“Reform of the Reform” Scholar Leaves Vatican

As reported in Katholisches – Magazin für Kirche und Kultur, a close coworker of Pope Benedict XVI in the “reform of the reform” of the liturgy, Fr. Uwe Michael Lang, has ceased his duties within the Vatican and returned to his religious order, the Oratory, in London.

Fr. Lang, a native of Germany, was born in 1972. He joined the Catholic Church in 1997, joined the Oratory of St. Philipp Neri in Vienna in 1999, and has belonged to the London Oratory since 2002. The Oratorians in England and Vienna (unlike those in Germany) promote the pre-Vatican II Latin Mass.

Fr. Lang was first called to the Roman curia in 2007, and has worked in the Congregation for Divine Worship since 2008, when Pope Benedict named him a consultor for the office of liturgical celebrations of the Pope. Since 2008 he has taught at the papal university of the Legionaries of Christ in Rome, Regina Apostolorum, and in the year 2011-2012 he also lectured at the Papal Institute for Christian Archeology in Rome.

Fr. Lang has written extensively on the liturgy. His 2003 book Conversi ad Dominum. Zu Geschichte und Theologie der christlichen Gebetsrichtung (English, 2005: “Turning Towards the Lord: Orientation in Liturgical Prayer”) has a foreword written by then-cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI. The book advocates that the priest face the same direction as the congregation for Mass, i.e. toward the back wall, rather than the common postconciliar practice of facing the people.

Nothing is known about the reason for Fr. Lang’s departure. As his call to Rome was heartily greeted by traditionalist circles, his return to London has been met with regret.

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9 comments

  1. Thanks, dear Fr. Anthony, for this interesting news.

    Unfortunately I doubt that we will ever know the story behind this.

    If I read the information correctly this man has had extremely little pastoral experience, yet he has been promoted as a spokesperson/promoter of the non-reformed liturgy.

    I wish him no ill-will, but frankly this looks like a set back for a damaging, retrogressive approach to Catholic liturgy so I don’t really mourn that very much

  2. Fr., you state “Nothing is known about the reason for Fr. Lang’s departure. As his call to Rome was heartily greeted by traditionalist circles, his return to London has been met with regret.
    How so? How broad a spectrum of anecdotal information have you been provided in order to make such a global pronouncement?
    Asked honestly.

    1. @Charles Culbreth – comment #2:
      Charles – good question. I summarized/paraphrased the article in what appears to be a respectable German newspaper, and that is what their article said. So it’s their judgment, not mine.
      awr

  3. As his call to Rome was heartily greeted by traditionalist circles, his return to London has been met with regret.

    The only folks I’ve seen regretting it so far are the ones at the Italian blog Messe in Latino. While it’s a local loss for them, until we know why he left Rome, it’s hard to know whether it’s a good sign or a bad sign for the Church as a whole (whatever one’s orientation may be). One wonders if it might just as likely have to do with Oratorian politics and the upheaval and leadership changes in the UK Oratories than with Vatican politics (liturgical or otherwise). It also seems entirely possible that, having joined the Oratory to be an Oratorian, he served a term in Rome and may have simply wanted to go back to his ordinary vocation and not be full time curial official anymore.

    The Oratorians in England and Vienna (unlike those in Germany) promote the pre-Vatican II Latin Mass.

    I don’t know about the Oratorians in Vienna, but the Oratorians in England, have been principally famous for promoting the post-Vatican II Latin Mass in a form of celebration that emphasizes the continuity of the two forms (perhaps even to excess). That’s the principal Mass at Oxford and in Fr. Lang’s community in London. While they’ve ministered to “traditionalists” they’ve been quite notable among celebrants of the EF for not being entirely given over to a pro-Tridentine position. It’s often considered emblematic of this that the Sunday EF Mass at the Brompton Oratory is a Low Mass.

    While it is technically true that the Oratorians in Germany don’t promote the EF, there exists in Berlin a society of apostolic life of pontifical right, the Institute of St. Philip Neri, which does, and which is specifically modeled on the Oratorians (hence the name.) They are not insubstantial in size compared to the German Oratorian houses.

  4. This is purely a personal opinion, but my guess from my reading of the life of St Philip Neri, is that he would be far happier celebrating Mass with the current members of the Oratory he founded in Rome who always use the NO in the vernacular, http://www.sanfilippo7chiese.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=11&Itemid=18 than with those who have formed Oratories in other places that are wedded to a nineteenth century style liturgy in Latin.

  5. Don’t low- to mid-ranking curial officials, especially if they’re not Italian, normally go home after 5 or 6 years?

  6. My sources tell me this is a routine end-of-term decision, in the works for some time so that Fr. Lang can return to his community and dedicate himself to scholarly research.
    awr

  7. Thanks Fr A – I only mentioned it because of a slight suspicion/concern that some, probably not so much here as in other places, might interpret it as more politically significant than it probably was!

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