“It was quite a courageous gesture of the Church to draw closer to the people of God so that they can understand well what she is doing. It is important for us to follow the Mass like this. One cannot go back. We have always to go forward, always forward. Who goes back is wrong. Let us go forward on this path.” - Pope Francis
"What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place." - Pope Benedict XVI
As a newly qualified English language teacher, I have been told consistently to reflect, to go back on what I am doing, look over my teaching methods and to improve my overall teaching. Evaluation is part and parcel of my chosen career. If I evaluate what I do in the classroom and find that it is not working out, the students are not learning the teaching aims, then I have to alter my perspective and change it. Bad teachers keep doing the same thing and repeating the same mistakes, even teaching error to their students. Good teachers are not perfect teachers, but those who are able to reflect and learn from their mistakes. I cannot simply 'go forward' if I am not teaching effectively.
Likewise, Jesus Christ does not simply call us to 'go forward', marching on blindly. He ceaselessly calls us back to Him. Repentance means turning around. We can go forward quite happily and unhappily leave Jesus Christ behind. There is no merit in simply going forward, for we could be going forward into the abyss. If I am in mortal sin, simply going 'forward' is not going to help me to save my soul. I could be marching merrily into Hell. I have to go back, turn around, preferably to a priest, to confess, to acknowledge my guilt and seek absolution to return to a state of Grace. Simply 'going forward' for the sake of going forward is the language of the ideological progressive who refuses to state where we are going forward to, neglecting to tell us for what purpose, for what reason or whether that movement forward has anything at all to do with Salvation.
Numerous statistics have been made available over time, not least by the Latin Mass Society that show a certain trend that does not lend greater credibility to the post-Concilliar Church as a resounding success. Of course, success is not necessarily what the Church is about, but faithfulness to Christ means reflecting on exactly what is going on and whether what we are doing is working for the salvation of souls and sanctification of the people of God. An ideological commitment to going 'forward' at any cost, not examining the evidence given by those of goodwill is, frankly, lunacy.
Why is it that the spectre of the traditional Latin Mass is one that haunts so many prelates and brings them out in a sweat? What, exactly, is so offensive about the Latin tongue in the liturgy? What is so terrifying about Mass being celebrated Ad Orientem? No reasons are given, just a kind of psychological 'we mustn't go there' response that any psychotherapist could tell you means you have deep-rooted problems with accepting your past, as if the Latin Mass was some kind of horrendous ecclesiastical inflicted trauma visited upon the Church's children by brutalising, callous parents.
Thanks to Benedict XVI, more and more young people, as well as older people, are able to enjoy the liturgical riches of the Traditional Latin Mass. This mission to restore the sacred to the liturgy is being taken up by more and more priests and Bishops as well. This is not a threat to the Church - this is about giving God the glory that is His right and permitting, out of love, the Faithful to seek the Lord in the Mass offered by the Church for 1,500 years or more. This has seen a renewal of the desire for holiness, a thirst for a relationship with Jesus Christ, an increase in vocations in those Orders that embrace it and a real sense of love for the Church as well as fidelity to Her infallible teachings.
"Who goes back is wrong", says His Holiness.
Going back isn't wrong if you are going in the wrong direction. I am only a layman but it seems obvious to me that the Hierarchy must be mature enough to admit that there are paths the Church has taken which have not led to an improvement in catechesis, that have not led to the fulfillment of those ambitious spiritual goals set out by the Second Vatican Council. These words of Pope Francis will have a chilling effect in parts of the Church. It sends out quite a signal to bishops who wish to clamp down upon clergy who celebrate the Mass of Ages. It is, finally, saddening to look at Pope Francis's words and to see that the 'wisdom' of Benedict XVI which he himself has praised openly does not extend to the wisdom the Pope Emeritus showed in bringing forth treasures both old and new in the Church's liturgy. There is an oblique criticism of the Pope Emeritus within the words of his Successor that rip to shreds the hermeneutic of continuity that he sought to restore. More and more Catholics today look at the Church and say, about many things, Benedict XVI was right.