Pope Francis Derangement Syndrome Vol. I

Pope Francis Derangement Syndrome Vol. I October 4, 2013

Oh dear dear. Facts facts. Who has time for facts?" (John Tenniel, 1865, public domain)
Oh dear dear. Facts facts. Who has time for facts?” (John Tenniel, 1865, public domain)

It is irony, and worse than irony, to ponder. The very same lysergic, Francis-bashing acid, which one can buy—almost on a daily basis now—Mr. John Bugay, that trippy anti-Catholic man in Pittsburgh, is also being sold by some Catholic bloggers themselves; many of them the most sane and well-intentioned souls this side of Purgatory.

Now, obviously, one expects all this from Mr. Bugay. I will dispatch with him. But I don’t intend to conclude my review of Pope Francis Derangement Syndrome (PFDS) in Pittsburgh. PFDS is a mental fog—a hookah-inhaled hallucinogen—that has put a lot of already stoned minds, and some sharp ones that should know better, into a tripped-out purple haze: whether of paranoia (Catholic traditionalists), pink elephant sitings (liberal media and Catholic progressives) or a hazy and tiresome spiritual certitude (Mr. Bugay). If you suffer from it, consider this series of posts your chance to get clean. Logic and truth are the best and only antidotes for any trip, however bad. Feed your head.


Anti-Catholicism has long been John Bugay’s hookah. Thus on September 17, in search of more weed to feed his addiction, he took an Alice-dive down the rabbit hole and chased after the panicked rumor, of dubious origin and marginal authenticity, that Pope Francis was going to throw the Latin Mass under the bus, to the wolves, into the fire, out the window, and a host of other clichés, and leave it for dead. To announce this fast and credulous tumble into Wonderland, Mr. Bugay posted an article on his blog, with the absurd and dishonest title “Pope Francis vs. Pope Benedict.”

The subject was Francis’s recent disciplinary action against the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate (FFI). Unless permission is given, the congregation is now forbidden to celebrate Mass in the usus antiquior, or Tridentine rite, as had been allowed by Benedict XVI’s motu proprio Summorum Pontificum. In his great care and concern to get the story right, Mr. Bugay cited a source. One source: this article by Sandro Magister in Chiesa. We shall need to sort out what it says and, just as important, what it does not say.

In reality, the freedom to celebrate the Mass in the ancient rite that Pope Joseph Ratzinger had guaranteed for all with the motu proprio “Summorum Pontificum” no longer has universal extension today, because it has been revoked by his successor for one religious congregation and consequently also for the faithful who attended its Masses.

Oh. So why was it revoked, and why for just this one congregation? Does Pope Francis have a Jesuit’s score to settle against the Franciscans? That would seem to be an obvious question. But Mr. Magister does not say, at least not here. As for Mr. Bugay, he blasts his post out before an anxious world and does not ask.

Many lovers of tradition are afraid, in fact that this restriction placed on one of the pillars of the pontificate of Benedict XVI will soon become a more general impediment.

Oh. Scared, huh? Afraid, huh? So it’s mere fear we now appeal to? And what—in certain terms, may I ask—tells us that this fear has any tangible basis?  No one says; no one asks; least of all the polemical rogue Mr. Bugay.

And what does PR conclude from all this? Well, first he says that “it is a clear case of Pope Francis vs. Pope Benedict on ‘Liturgical Reform.'” Next, he says that “one pope has shot down the deepest desires of a previous pope.” Then, he says that “the ‘thoughts of Joseph Ratzinger’ have been snuffed out by this new and popular pope.” Last, and with an originality of language that must be praised, he calls Pope Francis a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

Now at this point, if you have been paying attention, you may be asking the same question that occurs to my curious mind: Why does Mr. Bugay care?  Does he have a stake in which form of the Mass is allowed, which not? He calls Francis a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” for casting the Tridentine Mass to the four winds. Am I thus to conclude that Mr. Bugay is an advocate of Latin? Has he missed the incense all these years? Does he lay awake nights, unable to sleep, at the thought of just one more chant? Am I to believe that, if the Latin Mass were to be mandated for all time, he would beat a path back to the Catholic Church? Is anyone else smoking this?

But no. For Mr. Bugay, the Mass is a heresy whether it’s said in Latin or the vernacular. It is a heresy whether it’s said in the form of Trent or the form of Paul VI. It is a heresy whether it includes Gregorian chant or hip hop, clouds of incense or clouds of the Mary. So why is the poor, desperate man diving after this rabbit? After years away from the Church, does he have no place left to go but into the ground? Let’s look at his post and see.

For faithful Roman Catholics everywhere who take comfort in the security and stability of Roman Catholicism over the centuries, one pope has now shot down the deepest desires of a previous pope.

Oh. So there it is. Did you catch how Mr. Bugay frames the issue?  Yes, that all-important first paragraph! You see, he means for us to believe that Francis’s target practice at Latin and incense are somehow at odds with “security and stability.” He means for us to question whether the Church is truly as unchanging as Catholic apologists claim it is. That’s the trip he’s on; and his real point is to tempt the reader with this green leaf.

But what Mr. Bugay does not say is that the “security and stability” of the Catholic Church is a function of its unchanging doctrines. Even a man as Mary-bewitched as he ought to know that. The form of the liturgy, however, may certainly be changed, and no one has ever said otherwise. Even the Tridentine Mass has been around for fewer than 500 years. There was a time when it was as newfangled as the Novus Ordo. All this is inside baseball; it effects the truth of the Catholic Church not one whit, and it should not have Mr. Bugay as tied in knots as he apparently is. He cares about it just to the extent that he can use it as a weapon against the unity of the Church. Why, I ask, would any of us want to buy that drug?



Yet a deeper question remains:  Is Pope Francis suppressing the Latin Mass?  Are the fears to which Mr. Magister refers built on rock or on sand?  For insight into that question, let us go first to a man whose love for and defense of the usus antiquior is never in question: the Inimitable Fr. Z.  On July 29—a full two months before Mr. Bugay began dropping acid into his hookah—this is what Fr. Z had to say on the topic of Pope Francis and the FFI.  First he gave key background.

There was division among the FFIs about Summorum Pontificum, their use of the older form of the Mass, and criticisms made by some of Vatican II.

Oh. Well, that would seem to be important. You can’t just go mouthing off against Vatican II. But neither Mr. Bugay nor Mr. Magister mention this. I wonder why that is. But there’s more.

After Summorum Pontificum, a faction within the FFIs were making the Extraordinary Form the only form.

Oh. Well, that would seem to be important. Whatever else it did, Summorum Pontificum did not suppress the Novus Ordo. Universæ Eccelsiæ 19 (2007), setting the norms of SP, makes clear that groups suppressing the OF are not to be tolerated. But some in the FFI crossed that line into full-blown Latin Mass Onlyism.

Division ensued.  A Visitation resulted. … The FFIs will now have supervision, because they couldn’t get along over this matter.

Oh. Well, that would seem to be important. Context happens.  Now, Fr. Z is speculating at this point, but the gist of what he says is that the traditionalists within the FFI pushed for the usus antiquior in too hard-core a manner, the liberals pushed back, and the traditionalists lost ground in the end. Rome had to step in to stop the children from fighting. Says Fr. Z:

[I don’t think] Pope Francis is … against the usus antiquior. Francis, however, was a Jesuit, a religious.  He was a provincial. In his day, Fr. Bergoglio dealt with huge divisions in his community. He has insights into problems in religious communities. … He hit the “reboot” button for them. …

In any event, this decree probably has more to do with a matter internal to a religious community than it does with the older form of the Mass, though the older form was an issue of the division.

Two days later, on July 31—still long before Mr. Bugay posted his dumb article—the National Catholic Register (hardly an obscure source) published news of a statement from Fr. Alfonso Bruno, one of the FFI spokesmen. One would guess he might know what was going on; and he confirms Fr. Z’s words. The issue, Fr. Bruno says, is not the usus antiquior but “a small group in power” with close ties to the schismatic Society of St. Pius X.

Oh. Well, that would seem to be important. On his blog Mary Victrix, Fr. Angelo Geiger, also of the FFI, said this.

The restrictions on our community are specific to us and have been put in place for reasons specific to us. Pope Francis [Pay attention now, Mr. Bugay.] has not contradicted Pope Benedict.  The visitation of our community began under Pope Benedict [Oh, it began under Benedict, did it? Well, my, how a little fact changes things!] and the Commission was recommended by Cardinal João Braz de Aviz who was appointed to the Congregation by Pope Benedict.

What is being reported in the press and what has transpired within our community over the course of a number of years are two different things. [To think of that!]

As for Mr. Magister—Mr. Bugay’s one and only source—the National Catholic Register quotes Fr. Geiger as saying that he is “sensationalizing something he can only speculate about.”

Oh. Well, my, how Mr. Bugay is making his bed with Catholic traditionalists in his campaign against the Church!

To be sure, Fr. Z does not want Latin Mass-loving Catholics to hurt their own goals, and he insists they not get morose. Bashing Vatican II, Fr. Z says in his blog article—pay attention, Trads—is not wise. All that said, he also hardly believes that Francis is out to do damage to Summorum Pontificum. The “tough love” he refers to in his title is for Catholic traditionalists, not for Pope Francis.

So all this is a wee bit more complex than Mr. Bugay makes it out to be.  Truth be told, it has a lot more to do with an issue internal to the Church and to one religious congregation, as well as to liturgical differences among Catholics, than it has anything to do with the polemical rogue and his tiresome haze and burble.  For an anti-Catholic sensationalist who turned his back on the Church years ago, Mr. Bugay sure can’t shut up about the pope. He may have to come down from that trip by his own work.

But one would think he would take some care to get his facts straight before blubbering all over his blog. The sources I cited above were available months before and could easily have been found. But what Mr. Bugay does is to find one source—a source that affirms what he wants to believe. And rather than look more deeply into the facts, he leaps down the rabbit hole and finds himself smack in Wonderland.

The form of the Mass is our own concern, Mr. Bugay, and we will hash it out on our own. The day you go to Confession and return to the Church and show you care about the truth will be the day that I listen to what you have to say about the liturgy.


Postscript [2/3/15]. Fr. Angelo Mary Geiger, FFI, continues his good work of clarifying what he calls in one article the “paternal solicitude” of Pope Francis for the friars and defending him against attacks from the “Crypto-Lefebvrists” at Rorate Cæli and other like-minded blogs. See here. See here. See here. See here. See here. And follow his blog Mary Victrix.

Pope Francis continues to search for a suitable house for the FFI in Rome. For now, the seminarians are continuing their studies at a pontifical university there.

Also be sure to read Dave Armstrong’s well-documented paper on the orthodoxy and traditionalism of Pope Francis.


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