The Sarah Affair: Instructive in the extreme

The Sarah Affair: Instructive in the extreme

Louie Verrecchio
July 12, 2016

The content of Cardinal Sarah’s recent presentation at the Sacra Liturgia Conference in London and the way in which it has been received has provided what educators might call a “teachable moment.”

In fact, so instructive has this entire affair been that I hardly know where to begin dissecting it.

I’ll start by addressing what I have learned.

My initial post on the matter [Cardinal Sarah: A weak and incompetent neo-con hero] was met with no small amount of criticism. I get it. Those of a neo-conservative bent who still manage to harbor authentic Catholic aspirations are desperate for a sign that all is relatively well.

Having placed a certain amount of hope in the words and the person of Cardinal Sarah, I can understand why some didn’t take too kindly to having it dashed so severely.

It’s also more than that, however.

Looking back at some of my recent posts, I have to admit that there’s room for more restraint or perhaps even a little finesse, neither of which come naturally.

I’ve never been one to mince words; not just in my writing, but in general. Over the years, I’ve been told countless times by people close to me that I often come off as overly aggressive or hostile even when, in my mind, I’m just communicating.

If the situation happens to be anywhere close to urgent (or worse, confrontational); the “honey to vinegar” ratio is even more tilted to the latter.

As far as the Church is concerned; the hour is late, my friends. I think “urgency” is an understatement.

Indeed, the Household of God has been ablaze for more than five decades now, but recently something has changed; the flames have intensified considerably, and the heat, at least insofar as it is discernible to traditionalists (aka Catholics), is nearly unbearable.

With the quasi-resignation of Benedict and the advent of the Franciscan dictatorship, the Church’s doctrinal treasury now appears to be on the verge of incineration, and her moral edifice seems to be drawing ever closer to the condition of mere embers.

Given the present state of affairs in the Church and mindful of my tendencies, I know that I have to monitor myself more closely. Don’t get me wrong – I know that I’m not likely to win any style points moving forward, but I also know that I need to do better. I will try.

Moving on, let’s now look at the various ways in which these recent events may be considered instructive.

The smack down

Edward Pentin of National Catholic Register is reporting that Cardinal Sarah met with Francis “in private audience on Saturday, soon after his return from London.”

Translation: Cardinal Sarah was called into the boss’ office for a reprimand.

On Monday evening, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi made public what “was unanimously expressed” in that meeting in a communiqué that can only be understood as a rare public rebuke.

Cardinal Sarah’s crime? Daring to suggest that the Novus Ordo Missae as typically celebrated is too man-centered and it is therefore “very important that we return as soon as possible” to the ad oreinetem posture therein.

Francis and his merry band of apostates moved swiftly to ensure that no one be misled; there will be no widespread return to ad oreintem – not on his watch.

According to the communiqué:

Some of his [Cardinal Sarah’s] expressions have however been incorrectly interpreted, as if they were intended to announce new indications different to those given so far in the liturgical rules and in the words of the Pope regarding celebration facing the people and the ordinary rite of the Mass.

Really? I thought “an attitude that would solve everything by applying general rules” was to be condemned? (Amoris Laetitia 2) I guess that all depends on what the rules tend to promote.

And what exactly were “the words of the (alleged) Pope” in the matter?

The communiqué states:

Pope Francis, for his part, on the occasion of his visit to the Dicastery for Divine Worship, expressly mentioned that the “ordinary” form of the celebration of the Mass is that expressed in the Missal promulgated by Paul VI, while the “extraordinary” form, which was permitted by Pope Benedict XVI for the purposes and in the ways explained in his Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, must not take the place of the “ordinary” one.

Note the expression, “the ‘extraordinary’ form, which was permitted by Pope Benedict XVI…”

A “certain fashion”

The truth of the matter is that Benedict did much more than simply “permit” the traditional Latin Mass via Summorum Pontificam; rather, he made it clear that it had never been abrogated and it is therefore the right of every priest of the Roman rite to celebrate it.

Francis, by contrast, views the ancient rite as a “certain fashion” that, for now, he is willing to tolerate out of the goodness of his humble little heart.

This stands in direct contradiction to Cardinal Sarah’s Sacra Liturgia presentation wherein he said, “Just because we have a new pope does not mean that his predecessor’s vision is now invalid.”

Like Hell it doesn’t, but let’s be honest; this is nothing new.

The very existence of the Novus Ordo itself testifies to the fact that the post-conciliar popes have no qualms whatsoever about invalidating their predecessors’ vision; even when it is plainly expressed in an irreformable way such as in Quo Primum.

In any case, during their private meeting, Francis apparently made it clear to Cardinal Sarah that he will not allow the sacred signs that are proper to the “extraordinary” form to infect the “ordinary” one.

So much for “mutual enrichment;” a disastrous concept in its own right, but more on that later.

The communiqué also suggests that, insofar as rules are concerned, Francis called the cardinal’s attention to the current General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) for the new Mass which states:

The altar should be built separate from the wall, in such a way that it is possible to walk around it easily and that Mass can be celebrated facing the people, which is desirable wherever possible. Moreover, the altar should occupy a place where it is truly the centre toward which the attention of the whole congregation of the faithful naturally turns [no. 299].

[That is NOT what 299 really says. As a matter of fact, even though the Congregation for Divine Worship clarified what the Latin of 299 meant in an official response to a dubium, people still cite the mistranslation. What does 299 really say? “Altare maius exstruatur a pariete seiunctum, ut facile circumiri et in eo celebratio versus populum peragi possit, quod expedit ubicumque possibile sit. … The main altar should be built separated from the wall, which is useful wherever it is possible, so that it can be easily walked around and a celebration toward the people can be carried out.” The correct translation hangs on that quod. More on this in comment below. – Kudos to Fr. Z]

As I mentioned in my previous post on this topic, the missal in use for the Novus Ordo clearly presumes that the rite is being celebrated ad orientem; i.e., there is an obvious tension between the missal and the GIRM.

(Don’t be shocked. After all, there is an obvious tension between the new missal and the doctrine of the faith!)

That aside, there is even greater tension between the GIRM, the communiqué, and Cardinal Sarah’s contention that the ad orientem posture “is something good for the Church, something good for our people” and therefore desirable.

Something’s gotta give…

Taking stock of Cardinal Sarah’s mettle

I’ve already gone on record as saying that dressing up the Novus Ordo with sacred signs taken from tradition will only serve to further deceive the faithful as to the dangers of the bastard rite.

Whether or not one agrees with my assessment, there can be no doubt whatsoever that Cardinal Sarah wholeheartedly and passionately believes that Mass “celebrated facing the people” is most undesirable as it diverts our collective focus away from the Lord.

Defects in the new Mass aside, Cardinal Sarah is entirely correct. Francis clearly disagrees.

Now that the battle lines have been clearly drawn, and in a most public way, we will find out what Cardinal Robert Sarah is made of:

Will he serve the Lord, or will he dutifully serve his earthly taskmaster, Francis?

Time will tell.

Someone isn’t being honest

Cardinal Sarah stated:

I do not think that we can dismiss the possibility or the desirability of an official reform of the liturgical reform … 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 of how to enrich the two forms of the Roman rite.

In spite of this, the communiqué (which remember, is being presented as that that which “was unanimously expressed during a recent audience granted by the Pope to the same Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship”) states:

…it is better to avoid using the expression “reform of the reform” with reference to the liturgy, given that it may at times give rise to error.

One wonders, did Francis ask for a study of a reform of the reform or not? Did he change his mind? Does he simply want to discredit Cardinal Sarah?

Whatever the case may be, someone is being less than honest, and I suspect that it’s not the African.

Fashions change

We’ve already established that Francis sees the Mass of Ages as a “certain fashion” that is merely tolerated.

If Cardinal Sarah’s recollection of his April 2015 audience with Francis is accurate (and I trust that it is), one can well expect that if the blasphemous Argentinian heretic in white lives long enough to do so, he will most certainly set his sights on “enriching” the so-called “extraordinary form.”

One shudders to imagine what the apostates in Rome – the same who can’t praise the Muslims and Jews enough – would like to do with the traditional Mass.

A personal papal insult?

In his Sacra Liturgia speech, Cardinal Sarah issued the following scathing indictment:

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 understand they are doing when they put on the liturgical vestments, which clothe us as an alter Christus — and much more, as ipse Christus, as Christ himself.

Concelebrant cellphone-photoing at a papal Mass

Could it be that the public rebuke of Cardinal Sarah was motivated in part because Francis, a man who clearly enjoys his celebrity status and doesn’t appear to have any problem with paparazzi prelates surrounding the altar at Mass, took the insult personally?

Just wondering…

Benedict’s legacy

While one hopes that the rebuke of Cardinal Sarah will serve to open the eyes of those who as yet do not see Francis for the scourge on the Church that he is; let us not forget that when it comes to the ludicrous notion that Mass “celebrated facing the people … is desirable wherever possible,” we can thank, in large measure, Pope Benedict XVI.

How so?

If there is a man who more clearly understands the inherent value of the ad orientem posture and what was lost in its abandonment than Cardinal Sarah, it is Josef Ratzinger. Anyone who ever read his book, The Spirit of the Liturgy, can attest to just how passionate he is on this topic.

And yet, when he had the sovereign authority to correct the situation, he did absolutely nothing whatsoever to promote its return. In fact, he did the exact opposite.


By instituting the so-called “Benedictine arrangement” wherein the table-come-altar is crowed with candles and a Crucifix, he validated the arguments of those who believe that the priest must always face the people; like an entertainer engaged with his audience.

A fundamental conciliar flaw

Here in the United States, many citizens are appalled that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has recommended against formal charges being filed against Hillary Clinton for her failure to safeguard classified information.

The reason given by FBI Director James Comey?

A lack of evidence concerning intent (for the record, the applicable statute has nothing to do with intent, but rather negligence), and even some of Clinton’s most vehement detractors have admitted that intent is a difficult thing to prove.

What has this to do with the Council?


In his Sacra Liturgia presentation, Cardinal Sarah not only spoke often about the Council’s intent; he held it up as the gold standard for determining what is, and what is not, to be considered an “authentic implementation” of Sacrosanctum Concilium.

This is nothing new. The quest for that elusive “new springtime” has long been couched in such terms.

What may be newly considered at this point, at least by some, is the degree to which this focus on intent serves as an indictment of the conciliar text.

Think about it; so subjective is intent that Pope St. Pius X wrote in his encyclical on the modernists, Pascendi, even as he condemned their errors in no uncertain terms, that he was “leaving out of consideration the internal disposition of soul, of which God alone is the judge.”

And yet, the Council documents are written in such a way that even their staunchest defenders, like Cardinal Sarah, plainly admit that it is necessary to determine the intent of the Council Fathers (as if they are one) in order to know what “authentic implementation” actually looks like.

This is preposterous! The text of an ecumenical council should present objective truths, pastoral propositions and other directives with impeccable clarity; making such subjective considerations as “intent” utterly meaningless.

Bottom line: The text of Vatican II is fundamentally flawed and it must be condemned.

A closer look at Sacrosanctum Concilium

Cardinal Sarah, an unabashed champion of the conciliar text, said:

One of the clearest and most beautiful expressions of the intentions of the Council Fathers is found at the beginning of the second chapter of the Constitution … ‘The Church … earnestly desires that Christ’s faithful, when present at this mystery of faith, should not be there as strangers or silent spectators…’

I am certain that this excerpt strikes many a reader as entirely beyond reproach, and yet, this is one of those texts wherein the door was cracked open for all liturgical Hell to break loose.

Christ’s faithful, when present at this mystery of faith, should not be … silent spectators.

Had the text been written to simply to state not as spectators, I could embrace it; as it is, it is wholly misleading and ultimately dangerous.

The reality is (as everyone who frequents the Mass of Ages knows) “silence” in no way whatsoever indicates that one is but a liturgical “spectator” who is somehow detached from the sacred rites.

The two concepts are entirely unrelated, and make no mistake about it – the inclusion of the word “silent” here was deliberate; even if the naïve would-be defenders of tradition at the Council failed to realize its gravity.

Cardinal Sarah, on some level seems to understand the danger that this represents.

He stressed “the priority of internalizing our liturgical participation,” and even said that silence at the liturgy is “helpful [and] indeed indispensable.”

Even so, he also made it clear that he believes that the article of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy wherein it is suggested that “silence” relegates the faithful to “spectator” status constitutes “one of the clearest and most beautiful expressions of the intentions of the Council Fathers.”

This is evidence of nothing less tragic than the loss of reason. It may very well be the result of making the denial of reality a matter of habit; in this case the insistence, against all evidence to the contrary, that the Council is not only blameless for the present ecclesial crisis, but even praiseworthy.

Praising the Council

Cardinal Sarah went out of his way to pay homage to the Almighty Council. This is, alas, an apparent prerequisite for anyone who wishes to ascend to and maintain a position within the heights of ecclesial power.

He said:

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.

The liturgy “as reformed following the Council” is a liturgy that was deliberately stripped of numerous sacred signs such as those that emphasize the sacrificial nature of the Mass, its actual purpose, the unique role of the priest, etc.

Any good fruit that is born in the Novus Ordo is the result of God’s unbridled generosity, and this in spite of the reforms following the Council.

A nerve has clearly been struck

The last time – in fact, the only time, as I recall – that the Holy See moved so swiftly to quell “misinformation” it concerned the allegation made by Fr. Dollinger that Cardinal Ratzinger had admitted to him that there is more to the Third Secret of Fatima than what has been officially published.

Precisely, Ratzinger was said to have acknowledged that the hidden portion of the text warns of “a bad council and a bad Mass.”

Especially for our neo-conservative, hermeneutic of continuity, santo subito friends, this could be a major teachable moment:

What do the Council, the new Mass, and the ethos of modern day Rome most have in common?

A near singular focus on man and his soaring dignity; to the point of putting man in the place of God.

Even our aforementioned confreres in the squishy ecclesial middle, the same who are quick to defend the Council and to give the benefit of dwindling doubt to the man they believe to be pope, cannot help but acknowledge that Cardinal Sarah’s assessment of the new Mass was absolutely correct when he said:

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.

By vehemently and quickly rejecting his plea for a return to ad orientem worship, it should be entirely obvious to all concerned that Rome, in particular as personified at this moment by Francis, is Hell bent and determined to keep the focus squarely on man.

This is a reality that is becoming increasingly impossible to deny.

It should also be entirely obvious at this point that one cannot properly discuss the current ecclesial crisis such as it is so evident in the anthropocentrism of the Council and the new Mass without reference to Fatima.

Indeed, Fatima is precisely where the road to the Church’s recovery leads, and those who continue to insist that the Third Secret has been completely revealed and the consecration of Russia has already taken place are perhaps the only people on earth who are losing credibility faster than Francis.

Get AQ Email Updates

2 comments on “The Sarah Affair: Instructive in the extreme

  1. From Card. Nichols (Archd. Westminster) v. Card. Sarah about Mass ‘ad orientem’

    Posted on 11 July 2016 by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

    More about GIRM 299, which was mistranslated.

    Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments issued a clarification (Prot. No. 2036/00/L) regarding 299 in the Latin GIRM. That clarification says:

    The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has been asked whether the expression in n. 299 of the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani [aka GIRM] constitutes a norm according to which the position of the priest versus absidem [facing the apse] is to be excluded. The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, after mature reflection and in light of liturgical precedents, responds:

    Negatively, and in accordance with the following explanation.

    The explanation includes different elements which must be taken into account. First, the word expedit does not constitute a strict obligation but a suggestion that refers to the construction of the altar a pariete sejunctum (detached from the wall). It does not require, for example, that existing altars be pulled away from the wall. The phrase ubi possibile sit (where it is possible) refers to, for example, the topography of the place, the availability of space, the artistic value of the existing altar, the sensibility of the people participating in the celebrations in a particular church, etc.

    I gave you a correct translation:

    The main altar should be built separated from the wall, which is useful wherever it is possible, so that it can be easily walked around and a celebration toward the people can be carried out.

  2. “Francis, by contrast, views the ancient rite as a “certain fashion” that, for now, he is willing to tolerate out of the goodness of his humble little heart.”


    You can do the hokey-pokey,
    You can turn yourself around,
    You can say, “All’s okie-dokey
    I was lost but now am found.”

    You can Tango at the Masses
    With your LGBT group,
    You can even bring your doggies
    And your scooper for their poop.

    You know they’re doing wrong
    And they’re preaching what’s not true,
    But you’re their captured audience
    Just sitting in their pew.

    Yes, you are an audience,
    A group, not separate souls,
    The crowd who roars for these men
    In narcissistic roles.

    While down-a-road there are young men,
    Real Roman Catholic Priests,
    They have no ticket box office
    Like smelly greasepaint beasts.

    The Producer sent a Director,
    Who rehearsed them dusk to dawn…
    Say Mass without strife, daily lay down their life,
    For they know that “The show must go on!!”

Leave a Reply