While Pelosi Receives Communion at Vatican, Pope Is Busy Cracking Down on Traditional Catholics

As his health falters, Francis appears to be consolidating his legacy and sending a message meant for America.

Vatican Media via AP
Pope Francis greets Speaker Pelosi and her husband, Paul Pelosi, at St. Peter's Basilica June 29, 2022. Vatican Media via AP

Pope Francis made his priorities clear this week: After issuing an apostolic letter reiterating his crackdown on the use of the Church’s traditional liturgy, he entertained Speaker Pelosi at the Vatican. 

His Holiness, who appears to be consolidating his legacy with new personnel and legal reforms as his health falters, met and blessed Mrs. Pelosi before Mass at St. Peter’s Wednesday.

Mrs. Pelosi, who is banned from communion at her home archdiocese at San Francisco for public support of abortion, received the sacrament from an assisting priest during Mass.

At issue is not Mrs. Pelosi’s bona fides as speaker of the House. The Constitution, in its most emphatic prohibition, forbids religious tests for any office or public trust under the United States. What is the issue in the news is the church.

It appears that Francis was using his blessing of Mrs. Pelosi as a message to the church in America, where it was perceived as an indirect vindication for liberals. Francis’s statement on the liturgy was intended as a rebuke of the church’s conservative bloc.  

The apostolic letter Desiderio desideravi, issued Wednesday morning, justifies His Holiness’s action last year limiting the use of the traditional Latin Mass preferred by some conservatives.

Contradicting his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who liberalized the use of the traditional liturgy, Francis insisted the old Mass is incompatible with the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.

“We cannot go back to that ritual form which the Council fathers, cum Petro et sub Petro, felt the need to reform, approving, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and following their conscience as pastors, the principles from which was born the reform,” Francis wrote.

Echoing his earlier public statements accusing traditional Catholics of fomenting disunity, Francis added, “As I have already written, I intend that … unity be re-established in the whole Church of the Roman Rite.”

While Benedict’s 2007 decree Summorum pontificum allowed every priest to celebrate the traditional Mass, Francis’s July 2021 decree Traditionis custodes limits the number of churches in each diocese that can offer it and allows bishops wide latitude to suppress its use.

Even before Wednesday’s apostolic letter, Francis has appeared anxious to emphasize and shore up the restrictions on the old Mass. In May, it was announced that the British architect of the Traditionis custodes, Bishop Arthur Roche, will be made cardinal at an August consistory. 

This week’s activities emphasize the controversial nature of a papacy that progressives celebrate as a liberal renaissance in the church and that might soon be coming to a close, but the ultimate verdict on the Franciscan pontificate will be left to his successor.

The New York Sun

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