Saturday, January 29, 2022

The Church's Troubling View of the Laity

Throughout his pontificate, Pope Francis has frequently spoken out against "clericalism", which he views as one of the preeminent problems in the Church today. The irony is that the Franciscan pontificate evidences a profoundly clericalist mindset, especially in how the pope has dealt with the traditional Catholic movement.

For example, in the letter that accompanied Traditiones Custodes, Pope Francis directed bishops "to discontinue the erection of new personal parishes tied more to the desire and wishes of individual priests than to the real need of the 'holy People of God.'" I remember being struck by this statement when the motu proprio was first published, and it has not lost its force with time. Here we see Pope Francis thinks that the initiative for parishes dedicated to the Traditional Latin Mass comes entirely from priests. He cannot conceive that the faithful themselves would desire such a thing. The faithful are a passive, inchoate mass that are simply being strung along by whatever the priest wants. 

This would be evidence of clericalism if it were true, but in fact the opposite is the case. Part of the wisdom of Summorum Pontificum was the way it assumed the laity's ability to truly take initiative for their spiritual welfare. Recall Article 7:

In parishes where a group of the faithful attached to the previous liturgical tradition stably exists, the parish priest should willingly accede to their requests to celebrate Holy Mass according to the rite of the 1962 Roman Missal.

The laity are presumed to have their own liturgical aspirations, which are legitimate and which priests are obliged to provide for—or even bishops in the case the priest denies the laity their wishes. But by the time we get to Francis, we see the current pope does not believe the laity even have "legitimate aspirations" about the traditional liturgy. He can't even conceive of it; he assumes the initiative behind the traditional movement comes entirely from priests.

This speaks to a larger problem: the modern Church's tendency to view the laity in an entirely passive manner. Despite all the talk about the "universal call to holiness", Vatican II, far from fixing this, made it worse. It reinforced a trend (developing post-1789) that the laity should focus themselves solely with practicing Christian virtue in the world, and leave the active passing on to the faith to a small clerical caste. Rather than viewing the laity as one of the principal ways in which orthodoxy is preserved and transmitted, they are instead meant to be symbols of Christ to the world, molded by the clerics, the chief cleric and spiritual master of your soul being the pope (the latter being a novelty invented by John Paul II because all other Church institutions in the West had collapsed). The laity are conceived in a passive sense, their job merely to "witness" whatever instantiation of the faith the Vatican in current years says they should. But they are not asked or involved in anything more 

If anything, what Francis says about the traditional movement is most applicable to his own initiatives. It was not the laity who came up with the idea of Pachamama. It was not the laity who asked for the banning of the traditional Mass. These things were the perverse conceptions of a small cadre of clerics bound to a moribund ideology, which they inflict upon the rest of the Church in the arrogant presumption that its for our own good. There is clericalism in the Church, to be sure, and the most clericalist of them all is on the throne of St. Peter.


Alexander Verbum said...

"It was not the laity who asked for the banning of the traditional Mass."

This also reminds me of the liturgical movement and the so-called reforms of the Mass after the council. They were all primarily done for "activate participation."

Now we have laity who want a certain liturgical tradition and are being denied. If the intention of the liturgical movement and the council was aimed at reigniting devotion and participation, then logically this is what you should want out of the laity (pursing the TLM and being serious about Mass), regardless of the rite or form of Mass. Period.

So yes, this is why Francis must use a framing device in order to say that it's about priests imposing the TLM instead of laity actually desiring it for their own good. Otherwise, it would make sense to have the TLM be free because that's what people want and it would align itself with the intention of the liturgical movement and the Second Vatican Council.

bc3b said...

bc3b -Unfortunately, Francis seems to view the Church as an NGO (Non-Government Organization) whose primary goal is to support worldly left-wing causes rather than function as a religious organization whose primary purposes are to worship God and save souls.