We live in the midst of a “synodal renewal of the Church.” This Church “listens” and “accompanies” God’s people, especially those on the “margins” (the marginalized). Starting in October of 2023, representatives of the Catholic Church begin meeting in Rome for the First Session of the Synod of Synodality. Here, the Church takes the information gleaned from the various “listen sessions” and begins to identify new ways to “accompany” its people, again, especially those on the “margins.” Well, not all marginalized. Some, like the infinitesimally small number of Traditionalists who prefer the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM), get a deaf ear from the Vatican and the Synod of Synodality.
If the Church seeks true synodality, it must “listen” to all the “marginalized,” even Traditionalist Catholics. They, too, live, raise families, and worship under the same “tent” as other Catholics. Given the language throughout the synodal documents** concerning marginalized groups, the exclusion of Traditionalists comes off as a bit hypocritical.
For the record, as I stated in my first article for Patheos, I worship under the Novus Order Mass (NO). I attended the TLM once over a decade ago. I enjoyed it, but the extended time kneeling during the Mass killed my bad knees.
Pushed to the Margins with Traditionis Custodes
In July of 2021, in a surprisingly heavy-handed authoritarian move, the Holy Father effectively overturned his previous two predecessors regarding the approved use of the TLM. In the Apostolic Letter Traditionis Custodes, Pope Francis lays out strict norms (limitations) for the celebration of the TLM. Moreover, in his letter to bishops accompanying the other “letter,” the Pope explains this move as a need for the sake of “unity.” He states:
While, in the exercise of my ministry in service of unity, I take the decision to suspend the faculty granted by my Predecessors, I ask you to share with me this burden as a form of participation in the solicitude for the whole Church proper to the Bishops.
What are the new limitations?
- The TLM cannot be celebrated in parish churches or establish new groups to celebrate the TLM. (Article 3)
- No new faculties to celebrate the TLM can be granted without approval from Rome (Article 4)
- All existing priests who celebrate the TLM must request approval from their diocesan bishop to continue doing so. (Article 5)
To justify these extreme measures, the threat to unity must also be great. Furthermore, one would think that those who prefer the TLM must represent a clear and present danger, not only to unity, but the Catholic Church itself.
A Snapshot of Traditionalist Catholics
For this article, the Traditionalists referenced accept the Second Vatican Council (SVC) and do not think the chair of St. Peter vacant (sedevacantism). They represent those Catholics who prefer the TLM and accept Church teaching. True, some who do attend the TLM also deny the SVC and reject the papacy of Pope Francis, but those faithful and loyal need not get lumped in with those troublemakers on the outer fringes.
According to Catholic News Agency, only 150,000 Catholics celebrate the TLM within the US in locations associated with 700 of 17,000 parishes (remember, local parishes cannot host the TLM since Traditionis Custodes). Of this small group of Catholics, most (by a far margin) accept Church teaching over those who attend the NO. Surveys conducted by Fr. Donald Kloster of TLM Catholics in 2018 and 2019 showed:
- 1% approve of abortion (51% for NO Catholics)
- 2% approve of gay marriage (67% of NO Catholics)
- 60% have large families
- TLM Catholics donate 5 times more money than NO Catholics.
- 98% of adults ages 18 to 39 attend weekly Mass.
Of further note, according to a 2018 Gallup poll, only 25% of Catholics attended weekly Mass and a 2019 Gallup poll reported that 70% of Catholics do not believe in transubstantiation. Clearly, something appears very wrong with the NO Catholics and something very right with the TLM Catholics. Why then is the heavy-handedness against such a small group producing such positive results?
The Wrong Kind of Marginalized?
It appears that those who prefer the TLM belong to the “wrong kind” of marginalized group. As written before, the Holy Father seems to prefer some marginalized groups over others. If the group aligns more with progressive ideals concerning human sexuality, even if these ideals contradict Church teaching, the Pope exercises an extremely light hand (as with Germany). For these marginalized groups, words like “listening” and “accompaniment” get thrown around a lot. The real problem with the TLM crowd concerns their “backward” conservativism. Some of the harshest words use by Pope Francis get leveled at conservative Catholics. Conservative Catholics often challenge the Pope’s new vision for the Church (which the pope welcomes) and all Catholics can do by right (according to canon 212). For their crime of theological (and political) conservativism, TLM Catholics get authoritarianism, not “accompaniment.” And they feel no one listens to or understands them.
To Avoid Hypocrisy, the Synodal Church Must Listen to Traditionalists, Too
A synodal Church cannot ignore the Traditionalists within her. Those in the Church hierarchy that ignore Traditionalists mark themselves as worse than the idealogues they claim to fight against. Furthermore, the Vatican sends mixed signals by rewarding active dissenters within the Church and effectively punishing a small group of marginalized Catholics loyal to Holy Mother Church and uncompromisingly support her teaching.
Furthermore, such an approach only serves to intensify disunity, while also undermining Church authority. For example, why do the faithful need to accept the authority of a bishop if this same bishop does not accept the authority of Rome? To add to this, Rome does nothing of the significance of Traditionis Custodes to these bishops and even rewards others with cardinalates.
If Pope Francis desire a truly “synodal Church,” all the “marginalized” must have a voice, not only those currently favored by Church leadership and the world.
**The Language of “Marginalization” and “Hypocrisy” in the US Synthesis Document
In the US Synthesis, we read these words regarding the need to listening to the marginalized:
Closely related to the wound of polarization is the wound of marginalization. Not only do those who experience this wound suffer, but their marginalization has become a source of scandal for others, especially for some youth who perceive the Church as hypocritical and failing to act consistently with justice toward these diverse communities. [emphasis added]
Engaging and discerning with our sisters and brothers who experience the woundedness of marginalization, as well as those whose voices were underrepresented within the synodal process, will be essential for the unfolding of the synodal journey in our dioceses and in our country.
**The Language of “Openness” and “Listening” in “Enlarging the Space of Your Tent”
Listening as openness to welcome: this starts from a desire for radical inclusion – no one is excluded – to be understood in a perspective of communion with sisters and brothers and with our common Father; listening appears here not as an instrumental action, but as the assumption of the basic attitude of a God who listens to his People, as the following of a Lord whom the Gospels constantly present to us in the act of listening to the people who come to him along the roads of the Holy Land; in this sense listening is already mission and proclamation; [emphasis added]
Read The Latin Right’s other writing here.