When Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI died on the 31st of December, the Catholic traditionalist movement lost its standard bearer. However, as Benedict’s coffin was welded shut, sealed inside was the restraint that his followers had shown in the ten years since his 2013 resignation.
When he resigned in 2013 – the first time a pope had resigned in almost 600 years – Pope Benedict retreated to a monastery in Vatican City and largely kept to himself. Seeking to avoid tension between him and his successor, Benedict shied away from publicly criticizing the policies of current Pope Francis, although his close confidant and German Archbishop Georg Gaenswein claims that Benedict privately disagreed with many of Francis’ policies. Since then, Pope Francis has come under a torrent of criticism from the Catholic right. Chief among their grievances is the Pope’s restriction of access to the Latin Mass, the traditional Mass service recited in the original Latin, as opposed to a parish’s local language; traditionalists have argued that the restriction of Latin mass recitation has denied them the right to practice their ancient traditions.
Recently, several cardinals (the second highest rank in the Church) have come out and directly criticized Pope Francis, including the late George Pell, who was a close advisor to the Pope. After Pell’s death, it became known that Pell had authored an anonymous note in 2018 directly criticizing the Pope, even going so far as to describe his papacy as a “catastrophe.” Pope Francis later accused certain entities of “exploiting” Benedict’s death, remarking that a “Civil War exists at the heart of the Church which will continue until the last day of the Papacy.” All of this leads to the question: what does the future hold for the world’s largest religion?