But the world looks just the same

Today the Holy Father has announced a new slate of appointments to the Congregation for Divine Worship. Gone are prelates known to be sympathetic to traditional liturgy and orthodox doctrine, such as Cardinals Bagnasco, Burke, Ouellet, Pell, Ranjith, and Scola. In their place are prelates like the well known Archbishop Piero Marini, formerly responsible for so many of the most unforgettable liturgies of St. John Paul II, along with many of the Holy Father’s recent, characteristic cardinals. In other words, the Holy Father has cleaned out quite a few of his ideological and liturgical opponents and brought in men who are very much simpatico with his outlook.

The immediate consequence of these appointments is that Robert Cardinal Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, finds himself without many notable allies among the membership of the Congregation. His principal deputies, also selected by the Holy Father, are, we suspect, on a very different page in many important regards. And this, of course, follows the public rebuke he endured as a result of his suggestion that priests celebrate versus apsidem more often. But more than that, the so-called reform of the reform under Benedict is finally over. Whatever Cardinal Sarah hoped to accomplish, we suspect that those plans are on hold for the foreseeable future.

The Consecration of St. Elias

It will surprise no one when we say that we tend to be more interested in matters—both liturgical and ecclesiastical—touching upon the Latin Rite. And like many Latin Rite Catholics, we simply do not have a lot of experience with the Eastern Churches. Nevertheless, we are acquainted with many sharp young Catholics who feel very much at home in the Eastern Churches. It is easy to understand why they do when one sees the videos of the consecration of the Church of St. Elias the Prophet in Brampton, Ontario, Canada. The Ukrainian Catholic community there is very vibrant (as Eastern Catholic communities always seem to be), led by its longtime pastor, Fr. Roman Galadza. Some people we respect very much—including good and holy priests—think the world of Fr. Galadza and St. Elias. As you may know, St. Elias has had to rebuild its church after a fire. After two and a half years of work and prayer, the new church was consecrated last month. Patriarch Sviatoslav of Kiev presided over the ceremonies.

We urge you watch the videos—even the condensed, “highlights” version—to get a taste of the extraordinary event. Obviously, the dedication of any church is a special event, but the dedication of St. Elias seemed to us to be particularly special. We were told by someone with knowledge that Fr. Galadza made a conscious decision many years ago to require the congregation as a whole to be responsible for music, not merely a choir. And the fruits of that decision are amply on display in even the shorter video. But the musical competence was only one part of the overall impression of the liturgy there. On the whole, it reminds us of Thomas Merton’s description of the Mass he attended at the church of Corpus Christi in New York: “There was nothing new or revolutionary about it; only that everything was well done, not out of aestheticism or rubrical obsessiveness, but out of love for God and His truth. It would certainly be ingratitude of me if I did not remember the atmosphere of joy, light, and at least relative openness and spontaneity that filled Corpus Christi at solemn High Mass.” (Emphasis supplied.)

If you do nothing else, watch Patriarch Sviatoslav’s homily, delivered (nearly simultaneously) in both English and Ukrainian—without notes. It is easy to understand, having seen him in action, why he is so hated by the partisans of the Moscow Patriarchate. As a friend of ours said about him: as he talks, one begins to want to follow him. He has the charisma of a true pastor. And, having read some interviews and other writings with him, it is clear that he takes seriously the apostolic duty of preserving and handing on the deposit of faith, to say nothing of his duty of preserving the liturgy and traditions of the Ukrainian Catholics, who have suffered much for the sake of the Faith. Even if one is a Latin-rite Catholic to one’s core, it is hard not to feel a little envious of the Ukrainian Catholics, having a patriarch like Sviatoslav at the head of their Church.

At any rate, do take some time and watch the consecration videos. They’re something special.

Bugnini and Benedict

Recently, Peter Kwasniewski had a piece at New Liturgical Movement about St. Josemaría Escrivá’s attachment to the traditional Latin Mass. It’s an interesting piece, but it highlights a question about what form of the Mass St. Josemaría celebrated. The suggestion is that he continued celebrating the Mass of St. Pius V—one imagines in the form set forth in St. John XXIII’s books—even after the liturgical reforms of the 1960s. Prof. Kwasniewski links to a piece at Corpus Christi Watershed by Jeff Ostrowski. (You may know Corpus Christi Watershed from its indefatigable work publishing PDFs of wonderful liturgical resources, like the New Westminster Hymnal.) Ostrowski links to another piece, though the link appears to be broken. This piece reports a conversation its author had with “Giuseppe Soria,” Josemaría’s doctor. (We suspect that this is a translation error: Fr. Jose Luis Soria was, indeed, Josemaría’s doctor and present at the saint’s final moments on earth.) The upshot of all of it is that apparently, St. Josemaría had great difficulty reading the new Missal, try as he might. (We have heard other versions of this story, as has Prof. Kwasniewski, apparently. You probably have, too, dear reader.) So, his secretary, Álvaro del Portillo—now himself a beatus—called none other than Annibale Bugnini to obtain an indult for Josemaría. Bugnini’s response: “You don’t need permission from me. Just continue to celebrate the Mass of St. Pius V.”

This is an interesting anecdote for many reasons, but we were particularly struck by the resonance between Bugnini’s alleged comment and the fundamental realization in Summorum Pontificum that the Missal of 1962 was lawfully promulgated by St. John XXIII and “never abrogated.”  Indeed, the insight that the older form of the Mass was never abrogated is in some ways the crucial insight of Summorum Pontificum. Fr. John Hunwicke observes that there was a key distinction on this point between Missale Romanum, Paul VI’s apostolic constitution promulgating the new Missal, and Laudis canticum, his constitution promulgating the Liturgia Horarum. That is, Pope Paul clearly abrogated the old Breviary (except under rather limited circumstances), but he did not quite so clearly abrogate the old Missal. In a later post, Hunwicke suggests, building upon writings of then-Cardinal Ratzinger, that the Church does not suppress or abolish liturgical forms. At any rate, Benedict’s insight also echoes the much-discussed report of the commission of cardinal canonists in the 1980s who came to the same conclusion: no one ever actually bothered to suppress the old Mass. One could even go so far as to say that even the Quattuor abhinc annos and Ecclesia Dei adflicta indults assumed that the Mass of Pius V was not abrogated, even though one may also say that the Roman authorities sure acted like it was.

It is extremely interesting, therefore, to read the alleged remark by Bugnini that no permission from him was needed for St. Josemaría to continue celebrating the traditional Mass. Of course, who better than Bugnini to know whether or not the old Mass was suppressed, abrogated, or otherwise disfavored in the law? Something about kidding a kidder?

A new lecture from Cardinal Sarah

We missed yesterday a delightful surprise at New Liturgical Movement: a talk by Robert Cardinal Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, to the priests of the Archdiocese of Colombo, Sri Lanka, the jurisdiction of Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, himself formerly a high official in the Congregation for Divine Worship. Cardinal Sarah’s talk was about “liturgical life and the priesthood,” and it is a must-read lecture for priests and laity alike. It has been exclusively shared with NLM, so we will not quote much of it, instead encouraging you to read the whole thing there. However, we will quote one brief passage from the talk:

Firstly, let us ask ourselves: how do we pray the Divine Office? Is it something that we have to ‘get done’ as soon as possible each day so as to be ‘free’ to get on with other tasks? Do I even neglect to pray it sometimes? Certainly, pastoral life is busy, but if I do not pray the Prayer of the Church as I have solemnly promised to do, or if I do not pray it with fervour, with devotion, and indeed liturgically, then I am failing to nourish my soul and I am endangering my vocation.

Practically speaking I would suggest this: as often as is possible pray the Divine Office liturgically, together with others, most especially with your people, for the Office is not a text to be read but a rite to be celebrated, with its own rituals, postures, chant, etc. And if circumstances dictate that you must pray the Office by yourself, do as much as you can to make it a liturgical rite—pray it in an oratory if possible, standing and sitting and so on at the appropriate times. Sing the Office if it is possible—it is not a book to be read in an armchair; rather it is the loving song of the Church, of the Bride, to Him Who has redeemed us.

(Emphasis supplied.) Music to our ears! Say what you will about Mass celebrated ad orientem or versus apsidem—the ancient tradition of the Church, which was abandoned only the day before yesterday, practically speaking, and for almost no reason at all. But how can anyone object to the regular celebration of the Divine Office with one’s congregation? How can anyone object to parishioners forming scholae to participate in the liturgy in a more meaningful way—by singing it, preferably in Latin—connecting themselves with their fathers in the faith going back all the way to the earliest days of the Church in Jerusalem?

It is another example of the great Cardinal’s clear thinking and frank talk.

Pope Paul’s “Sacrificium laudis”

At New Liturgical Movement, Peter Kwasniewski has a brief piece commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of Sacrificium laudis, Paul VI’s 1966 apostolic letter to religious exhorting them to retain the choral office in Latin. Kwasniewski’s essay includes a translation by the eminent English Dominican, Fr. Thomas Crean, of Paul’s letter. Echoing a point we have made here before, Kwasniewski observes:

But in many ways the greatest tragedy of the postconciliar period was the sudden, dramatic, worldwide collapse of religious life, especially in its contemplative branches, and the disappearance, as if overnight, of the chanting of the Divine Office in Gregorian chant. It was an anti-miracle, so to speak — a feat of Satan who, appearing as an angel of light, lured the religious to their doom. The praises of God, which had been sung day and night for well over a millennium with melodies more beautiful than any the world has ever birthed before or since, fell silent, with the silence of the tomb.

And yet, Pope Paul VI, in words no less clear, stalwart, principled, and prophetic than those he uttered about birth control in Humanae Vitae, urged religious in 1966 to uphold their traditional choral office at all costs, for it was their special contribution to the life, health, and growth of the Mystical Body. While it is true that Paul VI, with his self-admitted Hamlet syndrome, walked a zigzag path in contrary directions, seeming to be trapped in the torments and doubts of his age, he nevertheless rose above the churning waters now and again to speak a clear word that, had it only been followed, would have been a blessing for the Church.

(Emphasis supplied.) For example, consider this passage from Pope Paul:

What is in question here is not only the retention within the choral office of the Latin language, though it is of course right that this should be eagerly guarded and should certainly not be lightly esteemed. For this language is, within the Latin Church, an abundant well-spring of Christian civilisation and a very rich treasure-trove of devotion. But it is also the seemliness, the beauty and the native strength of these prayers and canticles which is at stake: the choral office itself, ‘the lovely voice of the Church in song’ (Cf. St Augustine’s Confessions, Bk 9, 6). Your founders and teachers, the holy ones who are as it were so many lights within your religious families, have transmitted this to you. The traditions of the elders, your glory throughout long ages, must not be belittled. Indeed, your manner of celebrating the choral office has been one of the chief reasons why these families of yours have lasted so long, and happily increased. It is thus most surprising that under the influence of a sudden agitation, some now think that it should be given up.

In present conditions, what words or melodies could replace the forms of Catholic devotion which you have used until now? You should reflect and carefully consider whether things would not be worse, should this fine inheritance be discarded. It is to be feared that the choral office would turn into a mere bland recitation, suffering from poverty and begetting weariness, as you yourselves would perhaps be the first to experience. One can also wonder whether men would come in such numbers to your churches in quest of the sacred prayer, if its ancient and native tongue, joined to a chant full of grave beauty, resounded no more within your walls. We therefore ask all those to whom it pertains, to ponder what they wish to give up, and not to let that spring run dry from which, until the present, they have themselves drunk deep.

(Emphasis supplied.) Read the whole thing there.

Cardinal Bacci on the vernacular

We have remarked before that one of the major problems that confronts Catholics who want to know more about the Second Vatican Council is the relative unavailability of crucial documents. Certainly, the conciliar constitutions, decrees, and declarations are all freely available on the internet in many modern languages. But the working documents for the Council remain hidden away in obscure volumes, usually in Latin. Most important among these documents are the Acta Synodalia—the floor debates, as it were, of the Council. Matthew Hazell has been making digital copies of the Latin Acta available, slowly; however, for those without Latin, that is not a huge improvement.

Translator Timothy Wilson, however, has made an important contribution to the discussion by translating Antonio Cardinal Bacci’s October 24, 1962 intervention, De lingua latina in sacra Liturgia, into English. The introduction to the translation, which is published at Rorate Caeli, reminds the reader that Cardinal Bacci was one of the sponsors of the Short Critical Study on the New Order of Mass—the so-called Ottaviani Intervention. (The Dominican Guérard des Lauriers—who advised Pius XII on the dogma of the Assumption and who would himself become the subject of some controversy in time—was one of the key authors of the Short Critical Study, in point of fact.) Somewhat strangely, the introduction omits to mention that Cardinal Bacci was one of the preeminent Latinists in the Church when he gave his address to the Council, having served nearly thirty years as the secretary for briefs to princes in the Curia, which meant that, under Pius XI, Pius XII, and John XXIII, Bacci was responsible for the Latin text of the more solemn papal documents and statements. At any rate, Wilson’s translation gives us a window into the thinking of an influential Latinist, recognizing, in large part, the harms that would befall the Mass once the vernacular was introduced into it.

Read the whole thing there.

A comment on deaconesses

The Holy Father, following up on a promise he made in a Q&A to some nuns or some such, established a commission to study the question of deaconesses or women deacons, particularly the role of deaconesses in the early Church. Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer, S.J., the secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is the president of the commission, and its members are frankly a mixed bag. For example, American Professor Phyllis Zagano has been appointed to the commission, and she has been a longtime advocate for ordination of women as deacons. However, other members are allegedly somewhat more traditional in their mindset.

The argument—which can be seen at some length in the 2002 International Theological Commission study of the diaconate—is that there were deaconesses in the early (i.e., patristic-era) Church, though there remains some question about the nature of their ordination and their duties. Thus, the argument goes, notwithstanding Ordinatio sacerdotalis, the Church can return to the practice of the early Church by blessing or ordaining women to serve as deacons. Of course, in Mediator Dei, Pius XII warned us about the archaizing mindset—an “exaggerated and senseless antiquarianism”—so often adopted by progressives in the Church:

The same reasoning holds in the case of some persons who are bent on the restoration of all the ancient rites and ceremonies indiscriminately. The liturgy of the early ages is most certainly worthy of all veneration. But ancient usage must not be esteemed more suitable and proper, either in its own right or in its significance for later times and new situations, on the simple ground that it carries the savor and aroma of antiquity. The more recent liturgical rites likewise deserve reverence and respect. They, too, owe their inspiration to the Holy Spirit, who assists the Church in every age even to the consummation of the world. They are equally the resources used by the majestic Spouse of Jesus Christ to promote and procure the sanctity of man.

Assuredly it is a wise and most laudable thing to return in spirit and affection to the sources of the sacred liturgy. For research in this field of study, by tracing it back to its origins, contributes valuable assistance towards a more thorough and careful investigation of the significance of feast-days, and of the meaning of the texts and sacred ceremonies employed on their occasion. But it is neither wise nor laudable to reduce everything to antiquity by every possible device. Thus, to cite some instances, one would be straying from the straight path were he to wish the altar restored to its primitive tableform; were he to want black excluded as a color for the liturgical vestments; were he to forbid the use of sacred images and statues in Churches; were he to order the crucifix so designed that the divine Redeemer’s body shows no trace of His cruel sufferings; and lastly were he to disdain and reject polyphonic music or singing in parts, even where it conforms to regulations issued by the Holy See.

Clearly no sincere Catholic can refuse to accept the formulation of Christian doctrine more recently elaborated and proclaimed as dogmas by the Church, under the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit with abundant fruit for souls, because it pleases him to hark back to the old formulas. No more can any Catholic in his right senses repudiate existing legislation of the Church to revert to prescriptions based on the earliest sources of canon law. Just as obviously unwise and mistaken is the zeal of one who in matters liturgical would go back to the rites and usage of antiquity, discarding the new patterns introduced by disposition of divine Providence to meet the changes of circumstances and situation.

(Emphasis supplied and paragraph numbers omitted.) Of course, Good Pope Pius’s argument, despite its evident authority, has not uniformly carried the day in the Church, especially since dear Archbishop Bugnini and his industrious Consilium relied on its understanding (or, occasionally, as in the case of Eucharistic Prayer 2, what it claimed as its understanding) of the antiquities of the Church to justify so many of its most egregious quote-unquote reforms. Indeed, since 1947 there has hardly been an enormity or outrage propounded by the progressives in the Church, many of whom so obviously yearn to make of the Church an ecclesial community as vibrant as the Anglicans and liberal Lutherans, that is not justified by some or other practice of the early Church.

All that having been said, we wish to contribute in a small way to the discussion by rescuing the meat of a lengthy post we had written once commenting and expanding upon a series of fascinating posts by Fr. John Hunwicke about the true nature of the diaconate. The thrust of the post was that Amalarius of Metz (Liber officialis 2.12), citing a letter of St. Jerome to Evangelus (No. 146, PL 22:1192), points out that the Levites of the Old Testament were the forerunners of the deacons of the New Testament. Amalarius then goes through the Book of Numbers at some length to outline what the duties of the Levites were, coming finally to the point that the deacons of the Church of the New Testament are responsible first for guarding, bringing, and arranging the vessels to be used on the altar during the Mass. Amalarius even views the evidence of Acts 6 as evidence that the diaconate was constituted primarily for service at the altar. Of course, there are other roles of the deacon, such as the reading of the Gospels and service as a servant in the Church, but Amalarius, citing the earlier evidence of Jerome, focuses on the deacon as a liturgical assistant to the bishop and the presbyter. St. Jerome, of course, lived in the fourth and fifth centuries, and Amalarius in the eighth and ninth. Thus, if we are being exaggerated, senseless antiquarians, we ought to be consistently so and consider their evidence, too. If we wanted to be especially polemical we would ask whether there were female Levites and whether tradition is also a means of revelation, leading you inexorably to a certain conclusion.

Once upon a time, if we wanted to be especially polemical, we would have remarked about the unity of the orders of bishop, presbyter, and deacon, but, as we learned to no small chagrin and even mild horror today, among the canon law changes implemented by Benedict XVI’s Omnium in mentem was a change to canon 1008 severing, to a greater or lesser extent, the diaconate from the episcopate and presbyterate, implying strongly that deacons do not act in the person of Christ the Head. (What precisely the deacon does when he proclaims the Gospel, thus, is somewhat mysterious to us.) Therefore, we will refrain from discoursing upon that subject, though with perhaps a haunted look over our shoulder to the older tradition of the Church.

And we have no wish to be hugely polemical on this subject—in part because others will play that part better than we could, in part because every time questions have been asked under the Holy Father, the discussion always seems to tend, as if by magic, to a particular conclusion—only to point out some interesting resources that might inform you, dear reader, as you grapple with these changes. Also, we did not want to lose forever our work with the resources of Jerome and Amalarius on the question of deacons. We are not without our vanity, it seems.