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The Dirty Secret is, They're All Judases
Traditiones Custodes is being wielded as a weapon against the Catholic faithful by the very pope and bishops they're supposed to obey.
Heads up: The following is a bit of an inside baseball post about things going on in the Catholic Church, which I still can’t seem to look away from. It began its life as a couple of social media posts I wanted to mash together in one place. If you’re not interested in this topic, I have some other stuff brewing that I’ll hopefully get to write about soon.
I first began my journey to Catholic traditionalism in the diocese of Arlington, Virginia in 2002. My gateway drug was a Novus Ordo Mass in Latin, offered ad orientem, with sacred music, at St. Catherine of Siena in Great Falls. The next year, my wife Jamie and I were married in that parish. In 2004, we moved back to Phoenix, where we originally met, and began attending the “indult” there - a Traditional Latin Mass offered with the express permission of the bishop — something that had to be granted anywhere a TLM was offered in the days before Benedict XVI ended the lawless bureaucratic suppression of the TLM in 2007 in his motu proprio letter Summorum Pontificum. Over the years, as we’ve moved back and forth across the country, we’ve exclusively attended the TLM. We did so right up until my faith imploded last year under the weight of the relentless absurdity, contradiction, and scandal that has issued forth from the Church. The closer my work took me to examining what was really going on in the inner workings of Catholicism, the more it eviscerated my ability to believe in the Church’s extraordinary claims.
A year later, still trying to overcome profound feelings of anger and betrayal over the idea that I was manipulated in giving half of my life to something that may well be a lie, I find myself grinding my teeth yet again as the evidence in support of my departure continues to mount — especially in the wake of Pope Francis’s Traditiones Custodes, which I accurately described a year ago as an “act of war against faithful Catholics.”
Phoenix isn’t the most tradition-friendly diocese in the country, but under its previous bishop, Thomas Olmsted, it was a place where the Latin Mass was consistently tolerated, if only within the very limited confines of the single, too-small parish belonging to the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter. Just last week, however, I saw that in the wake of Olmsted’s retirement, the diocese has been given a new, notoriously gay-friendly bishop whose strategy for post-TC liturgical warfare has yet to be seen.
The Washington DC Archdiocese, where my family and I attended St. Mary Mother of God for years, has just axed almost all TLMs, including the long-standing one at that parish. Even the Washington Post gave some space to the tragedy:
Now, the Arlington, Virginia diocese, which was our other long-time home and has been one of the most prolific in allowing the Latin Mass at regular parishes, has taken draconian steps to follow suit.
Allow me to steal a summary I saw on social media of what Arlington’s restrictions entail:
Arlington, one of the most conservative Roman Catholic diocese in the country, just axed most traditional Masses:
Reduced from 21 to 8 parishes
Most must be celebrated in alternative locations (gymnasia, adjacent halls), not in the church itself
Cannot be celebrated on major feasts (ex. Triduum)
Mass times cannot be listed in the bulletin, emails, social media, etc
No old sacramental rites permitted at all (baptism, etc)
Permissions may be revoked entirely after 2 years
End goal is explicitly to transition everyone off the traditional Mass, as pastors are instructed to develop a “pastoral plan” to guide their flocks to embrace the Novus Ordo
As I’ve attempted to disentangle myself from the Catholic traditionalist movement I called my spiritual home for most of the past 20 years, I have made no secret of the big problems I have with the ideological, catty, ruthlessly judgmental and dour aspects of traditionalism, which, despite many protests from defensive trads, are not just online phenomena.
But I have been, in my anger and hurt, too neglectful of the very good people I know who were drawn to that movement for the same reason I was: the devotion and desire to be good and faithful Catholics, to love and worship God the best they can, and to teach their children the same. These salt-of-the-earth people do not deserve this. But they will not be spared. In fact, they will be brutally crushed under the Church’s hierarchical boot.
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The pope and the bishops and many of the priests hate the faithful they exist to serve, and they hate the faith they exist to protect. And according to Catholic theology, God has placed them in authority over both. This is mystifying to me. The same God who, according to long-held belief, allowed the already-vanquished Satan into the garden to tempt his innocent new creatures is also allowing Satan to run amok in his Church, possessing its leadership and weaponizing their God-given power over those compelled by divine command to submit to them. As a father, I cannot fathom this. It would be like allowing rabid dogs into the enclosure of my yard as my children are playing, and just standing back to see how things play out.
I’m honestly surprised how hard the news has hit me. I haven’t been to Mass in over a year, and even so, my blood boiled when I read what they are doing. I hate them right back, these contemptuous, retributive, evil sons of bitches. I spent my life being made to be afraid of “ever speaking ill of a priest.” But these are stone-cold villains who hide their malice behind roman collars and episcopal miters.
When I saw the tweet directly above this line, I was immediately struck, yet again, by the ludicrous nonsense Catholics are being asked to accept.
The most obvious explanation for such a violation of the law of non-contradiction would be: "this whole thing is a fraud, these people are liars, and none of them can be taken seriously." Taken objectively, it would be hard to conclude that anything else that could be treated this way could possibly be truly important, especially when its own guardians look upon it with such contempt. It certainly couldn't be deemed important enough to call "sacred."
So Catholics have a real dilemma.
Either a thing is so sacred no man has the power to drastically alter or do away with it, or men are claiming a power over that thing that they do not possess.
Either the Mass is sacred and the papacy dare not attempt to treat it otherwise, or the papal power is supreme and unaccountable to anyone on earth, and the pope can do whatever he damn well pleases to the liturgy.
The idea that, "The pope will have to answer for this later" isn't a sufficient rejoinder. The whole reason the papacy exists is so that the faithful have a leader to follow in the OPPOSITE direction of perdition. The number of souls that have been scandalized right out of the Church in the past 60 years because of popes and bishops using their God-given authority to suppress the sacred is incalculable. Most Catholics grew up with the idea that popes can't err in faith and morals. The average person would assume, based on a plain reading of that language, that this includes the liturgy, which is Catholicism’s central act of faith. But dogmatic theologians have, in their desperation to preserve the dogma of infallibility, defined it down to a useless absurdity. Essentially, the only time a pope is infallible is when he says something already firmly entrenched in the deposit of faith, and only when he says it in an incredibly circumscribed and specific way. If he says anything even slightly contrary to perennial teaching, it auto-magically "doesn't count." And by the way, infallibility evidently does jack squat to stop him from constantly doing that "doesn't count" stuff under the auspices of his own claimed authority, including heresy, blasphemy, the contradiction of established teaching, and the like.
Which is why the dogma of infallibility isn't even worth the paper it's printed on.
When the pope is doing "doesn't count" stuff, theologians will tell you, you can just safely ignore him. Despite the required religious obsequium per Lumen Gentium 25, where you're demanded to just assume he's right whenever he flaps his gums (until proven otherwise). So good luck knowing when you can or can't dismiss him, since you have to BE a theologian to parse the texts and try to understand their authority and weight. Good luck feeling confident that you're right and the pope is wrong about stuff that's way above your pay grade.
And then, for extra poops and giggles, those same theologians will also concede that the pope IS the Supreme Legislator of the Church, and so his decisions on matters of discipline and governance like liturgy, while "prudential," still have the force of law, even when NOT infallible. So suck it up buttercup. Take your Christian gaslighting like a man. Go to the catacombs, but don't disobey! But if you DO disobey, do it in such a way where you still claim to be loyal to the guy you're disobeying! And remember not to leave Jesus for Judas!!!
The dirty secret is, they're all Judases. And none of this makes any damn sense. This is a mess that can't be cleaned by the human hands that wrought it, and God has shown no sign of stepping in.
And so we are left with a ridiculous, unsustainable tension. The liturgy is central to the life of the faithful, but it’s hardly the only battleground where everything that once was certainly true is now subject to being declared false. The Church will implode trying to maintain Papal Supremacy and liturgical/theological integrity simultaneously.
And maybe that's for the best.