What to Make of Cardinal Sarah as CDW Prefect?

Pray Tell offers three views – from Rita Ferrone, Anthony Ruff OSB, and Paul Inwood.

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Rita Ferrone writes:

Question mark churchGiven everything that Pope Francis has said and done so far, I find it impossible to believe that he has appointed Cardinal Sarah as prefect to the Congregation for Divine Worship in order to foster a traditionalist liturgical revival.

Pope Francis is a man of broad sympathies. He is steeped in the reformed liturgy, but has no particular liturgical ax to grind. He is not a liturgist. Everything he has done so far suggests that he is interested in pastors and regaining a sense of mission in the Church, and not at all in taking sides in liturgical disputes which can absorb much energy without obvious gains for the body corporate.

Cardinal Sarah is clearly an unexpected and unusual choice to lead the CDW. He does not come to his new position as an authority on liturgy or even particularly as a student of the liturgy, much less an advocate for a “reform of the reform.” What he does have in his resume however is 22 years pastoring a diocese in Africa, the most rapidly growing area of the Catholic world.

Question mark redHis appointment “works” internally (in the Curia) by removing him from Cor Unum, which is about to be absorbed into a larger agency in the coming reorganization, and giving him a new job. At the same time, it suggests there will be no crusading for liturgical agendas—of any ideological stripe—flowing from this Congregation in the months to come.

A lot of questions remain concerning how Cardinal Sarah will acquit himself in this position, which remains important. We shall see. Priests (and bishops for that matter) who don’t have a deep knowledge of liturgy obtained through disciplined study nevertheless “know what they like.” Let us hope that what Cardinal Sarah “likes” — and what he does as prefect of the CDW — keep pace with the style and tone set by Pope Francis.

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Anthony Ruff OSB writes:

Question mark black

Odd choice, Cardinal Sarah. (No, Francis didn’t create the first female cardinal, as someone reportedly thought upon seeing the headlines.)

Is this appointment a casualty of curia reshuffling, with a cardinal ‘left over’ who had to be put somewhere? Perhaps. But Francis is a shrewd politician who send signals with his bold gestures and does things for a reason.

Is this a sign that the honeymoon is over for liberals, and the beginning of their dawning realization that Francis isn’t on their side? I don’t think so. Francis is on everyone’s side, and his great charism is unifying the church. That means moving beyond the liturgy wars with the attendant winners and losers in every Vatican decision.

Is this a bone thrown to the traditionalists? Perhaps. It would be like Francis to sense who is hurting and reach out to them. If so, the liturgical progressives should respect Francis’s judgment, trust his political instincts, and imitate his generous spirit.

Is this another sign that Francis doesn’t give a hoot about liturgy? (Insert your favorite Jesuit liturgy joke here…) I think not. He likes his liturgy short and simple, with more rather than less vernacular, and papal liturgies will surely continue in that vein. But he is very reverent and serious when he celebrates. He is a man of prayer.

Is the appointment of someone from Cor Unum a sign that Francis thinks liturgy isn’t about externals or an end in itself, but a means to love and serve God’s people? I’d like to think so.

Question mark red clothIs this part of a coming downsizing of CDW’s responsibilities, with less centralization? Probably. Time will tell. (By the way, Cardinal Sarah is fluent in English, French, and Italian.)

Is this part of ongoing internationalization of the curia? Probably. One of the ways Francis is moving us beyond the liturgy wars we English speakers do so well is by making us all more aware of Catholicism elsewhere, e.g. in Africa and Latin America. (By the way, with the recent death of Cardinal Angelini, I’m told that there is no Roman in the College of Cardinals – surely a first in church history.)

Is this appointment a mistake? Could be. Popes too make mistakes. Let’s hope, rather, that it is just what the church needs now.

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Paul Inwood writes:

Question mark crosier (2)At first sight, it might look as if Cardinal Robert Sarah could be another Francis Arinze, another West African prelate in a traditional, even fundamentalist, mold. Like Arinze, Sarah is quite outspoken on moral issues, and he does apparently show a preference for the Extraordinary Form and the cappa magna, but there the resemblance appears to end. Arinze spent a lot of time hectoring people about perceived abuses which mostly were not even happening in the territories he was visiting (but he certainly gave people some ideas!). Sarah apparently is different. Informed opinion sums him up like this: Another prefect who knows little about liturgy but who probably won’t throw his weight around too much either.

This might be borne out by Sarah’s motto: Sufficit tibi gratia mea, “My grace is enough for you” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Dependency on God is the underlying theme, perhaps even with the notion of letting God act, rather than acting yourself. The second half of the verse is “my power is perfect in weakness”.

Question mark cabinetIf Sarah is indeed not knowledgeable, even disinterested, when it comes to matters liturgical, and if he does indeed adopt a hands-off approach in his new position, then this will make Archbishop Arthur Roche’s role as secretary all the more important. We will be looking to him for sane wisdom and action as we transition from what has been a turbulent few years. The recent departure of some established personnel from the Congregation may give cause for fresh hope that Archbishop Arthur will now be able to accomplish what has not so far been possible: a return to liturgical development in the spirit of Vatican II rather than perpetuating attempts to undermine and even undo what the Council Fathers asked for.

 

 

 

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41 comments

      1. @Todd Orbitz – comment #5:
        Well he didn’t this time. It was really a joke!
        Be careful of taking me too seriously – it could lead you astray. 🙂
        awr

    1. @Paul Livingston – comment #2:

      Like others who shall remain nameless, you have taken a piece intended for children as typifying a composer’s entire output….. Doesn’t really add very much to our discussion, alas.

  1. “…a return to liturgical development in the spirit of Vatican II rather than perpetuating attempts to undermine and even undo what the Council Fathers asked for.”

    Is this for real? I mean, it would be one thing if PT authors would simply come out and say: “We don’t think Vatican II went far enough; it was too much in the hands of conservatives and compromisers; we want to take liturgical reform in a totally modernist direction.” At least then there would be the virtue of honesty!

    But can anyone seriously maintain any more, for a minute, that the reforms we got were a correct and punctilious observance of what was demanded by Sacrosanctum Concilium? The 1965 Missal was declared to have fulfilled ALL the requests of SC pertaining to the Mass.

    If you are still buying the “Vatican II has been hijacked” line, you might want to consider this:
    http://www.newliturgicalmovement.org/2013/12/is-your-liturgy-like-what-vatican-ii.html#.VHOwEdLF98E

    1. @Peter Kwasniewski – comment #6:
      Peter,

      Yes, it’s for real, and you know it.

      Yes, many people think that Paul VI was faithful to Vatican II. Paul VI, for example.

      SC said a lot of things, and there is plenty in there for anyone to cherry pick. There are things in SC suggesting the reforms could have gone further (37-40, but not only there), and things suggesting it could have been less radical.

      Be that as it may – you’ve made your point so many times, that I would respectfully request that you not keep making it. As I said in our last go-round, we disagree on this point, and let’s leave it at that.

      awr

  2. Genuinely not spoiling for a fight, but what things that the Council Fathers actually asked for have been undone or undermined in recent times by the CDW? I guess we’re not suggesting that the CDW has actively been discouraging the faithful from being able to say the parts of the Mass proper to them in Latin, nor discouraging them from learning the simpler chants… 😉

    1. @James Dunne – comment #7:

      Well, where does one start?

      –The Council Fathers asked for a significant reform of the Roman Rite. The Rite was therefore reformed, but some did not like that and campaigned for a return to the previous incarnation of it, leading to the fiction of two different forms of the same rite.
      –The Council Fathers asked for the liturgy to be accessible to the people and easily understood. However, recent vernacular translations have moved in the opposite direction, confusing and obfuscating instead of clarifying and beautifying.
      –The Council Fathers said they had no wish to impose a rigid uniformity in matters which do not affect faith or the good of the local Church. However, the story of the post-conciliar liturgy is one of an increasingly rigid centralization by the Roman dicasteries. Episcopal conferences have been sidelined in direct contravention of no less than nine mentions in Sacrosanctum Concilium. Particular law has been downgraded.

      And in addition
      –Many of the further developments requested by Episcopal conferences all over the world in the decade following the Constitution have been routinely attacked.

      I think it is fair to say that, after an initial period of excitement which did include a sprinkling of unfortunate experimentation, things settled down and were moving along nicely until the mid-1990s, when a rearguard action started to try to put the toothpaste back in the tube. The Ratzinger-Medina 1972 pact to basically roll back the reforms of Vatican II was finally put into motion.

  3. ANNOUNCEMENT

    Dear Pray Tell friends, let’s not have the same old disputes for the thousandth time on what Vatican II really meant and what went wrong and all the rest. Been there, done that. Keep your comments on topic.

    The topic of the post is the appointment of Cardinal Sarah. What do you think that means?

    Thanks, all, for your contributions.

    awr

    1. @Anthony Ruff – comment #14:
      The topic of the post is the appointment of Cardinal Sarah. What do you think that means?

      I think I agree with John Dunne, KLS and Todd’s takes, AWR.
      That said, I believe it would be more productive for the PTB commentary to focus upon what each of us presumes are ideal qualifications and goals for the new prefect. To whose benefit does it serve to bring out the machetes and try to deconstruct the Sarah choice and what it possibly means from Rome to St. Local’s?

  4. My opinion may be distorted by my disappointment that Marini revealed nothing to Fr Ruff, and that Pope Francis did not appoint our leader to head the CDW.

    Sarah was chosen to shift the focus of liturgy to its place as source of the church’s activity. The missionary impulse that should come from every prayer, and supremely from the Eucharist, is better off in the hands of an experienced missionary and leader of charitable activities. The inward battles over language and continuity should dissipate in a renewed concern for the Church’s service to others.

  5. “Like Arinze, Sarah is quite outspoken on moral issues, and he does apparently show a preference for the Extraordinary Form and the cappa magna, but there the resemblance appears to end.”

    He was present at one or two recent meetings of Traditionalist clerics, and that is enough to mark him out as someone who shows “a preference for the Extraordinary Form and the cappa magna”?

    He has never, to my knowledge, celebrated, presided or attended at so much as a single liturgical service according to the 1962 books. The most comprehensive list of bishops who have at least attended at least one liturgical service according to the 1962 books does not have his name:

    http://accionliturgica.blogspot.com/2011/09/243-cardenales-y-obispos.html

    1. @Carlos Palad – comment #16:
      That’s very interesting, Carlos. Is that list reliable, do you think? Thanks for pointing this out. Perhaps some of the news reports have jumped to conclusions due to his inclusion in the roster of speakers for the recent pilgrimage!

      1. @Rita Ferrone – comment #18:
        The interesting thing about this list, is that both our retired archbishop and our current archbishop celebrated Mass in the EF, but neither is listed; however, I would say neither of them are big fans. In fact, I’d say the recently retired one made it very difficult for anyone to establish a regular EF Mass. However, both men, when extended a invitation to visit the small personal EF parish, as shepherd of the diocese, kindly accepted. (Perhaps celebrating confirmation?) So the list goes both ways, too. Being on the list doesn’t mean any love of the 1962 missal–it might just mean they are good pastors.

      2. @Rita Ferrone – comment #18:

        …his inclusion in the roster of speakers for the recent pilgrimage!

        And I swear I read somewhere on the internet that Cardinal Sarah was a no-show at the recent SP conference thing-y in Rome!

        Coincidence or conspiracy? 😀

      3. @Elisabeth Ahn – comment #23:
        And I swear I read somewhere on the internet that Cardinal Sarah was a no-show at the recent SP conference thing-y in Rome!

        He addressed the pilgrimage, it seems, but was absent from their celebration of an EF Eucharist, a fact which was taken as significant. (The conspiracy theorists said that he and the other cardinal who did not attend the Mass had been told to stay away, possibly on the recommendation of the Pope.)

        Among the many reports that I read yesterday, there was one which seemed to indicate that Cardinal Sarah only celebrates in the EF, the reverse of what Carlos is saying. (If I find it again, I will post a link.) Perhaps the truth is that he actually celebrates in both forms, but may prefer one to the other.

  6. I would like to see more about the comparison/contrast with Cdl. Arinze simply because my first reaction, without knowing anything about Cdl. Sarah before the recent Synod, is that he stood a good chance of being of the same mold. My own reasoning was that Cdl. Sarah has no (American) profile as being traditionally (i.e., EF) inclined, while his recent statements clearly set him apart from the Western liberals. So with no liturgical evidence to go on, I figured we could expect someone of “conservative” bent; by no means traditionalist, but also not enamored of progressives’ pet projects. Such a choice without a public liturgical profile may very well signal to expect nothing one way or another, but I think it can also signal that Pope Francis doesn’t want liturgical matters to be seen as predecided by his prefect – everyone can hope for a fair hearing instead of knowing which way the wind is already blowing.

  7. Positive enthusiasm for Cardinal Sarah has not appeared yet! But if we are to depend on Abp Roche for sane wisdom and action, the future is thick with perplexity.

  8. Rita Ferrone and Chuck Middendorf: the list is not 100% complete especially with regards to bishops in smaller dioceses. However it is reasonably comprehensive as the blog in question has a special focus on bishops celebrating or attending liturgical services according to the 1962 Missal. One thing you can be sure of, Traditionalist Catholic blogs assiduously report whenever a Cardinal celebrates or presides or attends at such services. Interestingly not a single blog has come up with a picture of Cardinal Sarah doing so.

    I myself am deeply attached to the older, pre-Conciliar liturgical forms (although I realize that this is not the place to discuss it) but I also have little sympathy for this tendency in some circles (whether liberal, conservative or traditionalist) to immediately claim that a bishop “prefers the 1962 Missal” simply because… he has met some clerics attached to it, or has said some nice words about the older liturgy, or attended it a couple of times.

  9. I don’t think Pope Francis has an appetite for indulging the amount of energy liturgy warriors across the spectrum would care to devote to continuing that war. I suspect he sees it as a distraction that keeps people diverted from other things they should be doing.

  10. As a liturgist in the parish trenches, I find that input from non-liturgists, especially their questions, can often refocus or shift my direction in a good way. Having a missionary disciple as CDWDS head strikes me as a good development. Liturgy has been far too inward-focused the past few decades from the curia to the local outbreaks of the Culture of Complaint.

    We already know that Pope Francis prefers a curia as a servant to the national conferences and the Church. The CDWDS has plenty of liturgy experts. Or it knows where to find them, presumably. Shifting Cardinal Sarah (anybody know where the accent is placed?) to liturgy makes sense in a lot of ways, including his facility in English.

  11. From Rita’s analysis:

    “Priests (and bishops for that matter) who don’t have a deep knowledge of liturgy obtained through disciplined study nevertheless “know what they like.” ”

    I thought this was an interesting insight. We might note a couple of different dimensions to leadership in this regard:

    * Modesty/humility: The degree to which a leader is willing to say, “Even though I am in charge, I am not an expert and so I don’t know everything there is to know about this matter. Therefore, while ultimately I will rely on my own judgment, I will seek a variety of inputs and listen carefully to a broad range of views and opinions.” Not every leader can distinguish between expertise and leadership; they are not the same. To be effective, a leader doesn’t need to be the smartest or most knowledgeable person at the table, although s/he does need to at least be conversant in the subject matter.

    * Tolerance: The degree to which he is willing to tolerate things that personally irritate him. An effective leader needn’t demand absolute uniformity, so long as the organization s/he is leading is on track to achieve the goals and objectives that have been set out. I hope the dicastery under Sarah’s leadership won’t spend an inordinate amount of time straining at liturgical gnats (like, say, regulating whether or not
    a celebrant may leave the sanctuary during the sign of peace). Life is short and there are more important and urgent things to focus on.

    In my view, both of these dimensions, modesty and tolerance, are personal qualities that a leader brings with him/her. Even though Sarah may not be a liturgical ideologue (although I don’t think we know whether or not that is the case; the most I think we can say is that we haven’t found any evidence yet to suggest that he is one), if he is personally intolerant and/or believes his way is always the best/only way, it could be frustrating to have him in charge.

    We’ll have to see how he does. I’m sure he could use our prayers.

  12. I am encouraged that the new Prefect has pastoral experience. But I am always troubled that the heads of the Congregation often, if ever, have no specialization in liturgy. The heads of the oncology departments in our local hospitals are assumed to be specialists in oncology. If the liturgy is the life-blood of the church, why is it not assumed and required that the head of the church’s liturgy department would be a specialist in liturgical studies?

    1. @Jan Larson – comment #29:
      ” If the liturgy is the life-blood of the church, why is it not assumed and required that the head of the church’s liturgy department would be a specialist in liturgical studies?”

      That question assumes that there is a sufficient correlation between study and lifeblood. It may be. But maybe not. The assumption is, well, an assumption.

      1. @Karl Liam Saur – comment #30:
        To elaborate a bit more, I think that in an ideal Church, a wise leader would assemble a good team of people around his or her desk in the dicastery. Cardinal Sarah is now responsible for good liturgy as the CDWDS sees its role in the universal Church. He need not possess all the necessary expertise. But to be a fruitful and effective leader, he must know how to use it.

        I would take an experienced pastor over a theologian any day.

        We know that Vox Clara and the CDWDS in the past several years, has declined to listen to the best liturgical advice available. Will Robert Sarah continue in that vein, attributing stupidity to lay people, parish priests, and theologians who are clearly in need of “education,” or will he listen?

        A West African priest I trust says Cardinal Sarah is a good man. If we can’t have a lay woman heading the CDWDS, I’m satisfied with my friend’s assessment. Wait and see doesn’t have the urgency of today’s internet hotheads, but it strikes me as a reasonable approach for watchers such as us.

        As far as I’m concerned, this story is over and it’s time to get ready for Advent.

  13. I’ve been rethinking my initial reservations in view of things I have read here and elsewhere the last couple of days. Francis seems determined to reform the curia so that its members will see themselves as servants of the Pope and his brother bishops around the world. Perhaps the era of imposing rules and policies from above will come to a close with this reform. Perhaps Cdl. Sarah has been given some guidance by Francis that would make it clear that he is expected to listen and consult when addressing special projects the CDW pursues. And if the reform of the governance of the church in general includes providing a larger role for episcopal conferences, then an era of closer collaboration could be in store. I will offer my prayers for Cdl. Sarah that he will be a capable and faithful servant leader in his new post.

  14. The history of liturgy in the Church of England is a good example of how it is difficult to gauge liturgical trends while in the thick of liturgical debate. The C of E is “Reformed and Catholic” — a political compromise designed to accommodate a wide range of theological and liturgical positions. Through its history the C of E has has north-end celebration, ad orientem, and versus populum. Worship has ranged from a near-Catholic eucharistic prayer (the Non-Jurors) to churches with a decidedly Reformed, almost anti-eucharistic worship (auditory churches).

    Perhaps it’s time to view the curial liturgical office, and even the papacy itself, as political constructs designed to accommodate a spectrum of liturgical theology. Perhaps governance should not be viewed as pro- one position or another, but rather as a mediating force which attempts to create harmony between various liturgical factions. I sharply disagree with those who wish for Cardinal Sarah to advance their particular agenda. This is not the irenic or charitable position, in my view.

    I hope that Cardinal Sarah is able to take up this political role. He inherits a Roman Rite in a de facto liturgical schism. Perhaps his greatest achievement will not be to forment current divisions but attempt to create a settlement between the two main communities.

    1. @Jordan Zarembo – comment #33:

      de facto liturgical schism.
      Jordan, is that a summation of Summorum? If yes, don’t you think that’s substantially hyperbolic? If no, could you bring me up to date? I provide music ministry under both forms without problems on either facade. But the OF is clearly not in any danger of going the way of the DoDo byrd.

      1. @Charles Culbreth – comment #34:

        I think you’re right that “de facto liturgical schism” isn’t the right phrase. I also agree that the OF isn’t going anywhere (and it shouldn’t go anywhere). A state of tension exists on some plane between the two forms, however, and that tension will be difficult to harmonize. One of Cardinal Sarah’s many tasks will be to address this tension.

  15. I wonder whether Cardinal Sarah has written any concern about the way women are treated in his native land. The rate of female genital mutilation is way high. I have seen a photo of him speaking with an African woman delegate to the Synod on the family. In our parish, woman bring the Eucharist to the home-bound, read the first two readings, lead choirs, distribute the Eucharist (including the Cup), and are most of the young altar servers. I hope there is no regression under Cardinal Sarah’s leadership.

  16. If Cdl. Sarah will be hands off with liturgy then it will continue as it has been for the past 10-20 years (at least in the US) – towards a restoration of the sacred and a sense of continuity with the preconciliar mass. The churches that are growing are traditional and young practicing Catholics tend to prefer the style of Guido, rather than Piero, Marini.

    The “spirit of Vatican II” will undo itself. Btw, I’m surprised to see someone use that phrase unironically.

    1. @Nicholas Benedict – comment #37:
      “The churches that are growing are traditional and young practicing Catholics tend to prefer the style of Guido, rather than Piero, Marini.”

      That’s as much a self-serving generalization as it’s predecessor “Young people prefer music of their own generation.” Check your wallet when encountering such broad generalizations, because some truth got stolen.

      The hermeneutic of continuity here is that Reform of the Reform folks get to replicate in mirror-image the rationalizations of them they seek to displace. Human beings being, well, human. My perennial question is: always be aware of how you are replicating or mirroring what you seek to fix, with the best of intentions as a given.

  17. Joe McMahon : I wonder whether Cardinal Sarah has written any concern about the way women are treated in his native land. The rate of female genital mutilation is way high. I have seen a photo of him speaking with an African woman delegate to the Synod on the family. In our parish, woman bring the Eucharist to the home-bound, read the first two readings, lead choirs, distribute the Eucharist (including the Cup), and are most of the young altar servers. I hope there is no regression under Cardinal Sarah’s leadership.

    I confess I’m rather puzzled by this conflation of female genital mutilation with restricting liturgical roles for women in the Catholic Church – not just because it seems strangely and vastly disproportionate, but because the former practice, if not formally condoned in Sharia Law, is very notably associated with Islamist communities rather than Catholic ones, and I presume the Cardinal is opposed to it. But perhaps I’m missing your point here, Joe.

    At any rate, I don’t think that any of us should expect that this appointment to have any notable impact on liturgical praxis: whatever Cdl. Sarah’s views (and they remain scanty at present), liturgical reform does not seem to be on this pontificate’s agenda, and the more progressive bent of new appointees at lower tiers at CDW seems likely to stymie any freelancing on His Eminence’s part even if he were so inclined.

  18. @Richard Malcolm #39
    “Conflation” is an appropriate judgment. The unknown is whether African church leaders value women as they ought. The cardinal complains about Western influences. Has the Guinean culture, mostly Islamist and animist, influenced Christian practice in treatment of women? Has the Cardinal addressed this issue?

  19. Hello Joe,

    Thanks for the reply.

    Has the Guinean culture, mostly Islamist and animist, influenced Christian practice in treatment of women?

    Is there reason to think it has? Or, more to the point (it seems to me), is there reason to think that it has influenced Cardinal Sarah’s beliefs and treatment of women?

    The larger question is whether there’s a unique connection between Guinean or West African attitudes toward women and one’s position on women’s role in the liturgy. There are obviously significant numbers of American Catholics who prefer more limited active roles in the sanctuary for women but whom no one imagines favor female genital mutiliation. Some folks here undoubtedly think such guilty of less spectacular forms chauvinism, but either way this is something hardly unique to African culture.

    Allow me merely to suggest that it is unfair to single out African cultures in this respect.

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