A reply to Cardinal Sarah on ‘liturgical reconciliation’

A reply to Cardinal Sarah on ‘liturgical reconciliation’

Posted by Joseph Shaw at 7/21/2017

It seems that the most trad-friendly Prelates of the Church actually want the Traditional Mass to disappear. Thus, Cardinal Burke said in 2011:

It seems to me that is what he [Pope Benedict] has in mind is that this mutual enrichment would seem to naturally produce a new form of the Roman rite – the ‘reform of the reform,’ if we may – all of which I would welcome and look forward to its advent.

Cardinal Sarah has now said the same thing.

It is a priority that, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can examine through prayer and study, how to return to a common reformed rite always with this goal of a reconciliation inside the Church.

Cardinal Sarah’s concrete suggestions point to an intermediate state, in which the two ‘Forms’ have converged somewhat. I have addressed these suggestions in a post on the Catholic Herald blog here [or see comment below]. Notably, the Novus Ordo Lectionary cannot be simply be inserted into the Vetus Ordo Missal, because it reflects a liturgical vision which is completely different from that of the ancient Mass: which is why all the other changes were made at the same time. A compromise between these two two understandings of what the liturgy is for and how it should work will not produce a perfect synthesis, but a muddle.

I’ve made the argument about the Lectionary at length, on this blog, here, and about the ‘Reform of the Reform’ falling between two stools here.

Leaving open the question of how Cardinal Burke’s thinking may have developed since 2011, why would he or Cardinals Sarah want to get rid of the ancient Mass?

One justification appears to be the idea that the existence of two Forms of the Roman Rite is, regardless of the merits or demerits of the forms themselves, itself a problem. I suppose this idea is related to a certain conservative yen for centralisation and uniformity, but I doubt either Cardinal would want to apply it to the Eastern Rites, even in the West, and I suspect they would not really want to stop the Dominicans, Norbertines, or Carthusians – or the former Anglicans – from celebrating their own rites and usages. So although talk of ‘disunity’ has a superficial force I don’t think this is really driving their thinking here. They don’t really want to contradict Vatican II’s praise of liturgical diversity. (I have written about liturgical pluralism here.)

I think the more powerful consideration is that they are unhappy with the Ordinary Form. Cardinal Sarah, in particular, has taken up points hammered by Cardinal Ratzinger in The Spirit of the Liturgy, notably about how celebration ‘facing the people’ was a mistake, and how the reformed Mass should have more silence in it. This is the argument of the ‘Reform of the Reform’, and it is an argument which has no direct connection with the Extraordinary Form. But Sarah and others seem to think that the existence of the Extraordinary Form creates an extra reason to undertake the Reform of the Reform. ‘Look!’ he seems to be saying: ‘Here are a whole lot of Catholics who refuse to go to the Novus Ordo because it lacks silence, and the priest usually faces the people. Let’s make those changes and draw these people back in.’

In other words, his sympathy for some of the arguments about the merits of the Traditional Mass made by its adherents has given Cardinal Sarah the idea of making a purely tactical use of the movement to leverage his position on the future development of the Ordinary Form.

Perhaps things would be different if the EF looked about to take over the whole Church, but if that is going to happen, it would seem it would take at least a century.

I can’t say I’m too worried by these proposals. They revive discussions on liturgical matters, which is positive, but opposition by progressive and – let’s be honest – middle-of-the-road Novus Ordo priests and faithful to the Reform of the Reform makes the implementation of Cardinal Sarah’s programme by fiat from Rome unimaginable, even if he were to become Pope tomorrow.

It should, all the same, stimulate supporters of the Church’s ancient liturgical traditions to explain ever more forcefully the point of the ancient Lectionary, and any other threatened features of the Mass they love.

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2 comments on “A reply to Cardinal Sarah on ‘liturgical reconciliation’

  1. Why Cardinal Sarah’s liturgical ‘reconciliation’ plan won’t work

    by Joseph Shaw
    posted Friday, 21 Jul 2017

    The cardinal’s plan is well intentioned, but the new lectionary and calendar would be too confusing if applied to the Old Rite

    As Fr Raymond de Souza reports, Cardinal Sarah has called for the two ‘Forms’ of the Roman Rite, the 1970 ‘Ordinary’ Form (OF) and the more ancient Extraordinary Form (EF), to be ‘reconciled’. His reasons are confusing, but his proposals are unworkable.

    Writing in a French publication, La Nef, Cardinal Sarah explains: ‘ “Reform of the reform” has become synonymous with dominance of one clan over the other.’ He prefers the phrase ‘liturgical reconciliation’.

    The ‘Reform of the Reform’ is a movement among practitioners of the Ordinary Form, who argue over Latin, chant, the direction of worship, altar girls, and so on. It is one of the advantages of the Extraordinary Form that we don’t have to get into these battles. Cardinal Sarah, however, seems to want to solve the endless squabbling by bringing the older Mass into the equation as well.

    First, he would like to impose some reform of the reform himself (according to The Tablet, reception of Communion kneeling and on the tongue, the ‘Prayers at the Foot of the Altar’, and the ‘canonical fingers’). Secondly, he wants concessions from the other side: but it turns out these are not concessions from advocates of the Reform of the Reform, but changes to the EF. It should adopt the Lectionary of the OF, and its calendar should align more closely with that of the OF.

    The new lectionary is sometimes held up as obviously superior to the old, but not everyone committed to the reformed Mass agrees. The Toronto Oratorian Fr Jonathan Robinson wrote (The Mass and Modernity, 2005, p332):

    I think the diversity, rather than enriching people, tends to confuse them… This may be because the selections, as has been noted by others, were drawn up more to satisfy the sensibilities of liturgical scholars than on traditional liturgical principles.

    However, another question is raised by Cardinal Sarah’s proposal: can the lectionaries of the two Forms simply by swapped over?

    The short answer is ‘no’. To take the most obvious problem, the 1969 Lectionary has no readings for the season of Septuagesima, because that season does not exist in the 1969 calendar. Were the ‘Ordinary Time’ cycle simply extended to this period of three Sundays before Lent, its penitential orations would conflict with readings which can be used after Pentecost as well as before Lent.

    Variations on this problem arise throughout the Church’s year. Many of the EF’s proper texts of feast days, and a good many Sundays, refer to the readings. The choice of readings in the Ordinary Form is so different from those in the Extraordinary Form that the discordance would be particularly jarring.

    Thus, on Corpus Christi, the ancient Mass gives us a reading from on the danger of the unworthy reception of Holy Communion (1 Corinthians 11:27-9). St Paul’s message was excluded completely from the new Lectionary: it is not found even on a weekday. It was felt to be so important by the liturgical tradition, by contrast, that it is repeated emphatically by the wonderful Corpus Christi Sequence Lauda Sion, and again in the Communion antiphon.

    A similar story could be told of all days of a penitential character, and to a greater or lesser extent of many other feasts and Sundays. It would be fair to say that a Mass with the new lectionary and the old prayers and chants would fulfil the intentions of neither the reformers nor of the liturgical tradition. This would have implications also for the Office, where the readings of Sunday Matins, for example, comment on the readings of the Sunday Mass.

    It seems unlikely that Cardinal Sarah’s advisors have thought these issues through. Something else they might like to consider is the very different role of feastdays in the Extraordinary Form. Moving some to the same date as the OF might sound innocuous enough, but a wholesale revision would endanger the distinctive character of this Form, whose weekday celebrations are not distinguished by a daily Scripture-reading cycle, but by large numbers of often very ancient feast days. Many of the saints commemorated are invoked in the liturgy itself, in the Canon or in the Litany of the Saints. Removing them from the calendar, but not from the liturgical texts, would not strengthen the Extraordinary Form, but simply make its message—about the communion of saints, intercession, and continuity—harder to discern.

    Above all I would like to suggest that the Church has nothing to fear from a varied liturgical landscape: a landscape becoming more varied as Eastern Rite Catholics flee to the West. Vatican II reassured us on this point (Unitatis redintegratio 17):

    …from time to time one tradition has come nearer to a full appreciation of some aspects of a mystery of revelation than the other, or has expressed it to better advantage. In such cases, these various theological expressions are to be considered often as mutually complementary rather than conflicting.

    This, surely, is the direction from which ‘liturgical reconciliation’ should come.

  2. Does Cardinal Sarah Want the Tridentine Mass to Disappear?

    en.news
    7/22/17

    On the 10th anniversary of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum Cardinal Robert Sarah said to the French magazine La Nef, that he wants to return to one common reformed rite.

    The chairman of the British Latin Mass Society Joseph Shaw writes on Rorate Caeli that Sarah suggests to develop an intermediate state between the two rites. According to him such a compromise would not be a synthesis, but a muddle. He asks Sarah why he wants “to get rid of the ancient Mass”.

    Shaw believes that Cardinal Sarah is unhappy with New Rite features like facing the people and therefore wants improvements. But Shaw points out that such problems belong only to the New Rite and have no bearing on the Tridentine Mass.

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