Friday, August 26, 2016


From The Catholic Herald:

Cardinal Sarah: reaction to my ad orientem speech was ‘not always very accurate’


My comment: One thing is clear from Cardinal Sarah, and I hope all are in agreement as I am in this school of thought as well: We need an authentic implementation of Sacrosanctum Concilium as well as the other documents of Vatican II and we need to recognize what is outdated in term of Vatican II and some of the issues of the early 1960's worldwide. Pastoral theology is not doctrine and certainly not dogma!

Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The cardinal said that his comments about the liturgy at a conference in London last month were misinterpreted

Cardinal Robert Sarah has said that comments he made during a conference in London earlier this year were not always interpreted accurately.

During his address to the clergy of the Archdiocese of Colombo, Sri Lanka, on ‘Liturgical Life and the Priesthood’, the Vatican’s liturgy chief said: “Last month, in London, I gave a presentation ‘Towards an authentic implementation of Sacrosanctum Concilium’ … This talk received a lot of attention — some of it not always very accurate!”

During his address in July at the Sacra Liturgia conference, Cardinal Sarah asked priests to implement the practice of celebrating Mass facing east “wherever possible” prompting both the Vatican and the Archbishop of Westminster to issue statements, distancing themselves from Cardinal Sarah’s comments.

During his more recent address in Sri Lanka, the cardinal still reiterated the problems with celebrating Mass facing the people, saying that Mass had become to focused on the priest and the congregation, rather than God Himself.

He said: “In recent decades in some countries the Sacred Liturgy has become too anthropocentric; man not Almighty God has often become its focus. This archdiocese has had very fine archbishops, and I think that this problem is probably not a very large one here. However we must take care to form our people that God, not ourselves, is the focus of our worship.”

The cardinal continued by emphasising that that the liturgy is not a celebration of our own achievements but God’s love and mercy. He said: “We do not come to the Church to celebrate what we have done or who we are. Rather, we come to celebrate and give thanks for all that Almighty God has done, and continues in His love and mercy to do, for us.

“What He does in the liturgy is what is essential; what we do is to present our ‘first fruits’—the best that we can—in worship and adoration. When the modern liturgy is celebrated in the vernacular with the priest ‘facing the people’ there is a danger of man, even of the priest himself and of his personality, becoming too central.

“In every Catholic liturgy, the Church, made up of both minister and faithful, gives her complete focus – body, heart and mind – to God who is the centre of our lives and the origin of every blessing and grace.”

Full text: Cardinal Sarah at Sacra Liturgia conference

 The cardinal speech entitled, Towards an Authentic Implementation of Sacrosanctum Concilium, was delivered in London on July 5

Your Excellencies, dear Fathers, deacons and dear religious men and women, dear brothers and sisters in Christ.

In the first place I wish to express my thanks to His Eminence, Vincent Cardinal Nichols, for his welcome to the Archdiocese of Westminster and for his kind words of greeting. So too I wish to thank His Excellency, Bishop Dominique Rey, Bishop of Fréjus-Toulon, for his invitation to be present with you at this, the third international “Sacra Liturgia” conference, and to present the opening address this evening. Your Excellency, I congratulate you on this international initiative to promote the study of the importance of liturgical formation and celebration in the life and mission of the Church.

I am very happy to be here with you all today. I thank each of you for your presence which reflects your appreciation of the importance of what the then Cardinal Ratzinger once called “the question of the liturgy” today, at the beginning of the twenty-first century. This is a great sign of hope for the Church.


In his message dated 18th February 2014 to the symposium celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Holy Father, Pope Francis, observed that the marking of fifty years since the promulgation of the Constitution should push us “to revive the commitment to accept and implement [the] teaching [of Sacrosanctum Concilium] in an ever fuller way.” The Holy Father continued:

It is necessary to unite a renewed willingness to go forward along the path indicated by the Council Fathers, as there remains much to be done for a correct and complete assimilation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy on the part of the baptized and ecclesial communities. I refer, in particular, to the commitment to a solid and organic liturgical initiation and formation, both of lay faithful as well as clergy and consecrated persons.

The Holy Father is correct. We have much to do if we are to realise the vision of the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council for the liturgical life of the Church. We have very much to do if today, some fifty years after the Council concluded, we are to achieve “a correct and complete assimilation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.”

In this address I wish to place before you some considerations on how the Western Church might move towards a more faithful implementation of Sacrosanctum Concilium. In doing so I propose to ask “What did the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council intend in the liturgical reform?” Then I would like to consider how their intentions were implemented following the Council. Finally, I would like to put before you some suggestions for the liturgical life of the Church today, so that our liturgical practice might more faithfully reflect the intentions of the Council Fathers.


But first we must consider a preliminary question. That is the question: “What is the Sacred Liturgy?” Because if we do not understand the nature of Catholic liturgy, as distinct from the rites of other Christian communities and of other religions, we cannot hope to understand the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, or to move towards a more faithful implementation of it.

In his Motu Proprio Tra le sollecitudini (22 November 1903) Pope Saint Pius X, taught that “the holy mysteries” and “the public and solemn prayer of the Church,” that is, the Sacred Liturgy, are the “foremost and indispensible fount” for acquiring “the true Christian spirit.” St Pius X therefore called for a real and fruitful participation in the Church’s liturgical rites by all. As we know, this teaching and this exhortation would be repeated by article 14 of Sacrosanctum Concilium.

Pope Pius XI raised his voice to the same end some twenty-five years later in his Apostolic Constitution Divini Cultus (20 December 1928), teaching that “the liturgy is indeed a sacred thing, since by it we are raised to God and united to Him, thereby professing our faith and our deep obligation to Him for the benefits we have received and the help of which we stand in constant need.”

Pope Pius XII devoted an Encyclical letter, Mediator Dei (20 November 1947) to the Sacred Liturgy, in which he taught that:

The Sacred Liturgy is…the public worship which our Redeemer as Head of the Church renders to the Father, as well as the worship which the community of the faithful renders to its Founder, and through Him to the heavenly Father. It is, in short, the worship rendered by the Mystical Body of Christ in the entirety of its Head and members. (n. 20)

The Pope taught that the “nature and the object of the sacred liturgy” is that “it aims at uniting our souls with Christ and sanctifying them through the divine Redeemer in order that Christ be honoured and, through Him and in Him, the most Holy Trinity.” (n. 171)

The Second Vatican Council taught that through the liturgy “the work of our redemption is accomplished” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 2), and that the liturgy:

…is considered as an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ. In the liturgy the sanctification of the man is signified by signs perceptible to the senses, and is effected in a way which corresponds with each of these signs; in the liturgy the whole public worship is performed by the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, that is, by the Head and His members.

From this it follows that every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the priest and of His Body which is the Church, is a sacred action surpassing all others; no other action of the Church can equal its efficacy by the same title and to the same degree. (n. 7)

Following on from this, Sacrosanctum Concilium taught that the liturgy:

…is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows. For the aim and object of apostolic works is that all who are made sons of God by faith and baptism should come together to praise God in the midst of His Church, to take part in the sacrifice, and to eat the Lord’s supper. (n. 10)

It would be possible to continue this exposition of the magisterium’s teaching on the nature of the Sacred Liturgy with the teaching of the post-conciliar popes and of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. But for the moment let us stop at the Council. Because it is very clear, I think, that the Church teaches that Catholic liturgy is the singularly privileged locus of Christ’s saving action in our world today, by means of real participation in which we receive His grace and strength which is so necessary for our perseverance and growth in the Christian life. It is the divinely instituted place where we come to fulfil our duty of offering sacrifice to God, of offering the One True Sacrifice. It is where we realise our profound need to worship Almighty God. Catholic liturgy is something sacred, something which is holy by its very nature. Catholic liturgy is no ordinary human gathering.

I wish to underline a very important fact here: God, not man is at the centre of Catholic liturgy. We come to worship Him. The liturgy is not about you and I; it is not where we celebrate our own identity or achievements or exalt or promote our own culture and local religious customs. The liturgy is first and foremost about God and what He has done for us. In His Divine Providence Almighty God founded the Church and instituted the Sacred Liturgy by means of which we are able to offer Him true worship in accordance with the New Covenant established by Christ. In doing this, in entering into the demands of the sacred rites developed in the tradition of the Church, we are given our true identity and meaning as sons and daughters of the Father.

It is essential that we understand this specificity of Catholic worship, for in recent decades we have seen many liturgical celebrations where people, personalities and human achievements have been too prominent, almost to the exclusion of God. As Cardinal Ratzinger once wrote: “If the liturgy appears first of all as the workshop for our activity, then what is essential is being forgotten: God. For the liturgy is not about us, but about God. Forgetting about God is the most imminent danger of our age.” (Joseph Ratzinger, Theology of the Liturgy, Collected Works vol. 11, Ignatius Press, San Francisco 2014, p. 593).

We must be utterly clear about the nature of Catholic worship if we are to read the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy correctly and if we are to implement it faithfully. For the Fathers of the Council were formed in the magisterial teachings of the twentieth century popes that I have cited. St John XXIII did not call an Ecumenical Council to undermine these teachings, which he himself promoted. The Council Fathers did not arrive in Rome in October 1962 with the intention of producing an anthropocentric liturgy. Rather, the Pope and the Council Fathers sought to find ways in which Christ’s faithful could draw ever more deeply from the “foremost and indispensible fount” so as to acquire “the true Christian spirit” for their own salvation and for that of all men and women of their day.


We must explore the intentions of the Fathers of the Council in more detail, particularly if we seek to be more faithful to their intentions today. What did they intend to bring about through the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy?

Let us begin with the very first article of Sacrosanctum Concilium, which states:

This sacred Council has several aims in view: it desires to impart an ever increasing vigour to the Christian life of the faithful; to adapt more suitably to the needs of our own times those institutions which are subject to change; to foster whatever can promote union among all who believe in Christ; to strengthen whatever can help to call the whole of mankind into the household of the Church. (n. 1)

Let us remember that when the Council opened liturgical reform had been a feature of the past decade and that the Fathers were very familiar with these reforms. They were not considering these questions theoretically, without any context. They expected to continue the work already begun and to consider the “altioria principia,” the higher or fundamental principles of liturgical reform, spoken of by St John XXIII in his Motu Proprio Rubricarum Instructum of 25th July 1960.

Hence, article one of the Constitution gives four reasons for undertaking a liturgical reform. The first, “to impart an ever increasing vigour to the Christian life of the faithful,” is the constant concern of the Church’s pastors in every age.

The second, “to adapt more suitably to the needs of our own times those institutions which are subject to change,” may cause us to pause and reflect, particularly given the zeitgeist of the 1960s. But in truth, if it is read with that hermeneutic of continuity with which most certainly the Council Fathers intended it, this means that the Council desired liturgical development where possible so as to facilitate an increased vigour to Christian life. The Council Fathers did not want to change things simply for the sake of change!

So too, the third reason, “to foster whatever can promote union among all who believe in Christ,” might cause us to pause lest we think that the Fathers wished to instrumentalise the Sacred Liturgy and make of it an ecumenical tool, to render it simply a means to an end. But can this be the case? Certainly, after the Council, some may have tried to do this. But the Fathers themselves knew that this was not possible. Unity in worship before the altar of sacrifice is the desired end of ecumenical endeavour. The liturgy is not a means to promote good will or cooperation in apostolic works. No, here the Council Fathers are saying that they believe that liturgical reform can be part of a momentum which can help people to achieve that Catholic unity without which full communion in worship is not possible.

The same motivation is found in the fourth reason given for liturgical reform: “to strengthen whatever can help to call the whole of mankind into the household of the Church.” Here, though, we move beyond our separated Christian brothers and sisters and consider “the whole of mankind.” The Church’s mission is to every man and woman! The Fathers of the Council believed this and hoped that more fruitful participation in the liturgy would facilitate a renewal in the Church’s missionary activity.

Let me give one example. For many years before the Council, in missionary countries and also in the more developed ones, there had been much discussion about the possibility of increasing the use of the vernacular languages in the liturgy, principally for the readings from Sacred Scripture, also for some of the other parts of the first part of the Mass (which we now call the “Liturgy of the Word”) and for liturgical singing. The Holy See had already given many permissions for the use of the vernacular in the administration of the sacraments. This is the context in which the Fathers of the Council spoke of the possible positive ecumenical or missionary effects of liturgical reform. It is true that the vernacular has a positive place in the liturgy. The Fathers were seeking this, not authorising the protestantization of the Sacred Liturgy or agreeing to it being subjected to a false inculturation.


I am an African. Let me say clearly: the liturgy is not the place to promote my culture. Rather, it is the place where my culture is baptised, where my culture is taken up into the divine. Through the Church’s liturgy (which missionaries have carried throughout the world) God speaks to us, He changes us and enables us to partake in His divine life. When someone becomes a Christian, when someone enters into full communion with the Catholic Church, they receive something more, something which changes them. Certainly, cultures and other Christians bring gifts with them into the Church—the liturgy of the Ordinariates of Anglicans now in full communion with the Catholic Church is a beautiful example of this. But they bring these gifts with humility, and the Church in her maternal wisdom makes use of them as she judges appropriate.

Nevertheless, it seems incumbent to be very clear on what we mean by inculturation. If we truly understand the meaning of the term as an insight into the mystery of Jesus Christ, then we have the key to inculturation, which is not a quest nor a claim for the legitimacy of Africanization nor Latin Americanization nor Asianization in substitution of a Westernization of Christianity. Inculturation is neither a canonization of a local culture nor a settling into this culture at the risk of making it absolute. Inculturation is an irruption and an epiphany of the Lord in the depths of our being. And the irruption of the Lord in our life causes a disruption, a detachment opening the way to a path according to new orientations that are creating elements of a new culture, vehicle of the Good News for man and his dignity as a Son of God. When the Gospel enters into our life, it disrupts it, it transforms it. It gives it a new direction, new moral and ethical orientations. It turns the heart of man towards God and neighbour to love and serve them absolutely and without design. When Jesus enters into a life, he transfigures it, he deifies it by the radiant light of His Face, just as St Paul was on the road to Damascus (see: Acts 9:5-6).

Just as by his Incarnation the Word of God became like men in all things, except sin (Heb 4:15), so the gospel assumes all human and cultural values, but refuses to take shape in the structures of sin. This means that the more individual and collective sins abound in a human or ecclesial community, the less room there exists for inculturation. On the contrary, the more a Christian community and shines with holiness and radiates evangelical values, the more it is likely to inculturate the Christian message. The inculturation of the faith is the challenge of sanctity. It verifies the degree of holiness, and the level of the Gospel’s penetration, and of the faith in Jesus Christ in a Christian community. Inculturation, therefore, is not religious folklore.

It is not essentially realized in the use of local languages, instruments and Latin American music, African dances or African or Asian rituals and symbols in the liturgy and the sacraments. Inculturation is God who descends into the life, into the moral behaviour, into the cultures and into the customs of men in order to free them from sin and in order to introduce them into the life of the Trinity. Certainly the Faith has in need of a culture so as to be communicated. This is why Saint John Paul II affirmed that a faith that does not become culture is a faith that is dying: “Properly applied, inculturation must be guided by two principles: “compatibility with the gospel and communion with the universal Church.” (Encyclical Letter, Redemptoris Missio, 7 December 1990, n. 54).

I have spent some time considering the first article of the Constitution because it is very important that we do read Sacrosanctum Concilium in its context, as a document which intended to promote legitimate development (such as the increased use of the vernacular) in continuity with the nature, teaching and mission of the Church in the modern world. We must not read into it things which it does not say. The Fathers did not intend a revolution, but an evolution, a moderate reform.

The intentions of the Council Fathers are very clear from other key passages. Article 14 is one of the most important of the whole Constitution:

Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy. Such participation by the Christian people as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people” (1 Pet. 2:9; cf. 2:4-5), is their right and duty by reason of their baptism.

In the restoration and promotion of the Sacred Liturgy, this full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else; for it is the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit; and therefore pastors of souls must zealously strive to achieve it, by means of the necessary instruction, in all their pastoral work.

Yet it would be futile to entertain any hopes of realizing this unless the pastors themselves, in the first place, become thoroughly imbued with the spirit and power of the liturgy, and undertake to give instruction about it. A prime need, therefore, is that attention be directed, first of all, to the liturgical instruction of the clergy.

We hear the voice of the pre-conciliar popes here, seeking a real and fruitful participation in the liturgy, and in order to bring that about, the insistence that a thorough instruction or formation in the liturgy is urgently necessary. The Fathers show a realism here that was perhaps forgotten afterwards. Let us listen again to those words of the Council and ponder their importance: “it would be futile to entertain any hopes of realizing this (active participation) unless the pastors themselves, in the first place, become thoroughly imbued with the spirit and power of the liturgy, and undertake to give instruction about it.”

At the beginning of article 21 we also hear the Fathers’ intentions very clearly: “In order that the Christian people may more certainly derive an abundance of graces from the Sacred Liturgy, holy Mother Church desires to undertake with great care a general restoration of the liturgy itself.” “Ut populus christianus in sacra Liturgia abundantiam gratiarum securius assequatur…” When we study Latin we learn that the word “ut” signifies a clear purpose that follows in the same clause. What did the Council Fathers intend? —that the Christian people may more certainly derive an abundance of graces from the Sacred Liturgy. How did they propose to do this? —by undertaking with great care a general restoration of the liturgy itself (“ipsius Liturgiae generalem instaurationem sedulo curare cupit”). Please note that the Fathers speak of a “restoration,” not a revolution!

One of the clearest and most beautiful expressions of the intentions of the Fathers of the Council is found at the beginning of the second chapter of the Constitution, which considers the mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist. In article 48 we read:

The Church…earnestly desires that Christ’s faithful, when present at this mystery of faith, should not be there as strangers or silent spectators; on the contrary, through a good understanding of the rites and prayers they should take part in the sacred action conscious of what they are doing, with devotion and full collaboration. They should be instructed by God’s word and be nourished at the table of the Lord’s body; they should give thanks to God; by offering the Immaculate Victim, not only through the hands of the priest, but also with him, they should learn also to offer themselves; through Christ the Mediator they should be drawn day by day into ever more perfect union with God and with each other, so that finally God may be all in all.

My brothers and sisters, this is what the Council Fathers intended. Yes, certainly, they discussed and voted on specific ways of achieving their intentions. But let us be very clear: the ritual reforms proposed in the Constitution such as the restoration of the prayer of the faithful at Mass (n. 53), the extension of concelebration (n. 57) or some of its policies such as the simplification desired by articles 34 and 50, are all subordinate to the fundamental intentions of the Council Fathers I have just outlined. They are means to an end, and it is the end which we must achieve.

If we are to move towards a more authentic implementation of Sacrosanctum Concilium, it is these goals, these ends, which we must keep before us first and foremost. It may be that, if we study them with fresh eyes and with the benefit of the experience of the past five decades, we shall see some specific ritual reforms and certain liturgical policies in a different light. If, today, so as to “impart an ever increasing vigour to the Christian life of the faithful” and “help to call the whole of mankind into the household of the Church,” some of these need to be reconsidered, let us ask the Lord to give us the love and the humility and wisdom so to do.


I raise this possibility of looking again at the Constitution and at the reform which followed its promulgation because I do not think that we can honestly read even the first article of Sacrosanctum Concilium today and be content that we have achieved its aims. My brothers and sisters, where are the faithful of whom the Council Fathers spoke? Many of the faithful are now unfaithful: they do not come to the liturgy at all. To use the words of St John Paul II: “Forgetfulness of God led to the abandonment of man. It is therefore no wonder that in this context a vast field has opened for the unrestrained development of nihilism in philosophy, of relativism in values and morality, and of pragmatism – and even a cynical hedonism – in daily life. European culture gives the impression of ‘silent apostasy’ on the part of people who have all that they need and who live as if God does not exist” (Apostolic Exhortation, Ecclesia in Europa, 28 June 2003, 9). Where is the unity the Council hoped to achieve? We have not yet reached it. Have we made real progress in calling the whole of mankind into the household of the Church? I do not think so. And yet we have done very much to the liturgy!

In my 47 years of life as a priest and after more than 36 years of episcopal ministry I can attest that many Catholic communities and individuals live and pray the liturgy as reformed following the Council with fervour and joy, deriving from it many, if not all, of the goods that the Council Fathers desired. This is a great fruit of the Council. But from my experience I also know—now also through my service as Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments—that there are many distortions of the liturgy throughout the Church today, and there are many situations that could be improved so that the aims of the Council can be achieved. Before I reflect on some possible improvements, let us consider what happened following the promulgation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.

In the sixteenth century the Pope entrusted the liturgical reform desired by the Council of Trent to a special commission which worked to prepare revised editions of the liturgical books which were eventually promulgated by the Pope. This is a perfectly normal procedure and it was the one adopted by Blessed Paul VI in 1964 when he established the Consilium ad exsequendam constitutionem de sacra liturgia. We know much about this commission because of the published memoirs of its secretary, Archbishop Annibale Bugnini (The Reform of the Liturgy: 1948-1975, Liturgical Press, Collegeville 1990).

The work of this commission to implement the Constitution was certainly subject to influences, ideologies and new proposals that were not present in Sacrosanctum Concilium. For example, it is true that the Council did not propose the introduction of new Eucharistic prayers, but that this idea came up and was accepted, and that new prayers were authoritatively promulgated by the Pope. It is true, also, as Archbishop Bugnini himself makes clear, that some prayers and rites were constructed or revised according to the spirit of the times, particularly according to ecumenical sensitivities. Whether or not too much was done, or whether what was done truly helped to achieve the aims of the Constitution, or whether they in fact hindered them, are questions we need to study. I am very happy that today scholars are considering these matters in depth. Nevertheless it is an important fact that Blessed Paul VI judged the reforms proposed by the commission to be suitable and that he promulgated them. With his Apostolic authority he established them as normative and ensured their liceity and validity.

But while the official work of reform was taking place some very serious misinterpretations of the liturgy emerged and took root in different places throughout the world. These abuses of the Sacred Liturgy grew up because of an erroneous understanding of the Council, resulting in liturgical celebrations that were subjective and which were more focused on the individual community’s desires than on the sacrificial worship of Almighty God. My predecessor as Prefect of the Congregation, Francis Cardinal Arinze, once called this sort of thing “the do-it- yourself Mass.” St John Paul even found it necessary to write the following in his Encyclical letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia (17 April 2003):

The Magisterium’s commitment to proclaiming the Eucharistic mystery has been matched by interior growth within the Christian community. Certainly the liturgical reform inaugurated by the Council has greatly contributed to a more conscious, active and fruitful participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar on the part of the faithful. In many places, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is also an important daily practice and becomes an inexhaustible source of holiness. The devout participation of the faithful in the Eucharistic procession on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ is a grace from the Lord which yearly brings joy to those who take part in it.

Other positive signs of Eucharistic faith and love might also be mentioned.

Unfortunately, alongside these lights, there are also shadows. In some places the practice of Eucharistic adoration has been almost completely abandoned. In various parts of the Church abuses have occurred, leading to confusion with regard to sound faith and Catholic doctrine concerning this wonderful sacrament. At times one encounters an extremely reductive understanding of the Eucharistic mystery. Stripped of its sacrificial meaning, it is celebrated as if it were simply a fraternal banquet. Furthermore, the necessity of the ministerial priesthood, grounded in apostolic succession, is at times obscured and the sacramental nature of the Eucharist is reduced to its mere effectiveness as a form of proclamation. This has led here and there to ecumenical initiatives which, albeit well-intentioned, indulge in Eucharistic practices contrary to the discipline by which the Church expresses her faith. How can we not express profound grief at all this? The Eucharist is too great a gift to tolerate ambiguity and depreciation.

It is my hope that the present Encyclical Letter will effectively help to banish the dark clouds of unacceptable doctrine and practice, so that the Eucharist will continue to shine forth in all its radiant mystery (n. 10).

As well as abusive practices, there was adverse reaction to the officially promulgated reforms. Some people found that they had gone too far too quickly, or even suspected the official reforms of being doctrinally suspect. One remembers the controversy that emerged in 1969 with the letter sent to Paul VI by Cardinals Ottaviani and Bacci expressing very serious concerns, after which the Pope judged it appropriate to make certain doctrinal precisions. These questions, too, need to be studied carefully.

But there was also a pastoral reality here: whether for good reasons or not, some people could or would not participate in the reformed rites. They stayed away, or only participated in the unreformed liturgy where they could find it, even when its celebration was not authorised. In this way the liturgy became an expression of divisions within the Church, rather than one of Catholic unity. The Council did not intend that the liturgy divide us one from another! St John Paul II worked to heal this division, aided by Cardinal Ratzinger who, as Pope Benedict XVI, sought to facilitate the necessary internal reconciliation in the Church by establishing in his Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum (7 July 2007) that the more ancient form of the Roman rite is to be available without restriction to those individuals and groups who wish to draw from its riches. In God’s Providence it is now possible to celebrate our Catholic unity whilst respecting, and even rejoicing in, a legitimate diversity of ritual practice.

Finally, I would like to note that amidst the work of reform and translation that took place after the Council (and we know that some of this work was done too quickly, meaning that today we have to revise the translations to render them more faithful to the original Latin), there was perhaps not enough attention paid to what the Council Fathers said was essential if the fruitful participation in the liturgy that they desired would be achieved: that the clergy “become thoroughly imbued with the spirit and power of the liturgy, and undertake to give instruction about it.” We know that a building with weak foundations is at risk of damage or even of collapse.

We may have built a very new, modern liturgy in the vernacular, but if we have not laid the correct foundations—if our seminarians and clergy are not “thoroughly imbued with the spirit and power of the liturgy” as the Council required—then they themselves cannot form the people entrusted to their care. We need to take the words of the Council itself very seriously: it would be “futile” to hope for a liturgical renewal without a thorough liturgical formation. Without this essential formation clergy could even damage peoples’ faith in the Eucharistic mystery.

I do not wish to be thought of as being unduly pessimistic, and I say again: there are many, many faithful lay men and women, many clergy and religious for whom the liturgy as reformed after the Council is a source of much spiritual and apostolic fruit, and for that I thank Almighty God. But, even from my brief analysis just now, I think you will agree that we can do better so that the Sacred Liturgy truly becomes the source and summit of the life and mission of the Church now, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, as the Fathers of the Council so earnestly desired.

Anyway, this is what Pope Francis asks us to do: “It is necessary, he said, to unite a renewed willingness to go forward along the path indicated by the Council Fathers, as there remains much to be done for a correct and complete assimilation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy on the part of the baptised and ecclesial communities. I refer, in particular, to the commitments to a solid and organic liturgical initiation and formation, both of lay faithful as well as clergy and consecrated persons”.


In the light of the fundamental desires of the Council Fathers and of the different situations that we have seen arise following the Council, I would like to present some practical considerations on how we can implement Sacrosanctum Concilium more faithfully today. Even though I serve as the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, I do so in all humility as a priest and a bishop in the hope that they will promote mature reflection and scholarship and good liturgical practice throughout the Church.

It will come as no surprise if I say that first of all we must examine the quality and depth of our liturgical formation, of how we imbue our clergy, religious and lay faithful with the spirit and power of the liturgy. Too often we assume that our candidates for ordination to the priesthood or the permanent diaconate “know” enough about the liturgy. But the Council was not insisting on knowledge here, though, of course, the Constitution stressed the importance of liturgical studies (see: nn. 15-17). No, the liturgical formation that is primary and essential is more one of immersion in the liturgy, in the deep mystery of God our loving Father. It is a question of living the liturgy in all its richness, so that having drunk deeply from its fount we always have a thirst for its delights, its order and beauty, its silence and contemplation, its exultation and adoration, its ability to connect us intimately with He who is at work in and through the Church’s sacred rites.

That is why those “in formation” for pastoral ministry should live the liturgy as fully as is possible in their seminaries or houses of formation. Candidates for the permanent diaconate should have an immersion in an intense liturgical life over a prolonged period also. And, I would add, that the full and rich celebration of the more ancient use of the Roman rite, the usus antiquior, should be an important part of liturgical formation for clergy, for how can we begin to comprehend or celebrate the reformed rites with a hermeneutic of continuity if we have never experienced the beauty of the liturgical tradition which the Fathers of the Council themselves knew and which has produced so many saints over the centuries? A wise openness to the mystery of the Church and her rich, centuries-old tradition, and a humble docility to what the Holy Spirit says to the Churches today are real signs that we belong to Jesus Christ: And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” (Mt 13:52).

If we attend to this, if our new priests and deacons truly thirst for the liturgy, they will themselves be able to form those entrusted to their care—even if the liturgical circumstances and possibilities of their ecclesial mission are more modest than those of the seminary or of a cathedral. I am aware of many priests in such circumstances who form their people in the spirit and power of the liturgy, and whose parishes are examples of great liturgical beauty. We should remember that dignified simplicity is not the same as reductive minimalism or a negligent and vulgar style. As our Holy Father, Pope Francis, teaches in his Apostolic Exhortation the beauty of the liturgy, which is both a celebration of the task of evangelization and the source of her renewed self-giving.” (n. 24)

Secondly, I think that it is very important that we are clear about the nature of liturgical participation, of the participatio actuosa for which the Council called. There has been a lot of confusion here over recent decades. Article 48 of the Constitution states: “The Church…earnestly desires that Christ’s faithful, when present at this mystery of faith, should not be there as strangers or silent spectators; on the contrary, through a good understanding of the rites and prayers they should take part in the sacred action conscious of what they are doing, with devotion and full collaboration.” The Council sees participation as primarily internal, coming about “through a good understanding of the rites and prayers.” The inner life, the life immersed in God and intimately inhabited by God is the indispensable condition for a successful and fruitful participation in the Holy Mysteries that we celebrate in the liturgy. The Eucharistic celebration must be essentially lived internally. It is within us that God wants to meet us. The Fathers called for the faithful to sing, to respond to the priest, to assume liturgical ministries that are rightfully theirs, certainly, but it insists that all should be “conscious of what they are doing, with devotion and full collaboration.”

If we understand the priority of internalising our liturgical participation we will avoid the noisy and dangerous liturgical activism that has been too prominent in recent decades. We do not go to the liturgy so as to perform, to do things for others to see: we go to be connected with Christ’s action through an internalisation of the external liturgical rites, prayers, signs and symbols. It may be that we priests whose vocation is to minister liturgically need to remember this more than others! But we also need to form others, particularly our children and young people, in the true meaning of liturgical participation, in the true way to pray the liturgy.

Thirdly, I have spoken of the fact that some of the reforms introduced following the Council may have been put together according to the spirit of the times and that there has been an increasing amount of critical study by faithful sons and daughters of the Church asking whether what was in fact produced truly implemented the aims of the Constitution, or whether in reality they went beyond them. This discussion sometimes takes place under the title of a “reform of the reform,” and I am aware that Father Thomas Kocik presented a learned study on this question at the Sacra Liturgia conference in New York one year ago.

I do not think that we can dismiss the possibility or the desirability of an official reform of the liturgical reform, because its proponents make some important claims in their attempt to be faithful to the Council’s insistence in article 23 of the Constitution “that sound tradition…be retained, and yet the way remain open to legitimate progress.” It must begin with a careful theological, historical, pastoral study and “there must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them; and care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing.”

Indeed, I can say that when I was received in audience by the Holy Father last April, Pope Francis asked me to study the question of a reform of a reform and the way in which the two forms of the Roman rite could enrich each other. This will be a long and delicate work and I ask for your patience and prayers. But if we are to implement Sacrosanctum Concilium more faithfully, if we are to achieve what the Council desired, this is a serious question which must be carefully studied and acted on with the necessary clarity and prudence in prayer and total submission to God.

We priests, we bishops bear a great responsibility. How our good example builds up good liturgical practice; how our carelessness, our routine or wrongdoing harms the Church and her Sacred Liturgy!

We priests must be worshippers first and foremost. Our people can see the difference between a priest who celebrates with faith and one who celebrates in a hurry, frequently looking at his watch, almost so as to say that he wants to get back to his pastoral work or to other engagements or to go to view his television as quickly as possible! Fathers, we can do no more important thing than celebrate the sacred mysteries: let us beware of the temptation of liturgical sloth or lukewarmness, because it is a temptation of the devil.

We must remember that we are not the authors of the liturgy, we are its humble ministers, subject to its discipline and laws. We are also responsible to form those who assist us in liturgical ministries in both the spirit and power of the liturgy and indeed its regulations. Sometimes I have seen priests step aside to allow extraordinary ministers distribute Holy Communion: this is wrong, it is a denial of the priestly ministry as well as a clericalisation of the laity. When this happens it is a sign that formation has gone very wrong, and that it needs to be corrected. (see: Mt 14:18-21). “Then, taking the five loaves… gave them to his disciples to set before the people… Those who ate of the loaves were five thousand men (Mk 6:30-44; Mt 14:18-21).

I have also seen priests, and bishops, vested to celebrate Holy Mass, take out telephones and cameras and use them in the Sacred Liturgy. This is a terrible indictment of what they believe to be the mission they assume when they put on the liturgical vestments, which clothe and transform us as an alter Christus—and much more, as ipse Christus, as Christ himself. To do this is a sacrilege. No bishop, priest or deacon vested for liturgical ministry or present in the sanctuary should be taking photographs, even at large-scale concelebrated Masses. That priests sadly often do this at such Masses, or talk with each other and sit casually, is a sign, I think, that we need urgently to rethink the appropriateness of these immense concelebrations, especially if they lead priests into this sort of scandalous behaviour that is so unworthy of the mystery being celebrated, or if the sheer size of these concelebrations leads to a risk of the profanation of the Blessed Eucharist.

It is equally a scandal and profanation for the lay faithful to take photographs during the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. They should participate through prayer and not by spending their time taking photos!

I want to make an appeal to all priests. You may have read my article in L’Osservatore Romano one year ago (12 June 2015) or my interview with the journal Famille Chrétienne in May of this year. On both occasions I said that I believe that 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, in those parts of the liturgical rites when we are addressing God. This practice is permitted by current liturgical legislation. It is perfectly legitimate in the modern rite. Indeed, I think it is a very important step in ensuring that in our celebrations the Lord is truly at the centre.

And so, dear Fathers, I humbly and fraternally ask you to implement this practice wherever possible, with prudence and with the necessary catechesis, certainly, but also with a pastor’s confidence that this is something good for the Church, something good for our people. Your own pastoral judgement will determine how and when this is possible, but perhaps beginning this on the first Sunday of Advent this year, when we attend ‘the Lord who will come’ and ‘who will not delay’ (see: Introit, Mass of Wednesday of the first week of Advent) may be a very good time to do this. Dear Fathers, we should listen again to the lament of God proclaimed by the prophet Jeremiah: “they have turned their backs to me and not their faces” (2:27). Let us turn again towards the Lord! Since the day of his Baptism, the Christian knows only one direction: the Orient. “You entered to confront your enemy, for you intended to renounce him to his face. You turned toward the East (ad Orientem), for one who renounces the devil turns towards Christ and fixes his gaze directly on Him” (From the beginning of the Treatise on the Mysteries by Saint Ambrose, Bishop of Milan).

I very humbly and fraternally would like to appeal also to my brother bishops: please lead your priests and people towards the Lord in this way, particularly at large celebrations in your dioceses and in your cathedral. Please form your seminarians in the reality that we are not called to the priesthood to be at the centre of liturgical worship ourselves, but to lead Christ’s faithful to him as fellow worshippers united in the one same act of adoration. Please facilitate this simple but profound reform in your dioceses, your cathedrals, your parishes and your seminaries.

We bishops have a great responsibility, and one day we shall have to answer to the Lord for our stewardship. We are the owners of nothing! Nothing belongs to us! As St Paul teaches, we are merely “the servants of Christ and the stewards of the mysteries of God. Now it is of course required of stewards that they be found trustworthy” (1 Cor. 4:1-2). We are responsible to ensure that the sacred realities of the liturgy are respected in our dioceses and that our priests and deacons not only observe the liturgical laws, but know the spirit and power of the liturgy from which they emerge. I was very encouraged to read the presentation on “The Bishop: Governor, Promoter and Guardian of the Liturgical Life of the Diocese” made to the 2013 Sacra Liturgia conference in Rome by Archbishop Alexander Sample of Portland in Oregon in the USA, and I fraternally encourage my brother bishops to study his considerations carefully.

All liturgical ministers should make a examination of conscience periodically. For this I recommend part II of the Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis of Benedict XVI (22 February 2007), “The Eucharist, a Mystery to be Celebrated.” It is almost ten years since this Exhortation was published as the collegial fruit of the 2005 Synod of Bishops. How much progress have we made in that time? What more do we need to do? We must ask ourselves these questions before the Lord, each of us according to our responsibility, and then do what we can and what we must to achieve the vision outlined by Pope Benedict.

At this point I repeat what I have said elsewhere, that Pope Francis has asked me to continue the extraordinary liturgical work Pope Benedict began (see: Message to Sacra Liturgia USA 2015, New York City). Just because we have a new pope does not mean that his predecessor’s vision is now invalid. On the contrary, as we know, our Holy Father Pope Francis has the greatest respect for the liturgical vision and measures Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI implemented in utter fidelity to the intentions and aims of the Council Fathers.

Before I conclude, please permit me to mention some other small ways which can also contribute to a more faithful implementation of Sacrosanctum Concilium. One is that we must sing the liturgy, we must sing the liturgical texts, respecting the liturgical traditions of the Church and rejoicing in the treasury of sacred music that is ours, most especially that music proper to the Roman rite, Gregorian chant. We must sing sacred liturgical music not merely religious music, or worse, profane songs.

We must get the right balance between the vernacular languages and the use of Latin in the liturgy. The Council never intended to insinuate that the Roman rite be exclusively celebrated in the vernacular. But it did intend to allow its increased use, particularly for the readings.

Today it should be possible, especially with modern means of printing, to facilitate comprehension by all when Latin is used, perhaps for the liturgy of the Eucharist, and of course this is particularly appropriate at international gatherings where the local vernacular is not understood by many. And naturally, when the vernacular is used, it must be a faithful translation of the original Latin, as Pope Francis recently affirmed to me.

We must ensure that adoration is at the heart of our liturgical celebrations. The heart of our liturgy is the adoration of God. Too often we do not move from celebration to adoration, but if we do not do that I worry that we may not have always participated in the liturgy fully, internally. Two bodily dispositions are helpful, indeed indispensible here. The first is silence. If I am never silent, if the liturgy gives me no space for silent prayer and contemplation, how can I adore Christ, how can I connect with him in my heart and soul? Silence is very important, and not only before and after the liturgy. It is the foundation of any deep spiritual life.

So too kneeling at the consecration (unless I am sick) is essential. In the West this is an act of bodily adoration that humbles us before our Lord and God. It is itself an act of prayer. Where kneeling and genuflection have disappeared from the liturgy, they need to be restored, in particular for our reception of our Blessed Lord in Holy Communion. Dear Fathers, where possible and with the pastoral prudence of which I spoke earlier, form your people in this beautiful act of worship and love. Let us kneel in adoration and love before the Eucharistic Lord once again! “Man is not fully man unless he falls on his knees before God to adore Him, to contemplate his dazzling sanctity and let himself be remodelled in his image and likeness” (R. Sarah, On the Road to Ninive, Paulines Publications Africa 2012, p.199).

In speaking of the reception of Holy Communion kneeling I would like to recall the 2002 letter of the Congregation of Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments which clarifies that “any refusal of Holy Communion to a member of the faithful on the basis of his or her kneeling posture [is] a grave violation of one of the most basic rights of the Christian faithful” (Letter, 1 July 2002, Notitiae, n. 436, Nov-Dec 2002, p. 583).

Correctly vesting all the liturgical ministers in the sanctuary, including lectors, is also very important if such ministries are to be considered authentic and if they are to be exercised with the decorum due to the Sacred Liturgy—also if the ministers themselves are to show the correct reverence for God and for the mysteries they minister.

These are some suggestions: I am sure that many others could be made. I put them before you as possible ways of moving towards “the right way of celebrating the liturgy inwardly and outwardly,” which was of course the desire expressed by Cardinal Ratzinger at the beginning of his great work, The Spirit of the Liturgy. (Joseph Ratzinger, Theology of the Liturgy, Collected Works vol. 11, Ignatius Press, San Francisco 2014, p. 4). I encourage you to do all that you can to realise this goal, which is utterly consistent with that of the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.


I began this address with a consideration of the teachings of the twentieth century popes on the Sacred Liturgy. The first of them, St Pius X, had the personal motto: instaurare omia in Christo—to restore all things in Christ. I suggest that we take these words and make them our own standard as we seek to work towards a more faithful implementation of Sacrosanctum Concilium, for if when we come to the Sacred Liturgy we enter into the mentality of Christ, if we put on Christ as we put on our baptismal robe or the vestments proper to our liturgical ministry, we cannot go far astray.

It is sadly true that in the decades since the Second Vatican Council, “alongside [the] lights, there are also shadows” in the Church’s liturgical life, as Saint John Paul II said in Ecclesia de Eucharistia (n.10). And it is our duty to address the causes of this. But it is a source of great hope and joy that today, as the twenty-first century proceeds, many faithful Catholics are convinced of the importance of the liturgy in the life of the Church and dedicate themselves to the liturgical apostolate, to what may be broadly called a new liturgical movement.

My brothers and sisters, I thank you for your commitment to the Sacred Liturgy. I encourage you and bless you in all your endeavours, great or small, to bring about “the right way of celebrating the liturgy inwardly and outwardly.” Persevere in this apostolate: the Church and the world needs you!

I ask you for your prayers for my particular ministry. Thank you. May God bless you.

This article was reproduced with the permission of Sacra Liturgia UK

Sunday, August 21, 2016


Progressives in the Church were thrilled with Pope Francis' smack down of Cardinal Robert Sarah who wanted all priests of the world to begin celebrating the Mass ad orientem this coming Advent! (I thought Cardinal Sarah would have sought permission from the Holy Father before he make such a request, but he didn't, so the smack down was well deserved.)

But the fact that a high ranking cardinal suggested such a thing shows how far we have come from the 1960's when suggesting such a thing would have be impossible to do. This tells me that in the future and under a new pope or even under Pope Francis that ad orientem will become more normative and understood and appreciated.

Nonetheless the following is the mentality of the Vatican II fundamentalists:

"The Council's reformist spirit made possible all sorts of practices not explicitly advocated in its documents." ( You can see how evil the intent of the reformist spirit really is and how they hijacked a perfectly good Council and perverted it since 1965's conclusion of Vatican II!)

"It's time to say say: the so-called 'hermeneutic of continuity' proposed by Benedict XVI in 2005 has outlived its usefulness as a tool for understanding the Second Vatican Council" (How self-serving is this statement coming from a Vatican II progressive idolater? These people are some of the most dogmatic, controlling people there are!)

"For liturgy (at Vatican II), the paradigm shift is from Carolingian clericalized sacred drama to an act of the entire community. Just let the full weight of that shift sink in, including all the possible implications for liturgical practice. There is a reason why the Fathers of Vatican II decided that the 1962 missal would not remain in use in its unreformed state." (Of course dogmatic, controlling Vatican II fundamentalists don't believe that there could be development and open mindedness to the older forms of liturgical practice which Pope Benedict brilliantly advocated and promoted. It erodes their fundamentalistic ideas about Vatican II as though a pastoral council sets in cement its pastoral theology. This is a flimsy as saying Limbo is a dogma of the Church required for Catholics to believe!)

There is no reason why the post Vatican II Ordinary Form Mass can't be celebrated as the "Carolingian clericalized sacred drama or the Pre-Vatican II (now post Vatican II) Extraordinary Form Mass can't be an act of the entire community. In fact it always was and the Church emphasized that the entire Church was present at Mass, not just the Church Militant, but the Church suffering in prugatory and the Church triumphant in heaven. I wonder if Vatican II fundamentalists even consider this as they normally just focus in on the gather visible "assembly" (i.e. congregation or community) and not the entire Church in all its suffering and glory!


You can read more about how one Vatican II dogmatic fundamentalist, in a long line of progressives since Vatican II, has made Vatican II into a demagogue over at the The Catholic Herald.


Friday, August 19, 2016


 The music in this video from Saint Monica Church in Santa Monica California attracts people to Mass, the church appears full. But what does it do for Catholics in the long run and how many Catholics don't attend Mass because of this music? It is performed well, sounds contemporary, but does it honor the Latin Rite's Catholic ritualistic spirituality and its patrimony? I report; you decide:

We all know the sobering statistics about Catholics who are less engaged in their parishes or have opted not to be engaged at all. Some still consider themselves Catholics, but many are now calling themselves "nones" spiritual but of no religion. Some aren't even spiritual. They are pagans.

For 50 years now, the Magisterium of the Church has called what has happened to the Mass and the declining number of people who attend Mass, "renewal." They are like the legend of the ostrich, who buries its head in the sand rather than see reality. Well, I learned that ostriches don't actually do that; not sure how the legend began; but how much more true is it of the human bishop, even symbolically, to bury his head in the sand and not say "Rome, we have problems" with the so-called renewal of the Mass!

Here are some money quotes from

'We need to make our worship better,' Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik: 

  The Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh must focus on “better homilies, better music and more people” as its six-county territory attempts to reverse a series of “sobering” trends... (my question: what is better music and does he mean how it is sung, meaning it is more appealing, or dealing with the elephant in the room, music performed well, but has no place in the liturgical spirituality patrimony of the Catholic Church's Latin Rite?)
Since 2000, weekly Mass attendance has dropped by 40 percent — for almost 100,000 fewer regular churchgoers; K-8 Catholic school enrollment fell by 50 percent; and the number of active priests plummeted from 338 to 225. 
By 2025, if trends hold, the diocese projects that just 112 active priests will remain. (Of course, we have to take into account that Pittsburgh is a part of the "rust belt" and people are left the area. But more striking is the time frame of 2000 to today. The sex abuse crisis, or rather, its non ending reporting, at times unfair, as well as the humiliation rank and file Catholics feel about it, must be taken into account too. It is liturgy but also leadership, meaning BISHOPS, need to be better leaders and deal with priests who in any other profession would have been fired or sent to prison. 

My final lament:

We fixed a liturgy which in the minds of 99% of the clergy and laity of the early 1960's wasn't broken. Liturgical theologians and some bishops told us, insisted on it, that it was broken and that if only the Mass was fixed, then there would be a springtime of renewal in the Church.

All we heard for the past 40 years after Vatican II was about fixing the liturgy, harassing Catholics to active participation (not actual participation) and alienating not a small number from the Church by making them feel like second class citizens if they preferred the liturgy to remain unchanged. 

I fear, too, that we continue to insist that Catholics do this, that or the other to be considered good Catholics, all institutional sorts of things, like being a lector, a communion minister, heading a committee and doing all the churchy things that is required for RCIA, Confirmation for children as well as Holy Communion.

It is all divorced from life in the public square be that at home, work or play where Catholics spend the majority of time.


Tuesday, August 16, 2016


Bishop Barron is an excellent teacher. I have heard him in person and he is just what the doctor ordered for the Catholic Church in this country and at this time.

Father Francis Manion, who by all accounts is of that generation that helped create beige Catholicism, has a good article on Bishop Barron. Here are some of the money quotes with my comments at the end:

(Bishop) Barron has long lamented the split in pre-Vatican II Catholicism between the intellectual and the spiritual. This had led to a theology that was dry and unappealing, and a spirituality that lacked much substance and depth. Furthermore, he has lamented what he calls the “beige Catholicism” that developed after Vatican II. By this he meant a watered-down understanding of Catholicism that lacked conviction and was minimalistic in content and tone. “Beige Catholicism” sadly led to a colorless style of catechesis and liturgical practice. This sort of Catholicism allows the culture to set the agenda for the Church, and to underplay the power and beauty of the Catholic tradition.

My Comments:

The height of arrogant clericalism, which is on steroids in the academic community which sets the agenda for so much, is that intellectual Catholicism is so important and in fact more important than the spiritual aspects of the Church especially her popular piety.

It is here that Pope Francis hits the nail on the head and His Holiness has little room for academics who have helped to create the post-Vatican II beige Catholicism that Bishop Barron laments.

Perhaps some bishops and many theologians were unhappy in the pre-Vatican II Church because their causes were not front and center. But on the popular or populist level, we had nearly 98% of Catholics attending Mass each Sunday even though not that many availed themselves to Holy Communion, most going to Communion only a few times a year, but at Mass each Sunday!

Popular devotions and the use of sacramentals were at an all time high prior to Vatican II. The Holy Rosary was the most popular of popular devotions. But churches which held novenas and Benediction found hundreds of people attending either on a Sunday night or during the week.

Most Catholics knew the basics of the Faith from the Baltimore Catechism, if only from its first edition for primary grades.

What happened after Vatican II when the bishops turned the Church over to academic theologians and allowed them to rule the roost?

1. The Liturgy became dry, sterile, banal and creativity in planning liturgy and setting the theme for the liturgy became the norm. Children were encouraged to plan the liturgy and come up with good ideas (gimmicks) to make the Mass "relevant"to them!

2. A sober reform of the 1962 Liturgical books went array with the wholesale deformation of the Order of the Mass and rubrics that lacked clarity and general norms which in fact allowed for ad libs and substitutions of official texts in the Mass.

3. Norms for chants in the Mass were watered down and an anything goes mentality about what could be sung liturgically took over like wild fire.

4. The academics created a disdain for anything pre-Vatican II and rediculed Catholics who were not as smart as they and remained mired in the so-called "pre-Vatican II " Church.

5. The greatest insult and the worst evil in the Church was to be labeled pre-Vatican II especially if one's spirituality centered on devotions and apparitions.

Yes, the Church prior to Vatican II had rank and file bishops and priests who were authoritarian and treated the laity like children. Not all bishops and priest, but some. Compounding this was the fact that we had strong Catholic schools with strict nuns and brothers who teenage Catholics prior to Vatican II rebelled against as most teenagers do with authority figures. But for Catholics the rebellion was against religious authority and more so in Catholicism because of our strict schools than in Protestant denominations that don't have parochial schools.

The academics used their own version of post-Vatican II authoritarianism to shove their agenda down the throats of Catholics who prior to Vatican II trusted those in charge to lead them correctly.

Vatican II was shoved down the throats of Catholics in the most pre-Vatican II authoritarian sort of way--this is the cause of beige Catholicism today.

Monday, August 15, 2016


I celebrated the glorious EF Mass at our cathedral yesterday. If I knew how, I would have photo shopped the images below and substituted my head.

The priest, but who can tell, it could be any priest, any where, is Father Dan Firmin the Vicar General of the Diocese and my altar boy when he was in the 6th grade at the Church of the Most Holy Trinity in downtown Augusta in 1991. His first assignment as a priest was with me when I became pastor of St. Joseph Church in Macon in 2004.. 

This Mass forms reverent Catholics, there is no doubt about it. And this Mass allows reverent Catholics to show their reverence.

The OF Mass could have this same ethos, but there is no desire in about 99% of parishes and their priests to instill it. That is sad.

Saturday, August 13, 2016


This is St. Anne Catholic Church in Richmond Hill, Georgia (not a hill in its topography to be seen or experienced).

The church was consecrated this past February.

I have placed a "symbol" of ad orientem on the altar, the crucifix in a facing the congregation church and altar.

The only two pieces of liturgical furnishings that I have ever thought was helpful for these to be movable are the celebrant's chair and the baptismal font.

The baptismal font is now at the entrance of the nave, symbolic of baptism being the Sacrament of initiation or entrance into the Church. But it is also movable and can be placed toward the front for the Easter Vigil baptisms or baptisms of numerous children or baptisms at Mass.


Ay Caramba! If you want to open a time capsule and find out what has caused the Liturgy Wars since the 1960's it is this little ditty from Rita Ferrone over at Praytell. I thought I would "puke" if I can be so indelicate, when I read it. I am of this generation, but have no nostalgia for it, although nostalgia for it is a fad today, but with people my age! They, not me, are trying to recapture their adolescence and liturgical narcissism not to mention the "touchy-feely" generation that helped to create such a mess in the Church from sexual exploitation of adults to the sexual abuse of minors by the adolescent mentality of grown men and women in the Church that used the "touchy-feely" fad of the 1960's for their own corrupt and depraved purposes.

Here are some money quotes from Rita and one from a commenter. YIKES and YUCK!

(I should give credit where credit is do as Rita is referring to someone else's article, but in complete agreement with it. You can read the whole thing here.)

America magazine has published a first-person account by religious educator Lisa Middendorf Woodall, describing how the guitar Masses of her childhood provided a spiritual touchstone for her life. In “Confessions of a Guitar-Mass Catholic” she writes:
I pondered and prayed over what I would do if I actually had a hammer, what the sounds of silence were and what it was that I could teach my parents. It would be many years before I no longer looked forward to going to Mass, because what I experienced each week in that old church was a solid sense of peace and wholeness.
She also describes some powerful memories of the old church of her childhood, which was later torn down after a new one was built. The older Classical-Acoustic-Guitar-vector28445church and the guitar Masses do not stand in tension with one another in her memory. They are both part of the one gift and enchantment; they are both claimed as her own:
I loved being in that old church. I loved its creakiness, its heaviness. I loved the vestiges of the personal histories that lived in there. The familiar family names glazed into the stained-glass windows, the sturdy spring clips on the backs of the pews that had held a thousand hats and purses, and the little frames that had at one time reserved certain pews for a certain few contributors. Mostly, I loved the memories of voices singing together, thoughtfully and joyfully, to the warm and inviting music of the guitar Masses, everyone holding hands and people actually smiling during Mass.
I didn’t simply feel as if I belonged to that church, I felt that the church belonged to me.
I think her account speaks for an experience that is sadly drowned out by the contentious arguments of the so-called “liturgy wars.” Does her story resonate with your own experience? Why or why not?

And for the cogent nostalgic comment!

 I read that article yesterday, as I was preparing for this weekend – a trip back to my undergraduate university where I am celebrating a 40+ year reunion with companions from our Newman Club. The reason this article struck me so vividly is that I was selecting music for our informal liturgy together from the songs we shared at that time and thinking how important they were to our faith. We sang a lot from Godspell. We, too, thought about wielding that hammer. Was it John Denver that gave us “Friends, I will remember you”? 

These songs pulled us together into a community of faith that we can re-enter 40 years later. We have become theologians, liturgists, lay ministers, parents and spouses, professionals of all sorts…people living our faith. I am proud of who we are and we all admit the importance of our Newman experience, centered around liturgy, in our lives.

As I was working on music, I thought how negatively I would feel about choosing this music for a parish Mass today. I suppose our music choices are better now, but there was a special power in the feelings that “inappropriate” music evoked in young people of the time.



As you know, I am the guest celebrant at tomorrow's 1 PM (Sunday, August 14) EF High Mass at our cathedral in Savannah, a mere 20 miles north from my cathedral, I mean, church in Richmond Hill. I have to go up to those northern Yankees and celebrate the EF for them! The normal priest there is away who normally celebrates it.

Of course in the EF, the Mass for Sunday the 14th of August is the 13th Sunday after Pentecost, not the silly nomenclature used in the Ordinary Form of the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Guess who, only two squares north of the Cathedral, is also celebrating the 13th Sunday after Pentecost on Sunday August 14, 2016?  The Episcopalians! Yes, the Episcopalians! Thus in the EF Mass and the Book of Common Prayer for the Anglicans, Sunday is a day of ecumenical bliss as both are celebrating the same Sunday after Pentecost. But this is not true in the unecumencial OF Mass on Sunday which is the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time. How sad!

This ad is in Saturday's Savannah Morning News Newspaper. There is no Cathedral Ad to be found anywhere in Saturday's paper, but may I suggest to the rector that he should purchase one and place it next to Christ Church's ad and simply state, "The Mother Church, Established 33 AD Universally" period!


Where in the name of God and all that is holy are any of the creative things below mandated in the Ordinary Form Missal? Nowhere! Then why did and does it happen time and time again? Not from the books but from creative manipulation by liturgy planners!

I appreciate John Nolan on another post clearing up what Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger aka, Pope Benedict, said about the Ordinary Form of the Mass:

Joseph Ratzinger did not criticize the Novus Ordo per se, rather the way in which it is commonly celebrated. 'A fabricated liturgy, a banal on-the-spot product' refers to the tendency of many priests to alter the texts to suit themselves. He spoke of a 'hermeneutic' of rupture rather than an actual rupture.

His 'Spirit of the Liturgy' does question the assumptions of at least some of those who put together the new Mass as well as those who implemented it in practice, so there is an implied criticism here.

Sacrosanctum Concilium was the blueprint for a future reform of the liturgy. It is not an instruction for individual priests or bishops on how Mass should be celebrated. So strictly speaking neither progressives nor conservatives should cite it in their defense. 

John Nolan hits the nail on the head. The problem with the OF Mass stems from creativity, not in the Roman Missal itself, but from what priests and liturgy committees did to it through creative planning and improvisation.

In addition to that, liturgists of supposed high ranking and especially in some Benedictine communities desired to destroy the ambiance of the Ordinary Form Mass celebrated in churches built for the Extraordinary Form. This never should have been allowed--the destruction of the churches and high altars and new churches built in a way that shows a clear discontinuity between pre-Vatican 2 churches and post Vatican II churches and then saying there is a new ecclesiology that must be captured in the liturgy and its architecture.

I don't believe that Mass facing the people is entirely to blame for the state of the liturgy in most parishes today. It is sloppiness. In this area there are several areas that need to be addressed in most parishes throughout the world:

1. The dress of "lay ministers" which is quite shocking when they are reading or distributing Holy Communion. We need to vest these people in my most humble opinion in either alb or cassock and surplice.

2. Lack of training and choreography of lay ministers especially altar servers. Most young altar servers are clueless about their true role and how they can contribute to the beauty of the Mass. Most are quite distracting to the Mass especially in most churches where they sit next to the priest and face on to congregation. They are clueless about how they come across and what they wear under their alb or cassock.

3. Placement of choirs or ensembles and miking all singers to amplify their voices as though they are in a rock band entertaining the audience. In addition music chosen that is not meant for the Catholic Mass and is far from its spirituality of sacrifice and worship.

Rorate Caeili has an article by Robert Spaeman. I disagree with him about the greatest liturgical problem is Mass facing the people, although it can be a problem and often is because priests and congregations are misled by it but needlessly so. The central crucifix on the altar could solve this problem, but how many parishes, except for the ones I have been in, have this arrangement and why don't the others? Even Pope Francis has maintained it.

I do agree with Spaeman that the EF Mass should not be considered set in concrete. New prefaces should be added; some vernacular should be allowed, especially for the changing parts of the Mass or those said audibly as in the 1965 version of the 1962 Roman Missal.

I would also say, that it is desirable that Holy Communion be distributed by way of intinction so that the faithful may receive Holy Communion under both forms.

I would take things a bit further and say that it is not necessary to have the double confiteor and absolutions (one for the priest and the other for the servers) for the PATFOTA nor the double communion rite.

For example, as in the OF Mass, who would notice if the priest after the Agnus Dei and his private prayers, turned to the congregation for the Ecce Agnus Dei and its "Lord I am not worthy" said three times, and then the priest turned back to the altar for his Holy Communion, which completes the Sacrifice, and then distributes Holy Communion by way of intinction to the servers and faithful?

These are common sense reforms which I in my most humble opinion, believe that Vatican II actually sought not what post-Vatican II reformers did to the Mass, especially those who corrupted the Mass even after Pope Paul VI's "consilium" rearranged things.  

Copied from Rorate Caeili:

Spaemann: "The Greatest Liturgical Problem is the Direction of Celebration of the Mass."

Fr. Claude Barthe – You have often echoed the profound dissatisfaction of Catholics who are unhappy with the new forms of worship. You have contributed to a certain number of them rediscovering the traditional liturgical practice in Germany today.

Robert Spaemann – I have noticed that many of those who are unhappy with the situation which they encounter in their parishes experience mixed feelings when given the option of assisting at the traditional Mass. Among them, two categories can be identified: those who assist at this Mass for the first time in their lives, and those who knew it in their childhood. The former have to come back several times in order to get used to the traditional Mass, because at first it seems really strange to them, for instance on account of the Latin, or the canon recited in a low voice, but on persevering, they find they can no longer do without it. Personally, I had the following experience: at first, the new Mass did not particularly shock me; but as the years went on I grew more and more displeased with it. While with the traditional Mass it’s exactly the opposite. But what I find even more striking are the reactions of the older people, who have a sort of nostalgia towards the old Mass. When these people enter a church where the old Mass is being celebrated, they react in two ways. Some are spellbound and weep with joy; while others are very ill at ease and say: “No! This is no longer possible, you can’t do this”. […] Their reaction is to tell themselves: “How is it that these people continue to celebrate the traditional Mass, while we have had to pay such a price? It’s all been for nothing, we could just as well have continued doing as they do.” And they don’t want to accept that. As they have paid this price, they want things to change for everyone.
That said, it must be conceded that in itself, the traditional Mass does not have a definitive form. It is permissible to desire certain changes, for instance, the possibility of occasionally receiving Holy Communion under both Species in the course of one’s life. I find this corresponds with what Our Lord wanted.

What would you suggest as a starting point for modifying the liturgical experience of ordinary parishioners?
I believe that the biggest problem is the celebration versus populum. The Mass facing the people profoundly changes how we live the ceremony. We know, notably through the writings of Msgr. Klaus Gamber, that this form of celebration never existed as such in the Church (1). In ancient times, it had an entirely different significance. With the priest facing the people today, we get the impression that he says the prayers in order to make us pray, but it doesn’t seem that he is praying himself. I’m not saying that he doesn’t pray, and indeed some priests manage to celebrate Mass versus populum while visibly praying. John-Paul II comes to mind: one never got the impression that he was addressing the people during Mass. But it’s very difficult to achieve.
I once assisted at a Corpus Christi procession in the diocese of Feldkirch in Austria, presided over by the bishop, who is a member of Opus Dei. At the station altars, the bishop turned his back on the monstrance while reciting the prayers (2). I said to myself that if a child saw that, he could no longer believe that the Lord is present in the Sacred Host, because the little one knows very well that when you are talking to someone, you don’t turn your back on him. Things like that are very important. There is no point in the child studying his catechism if what he learns is contradicted before his eyes.
So I believe that the first thing to do is to turn the altar around. It seems to me that this is more important than the return to Latin. Personally I have many reasons for valuing Latin, but it is not the most fundamental question. For my part, I would prefer a traditional Mass in German to the new Mass said in Latin.
You said at the beginning that the Tridentine liturgy does not in itself have a definitive form. It could have and can still change.
The changes must be so gradual and so imperceptible that a person nearing the end of his life would have the impression that he is still using the same rite as that of his childhood, even if this rite has in fact changed. I don’t know if you are familiar with the letter in which Cardinal Newman recounts his first trip to Italy. He had entered the cathedral of Milan and had been struck by the number of ceremonies which were taking place simultaneously: a small procession to one side, Masses being said at the side altars, canons reciting the Divine office in the choir. One got the impression that everyone was attending to his own business, but ultimately it was all part of the same thing. Newman was awestruck by this kind of plurality, because the Protestant influence in England was so strong that everyone had to do the same thing at the same time.

Catholic freedom! You are therefore in favour of different methods of participation?
I actually believe in the importance of there being different ways of participating in the Mass. And first of all, it seems to me a scandal that all of the faithful always receive communion at every Mass, because it is impossible to assume that each person can consider himself to be always in the state of grace—having the right dispositions to communicate. When the topic of Protestants practising intercommunion with us is discussed, no one ever speaks about them going to confession. Of course a person can remain in the state of grace throughout his entire life, but it cannot be assumed. Yet this is never discussed. One should be able to assist at Mass without receiving Communion. For this reason, it seems to me personally that persons who consider themselves always disposed to receive Holy Communion should occasionally refrain from receiving, for instance once a month, in order to make this abstention possible for others. And if someone said to me: “I absolutely have to receive Holy Communion”, I would tell them: “Receive It on Mondays.” Those who really need to receive Holy Communion often, assist at Mass during the week. If they don’t go to Mass throughout the week, they cannot say that they absolutely need Communion.
It must be possible to participate to a greater or lesser extent in the Mass. So near the door you have the publican’s place. And this place should be respected, without the person occupying it being obliged to speak or even to listen to what is being said into the microphone. I knew a young girl, a non-Catholic, who was very attracted by the Church. But when she entered a church and saw the microphones on the altar, she no longer wanted to take the plunge. She said: “If there’s a microphone there, that means it’s not serious, because God doesn’t need a microphone to hear me.” It is very important to know that in a church it is God we address.
Yes, there is a lack of freedom in the current liturgy and this, in fact, is one of the characteristics of today’s Church.
(1) Gamber Klaus, Tournés vers le Seigneur! Éditions Sainte-Madeleine, 1993. Msgr Gamber and Joseph Ratzinger were professors at the University of Regensburg at the time of the liturgical reform, a very bad experience for both of them.
(2) In the traditional rite, the celebrant does not even turn his back to the monstrance for the “salutations” to the people (Dominus Vobiscum, etc.), but stands to one side.

[Source: Paix Liturgique. / Translation by Maria McDermott]