Yesterday Pray Tell reported on the appointment of 27 bishops from around the world by Pope Francis to the Congregation for Divine Worship. Pray Tell mostly stated the facts, suggesting the significance of the move but striving not to exaggerate its implications.

We need not have been so reserved. Other commentators have not been shy in naming the significance of the shift.

Rorate Caeli, which kindly cites Pray Tell in its report, writes:

Cardinal Robert Sarah remains the Prefect of the CDW. However, the new membership of his Congregation makes him virtually isolated; it is hard to see how he can still push forward his hopes for some measure of “Reform of the Reform” in the years left to his tenure (he is now 71) — not that we’ve entertained any hopes for the “ROTR” for a long time. …

Pope Francis, for all of his supposed “indifference” to the liturgy, retains the last say on matters liturgical and will not hesitate to use his authority to enforce a certain line. …This round of appointments is already being reported (and celebrated by liberals) as Cardinal Sarah being “reined in” by Pope Francis and it is hard not to agree with that assessment.

Catholic Culture headlined the appointments as a “complete overhaul” of the CDW, and their report calls it a “stunning move… completely transforming the membership of that body.”

The new appointments give a distinctly more liberal character – as well as a more international complexion – to the congregation. The changes seem likely to curtail the work of Cardinal Robert Sarah, the prefect of the Congregation, who has been a leading proponent of more reverent liturgy and of “the reform of the reform.”

The more conservative prelates who have been removed from the congregation include Cardinals Raymond Burke, Angelo Scola, George Pell, Marc Ouellet, Angelo Bagnasco, and Malcolm Ranjith.

At The Table, Christopher Lamb writes that “the move will be considered an attempt to rein in the Cardinal,” referring to the CDW prefect, Cardinal Sarah. Echoing Catholic Culture, Lamb sees the pope

choosing a series of pastoral moderates to replace more conservative-minded figures.

At LaCroix (subscription required but definitely worth it!), Robert Mickens writes in his weekly “Letter from Rome” that

Pope Francis has issued a crystal clear sign that he is not in favor of any so-called “reform of the reform” when it comes to the Church’s liturgy.

Of those who were removed yesterday – Scola, Pell, Burke, Erto, Oullet, Ranjith, Bagnasco – Mickens writes,

Almost all these men have been supportive of direction Cardinal Sarah is trying to steer the Church’s liturgy. All were key allies of Benedict XVI, who spearheaded the revival of the Old Mass and the reform of the reform.

Update: added Saturday, 10-29, 2:30 pm.

On the other hand, Ed Condon in The Catholic Herald strikes a note of caution: “A purge in the Vatican’s liturgy department? Not quite.” First, he notes that the assumption is that, with the appointment of such a large number of new people, all the previous members are departing. He considers this to be media speculation until it is confirmed.

While it is true that some of the new members have distinct and forceful thoughts on liturgy, few can contend that they are unqualified for membership. Similarly, while it may come out that some of the more seasoned traditionalists in the CDW have not had their membership renewed, it would be a gross overstatement to insist that there has been some kind of philosophical coup, or that there are not still several loud and authoritative voices to be heard on both sides of the liturgical discussion. Surely the whole point of a global and diverse membership is to have the best of all sides in the conversation.

Well yes, all sides and all that. But this feels like a bit of denial, if not damage control. If we’ve pretty much only had one side previously, then it certainly is a massive change if we now have a diversity of opinion, with so-called progressives (i.e. those who support the Vatican II liturgical reforms) most strongly represented.



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