... many on the Catholic right can’t help but suspect that the recent preponderance of conservatives who’ve found themselves under the gun isn’t an accident. Some perceive a through-the-looking-glass situation, in which upholding Catholic tradition is now perceived as a greater offense than rejecting it.Does the Holy Father seem to have a problem with the rules-following, precept-observing ordinary Catholic faithful? Some are apparently wondering.
How to explain these disciplinary acts?
One possibility is that Francis genuinely wants to hobble the traditionalist constituency, and is using every chance to accomplish it. If so, then Francis doesn’t owe anyone an explanation, because his moves would be having precisely the intended effect.
Another, however, is that the pontiff's motives aren't ideological.... The speech Francis delivered at the end of the recent Synod of Bishops would seem to lean in the second direction, as he tried to signal sympathy for both the progressive and traditionalists camps....
If that's the case, Francis might need to find an occasion to explain in his own voice why he’s going after the people and groups that find themselves in his sights. Otherwise, the risk is that a good chunk of the Church may conclude that if the pope sees them as the enemy, there’s no good reason they shouldn’t see him the same way.
On the one hand, to the homosexuals, he famously said, "If someone is gay and seeking the Lord, who am I to judge?" To the atheist, Scalfari, he said "God's mercy has no limits. If you go to him with a sincere and contrite heart, the issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience." To the Argentine woman in an irregular marriage, Jacquelina Lisbona, he said that she should feel free to receive Holy Communion.
On the other hand, the Holy Father turned around, and (in his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium), blasted the "self-absorbed promethean neopelagianism of those who ... observe certain rules or remain intransigently faithful to a particular Catholic style from the past ... [a] supposed soundness of doctrine or discipline [that] leads instead to a narcissistic and authoritarian elitism." Elsewhere (in his homily at St. Martha's House on March 18, 2014), he declared: "They disguise themselves ... as good people: they make themselves up like little holy cards, looking up at heaven as they pray, making sure they are seen—they believe they are more righteous than others -- they despise others." Yet again (in his homily at St. Matha's on November 19, 2014), he said of those who have nothing to reproach themselves about, who say "I have a good family, people do not gossip about me, I have everything I need, I married in church ...I am 'in the grace of God', I am alright," that these are no more than "Christians of appearance ... they are dead!" This "state of mind - [the Lord] warned - is a state of sin, feeling spiritually comfortable is a state of sin"!!!
Meanwhile, quite apart from any excellent homiletic points that might be made about Pharisees, or the ingratitude of the elder brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son, or the lukewarm Christians of Revelation 3:16, many traditional Catholics (not merely those branded as "traditionalists") seem to be wondering whether it is impossible for those who are not homosexuals, public adulterers, or atheists, but simply faithful Catholics trying to work out their salvation amidst the trials and vicissitudes of life, to get a positive word of encouragement from their Holy Father. Perhaps he would benefit from our prayers.