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Jan 29 16 12:36 PM
Jan 30 16 7:01 AM
He can clearly be seen giving Communion in the hand, something he continued to after his election as Pope. This only became an issue at Papal Masses with the arrival of Guido Marini and the changes which ensued thereafter. Some other influence other than that of Joseph Ratzinger was clearly at work by then as Ratzinger told Peter Seewald in Salt of the Earth that it was fine to receive in the hand.
In some ways it a great pity that he was transferred to the CDF in Rome. He would have been a great and gentle pastor if he had been allowed to remain in his diocese.
Apr 14 16 3:08 AM
May 22 16 4:40 AM
This week, a press release washed up in my in-box from the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL), about a recent visit to their offices by a Vatican official. ICEL is a mixed commission of bishops’ conferences in countries where English is used in the liturgy, and its job is to translate texts for worship.My finger was poised on the delete button, when it suddenly struck me just how remarkable it is that ICEL is no longer a hot potato. Not so long ago, at the peak of what came to be known as the “liturgy wars,” that definitely wasn’t the case.The term “liturgy wars” refers to a series of battles over the sound, look and feel of Catholic worship in English, which crested in the 1990s and 2000s.The battle lines broke between progressives in favor of a reformed, “Vatican II” style, reflecting modern sensibilities and new theological insights, and conservatives who felt the post-Vatican II overhaul of the liturgy gave too much away to secular modernity, often employing pretty-sounding ecumenical formulae dubious in terms of fidelity to both tradition and the actual Latin text.Adding fuel to the fire were two other factors:In part, liturgical controversies pivot on aesthetics – judgments about what’s poetic vs. pedantic, what’s artful vs. awful, what sounds or looks good. Since all that’s basically subjective, there’s just no way to make everyone happy.Unlike other topics, where most people don’t consider themselves experts, everybody’s been to Mass, and so everybody has an opinion about how it ought to be done.Incalculable hours were spent over two decades debating issues such as inclusive language, meaning if it’s okay to say “man” for “people,” or whether the Latin phrase pro multis in the Eucharistic prayer should be “for all” or “for many.” Countless conferences were held, essays written, blogs posted, and it seemed for a while the debate would never end.ICEL was one of the battlegrounds, as control over its agenda and vision became part of the broader tensions.All this culminated in the late 2000s with a new English translation of the Roman Missal, the collection of prayers and other texts used in the Mass. It featured a few signature transitions towards “sacred” language – “And with your spirit” in favor of “And also with you,” for instance, and “consubstantial with the Father” rather than “one in being.”The new missal was implemented on the first Sunday of Advent in 2011, meaning this fall will mark the five-year anniversary.Where do we stand today? Although the liturgical front is less noisy, mostly because decisions were finally made, my own completely unscientific survey suggests opinions are basically as divided as before.Here, for instance, is Jesuit Father James Martin, America’s most popular Catholic spiritual writer, on the new translation:“I’m very sorry to say that, in my experience, many Catholics, priests included, find the language at various points clunky, unwieldy, inelegant, stilted, and even confusing,” Martin told me. “As a priest, I find it much harder to pray the Mass, and sometimes … I even have a hard time understanding what exactly I’m praying for.”“And,” Martin added, “I’m speaking as someone who works with words for a living … It’s a source of great sadness for me.”On the other hand, here’s Monsignor James Moroney, rector of St. John’s Seminary in Boston, a former chief of staff for the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Liturgy and an adviser to the Vatican’s Vox Clara commission:“Despite the efforts of some to create widespread dissatisfaction with the new translation, its implementation has been far smoother than even its strongest proponents could have predicted,” he said in reply to my query.“For the first time since the great experiment in vernacularization of the liturgy, we are actually praying the same thing as the Latin prayers. Considering the antiquity and universal usage of these prayers, these new translations are an effective sign and instrument of unity of a Church that prays what it believes across time and space,” Moroney said.Monsignor Richard Hilgartner, also a veteran of the bishops’ conference and now president of the National Association of Pastoral Musicians, said the transition in some ways has enriched the liturgical experience.“Many parishes offered great catechesis, not only about the changes in texts but on the broader topic of the liturgy, and that has borne fruit as people learned more about what we do and why we do it when we celebrate the Mass,” he said.Father Edward Beck, a contributor to both Crux and CNN, offered a less sanguine take.“The prayers seem to address a distant, majestic God to the exclusion of a personal relationship,” Beck told me. “It almost sounds like a British royal wordsmith. It could use a bit more Brooklyn – in a grammatically correct way, of course.”Beck also said there seems to be a strong “emphasis on sin, and bowing and scraping. I’m not sure the prayers are indicative enough of a God who calls us to loving service and freedom.”If I asked 100 other people, I’d likely get 100 other opinions.What’s the moral of the story? Maybe, it’s this: The “liturgy wars” may have gone quiet, but they’ve hardly gone away.As long as Catholics take liturgy seriously – as long as we care about how we worship, because it shapes what we believe and who we are – we’ll never be done arguing over it. That may breed heartburn once in a while, but it’s the reflux of a deep passion.
May 28 16 6:16 AM
Squabbles over the French-Language Missal TranslationIt seems there is a fight about liturgical translations in French-speaking countries, according to La Croix.The newly translated French language Missal was scheduled for Lent 2017, but could be delayed until Advent 2017. This is because of a fight between the Francophone bishops and the Congregation for Divine Worship, which for now is refusing to approve the French text. Rome refused a first re-translation in 2007.The bishops of France approved another text this past March, allowing for adjustments to be made by a mixed commission involving other Francophone countries. Opposition to the endeavor is said to be stronger in French-speaking Switzerland, Canada, and Belgium. An example of a contested point is the opposition in Canda to a change in the Eucharistic Prayer from “coupe” to “calice.”The outgoing president of the bishops’ conference in France, Archbishop Bernard-Nicolas Aubertin of Tours, did not want to leave unfinished business to his successor, and he has strived for agreement with Rome. On April 7, Aubertin was to take up the matter with the pope. But CDW prefect Cardinal Sara is entrenched in his position, and he told the weekly Famille chrétienne, “In the audience he granted me on Saturday, April 2, the pope confirmed to me that new translations of the Roman Missal must respect the Latin text.” (With all due respect, I'd rather hear from Francis himself. Objectively speaking, Sarah's statement is hearsay, and its veracity should be validated.)La Croix notes that in Germany the bishops opposed “a liturgical language which is not the language of the people” (Who can blame them?) and in 2013 rejected the work of a commission imposed by Benedict XVI. The Spanish translation is stalled, and the Italian bishops are dragging their feet.La Croix also notes that since the beginning of the year, Il Sismografo, which is close to Vatican Radio, has published long articles by Andrea Grillo, liturgy professor at Sant’ Anselmo, which are highly critical of the 2001 Roman translation document Liturgiam authenticam.One French bishop had this comment: “It is most surprising that, at a time when the pope insists on inculturation and synodality, a text voted on by 120 French bishops is blocked by one lone cardinal.” (I agree, and I think it's high time this particular cardinal was replaced with someone who is more open-minded, and above all, truly respectful and observant of the Pope's direction.)
May 30 16 5:32 AM
Roman missal, lost in translation?The French version of the missal has not yet received approval from RomeThe French translation of the Roman Missal is currently on hold because of differences of opinion between Rome and the French-speaking bishops.The prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments has reiterated the stipulation that "the new translations must respect the Latin text without fail."The new translation of the Roman Missal, supposed to take effect on the first Sunday of Lent 2017, could well be postponed until Advent 2017. Officially, pushing back the date is a practical measure for publishers who would then only have one missal to print for the year 2017-2018. In actual fact, a muted battle pits French-speaking bishops against the congregation, which refuses, for the moment, to grant the text its recognitio.Yet another bump in the road for the French version of the 2002 Latin edition of the missal. After a first translation was refused by Rome in 2007, a new commission got to work, regularly presenting a text to the bishops. This is no easy task considering that several episcopal conferences are involved and new bishops are consulted each time. "In France, we have six or seven new bishops every year. When we present the work to the Plenary Assembly every three years, that makes more than 20 bishops asking for clarification on points that had been resolved at previous sessions," says a bishop.Last March, the French bishops' conference finally adopted a text at their assembly, "leaving the French-speaking Episcopal Commission for Liturgical Translations with the responsibility for finalizing the text." In the other French-speaking bishops' conferences (Switzerland, Canada, Belgium) the opposition appears to be stronger. The problem is that the French text is still blocked in Rome, which has made demands concerning a certain number of points. The blame goes to the Roman instruction of Liturgiam authenticam of 2001, which requires that the Latin text be "translated integrally and in the most exact manner, without omissions or additions in terms of their content, and without paraphrases or glosses." In other words, no adapting allowed. While the French-speaking bishops accepted, with varying degrees of good grace, most of Rome's demands, which also enabled to expand on certain texts, some points remain sensitive. For example, changing the word "coupe" (cup) for "calice" (chalice) in the Eucharistic prayer, is difficult to accept in Canada where "calice" is also used as a profanity. (I wonder if the persons behind Liturgiam authenticam were multi-lingual - or even bilingual. If so, they would realize that sometimes, it is simply not possible to translate texts in one language into another "in the most exact manner". There are some words for which no translation exists in one language or another, or which are used in a different context in a different culture. And then, there are issues of syntax, grammar and speech patterns, which can vary from one language to another. It is, in my opinion, very blinkered and shortsighted to insist that the Latin texts be translated "in the exact manner".)Archbishop Bernard-Nicolas Aubertin of Tours, is reaching the end of his term as president of the bishops' Liturgical Commission on July 1. Not wanting to leave an unresolved dossier for his successor who would have to spend time learning all the ins and outs, he is sparing no efforts to reach an agreement with Rome. On April 7, the president of the French bishops' conference planned to speak of the matter with Pope Francis. But Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, dug into his position and appears unwilling to yield. "At the audience granted with the pope on Saturday April 2, he confirmed to me that the new translations of the Roman Missal must scrupulously respect the Latin text," he recently recounted to the weekly magazine Famille Chretienne, offering as an example some of the more strongly contested changes (read Facts and Figures).These liturgical translation incidents are part of a globally strained context. In 2011, a new translation came into force in the English-speaking world: half of the faithful and 71 percent of the priests rejected it because of its overly formal and pompous style. German bishops, opposing "a liturgical language that is not the language of the people," refused the work of the commission imposed by Benedict XVI in 2013. The Spanish translation appears to be at a standstill, while Italian bishops are also reluctant to move forward.Since the beginning of the year, the site Il Sismografo, with close ties to Vatican Radio, has published several long articles by Andrea Grillo, liturgy professor at the St. Anselmo Pontifical University, speaking out strongly against the Liturgiam authenticam, namely concerning how this text prevents any inculturation of liturgy. Others blame someone in Cardinal Sarah's entourage who would be sympathetic to the traditionalist movement and encouraging him to defend his position come what may. ("Someone in Cardinal Sarah's entourage"? Goodness, how influential this person must be, that he should be able to convince the prefect of the CDW to remain close-minded about this entire sorry situation, regardless of the fall-out and the increasingly worsening situation of the liturgical translations? If that is the case, then perhaps the Pope had better replace Robert Sarah with someone who will not allow himself to be prevailed upon by "someone in his entourage")As the French bishop notes, "it is still surprising that at a time when the pope insists so much on inculturation and synodality, a text approved by 120 French bishops could be blocked this way by a single cardinal."Facts and figuresWhat could change in the missal:Confiteor: "Through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault," [C'est ma faute, c'est ma faute, c'est ma tres grande faute] instead of "I have sinned through my own fault" [Oui, j'ai vraiment peche].Nicene Creed: "Consubstantial with the Father," [Consubstantiel] instead of: "One in being with the Father" [De meme nature].Orate fratres: "Pray, brethren, that my sacrifice and yours be acceptable to God the Father almighty. May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of his name, for our good and the good of all his holy church" [Priez mes freres pour que mon sacrifice qui est aussi le votre soit agreable a Dieu le Pere tout-puissant. Que le Seigneur recoive de vos mains ce sacrifice pour la louange et la gloire de son nom, pour notre bien et celui de toute sa sainte Eglise], instead of: "Let us pray together as we offer the sacrifice of the whole church. For the glory of God and the salvation of the world." [Prions ensemble au moment d'offrir le sacrifice de toute l'Eglise. Pour la gloire de Dieu et le salut du monde].The Preface Dialogue: "Truly it is just, good 'and right' to praise your glory, to give your thanks at all places and all times" [Vraiment, il est juste, bon "et salutaire" de te rendre gloire, de t'offrir notre action de grace toujours et en tout lieu].Lord's Prayer: "Let us not enter into temptation" [Ne nous laisse pas entrer en tentation] instead of: "Lead us not into temptation" [Ne nous soumets pas a la tentation].
Jun 1 16 7:05 AM
Why I walked outTwice before, when I have written about the poor standard of preaching in the Church, I have received a flood of emails. Almost all the positive ones are from lay people, agreeing with my assertion and, often, saying that they are at their wits end with what they have to listen to. Not surprisingly, the few blow-back emails I get, are always from clergy telling me I am being mischievous or, as one told me, you “don’t understand the purpose of preaching.” (And they do?)As I have explained before, I often find myself in the benches on Sundays – I am not working in a parish. This has been an education. Admittedly, I have heard some very good homilies but, for the most part, can say they have been few and far between.Recently I did something I never thought I would do: I walked out of a Church one Sunday because I could no longer sit and have my dignity assaulted by a preacher. The lesser sin, I reasoned, was to leave.The preacher began by showing how shallow his understanding of the Scripture text was. He basically abused the text (completely ignoring its meaning and context) to build up to a patronising, moralistic diatribe about all those things associated with the pelvic regions. Chewing gum, genuflecting in the right direction, and shutting noisy children up also mysteriously made their way into what seemed to go on and on…It seemed fairly obvious to me that the congregation had switched off. Some were reading the bulletin or Southern Cross, others fidgeting and, others still, counting the blocks on the roof. It was clear that the preacher had no awareness of this as he droned on.Just when I thought the runway was in sight and he was about to (mercifully!) land, he pushed the throttle up and the engines roared back into a treatise about perversion, immorality and how Holy Communion was the preserve of the righteous. I could no longer take it and, so, I got up and left. (And with good reason!)A few days later I was talking to someone who regularly attends mass at this parish. I was told that this was ‘normal.’ When I asked why they continued to attend at this place the response was “Good question. I know others who have left but, I guess, it’s convenient.” The person then went on to tell me that most Sundays they “switch-off anyway” when the sermon begins.Why have we settled for the lowest common denominator when it comes to Sunday sermons? Pope Francis, dedicates a significant section of his first Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, to the Sunday homily. This suggests he too knows that we face a challenge when it comes to sermon quality.Why do we sit back and accept intellectual insults or inappropriate lectures when we should be leaving Sunday mass feeling suitably challenged, inspired and hopeful, rejoicing that God has spoken to us? Why has wearing fiddle-back vestments, making sure chalices are gold, or using a bad English translation become disproportionately more important than feeding God’s people?
Jul 11 16 2:31 AM
Cardinal Vincent Nichols has written to priests in the Diocese of Westminster discouraging them from celebrating Mass facing east.He issued the message to clergy days after the Vatican’s liturgy chief Cardinal Robert Sarah invited priests to celebrate Mass ad orientem from Advent onwards.Cardinal Sarah was speaking at a liturgical conference in London.Following Cardinal Robert Sarah’s appeal at the Sacra Liturgia conference in London, Cardinal Nichols, who is Archbishop of Westminster, wrote to priests reminding them that, “the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, approved by the highest authority in the Church, states in paragraph 299 that ‘The altar should be built apart from the wall, in such a way that it is possible to walk around it easily and that Mass can be celebrated at it facing the people, which is desirable wherever possible. The altar should, moreover, be so placed as to be truly the centre toward which the attention of the whole congregation of the faithful naturally turns. The altar is usually fixed and is dedicated.’”While he added that the Congregation for Divine Worship had confirmed in 2009 that this instruction still allows for Mass to be celebrated facing east, the cardinal wrote: “But it also ‘reaffirms that the position towards the assembly seems more convenient inasmuch as it makes communication easier’. Thus the expectations expressed in GIRM 299 remain in force whenever the Ordinary Form of Mass is celebrated.”Cardinal Nichols went on to say that Mass was not the time for priests to “exercise personal preference or taste,” and “as the last paragraph of the GIRM states so clearly, ‘The Roman Missal, though in a diversity of languages and with some variety of customs, must in the future be safeguarded as an instrument and an outstanding sign of the integrity and unity of the Roman Rite’ (399).”Meanwhile, Fr Antonio Spadaro, a papal adviser and editor of the influential journal La Civiltà Cattolica, has shown his support for Mass facing the people on Twitter.Following Cardinal Sarah’s widely reported comments, Fr Spadaro tweeted quotes from the General Missal Instruction, such as: “The altar should be built apart from the wall in such a way that Mass can be celebrated at it facing the people” and “the priest, facing the people and extending and then joining his hands, invites the people to pray.”In his letter to priests Cardinal Nichols also emphasised that Mass should always be celebrated with dignity.Following the Sacra Liturgia Conference lat week, Cardinal Sarah paid a personal visit to Cardinal Vincent Nichols.
“the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, approved by the highest authority in the Church, states in paragraph 299 that ‘The altar should be built apart from the wall, in such a way that it is possible to walk around it easily and that Mass can be celebrated at it facing the people, which is desirable wherever possible. The altar should, moreover, be so placed as to be truly the centre toward which the attention of the whole congregation of the faithful naturally turns. The altar is usually fixed and is dedicated.’”
“But it also ‘reaffirms that the position towards the assembly seems more convenient inasmuch as it makes communication easier’. Thus the expectations expressed in GIRM 299 remain in force whenever the Ordinary Form of Mass is celebrated.”
Jul 11 16 11:18 AM
In the wake of recent comments by its chief liturgist recommending that priests celebrate Mass ad orientem, meaning facing east with their backs to the people, beginning in Advent, the Vatican released a statement on Monday saying no new rules along those lines are in the works.A Vatican spokesman also rejected the vocabulary of a “reform of the reform” in liturgical practice, saying that phrase is “at times the source of misunderstandings.”Father Federico Lombardi said the decision to release a statement clarifying comments made by Cardinal Robert Sarah, of Guinea, came after the prelate met with Pope Francis on Saturday.“Cardinal Sarah has always been rightly concerned about the dignity of the celebration of the Mass, in order to adequately express an attitude of respect and adoration of the Eucharistic mystery,” Lombardi said.The papal spokesman added that some of Sarah’s expressions had been misinterpreted by the press, as a signal that changes in liturgical norms were imminent.“It is very important that we return as soon as possible to a common orientation, of priests and the faithful turned together in the same direction - eastwards, or at least towards the apse - to the Lord who comes,” Sarah had said July 5, opening a conference in London called Sacra Liturgia.Although his comments were phrased as suggestions and not an edict, Sarah’s desire for a return to the ad orientem posture nevertheless generated wide reaction and debate, in large part because the posture is widely associated with the older Latin Mass in use prior to the Second Vatican Council (1962-65).In truth, the rules for the post-Vatican II Mass also allow for the use of the ad orientem posture, and some priests celebrate it that way. In the public imagination, however, it’s generally seen as a more traditional way of doing it.In the aftermath of Sarah’s comments, Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster in the UK sent a letter to priests in his diocese saying that the Mass was not the time for priests to “exercise personal preference or taste.”According to the Catholic Herald, Nichols also noted the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, which lays out the rules for celebrating Mass, states in paragraph 299 that “the altar should be built apart from the wall, in such a way that it is possible to walk around it easily and that Mass can be celebrated at it facing the people, which is desirable wherever possible.”In his statement, Lombardi quoted the same paragraph both in Latin and in Italian.Sarah was appointed to the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments by Francis in November 2014.Lombardi said that when he visited Sarah’s dicastery, Francis expressly told the Guinea cardinal that the “ordinary” form of celebrating the Mass is the one promulgated in the missal by Pope Paul VI, meaning, after the Second Vatican Council. The pope also said that the “extraordinary” form while accepted under the means expressed by Benedict XVI in the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, shouldn’t become the norm.“There are therefore no new liturgical directives for next Advent, as some have wrongly inferred from some of Cardinal Sarah’s words,” Lombardi said.Lombardi’s rejection of the phrase “reform of the reform” is also noteworthy in light of Sarah’s comments in early July.In his remarks, Sarah had said that during a private audience with the pope last April, Francis had asked him to study “the question of a reform of a reform” to see how to enrich the twofold use of the Roman rite - the “ordinary form,” meaning the post-Vatican II liturgy in the vernacular languages, and the “extraordinary form,” or the pre-Vatican II Latin Mass.
Jul 12 16 2:36 AM
I'm glad the Vatican moved quickly to counter this "initiative" by Cardinal Sarah and especially for making clear that said cardinal acted in no way, shape or form on behalf of Pope Francis. And no, Sarah was not "misinterpreted" by the press, on the contrary. In all the press reporting I saw, it was noted everywhere that this was not a directive but rather an intention, invitation, appeal or whatever by Sarah. Nevertheless, given his position as head of CDW and his recent remarks that Pope Francis had (apparently) asked him to continue the "reform of the reform" this was rightly perceived by some to be an opening shot to forthcoming (official) changes. In this respect I also find it noteworthy that Father Lombardi in his statement said to better avoid the term "reform of the reform". For all it's polite and diplomatic wording, Father Lombardi's statement was a very public (and well-deserved, I might add) put-down of Sarah. After Sarah is in almost constant direct or indirect opposition to Pope Francis' vision (like dragging his feet for 13 months implementing the changes for the Holy Thursday foot washing or signing that infamous 13-cardinal letter at the Synod to mention but two), maybe this latest instance of Sarah blatantly promoting his own agenda was one too many even for the seemingly inexhaustible reserves of papal patience.
Along with Müller, Gänswein and a few others, Sarah needs to go. Now.
Jul 12 16 8:49 AM
... maybe this latest instance of Sarah blatantly promoting his own agenda was one too many even for the seemingly inexhaustible reserves of papal patience. Along with Müller, Gänswein and a few others, Sarah needs to go. Now.
... maybe this latest instance of Sarah blatantly promoting his own agenda was one too many even for the seemingly inexhaustible reserves of papal patience.
Along with Müller, Gänswein and a few others, Sarah needs to go. Now.
Jul 12 16 1:23 PM
It would appear opportune to offer clarification in the light of information circulated in the press after a conference held in London a few days ago by Cardinal Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship. Cardinal Sarah has always been rightly concerned about the dignity of the celebration of Mass, so as to express appropriately the attitude of respect and adoration for the Eucharistic mystery. Some of his expressions have however been incorrectly interpreted, as if they were intended to announce new indications different to those given so far in the liturgical rules and in the words of the Pope regarding celebration facing the people and the ordinary rite of the Mass.Therefore it is useful to remember that in the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani (General Instruction of the Roman Missal), which contains the norms relating to the Eucharistic celebration and is still in full force, paragraph no. 299 states that: “Altare extruatur a pariete seiunctum, ut facile circumiri et in eo celebratio versus populum peragi possit, quod expedit ubicumque possibile sit. Altare eum autem occupet locum , ut revera centrum sit ad quod totius congregationis fidelium attentio sponte convertatur”(“The altar should be built separate from the wall, in such a way that it is possible to walk around it easily and that Mass can be celebrated facing the people, which is desirable wherever possible. Moreover, the altar should occupy a place where it is truly the centre toward which the attention of the whole congregation of the faithful naturally turns”.)Pope Francis, for his part, on the occasion of his visit to the Dicastery for Divine Worship, expressly mentioned that the “ordinary” form of the celebration of the Mass is that expressed in the Missal promulgated by Paul VI, while the “extraordinary” form, which was permitted by Pope Benedict XVI for the purposes and in the ways explained in his Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, must not take the place of the “ordinary” one.Therefore, new liturgical directives are not expected from next Advent, as some have incorrectly inferred from some of Cardinal Sarah’s words, and it is better to avoid using the expression “reform of the reform” with reference to the liturgy, given that it may at times give rise to error.All the above was unanimously expressed during a recent audience granted by the Pope to the same Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship.
Jul 16 16 5:01 AM
The End of the ‘Reform of the Reform’: The Brief History of a Self-Referential DelusionThe combination of three little events, only tangentially connected, have in recent days marked out an important moment for the Catholic liturgy. These events are, in order: a statement issued by the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) on June 29, a talk delivered at a conference by the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship on July 5, and a statement from the Holy See Press Office on July 11. The sequence of these three events leads us to a conclusion that, while unexpected, is also completely fitting.But let’s go in order.The Three Events in SuccessionIn an SSPX communique, superior general Bishop Fellay marks a change of seasons, saying that he now awaits a successor of Pope Francis. Efforts at reconciliation, which had begun under John Paul II and received new impetus with Pope Benedict, seem to have reached a standstill. In reality, the SSPX’s demands were always too high and their recognitions of Vatican II ever more vague.A few days later, at Cardinal Sarah’s conference talk in London, came a nod toward themes that have characterized the process of “opening” toward the Lefebvrists. The desire for deeper communion in the church – a highly desirable thing – merged with the call for a “reform of the reform.” It has been hoped by some that the rapprochement with Lefebvre might lead to “normalizing” the post-conciliar liturgy (and church). Cardinal Sarah’s imprudent words express the intention to reorient ad orientem all altars (and all priests), starting this coming Advent. Never, at the official level, has the effort to contradict the conciliar program been so clear.Lastly, in the Press Office statement, three decisive principles are affirmed. First, the desire to safeguard the value of the Eucharist must proceed according to what was established by the Council and by the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, which foresees “altars detached from the wall.” Second, this must be the ordinary pastoral practice of the church, which cannot be considered replaced by the “extraordinary form.” And third, the statement further notes that “it is better to avoid using the expression ‘the reform of the reform,’ referring to the liturgy, given that this has sometimes been the source of misunderstanding.” These three assertions represent the final blow to the self-referential dream of a church that wished to immunize itself from the Second Vatican Council and that was living it out with unconcealed discomfort.A Brief History with a Happy EndingIt is good to recall that this expression, “reform of the reform,” has identified one side of the ecclesial debate, which has been led by figures on the periphery but encouraged by some at the center, and whose aim has been openly to oppose the liturgical reform. Several official documents, without ever using the expression, offered support to the self-referential “reform of the reform” project. Liturgiam authenticam (2001), Redemptionis Sacramentum (2004), and Summorum Pontificum (2007) are each links in a chain that sought to mitigate and sometimes to contradict the conciliar thrust toward “actuosa participatio.”To be sure, none of these documents used the expression “reform of the reform,” but they essentially pretended to create a new “translation of the tradition,” to return to an approach to the Eucharist that gives pride of place to the abuse rather than the use, and to create a dangerous parallelism between the ordinary rite and extraordinary rite, with highly problematic ecclesial, pastoral, and formational consequences.In each of these documents – it must be openly acknowledged – one sees evidence of the longa manus [“long hand” – ed.] of Cardinal Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI. And we must not forget that many of the articles and books that subsequently interpreted them in terms of a “reform of the reform” were accompanied, supported, blessed, or introduced by prefaces or reviews by Ratzinger himself. Suffice it to mention works by Aidan Nichols, Nicola Bux, Uwe Michael Lang, and Alcuin Reid.With the July 11 statement, all of this has reached a conclusion. Finally we see a clear statement on the whole question. I would like to point out that the “symbol” of this final triumph can be found in a potent parallelism between two statements. While in 2004, Redemptionis Sacramentum, dedicated to squelching the liturgical abuses, insisted that “terms such as ‘celebrating community’ or ‘celebrating assembly’ … should not be used injudiciously” (42) – thus giving official support to a common assertion of the supporters of the reform of the reform – this week’s note warns against the use of the expression “reform of the reform.”The circle closes. The conciliar journey can resume. The efforts at a “reform of the reform,” as an aggressive idealization of a self-referential church immunized from history and experience, has finally been censured at an official level.The Ecclesial Consequences: Bishops and CuriaWhat will follow? I believe that the logic that established the “reform of the reform” project in the late 1990s has tried progressively to sidestep episcopal oversight, reaching its apex with the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum. That document effectively deprived the bishops of their power in liturgical matters.The recovery of episcopal jurisdiction – which finds a central place in the pontificate of Pope Francis – must be made clearly normative, leaving behind the “exceptional” status introduced by Summorum Pontificum. This includes jurisdiction in translations, on the uses and abuses, and on the use of the extraordinary form.With the restoration of the bishops’ power to govern even liturgical matters in their own their dioceses, it is inevitable that the Commission Ecclesia Dei will lose much of the power that was handed to it by Summorum Pontificum.It can be said, then, that the decentralization of the curia is proceeding apace in the realm of liturgy.A helpful observation on this point, with inevitable repercussions in the Roman Curia and its jurisdictions, came from the theologian and journalist Fr. Lorenzo Prezzi, who wrote aptly with regard to Bishop Fellay’s statement: “What Fellay and his associates fail to understand is that their concerns were, for a time, central, but they are now peripheral. Yesterday, their return might have impacted the church. Today and tomorrow it will affect only their own biographies.”It would not be too risky to extend these assessments also to some members of the Roman Curia. They might find comfort in writing or signing some anti-modernist pamphlet.
Jul 17 16 5:49 AM
Thank you; but no thank you
Those of you who during the past 15 days devoted your time to watching football, or lazing by the sea or cursing the English for Brexit, would have probably missed the stirring of the ecclesiastical pot as a result of the address given by Cardinal Robert Sarah during the opening of the Sacra Liturgia conference in London on July 5.
Sarah exhorted priests to start celebrating Mass facing the east while giving their backs to the congregation. Sarah is not an average Joe. As head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, his comments carry weight. More so since a couple of weeks earlier he took the same position during an interview with the French magazine Famille Chrétienne.
Social networks provided the battleground between those who were exultant or in shock at the proposal made by such an authoritative darling of the conservative wing of the Church. Our local brand of Tridentine conservatives, fuelled by several priests who were ordained during the past 15 years or so, were thrilled to no end.
Like conservatives overseas they form a motley bunch more than a monolithic block. (True. However, that "motley bunch" is also "very noisy" and has "mouthpieces" in the Catholic media who make it seem that they are more numerous than they really are, and who are only too happy to help them publicize their increasingly strident complaints - if not outright defiance - against the Pope.) Undoubtedly there are some moderate conservatives who have a right to their views and with whom one can dialogue. Others share the views of the extreme right, which consider the post-Vatican II Mass as ‘a protestant rite’. Sarah fell foul even with these ultra-traditionalists, so much so that the website askaCatholic describes Sarah as “a weak and incompetent neo-con hero”.
The practice of orienting both the liturgy – and Church buildings – toward the east is a very old tradition in the Catholic Church. It is still the norm for Orthodox Christianity and Eastern Catholic churches. John of Damascus wrote about it as far back as the seventh century. It is based on Matthew 24,27: “The coming of the Son of Man will be like lightning striking in the east. And flashing far into the west.” This practice also means that the priest celebrates Mass with his back to the people.
Sarah believes that if this practice becomes mainstream (instead of the exception it now is) the Church will be putting God back at the centre of the Church’s liturgical life. He quoted the “lament of God” proclaimed by the prophet Jeremiah: “The people have turned their backs on me.” “Let us turn again towards the Lord!” he said.
I have no doubt that Cardinal Sarah has taken this position because he sincerely believes that it is for the good of the Church. However, he is intelligent enough to know that his use of this scriptural quote is, at best, very unfortunate, as it has nothing to do with the direction of one’s gaze or the position of one’s back while celebrating Mass.
Looking towards the east (as he suggests) or the west or in any other direction will not in itself help people experience the beauty of the love that is celebrated during Mass, which is the community’s sacrificial meal par excellance. The Church’s celebration of the earthly liturgy will not give participants a better foretaste of the heavenly liturgy just by looking towards the east and by having the celebrant give his back to the congregation.
When congregation and celebrant face each other their communication and bonding is definitively much better. This bonding will then help them experience the presence of Christ that is guaranteed whenever people are gathered in his name. The presence of he who is the way to the Father will then help the community understand that “the liturgy is not about us but about God” (to quote Benedict XVI). There is absolutely no need to revert to yesteryear’s symbols to live this perennial reality.
Luckily, the Vatican immediately quashed all rumours that Sarah was flying Pope Francis’s kite. Many got this impression as Sarah himself had twice mentioned during his London address that he had the full support of Pope Francis in his quest to “reform the reform”.
Fr Federico Lombardi SJ, the Vatican spokesperson, said that the Pope met Cardinal Sarah two days after the London speech, making it clear that the “ordinary” form of celebrating the Mass is the one promulgated after the Second Vatican Council. He added that the “extraordinary” form, while accepted under the means expressed by Benedict XVI, should not become the norm.
Francis practices what he preaches about the possibility of celebrating Mass ad orientem in extraordinary and exceptional circumstances. Since his election, he has celebrated this rite at least once a year, for the annual tradition of the Pope baptising the newborns of Vatican employees in the Sistine Chapel.
Lombardi added that the General Instruction of the Roman Missal states that the altar should be built in such a way “that Mass can be celebrated at it facing the people, which is desirable wherever possible”.
Lombardi also said that “it is better to avoid using the expression ‘the reform of the reform’ (as Sarah did in his London speech), given that this has sometimes been the source of misunderstanding”.
Those using the expression form a spectrum ranging from those who would reasonably like to tweak certain exaggerations that some unfortunately indulge in, to those eager to throw the clock backwards, thus deforming the reform.
Pope Francis is of a different opinion. Last year he celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first Mass offered in Italian. In his homily he said that:
“Let us thank the Lord for what he has done in His Church in these 50 years of liturgical reform… It was truly a courageous gesture for the Church to draw near to the people of God, so that they are able to understand well what they are doing.
“It is not possible to go backwards,” he said. “Always forward! Those who go backward are mistaken.”
My final comment to the good cardinal and to the local enthusiasts of the deforming the reform movement: thanks, but no thanks.
Jul 18 16 12:10 PM
From the moment Pope Francis was elected on March 13, 2013 it was clear that a huge gap separated him from the so-called Catholic traditionalists – on liturgy, ecclesiology, ecumenism, moral theology and the Church’s social doctrine.Despite their constant attacks against him, the pope showed a remarkable restraint towards the traditionalists – and not just because this is good Church politics, but because he does not like conflict.“I don’t chop off heads,” he said a couple of weeks ago in interview with the Argentinian newspaper La Nacion.“That was never my style. I’ve never liked doing that,” he insisted.Indeed, we had become almost accustomed to the idea that Francis and the traditionalists were pretty much traveling on two separate and parallel paths in a “live and let live” sort of silent agreement. But two recent developments indicate something important about the pope and the various forms of Catholic traditionalism.The first took place on June 29 when the schismatic Priestly Society of St Pius X (SSPX) issued a communiqué that slammed the brakes on any hoped-for reconciliation with Rome. In a carefully worded text, Bishop Bernard Fellay – leader of the anti-Vatican II movement founded by the late-Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre (195-1991) – did not close the door completely on future developments in the SSPX’s relationship with Rome. But he acknowledged that there was a great distance between the so-called Lefebvrists and the Church of Francis, while indirectly admitting there were also divisions inside their society.End-of-June communiqués have become almost a tradition with the SSPX. After courting Benedict XVI for years, the three bishops of the SSPX (Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais and Alfonso de Gallareta) released a statement a several weeks after the former pope resigned pointing out the flaws in a famous speech he gave on the “two hermeneutics” of Vatican II.The second development took place on July 5th when Cardinal Robert Sarah (Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, appointed by Francis in November 2014), during a talk in London, invited all priests to start celebrating Mass ad orientem (the characteristic pre-Vatican II style with the priest’s back to the people), starting next Advent.This caused a reaction from many Catholics – including theologians, bishops and even cardinals – all around the world. But the most visible reaction came from Pope Francis who, in an unprecedented statement released on July 11 through the Holy See Press Office, disavowed Cardinal Sarah’s appeal and his support for a “reform of the liturgical reform” (an expression that the Holy See statement says “may at times give rise to error”).These two incidents could be seen just as a brief series of small events. But I believe they play some bigger role in the chronology of Francis’ pontificate.First of all, the press office’s July 11th communiqué is the pope’s most direct and unequivocal statement to date – for those who did not get the message from everything he does, including his liturgical style - concerning the post-Vatican II liturgical reformand the many attempts to question the theology and ecclesiology of the Council’s constitution on the liturgy SacrosanctumConcilium.So far, Francis has not focused on the liturgy, at least not in his documents. For example, in his foundational document, the 2013 exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, he quotes from many Vatican II documents, but not from the liturgical constitution. However, Cardinal Sarah’s initiative forced him to react forcefully.The statement makes clear that Francis can live with liturgical traditionalism, but “the ‘extraordinary’ form, which was permitted by Pope Benedict XVI for the purposes and in the ways explained in his Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, must not take the place of the ‘ordinary’ one”.The African cardinal’s overreach provoked the reaction of Francis, producing a clear setback in the agenda of the advocates of the pre-Vatican II Mass – both those who see as possible a peaceful coexistence of the reformed liturgy and Old Mass on the same level, and those who work actively to see the post-conciliar liturgical reform abrogated.(Note that this was actually the second time Cardinal Sarah defied Francis. It took thirteen months – from December 2014 to January 2016 – for his office to implement the pope’s request that the official liturgical rubrics be changed so women could be included in the Holy Thursday foot washing ritual).As Italian liturgist and theologian Andrea Grillo wrote, “The conciliar journey can resume.”This is a significant moment for more than just the liturgy (and that is why any comparison between Catholic liturgical traditionalism on one side and the liturgical traditionalism of the Eastern Catholic Churches and of the Eastern Orthodox Churches on the other side does not explain anything of what is happening).In reality, the recent incidents show once again how Catholic traditionalists continue to underestimate Pope Francis. Many of them really thought they could twist his arm. Unfortunately for them, they have not paid close enough attention to how the pope deals with politicians who have tried this same tactic.And their continuing inability to read the mind of such a Vatican II pope speaks volumes about the relationship between Francis and all those who are trying to “bridge” (let’s put it that way) the Catholic Church of Vatican II and Catholic ultra-traditionalism (above all the Vatican commission “Ecclesia Dei”). Paradoxically, the extreme schismatics of the SSPX are the traditionalists that understand Francis better.Most importantly, these last few weeks make clear that the position of the traditionalist cause has shifted significantly. During the end of the pontificate of John Paul II and all during that of Benedict XVI, issues close to the heart of traditionalists had become central in the agenda of some officials the Roman Curia and in the European and English-speaking Catholic intelligentsia – as Italian Catholic historian Giovanni Miccoli noted several years ago.The simple fact is that for Francis the traditionalists’ agenda is no longer a central concern. “It is central only for the biographies of their advocates”, but not for the future of the Church.These recent events do not mean that traditionalists and their agenda will be wiped off or disappear from the Roman Catholic horizon. The pope has no interest in doing that. It just means that, for Francis, the Church is a big tent. And the liturgical reform from Vatican II (use of the vernacular, inculturation, adaptation, etc.) is one of the safeguards that allows it to be a big tent and a missionary Church in the global world. This is something that got lost in the “altar wars” of these last many years.It is worth remembering that during the last decade the Roman Curia and some Catholic circles (not only the blogosphere, but also universities, journals and magazines) showed a particular sympathy and irenic attitude towards the issues of traditionalists (in liturgy and not only).That irenicism, at least in the minds of those with the best intentions, was supposed to make clear that the Catholic Church was remaining a big tent. But instead, the result of ten years (at least) of that irenicism towards traditionalism was that the exclusivist agenda of traditionalists had become the theological manifesto for a smaller, purer Church. And in the long run it was supposed to replace the Catholic Church of Vatican II. In this sense, the pontificate of Pope Francis, especially in these last few weeks, has been a moment of truth.
Jul 22 16 4:54 PM
Facing East During the Liturgy: Fact and FictionIn a liturgical conference in London in May, Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, argued that priests should consider turning toward the East for the celebration of the eucharistic portion of the Mass.Turning toward the East, or ad orientem, is technical liturgical language for the priest and people facing in the same direction. The suggestion is nothing new. The decision to allow Mass facing the people has had its opponents since it was allowed shortly after the end of the Second Vatican Council. And more recently it has been championed by none less than Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in his many writings on the liturgy.Shortly after Cardinal Sarah gave his speech, the Vatican Press Office issued a statement “clarifying” his remarks. In it they made clear that the provisions for Mass facing the people remain in place. We shall see if that ends the matter.Cardinal Sarah’s speech is likely to cause some conversation in the coming months, as surely some clergy and laity will want to follow his advice. I would like to sort out fact from fiction in the debate over which way the priest should face at the liturgy.Fact and FictionOpponents of Mass facing the people often point out that the Second Vatican Council’s “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy” contains no provision for the practice. They are correct. The issue was discussed in the commission that produced the document as well as in the debates on the floor of the council. (Annibale Bugnini’s account of the reform, The Reform of the Liturgy: 1948-1975, is an invaluable resource for this material.) But shortly after the constitution was approved in December 1963, the first instruction for implementing the reform appeared. “Inter Oecumenici” (1964) stated: “The main altar should preferably be freestanding, to permit walking around it and celebration facing the people. Its location in the place of worship should be truly central so that the attention of the whole congregation naturally focuses there” (No. 91).The prescribed placement of the altar was also stated clearly in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (1969, 3rded. 2002), the church’s official liturgical law. Here are the relevant paragraphs: The altar on which the Sacrifice of the Cross is made present under sacramental signs is also the table of the Lord to which the People of God is called together to participate in the Mass, as well as the center of the thanksgiving that is accomplished through the Eucharist. The altar should be built apart from the wall, in such a way that it is possible to walk around it easily and that Mass can be celebrated at it facing the people, which is desirable wherever possible. The altar should, moreover, be so placed as to be truly the center toward which the attention of the whole congregation of the faithful naturally turns.The alert reader will observe several things. First, the altar is described as both the place where the “Sacrifice of the Cross is made present” and “the table of the Lord.” (A fuller theological statement would argue that the eucharistic sacrifice and the sacred meal in which we participate are two sides of the same coin). Second, it is interesting to note that facing the people is not mandated. That is, it has never been forbidden, perhaps because too many chapels were built in such a way that having an altar separate from the wall was not architecturally feasible. Nonetheless, the preference is clear that the main altar of a church is to be separated from the wall to make Mass facing the people possible.Another “fiction” that is sometimes repeated is that the General Instruction presumes that the priest will face East. Critics point to four points in the description of the Mass (Nos. 124, 146, 157 and 165) when the priest is directed to turn towards the people. Two cautions are appropriate here. These directives may be in place to deal with the possibility that the priest can face East, in which case the Instruction makes clear that there are times when he must face the people. But the document does not direct the priest to turn around again to the altar after the prayer over the gifts and the eucharistic prayer—that is, it does not presume that he will be facing East.One last fact: At the time of Vatican II some argued that the original position of the priest was facing the people. This, too, seems to have been a fiction. All of the evidence we have from the early church shows that facing East whence the Lord was expected to make his final coming was expected. In church building that could not be oriented (e.g., St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome) the priest faced East, which was also toward the people.What Is At Stake?There is a great deal at stake in the argument over which way the priest should face. Three reasons are often cited for facing East. The first is that the people are involved in a common action and therefore should face the Lord in offering the eucharistic sacrifice. The second is that the personality of the priest now dominates in the liturgy—to its detriment. Third, the current arrangement makes the celebration a self-enclosed circle in which the community becomes the object of its own worship. These arguments are not unreasonable; there have been many situations that warrant these criticisms over the past 50 years.On the other hand, the arguments do not seem sufficient to warrant changing the current practice of facing the people during the celebration of the Eucharist. The abuses and excesses of the decades following the institution of the liturgical reform are for the most part a thing of the past. No doubt there are occasional exceptions, which some bloggers are eager to pounce on.The decision to make versus populum celebration a possibility rested on a profound theological insight, one which is profoundly traditional. The Eucharist is the action of the church—head and members. This sacred action is a sacrifice (self-offering along with Christ) that takes the form of meal, in which the body and blood of the Lord are given and shared. (This latter point invites more emphasis than I can expand on here. Suffice it to say that current attitudes toward receiving Communion in a consumerist culture often obscure the fact that Communion is something we share with one another as the body of Christ). It was perfectly clear to St. Paul (I Cor 10-11) and St. Augustine (Sermon 227, 272) that we receive the body of Christ in order to become the body of Christ. Hence the importance of the council’s clarion call for full, conscious and active participation in the liturgy.Last, as the church historian Massimo Faggioli has frequently and astutely argued, liturgical reform is an interpretive key to the whole of the council. A reversion to the pre-conciliar position of the priest at Mass would be a profound signal that the forward steps the church took in Vatican II are in question. I suspect that a good number of people who make the ad orientem argument are in favor of just such a reversal.In 2000, the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Disciple of the Sacraments issued a statement responding to an inquiry regarding ad orientem and versus populum. They were on target in insisting that the question really depends of making Christ the center of the celebration. I would add that it is important to keep emphasizing that the body of Christ is present both on the altar and in the assembly—not to mention in the priest and the word of God as stated by the “Constitution on Sacred Liturgy” (No. 7) and the General Instruction (No. 27). What is very much at stake in our liturgical celebrations is the reverence we have for all of these modes of the presence of Christ.
The altar on which the Sacrifice of the Cross is made present under sacramental signs is also the table of the Lord to which the People of God is called together to participate in the Mass, as well as the center of the thanksgiving that is accomplished through the Eucharist. The altar should be built apart from the wall, in such a way that it is possible to walk around it easily and that Mass can be celebrated at it facing the people, which is desirable wherever possible. The altar should, moreover, be so placed as to be truly the center toward which the attention of the whole congregation of the faithful naturally turns.
Jul 23 16 10:03 PM
Which way does God face?The Vatican’s most senior liturgist recommends that the priest celebrating Mass should face east. But there are powerful theological and pastoral reasons why he should not.The Vatican’s most senior liturgist recommends that the priest celebrating Mass should face east. But there are powerful theological and pastoral reasons why he should not.Cardinal Robert Sarah, the current Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments (CDW), has made an impassioned plea for bishops and priests to start celebrating Mass this coming Advent versus orientem (towards the east), that is with the celebrant’s back to the people, as was the customary usage in the Tridentine Rite.Speaking to a receptive group of liturgical traditionalists in London, he said, “I believe that it is very important that we return as soon as possible to a common orientation, of priests and faithful turned in the same direction — eastwards or, at least, towards the apse — (towards) the Lord who comes, in those parts of the liturgical rites when we are addressing God … I think it is a very important step in ensuring that, in our celebrations, the Lord is truly at the centre.”The cardinal explained that this change requires no special legislation since current liturgical law does not forbid versus orientem celebrations. He contends that celebrating facing the people went beyond the mandate of the Vatican II document Sacrosanctum Concilium (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy) and needed to be rethought, along with other practises that seem to “desacralise” the celebration of the Eucharist, such as the reception of Communion while standing. (Why don't we dial back the clock on the whole of Vatican II while we're at it?!)His final argument for turning towards the liturgical east draws on the Scriptures. “Dear fathers,” he said, “we should listen again to the lament of God proclaimed by the prophet Jeremiah: ‘They have turned their back to me. Let us turn again toward the Lord!’”It is important to examine what is behind this call to change more than 40 years of normative liturgical practice and the current liturgical legislation that clearly prefers celebrations facing the people. The 1993 publication of Tournés vers le Seigneur! (Turned toward the Lord) by the liturgical historian Klaus Gamber, with a preface by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, marked the beginning of the “reform of the reform” movement that sought to restore what Gamber characterised as a more organic relationship with preconciliar worship. Gamber considers the Vatican II Rite of Mass inferior in every way to its Tridentine predecessor.According to Gamber, the liturgical reform of Vatican II rendered a transcendent experience of Christ’s sacrifice into a meeting of a human community assembled for a commemorative meal. He also claimed that the reforms of the liturgy went far beyond what the bishops of the council really intended. Gamber’s general arguments, and those advanced by other writers such as U.M. Lang, seem to underlie Cardinal Sarah’s comments.These critiques of the Vatican II liturgy are largely based on a selective reading of both the history of the liturgy and the theology of worship. Despite claims by Gamber and others that there is universal precedent for the presider to face the same direction as the faithful during the Eucharistic Prayer, the historical record is far more mixed than they care to admit. Western European architectural evidence and artistic renderings of the celebration of the Mass indicate versus populum as well as versus orientem arrangements long into the Carolingian period (ninth and tenth centuries). What, then, are the theological and pastoral bases for the current practice of celebrating Mass facing the people?One of the main goals of the preconciliar liturgical movement was its emphasis on restoring liturgical participation by the laity at Mass. For this reason, it promoted “dialogue Masses” prior to Vatican II (just as there is no absolute requirement that the Vatican II Mass be celebrated versus populum, there was no absolute requirement that the Tridentine Mass had to be celebrated ad orientem). Many bishops at the council already had experience of this manner of celebrating — and during the years of the council, the bishops were regularly exposed to Masses celebrated facing the people. This approach was emphasised by Pope Francis when he met Cardinal Sarah to discuss the prefect’s remarks made in London.Leaving the specific implementation for subsequent working groups, the Constitution of the Sacred Liturgy speaks of “worthy and well-planned construction of places of worship, the design and construction of altars …” (SC128) all in the context of the overarching concern to “facilitate the active participation of the faithful” (SC124). It is highly unlikely that the bishops at Vatican II were calling here for more altars on the back wall of the church.This background allows us to better understand the preference expressed by the 1964 instruction Inter Oecumenici. “The main altar should preferably be freestanding, to permit walking around it and celebration facing the people. Its location in the place of worship should be truly central so that the attention of the whole congregation naturally focuses there”(IE 91). It is this text that forms the basis for the current General Instruction of the Roman Missal that clearly states a preference for an altar that is visible to all, central, and one that allows for celebrations facing the people (GIRM299). This preference flows from the emphasis of the council fathers on all the faithful’s “full, conscious, and active participation called for by the very nature of the liturgy” (SC14).Cardinal Sarah implied that much of the liturgical reform went beyond what the bishops of Vatican II had approved. In the case of celebrations facing the people, this assertion would be difficult to substantiate. On the contrary, the testimony of Archbishop Emeritus James Hayes of Halifax-Yarmouth, who was himself a participant at Vatican II, connects celebrations facing the people to the ecclesiology of the council and a renewed theology of the priesthood. The priest, in celebrating Mass, is not only an alter Christus, but also an altera ecclesia — a member of the Church who belongs to the same world as the rest of the assembly.The Church is in the world. This means that the private, spiritual sense of Church and priestly activity is past. The “secret and special” priestly functions are now seen in a different light. When we stopped muttering Latin over infants, and over couples on their wedding day, and over corpses, we did more than make the prayers intelligible. We said that we belong to the same world as the rest of you. We did that, too, when we turned around to celebrate the Eucharist facing the people. With these changes, much of the reason for our special status melted away.Given Pope Francis’ frequent denunciation of clericalism, it is unfortunate that an initiative that is being promoted by the Prefect seems to unnecessarily reinforce clericalism. While Cardinal Sarah is certainly free to state his preferences, his suggestion that we all face “east” (and it can only be a suggestion) must be evaluated in light of our own experience of worship and how we see this spatial arrangement reflective of our faith in God’s presence in our place and time. We need to ask if our notion of God is inspired by looking outside of our world and mediated through the priest who stands between God and us. That was certainly an important part of the Tridentine theology of worship expressed by the spatial arrangement the cardinal is promoting.For the Cardinal Prefect to make such a strong suggestion to revert to a Tridentine “spatial theology” of God’s presence, I would have thought he would base his appeal on the Prophet Jeremiah and unsubstantiated claims of over-reach by the architects of the Vatican II liturgy. While it is true that Pope Benedict expressed his preference for celebrating the Mass ad orientem, he also stated that it was impractical to impose this on the Church due to the confusion it would cause. Cardinal Sarah may say that it is Pope Francis who is encouraging his particular interpretation of the “reform of the reform.” I very much doubt, however, that the Holy Father will start celebrating ad orientem at his daily Mass in the chapel of Santa Marta at the beginning of Advent. Given the shaky reasons voiced by the cardinal calling for this change, neither should most of the Church.
Aug 19 16 6:55 AM
The Worst Reasons for Ad OrientemI was invited to make the case against ad orientem. But I can’t do that, for I’m not opposed to this practice and I have celebrated Mass that way myself on a few occasions. What I am opposed to is the way some people advocate for it.It is said, for example, that Vatican II never called for Mass facing the people. This is true on narrowly literalist grounds, but ultimately misunderstands the Council. The Council’s reformist spirit made possible all sorts of practices not explicitly advocated in its documents. Nor did they need to be. The Council stated foundational principles which set the Church on a reformist trajectory, while only in a few cases getting into the specifics and locking down future developments.It’s time to say it: the so-called “hermeneutic of continuity” proposed by Benedict XVI in 2005 has outlived its usefulness as a tool for understanding the Second Vatican Council. Its proponents, who frequently carry the proposal further than Benedict ever did, (They've carried it into outer space, as far as I'm concerned.) have shown in abundance that the proposal obscures rather than clarifies the paradigm shifts clearly called for by the Council. For liturgy, the paradigm shift is from Carolingian clericalized sacred drama to an act of the entire community. Just let the full weight of that shift sink in, including all the possible implications for liturgical practice. There is a reason why the Fathers of Vatican II decided that the 1962 missal would not remain in use in its unreformed state.It is said that ad orientem was the universal practice of the early Church. While it eventually came to be predominant, historical data is ambiguous. And the data from the very earliest centuries is too scant for any overly confident claims. And even if it were universal practice for all of Church history, this wouldn’t make innovation in the 20th century impossible. Everything in history was done for the first time at some point, and we would never have gone from the Last Supper to Tridentine High Mass if liturgical history weren’t chock-full of innovation and development.It is said that ad orientem fosters humility in the celebrant and prevents his ego from taking over as it does in versus populum. Really? You don’t have to be a psychologist to see that a traditionalist priest’s motives for pushing his agenda on the community can be just as ego-driven as the motives of the chatty game show host celebrant. And of course, reverent, Christ-centered worship is also possible in either practice. Neither humility nor egoism clearly aligns with either practice.It is said that some Lutherans and Anglicans/Episcopalians practice ad orientem without any controversy, so we should be able to do the same. This shows a stunning lack of sensitivity to the thoughts and feelings of many contemporary Catholics and ignores that our history is so utterly different from theirs. Hence ad orientem has a very different meaning for us than it does for them. And one is suspicious of such newfound ecumenical sensitivity from quarters otherwise uninterested in the ecumenical project.It is said that the now famous “quod” in article 299 of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal clearly refers to the placement of the altar away from the wall but not the direction of the priest facing the people, and the latter is a willful liberal misinterpretation. I think Jonathan Day has taken care of this one at the blog Pray Tell, and shown that the Roman document is anything but clear.Here’s something I’d like to ask people who argue that the supposedly universal apostolic practice of ad orientem has a claim on us: does this also mean that the faithful should stand and not kneel at the liturgy, as the Council of Nicaea decreed for all Sundays of the year and all of Easter season in 325? Does this mean that the Precious Blood should always be offered to the faithful along with the consecrated Bread, as was universal practice in the West for most of Church history and is still the practice in the East? Does this mean that tabernacles should not be in the center of the apse, an innovation of the Counter-Reformation era?In fact, I’d answer “yes” to all these questions. The more traditional practices lessen the divide between priest and people, and make clearer that everyone together offers the Eucharistic Sacrifice and shares together in its rich fruits. It was utterly foreign to the early Church, and most of the medieval Church as well, to have a church full of kneeling people facing the tabernacle like their priest but receiving Communion under only one form.Time to call out the selective historicism of some people, I’d say. Time to see who really wants to return to apostolic practice, and who instead wants to return to the 1950s. Which is to say, time to see who is advocating ad orientem because it’s just one more way, while claiming otherwise, to chip away at the Second Vatican Council.Pope Francis has a way of smoking out his enemies. So much of the opposition to him is being unmasked for what it is: opposition to the Second Vatican Council.Once the smoke clears, and once we all get back on the same page, behind Francis and behind the Council, who knows where it will lead? Maybe, someday, to widespread ad orientem? Fine with me – but only if it’s for good reasons, based upon acceptance of the deeply reformist Council.Maybe someday. But in my judgment, what Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger suggested in 2000 remains even more true today: now is not the time to introduce ad orientem. It has to be separated from its retrograde associations before we can begin to talk about whether and how it might fit within Vatican II’s understanding of liturgy.
Aug 20 16 5:07 AM
Bishop Steven J. Lopes is the first bishop of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter, a structure equivalent to a diocese for Roman Catholics in the United States and Canada who were nurtured in the Anglican tradition. The ordinariate is among three personal ordinariates in the world, which were created to provide a path for groups of Anglicans to become fully Roman Catholic while retaining elements of their worship traditions and spiritual heritage in union with the Catholic Church. Established by Pope Benedict XVI on January 1, 2012, and headquartered in Houston, Texas, the ordinariate serves Roman Catholics in 42 parishes across North America.Appointed by Pope Francis in November 2015 and ordained a bishop on Feb. 2, 2016, Bishop Lopes succeeds Monsignor Jeffrey N. Steenson, a former Episcopalian bishop and married priest who was named ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter when it was founded in 2012.A California native and the son of two educators, Bishop Lopes attended Catholic schools and the St. Ignatius Institute at the University of San Francisco before entering seminary. During his training for the priesthood, he studied philosophy at St. Patrick Seminary in Menlo Park and theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, where he earned an S.T.L.. Ordained by Cardinal William Levada as a priest in San Francisco in 2001, he served two parishes in the archdiocese before returning to Rome to earn an S.T.D. from the Gregorian, where he also taught theology while serving the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith as an aide to Cardinal Levada from 2005 to 2012.In 2012, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Bishop Lopes secretary of the Vatican commission Anglicanae Traditiones, which developed Divine Worship: The Missal, a new book of liturgical texts for the celebration of Mass in the personal ordinariates around the globe. This new missal replaced the Book of Divine Worship (2003) that Pope St. John Paul II authorized under a 1980 “pastoral provision” that also allowed married former Anglican Communion clergymen to be ordained as Catholic priests. On July 18, I interviewed Bishop Lopes by email about his ministry and the Ordinariate.Many Roman Catholics do not know what “personal ordinariate” means. What is this personal ordinariate for Catholics nurtured in the Anglican tradition and what does your ordination as its first bishop mean for Catholics?The ordinariate is a canonical structure comparable to a diocese. Pope Benedict XVI created ordinariates for those communities from the Anglican tradition who were entering into full communion with the Catholic Church. While dioceses are divided into geographical regions, the ordinariate is not territorial. It is called “personal” because it is comprised of those parish communities that share a common liturgical, pastoral and theological heritage of English Catholicism, wherever they happen to be.In creating this new structure, the Holy Father judged that there was something particular about these communities coming into full communion that they could share with the universal church. The creation of a non-territorial diocese of these communities was the way to integrate them into the life of the Catholic Church, while at the same time providing them the stability and structure they needed to preserve and develop their own unique identity and patrimony. There are two other personal ordinariates in the world: the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in Great Britain and the Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross in Australia.In your meeting with Pope Francis about this appointment, what was your sense of his reasons for extending Vatican support of the ordinariate and of his attitude toward the unique ministry you’ve undertaken?Pope Francis was enormously encouraging! It is clear to me that with his approval of a proper missal for the ordinariates and with my appointment as bishop, he is giving concrete expression to the vision of Pope Benedict XVI for the unity of Christians. That vision is essentially this: Unity in faith allows for a diversity of expression of that same faith. For his part, Pope Francis spoke to me about providing stability for our communities and their integration into Catholic life, but also of our unique role in evangelization, both to our Protestant sisters and brothers as well as to those within the church whose faith has grown lukewarm.You are the Roman Catholic bishop of 42 North American parishes in full communion with Rome, celebrating a form of the Roman Rite Mass, but your Catholic cathedral looks different and worships differently from the Catholic cathedral of Cardinal Daniel DiNardo that is also located in Houston. How do you explain this difference to Catholics of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston?Our liturgical expression arises out of the experience of English Christianity during the last 500 years. It is the Roman Rite as it was taken up and developed within an Anglican context and now reintegrated into Catholic worship. It is understandable that the nuances and accents would perhaps be different, but the basic shape and structure of the Mass remains the same. The Holy See has given the name “Divine Worship” to our liturgical and sacramental rites, so we worship according to the “Divine Worship” form of the Roman Rite.So, yes, there are some differences. Our liturgy preserves the vernacular, but English as it is articulated in the great prayer books of the Anglican tradition. The 1549 Book of Common Prayer tends to be a primary source for our worship, so the shape and gestures of the Mass includes some attributes from that—Eastward-facing liturgy, primacy of the Roman Canon, a full set of minor propers in English—all of which predate the Missal of St. Pius V in the Catholic Church.In November 2015, the Vatican promulgated a new missal (Divine Worship: The Missal) for the liturgical use of your parishes. How is your Mass similar to and different from the Mass that other Catholic parishes celebrate according to the Roman Missal?Divine Worship incorporates some texts and prayers that arise entirely out of Anglicanism, including prayers said in common by clergy and faithful prior to and just after receiving Holy Communion, and the penitential rite occurring just before the offertory. The one thing that every Catholic will recognize, however, is the faith that these words and gestures embody and express.The new missal is actually the second liturgical book to be promulgated for our use. The first, Divine Worship: Occasional Services, includes the rite for Baptism and Christian Initiation, for weddings, and for funerals. The structure of these rites would be largely similar to what is found in the Books of Common Prayer. The missal for the celebration of Mass is flexible enough in its rubrics so as to allow celebration according to a more traditional form of the Roman Rite—with which many converting Anglo-Catholics are long familiar—as well as celebration, which is closer to the Novus Ordo, with which most Catholic would be familiar.Although Pope Benedict XVI created the personal ordinariate in response to continued requests by Episcopalian parishes and their clergy to join with the Catholic Church, some pundits criticized him at the time for profiting from divisions within Anglicanism to gather more converts to Roman Catholicism. From your perspective as bishop, why do some Episcopalians join the Catholic Church through your ordinariate and how do you respond to this criticism?Pundits, by their nature, seem to be either uninformed or misinformed! The truth of the matter is that Pope Benedict displayed great courage and great charity. These communities of faithful, with their pastors, were asking to be received into full communion. They desired to be Catholic, to be guided by the church’s teaching office, and they saw themselves as completing an ecumenical trajectory that includes the ARCIC [Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission] process and the great conversations between Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Michael Ramsey. Pope Benedict’s response was charity because it responded to this very reasonable initiative and request. It was courageous because it forged a way to enter into full communion as a parish group, thus preserving a proper parochial identity and patrimony. This is the newness of the Apostolic Constitution, “Anglicanorum Coetibus.”When Pope Benedict XVI established your ordinariate in 2012, there was initially some question about how extensively married former Episcopalian seminarians and clergy might be ordained as Catholic priests, and your predecessor as ordinary (Monsignor Steenson) is a married former Episcopalian priest who could not become a Catholic bishop for that reason. What is the ordinariate’s current policy on ordaining married priests and how has it evolved?Let me perhaps clarify the question: The issue was the acceptance and ordination of married men who were ordained Anglican priests. This “pastoral provision,” as St. John Paul II first called it, was an acknowledgment of the working of grace in the lives and ministry of these men that should not cease when grace led them to seek full communion with the Catholic Church. With “Anglicanorum Coetibus,” the ordination of married former Anglican clergy is also in favor of preserving the essential pastoral relationship between pastors and their faithful whom they are leading into full communion. So married clergy from Anglican/Episcopal communities who enter full communion with the Catholic Church and seek ordination as Catholic priests can receive a dispensation from the obligation of celibacy and receive sacred orders. But the Ordinariate is not in any way a challenge to the church’s doctrinally-rooted discipline of clerical celibacy. We have wonderful celibate priests, too! Also, seminarians who begin studying for the priesthood in the Ordinariate are expected to adhere to the church’s tradition in this regard. We currently have four men studying for the priesthood and they will be ordained celibate priests. This is not a policy. It is simply the life of the church.What proportion of your current presbyterate is married, and how do you see that percentage evolving in the future as the Ordinariate becomes more established?Right now, the great majority are married. That will even out in the next 10 years or so.Where do your seminarians train?We have four seminarians; three will be at St. Mary’s Seminary in Houston and one will be doing a pastoral internship. But the Ordinariate would be free to send its candidates to any seminary.What kind of people do your parishes serve?Our parishes are vibrant communities comprised of people of various backgrounds, experiences, ages and nationalities. Many have entered the Catholic Church as adults, coming from other Anglican or Protestant backgrounds. Many more have returned to the faith of their Baptism after a long period away—or embraced Christian faith for the first time—because of the evangelizing mission of our parish communities. Still others have simply grown up in it. While the Ordinariate is new, the parishes of the Pastoral Provision have been around since 1983, and so this form and style of Catholic life has been around for a while. As an example, I would point to the remarkable team of 72 altar servers we have at the Cathedral parish, ranging in ages from 8 to 18. All of them have known no other expression of Catholic life and worship than what has been going on at Our Lady of Walsingham for over three decades now.You are a product of Jesuit education, having studied in the St. Ignatius Institute at the University of San Francisco and the Gregorian University in Rome, where you also taught for several years. How has this Jesuit education influenced you?Let’s not forget the faculty of theology at the University of Innsbruck—I studied under some remarkable Jesuit teachers there! I owe the Society of Jesus a tremendous debt of gratitude. Jesuits not only taught me the faith, but they taught me how to articulate the faith, to reason and give an apologia for the faith, to give an account for the joy that is in me because of the faith. To my mind, that is Jesuit education at its best.As bishop, you now participate fully in U.S.C.C.B. gatherings and will meet every few years with the pope for ad limina visits to report on your flock. If you could say one thing to Pope Francis so far about what you’ve learned from your experience as bishop of the Ordinariate, what would it be?It’s all worth it! After all, Pope Francis knows just how much went into the establishment of the ordinariate, and how much goes into the evaluation of each and every clergy applicant to the ordinariate, both at the local level and at the Holy See. But to see this vision realized and the vitality of the people in it — it’s all worth it.What people, living or dead, have had the greatest influence on your Catholic faith and why?My parents, certainly. Also my parish priest growing up, Marvin Steffes, C.PP.S. In many ways, Father Marvin stepped in when I needed him most, after my own father was diagnosed with the serious cancer that would eventually take his life. Ostensibly he was teaching me how to cook, but as I stirred, he grilled me on my catechism and expounded on obscure details of history, of which he was so very fond. It was a foundational experience for me.What’s your favorite scripture passage and why?Well, I chose a passage from Psalm 111 [“Great are the works of the Lord”] for my episcopal motto, so there’s one! Growing up, the Precious Blood Fathers taught me a great love for St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, especially Chapter 2. That idea of those who are far off being “brought near by the Blood of Christ” is something I have in mind every time I celebrate Mass in one of our communities.You became bishop at 40 and recently turned 41, which means you now have 34 years to go before the mandatory episcopal retirement age, and it’s quite possible this assignment will be your last one as you establish stability for your new congregations of “English Catholicism.” What are your hopes for the future of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter?We’re very much in the “pioneering phase,” so it is not easy to see the future! For the moment we have an infrastructure to build, clergy health insurance and retirement plans to develop, catechesis and evangelization to engage, parishes to construct and so on. There’s plenty to do!Any final thoughts?Beyond the obvious benefits that it brings to the people in it, the ordinariate is, I firmly believe, a fine example of realized ecumenism. It provides a model of diversity in unity that can reinvigorate the search of Eucharistic communion among Christians.
Sep 5 16 5:07 PM
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