The Catholic Church, or at least Catholics, have a reputation for being liberals; it is Evangelical Christians who are known as being conservatives or at least tied to the Republican Party and more recently specifically being supporters of Donald Trump. In the lead up to the 2020 election, according to a survey conducted by Pew Research Center in October 2020, 78% of White Evangelical Protestants intended to vote for Trump, 53% of White non-Evangelical Protestants intended to vote for Trump, and 52% of White Catholics intended to vote for Trump (Who won the Christian vote in the 2020 U.S. election? It’s complicated). So Mainline Protestants and Catholics are about the same politically while Evangelical Protestants stand out as being particularly conservative. Now, you could divide the White Catholic vote between those who attend mass regularly and those who do not, Catholics in Name Only, you might say, and you will find that those who attended mass regularly voted for Trump much more than those who do not attend mass regularly.
The reason why Catholics are more liberal than Protestants in general I believe is because Catholics have a Pope and Protestants do not; Catholicism is centralized with a unified doctrine that one is supposed to obey and believe in as a Catholic as determined and dictated by the Pope, the infallible Pope according to Catholic doctrine. If you’re a Protestant you’re more free to believe what you want and go to a church you think is “most true”, a comparatively conservative branch of Protestantism that we call Evangelicals was therefore able to grow naturally unencumbered by any kind of official Protestant dictator telling them that being an Evangelical was heresy that they weren’t allowed to believe in or practice or teach to others.
Catholicism, being centralized and unified, has a problem when the environment around them changes. Catholicism cannot adapt to change spontaneously and naturally because it is structured as a centralized dictatorship, not a self-organizing diversity of communities and branches, so if Catholicism is to change it has to change from the top down and then everyone is supposed to be “unified” and in support of and a part of the newly reconceptionalized expression and manifestation of the Catholic faith.
Another factor that has to be kept in mind though in all of this is that THE TRUTH does not change, it is the same and unchanging at all times through all history from the past up to the present and onwards into the future.
So, if you are the Pope and the world around you is changing what do you do? Let’s say that feminism is coming, rebellion against religion is coming, modernity is coming, what do you do? If you as the Pope are “rigid” and keep to the old ways then the Catholic Church will be destroyed or at least greatly reduced in popularity and influence as new modern feminist rebellious people will not tolerate a strict repressive patriarchal religion telling them what to do and trying to keep them stuck in the past when there is new freedom and liberty and tolerance blossoming all around them.
If on the other hand as the Pope of the Catholic Church you reform to and accommodate the changes underway in the wider society then the Catholic Church will maintain its relevancy in the modern world coming towards you and the institutional power of the Catholic Church will be retained, or mostly retained, you hope.
The great acceleration in family breakdown got started in the 1960s and so that was going to be a real challenge for the Catholic Church to have to face and deal with.
So, Pope John XXIII gave notice of his intention to convene the Second Vatican Council on January 25, 1959 in order to “open the windows and let in some fresh air” as he put it; the Second Vatican Council lasting from October 11, 1962 to December 8, 1965 overall. This being the end of Catholicism as we know it, the end of how it used to be.
Then the big strike against Catholic worship as it used to be ever since the 7th Century came on November 30, 1969 with the introduction of the Novus Ordo Missae or the Mass of Paul VI. This then led to something extraordinary, open defiance against the Pope and the Second Vatican Council in general by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre founding the Society of Saint Pius X, the SSPX, on November 1, 1970. The entire purpose of the founding of the SSPX was to preserve the Traditional Latin Mass or the Tridentine Mass, the Roman Missal of 1962, so that it would not perish from the face of the earth. This being against the wishes of Pope Paul VI and those who were trying to move the Catholic Church forward into the modern era in alignment with the “spirit of Vatican II”, but in Marcel Lefebvre’s mind he was to obey Jesus Christ his Lord and Savior; Pope Paul VI and the Second Vatican Council, not so much.
Marcel Lefebvre tried as hard as possible to be in obedience to the Pope and to the Catholic Church hierarchy and the rules he was to follow as much as possible but ultimately he would carry on performing and promoting the Traditional Latin Mass all over the world regardless. As an Archbishop he had the authority to name priests to lead Tridentine Masses all over the world according to a priest choosing to associate themselves with the SSPX and then laymen choosing to attend the SSPX mass established near them.
Lefebvre was a big annoyance and a pain in the side of the official church hierarchy for a long time but they didn’t really know what to do with him. The plan of the church hierarchy was to wait until Lefebvre died and then his SSPX project would eventually die after him as once Lefebvre died no more priests could be ordained into the SSPX organization because Lefebvre was the only one in the SSPX with the authority to ordain new priests.
By 1988 Lefebvre was 82 years old and in poor health still waiting for permission from the Pope to ordain new Bishops into the SSPX so that the SSPX could continue after Lefebvre’s death; a Bishop being able to ordain a new priest into the organization. The Pope continued to promise Lefebvre that he would soon be allowed to appoint a new Bishop but the permission to Lefebvre to appoint a new Bishop was always delayed or not granted yet. Finally Lefebvre gave up waiting and took matters into his own hands with the Econe Consecrations on June 30, 1988 where Lefebvre raised 4 of his SSPX priests up to the level of Bishop against the direct orders and warning of Pope John Paul II leading to the immediate excommunication of Marcel Lefebvre and the 4 Bishops he newly appointed to the SSPX.
This act of schism then ensured the continued survival of the SSPX and therefore the continued survival of the Traditional Latin Mass which the SSPX provided to the Catholic faithful, at least those Catholic faithful willing to attend the now officially schismatic SSPX.
On July 18, 1988 the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter, the FSSP, was founded with 12 priests who defected from the SSPX to pledge themselves as still loyal to the Pope and allowed to continue in offering the Traditional Latin Mass this time under the recently established Ecclesia Dei Commission (established on July 2, 1988). In this way the Traditional Latin Mass would still be offered in a context fully under church authority and approved of by the Pope through the newly established FSSP.
Summorum Pontificum was proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI on July 7, 2007; taking effect on September 14, 2007; granting the right to all priests to offer the extraordinary form of the mass, the Tridentine Mass or Traditional Latin Mass, if they wanted to.
On January 24, 2009 Pope Benedict XVI lifted the excommunication of the 4 Bishops consecrated by Marcel Lefebvre on June 30, 1988 as a gesture of reconciliation.
So now everything is happy and good? Not so fast. On July 16, 2021 came the thunderbolt of vengeance from Pope Francis Traditionis Custodes directly reversing Summorum Pontificum, abolishing the Traditional Latin Mass friendly Ecclesia Dei Commission, and imposing a whole list of harsh restrictions on the Traditional Latin Mass that if enforced fully will inevitably lead to the end of the Traditional Latin Mass in its entirety.
The war against the Traditional Latin Mass by the Pope and the Second Vatican Council church hierarchy goes on a full 50 years after the Traditional Latin Mass was first declared abolished on November 30, 1969 with the introduction of the new Mass of Paul VI or the Novus Ordo Mass intended to replace it in line with the “spirit of Vatican II”.
It is interesting to contemplate, why does Pope Francis care about the Traditional Latin Mass one way or the other, why not let the good Catholics, the devout and serious Catholics who believe in Catholic doctrine much more than the average layman who goes to the Novus Ordo mass, who donate far more money on average, who attend mass far more frequently on average, who are younger, who have more children, who are growing in number overall rather than those who attend the Novus Ordo mass who are declining in number, why not just let these lovers of the Traditional Latin Mass live in peace? Why persecute them and say the mass they attend, the mass that was the way of worship of the Catholic church for hundreds of years up until just recently, is bad?
From the article “The Latin Mass Is The Future Of The Catholic Church”:
“One national survey of Latin Mass attendees, conducted by Fr. Donald Kloster in 2018, found that only 2 percent approve of contraception, compared to 89 percent of Novus ordo attendees. On approval of abortion, the split was 1 percent compared to 51 percent. On gay marriage, 2 percent to 67 percent. The same survey found parishioners at Latin Mass have on average nearly 60 percent larger family sizes, donate on average five times more, and attend weekly Mass at 4.5 times the rate of Catholics who attend the Novus ordo rite.”
Clearly those Catholics who attend the Traditional Latin Mass are another kind of Catholic, not a Pope Francis kind of Catholic apparently, they are a Catholic from the past, not a new modern Catholic.
According to the logic of “unity” and the infallible Pope all Catholics need to be the same kind of Catholic, a special breed of superior Catholic who is far more serious about the religion than the others and shows by their fruits that they are the ones doing things right is schismatic and dangerous and divisive; according to Francis, according to the Pope!, only a Novus Ordo Catholic is a real Catholic.
Only about 150,000 Catholics regularly attend a Traditional Latin Mass in the United States but this is the part of the church that is growing while Catholicism overall is in decline and shrinking.
The Catholic Church has been in continuous operation for almost 2,000 years now and still has over a billion adherents. Abolishing the previous form of worship to replace it with something new and modern was certainly a radical move to make; a move that has strongly been resisted and not accepted by a lingering remnant of the church this whole time. It seems certain that Pope Francis will not succeed in abolishing the Traditional Latin Mass from the world because the SSPX is already established and will continue to carry on regardless of what the Pope has to say about it. Maybe a future Pope will declare the SSPX to be in outright schism, maybe a future Pope will return to a Summorum Pontificum style of accommodation saying that both the Novus Ordo Mass and the Latin Mass are legitimate and equally valid forms of worship, or maybe a future Vatican Council will declare the Second Vatican Council to be heresy and impose the Traditional Latin Mass upon everybody again.
Regardless, I have to believe, the Catholic Church will go on.
Related article: Pope Francis Pays Homage to Atheists