Pope Francis, Chess; His Opponents, Checkers

Pope Francis has a plan for the Church. His documents and decisions over the last 8 years have not been haphazard. He has a clearly thought out plan to the benefit of the Church. That is not nefarious or deceitful. It is perhaps what most Popes ought to do. And his planning and execution of the plan is like a grandmaster chess player.

But his opponents have no plan; they are reactionary only. They are like a four-year old playing checkers. They can’t see even one move ahead. They do not anticipate what Francis will do at all.

Rorate Caeli (which is Latin for “the rotating of the sky”*) is touting a pilgrimage to Rome in October, to speak in favor of Summorum Pontificum — the document that gave the Pope direct authority over the TLM, apart from the Bishops, — and against Traditionis Custodes, which gives the Bishops a much bigger role now. SP is not really good for the TLM, as it allows any Pope to directly authorize, and therefore by implication, directly prohibit, the TLM, REGARDLESS of what the local Bishop wants. So, you want to support SP? That must mean you are against the TLM. Because a better position is to support the authority of the local Bishops over their flocks, and then work with your local Bishop to get approval for the TLM. Instead, they wish to emphasize SP. That is not a smart move.

But my main point here is that supporters of the TLM are just reacting to what Francis decided in TC. That’s been the story since day one of his pontificate. They have no planning at all. They can’t think even one move ahead. They anticipate nothing.

By the time October comes around, Francis will have released his next big thing, whatever that might be. It will probably be released in early September. I think it might be approval for women deacons. And that will make Traditionis Custodes, compared by some to a bomb, seem like a firecracker.

Possibility One: Francis revives the non-ordained female diaconate. No one can argue against that, as it is historical. Scholars argue about whether female deacons were ever ordained (in the sense of the Sacrament of Orders) but all agree that there were female deacons who were at least non-ordained. Then every TLM community will be required to have non-ordained deaconesses. If they refuse, they can’t have the TLM. And then the next step, once ten thousand non-ordained deaconesses are in place, Francis could possibly release two documents, one teaching that women can be ordained as deacons, and the other modifying Canon law and the CCC and ordering the ordination of the previously non-ordained deaconesses.

Possibility Two: Go straight to teaching that women can be ordained as deacons, and instituting ordained female deacons in every dioceses. Any priest or community that rejects the deacons will be shut down. No TLM. Suspension of any clergy who disagree. And then, when the requisite clamoring begins, Francis could use Papal Infallibility to confirm his decision (or he could do that from the beginning).

So while the traditionalists are all proving Pope Francis right by treating him with contempt and acting with thorough disobedience, in reaction to restrictions on the TLM, they have no anticipation for what is coming next. They are playing checkers, and not even looking ahead more than one move, while Francis is playing chess. And, to mix the metaphor, he holds all the cards. When he opens, no one can close. When he closes, no one can open. Peter holds the Keys.

Maybe Not Deaconesses

I’m pretty sure that deaconesses will be approved under Pope Francis. It’s the right time, and he is the right Pope. But his September surprise could be something else. He could follow up the jab of TC with a right hand punch, the typical 1-2 combination. Recall that Human Fraternity was followed by Fratelli Tutti. And this would mean further restrictions on traditionalism: perhaps the suppression of FSSP and other orders.

All of these relatively new and popular orders are benefitting from an phenomenon in secular society: the rise of social and political conservatism. And these persons, who favor more traditional roles for men and women in society, who are conservative in politics, even very conservative, they want a conservative version of Catholicism. So while they tout the grown in numbers of TLM groups, there is a secular pressure working to cause that result. It is not all from grace and the Holy Spirit.

Test the spirits. If any of these groups call Lefebvre wise or holy, think the SSPX is not in schism, oppose the Pontificate of Francis, reject Vatican II, claim that Vatican I taught ultramontanism, and any similar positions, that is not of God. For God inspires each Ecumenical Council approved by the Pope. Each Council is indefectible, just as the Church and each Pope is indefectible. The popularity does not matter. If you start a church that approves of popular grave sins, you will have many members, but that is not of God.

And the claim that the Saints became holy by attending the TLM is absurd. There are Saints who lived and died prior to Christianity (Ss. Zechariah and Elizabeth. There are many Saints from the early Church, before Gregory I. There are recently canonized Saints like Carlo Acutis. Sainthood does not come from the exterior points of liturgical form found in the TLM.

As for the NOM, it is still at its beginning, like the TLM was in the 600s (or earlier). We can expect further developments in the NO Mass, and eventually we may have a much improved NO form — perhaps with the music limited to songs approved by the Church. (Now is not a good time for that, though, and the Bishops Conferences are not so effective at some tasks.)

What Else Might Francis Do?

We have to consider what other topics the Pope wishes to address for the Church. I would like to see him address other religions and the possibility for salvation for those who are non-believers or non-Christians and do not convert. That might follow well after Human Fraternity and Fratelli Tutti. The other issue that he could address, and this is something I would expect more from a conservative Pope, but it fits his situation, is the authority of the Popes and Councils over the faithful. Pope Francis might dogmatize Vatican II, using Papal Infallibility to declare that every definitive teaching of every Council on faith or morals is infallible.

I really believe that Pope Francis will use Papal Infallibility during his Pontificate, in the sense of a formal definition. (My readers might recall my opinion that every definitive teaching of every Pope is infallible.) And that use of PI will come as a surprise to the papal accusers.

Note to Opponents of Pope Francis

You have no theology to back up your opposition to him. You have not proven that Popes are capable of heresy. You have not replied to the teachings of Vatican I on the authority of the Pope, his freedom from grave error, and his never failing faith. You cannot explain how he can supposedly be a heretic, and still be a valid Pope. “Recognize and Resist” contradicts the unanimous opinion of the fathers. If a Pope were a heretic (which is not possible), then he would cease to be true Pope and would become an invalid Pope or antipope. You reject many of his teachings, but you have very little theology to support your position. It’s mostly just name-calling and rhetorical expressions.

Why have the “most faithful” of the Church, the conservatives and traditionalists, not produced a comprehensive theology proving Pope Francis wrong wherein they claim he erred? If the Saints and great faithfulness comes from attending the TLM, why do none of the opponents of Pope Francis have a comprehensive refutation of his teachings? There’s that stupid book, titled “Defending the Faith Against Present Heresies” is a joke. It is merely a collection of petitions, open letters, and articles. It does not defend the Faith. Instead, it largely attacks the Pope and the Magisterium. And then only few articles were chosen actually defending the Pope. Then the title seems to indicate that the “present heresies” are the teachings of Francis. Even at that, the book is not a comprehensive work of theology taking one position, that of the Francis critics. Most of the book is compiled from the internet. Maybe that’s why it does not seem to be available on Amazon.com, but on Amazon.ca (and perhaps other national stores).


* or, better: “the turning of the heavens”

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4 Responses to Pope Francis, Chess; His Opponents, Checkers

  1. justin1745 says:

    –“Francis revives the non-ordained female diaconate. No one can argue against that, as it is historical.”–

    They can argue against it on pragmatic grounds.

    Trads already argue against female altar servers. The argument is that though women can in principle serve at the altar, girl servers not only replace boys, but also by their very presence the girls make that role less attractive for boys. The net result is a negative effect on vocations to the priesthood. It’s a plausible argument, though I can’t claim I know for certain that it is true.

    –“Then every TLM community will be required to have non-ordained deaconesses. If they refuse, they can’t have the TLM.”–

    But why would the Pope do this other than to antagonize trads?

    The Pope could just as easily decide that women are to have no part in liturgy whatsoever. He has full authority over liturgy and can do this with all legitimacy (and if he did it, many trads would praise the Pope and call him ‘based’ on other such things). It is clearly historical, as it was the case in the Church for the majority of its history. However, we know that the outcry in ordinary parishes would be intense and many people would leave the Church over it. And while it is true that these people would ultimately be at fault for their lack of obedience and fidelity to the Church, it would seem that these restrictions would be unduly harsh and would provoke them to a rash decision. Trads talk a tough game, but we have our weaknesses just as our Novus Ordo brethren do.

    I still think the best way forward for harmony in the Church is for the TLM to be recognized as its own rite, the Tridentine Rite, with its own Patriarch and bishops, with the Novus Ordo as the sole Roman Rite. Other ancient western liturgies, such as Sarum, Mozarabic, Ambrosian, etc, could be considered additional uses of the Tridentine Rite.

    • Ron Conte says:

      Currently, they are schismatic. They reject Vatican I and II, and the recent Popes. Any popular traditionalist priest is believed over and above any Pope or Council. They have many teachings, treated as dogma, not taught by the Church at all. This cannot be its own Rite. Not unless they give up the grave errors.

    • john says:

      Supporters of the 1962 Mass have not been declared “schismatic” and hardly can be given it is, even in Traditionis custodes, a valid celebration of the Mass. And the overwhelming majority of priests celebrating the Mass using the 1962 Missal also regularly celebrate the NOM Mass, so they certainly accept Vatican II.

      However, the 1962 Mass can not ever be “its own rite” since it is clearly a different version of the Roman Rite, one of many that have been used over the last 1,500 years. And the church is determined that it considers the 1970 Missal as a further evolution of the Roman Rite entirely consistent with tradition: what you [Justin] suggest would deny this interpretation of the 1970 reforms. Perhaps, ultimately, it will be accepted as an additional use of the Roman Rite, or a variation of the Roman Rite which becomes fully integrated into a new Missal that combines both the 1962 and 1970 versions. But it can never be considered as a new Rite.

      It may be within the comptence of the Pope to make changes such as allowing female Deacons. But the real question is not whether the Pope can do it, but whether it would be wise. Large parts of the world (certainly those regions outside western Europe and North America) would, almost certainly, be very hostile to such a development. And, soon enough, there would be inevitable pressure to allow female Deacons to eventually become female priests. It would also cause serious problems with relations with the Eastern churches (even if it eases tensions with the Anglicans).

    • Ron Conte says:

      Good comments across the blog, john. Welcome.

      In the U.S., many of the proponents of the 1962 Mass openly reject Vatican II and Pope Francis. More than a few are using the TLM to gather a flock, separate from the Bishop’s flock, and are leading them into grave errors. This is seen in blogs like Fr. Z., Taylor Marshall, Rorate Caeli, OnePeterFive, etc.

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