Archive for the ‘Tridentine mass’ Category

Francis reshapes the CDW


An article in the Catholic Herald discusses recent appointments, and dismissals, in the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, “While the more eye-catching curial reforms of the Francis era have, thus far, centred on the combining of smaller department into new “super-dicasteries” and other obvious structural changes, yesterday saw a fairly broad reshaping of a curial department in the form of its personnel. The new members of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments were announced in the Vatican Press Office’s daily bulletin, and the names and sheer numbers of the new members have raised a few eyebrows. In total, 27 new members were appointed, and there was a distinctly global complexion to the announcement, with many of the new members coming from sub-saharan Africa and further afield. While the African bishops as a group tend to be known for their doctrinal orthodoxy, liturgically they are much more diverse, with the continent producing some of the most stridently traditional liturgists in recent years, as well as the current and former heads of the Congregation itself in Cardinals Arinze and Sarah, while also being home to some of the most “enculturated” liturgies in the Church”.

The piece notes that “While the global membership of this, or any congregation, is a fairly rough indication of how this, or any Pope, sees the Catholic world, it is worth noting that in Rome, as everywhere else, the decisions tend to be made by those who show up. Consequently, more attention is often paid to the appointment of bishops or cardinals who actually live in or near Rome who can attend the ordinary business meetings of the congregation, and consequently are expected to wield a more immediate influence in the working of the department. There are a number of names included on the list of 27 new members which fit into this category. Cardinal Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, has been made a member; as he has grown more and more into the traditional role of Papal Prime Minister, his inclusion is hardly surprising and seems to indicate Pope Francis’ confidence in him serving as the curial centre of gravity”.

Correctly it reports that “generating much more public reaction, has been the inclusion of Archbishop Piero Marini. Marini is a controversial liturgical figure, having served as secretary to Annibale Bugnini, the Archbishop responsible for the liturgical reforms which followed Vatican II, and is also the former master of papal liturgical ceremonies. His preferences for liturgical dance, and other deeply “enculturated” forms of expression in the liturgy, have proven somewhat controversial in the past. In addition, he is notoriously and publicly impatient with those favouring the Extraordinary Form and other traditionalist liturgical practices, like the celebration of Mass ad orientem. According to a long-circulating Vatican rumour, he was originally intended to become the Prefect of the Congregation when Pope Francis first took office, but such was the resistance of the Congregation’s members that he was passed over for Cardinal Sarah. Also of note is the appointment of Cardinal Beniamino Stella as a new member of the CDW. Cardinal Stella currently serves as Prefect of the Congregation for Clergy and has privately earned a reputation for being fiercely opposed to the rise of seminaries and priestly societies which promote or lean upon particular forms of liturgy in their formation and ministry; his personal campaign for “one priesthood, one formation, one seminary” would seem at odds with the liturgical diversity which has been favoured in recent years. While the appointment of 27 new members to a single congregation is bound to have an impact on its character, it must be noted that the Vatican announcement failed to mention which of the current members of the congregation would be staying on. This has not stopped instant and vociferous internet speculation from taking off, with some websites insisting that Cardinals Burke, Pell, Ouellet, and Scola were all leaving the congregation. This speculation, for that is all that it is at the moment, is being framed as a removal of the “Ratzingerians” and a purge of the traditionalists from the congregation. Meanwhile the new Rome-based members are being pitched as arch-modernists who will leave Cardinal Sarah effectively isolated at the top of his own congregation. Wild interpretations of this sort should be taken with a large measure of salt”.

Interestingly the piece mentions that “In the first place, none of the supposedly departing “Ratzingerians” has actually been confirmed as yet. Even if these so far unconfirmed reports are true, they fail to account for the considerable depth of experienced members of whom nothing has yet been said, and who can be assumed to be carrying on until we hear otherwise. These include formidable minds and characters like Cardinal Peter Erdö, the Relator General of the Synod of Bishops’ General Assembly; Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the Archbishop of Columbo and former Secretary of the CDW; Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, former Prefect of the Congregation for Clergy and current head of the Apostolic Penitentiary; and Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, the head of the Italian Bishops’ Conference. While the simultaneous appointment of 27 new members to any congregation represents a real changing of guard, as with so many of the acts of this pontificate there has been an instinctive rush to interpret events through the most ecclesiastically partisan lens to be found”.

Crucially it adds “While it is true that some of the new members have distinct and forceful thoughts on liturgy, few can contend that they are unqualified for membership. Similarly, while it may come out that some of the more seasoned traditionalists in the CDW have not had their membership renewed, it would be a gross overstatement to insist that there has been some kind of philosophical coup, or that there are not still several loud and authoritative voices to be heard on both sides of the liturgical discussion. Surely the whole point of a global and diverse membership is to have the best of all sides in the conversation”.



Francis humiliates Sarah


A report notes how Rome rowed back from comments from cardinal Sarah, “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 piece notes “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”.

The report goes on to mention “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”.

The piece ends “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”.

Always in schism


John Allen, after the consecretaion by Richard Williamson of a new bishop writes why any reconciliation, now or in the future probably will not occur.

He opens “Schism with the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X, founded by the late French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1970, was set in cement in 1988 when Lefebvre consecrated four bishops in defiance of Pope John Paul II. In general, Lefebvre and his following protested the liberalizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). Their signature issue is the old Latin Mass but their objections cut much deeper, generally including ecumenism and inter-faith dialogue and the church’s effort to reach out to the secular world”.

He goes on to write “Just like the Palestinians, the traditionalists were offered almost everything they wanted during the Pope Benedict XVI years as a condition for reunion: Their own juridical structure under church law, giving them autonomy from what they regard as excessively liberal bishops, and a doctrinal statement that acknowledged legitimate diversity in interpreting the documents of Vatican II. Like Arafat they demurred, and the rest is history – the election of a pope not similarly invested in relations with the traditionalists, broader movements in Catholicism that make reunion less likely, and now an internal cleft in the traditionalist world”.

He continues “In truth, however – and as staggering a claim as this may seem – détente between Rome and the Society of St. Pius X was always, if anything, even less likely than Israeli/Palestinian peace. This week’s news, first reported on the Rorate Caeli blog, is that Bishop Richard Williamson, who made a name for himself in 2009 by denying that the Nazis used gas chambers and asserting that historical evidence is “hugely against” the idea that Hitler killed 6 million Jews, plans to ordain a new bishop in defiance of Rome. (Catholic News Service reported Thursday evening that Williamson went through with the illicit ordination and therefore was automatically excommunicated.) Williamson was declared excluded from the Society of Pius X in October, 2012, and the priest he plans to ordain is in the process of being kicked out. This act should certainly put an exclamation point on things”.

Allen mentions that “In the short run, Williamson’s act of defiance may prove a boon to dialogue between what’s left of the Society of St. Pius X and Rome. The head of the society, Bishop Bernard Fellay, is viewed as a realist who sees his movement’s future eventually in coming in from the cold. His freedom of action, however, has been constrained by the more intransigent elements in the fold. It’s conceivable that without Williamson and his following, Fellay may be able to move more boldly”.

Yet he correctly writes that “There’s a good reason, however, why every pope since Paul VI has worked hard to try to heal the schism. Catholic theology holds that any validly ordained bishop can ordain another bishop. Hence the Vatican will be constrained to recognize the Rev. Christian Jean-Michel Faure as a bishop after Williamson ordains him, though it will insist the ordination was illicit and will not recognize any ministry he exercises. In other words, a schism led by a real bishop can become self-replicating, a scenario any pope would want to avoid”.

Pointedly he argues that “there are three reasons why corporate reunion with the traditionalists was probably always a pipe dream and remains so today. First, Fellay is not Arafat, the founder of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the mythic father of the nation. Arafat may have been the only one who could have convinced the Palestinians in something resembling unified fashion to accept a deal. In the traditionalist world, that iconic role belongs to Lefebvre and no one else. As a result, when negotiations under Benedict XVI reached the moment of “fish or cut bait,” nobody had the moral authority to bring everyone along”.

He goes on to argue “one massive obstacle to an Israeli/Palestinian deal is Palestinian insistence on a “right of return,” meaning reclaiming lands and homes seized by the Israelis in the early stages of the conflict. However understandable it may be, it’s not going to happen, and makes any final resolution a non-starter. Similarly, many traditionalists see a formal renunciation of the Second Vatican Council as a condition for reconciliation with Rome, and that’s every bit as implausible”.

He ends “once the genie of schism is out of the bottle, it’s awfully hard to put it back in. Having lionized Lefebvre for breaking with Rome, one wonders how long it would be after a reunion deal before some elements of the traditionalist camp would find something else intolerable and walk off again. In the days to come, there may be speculation about the impact of the Williamson decision on relations with Rome, and some may predict that the path has been cleared for improvement”.

Cardinal Sarah at CDW


Yesterday Pope Francis ended the vacancy at the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments and appointed  Robert Cardinal Sarah as the new prefect. This ends the vacancy that began when Cardinal Canizares Llovera was appointed archbishop of Valencia in August.

Rocco writes that “the most-awaited of the expected moves has been released with today’s appointment of Cardinal Robert Sarah, the 69 year-old Guinean until now in charge of the Vatican’s humanitarian efforts, as the new prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments”.

Rocco goes on to mention that Sarah was “Ordained a bishop at 34, in the post overseeing the global church’s formal life of prayer, Sarah succeeds Cardinal Antonio Cañizares, who was returned to his native Spain – by some accounts, at his own request – in late August as archbishop of his native Valencia. Having served as head of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum – in the coming shuffle, likely to be merged with the body for Justice and Peace – since 2010 and before that as #2 at the Propaganda Fide, not much is known about Sarah’s background or expertise in matters of worship; lacking a doctorate, the cardinal’s final degree was a licentiate in the Scriptures. Then again, the CDW under Francis is not expected to continue along the office’s path of recent decades, which saw the congregation preside over revolutionary shifts (e.g. the sweeping re-translation of the English Missal) alongside maintaining an intense disciplinary oversight of liturgical abuses – whether real or perceived – at the local level. (As a friend once mused – perhaps only half-jokingly – during Cardinal Roger Mahony’s quarter-century as archbishop of Los Angeles, CDW “had a whole wing” dedicated to handling complaints from the US’ largest diocese.)

Interestingly he writes that “the office’s new mission is likely to hew closer to Francis’ own liturgical approach – as one op summarized its principles: ‘Go by the book. Don’t make a fuss about it. And remember that liturgy’s always a means to an end – not an end in itself.’ Along those lines, the choice of a prefect whose ministry has been immersed in the work of charity and the perils of the missions – far removed from the boutique ‘liturgy wars’ so beloved by polarised Anglo-European elites (whose churches aren’t necessarily thriving) – serves above all as a fresh pointer to the risks, rewards and messiness of the ‘peripheries,’ the concept which remains the key to everything in this pontificate. Returning to the wider frame of Curia reform, while Italian and Spanish media accounts have been rife with suppositions and projections of the coming state of things over recent days, the reminder’s apparently in order of the degree to which Francis keeps his cards close until he’s ready to break out”.

Yet it would be a mistake to downplay the importance of the liturgy in the spiritual life of ordinary Catholics. Thus the reason for Benedict’s insistence of a liturgical life that was pointed, and turned to, God.

Some have argued that the appointment of Cardinal Sarah means that “he has appointed Cardinal Sarah as prefect to the Congregation for Divine Worship in order to foster a traditionalist liturgical revival. Pope Francis is a man of broad sympathies. He is steeped in the reformed liturgy, but has no particular liturgical ax to grind. He is not a liturgist. Everything he has done so far suggests that he is interested in pastors and regaining a sense of mission in the Church, and not at all in taking sides in liturgical disputes which can absorb much energy without obvious gains for the body corporate. Cardinal Sarah is clearly an unexpected and unusual choice to lead the CDW. He does not come to his new position as an authority on liturgy or even particularly as a student of the liturgy, much less an advocate for a “reform of the reform.” What he does have in his resume however is 22 years pastoring a diocese in Africa, the most rapidly growing area of the Catholic world”.

The writer goes on to note that “His appointment “works” internally (in the Curia) by removing him from Cor Unum, which is about to be absorbed into a larger agency in the coming reorganization, and giving him a new job. At the same time, it suggests there will be no crusading for liturgical agendas—of any ideological stripe—flowing from this Congregation in the months to come”.

John Allen writes that “despite the removal of Burke, he doesn’t seem to be conducting an ideological purge in senior Vatican positions, nor does he appear to be doling out punishment to those who opposed the progressive line at the recent synod. Second, Francis knows that many African prelates felt compelled to assert themselves during the synod, and wanted to send a signal of respect for the continent by making sure there’s an African prefect of a major Vatican department”.

Allen continues, “the Sarah appointment may also be part of a political balancing act by Francis. The pontiff may be trying to “reach across the aisle,” to use the American argot, and assure conservatives that he’s not the enemy. Doing so in the realm of liturgy may be especially deft, since the Church’s liturgical purists have felt some of the deepest ambivalence about Francis. They tend to believe he’s not nearly as passionate about the Church’s liturgical traditions as Benedict, and his crackdown on a small religious order called the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate that celebrates the old Latin Mass has exacerbated those impressions. In that light, handing responsibility for liturgy over to someone traditionalists generally perceive as a friend may shift the terms of debate”.

The enemies of Francis?


John Allen writes in his usual fair and balanced way about the recent moves of Pope Francis with members in the episcopate. Allen asks the question if Francis has an “enemies list”. He begins “In the dying days of the Nixon administration, the discovery that the White House maintained an enemies list was, for many Americans, the last straw. It seemed to reveal an administration using power not to advance policy or defend the nation, but to settle political scores. Although any comparison between Nixon and Pope Francis is obviously an apples-and-oranges exercise, nonetheless many Catholic conservatives and traditionalists these days are asking if the pontiff has an enemies list of his own”.

Allen goes on to make the point “Recently, news has surfaced that the Vatican is either contemplating or has launched investigations of three bishops in different parts of the world; Rogelio Ricardo Livieres Plano, who has already been removed from the small Paraguayan diocese of Ciudad del Este. Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri, who’s currently awaiting the conclusions of an apostolic visitation that’s already taken place. Mario Oliveri of the small Albenga diocese in northern Italy, where a Vatican spokesman this week said that an investigator may soon arrive”.

Allen in his commendably balance way investiages each in turn “Livieres was accused of various forms of mismanagement as well as dividing the bishops’ conference in Paraguay, for instance by publicly accusing the Archbishop of Asunción of being gay”.

He adds “Finn is the lone American bishop to be criminally convicted of failure to report an accusation of child abuse, and looms for many observers as symbol of the church’s abuse scandals. Oliveri is the latest to join the line-up. He’s accused of tolerating all kinds of misbehavior among his clergy, including priests who’ve posted nude pictures on Facebook, priests who work as bartenders at night, and, in one case, a priest currently serving jail time for molesting an 11-year-old altar girl. (The priest maintains his innocence.) Despite the different details, many observers can’t help noticing that all three prelates have one obvious thing in common: Each is among the most conservative members of their respective bishops’ conferences. Livieres and Finn are both members of Opus Dei, while Oliveri is known as a traditionalist deeply attached to the older Latin Mass”.

Allen goes on to make the valid point that “In conservative Catholic circles, the investigations of these three bishops often are placed in context with other disciplinary moves by Pope Francis, such as his ongoing crackdown on the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate. The suspicion is that what’s really going on isn’t so much a clean-up operation as an ideological purge”.

Allen adds that “Other frequently cited uses of papal muscle against perceived foes include, for Italians, the removal of Cardinal Mauro Piacenza from the Congregation for Clergy, and, for Americans, Cardinal Raymond Burke losing his membership on the Congregation for Bishops. Burke is also expected soon to be removed from his position as head of the Vatican’s Supreme Court and assigned to a largely ceremonial role.

He closes making the important point “In fairness, there hasn’t been a more liberal bishop accused of personal misconduct who’s been given a free pass. Last month, for instance, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Bishop Kieran Conry of Arundel and Brighton in the United Kingdom after Conry admitted to a long-term affair with a woman in his diocese. A supporter of civil unions for same-sex couples and notoriously lukewarm about the Latin Mass, Conry is nobody’s idea of an archconservative”.

He finishes the piece “Nonetheless, 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. 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. Instead, he knows he was elected on a reform mandate to promote good governance in the Church, and is responding to reported breakdowns as they occur without really paying attention to the politics of the people involved.

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 traditionalist camps. Francis is also a deep admirer of Pope John XXIII, the “Good Pope” of the Second Vatican Council, who famously said that “I have to be pope both for those with their foot on the gas, and those with their foot on the brake.”

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.

Burke to Malta?


Following on from the rumours of the departure of Archbishop Mamberti, Sandro Magister writes that the exile of Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke is all but assured.

He opens “The “revolution” of Pope Francis in ecclesiastical governance is not losing its driving thrust. And so, as happens in every self-respecting revolution, the heads continue to roll for churchmen seen as deserving this metaphorical guillotine. In his first months as bishop of Rome, pope Bergoglio immediately provided for the transfer to lower-ranking positions of three prominent curial figures: Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, Archbishop Guido Pozzo, and Bishop Giuseppe Sciacca, considered for their theological and liturgical sensibilities among the most “Ratzingerian” of the Roman curia”.

Magister writes that “an even more eminent decapitation seems to be on the way. The next victim would in fact be the United States cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, who from being prefect of the supreme tribunal of the apostolic signatura would not be promoted – as some are fantasizing in the blogosphere – to the difficult but prestigious see of Chicago, but rather demoted to the pompous – but ecclesiastically very modest – title of “cardinal patron” of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, replacing the current head, Paolo Sardi, who recently turned 80”.

He notes “If confirmed, Burke’s exile would be even more drastic than the one inflicted on Cardinal Piacenza, who, transferred from the important congregation for the clergy to the marginal apostolic penitentiary, nevertheless remained in the leadership of a curial dicastery. With the shakeup on the way, Burke would instead be completely removed from the curia and employed in a purely honorary position without any influence on the governance of the universal Church. This would be a move that seems to have no precedent. This is what was done with cardinals Mariano Rampolla del Tindaro (appointed Grand Prior in 1896 while remaining secretary of state), Gaetano Bisleti (at the same time prefect of the congregation for Catholic education), Gennaro Granito Pignatelli (cardinal dean and bishop of Albano), Nicola Canali (governor of Vatican City), Paolo Giobbe (leader of the apostolic dataria), Paul-Pierre Philippe (until the age of 75 also prefect of the congregation for the Oriental Churches), Sebastiano Baggio (removed from the congregation for bishops but kept on as governor of Vatican City and camerlengo), Pio Laghi (until the age of 77 also prefect of the congregation for Catholic education)”.

Perhaps this is no bad thing. Francis knows his time is limited and unlike Benedict sees no reason not to push people who do not share he view, out of the way. This will mean that Francis will get more done as opposed to the gentlemen that was Benedict who waited until those in the Curia reaching retirement before placing his own people in their place.

Magister adds “Above all, Sardi’s retirement would not be a compulsory act, since the age limit of 80 does not apply to positions outside of the curia. And in fact, with the exception of Paulo Giobbe, all of the aforementioned cardinal patrons went on to a better life “durante munere.” Burke is 66 years old, and therefore still in his ecclesiastical prime. Ordained a priest by Paul VI in 1975, he worked at the apostolic signatura as an ordinary priest with John Paul II, who made him bishop of his native diocese of La Crosse, Wisconsin in 1993. It was again pope Karol Wojtyla who in 2003 promoted him as archbishop of the prestigious see, once cardinalate, of St. Louis, Missouri. Benedict XVI called him back to Rome in 2008, and made him a cardinal in 2010. With a very devout personality, he is also recognized as having the rare virtue of never having struck any deals to obtain ecclesiastical promotions or benefices. In the liturgical and theological camp, he is very close to the sensibilities of Joseph Ratzinger. He has celebrated a number of times according to the ancient rite, even donning the “cappa magna,” as do cardinals George Pell and Antonio Cañizares Llovera, without being punished for this by Pope Francis”.

It should be noted of course that Cardinal Cañizares Llovera asked to be transferred to Valencia and seems not to have been pushed. This shows that Francis does not oppose those who have different views but Buke has made so many statements that directly undermine Francis, Burke’s exile.

Magister adds “A great expert in canon law, and appointed to the apostolic signatura for this reason, he is not afraid to follow it to the most uncomfortable consequences. Like when, to the tune of articles of the Code – number 915 to be precise – he upheld the impossibility of giving communion to those politicians who stubbornly and publicly uphold the right to abortion, bringing the rebukes of two colleagues in the United States valued by Pope Francis, Sean Patrick O’Malley of Boston and Donald Wuerl of Washington. Free in his judgments, he has been among the very few to make critical remarks on “Evangelii Gaudium,” pointing out that in his view it is orientational but not truly magisterial. And in view of the upcoming synod of bishops, he has repeatedly taken a stand against the ideas of Cardinal Walter Kasper – well known to be in the good graces of Pope Francis – in favor of communion for the divorced and remarried. The dicastery headed by Burke, eminently technical, recently accepted an appeal from the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate against a provision issued for them by the congregation for religious. A courageous move on the part of Burke, situated within the context of the punitive action undertaken by the Vatican congregation against one of the most substantial realities of Catholic traditionalism, an action that Pope Francis endorsed by approving in specific form the congregation’s decision to prevent the Friars of the Immaculate from celebrating the Mass according to the “Tridentine” rite. It is only with this kind of pontifical approval, in fact, that a decree of the curia can overturn standing law, in this case the motu proprio of Benedict XVI “Summorum Pontificum.” It is difficult to identify among these episodes the ones that may have have had the greatest influence on the fate of Cardinal Burke. But it is easy to predict that his definitive downgrading will provoke both a tumultuous reaction within the traditionalist world, where Burke is seen as a hero, and a corresponding wave of jubilation in the opposite camp, where he is instead considered a bogeyman. On the latter side it can be recalled that the “liberal” Catholic commentator Michael Sean Winters, in the “National Catholic Reporter” of November 26, 2013, had called for the head of Cardinal Burke as a member of the congregation for bishops, because of the nefarious influence, according to him, that he was exercising over episcopal appointments in the United States”.

He ends “now he seems right at the point of giving the go-ahead for the second and more grave demotion of one of the most untarnished personalities the Vatican curia knows”.

CDW vacancy


Today the Press Office of the Holy See has announced that Pope Fancis retired Antonio María Cardinal Rouco Varela, 78, as archbishop of Madrid and at the same time appointed Archbishop Carlos Osoro Sierra of Valencia. It had been thought that Antonio Cardinal Canizares Llovera would be named to the Madrid post. Instead he was appointed to replace Archbishop Osoro Sierra in Valencia. Cardinal Canizares Llovera had been serving as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments since December 2008. Pope Francis did not name a replacement at the congregation.

Rocco reports that “the Pope defied most projections in appointing Carlos Osoro Sierra (right), the 69 year-old archbishop of Valencia, to the all-important archbishopric of Madrid – both Spain’s capital and, with 3.4 million Catholics, the country’s largest diocese”.

He goes on to writes “His name only surfaced for the post in recent days, the succession to the retiring Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, 78, had been long and widely thought to be destined for the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera. Instead, the 68 year-old theologian – known as El Ratzingerino (the “Little Ratzinger”) for his close ties to Benedict XVI – has been dispatched to succeed Osoro in Valencia, Spain’s second-largest local church, which likewise happens to be his hometown”.

Francis has not named a new prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. The highly important congregation has seen an array of secretaries over the last years with four secretaries in the last 11 years.

Rocco goes on to mention “Notably, the year of buzz over the cardinal’s future at CDW was able to continue as Cañizares had been the lone head of a Roman congregation who Francis did not reconfirm in office following his election. As the Pope reaches the year-and-a-half mark since his election on 13 September, it bears recalling that several other dicastery chiefs remain in a similar limbo, among them the prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, the Wisconsin-born Cardinal Raymond Burke”.

He continues, “the relative surprise of today’s double move serves to further underscore Francis’ determination to be his own man where he’s sufficiently appraised on a given situation. What’s more, however, given Osoro’s lengthy background in pastoral work and adult education before going on to lead three dioceses, the Madrid pick – an ecclesial moderate said to have an “unequaled capacity for work,” and reportedly dubbed “The Pilgrim” by Francis thanks to his zest for the trenches of ecclesial life – was apparently deemed a more optimal fit for the role of this Pope’s de facto “face” of Spanish Catholicism in the wake of Rouco’s oft-combative two-decade tenure. As archbishop of Madrid, Osoro is all but certain to become a cardinal at the next consistory, all the more as no Spanish elector was elevated by Papa Bergoglio at last February’s intake. Despite having merely 350,000 fewer Catholics than Madrid, meanwhile, the five-century old Valencia seat only received its first red hat in 2007, when Osoro’s predecessor Agustín García-Gasco was given the scarlet by B16; García retired 15 months later. At the now Pope-emeritus’ first consistory in 2006, Cañizares was elevated to the College as archbishop of Toledo – as Spain’s eldest diocese, the country’s primatial see – which has a Catholic population of just 650,000. While Toledo has routinely been the seat of a Spanish cardinal alongside Madrid and Barcelona, at least to date, his successor there, 70 year-old Braulio Rodriguez, has not been called to follow suit”.


Seven years of Summorum Pontificum


“Even if the Extraordinary Form may not have been as widely-available as one might prefer in some places, to them it has been for a good stretch of their recent memory, always one of the two forms of the single Roman rite, rather than something which had a curious (if, for me, exciting, even invigorating) edginess to it, as I remember from my own days in college only a few years before the Motu Proprio. It is now once again part of our heritage as Catholics, restored to the glorious sunlight of the open life of the Church, rather than a historical appendix, and this shift in attitudes as much of the genius and spirit of Summorum as the beauty and theological heft of the Extraordinary Form itself. Certainly, while we must not rest on our laurels, we have still come quite a way in such a short time”.

“Et per sanctam Crucem liberati sumus”


From the Communion for Good Friday, “Per lignum servi facti sumus, et per sanctam Crucem liberati sumus: fructus arboris seduxit nos, Filius Dei redemit nos”.

“Through a tree we were enslaved, and through a holy Cross have we been set free: the fruit of a tree led us astray, the Son of God bought us back”.




Extending Guido’s term


The Pope has confirmed Monsignor Guido Marini as Master of Pontifical Liturgical Ceremonies. Born 49 years ago in Genoa, Monsignor Guido Marini had been called to this position by Benedict XVI in October 2007″.

Impossible to reform?


An interesting debate has begun on the New Liturgical Movement blog. It began on 22 December 2005 when Pope Benedict XVI expressed a need for a better liturgical hermeneutic of continunity with the Second Vatican Council.

Since then the reform of the reform has had many fine advocates, though sadly not often enough. Now however the whole worthiness of the reform of the reform has been questioned. In an article by Fr Thomas Kocik, “Reforming the Irreformable?,” he writes that “Although the movement is difficult to define (Is it synonymous with the ‘new liturgical movement’ or but one stage of it?), its overall aim was nicely summed a few years ago by the Ceylonese prelate who stated that the time has come when we must ‘identify and correct the erroneous orientations and decisions made, appreciate the liturgical tradition of the past courageously, and ensure that the Church is made to rediscover the true roots of its spiritual wealth and grandeur even if that means reforming the reform itself…'”

Kocik writes “Long before Joseph Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI, he was critically evaluating the reform of the liturgy following the Second Vatican Council, identifying those aspects of the reform which have little or no justification in the Council’s liturgical Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium (SC) and which undermine the true spirit of the liturgy.  As pope it was in his power to remedy the deficiencies—the “erroneous orientations and decisions”—of the reform on a universal scale not only by his teaching and personal liturgical example but also by legislation. He accentuated the liturgy’s beauty, promoted the liturgical and musical treasures of the Western Church (including of course the usus antiquior of the Roman rite), and introduced more tangible continuity with tradition in the manner of papal celebrations (e.g., the ‘Benedictine’ altar arrangement, offering Mass ad orientem in the Sistine and other papal chapels, administering Holy Communion to the faithful on their tongues as they knelt)”.

More controversially he writes “let us suppose, practically speaking and perhaps per impossibile, that the ‘reform of the reform’ were to receive substantive institutional support. Even so, I doubt the endeavour would be feasible—if we take that term to mean the reform of the present order of liturgy so as to bring it substantially back into line with the slowly developed tradition it widely displaced. It is not sour grapes about last year’s papal abdication that prompts my saying so. Like any movement, the ‘reform of the reform’ stands or falls on its own principles, not on any one pope or partisan. No: the ‘reform of the reform’ is not realisable because the material discontinuity between the two forms of the Roman rite presently in use is much broader and much deeper than I had first imagined. In the decade that has elapsed since the publication of my book, The Reform of the Reform? A Liturgical Debate (Ignatius Press, 2003), which concerns almost exclusively the rite of Mass, a number of important scholarly studies, most notably those of László Dobszay (†2011)and Lauren Pristas, have opened my eyes to the hack-job inflicted by Pope Paul VI’s Consilium on the whole liturgical edifice of the Latin Church: the Mass; the Divine Office; the rites of the sacraments, sacramentals, blessings and other services of the Roman Ritual; and so forth.Whatever else might be said of the reformed liturgy—its pastoral benefits, its legitimacy, its rootedness in theological ressourcement, its hegemonic status, etc.—the fact remains: it does not represent an organic development of the liturgy which Vatican II (and, four centuries earlier, the Council of Trent) inherited”.

He goes on to write that “There are significant ruptures in content and form that cannot be remedied simply by restoring Gregorian chant to primacy of place as the music of the Roman rite, expanding the use of Latin and improving vernacular translations of the Latin liturgical texts, using the Roman Canon more frequently (if not exclusively),reorienting the altar, and rescinding certain permissions. As important as it is to celebrate the reformed rites correctly, reverently, and in ways that make the continuity with tradition more obvious, such measures leave untouched the essential content of the rites. Any future attempt at liturgical reconciliation, or renewal in continuity with tradition”,

He argues that “To draw the older and newer forms of the liturgy closer to each other would require much more movement on the part of the latter form, so much so that it seems more honest to speak of a gradual reversal of the reform (to the point where it once again connects with the liturgical tradition received by the Council) rather than a reform of it. The twofold desire of the Council fathers, namely, to permit innovations that ‘are genuinely and certainly required for the good of the Church’ and to ‘adopt new forms which in some way grow organically from forms already existing’ (SC 23) could indeed be fulfilled, but not by taking the rites promulgated by Paul VI as the point of departure for arriving at a single, organically reformed version of the ancient Roman rite: that would be like trying to put Humpty-Dumpty back together again. What is needed is not a ‘reform of the reform’ but rather a cautious adaptation of the Tridentine liturgy in accordance with the principles laid down by Sacrosanctum Concilium (as happened in the immediate aftermath of that document’s promulgation in 1963), using what we have learned from the experience of the past fifty years”.

Others have noted that a host of other people have echoed Fr Kocik. What Kocik is saying is that the reform of the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite is impossible. This seems both defeatist and bizarre. It is becoming more and more apparent that there was indeed a “hack job” done by Paul VI and his associates but to then say that it is beyond reform seems strange.

Only ten or at most twenty years have elapsed since a genunine attempt to correct what has obviously gone wrong. The welcome but all too brief pontificate of Benedict XVI should have given Kocik and those who want a reform of the reform added impetus to the project. Secondly, seeing as the Church thinks in centuries to give up after only 20 years seems to say the least defeatist. To then say the the Latin Mass before the Council should take the place of the Ordinary Form in most parishes is essentially a fantasy.

Thankfully, in response to this strange view, Bishop Peter Elliott, auxiliary bishop of Melbourne, has argued that “now that the concept and project of the reform of the reform is under attack in NLM, let me speak frankly. Permit me to offer counsel to those who announce the total failure of the post-conciliar liturgical reform, claiming that a reform of it is impossible and insisting that the Extraordinary Form is the only answer. Let us be realistic. If you want the Extraordinary Form to become the Ordinary Form, reflect on the millions of people who come to vernacular Masses in our parishes around the world, in many countries and cultures. Would they easily embrace a Latin Low Mass with a server answering?  And let us not forget the priests. This is why some pastoral realism is required”.

He goes on to mention that “We know would that reform would look like. We already have it at our fingertips. It would be a Latin dialogue Mass, said or sung ad orientem, with the readings in the vernacular. Then questions arise about some other changes set out in Sacrosanctum Concilium“.

He ends “However, the integrity of the two forms needs to be preserved and respected, even as the two are meant to influence each other in these times.  My hypothesis about a reform of the Extraordinary Form would also be constrained by that current approach. Please let us keep this important conversation realistic, patient and moderate. The gift of Summorum Pontificum and Pope Benedict’s vision should not be compromised by loudly proclaiming the total failure of the Paul VI post-conciliar reforms.   Sweeping claims and an imprudent triumphalism do no credit to some advocates of the Extraordinary Form. Nor is the Ordinary Form respected or supported by those who grumble about the new ICEL translations and others who draw absurd conclusions from a simpler papal liturgical style”.

In a related piece, some have sought to clarify his argument, “Reading through the comments to my recent post, as well as the welcome contribution of His Grace Peter J. Elliott, I have noticed that there may be some confusion concerning the skeptical stance taken by Fr. Kocik, myself, and several others on the Ordinary Form and on the “reform of the reform.” My goal in this short article is to lay out several clarifications that, I hope, will assist everyone in the conversation. It seems to me that there are two very different meanings of the ROTR. First, it can mean simply celebrating correctly according to the latest edition of the revised liturgical books, following the desiderata of Vatican II (use of Latin as well as vernacular, Gregorian chant and polyphony, appropriate silence, only the right ministers doing what belongs to them, good mystagogical catechesis, etc.), and featuring everything traditional that is permitted in the celebration. Second, it can mean undertaking the step of a reform or revision of those very books, to re-incorporate unwisely discarded elements and to expunge foolishly introduced novelties. For convenience, let us call these ROTR-1 and ROTR-2. I am completely in favor of ROTR-1, that is, celebrating the Ordinary Form in the most reverent, solemn, beautiful, and sacred manner possible, since that is the way Catholics ought to celebrate Mass in any rite or form”.

He adds that “Many Catholics who deeply love the Church have been led by long experience and careful study of the liturgy to the conclusion that the reform carried out by the Consilium and promulgated by Paul VI is not just the unfortunate victim of a wave of abuses but something deeply and inherently flawed in structure and content. It is not in continuity with the Roman liturgical tradition as organically developed and received at the time of the Council. As a result (touching now on ROTR-2), it cannot serve as a suitable platform for the long-term future of the Roman Rite”. He goes on to list the failures of the implementation of Sacrosanctum Concilium.

He adds that “What it does say, however, is that there are intrinsic and inescapable limits to the scope and success of the ROTR project. Even assuming a happy day when every OF celebration across the globe is reverent, solemn, beautiful, and sacred, in full accord with Vatican II and the post-conciliar Magisterium, there will STILL be a profound discontinuity between what came before the Council and what came after, in the very bones and marrow of the rites themselves, in their texts, rubrics, rationale, spirituality—even, to some extent, their theology”.

To say that the reform of the reform is impossible and should be abandoned after only 20 years and that as a result of the impossibility of the reform project the pre-Conciliar Latin Mass should once again be the norm seems bizarre to say the least and should not be taken seriously.

Botched implementation


Interview with Dom Alcuin Reid on the “implementation” of Sacrosanctum Concilium, the constitution on the liturgy by the Second Vatican Council.

A year of retirement


On this, the first anniversary on the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, Peter Kwasniewski at the New Liturgical Movement blog has written a homage to the sorely missed Pope emeritus.

He notes “Through his own unappealable decision and at a time appointed by himself, Pope Benedict XVI had ceased to be the Vicar of Christ on earth. The past year has been, to say the least, a dramatic and tempestuous one, in which I have often wondered exactly what providential role the nearly eight-year pontificate of Benedict XVI was meant to have in the life of the Church—and what role it is meant to continue to have, through the rich teaching and inspiring example this pontificate left us, and through the enormous energies for reform it has unleashed throughout the Church”.

He goes on to mention that “In company with Pope Benedict, we observed the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council—a Council in which he vigorously took part, a Council whose legacy he later witnessed being manipulated or forgotten as the “virtual” or “media” Council and its antinomian “spirit” took the upper hand, and finally, a Council that he rightly demanded must be read in a “hermeneutic of continuity” with everything that had come before or had been clarified since. All of this suggests that Pope Benedict was passionately concerned with rectifying something, or many things, that had gone desperately wrong in the past five decades. One way of understanding what has happened over this half-century is to think about the delicate balance between ad intra and ad extra concerns, which are two sides of the same coin. The Church has her own life, one could say—a liturgical, sacramental, spiritual, intellectual life, defined by the confluence of Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and the Magisterium—and this life must be tended, nurtured, guarded, deepened. But simultaneously the Church always has a calling to go outwards into the world of unbelief, to preach to it, convert it, sanctify it, confront its errors and wrestle with its problems. It seems to me that the noble intention of Blessed John XXIII, a very traditional Pope in many ways, was to bring the treasures of the Church’s inner life to bear on modernity and the modern world. To this end he convened the Roman Synod and, more fatefully, the Second Vatican Council. He wanted the Catholic Church to send forth God’s light and truth, to intensify an apostolic activity that, under Pius XII, was already flourishing”.

He concludes, “Hence, after forty years of wandering in the desert, the pontificate of Benedict XVI seemed, and truly was, a watershed moment, a breath of fresh air—a realization that it was time to attend to the state of our soul, to put our own house in order, to renew our liturgy from its deepest sources, and to learn once again what exactly is the Good News we are supposed to be sharing in the New Evangelization. This pontificate began to undo, in a systematic way, the amnesia and the intoxication. In addition to its burgeoning fruits in the daily life of the Church, Summorum Pontificum stands forever as a symbol of the effort to bring about meaningful change by recalling the faithful to a tradition, spirituality, and way of life that are not in flux, as, indeed, its symbolic date—the seventh day of the seventh month of the seventh year of the new millennium—plainly announced. In God’s Providence, it was a short pontificate, but the teaching and legislation of those eight years will, as the new century moves on, prove to be either the mustard-seed of an authentic renewal or the prophetic condemnation of a failed one. In any case, it is our privilege, through no merits of our own, to embrace with gratitude, humility, and zeal the traditional Catholic identity, the fragrant living memory of God’s gifts, that Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI has done so much to protect and promote, and to let these seeds bear fruit in our own lives. There is no more any one of us can do, and yet this is enough. For God can take the few loaves and fishes we have, and multiply them endlessly. When one thinks of the greatness of the task Pope Benedict entrusted to us—the task of authentic renewal from the very sources of faith and in continuity with tradition—and when we contemplate how much work and suffering faces us as we strive to put into practice the profound teaching on the sacred liturgy Our Lord has given us through this great pope, we might be tempted to grow weary of the fight and fall away from it, especially in a time when so many in the Church seem to be running away from the dawning light back into the stygian darkness of the seventies”.

Thomas Reese meanwhile looks at his own relationship with Ratzinger/Benedict, “Whenever a reporter asks me about Benedict, I first acknowledge that I have some history with him. One of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s last actions as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was to tell the Jesuit superior general that I needed to be replaced as editor of America magazine, so I cannot claim to be an indifferent observer. Perhaps this is another reason I did not meet my deadline. This was a painful period in my life, so I warn reporters (and readers) that my own experience can bias my views. The temptation with any pope, even Francis, is to see him as black or white, all bad or all good. Nothing is that simple, especially a human being”.

Reese adds that “There is much to praise in the papacy of Pope Benedict. If for no other reason, he will be remembered for centuries as the pope who was not afraid to resign when he felt it was best for the church. Such humility, courage and trust in the Spirit are not easy virtues when everyone around you is telling you that you are indispensable. The resignation caused former supporters to turn on him and former critics to praise him. John L. Allen Jr. reports in The Boston Globe that Antonio Socci, a high-profile Italian conservative, has floated the question of whether Benedict’s resignation was actually valid under church law. This kind of talk is very dangerous and could lead to schism, but they will get no support from Benedict for such nonsense. Likewise, those who feared Benedict would try to run things from behind the scenes have been proved paranoid”.

He goes on to write that “As prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger was the first Vatican official to take seriously the sexual abuse crisis. He was not perfect, but he listened to American bishops and learned faster than anyone else in Rome, including Pope John Paul II. He supported a zero-tolerance policy on abuse and threw hundreds of priests out of the priesthood for abusing minors. Pope Benedict also started the reform of Vatican finances, which is now beginning to bear fruit under Pope Francis. It was Benedict who finally said, “Enough,” and demanded that the Vatican observe the standards set by Moneyval, the European agency that deals with money laundering. Up until Benedict, the Vatican always argued that it was unique and could not be judged by outsiders. Now Vatican finances are periodically reviewed by Moneyval, which publishes its reports for everyone to see. All of the subsequent financial reforms have flowed from this decision by Benedict. Benedict must also be praised for the clarity of his writing. His first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, was universally praised for its explanation of the different types of love. The second part was an excellent guide for the ministry of charity in the church. In it, he described the ministry of charity as equally important as the ministry of the Word and the ministry of the sacraments. He stressed the importance of both professional and spiritual formation for those working with the poor. Sadly, the media were so focused on what he had to say about abortion, gays and condoms that what he had to say on other issues was ignored. People forget that he, like John Paul, was opposed to both Gulf Wars, and they proved wiser than all the policy wonks in Washington”.

Reese continues, “He was no fan of libertarian capitalism. He went further in saying that government has a role in the redistribution of wealth. Not even liberal Democrats say things like that. On economic issues, Benedict was to the left of President Barack Obama; he was even to the left of Nancy Pelosi. In fact, Benedict’s views on the relationship between religion and politics were quite sophisticated, as articulated at Westminster Hall in London and at the German Parliament, the Bundestag in Berlin. He was not a single-issue ideologue, and he recognized the role of prudence in political decision-making. Pope Benedict’s strength and weaknesses came from his background as a German professor, which was his life before Pope Paul VI appointed him archbishop of Munich in 1977*. His was the life of the mind where clarity of thought was prized. As a German professor, he was used to lecturing students who took down his words, memorized them and gave them back in exams. As a professor, he used technical language that might mean one thing in the classroom but something completely different on the street. Thus, he could say most Protestant churches were not true churches because he had defined “church” as a Christian community with a legitimate episcopacy. He could also use a word like “disordered,” which for him had philosophical meaning while on the street it would be interpreted as a psychological term”.

He closes, “To explain the Christian message to people of the 21st century will require the same kind of creativity shown by Augustine and Aquinas. We cannot simply quote them; we must imitate them. Augustine took the best thought of his age, Neoplatonism, and used it to explain Christianity to his time. Aquinas took the rediscovered Aristotle to explain Christianity to his generation. Theologians must be free to do the same today. Remember, Aquinas had his books burned by the archbishop of Paris. In his first Easter homily as pope, Benedict said the risen Christ is the next step in human evolution. I wish he had developed that thought, but that is a way of thinking that would be attractive to people today. To simply call Pope Benedict a conservative is a way of avoiding thoughtful analysis of a complex character. He gave and continues to give much to the church. He should be respected and honored for that while being clear-eyed about his limitations”.

Laity confirmed


Pope Francis has confirmed the officials and members of the Pontifical Council for the Laity including Stanisław Cardinal Rylko and Bishop Josef Clemens.  Rocco writes  “among the offices where Francis still has yet to reconfirm the current rosters or appoint new ones, two in particular stand out: the Apostolic Signatura, whose Wisconsin-born head, Cardinal Raymond Burke, has widely been perceived as a center of resistance to the new pontificate, and the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, where months of rumours have tipped the departure of the current prefect, Cardinal Antonio Cañizares, back to Spain as archbishop of Madrid… to be replaced by the incarnate lightning-rod of the ‘Liturgy Wars,’ the MC of two decades to John Paul and Benedict, Archbishop Piero Marini”.

Francis and the FFI


Pope Francis may have been named Time magazine’s Person of the Year, but he has come under scathing criticism from a growing number of traditionalist Catholics for cracking down on a religious order that celebrates the old Latin Mass. The case has become a flashpoint in the ideological tug-of-war going on in the Catholic Church over Francis’ revolutionary agenda, which has thrilled progressives and alarmed some conservatives. The matter concerns the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, a small but growing order of several hundred priests, seminarians and nuns that was founded in Italy in 1990 as an offshoot of the larger Franciscan order of the pope’s namesake, St. Francis of Assisi. Then-Pope Benedict XVI launched an investigation into the congregation after five of its priests complained that the order was taking on an overly traditionalist bent, with the old Latin Mass being celebrated more and more at the expense of the liturgy in the vernacular”. The pieces continues, “The Vatican in July named the Rev. Fidenzio Volpi, a Franciscan Capuchin friar, as a special commissioner to run the order with a mandate to quell the dissent that had erupted over the liturgy, improve unity within its ranks and get a handle on its finances. In the same decree appointing Volpi, Francis forbade the friars from celebrating the old Latin Mass unless they got special permission, a clear rollback from Benedict’s 2007 decision”.

Francis vs liturgists


An article appears in the excellent New Liturgical Movement blog that discusses the liturgical teaching of Pope Benedict in relation to Pope Francis. The piece seems to pit Pope Francis, who the article argues agrees with Pope Benedict’s famous 22 December 2005 speech to the Roman Curia, against some professional liturgists who seem to be twisting words to suit their incorrect interpretation of the Second Vatican Council.

The piece opens “In the much-discussed (indeed, perhaps too much discussed) interview of Pope Francis with the Jesuit journals, there was passage that received considerable attention due to its praise for the post-conciliar liturgical reform and its apparent dismissal of the love of the pre-conciliar liturgy as a certain “sensitivity” some people happen to have”. In the interview, Francis clearly discusses, and uses, the phraseology of Pope Benedict, “there are hermeneutics of continuity and discontinuity”.

The piece goes on to say, “first of all, that Pope Francis speaks, without batting an eye, of ‘hermeneutics of continuity and discontinuity.’ He is aware of what Pope Emeritus Benedict has taught, he accepts it—accented, it is true, by a slight romanticisation of the Council’s modern impetus and élan—and he is content to use, without hemming or hawing, the quite simple terminology quoted above, which, in any case, is already quite commonplace in the Church today”.

Importantly the author goes on to write that “In recent days we have also seen the publication of letters that Pope Francis wrote to Archbishop Marchetto and Cardinal Brandmüller. In each letter, there is a decisive nod to Benedict XVI. The Pope praises Marchetto’s interpretation (or hermeneutic) of Vatican II, which is precisely one of continuity, against the Bologna school of rupture. And, in reference to the Council of Trent, the Pope expressly cites the December 22, 2005 address in which Pope Benedict momentously introduced the discourse on competing and incompatible hermeneutics. Professor Andrea Grillo of the Pontifical Athaneum of San Anselmo must be eating his hat. Prior to the release of these letters, Grillo had the temerity to opine that Pope Francis had “immediately put in second place that diatribe over ‘continuity’ and ‘discontinuity’ which had long prejudiced—and often completely paralyzed—any effective hermeneutic of Vatican II.” So much for reading the signs of the times”.

He then says that many who have been following the debate over the hermeneutic of Vatican II “have noticed a tendency on the part of the old guard to base their arguments precisely on the fact that Pope Benedict did not use the phrase ‘hermeneutic of continuity’ in his famous speech to the Roman Curia of December 22, 2005, but rather ‘hermeneutic of reform, of renewal in the continuity of the one subject-Church which the Lord has given to us’—as if this latter phrase meant something other than, and possibly contrary to, a hermeneutic of continuity with Tradition”.

The writer then quotes a passage from a Canadian liturgist, “What has often been remembered from the treatment is that the pope opposed to the hermeneutic of rupture a hermeneutic of continuity. Now, an attentive reading of the text leads to another conclusion. … What Benedict XVI has opposed to the hermeneutic of rupture is ‘a hermeneutic of reform in the continuity of the one subject-Church.’ … Benedict XVI’s proposal of a hermeneutic of reform—because it is precisely this that he puts at the forefront, and not the hermeneutic of continuity, as is often said—deserves to be taken seriously”.

The author continues, “In short, it is becoming fashionable among anti-traditionalists to say that Pope Benedict XVI did not intend to teach us a “hermeneutic of continuity” but rather a “hermeneutic of reform,” which, in the end, deliberately refuses to establish a true and full connection between the preconciliar and the conciliar”.

He ends the piece “To return to our point of departure, it is hardly surprising that Pope Francis, a man who prizes simplicity, spoke simply of two hermeneutics—one of continuity, the other of discontinuity. His were not the subtle doubts of Routhier and Rhonheimer, nor the temerarious dismissal of Grillo. We are dealing here with a fundamental teaching of Pope Benedict XVI that time will not efface, that faithful Catholics have already embraced as a method of discernment, and that the future will vindicate more and more”.

It is up to Pope Francis to re-enforce the view of Pope Benedict in as clear a way as possible that these additions to Pope Benedict’s teaching not only change but fundamentally distort what he said in his 2005 speech. Francis could make a clear, bold gesture once and for all that would, if not silence then quieten these people who twist the words of Benedict to espouse this theory of rupture that has done so much damage to the Church.

“No problem with the old rite”


The former prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy has told a traditionalist group that Pope Francis has no intention of restricting access to the Extraordinary Form of the Latin liturgy. “I met Pope Francis very recently and he told me that he has no problem with the old rite, and neither does he have any problem with lay groups and associations like yours that promote it,” Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos told members of Una Voce International (FIUV), who were in Rome for a general assembly”.

Back to PCED


Pope Francis, in what is expected to the first of many moves, has appointed Archbishop Guido Pozzo to the vacant post of secretary of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, a post which had been vacant since Pozzo’s appointed as almoner of His Holiness. In his stead Francis has appointed Msgr Konrad Krajewski an official at the Office of Liturgical Celebrations to the post, at the same time as appointing him Titular Archbishop of Benevento.

An insult


Today marks the 86th birthday of Pope Benedict. In a special Mass offered by Pope Francis for his predecessor it was reported he [Francis] went on, ‘everybody seems happy about the presence of the Holy Spirit but it’s not really the case and there is still that temptation to resist it.’ The Pope said one example of this resistance was the Second Vatican council which he called ‘a beautiful work of the Holy Spirit.’ But 50 years later, ‘have we done everything the Holy Spirit was asking us to do during the Council,’ he asked. The answer is ‘No,’ said Pope Francis. ‘We celebrate this anniversary, we put up a monument but we don’t want it to upset us. We don’t want to change and what’s more there are those who wish to turn the clock back.'” This goes against all the Benedict worked for, as he wrote in the letter with Summorum Pontificum, “What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful”.

Pope Francis


The 114 cardinals have chosen Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio SJ as the new pope, taking the new name of Pope Francis. He is the first Jesuit, the first from Latin America, the first from outside Europe in 1,200 years. He is also the first to bear the name Francis.

Rocco writes “By choosing the name of the founder of his community’s traditional rivals, the 266th Roman pontiff – the first from the American continent, home to more than half of the 1.2 billion-member church – has signaled three things: his desire to be a force of unity in a polarized fold, a heart for the poor, and his intent to “repair God’s house, which has fallen into ruin”… that is, to rebuild the church”.

Rocco goes on to add in a separate post “have gone to the runner-up at the last Conclave in all of five ballots – with more than half the electorate changed over since last time – is not merely decisive….Indeed, it’s epic. And make no mistake about it – this is a mandate. To no small degree, having come close to facing the “guillotine” last time, Jorge Mario Bergoglio has had almost eight years to prepare for this. Yet even beyond the first notes he struck as Pope Francis I, a Page Three note in the moment seemed to sum up the ecclesial significance best….This ain’t Francis I so much as John Paul I”

Those supposedly supremely loyal to the popes have already come out with daggers drawn, Rorate has said “A sworn enemy of the Traditional Mass, he has only allowed imitations of it in the hands of declared enemies of the ancient liturgy. He has persecuted every single priest who made an effort to wear a cassock, preach with firmness, or that was simply interested in Summorum Pontificum. Famous for his inconsistency (at times, for the unintelligibility of his addresses and homilies), accustomed to the use of coarse, demagogical, and ambiguous expressions, it cannot be said that his magisterium is heterodox, but rather non-existent for how confusing it is. His entourage in the Buenos Aires Curia, with the exception of a few clerics, has not been characterized by the virtue of their actions. Several are under grave suspicion of moral misbehaviour”.

They go on to say “This election is incomprehensible: he is not a polyglot, he has no Curial experience, he does not shine for his sanctity, he is loose in doctrine and liturgy, he has not fought against abortion and only very weakly against homosexual “marriage”[approved with practically no opposition from the episcopate], he has no manners to honor the Pontifical Throne. He has never fought for anything else than to remain in positions of power”.

John Allen tries to parse what occurred in the conclave, “Although there were other compelling Latin American candidates heading into the voting, such as Brazilians Odilo Pedro Scherer and João Bráz de Aviz and Mexican Francisco Robles Ortega, a lone strong candidate from the region nevertheless emerged within five ballots, well under the 7.4 rounds of voting that form the statistical average for the previous nine conclaves. A strong Latin American did, in fact, sew things up fast”. He goes on to make the point that “it probably took the intersection of several currents in the College of Cardinals to carry Bergoglio to the papacy, and it’s easy to imagine how the stars might have aligned a different way. We’ll doubtless learn more in the days to come, but for now it’s possible to identify at least three blocs that might have found their man in the 76-year-old Jesuit from Buenos Aires. First, cardinals who spoke in pre-conclave interviews about the desirability of electing a pope from outside the West probably saw him as their best bet, especially given the strong support he attracted eight years ago, when he was effectively the runner-up to Pope Benedict XVI. It’s reasonable to surmise that once Bergoglio’s candidacy seemed real, he attracted most of the votes of the 19 Latin American cardinals, as well as substantial numbers of the 11 Africans and 10 Asians”.

Allen ends the piece closing “although Bergoglio is unquestionably orthodox, he may have once again attracted support from European moderates who turned to him eight years ago as the main alternative to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. For that constituency, the fact that Bergoglio is a Jesuit with a reputation for holding diverse currents within the order together probably made him seem attractive. Those European moderates didn’t have the numerical weight in 2013 that they wielded in conclaves past, but they probably represented 15-20 votes. Third, Bergoglio would have appealed to a current within the 38 Vatican cardinals who took part in the conclave, especially those who come out of the Vatican diplomatic tradition and prize the Holy See’s traditional role as a voice of conscience on the global stage”.

Interestingly, Sandro Magister writes on the most concerning his “He has always carefully kept his distance from the Roman curia. It is certain that he will want it to be lean, clean, and loyal. He is a pastor of sound doctrine and of concrete realism”.

Time will tell if this is accurate.

Complex legacy


Following on from the series of articles on the legacy of Pope Benedict, be it his foreign policy, musical, liturgical, and cultural challenge to society another article has emerged, this time by John Allen.

Allen opens the article noting the then Cardinal Ratzinger wanted to retire for many years under John Paul II. Allen notes “As Benedict XVI, he led a tumultuous papacy marked by high intellectual achievement but also deep controversy, including the still unresolved child sexual abuse scandals and a massive Vatican leaks crisis. Now that Benedict is finally in a position to grant his own wish to step down, the debate over his legacy is officially open. Fans say Benedict was a great ‘teaching pope’ who also presided over a quiet cleansing of the church’s Augean stables, promoting a financial glasnost, committing the church to reform in the fight against clerical sexual abuse, and challenging the careerist and self-aggrandizing culture in the Vatican — most notably, of course, by being willing to renounce the pinnacle of power himself. Critics may acknowledge that Benedict was a gentle and sincere man, but generally insist he presided over a controversial and sometimes failed pontificate. That tends to be an especially popular verdict in more liberal circles”.

Allen goes on to note “These observers cite crackdowns on nuns and liberal theologians on Benedict’s watch, the pope’s red carpet for traditionalist Anglicans and his outreach to the Lefebvrists without any similar overtures to progressive dissent, his resurrection of the old Latin Mass, and his repeated insistence on a “hermeneutic of reform … in continuity” for understanding the Second Vatican Council (1962-65)”. Yet, while it would be impossible to deny this was true the “crackdowns” are simply want would happen under any pope, be it Benedict XVI or any other man elected to the papacy. The “red carpet” for Anglicans is part of Benedict’s vision for a more committed Church, the inference being that it would be smaller also, with fewer people who are supposedly “less committed” to the check list Catholicism that some espouse.

He carries on writing, “critics say whatever progress Benedict achieved was more symbolic than substantive. They charge that he left too much undone, beginning with accountability for bishops who dropped the ball. They cite the fact that in the United States, for instance, a bishop who was convicted of failure to report suspected child abuse, Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., was not removed from office. In the Vatican itself, there was always a subtle current that held that Benedict may be a world-class intellectual but he was out of his depth as a CEO, sometimes leaving the church rudderless. Even his resignation stirred sotto voce resentment, with Vatican insiders grumbling that plans for the timing of the conclave to elect his successor should have been worked out in advance rather than left hanging”.

Allen ends the article “parallel might be Pope Leo XIII, the only pontiff in the last 150 years to be as old as Benedict while still in office. During his day, he was attacked by partisans on both sides of the “Roman question” in Italy — hard-core papal loyalists found him too soft, while zealous Republicans blasted him as intransigent. Yet more than a century later, Leo XIII is hailed as a great intellectual who launched the modern tradition of Catholic social teaching. Perhaps over time, what will loom largest about Benedict will be his ‘affirmative orthodoxy,’ meaning his emphasis on phrasing classic Christian doctrine in terms of what the church supports rather than what it opposes. As he put it in 2006: ‘Christianity, Catholicism, isn’t a collection of prohibitions. It’s a positive option. It’s very important that we look at it again, because this idea has almost completely disappeared today.’ Perhaps down the line, Benedict’s legacy will be defined by his keen analysis of faith, reason and democracy, providing an intellectual basis for détente with “healthy secularism.” Perhaps it will be his insistence that the pro-life and peace-and-justice components of Catholic social thought belong together, which offered a sharp rebuke to the tendency in various quarters of the church to split them apart”.

“Offered at least one”

Rorarte notes “the cardinal electors who have offered at least one public traditional Latin Mass as a cardinal, bishop or priest in the past four decades:
Philippe Cardinal Barbarin
Raymond Cardinal Burke
Carlo Cardinal Caffarra
Antonio Cardinal Cañizares Llovera
Velasio Cardinal De Paolis
John Cardinal Tong Hon
Juan Cardinal Sandoval Íñiguez
George Cardinal Pell
Albert Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith
Jean-Pierre Cardinal Ricard
Franc Cardinal Rodé
André Cardinal Vingt-Trois

Benedict’s liturgical legacy


Following on from the recent article on the legacy of Benedict musically, Dom Alcuin Reid has written an article on the legacy of Benedict with regard to his liturgical reforms. He opens “Ratzinger was immersed in the liturgy from his childhood, as his memoirs attest: ‘I started down the road of the liturgy, and this became a continuous process of growth into a grand reality transcending all particular individuals and generations, a reality that became an occasion for me of ever-new amazement and discovery. The inexhaustible reality of the Catholic liturgy has accompanied me though all phases of life, and so I shall have to speak of it time and time again.'”

He continues, “This, and his conviction that some things went very wrong with the movement after the Council – in 2004 he wrote: ‘Anyone like myself, who was moved by this perception in the time of the liturgical movement on the eve of the Second Vatican Council, can only stand, deeply sorrowing, before the ruins of the very things they were concerned for’ – is key to understanding what has become known since his 2005 election as ‘the liturgical reform of Benedict XVI’.

Reid then mentions the direct translations from Latin into the revised English Mass texts, and the infamous “pro multis” that should have been avoided, however Reid does go on to note ” There was much noise before and after his historic 2007 ruling that the older liturgical rites were henceforth to be available without restriction. Yet in the midst of the cacophony the Supreme Pontiff took the trouble to write at length to the world’s bishops and explain his act. ‘What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful,’ he taught – a truth that is having an ongoing impact”.

He then goes on to write “Among his writings the 2007 apostolic exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis ranks highly. His conviction expressed therein, that ‘everything related to the Eucharist should be marked by beauty’, was reflected in papal liturgies. These became master classes on how to celebrate the modern liturgy in continuity with tradition, where the best of the old and of the new serve to raise our minds and hearts to God. Countless priests and seminarians have participated in this course in practical liturgy – bishops and cardinals also. Its fruits are increasingly experienced worldwide”.

He ends the piece “The conclusion of Pope Benedict’s final public Mass was yet another lesson about the liturgy. Not unnaturally, there was sustained applause. But even on that occasion Pope Benedict the liturgist could not allow personal adulation to take priority. ‘Thank you,’ he said. Then, with five words which may well serve as his liturgical testament, he brought it firmly to an end: ‘Let us return to prayer.'”

It must be the firm hope that the successor of Pope Benedict will continue his vital work with regard to the liturgy.

Benedict on the Council


In a speech to the priests of the diocese of Rome, Benedict XVI discussed his personal memories of Vatican II.

Benedict’s musical legacy


An interesting article disucsses the musical legacy of Pope Benedict. The author writes that “One of the many lasting legacies of the papacy of Benedict XVI concerns liturgical music. Enormous progress has been made in his papacy. Incredibly this progress has happened without new legislation, new restrictions, new mandates, or firm-handed attempts to impose discipline on musicians and artists. The change has happened through the means that Benedict XVI has always preferred: he has led through example and through the inspiration provided by his homilies and writings”.

He goes on to note “Gregorian chant is back but not just as a style preferred to the pop music that still dominates parish liturgy. More importantly, chant is back in its rightful place as the sung prayer of the liturgy”. This is part of the “reform of the reform” or New Liturgical Movement that has been at the heart of his papacy since his inception with his December 2005 speech to the Roman Curia.

He goes on to explain, “Gregorian chant is that ideal because it grew up alongside the Roman Rite ritual. It uses the text of that ritual. Its musical structure is a reflection of the liturgical purpose of the music. That’s why the chant between the readings is long and contemplative whereas the music of the entrance is more syllabic, thematically evocative, and forward feeling”.

He continues given a history since the end of the Second Vatican Council/Vatican II “Popes since Vatican II have attempted to turn the tide. Paul VI saw what was happening and regretted it all greatly. His solution appeared in 1974. It was a book of Latin music that he sent to all Bishops in the world, giving them permission to freely copy and use it. It was a proposal for a new core music for liturgy. He wrote: please ‘decide on the best ways of teaching the faithful the Latin chants of Jubilate Deo and of having them sing them…. You will thus be performing a new service for the Church in the domain of liturgical renewal.’ This fell on deaf ears. The music ended up in the waste can. His successor John Paul II issued several very important statements that similarly urged a change. They were beautifully written and inspiring. But again, it had no effect”.

However he moves swiftly to Cardinal Ratzinger, “He never feared the subject and this is for two reasons: 1) he understood the goals of Vatican II and saw that they had been seriously distorted, and 2) he was a trained music of the highest calibre who understood the role of music in the Roman Rite. When he became Pope, the changes began and they were relentless. We started hearing chant in Papal liturgy, just a bit at first and then more as time went on. With Summorum Pontificum (2007) he took away the stigma that had been attached to traditional chant by granting full permission to the liturgical structure that had originally given rise to chant. This was deeply encouraging for a generation that was ready to move forward. We started seeing chant workshops fill up. Groups began to form at the parish level. New resources started to be published by independent publishers. A real fire had been lit in the Catholic music world. And it all happened without any impositions or legislation. The musical program of St. Peter’s Basilica began to attract the attention of serious musicians. A new standard came to be applied to visiting choirs: you must know the basics of Gregorian chant or you cannot sing at St. Peter’s”.

He rightly ends on a note of thanks and praise, “What I find most impressive is the method that the pope used to achieve this. It was through inspiration and not imposition. For this reason, this change is fundamental and lasting. Mark my words: chant will come to a parish near you. We can thank Benedict XVI for his wisdom and foresight in achieving what most people thought was impossible”.



As she stood in Saint Peter’s Square on Sunday to hear Benedict deliver his second-to-last Angelus message as pope, Alessandra Petrucciani said she wished he had not decided to retire. “The pope should have stayed; the bishops and cardinals should have gone,” she said, as she stood next to members of a traditionalist group who were shouting, “Stay! Stay!”

The revolutionary pope


In a true sign of his feeling for the good of the Church, the Sovereign Pontiff, Benedict XVI, has decided to resign the papacy on 28 February 2013. The announcement, on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and International Day of the Sick, was made by Pope Benedict during an ordinary public consistory for the canonisation of new saints celebrated this morning at 11 a.m. in the Consistory Hall of the Apostolic Palace.

Reports note that “According to a press briefing given by Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Press Office of the Holy See, after the resignation takes effect, the pope will depart for Castelgandolfo and eventually will move to a monastery of cloistered nuns, Mater Ecclesia, inside the Vatican for a period of prayer and reflection. He will not have any part in the organization of the conclave or in the election of his successor. The conclave for the election of his successor will probably take place in mid-March. According the regulation in the seventh paragraph of the introduction of the apostolic constitution Universi Dominici gregis, only those cardinals “who celebrate their eightieth birthday before the day when the Apostolic See becomes vacant do not take part in the election.”

A conclave will be called the cardinals will be summoned to Rome. Currently there are 118 electors but Lubomyr Cardinal Husar, M.S.U., will turn eighty on 26 February and thus will lose the right to take part in the election”. Therefore, 117 cardinals will be able to participate in the conclave, of which 51 were created by Pope John Paul II; and 67 by Pope Benedict XVI. In 2005, 115 of the 117 cardinal electors participated in the conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI. The last pope to step down was Gregory XII in 1415.

Damian Thompson writes that “Yet it seems to be true, and there is a precedent – Celestine VI in 1295. Moreover, there has always been a suspicion that Joseph Ratzinger would step down from office if he became incapacitated”. Indeed, Pope Benedict said he would resign/abdicate if he felt he could no longer continue to shoulder the burdens of office. However, Benedict then seemed to say that he would remain on, presumably until his death. Thompson goes on to say rightly that “Catholics will be deeply shocked and, in most cases, dismayed by this decision, which I see above all as an act of self-sacrifice by a man not prepared to see the Church suffer as a result of his increasing frailty. Benedict XVI’s achievements as pontiff have been remarkable. He has renewed the worship of the Church, reconnecting it to the majesty and deep piety of the past. He has forged new links with non-Catholics, for example by bringing ex-Anglicans into the fold through the Ordinariate. He has promulgated teaching documents reconnecting the love and teaching of Christ to the structures of the Church – structures that, it would appear, he feels now unable to continue ruling”. Thompson writes “John Paul II rather than Benedict XVI can be accused of turning a blind eye to certain abominations, not least to the Mexican child abuser the late Fr Marcel Maciel, whom Benedict sent into disgraced exile as soon as he became Pope. One reason Maciel was not dealt with in time was that John Paul was to ill and, let us be honest, mentally enfeebled to confront Maciel’s crimes. Ratzinger has been determined from the beginning not to allow the same situation to overtake him”.

Predictably, the media mention the Regensburg speech and the SSPX/Williamson affair in 2009, yet as has been mentioned, change has already taken place in these areas with more tech savvy officials, both clerical, and lay, being appointed as well as Pope Benedict’s own moves into the technological sphere. The same article notes however that “his 2008 visit to the United States was regarded as a great success, earning him an approval rating of 86 per cent from American Catholics and showing that he could win over audiences. He was a trenchant critic of the excesses of global capitalism, particularly during the world economic crisis of 2008-2009, when he called for a move away from consumerism and materialism”.

Other article adds that “Georg Ratzinger, reportedly said the pontiff had been advised by his doctor not to take any more transatlantic trips and had been considering stepping down for months. Talking from his home in Regensburg to the news agency dpa, Georg Ratzinger said his brother was having increasing difficulty walking and that his resignation was part of a ‘natural process.'”

Indeed, talk has already moved quickly to Benedict’s successor. Thompson mentions that Vincent Nichols, archbishop of Westminster does not have a vote in the upcoming conclave. He writes that this might not be such a bad thing, Archbishop Nichols “must be aware, however, that the delay in appointing him a cardinal may rob him of his only opportunity to vote for a Pope. Nor will Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, now over 80, be eligible to take part in the conclave. This is no occasion to score cheap points, but traditionalists are unlikely to lose much sleep over the absence of a liberal English cardinal in the Sistine Chapel”.

A similar piece notes Peter Cardinal Turkson as a potential pontiff, while it adds “Two senior Vatican officials have recently dropped surprisingly clear hints that the next pope could well be from Latin America. Swiss Cardinal Kurt Koch, head of the Vatican department for Christian unity, said that the church’s future was not in Europe”.

The article goes on to mention Cardinal Arinze, talk of which should be ignored. It goes on to metion more plausible candidates, “even the selection of Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec, who is currently placed among the top three or four with every bookmaker, would end 2,000 years of European or Mediterranean rule. As prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, he has vetted and selected bishops all over the world. Multi-lingual and with years of missionary work in South America, he would tick the ‘global church’ box without unnerving European cardinals alarmed that the election of an African would shift the centre of gravity. About half the cardinals who can vote are from Europe, even though only a quarter of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics live there. If the College of Cardinals plays it safe and stays in the old continent, Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan would be in pole position. His theological background lies in the family issues that the church in Europe increasingly feels must be addressed”.

Lastly Foreign Policy answers the question as to why people should care, “If one cares about power, however, then centralization is still a crucial quality.  Which is why non-Catholics are still interested in who the next Pope will be”.

Pope Benedict has done what should have been done by many previous popes, retire for the good governance of the Church – a truly revolutionary pope that belies his mere “transitional” image.

Puer natus est nobis


Hodie Christus natus est, alleluia alleluia!

The extraordinary form?


An interesting discussion of what to call the Tridentine/Latin/Traditional Mas.

50 years ago at Vatican II


another Church leader took the floor, also eventually breaking one of the council’s rules. Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani, head of the Holy Office, blasted the schema on the liturgy, criticizing its acceptance of priestly concelebration of the Mass, its openness to distributing Communion under both species to the faithful and its permission for greater use of the vernacular. ‘The rite of Holy Mass should not be treated as if it were a piece of cloth to be refashioned according to the whim of each generation,’ Ottaviani continued. Speaking without a text because he was nearly blind, the cardinal went on, exceeding his 10-minute limit. After 15 minutes, the presiding cardinal rang the warning bell. Either Ottaviani didn’t hear the bell or he ignored it. Finally, his microphone was turned off and Ottaviani walked back to his seat humiliated, as the council fathers erupted in applause. It was two weeks before Ottaviani returned to the council“.

“Secúra tibi mente desérviant”


Collect for this the 20th Sunday after Pentecost:

LARGÍRE, quæsumus Dómine, fidélibus tuis indulgéntiam placátus,  et pacem: ut páriter ab ómnibus mundéntur offénsis, et secúra tibi mente desérviant.

In Thy mercy, we beseech Thee, O Lord,  grant to Thy faithful people pardon and peace, that they may be cleansed from all
their sins and also serve Thee with a quiet mind.

Vatican II at 50 Pt III


In the third in a series of posts of the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council an article in the Irish Times fundamentally misunderstands both the Council in addition to having serious historical errors.

The piece, written by Desmond Fisher, opens noting, “the council produced only 16 documents”. The fact that the Council produced “only 16 documents” is totally irrelevant. It is the scale and context in which the documents rather than the actual quantity that is produced. Fisher goes on to write “after half a century, the only noticeable change in the everyday life of the church has been the introduction into the liturgy of the words, but not the phraseology or the rhythm, of vernacular languages”. This is totally wrong.

To say that the only thing that changed was the language used in the Mass, while understandable, misses the broader picture. The documents on religious liberty, the liturgy, laity and ecumenism continue to shape the Church to this day. However, the basic point is that Nostra Aetate (In Our Age) written about non-Christian religions still, along with all other Council documents stands, and has not been repudiated. Not only that but the highly controversial Good Friday prayer for the conversion of the Jews, has also gone, and not returned.

Fisher goes on to write inaccurately, that “the centre of gravity could have moved south of the equator, where two-thirds of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics already live”. This is broadly true but it misses the point. The Church has seen an enormous growth in the Southern United States. Now Catholicism is the majority religion in what was for centuries a nominally Protestant country. Fisher again shows his ignorance when he writes “Trent was summoned to reform a church that was undergoing one of the greatest crises in history. All kinds of corruption was rife. Despite there having been many good popes, others had lived lives of luxury and debauchery”.

However the Council of Trent essentially restated Church teaching in answer to the Protestant Reformation. Trent gave a uniform mass, there were other modifications that occurred in Trent but they simply built on what had gone before. Nothing that was promulgated at Trent has been disavowed by the Church since.

Fisher is correct when he notes that “In a hugely significant but little-noticed initiative, Catholics no longer claim that the Catholic Church is Christ’s church. Instead, it states that it ‘subsists’ in Christ’s Church, indicating that other Christian churches are recognised as also belonging. This wipes out the long-held claim that ‘outside the [Catholic] Church there is no redemption’. And, in direct contrast to the introverted Tridentine Church, it regards modern theories on science, philosophy, sociology and even Scripture not as heresies to be condemned but as insights to be explored”. This indeed is surely welcome, especially since the scandals have hit the Church, due to its own sin and obvious moral corruption.

Fisher argues “Four issues that the council bishops wanted to debate – artificial contraception, the role of bishops, clerical celibacy and women priests – were withdrawn from the agenda by the pope. The first he reserved to himself for decision, the outcome being his 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae repeating the existing ban. On the last two he ruled out further discussion”. This harks back to those who want a Vatican III but are unwilling to admit the obvious consequences of such a step on the Church.

Fisher goes on to attack Pope Benedict’s reading of the Council, “Instead of implementing the council’s decision, Pope Benedict XVI and his Curia are using inconsistencies in the council texts and abstruse theological arguments to justify inaction”. Yet Fisher does not say how Benedict has not acted or how he should act and with regard to what. Indeed, when Summorum Pontificum was being drawn up it was against the wishes of every many high ranking Curialists. So to paint them as one is so obviously incorrect.

He goes on to say “Benedict’s point is that the people who are pressing for implementation of the council’s teachings are refusing to abide by the actual council texts. They base their case on the claim that the texts do not reflect the real intentions of the council fathers. Instead, they regard them not as consensus decisions but as last-minute compromises forced on them by deliberate Curia delaying tactics. The real meaning, or what they call ‘the spirit of Vatican II’, as expressed by huge council majorities, is, they say, to be found by reading between the lines”.

It is true that there have been some steps taken over the last decade could be misinterpreted by some as a “winding back the clock” but this too is a selective or mistaken reading. Certainly there has been a “reform of the reform” in the papacy of Benedict XVI, but it was begun by the charismatic John Paul II. It was the Polish pope, who in 2001, signed Liturgiam authenticam that is the reason we in the English speaking world have a new translation for the Mass. In the same vein, Pope Benedict, as part of his drive to have the Latin Mass enhance its vernacular equalivant, and at the same time improve relations with the Society of Saint Pius X, signed Summorum Pontificum. It was long know the then-Cardinal Ratzinger’s unease over how those who implemented the decree on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, overstepped their mandate. Fr. Ratzinger, who attended the Council as an advisor, in his 1977 autobiography, Milestones, wrote, “some liturgists (or perhaps many?) who were working as advisers had had more far-reaching intentions from the outset”.

Indeed, many in the ‘liberal’ camp of the Church have accused Pope Benedict of doing too much to please the SSPX. However, the recent talks that were meant to reconcile the breakaway group have effectively collapsed. The reason for this is Pope Benedict’s refusal to cast aside the Council’s teachings on religious liberty the liturgy, and ecumenism. A close aide of Pope Benedict, Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Muller, in a recent interview discussing the SSPX said, “the body of the doctrine of the Council is binding for everyone”.

The Church never claims to be a democracy, nor is it a political organisation. So to speak of a “bottom layer of laypersons” as Fisher says is mistaken and needlessly misleading. There is a need for a hierarchical model when the Catholic Church is over a billion people. Without it splits would occur very quickly and the Church would fracture and disintegrate. The Council lives on. The collapse of the talks with the SSPX should be proof enough.

Cardinal Burke, profiled


The Washington Post, in an article, profiles Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, prefect of the Apostolic Signatura.

It begins noting “love him or loathe him — and few are on the fence — Burke’s many pronouncements
on politics and the culture wars have given both fans and critics plenty of ammunition for their respective views”. The highly regarded canonist doing his JCD in Rome before being named defender of the bond in the Signatura. Then bishop of his native La Crosse in 1994.

However it was in his next role as archbishop of St Louis that he is best known. Appointed at the end of 2003 but serving  only four years before being moved to Rome in June 2008. As the article mentions “when he was archbishop of St. Louis in 2004, for instance, Burke touched off a fierce debate by declaring that Catholic politicians such as John Kerry who support abortion rights should be denied Communion. Voters who supported them were in grave peril too, he added”. While Burke was technically correct in his reading of Canon 916, he seems to ignore that neither GOP or Democrats do anything to alter the legality of abortion because both know that it commands high public support, sadly.

Interestingly however it seems that many on the USCCB do not share Buke’s view of withholding Communion. In 2007 then-Archbishop Burke lost the election to become chairman of the Committee on Canonical Affairs to then-Auxiliary Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki, with Burke getting just 40 percent of the vote.

The article goes on to mention another of Burke’s hardline positions, “Burke doubled down on those views after Pope Benedict XVI appointed him to a top Vatican job in 2008, saying that under President Obama the Democratic party ‘risks transforming itself definitively into a ‘party of death’.’ In 2009, Burke fueled another controversy when he said that the late Sen. Edward Kennedy should have been denied a church funeral for his support of abortion rights and gay rights”. The argument that Burke makes is that only those who agree with the church on every matter should recieve a church funeral and by implication, be recieved into God’s love. Also the notion that the Democrats are the “party of death” is not only highly partisan but unhelpful. Burke seems to put at naught the value of the Democarts in protecting the poor and vuneralbe and least fortunate. He also says little about the GOP and their toxic brand of capitalism that they continue to espouse which is so antithetical to the common good it would seem to be obvious. Cardinal Burke however, seems to remain silent on this isse.

The article adds that Burke was created Cardinal-Deacon of S Agatha dei Gothi in the 2010 consistory, thus “giving him a vote in a conclave that would elect the pontiff’s successor, and put him on the Congregation for Bishops, the Vatican body that vets candidates for bishops in the U.S. and around the world. That gives Burke a key role in shaping the hierarchy for years to come, which he seems to be doing”. This was seen most recently when the new archbishop of San Francisco was appointed, being a key ally of Burke.

He is however no cartoon. His attack against relativism should be warmly welcomed so should his support for the Latin Mass, but his checklist Catholicism is a cause for great concern.

Dead in the water


The prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Muller, has given yet another interview on the most pressing issues facing his office. The interview in two parts, conducted by the National Catholic Register deals with the LCWR, the Society of Saint Pius X, of which he says “I believe that these questions will be resolved in the long term”, as well as his own writings, that some have been highly critical of. This despite Pope Benedict’s own high praise for Muller.

In a separate interview, picked up by Reuters, Archbishop Muller was reported as saying that Rome “plans no more talks with rebel Catholic traditionalists who insist the Church must revoke modernizing reforms launched five decades ago”. The piece adds “His comments to North German Radio (NDR) were the first from the Vatican on deadlocked talks meant to reintegrate the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) into the Church after a 21-year schism over its implacable opposition to 1960s reforms”.

A longer article in the same subject notes “‘We cannot give away the Catholic faith in negotiations,’ Mueller said according to a pre-broadcast report by NDR. ‘There will be no compromises here,’ he said. ‘I think there now will be no new discussions.'”

The piece concludes “Muller, who crossed swords with SSPX traditionalists while he was archbishop [sic] of Regensburg in Germany before going to Rome, rejected the group’s central argument that the Council broke with a Church’s 2,000-year traditions. ‘The Second Vatican Council does not contradict the Church’s overall tradition, but only some false interpretations of the Catholic faith,’ he said”.

Therefore, it now seems that one of Pope Benedict’s most cherished goals has died, not because he did not try hard enough but because the people he was dealing with, the SSPX, are unable to accept the “modern” world, which for all its faults, is the world that currently exists.

Benedict should now ignore the SSPX and focus on the most pressing issues, such as the opposition to the Latin Mass still evident around the world, as well as the New Evangelisation and combating relativism.

The Right choice


Pope Benedict has accepted the resignation of Archbishop George Hugh Niederauer of San Francisco and appointed Salvatore Cordileone, formerly bishop of Oakland in his stead.

Rocco has the scoop and stresses the importance and shock of the move. He writes that the appointment is “either the most courageously bold — or stunningly brazen — American appointment in the seven-year reign of Pope Benedict XVI”. He goes on to write that “the pontiff’s selection of the ninth archbishop of San Francisco had almost universally been expected by late June, an apparent delay was explained by credible reports of a backroom Roman ‘fight’ over the state and direction of the famously progressive local church in the capital city of American liberalism”.

He goes on to mention that “After a half-century of occupants accused by conservatives of soft-pedaling church teaching in favor of a more conciliatory approach toward constituencies ranging from gays and lesbians to Nancy Pelosi — a group of prelates among which even the recently-retired lead guardian of church doctrine, Cardinal William Levada, was not exempt from stinging criticism — the move delivers the long-desired ‘Holy Grail’ of the American Catholic Right firmly into the faction’s hands, in the form of a prelate already known widely both for his forcefulness and a stringent doctrinal cred almost unequaled among his confreres on the national bench”.

Rocco adds that  Cordileone has a “mandate to reshape the House of Quinn with his own distinctive style and emphases over a tenure that could well extend over two decades, it seems pretty safe to say that, this morning, progressive Catholicism on these shores has a new leading bete noire — and one who’ll be around and kicking for quite some time, at that”. Rocco adds that “Cordileone becomes the youngest non-Hispanic among the 33 American archbishops”.

He adds that the new archbishop is a follower of “the preeminent “ultra-conservative” of the American hierachy, Cardinal Raymond Burke (now the church’s de facto ‘chief justice’ as head of the Apostolic Signatura, where the duo served together in the early 1990s), the clash that a Cordileone appointment signifies with the city that is arguably the global capital of open, unabashed gay identity and culture was first notably evidenced by an initially quiet move amid a high-stakes moment: a $2,000 donation the then-auxiliary of San Diego made out of his own pocket to the nascent 2008 battle in support of Proposition 8 — the California ballot initiative whose passage overturned a court ruling that sanctioned same-sex marriage”.

Rocco theorises that moving Cordileone to Oakland was the beginning of a trend that “would launch a conspicuous trend of Rome’s turning to standout prelates from the church’s ‘orthodox’ wing to fill diocesan openings in Northern California. A year later, Bishop Robert Vasa would be transferred to Santa Rosa, yet only today has the thread reached its ultimate consummation with the all-important metropolitan nod”.

Thankfully, one of Cordileone’s benedits is that he is known as “a firm supporter of the pre-Conciliar Extraordinary Form”. Something that has been lacking from both Levada and Niederauer. It would be a shame for a thing of such beauty to be neglected and shunned simply because it is old.

Controversially, Rocco goes on to write, that the new archbishop “made further waves on the charged issue of homosexuality in the church with a call earlier this year for a national ministry association for Catholic gays and lesbians based in his diocese to sign oaths of ‘personal integrity’ in response to a list of concerns that, according to published reports, included a passage in the group’s materials that lamented the ‘negative language’ of church documents on same-sex activity, and its use of the terms ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian.'” All this shows is not only the usual lack of trust in those, though no fault of their own, of a gay orientation, but even worse it shows Cordileone in his true light, a canonist. People seem to be irrelevant but as long as rules and regulations are enforced and all boxes ticked then all else is umimportant. The same mode of thinking as his mentor, Cardinal Burke.

It must be asked, whatever good was done by appointed loyalists who adhered to Church doctrine (Levada/Niederauer) during their time in San Francisco, what will Cordileone do over his admittedly long tenure will simply drive people away from a Church that is supposed to be catholic.

Pushed out?


Fr Uwe Michael Lang, stauch defender of Summorum Pontificum and the reform of the reform and consulter to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments left his position with no explanation.

Watching the slide


There has been much discussion about the revival of religion, especially in Europe. It has been noticed that where there is growth it is with demoniations that are conservative, or theologically orthodox, in their thinking.

An article in the New York Times questions this assumption and argues for liberal Christianity. He writes that the leaders of the Episcopal Church (Anglican/Church of England) have “spent the last several decades changing and then changing some more, from a sedate pillar of the WASP establishment into one of the most self-consciously progressive Christian bodies in the United States”.

He goes on to write that “today the Episcopal Church looks roughly how Roman Catholicism would look if Pope Benedict XVI suddenly adopted every reform ever urged on the Vatican by liberal pundits and theologians. It still has priests and bishops, altars and stained-glass windows. But it is flexible to the point of indifference on dogma, friendly to sexual liberation in almost every form, willing to blend Christianity with other faiths, and eager to downplay theology entirely in favor of secular political causes”. Of course, if Benedict ever did this there would be no end to the demands by the reforms, until almost nothing of value was left. Undoubtedly the first thing the “liberal pundits and theologians” would abolish it the Latin Mass which has rightly been restored to a par with the vernacular Mass.

He goes on to mention that “instead of attracting a younger, more open-minded demographic with these changes, the Episcopal Church’s dying has proceeded apace. Last week, while the church’s House of Bishops was approving a rite to bless same-sex unions, Episcopalian church attendance figures for 2000-10 circulated in the religion blogosphere. They showed something between a decline and a collapse: In the last decade, average Sunday attendance dropped 23 percent, and not a single Episcopal diocese in the country saw churchgoing increase”. However, it may to too simple to equate modern reforms with declining attendence.

He makes the point that “This decline is the latest chapter in a story dating to the 1960s. The trends unleashed in that era — not only the sexual revolution, but also consumerism and materialism, multiculturalism and relativism — threw all of American Christianity into crisis”. Of course, not just the United States but “the West”, broadly defined. Indeed, it is these “values” of individualism and greed that societies are reaping now with the financial crisis and societal breakdown that Pope Benedict rightly attacks.

He writes that “if conservative Christianity has often been compromised, liberal Christianity has simply collapsed. Practically every denomination — Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian — that has tried to adapt itself to contemporary liberal values has seen an Episcopal-style plunge in church attendance. Within the Catholic Church, too, the most progressive-minded religious orders have often failed to generate the vocations necessary to sustain themselves”.

He goes on to write, with a note of caution that “Few of the outraged critiques of the Vatican’s investigation of progressive nuns mentioned the fact that Rome had intervened because otherwise the orders in question were likely to disappear in a generation. Fewer still noted the consequences of this eclipse: Because progressive Catholicism has failed to inspire a new generation of sisters, Catholic hospitals across the country are passing into the hands of more bottom-line-focused administrators, with inevitable consequences for how they serve the poor. But if liberals need to come to terms with these failures, religious conservatives should not be smug about them. The defining idea of liberal Christianity — that faith should spur social reform as well as personal conversion — has been an immensely positive force in our national life. No one should wish for its extinction”.

He concludes arging that “the leaders of the Episcopal Church and similar bodies often don’t seem to be offering anything you can’t already get from a purely secular liberalism. Which suggests that perhaps they should pause, amid their frantic renovations, and consider not just what they would change about historic Christianity, but what they would defend and offer uncompromisingly to the world”. While the American Conservative commenting on the same article writes that “The various conservative Christianities may not be fully reconcilable, but they all point to a source of authority, or sources of authority, beyond individual experience and subjectivity. That gives them their force, and their staying power”.

Five years of Summorum Pontificum


Cardinal Burke notes that “There’s no question that there remains in certain places a resistance to what the Holy Father has asked, and that’s sad.”



On this, the seventh anniversary of the election of Pope Benedict, it would seem that his the short term project closest to him has almost come to fruition.

In mid April it was reported that Rome and the Society of Saint Pius X are “on the verge of reaching an agreement”. It notes that “As soon as it is received in Rome – ‘it is a matter of days, and no longer of weeks’, – it will be immediately examined. If it conforms to expectations, the Holy See will very quickly announce a historic agreement with this group of faithful, known under the name of ‘integrists'”.

It also mentions the enormous efforts that Pope Benedict has gone to to reconcile the Society with the Church notably “The reestablishment in 2007 – as an ‘extraordinary’ rite of the Catholic Church – of the Mass celebrated in Latin, that is, according to the Missal of John XXIII in force before the Council. The removal, in 2009, of the excommunications which fell on the four bishops ordained by Abp. Lefebvre”.

The article concludes noting, “It will probably be done with the creation of a special statute – a ‘personal prelature’ – already experienced by Opus Dei. This structure grants a true autonomy of action at the same time as the Catholic faith is shared. Its superior answers directly to the pope, and not to the bishops”. The response of “Bishop” Bernard Fellay is typical.

This is in addition to the note issued by the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei.  The communique mentions simply, “The text of the response of His Excellency Bp. Bernard Fellay, Superior General of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X, requested during the meeting in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of March 16, 2012, was delivered on April 17, 2012. This text will be examined by the Dicastery and submitted afterwards to the judgment of the Holy Father”.

The response of the Fr Federico Lombardi was “steps forward have been taken, that is to say, that the response, the new response, is rather encouraging. But there are still developments that will be made, and examined, and decisions which should be taken in the next few weeks.”

Others have mentioned “Lefebvrians were cautious when commenting on today’s declaration by the Vatican on the last doctrinal response given by traditionalists ahead of their full reintegration into the Catholic Church. The Society of St. Pius X issued an official communiqué stating that “the press has announced that Mgr. Bernard Fellay has addressed a positive response to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and that therefore the doctrinal issue between the Holy See and the Society of St. Pius X has now been resolved. The reality appears to be somewhat different. According to the communiqué, the letter sent on 17 April 2012 by the Superior General of the Society of St. Pius X was a response to the request for clarification sent by Cardinal William Levada on 16 March, regarding the Doctrinal Preamble text which had been delivered on 14 September 2011”.

Lastly, John Allen notes that “Longtime observers say it remains unclear whether all the Lefebvrites would accept such an arrangement, even if Fellay and other leaders of the Society of St. Pius X embrace it. One possible scenario, they say, could be a further rupture within the society, as some elements enter communion with Rome while others balk”. This is of course a reference to Richard Williamson.

Adoramus te


Adoramus te, Christe, et benedicimus tibi, quia per sanctam crucem tuam redemisti mundum.

Concede nobis tuæ propitiationis effectum


From the Collect of Holy Thursday:

DEUS, a quo et Judas reatus sui pœnam, et confessionis suæ latro præmium sumpsit, concede nobis  tuæ propitiationis effectum; ut, sicut in passione sua Jesus Christus, Dominus noster, diversa utrisque intulit stipendia meritorum; ita nobis, ablato vetustatis errore, resurrectionis suæ gratiam largiatur. Qui Tecum vivit et regnat.

O God, from whom Judas received the punishment of his guilt, and the thief the reward of his confession, grant us the effect of Thy clemency; that even as in His passion our Lord Jesus Christ gave to each a different recompense according to his merits, so may He deliver us from our old sins and grant us the grace of His resurrection. Who with Thee livest and reignest.

Nine years early


Rowan Williams, archbishop of Canterbury has announced, as expected, he is to retire at the end of 2012 to become master of Magdalene College, Cambridge. The normal retirement age in the Church of England is 70, Williams is therefore retiring nine years early.

statement issued by the archdiocese of Westminster, notes the remarks of Archbishop Vincent Nichols, “‘In the last three years I have grown to appreciate more and more the fine qualities of Archbishop Rowan: his kindness, his sharp intellect, his dedication to striving for harmony between peoples, especially within the Christian family, his courage and his friendship. These will be much missed when he steps down from his demanding office in December. I will miss him.'”

It was reported that “in a statement on his website, the head of the 85 million-strong Anglican Communion said serving as archbishop had been ‘an immense privilege’. He said stepping down had not been an easy decision and that during the time he had left there was ‘much to do'”. The article also notes that “Under his leadership, the Church of England has come close to splitting over the ordination of gay clergy and women bishops. Dr Williams has consistently supported the ordination of women, and previously showed no objection to the appointment of an openly-gay bishop in Reading”. The report mentions how “Williams said: ‘The worst aspects of the job, I think, have been the sense that there are some conflicts that won’t go away, however long you struggle with them, and that not everybody in the Anglican Communion or even in the Church of England is eager to avoid schism or separation. ‘But I certainly regard it as a real priority to try and keep people in relationship with each other.'”

The Washington Post writes that, “The odds-on favourite, according to numerous observers, is Uganda-born John Sentamu, the current archbishop of York and the No. 2 official in the Church of England”, the article adds that “Sentamu has gained a reputation in some circles as a ‘cleric of the people’ for his actions, including cutting up his clerical collar on live television in 2007 to protest the rule of Zimbabwe strongman Robert Mugabe. Another prospective candidate is Bishop of London Richard Chartres, who gave the address at the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton last year and has a record as a strong campaigner on environmental issues. Other prospects include Bishop of Bradford Nick Baines, who has gained a reputation as a ‘blogging’ bishop for his use of modern technology; and Bishop of Leicester Tim Stevens, leader of the Anglican bishops who sit in the House of Lords. Whoever it is, Williams told reporters his successor will need ‘the constitution of an ox and the skin of a rhinoceros.'”

It adds that Williams “issued invitations to the 2008 Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops from around the world, he refused to extend one to openly gay Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire. At the same time, Williams faced an insurrection on his right flank as influential Anglican bishops in the Third World dismissed him as irrelevant for not taking a harder line on Western liberals. His attempt at compromise — an ‘Anglican Covenant’ that would bind member churches that agree to its traditional tenets — has so far been met with tepid enthusiasm by conservatives who don’t think it will work and liberals who say they will not be bound by outside interference”.

The Economist,  in an interesting, though not surprising piece, mentions how the Anglican Communion is fracturing. It mentions how “40% of Anglicans attend evangelical parishes these days, up from 26% in 1989. That is against a background of overall decline; he thinks the number of regular worshippers in the Church of England will have fallen to 680,000 by 2020, down from about 800,000 now and just under 1m a decade ago. The lukewarm are falling away, leaving the pews to the more fervent”. Indeed, this is exactly like what is occuring in the Catholic Church under Pope Benedict. Groups like the Neocatacumenal Way and Focolare one one hand and the Tridentine mass going traditionalists are, sadly, squeezing out those in “the middle”.

It cites a number of churches of an American inspired, evangelical bent that “have in common is a reluctance to do the Church of England’s traditional job of marrying, baptising or burying people who have no real religious commitment. That is a break with Anglicanism’s familiar role as the undemanding ‘default mode’ of faith for a secular country”.

Predictably however, this is reflected in ordainations, “Of the 515 people accepted as candidates for ordination in 2010, fully 108 were under 30, up from 74 the previous year. Compare that with the Catholic church in France, which ordained only 83 priests in 2010. Yet many of the budding clerics—perhaps a third—are firm evangelicals”.

The article concludes saying, “the archbishop’s strongest challengers are liberals outraged by his compromises on women bishops and by his opposition to the government’s plans to allow gay marriage. (It is now certain there will be women bishops; the question is how generously to accommodate clergy or parishes who will not submit to their authority.) But when the current generation of ordinands hit their stride, the balance may swing in a conservative direction. They are likely to give their bishops a hard time”, yet at the same time argues that “Evangelicalism, like Anglicanism as a whole, is a fairly broad church. So powerful is the nation’s resistance to “narrowness” that even religious fervour rests on compromises”.

However, it is doubtful that the Anglican Communion will continue for much longer as it is currently constructed.



Rocco gets to the point. Benedict’s recent trip to Germany left many questioning why Bach, Beethoven, Palestrina and Victoria had been left out.

Last roll of the dice


The discussions between the Society of Saint Pius X and Roman authorities are slowly creaking to a conclusion.

On the 14th September, the fourth anniversary of the implementation of Summorum Pontificum, the president of the Pontifical Commission Eccelsia Dei, William Cardinal Levada its secretary, Mgr Guido Pozzo and the secretary of the CDF, Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer, SJ and Fr Charles met Bernard Fellay and his officials to hand him, what has become to be know as the Doctrinal Preamble. It is thought that the SSPX has been presented with two proposals, one doctrinal and the other canonical.

The meeting was thought not to have lasted long.  It is now known that senior members of the SSPX will meet in early October in Albano, just outside Rome to discuss the offer.

It has been reported that “experts cautioned against expecting a dramatic turn in the relationship anytime soon”. The talks that took place in 2009 and 2010, with “the five-member Vatican delegation consisted of Italian Msgr. Guido Pozzo, secretary of the “Ecclesia Dei” Commission responsible for relations with the traditionalists; Spanish Jesuit Archbishop Luis Ladaria, secretary of the doctrinal congregation; German Jesuit Msgr. Karl Becker, a longtime adviser to the congregation; Spanish Msgr. Fernando Ocáriz, vicar general of Opus Dei; and Swiss Dominican Fr. Charles Morerod, rector of the Angelicum University”. The talks focused on, the Second Vatican Council, religious freedom, ecumenism, and to a lesser extent the liturgy.

Allen reports that “Fellay gave a controversial interview in which he said that for the traditionalists, the aim of the sessions wasn’t finding compromise but rather explaining to the Vatican the “contradictions” between eternal Catholic teaching and the innovations introduced at Vatican II”. Allen adds that the result of this was that “a participant told NCR that at one point Pozzo, who chaired the meetings, asked one of the Vatican delegates if he’d like to contribute something. The delegate reportedly replied: ‘Bishop Fellay has said that the purpose of these talks is for the society to explain what it means to be Catholic. Do I actually need to speak?'”

In addition to all of this, “Fellay also said that two new stumbling blocks to reunion had emerged: the May 1 beatification of Pope John Paul II, whom traditionalists considered excessively liberal, and Benedict’s plan to host an interreligious summit in Assisi, Italy, this October”.

Now that the discussions are over, it is the last time a pope and his officials will be engaged so vigourously with the the SSPX for many years to come, perhaps ever. The SSPX must decide what they prefer to be in communion with Rome or not. This is probably the best offer they will ever get.

Expierences of a seminarian


A seminarian discusses his expierences of people’s perceptions of the Tridentine Mass.

Universal Church


The Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, under its president, William Cardinal Levada issued an instruction on 13 May, Universae Ecclesiae (The Universal Church), on the Tridentine Mass that clarified Summorum Pontificum of 7 July 2007.

The document was called for in Summorum Pontificum itself which says that after three years the bishops of the world should write to Rome to report on its implementation and take up by the faithful. The statement that goes with the instruction notes that “We must remember that ‘Instructions… clarify the prescripts of laws and elaborate and determine the methods to be observed in fulfilling them” (CIC, can. 34). As indicated in n.12, the instruction is issued ‘to ensure the correct interpretation and proper application'”.  

The instruction, as Rocco reports, is “intended to reinforce the 1962 Missal’s lasting place in modern ecclesial life and urging ‘generous’ provisions for its use, albeit with no illusions of the post-Conciliar rites’ being eclipsed by the Tridentine books.

Rocco reports that Universae Ecclesiae, has three aims are to: “offering to all the faithful the Roman Liturgy in the Usus Antiquior, considered as a precious treasure to be preserved; “effectively guaranteeing and ensuring the use of the forma extraordinaria for all who ask for it, given that the use of the 1962 Roman Liturgy is a faculty generously granted for the good of the faithful and therefore is to be interpreted in a sense favorable to the faithful who are its principal addressees; and “promoting reconciliation at the heart of the church.”

He goes on to report that the document says that “The faithful who ask for the celebration of the forma extraordinaria must not in any way support or belong to groups which show themselves to be against the validity or legitimacy of the Holy Mass or the Sacraments celebrated in the forma ordinaria or against the Roman Pontiff as Supreme Pastor of the Universal Church”. This is a recognition of the Society of Saint Pius X who refuse to acknowledge the validity of the post Conciliar vernacular Mass.

Rocco also reports that the document encourages that seminarians “should be given proper formation, including study of Latin and, where pastoral needs suggest it, the opportunity to learn the forma extraordinaria of the Roman Rite.”

However as was predicted earlier, the instruction orders that “Only in Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life which are under the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, and in those which use the liturgical books of the forma extraordinaria, is the use of the Pontificale Romanum of 1962 for the conferral of minor and major orders permitted”.

Traditionalist friendly websites have praised the instruction while others have dissatisfied with the supposed limitations. It is in the interests of the Church that this ancient liturgy be given due respect and be as widely available as possible.

More Catholic than the Pope


As the much heralded talks between the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) and Rome unsurprisingly flounder and fail, there is talk of a new motu proprio on the clarification of Summorum Pontificum of 7 July 2007.

Firstly, the discussions that have been ongoing since late 2009 were meant to bring the schismatic SSPX back into the Church, especially after Pope Benedict lifted the excommunication of the four illicitly consecrated bishops in January 2009, amid outrage that the Holocaust denying Richard Williamson was included. This does not however change their canonical situation as the men “consecrated” by Archbishop Lefebvre has not changed and they are not bishops.

The Reuters report states that Superior General of the SSPX, Bernard Fellay was “Asked if Vatican officials had changed their minds during the talks, which began in late 2009, he said: ‘I don’t think that you can say that.’ He said the pope ‘has a certain sympathy for us, but within limits.'”

The Church and the SSPX have been discussing the role of modernity in the Church which encompasses inter-religious dialogue as well as other issues. A key demand of the SSPX was the liberalisation of the stunning pre-Conciliar Tridentine Mass, which Summorum Pontificum granted, which also fits in the Benedict’s reform of the reform agenda. Now however it is unclear where, if indeed anywhere, the discussions will go.

Secondly, when Summorum Pontificum was first released it promised that in three years, i.e. 2010, there would be a clarification. Word is now spreading that this document is almost ready and is apparently restrictive. According to easily excitable sources the ordination of priests, other than those using the old mass exclusively eg FSSP, IBP and others will have the rite restricted.

It is doubtful that this restriction of the Extraordinary Form is what Benedict wants but either way there will soon be clarity.

Parable of the Unforgiving Servant


On this the Twenty first Sunday after Pentecost there is a beatiful Gospel, the parable of the Unforgiving Servant:

The kingdom of heaven is likened to a king, who would take an account of his servants. And when we had begun to take the account, one was brought to him that owed him ten thousand talents: and as he had not wherewith to pay it, his lord commanded that he should be sold, and his wife and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. But that servant falling down, besought him saying: Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And the lord of that servant, being moved with pity, let him go; and forgave him the debt. But when that servant was gone out, he found one of his fellow-servants that owed him a hundred pence: and laying hold of him, he throttled him, saying: Pay what thou owest. And his fellow-servant falling down besought him, saying: Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not; but went and cast him into prison till he paid the debt. Now his fellow-servants, seeing what was done, were very much grieved; and they came and told their lord all that was done. Then his lord called him, and saith to him: Thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all the debt, because thou besoughtest me; shouldst not thou then have compassion also on thy fellow-servant, even as I had compassion on thee? And his lord being angry, delivered him to the torturers, until he paid all the debt. So also shall my heavenly Father do to you, if you forgive not every one his brother from your hearts.

We should take a number of lessons from this, firstly ten thousand talents was an enormous sum of money, it is difficult to place a figure in today’s currency, but some have suggested $3 billion. To forgive this debt, the king, God, shows how much he loves the servant even though he has done nothing to deserve his mercy and love. Yet at the same time God shows justice when he punishes the servant for not forgiving a much smaller debt.

It is a valuable reminder that we must forgive each other while at the same time remember that enternal and infinite love of God for each one of us.

Pope Benedict’s mission in the UK


On this, the eve of the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the UK, as usual, controversy is never far behind. In a thoughtful piece, Dr Eamon Duffy, lays out the importance of Benedict in the UK.

Duffy says that “John Paul II was manifestly a giant on the world stage, his life story one of titanic struggle against 20th century Europe’s two great tyrannies, he himself a key player in the collapse of the Soviet empire. His social and moral views elicited no more enthusiasm from the secular world than those of Joseph Ratzinger, but his craggy integrity, mesmeric personal presence and mastery of crowds made him formidable even to those who rejected his religion. By contrast, Pope Benedict is an altogether smaller figure, a man of the sacristy and the lecture room.”

Thus it is fairly obvious that Benedict is “an academic to the toes of his red papal slippers, he has poor antennae for the likely public perception of his actions and utterances. That was made clear by the hostile reaction to his Regensburg remarks on Islam, and, more recently, by his disastrous though doubtless well-intentioned conciliatory gestures to the holocaust-denying Lefebvrist rebel Bishop Richard Williamson.”

This is perhaps one of the biggest problems facing Benedict personally as well as sadly, this. Benedict’s whole papacy, indeed much of his life, has been to fight against both relativism and the aggressive secularism that like the soon to be Blessed “[John Henry Cardinal] Newman believed that British society was in danger of cutting itself adrift from the Christian values that had given Europe and the West their distinctive religious, moral and aesthetic character. But he [Newman] also believed the slide into relativism would not be halted by mere denunciation. If Christian values were to survive and prevail, they must commend themselves by their intrinsic power and attractiveness. Modern materialism, he wrote, must be met ‘not by refutation so much as by a powerful counter-argument . . . overcoming error not by refutation so much as by an antagonist truth’.”

Benedict like Newman will try to bring Europe back to Christianity, for its own good, as much for the Church’s. As has been mentioned before, Benedict sees Europe as the heart that will beat again should religion be at least respected and ackkowledged by society. However, it is doubtful that groups like this will be going out of business any time soon.   

If Benedict is successful in the long term than all the PR disasters, media sniping, and abuse crisies that have never been far behind will, be if not forgotten, there impact will be lessened and the significance of Benedict’s message will be understood. Tolerence itself is at stake and it is hoped that these short term gaffes and ignorant and dangerous comments will not dull or impede Benedict’s historic mission.

Future of Christianity


In a very delayed post on the newly established Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evanglisation of Pope Benedict the important question should be asked, will it work?

Of course it’s far too soon to tell, one thing is certain however, Europe as a continent desperately needs to reconnect to its Christian roots, to move away from the dangerous individualism and greed that is hanging over much of the West as we know it. Christianity is not the only way for this to happen but it is perhaps the one of the best.

One of Benedict’s main themes, justly, is to lead North American and especially Europe back to God. The number of Catholics around the world is growing, however, the growth is particularly prelevant in Africa and parts of Asia. Statistics show that for “countries like France and Germany, church attendance has dropped below 20 percent. In the cathedrals of Paris, tourists now regularly outnumber churchgoers. And in Ireland, where just 30 years ago 91 percent of the population went to mass regularly, local dioceses are suddenly bereft of laity and leadership”.

The article notes that says that the first new curial department established in a quarter century, headed by Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella has the sole job of restoring Christianity to Europe and to a lesser extent North America. Such a mamouth task placed in the hands of one individual will surely not produce results, irrespective of the rank they hold in the Church. The article says that Archbishop Fisichella and his officials will be “tasked with finding and implementing methods, both pastoral and political, to convince Europeans to put Christ back at the center of their lives”. On a minor note, the fact that no secretary or undersecretary have been named to the pontifical council is something to note. However, this could just be Rome moving at its traditional sedentary pace.

The author askes the valid question, the “European continent — with its aging population and diminishing political influence — seems a curious strategic priority for a global institution like the Vatican”. He then says that Europe is the exception rather than the rule, citing America as the example of strong faith. This argument is increasingly prominent, however, in truth, no-one has any idead what role, if any, religion will play in developing societies. Benedict sees Europe as the historical heartland and because of this, thinks that it is still important in the world today. During the debates on the initially failed EU Constitution, “Europe, Ratzinger argued, was not a geographic or political concept, but a ‘cultural and historical’ one”.

Benedict said that “there was now a ‘fairly widespread’ culture in Europe ‘which relegates to the private and subjective sphere the manifestation of one’s own religious convictions.'” It is this that Benedict most fears, not being able to celebrate one’s religious convictions. He has also spoken of the dangers where this might lead if left unchecked, to only the correct secular liberal views being tolerated. While  Europe is not at this stage yet, it is certainly not beyond the realms of possibility. As the writer aptly states ” In the pope’s geopolitical vision, Europe, because of its Christian heritage, is an ideal defender of human dignity on the world stage”, it is as he says “a concern with the dissolution of the social and political foundations of the continent and of the world at large”.

In God is Back, the authors, both from the Economist, take a predictably market view of the world. They argue that religions should esentially compete for believers, something that would be, rightly, anathema to Benedict. For this view “they cite numerous successful examples of this market model from around the world, not least the United States, where religious freedom and religious vitality apparently go hand in hand”.

What the Economist article in the future of the Catholic Church in Europe is that parts of the Catholic Church, the more traditionalist elements are experience something of a revival, partly as a result of Summorum Pontificum. The article notes that those on once vibrant Catholic Left of the 1960s and 1970s, have lost steam, with those younger people who hold similar views just leaving the institutional Church altogether. As the article says, “On closer inspection French Catholicism is not dead, but it is splintering to the point where the centre barely holds”. 

The Economist article notes how “The drop in active adherence to, and knowledge of, Christianity is a long-running and gentle trend; but the hollowing out of church structures—parishes, monasteries, schools, universities, charities—is more dramatic”. It adds that “all over Europe the child-abuse scandal has made secular powers keener to reassert their authority, and less willing to accept the Catholic church as a semi-autonomous power. In almost every country, therefore, the church is in decline as an institution”. However, when people are asked about their religious beliefs many will still identify as Christian, even Catholic or at the very least believing in some divine force.

“‘Rather than Catholicism, it is more accurate to talk about Catholicisms,’ says Giuseppe Giordan, a sociologist of religion”. Perhaps Catholicism is just too big and too diverse to withstand an interconnected but increasingly localised world. The article continues noting how the Catholic Church has “failed to see that since the 1960s, there has been ‘a huge anthropological change in favour of…freedom of choice. People are no longer prepared to obey instructions.'”

Crucially it notes that “most of the [child abuse] cases took place in the 1960s and 1970s; the culture of cronyism and impunity which made such horrors possible is now well in the past, and most of the institutions involved have been shut for decades. But many of today’s senior bishops were part of the world that tried to cover these things up. That is deeply embarrassing for the elderly men who now run the church, including the 83-year-old pontiff”.

It is the Church’s own sins that it must come to grips with now for its own sake, if not for Europe’s, and indeed the worlds.