By Christopher Centrella, Executive Producer
Franciscan University of Steubenville
The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Clarifying Catholicism, nor of everyone affiliated with Clarifying Catholicism. If someone wishes to write an opposing article, please Contact Us.
I would like to begin this article by acknowledging my fellow Catholics who have a strong devotion to the Roman Missal prior to 1970, while at the same time are fully obedient to the teachings of the Church, including the Second Vatican Council, and to the Magisterium of all the popes, through our beloved Pope Francis. I know that some of you love the quiet reverence of the Latin Mass and the deep prayer that this reverence can help lead the faithful into, when they come with the right disposition and an open heart. As someone who is very fond of holy, majestic praise and worship music, it would be very difficult for me if the guitar and various styles of Christian music that are appropriate for Mass, were suddenly banned from the liturgy. So, I can feel the pain of some of you, who are completely faithful to the Church and have a love for our Holy Father, who though imperfect like us, represents Christ and is trying his best to guide the Church during these chaotic times. I understand that this might be really difficult for you. I just want to acknowledge that.
I am writing this article to raise awareness on the deeper aspect of what is going on in this rejection of the Second Vatican Council and to raise my voice to Pope Francis in personally thanking him for having the courage and boldness to denounce these lies which are rampant in the Church right now, and that completely contradict the Truth and Love of Jesus Christ, our Savior.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, our only Hope, today men and women need Jesus more than ever before. In the midst of these chaotic times, where sin is so rampant, and so many people have lost the Way–today more than ever, Christ comes to us to meet us in our sin and in our pain, to bring us out of that sin, relief in our pain, and into the Marvelous Light of Himself.Today, echoing the Gospels, I firmly believe that Jesus wishes to come and enter into our pain, bring us forgiveness, and help us encounter His mercy. It is the connection between rejection of the Second Vatican Council and rejection of the message of divine mercy that I wish to elaborate on.
I would like to begin by discussing how the Holy Spirit used Vatican II to help promote the message of divine mercy. First, at the very beginning of the Council, Pope St. John XXIII specifically announced that unlike in the past, here the Church would like to show mercy in opposing the errors of the modern world. In his address opening the Council, Pope John writes: “The Church has always opposed these errors. Frequently, she has condemned them with the greatest severity. Nowadays, however, the Spouse of Christ prefers to use the medicine of mercy rather than that of severity.” Continuing this theme of mercy, John XXIII goes on later in the document, saying that the Church, “by means of this Ecumenical Council, desires to show herself to be a loving mother of all, benign, patient, full of mercy and goodness.”
I believe that this last point that good Pope John made offers us with something to really reflect on: The Church desires herself to be a loving Mother toward her children, a Mother who is always ready to accept her children back, no matter what crap they have done; no matter how they have lived, they can always return home. The words of a priest once really struck me here. He was talking to a group of teenagers and explaining that when they go astray, they always have a place at the altar; in other words, they always have a place at their Mother’s home: “Some of you, twenty, fifteen years from now, it’s going to be a Sunday morning. You are going to wake up and you’re going to be hung over. Maybe there will be somebody next to you, who you don’t know who they are, and you are going to ask yourself, ‘how did I get here?’ You always have a place at this altar. So allow the Lord to sear that in your mind and your heart that you are always welcome here…You are always welcome here.” This aspect of mercy really strikes me, that no matter what we have done, the Church waits for us to be reconciled to God through the sacrament of Reconciliation. No matter what we have done, we can be forgiven, we can be restored, because of the blood of the Lamb, where we can then receive the sacrament of His love, the Holy Eucharist. (Ephesians 1:7).
Moreover, the documents of Vatican II are written in a way to reinforce this crucially important concept of mercy. They are readable by everyone, not just the elite. As a result, as Fr. Michael Gaitley points out, Vatican II helps us “enrich our faith by bringing the truths of the faith from our heads to our hearts to our lives” so that not only do we know the doctrines and morals of the faith, but actually have a deep, personal relationship with Jesus. For without Jesus, our faith is useless; He is the center and the reason for everything that we do. As St. Paul VI put it, “He is the center of history and of the world; He is the one who knows us and who loves us; He is the companion and friend of our life.” And the Catechism of the Catholic Church, based on the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, echoes the primacy of Jesus in our lives: “The Gospel is the revelation in Jesus Christ of God’s mercy for sinners.” 
Furthermore, this message of mercy is expressed explicitly by St. John Paul II, who both authoritatively interpreted the documents of Vatican II, i.e., by producing the Catechism of the Catholic Church and many encyclicals following the Council,as well as instituted the Feast of Mercy. St. John Paul II, the great Mercy Pope who brought about the Divine Mercy devotion, writes the following: “The Church of our time, constantly pondering the eloquence of these inspired words, and applying them to the sufferings of the great human family, must become more particularly and profoundly conscious of the need to bear witness in her whole mission to God’s mercy, following in the footsteps of the tradition of the Old and the New Covenant, and above all of Jesus Christ Himself and His Apostles.” Echoing this message of divine mercy, our beloved Holy Father writes: “The Church sometimes has locked herself in small things, small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the Church must be ministers of mercy above all.”
My point is that Vatican Council II brings us to the person of Jesus, the Jesus who looks at the woman at the well and says: “Neither do I condemn you. Go, [and] from now on do not sin any more.” (John 8:8-11). It brings us back to proclaim that Jesus has triumphed; by His precious blood He freed us from sin and death. As the preface of the Mass states so beautifully: “For through his Paschal mystery, he accomplished the marvelous deed, by which he has freed us from the yoke of sin and death, summoning us to the glory of being now called a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for your own possession, to proclaim everywhere your mighty works, for you have called us out of darkness into your own wonderful light.”
Unfortunately, in these recent years, inseparable with the rejection of the Second Vatican Council is a resurgence in the heresy of Jansenism, something that St. Margaret Alacoque and St. Therese of Lisieux also had to deal with. As in previous ages of Church history, this deadly heresy has again exploded and is destroying the Body of Christ, the people redeemed by His blood, the blood of the Lamb who was slain so that we might live (Revelation 5:9). What is Jansenism anyways? According to Fr. Michael Gaitley from The Second Greatest Story Ever Told, he describes it as “‘the heresy that breaks the Lord’s heart more than any other,’ because it teaches a joyless moral rigorism that keeps people running away from the Lord…[where] only the elite, self-denying, gold-medal winners get to receive God’s love. As for the rest of us losers, all that’s left is bitter despair as we nervously await the fiery wrath of a vengeful God.”
With Jansenism, God’s Justice is everything. Rather than having a personal relationship with Jesus, which again is the center of our faith, Jansenism focuses solely on his justice, watching the sinners be punished, and looking forward to his wrath. Who wants that kind of Church? A Church where the lonely girl can proclaim that yes, indeed she is beyond hope; all her thoughts were true; since she has violated her chastity she is beyond hope. A Church where the man or woman in sin can talk to a Christian and feel like yep, I’m lost. A Church where those in this broken world are judged by their sins, and so left out, neglected, hated. I always remember a story that a friend of mine told me, which I will never forget. Back when he was working at a zoo, there was a group of staff from the zoo that he was part of. One day, one of the zookeepers chose to transition to the opposite gender. Shortly after, my friend noticed that this poor girl, normally happy and bubbly, was in the corner of the room, crying. He asked her why she was so disconsolate, to which she responded that after she transitioned, all of her friends left her, judged her, and verbally mocked her, saying things like “you have multiple heads.” My friend spoke to her and said that she was loved and deserving of dignity. She responded by saying something like, “those Christians,” to which my friend replied, “I am a Christian.” “You can’t be, you can’t be.” And he said, “then you haven’t seen a real Christian.”
Those are powerful words. And they are powerfully true. St. John says, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him, that he who loves God should love his brother also.” (1 John 4:20-21). My brothers and sisters, the very heart of the Gospel, the very core of Christianity, the reason that Jesus came, is to bring the lost out of darkness, out of brokenness, out of sin, into the marvelous light that is Himself, into mercy, into peace, into goodness, into hope. Again, Pope St. John Paul II writes: “In the name of Jesus Christ crucified and risen, in the spirit of His messianic mission, enduring in the history of humanity, we raise our voices and pray that the Love which is in the Father may once again be revealed at this stage of history, and that, through the work of the Son and Holy Spirit, it may be shown to be present in our modern world and to be more powerful than evil: more powerful than sin and death.” Whether we love our neighbor, those who agree with us and those who do not, those whose sins are more obvious and those whose sins are more hidden, is the condition for our salvation. We must love Jesus, and if we truly love God, this love of God will prompt us to love our neighbor, or we are “a liar.” It is that simple.
An example of this judgmental, merciless attitude towards the sinner, also manifested itself in one of my classes at school, and it really hit home to me. Back in the days of the early Church, when we were much more connected to nature and before the age of media and widespread pornography like today, the Church used to have a very merciless policy for who would receive communion. Many sexual sins prohibited someone from ever receiving communion again, especially if the sin was committed twice. Now, in the age of divine mercy, “where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.” (Romans 5:20). In her wisdom and in her mercy, listening to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, the Church has determined that Reconciliation, followed by total admission to the sacraments, be made available to everyone, replacing the public penances and strict policies of the past. In my class about marriage, a classmate in front of everyone has the boldness to ask the professor, “Do you think the Church should do this today?”, to which he replies, “Well the problem is that there is a lot of corruption with the bishops, so the Church has lost its moral authority.” My gosh! What happened to the words of Christ in the book of Revelation, which coincidentally is the beautiful communion antiphon for this past Sunday: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock, says the Lord. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door to me, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20).
What happened to the story of the Prodigal Son, where the heavenly father gives the greatest feast to his son who has come back to him after squandering his goods: “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his head, and shoes on his feet; and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.” (Luke 15:11-24). The sacrament of communion is when we are united to the Lamb, when we “dine with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20). In fact, Jesus said the angels in heaven rejoice more when the sinner comes back than over those who never sinned. (Luke 15). Jesus wasn’t kidding. There is more joy in heaven when the sinner comes back, and yet we are not going to allow the person to commune at the wedding banquet of the Lamb? Yes, back in the early centuries of the Church, while it arguably was very harsh even then, the intention of the policy was to try to encourage true sorrow for sin and instill a greater fear of sin. But we live in a different world, a world that requires ever greater mercy. There is sin everywhere, there is addiction, the world out there is crazy. And all of this requires mercy, something the Church has slowly continued to understand in deeper ways through the gift of the Holy Spirit.
So, now to the current issue at hand: With all respect to those who have a devotion to the Latin Mass, this movement has caused so much confusion and so much chaos in the Church, which is absolutely contrary to the message of divine mercy. As Pope Francis said in his encyclical, Traditionis Custodes, “But I am nonetheless saddened that the instrumental use of Missale Romanum of 1962 is often characterized by a rejection not only of the liturgical reform, but of the Vatican Council II itself, claiming, with unfounded and unsustainable assertions, that it betrayed the Tradition and the “true Church.” As someone who’s grown up in an area where there is a strong movement connected with the Latin Mass, and as a student at a fairly conservative school, all of this stuff is second nature to me. Rather than mentioning the beauty of the Faith and the Latin Mass, many, many people in this movement instead insist on corruption because of Vatican II, Pope Francis being the anti-Christ, Marxism infiltrating the Church and the liturgy, heresies in the Council, etc.
This is in continuity with the same problem that happened with the SSPX (Society of St. Pius X), to which St. John Paul II in 1988 issued these strong words: “The root of this schismatic act can be discerned in an incomplete and contradictory notion of Tradition. Incomplete, because it does not take sufficiently into account the living character of Tradition, which, as the Second Vatican Council clearly taught, ‘comes from the apostles and progresses in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit. There is a growth in insight into the realities and words that are being passed on.’” This movement is so much more than an adherence to the older form of the Mass. It is placing oneself and one’s own opinions, above the Church.
It ensues believing more in some loud anti-heroes coming in the form of “Catholic” conservative blogs, podcasts, and books, rather than the Magisterium of the Church as expressed in the Second Vatican Council, and through the Popes leading from John XXIII all the way to Pope Francis. And while he may be imperfect, there is a huge continuity with what Pope Francis says and that of previous Pontiffs; disregarding every statement of the Holy Father basically means these people have separated from the Catholic Church. St. John Paul in his Motu Propio Ecclesia Dei continues: “But especially contradictory is a notion of Tradition which opposes the universal Magisterium of the Church possessed by the Bishop of Rome and the Body of Bishops. It is impossible to remain faithful to the Tradition while breaking the ecclesial bond with him to whom, in the person of the Apostle Peter, Christ himself entrusted the ministry of unity in his Church. (6)”
It has even become a popular thing among these conservative “Catholic” blogs to denounce John Paul II now—basically anyone who doesn’t believe in their ideology, using the sexual abuse scandal and the outcome of the poor victims to further their agenda. And in the midst of all of this anger, criticism, I would argue hypocrisy, they completely forget the mercy of Jesus, the Jesus who loves each of us unconditionally, including the sinner, the democrat, the Marxist, the lesbian, yes, even the abortionist. We must speak the truth and be prepared to speak up when the Holy Spirit prompts us to, but if we don’t have love, it isn’t the truth. This is because the biggest truth, the very center of our faith, that around which everything revolves, is that God is love and because He is love He sent His Son to save us from our sin (John 3:14-17).
Pope Benedict XVI, in his letter to the bishops concerning Summorum Pontificum, which allowed widespread usage of the old rite, explained why he did not anticipate that the current situation would ensue. He writes: “Many people who clearly accepted the binding character of the Second Vatican Council, and were faithful to the Pope and the Bishops, nonetheless also desired to recover the form of the sacred liturgy that was dear to them.” He goes on to say that the reason he did it is a “matter of coming to an interior reconciliation in the heart of the Church…to make every effort to enable for all those who truly desire unity to remain in that unity or to attain it anew.” Benedict is saying that his reason for allowing greater use of the old missal is because of those who are faithful to the Church and Vatican II, while at the same time have a deep love for the Latin Mass, in order to prevent a separation from the Church. Finally, he believed that since a large majority of the faithful do not know Latin there would not be a division in parishes either.
At the end of the document, Pope Benedict invites the bishops to bring a report to him about how things are going three years later. For this reason, Pope Francis looked into the manner thirteen years later by asking the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to give him detailed results from the bishops. Unfortunately, what Pope Francis found out is exactly what I am telling you. Contrary to what Pope Benedict thought would happen, the Latin Mass movement has allowed a tremendous number of people to go way over on the conservative side, questioning Vatican II and everything since then. A lot of the so-called Catholic blogs and podcasts, no matter how popular they are, have become so political and totally forgotten Christ, calling the Holy Father and the Second Vatican Council tools of the devil. The Church and parishes have become so politicized, with outspoken priests who try to stir up controversy and give a homily on why masks are demonic or speak about what angers them instead of about the Gospel. And the mercy of Jesus, and the legacy of Vatican II with its renewed emphasis on divine mercy, especially in these times, is in danger of being entirely forgotten.
Instead of trying to live a life of holiness, and to come as broken people to receive the tender mercy of Jesus, and then to share that mercy with everyone they meet, liberal or conservative, democrat or republican, speaking the truth in love, these people, priests and equally so the parishioners, instead judge everyone who doesn’t belong to their group, constantly are anger and bitter, and frankly hypocritical. This movement has basically sparked tons of modern-day Pharisees—focusing only on the law and a rigid erroneous interpretation of tradition, and completely forgetting the entire principle of our faith, the principle that without which, you’ve lost everything:
That is Jesus Christ, the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, the Prince of Peace and the Chief Cornerstone. He is our Hope, He is our Strength, He is our Foundation, He is our Cornerstone. He is our Advocate, our Friend, our Brother, and our Master. He is our Love, our Happiness, and most importantly of all, our Savior, who’s come to bring us back to Him, to mercy, to hope, to freedom, to peace. Thank you, Pope Francis, for always preaching Jesus, for preaching His mercy, His love, and His compassion. I pray for you, Pope Francis, that you may continue to boldly proclaim Christ above all the lies on all sides. God love you.
 Catholic Church, General Instruction of the Roman Missal (Washington, D.C.: Office of Pub. Services, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Preface of Ordinary Time I.
 Ibid, 13:35.
 Divine Mercy, 19:13.
 Divine Mercy, 19:05.
 Matthew Bunson, Saint Paul VI (Irondale AL: EWTN Publishing, 2018), 45.
 Divine Mercy, 20:04.
 Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1994), 1846.
 Pope St. John Paul II, Dives et Misericordia, http://www.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_30111980_dives-in-misericordia.html, accessed July 24, 2020.
 Divine Mercy, 21:42.
 Catholic Church, General Instruction of the Roman Missal, Preface of Ordinary Time I.
 Fr. Michael Gaitley, The Greatest Story Ever Told, (Stockbridge, MA: Marian Press, 2015), 27-50.
 Ibid, 27-28.
 Pope St. John Paul II.
 Pope Francis, Traditionis Custodes Letter to the Bishops,https://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/it/bollettino/pubblico/2021/07/16/0469/01015.html, accessed July 16, 2021.
 John Paul II, Ecclesia Dei, https://www.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/motu_proprio/documents/hf_jp-ii_motu-proprio_02071988_ecclesia-dei.html, accessed July 16, 2021.
 Pope Benedict XVI, Summorum Pontificum Letter to the Bishops, https://www.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/letters/2007/documents/hf_ben-xvi_let_20070707_lettera-vescovi.html, accessed July 16, 2021.
 Benedict XVI.
 Pope Francis.
 Pope Francis.
 Divine Mercy, 12:16.