“The common term for Pope Francis in both the communion debate and the Latin Mass may be his allergy to the weaponization of the faith.”
Here’s a fresh and intriguing take on recent events, from John Allen’s latest from Crux:
So far this summer, there’ve been two big upheavals on the American Catholic landscape. They’re global Catholic questions that hardly apply only to the States, but which, for one reason or another, are felt with special intensity by Americans.
The role of Pope Francis in both cases is especially revealing.
The first tumult came in June, when the US bishops voted to move forward with a document on the Eucharist which potentially could set the stage for denying communion to pro-choice Catholic politicians. The second erupted Friday, when Pope Francis reversed Pope emeritus Benedict XVI’s liberalization of permission to celebrate the pre-Vatican II Latin Mass.
In the first instance, no other Catholic culture on earth focuses on abortion like the States, in part because it tends to be a mostly settled question elsewhere. In the second, the States are also home to the world’s largest Latin Mass network – according to the “Latin Mass Directory,” there are 657 venues in America that offer the pre-Vatican II Mass, three and half times more than the next highest country, France, with 199.
On communion, Pope Francis has discouraged any attempt by US bishops to use ecclesiastical authority to enforce discipline, while on the Latin Mass he’s doing so himself, insisting that celebration of the old Mass for now must be tightly circumscribed, and, with time, encouraged to die out.
Critics, naturally, would charge that the contrast is explained by politics. The common term, they’d say, is whose ox is being gored – many conservatives want the communion ban but not the Latin Mass restrictions, so, in both cases, they’d say, the pope is serving the interests of the liberals.
Yet assuming that politics only carry us so far, is there another way of explaining the apparent contradiction? Perhaps something that doesn’t entirely rule out the political interpretation, but also does better justice to what’s actually driving Francis?
To phrase the question differently, we know that Pope Francis is deeply pro-life; he’s compared abortion to hiring a hitman, and he’s also called it an “horrendous crime” and “very grave sin.” We also know Francis is passionately attached to the vision of the Second Vatican Council, including its reform of the liturgy.
So why is he willing to wield ecclesiastical authority on the latter but not the former? One explanation can be captured in a single word: “Weaponization.”