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Reflections On Pope Francis’ Anniversary

March 19, 2023 Frontpage No Comments


For the average person, the fact that Pope Francis — the 266th Pope — has been Pope for 10 years is something they probably hadn’t noticed. It has been a papacy marked by many issues that have been covered by mainstream media.
Whether he intends it or not, Pope Francis makes news, and often headlines, and definitely, that makes history!
From the beginning, Francis indicated that he didn’t think his Papacy would be a long one — a couple of years at the most, he said — but as time has passed, it is longer than that, and it isn’t over yet. Not too long ago, he referred to the Papacy as a job for life, but then he also made comments that his retirement might depend on how he feels and the state of his health. He gave no details.
It’s a given that he has health problems, although there are no public statement on the details of his condition. He’s had surgery, has weight issues, and walks slowly with a cane. There are times when he uses a wheelchair. He has referred to the fact that he is tired, but for a man of 86, these conditions are not unusual.
While there are many issues that Catholics can focus on to criticize Pope Francis, the most recent is his current stand on the Traditional Latin Mass, the Tridentine Rite. He reversed the decisions on that Mass by his Predecessor, Pope Benedict, who liberalized the practice of the Mass in Summorum Pontificum in 2007. Francis dropped the hammer on current, growing practice and has undermined it worldwide!
There has been increased support for the Traditional Latin Mass across this country, if not throughout the world, and for a while, the Vatican did nothing to stop it. Until now, when Francis recently imposed broad restrictions on it — who can celebrate it, where and when.
Special permission from the Vatican must be obtained before the Mass can be celebrated anywhere, worldwide. Catholic News Agency explained it clearly in an article last month:
“Some Catholics who attend the Traditional Latin Mass are awaiting the next steps from their bishops after the Vatican ordered the dioceses to get approval from the Holy See before they can authorize Latin Mass celebrations within parish churches.
“After Pope Francis issued an apostolic letter on July 16, 2021, to restrict the Latin Mass, bishops from across the country enforced the mandate in a variety of ways. The letter, titled Traditionis custodes, directed bishops to designate one or more locations in which priests can celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass. However, the letter states those locations cannot be within an existing parish church and the bishop cannot erect a new ‘personal’ parish for those celebrations.
“In some dioceses that already had thriving Latin Mass communities within parish churches, bishops granted broad dispensations that allowed parishes to continue offering the Latin Mass as before. Many of these bishops invoked Canon 87 of the Code of Canon Law, which allows a bishop to dispense the faithful from certain disciplinary laws within his jurisdiction ‘whenever he judges that it contributes to their spiritual good.’ In some cases, the dispensations were temporary; in other cases, they were meant to be permanent….
“Even though many bishops believed they had this authority, Canon 87 adds that a bishop cannot invoke this authority when dispensations are reserved to the Holy See. On Tuesday, February 21, the Vatican issued a clarification to Traditionis custodes to halt this approach. Arthur Cardinal Roche issued a rescript, a form of official clarification in response to a question or request, on behalf of the Vatican, which states that any dispensation to use or erect a parish church for the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass is ‘reserved in a special way to the Apostolic See,’ which means bishops alone cannot dispense these parishes.”
The preference for the “Old Mass” is not a rejection of the religion, but it is a visible showing of the preference of many Catholics for it over the Novus Ordo Mass, the Mass which came about after Vatican II. In fact, this conflict is the most visible point of disagreement between “traditional Catholics” and those who are comfortable with the simpler version of Catholic worship. At this point, we know where Francis stands on this issue and so far, he isn’t relenting.
As if this isn’t enough to stir the waters of the Church, Francis has been welcoming towards LGBTQ Catholics. Remember his statements of a while back which got an enormous amount of publicity in the secular press: “Who am I to judge?” and also, “Being a homosexual is not a crime.”
For traditional Catholics, statements like this from a Pope are unsettling and they search for the real meaning and intent behind them. And certainly, his tendency toward ambiguity has created confusion on many important issues.
Francis has been outspokenly against “gender ideology,” however.
The issue of clergy sexual abuse is one that Francis has faced — at first, not seriously, and then with great intent. He has admitted that the reality of the scandal hit him after a trip to Chile, where it was a rampant problem.
He is quoted as telling the Associated Press, “That was my conversion. That’s when the bomb went off when I saw the corruption of many bishops in this.”
The AP reports that the abuse of adults by clergy as well as the abuse of clergy by those in the Church are areas that Francis has recognized. At this time, apparently nothing is being done to rectify the situation. There seems to be a resistance to defrocking clergy abusers, even though Pope Benedict defrocked some 400 priests within two years during his pontificate.
Francis has been a great supporter of “synods” — a gathering of bishops who listen to each other as well as to the laity. He wants the Church to be a place where the faithful are welcomed, accompanied, and heard.
One result has been opening the door to letting divorced and civilly remarried couples receive Communion. In addition, the question of the role of women in the Church has been discussed as well as allowing priests to marry. As for the possibility of women priests — Francis continues to uphold the Church doctrine forbidding that.
Francis is the first Latin American Pope and there is no doubt he has made his mark. With widespread media coverage of his every move, meetings, speeches, travels, and comments — Francis is clearly the first Pope to have his every move recorded for history.
He not only has taken positions on religious and church issues, but he has made his mark on climate and environmental issues as well. While many Catholics hold that he has overstepped the bounds in doing that, it hasn’t stopped him.
It would be an understatement to say that Francis is man who speaks his mind.
Traditional Catholics want the Pope to be firm on definitive Church teachings and are confused and upset that Francis moves according to his own music. What that means for the future of the Church and how other Popes will deal with the pattern Francis has set remains to be seen.
There is no doubt, it will not be a smooth transition. Hang on, there might be some rough rides ahead!

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