Huge gap separates Pope Francis from liturgical tradionalists

From the moment Pope Francis was elected on March 13, 2013 it was clear that a huge gap separated him from the so-called Catholic traditionalists – on liturgy, ecclesiology, ecumenism, moral theology and the Church’s social doctrine.

Despite their constant attacks against him, the pope showed a remarkable restraint towards the traditionalists – and not just because this is good Church politics, but because he does not like conflict.

“I don’t chop off heads,” he said a couple of weeks ago in interview with the Argentinian newspaper La Nacion.

“That was never my style. I’ve never liked doing that,” he insisted.

Indeed, we had become almost accustomed to the idea that Francis and the traditionalists were pretty much traveling on two separate and parallel paths in a “live and let live” sort of silent agreement.

But two recent developments indicate something important about the pope and the various forms of Catholic traditionalism.

The first took place on June 29 when the schismatic Priestly Society of St Pius X (SSPX) issued a communiqué that slammed the brakes on any hoped-for reconciliation with Rome. In a carefully worded text, Bishop Bernard Fellay – leader of the anti-Vatican II movement founded by the late-Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre (195-1991) – did not close the door completely on future developments in the SSPX’s relationship with Rome.

But he acknowledged that there was a great distance between the so-called Lefebvrists and the Church of Francis, while indirectly admitting there were also divisions inside their society.

End-of-June communiqués have become almost a tradition with the SSPX. After courting Benedict XVI for years, the three bishops of the SSPX (Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais and Alfonso de Gallareta) released a statement a several weeks after the former pope resigned pointing out the flaws in a famous speech he gave on the “two hermeneutics” of Vatican II. Continue reading

  • Massimo Faggioli is a Church historian and Professor of Theology and Religious Studies at Villanova University (Philadelphia).
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