remains legitimate. In fact, according to Benedict, it “was never abrogated.

In the end, how should we behave when we encounter a radical traditionalist? Humility must force us to admit we do not have an all-encompassing answer for that. In the beginning of this article I decried the labeling of people, and I stand by that assertion. Each person is an individual and therefore, our evangelization should be tailored accordingly. This is the logic of AL, and it should permeate our ministry.

I think it would be worth it to finalize with C.S. Lewis’ “Apologist’s Prayer“:

 

” From all my lame defeats and oh! much more

From all the victories that I seemed to score;

From cleverness shot forth on Thy behalf

At which, while angels weep, the audience laugh;

From all my proofs of Thy divinity,

Thou, who wouldst give no sign, deliver me.

.

Thoughts are but coins. Let me not trust, instead

[of Thee, their thin-worn image of Thy head.

From all my thoughts, even from my thoughts of Thee,

O thou fair Silence, fall, and set me free.

Lord of the narrow gate and the needle’s eye,

Take from me all my trumpery lest I die”

Amen

.

[Photo: Pope Francis celebrating Mass ad orientem at the Sistine Chapel; credits: AFP] 

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34 Responses

  1. Avatar Ralph says:

    On the subject of the loss of our spiritual inheritance after Vatican II, I would point out to traditionalists that Pope Francis has always been a defender of popular Catholicism and that includes many traditional forms of devotion like saying the rosary, religious processions and the veneration of saints and the Virgin Mary. In fact, Pope Francis played a major role in propagating the veneration of Mary, Untier of Knots in Latin America after having viewed the original painting in Germany. This is a far cry from the image that some people have of Pope Francis as some kind of radical who wants to do away with all forms of Catholic tradition. In fact, Pope Francis was an opponent of some of the more progressive Catholics in Latin America who saw popular devotions as superstitious and anachronistic.

  2. In my opinion, it’s helpful for the sake of clarity and precision, to distinguish between legitimate traditionalists (I am almost one myself, but not quite) and what I have coined “radical Catholic reactionaries.” I define the latter title here:

    https://www.patheos.com/blogs/davearmstrong/2012/12/definitions-radical-catholic-reactionaries-mainstream-traditionalists-and-supposed-neo-catholics.html

    • Pedro Gabriel Pedro Gabriel says:

      It’s a good point. For the sake of being better understood, my article uses the term “traditionalist” for the legitimate ones and “radical traditionalist” for the ones outside communion with the Church.

      In another article I have also used the term “fixist” to denote the latter too.

      • I don’t, myself, claim that the “radical reactionaries” are outside communion. That’s exactly why I include the word “Catholic” in their title. If someone was actually outside, I’d call them a “schismatic.”

      • Pedro Gabriel Pedro Gabriel says:

        Thank you for your words. For the record, I would never say that someone who is baptized and has not formally apostatized/excommunicated is not Catholic. However, I do think that many Catholics, even if not schismatics, are not in communion with the Church. This is not meant to be interpreted in a technical, official and excluding way, but in the most literalist meaning of the word “communion”. Someone who is in communion would be at one heart with the Church.

    • Avatar Mike Lewis says:

      Dave,

      I think you did a great job of parsing the distinctions between the various groups being discussed, and I agree with your distinctions. Additionally, I think some in these groups have developed new names in recent years: “Red Pilled” or “Recognize and Resist” come to mind. Pedro has coined the term “Sola Traditio” and I have called them “Followers of the Imagisterium” in the past, both of us emphasizing that when they reject the authority of the pope’s teaching, they’re relying on private judgement as their magisterial authority.

      But most of them refer to themselves as Traditionalists, or “True” Traditionalists. In dialogue with them, sometimes it is more useful to use their own language, even if it’s not accurate.

      • Thanks for your kind words. I agree to an extent, but the problem is that when the wackos and extremists try to co-opt the word “traditionalists” it gives the authentic traditionalists a bad name, and that’s not fair. Therefore (I reasoned), we had to create a separate category to make this distinction clear. “Radtrad” served this function for several years, but it was inadequate, because real traditionalists started complaining (far too often: as in a huge tiff at Catholic Answers)) that this term meant that ALL traditionalists are radical. That was never the intent, but since it was widely misunderstood, I thought we needed a different term, and came up with one myself.

  3. Avatar Joaquin Mejia says:

    Many people think that our idea of a “good Catholic” is someone who is faithful to doctrine but is very strict and rigid. I think that might be one reason why I love Pope Francis so much. He is showing people that a good Catholic is not strict or rigid bit merciful and understanding.

    I must also admit that I wondered where people got that idea in the first place when St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI were also always talking about love and mercy(though I guess all our saintly Popes teach that!). But now I realize it is not because of the Pope’s but because of the people who failed to follow their teachings.

    • Pedro Gabriel Pedro Gabriel says:

      For some reason, it was easier for biased Catholic media to bury JP2 and Benedict’s teachings on mercy than Francis’

      Now they cannot maintain their appearance of being Catholic while ignoring the actual teachings of the Pope, so they have to attack and undermine the teaching authority of the Pope himself.

  4. Avatar carn says:

    May God bless your effort to show mercy to everyone, especially to those whom you considered to have erred and sinned, and especially all your attempts to “shame” with mercy.

    There are just two minor pitfall:

    “Listening and understanding

    When asked about why so many people prefer the traditional liturgies, Pope Francis answered:

    “I always try to understand what’s behind the people who are too young to have lived the pre-conciliar liturgy but who want it. Sometimes I’ve found myself in front of people who are too strict, who have a rigid attitude. And I wonder: How come such rigidity? Dig, dig, this rigidity always hides something: insecurity, sometimes even more… Rigidity is defensive.”

    One may disagree with the Pope’s diagnosis (I, for one, think he is spot on,) but one must also see in this answer one thing: the Pope “always tries to understand.” When faced with such a person, we have to “dig, dig.” Why is this person behaving like this? What are his/her concerns? How can I help him/her get back to full communion with the Church’s teachings, namely the post-conciliar ones?”

    This approach can be perceived as very disrespectful, arrogant and totally lacking mercy.

    Why?

    Cause it presumes that the actual reason for the position of the other person is somehow hidden and must be digged out; the tricky thing is, that this might well be true; but it can also be false; and then this approach might be received as nothing but “You are too dumb to understand yourself, i know you better than you know yourself”.

    “It is my firm belief that one of the strongest sources of dissent and division today comes from a sectarian view of the Church.”

    While you are correct that this view fuels the problems, you seem to think that (and sorry if i’m wrong there):

    “To be sure, this sectarianism has been promoted for many decades by the conservative camp.”

    this view is so to say not based in reality.

    But that i think is false; as evidence i think the information in BXVI’s text from this week is sufficient, that there were seminaries in which people caught reading his books were deemed unsuitable to be priest due to that; if – at least that fits the timeframe – there are seminaries in which reading books by the head of the CDF counts as disqualifier for priesthood, sectarianism is a real thing.

    And still the view of sectarianism can fuel the problems.

    So the difficult thing would be to both stand against a view of sectarianism which fuels the problem, without denying that sectarianism exists (and is also a problem a little longer than the last 2 decades).

    But except for that good luck.

    And thank you for that:
    “There are many virtues in progressivism that I admire, and one of them is the ability to not judge people based on discriminatory labels.”

    As i presumed that you talked there in political terms, so about political progressivism, i had a good laugh. Cause i had to think fondly of a discussion long ago in which i only inquired, whether unborns are living members of species human in the biological sense, and received as a reply by “progressives” a picture taken by police of a dead woman lying in her own blood together with condemnations that i personally am responsible for that woman dying and that i am a supposedly a monster (as the woman died before i was born, that was really over the top).

    And i also got my share of being called a member of a “Kinderficker-Sekte”.

    So to put it positive, i really, really hope that there are scores of progressives who are as you claim progressives are; but please do not be depressed if one day you come along progressives which fail to live up to the ideal you describe. (And no, that does not mean that any other side is more tolerant; in my view they only differ which groups they are tolerant to and which they discriminate against)

    • Pedro Gabriel Pedro Gabriel says:

      Of course I didn’t want to convey the idea that only conservatives were responsible for the sectarianism. I just highlighted their role in the sectarianism because at one time they viewed themselves as orthodox and all others as “not true Catholics”. This must be highlighted, not to blame conservatives, but so that those who nowadays view themselves as orthodox for following Francis may avoid falling on the same trap.

      Also, bear in mind that I talked about the virtues of progressivism, not of progressives. There is a subtle, but crucial difference in that wording.

      Other than that, I thank you for your words. God bless

  5. Avatar M. says:

    Problem is, showing mercy to radical traditionalists as defined in your terms, is going to be taken by them as being patronized. Many times, the radical traditionalist assumes that they are on the moral high ground, and takes great offence at the idea that they may need the same mercy and understanding from others that all men do. I think we have to be very careful in wording, or the conversation dies before it can begin. I tried to read your article from the perspective of a traditionalist, as many of my friends are- and sadly I have to admit that I would take offence if I held their positions, simply because no one can be reached when we take a position of I am right and you are wrong… even if you really are right, and they are wrong, the conversation has to start with “what areas do we agree on?” Maybe from there, we can move gently into a discussion. But overall I like your article, mainly because I agree with you.

    • Avatar ONG says:

      M.:
      What about Divine Mercy?

      Is there ANY difference between God’s mercy and human mercy for you?

      If yes, which Mercy is Pope Francis teaching?

    • Avatar Mike Lewis says:

      M.,

      I don’t think the audience for this particular article is meant to be (anti-Francis) traditionalists, because it presupposes that they are wrong about Pope Francis. It’s directed towards those of us who have favorable views of Francis, and is asking us to evaluate our own behavior. Its intention is simply different. A similar scenario would be an article entitled “showing mercy towards pro-choice people.” It’s intended to speak to other pro-lifers, not to pro-choicers. How much would a pro-choicer get out of such an article? Would they find it patronizing?

      I do think we have many posts that address the core issues and arguments in the current debate. Some are more charitable than others. But (like Pedro) I do agree that more charity is in order from our “side,” even if we aren’t shown any by those who disagree with us.

      • Avatar M says:

        Ok that makes sense. I guess I had something else on my mind and was thinking for some reason that the article would be read by radical traditionalists, or, I don’t really know what I was thinking, actually! I should save my comments for those moments when my caffeine is doing its job. 🙂

      • Pedro Gabriel Pedro Gabriel says:

        Mike Lewis is indeed correct. The audience here is the people who have to deal with the radical traditionalists. That’s why I thought it could help you, since you were sad because you didn’t know how to deal with your relatives

        It was not directed at them because you told me that they would not read me anyway, that anything I would write would be dismissed as Francis propaganda

        I will write an article directed at them before Easter (the final of this mercy series,) but I really think they will take offense, because it is very direct.

        As an apologist with no special connection with those people, all I can do is try to enumerate the reasons why I think they’re wrong and urge them to reconsider. You, on the other hand, as a person they know and love, are in a better position to establish rapport and open hearts. Remember Francis (and Benedict and JP2) idea about making your point through attraction, not proselytism.

        Either way, good point in establishing dialogue by focusing not on what divides us, but on what we have in common. And let me add one more thing I missed on my article: prayer. Prayer like St. Monica. Only through God’s grace can they become more open to hearing the reasons of why they are wrong

        I sincerely wish you and your relatives the very best. God bless

      • Avatar M. says:

        Thank you, Pedro, for reminding me that only God’s grace can do the work. What part I have in it is up to Him. Thank you for your beautiful and very helpful writing. I must tell you my favorite article was the translation you did of the short story awhile back- it was wonderful. This website has been an amazing faith builder for me, and the charity and lack of backbiting truly is so refreshing and a good example for all of us. We love you, WPI!

      • Avatar Marie says:

        This makes total sense. Im going to try to bite my tongue a little more around family, as clearly it has not been effective. I can’t however, ignore when the attacks come, I’ll just have to try to be a little kinder in my response, as I feel I’m really losing patience with it all.

  6. Avatar M. says:

    ONG: Hello. To clarify, I completely agree with Pedro Gabriel, one could say I am a fan, but… I keep looking for articles everywhere which I could send to my traditionalist friends, articles that wouldn’t offend them, put them on the defensive, or fall on deaf ears, and it is hard to find. So my comments were relating to that problem, not a commentary on Divine Mercy or something.

    However, I would like to answer. Can you clarify your question? Of course there is difference between God’s mercy and human mercy, but my comments, not really addressing that issue?

    • Avatar carn says:

      “articles that wouldn’t offend them”

      Very difficult.

      To sidestep the subject matter and concentrate on the problem of not to offend:

      Ponder the example of pro-life/pro-choice mentioned by Mike Lewis. Ever tried to politely discuss with the other side the respective different stances?

      I often was there and it is rather difficult. Cause what is an absolute normal and harmless statement for one side, causes burning anger in the other and viceversa.

      Every single time a single word is placed such by a pro-lifer, that a pro-choicer understands it as indication, that a woman might be by the state forced to give birth against her will, the pro-choicer might see someone declaring that women are to be breeders at the mercy of the state and men, so that an entire class of humans is degraded to subhuman status; and anger will flare up.

      Every single time a single word is placed such by a pro-choicer, that a pro-lifer understands it as indication, that a unborn human being is from itself a worthless nothing and at the mercy of the woman (or whoever manages to manipulate/pressure the woman successfully), the pro-choicer might see someone declaring that human rights are not inherent but willed into existence by whoever is in the position of power, so that not only an entire class of humans is degraded to subhuman status, but that the idea of human rights is discarded; and anger will flare up.

      I literally saw some pro-lifer and pro-choicer trying to talk to each other, both willing to talk and yet within a few sentences the only reason why they were not tackling each other maybe was, that one of them was a young woman and the other was an older priest; if they had been two young men, the argument would have probably continued with fists instead of words.

      Situation is probably not as bad between the groups discussed here; but you are right that offense is easy to give in the discussion.

      • Pedro Gabriel Pedro Gabriel says:

        You are correct. What M. is looking for can probably not be found in an apologetics site.

      • Avatar M. says:

        I think you are right, because, I get caught up in wishing I could say “the perfect thing,” or find “the perfect article” to pass on and fall often into the trap of thinking I could maybe change some hearts with the click of a few buttons, sending off the more potent words of others, since I’m not the best at concocting my own! But, this is not possible, and it is not going to be that easy. It always seems like it should be easy to convince a devout Catholic to be faithful to the pope and to respect him and his office. I find myself utterly bemused at discovering that a few simple words just won’t do the trick, because of some websites that control the narrative where I live and have led almost everyone I know down the garden path. 🙁
        Thank you for helping with your writing, I look forward to your next installment. I am very sorry if my comment came across as critical, I was trying to express something difficult to put to words.

    • Avatar ONG says:

      M.:
      Yes, hello.
      It’s difficult and time consuming to follow and get involved with every comment and every post, so I try to “build bridges” with keywords that could be used in all occasions.
      I was actually continuing the thread on Mercy posted in Pedro’s previous article in response to Andrew .
      I saw now you had commented there also about *your problem*, i.e. how to reach your friends without offending them.
      Well, I don’t know who your friends are and what they say, therefore I wouldn’t know how to build bridges with them and what articles you are looking for.

      In your previous comment on the Remnant article you wrote that “sadly, this page is just written off as ‘Francis Apologetics’ and they will not read…”

      Well, if that is their main problem, you should IMO. break it into sub-topics and focus on one at the time. Reading the other comments and replies here could help you compare similar issues with your friends’ ones. You often find links to other posts.
      However, whatever name or connotation one would give to “those who promote to resist to Pope Francis” is always related to what arguments they use, but they still are jeopardizing their communion with the living Church and are teaching /misleading others to do the same.
      Do they this on purpose, or because of ignorance?

      Being offended, you say? Sure, also the Scribes and Pharisees were always offended and murmured against Jesus all the time! Pax Christi.

      PS: Please use the ‘Reply’ option when answering as to remain on the same subject. I doubt though I will have the time to continue today.

      • Avatar M. says:

        Thank you ONG God bless you! I have little time to read of post, often days go by and then it is just too late to reply, but I wanted to just say thankds anyway, in case you got the chance to read this.

    • Avatar Jane says:

      Dear M, With regard to your wanting to send articles to your friends, I must say that I myself have tried tried tried. One can directly quote St. Catherine of Siena from a book, etc, and still receive no openness to her statements, even though she is a saint. I have to sometimes step back from it all, learn my Faith some more, and pray, sacrifice and fast for everyone I love who is dissenting. Then I realize that the life of a person in a monastery is one of just that. They do no go out and defend and say anything to the world in their humble and simple cells. They just pray and sacrifice and fast. And that does more for moving hearts than the most eloquent of arguments. God Bless you 🙂

      • Avatar M. says:

        Thank you Jane!

      • Avatar Jane says:

        You’re welcome M. I have to remember too, that anything I say today may take effect in someone’s heart 10 years from now, as opposed to the way I would have it: today 🙂

        Happy Palm Sunday and God Bless you
        God Bless ‘Where Peter Is’
        Long live Pope Francis

  7. Avatar Jane says:

    I just came back here to Where Peter Is after a week of defending Our Holy Father, a priest who defended him, and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who just publicly thanked and condoned Pope Francis, in a document he issued earlier this week. The uncharity from those who disagreed with what I was trying to say was enough to cause great distress in me. But my firm conviction, as your article speaks, is that I must NOT lose my soul while attempting to save others’. I can lose my soul by returning reviling comments with reviling comments. I must remember that I must treat every person online as if they were my friend, as if they had Christ my Lord within them, and as if we were speaking face-to-face. I must not let what is being said online, make me angry with my family, or the devil has won. I must not lose my soul while attempting to save others’.

    That being said, THANK YOU for this oasis of peace and charity and a deep and humble searching for TRUTH.

    In the end only LOVE/CHARITY will remain. God Bless you

  8. Avatar Jane says:

    What about those persons who value tradition and “truth” and have caused grave hurt and pain to others by their uncharity and lack of mercy, in the name of their understanding of “truth,” and while not outright disobedient to Pope Francis, choose to disregard the things he would say to them that would heal the grave, deep and painful wounds they have caused to the ones they should love and embrace?

    I suppose bitterness runs deep in a person who has experienced this pain. But in the end, they too must forgive and love those who have rejected them in the name of “truth.” They must heed Pope Francis’ own words to not judge the other, while suffering the condemning judgment of the other.

    It’s a very difficult thing to do, but possible with the grace of Almighty God. God bless you and thank you for this article.

  9. Avatar M. says:

    Dear Jane, I think that what you describe is the opportunity to be crucified with Christ. That sense of helplessness, of being unable to move, to make your point, of being misunderstood and maligned in the name of “truth,” and of letting the other have that “gotcha moment” over and over again- where we end up trapped like a bug on a pin- lets us feel something of what Christ must have experienced. The sneering they don’t know they are doing, the eye-rolling they don’t know they are doing, the ugliness they are not aware they are participating in- Maybe letting them do this to us without returning tit-for-tat is the only way we *can*reach them? He said with no bitterness or resentment “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” I pray to have to grace to say the same, it is a very painful and frustrating position to be in, but it is also an opportunity to suffer wit Christ. Let’s pray for each other today.

  10. Mark Hausam Mark Hausam says:

    With regard to connecting with the extreme Traditionalists (or whatever we want to call them), I think that one important thing we can do is take their concerns seriously and make that a part of the dialogue. They do have valid concerns. They are trying to safeguard the teaching of the Church over the centuries. They recognize that the values and beliefs of the Church aren’t always the same as those of the world (as Pope Francis recently called attention to in Christus Vivit), and that it is very easy for us to compromise and slide into the secular beliefs of the culture. They want to try to resist this and to remain Catholic despite that pressure. They want to avoid a sloppy kind of “mercy” that would water down moral truths and keep from people the hard truths that they so often need to hear, allowing them to keep going along a path that is wrong and harmful to them. They want to speak truth to the culture, even when it is counter-cultural.

    All of these are very good and praiseworthy concerns. It’s just that they are having trouble balancing these concerns with other, equally important concerns, and they have put too much trust in their own private judgment and its ability to navigate these complicated waters over trust in God’s guidance of his Church through the Magisterium and particularly the Apostolic See.

    I think it is also helpful to be careful not to assume bad motives. The critics of Francis complain that Amoris Laetitia gives a pass to adulterers, because the critics tend to oversimply the motives of people in “irregular” situations, as if they must all be defiantly choosing to live in grave sin, instead of recognizing the confusion that human psychology is capable of, especially in a world where so many mixed messages are flying everywhere and people can get their lives into such huge messes. Pope Francis wants pastoral care to recognize the complexity of where different people are at. So let’s be very careful not the make the same mistake with the Francis-critics, assuming they are wilfully arrogant, etc. I’m sure that many of them are really trying to do the right thing. They are truly concerned that they have a moral duty to oppose Pope Francis’s teachings. They are legitimately confused about how papal authority works, and how they should process the controversial issues, especially because there are so many mixed messages out there in the Catholic world about these matters. Sure, some of the critics probably have bad motives, but probably many of them don’t. I think we ought to assume good will of people whenever the facts allow us to do so–and if we understand the complexity of human psychology, we recognize that this is very often the case.

    It’s a difficult balance–standing up for truth and being merciful to people. But it’s a balance we’re all called to try to achieve as best we can.

    • Avatar Mike Lewis says:

      I think you bring up some important points — these papal critics really do believe they are standing up for truth and are trying to protect and defend Catholic morality.

      What often gets frustrating is their unwillingness (or inability) to understand or engage the nuance involved in some of Francis’s writings, or to even entertain the idea that their view of ecclesiology and papal authority is a huge departure from what the Church actually teaches. One gets hit with the same arguments over and over (“What about Honorius?” “Vatican I says that the pope is only infallible when he makes an ex cathedra statement,” “Ratzinger said the pope is the servant of truth, not the master!”, etc.). Soon we start seeing the people as little more than the arguments they put forth. And that’s a trap I fall into easily.

      But I suppose that’s the point of this piece: to have charity towards those whose views we disagree with and whose arguments we find frustrating.

  11. Avatar Gonçalo Sena says:

    The 10 commandments are a mercy from God. We sinners must embrace them to avoid hell. Otherwise they would not be commandments, but advices.
    It’s a spiritual work of mercy to admonish the sinner and to instruct the ignorant.
    To leave a sinner in sin is not merciful, it’s a form of spiritual violence, that outrages Jesus.
    Forget the terms ‘conservative’, ‘liberal’, etc.
    God will make us just one question: What have you done?
    Our life will give the answer, not our words, opinions and feelings.
    And we will be embraced by heaven or hell.
    So don’t try to change the commandments (God knows them all), don’t dare refusing them, learn to love them, as best friends that leads your soul to the friendship of God.