Moroney ‘wanders’

Since 1867, The Wanderer has been published in St. Paul, MN, just down the road from the abbey, by the Matt family. It is perhaps the leading paper for conservative and ultraconservative US Catholics. Der Wanderer was a weekly staple for some of my ancestors. This was back when it was a general newsweekly helping to preserve the German identity of its readership. The German edition ended in 1957, and an English edition had begun already in 1931. The Wanderer’s mission changed with the Second Vatican Council. One Matt brother rejected the Council, left The Wanderer, and founded The Remnannt. Another Matt brother transformed the paper into a voice for extremely conservative Catholic views. (See the critique of the paper from a neoconservative perspective in George Weigel’s Catholicism and the Renewal of American Democracy.) Interesting anecdote: the paper almost went under during the Great Depression. They were bailed out by … Saint John’s Abbey. To this day the paper avoids attacking Saint John’s, and even wrote a very positive article once on The Saint John’s Bible (which uses the Catholic NRSV translation). Since there is almost no one else in ‘Amchurch’ The Wanderer avoid attacking, we monks are most grateful for their long memory.

This week’s issue of The Wanderer has an interview with Msgr. James Moroney, former head of the US national liturgy office, now consultor to the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship, Executive Secretary of Vox Clara, and reputed string-puller for the 10,000+ changes to the upcoming missal. I know Jim well from my days on the drafting committee for the USCCB document Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship. He is delightfully optimistic, highly skilled in the complexities of church politics, and unfailingly charitable to everyone. I wonder how many people have heard from Jim that they’re the most importance person around for liturgical renewal?! Like many churchmen, he does seem to be tacking rightward as he moves upward. This week he “wanders” – i.e., he allows himself to be interviewed by the hard right Wanderer. It is striking how polemical the questions from Paul Likoudis are, and how well Jim lowers the temperature with his irenic responses. The full interview is here (subscription required, but you can sign up for three free weeks), excerpts below.   – awr

*          *          *

Q. …  How is the renew­al going in the English- speaking world, and, from your perspective, in the United States?
A. The great good news for the postconciliar reform is the advent of a “ new and improved” transla­tion of the most important of all the liturgical books, the Missale Romanum. By authentically trans­lating the venerable liturgical texts of the Roman Rite the new Roman Missal will significantly deepen the catechetical, doctrinal, and worship life of the Church. …
As I recently said in another context “…how blest we are to be witnesses to a second springtime of the vision of the council fathers lived out in our own day, as we prepare to proclaim, in some instances for the first time, the ancient collects which define who we are called to be, as we seek to move from ideology to worship, and from novelty to mystery, as we seek to desire not so much to change the liturgy, as to be utterly transformed by it.”

Q. You travel a lot. How would you assess the state of Catholic worship in the U.S.?
A. Perhaps a … [story] would help to put flesh on my optimism. I was recently in Cincinnati. …[There is] extraordinary openness and enthusiasm for the new translations articulated by practically all of the Cincinnati clergy. This year alone I have spoken to more than a half-dozen presbyterates, and the response is always the same: good priests trying earnestly to understand what the Church is proposing in her liturgy and trying with all their might to celebrate it authentically and with their whole heart and mind.

Q. From your perspective, do you see the Internet as a driving force for a return to a more authentic liturgy in accord with tradition?
A. …There are some dangers inherent in this age of instant communication. Misinformation can be spread just as quickly as authentic information. The copyrights of proprietary materials can be violated, and persons of all persuasions who are obsessed with particular ideologies can generate a lot more heat than light. We would be wise to follow the counsel of one popular blogger who recommends that his readers pray before surfing the Internet that God might direct our hands and eyes only to what is pleasing to Him.

Q. Most Wanderer readers have a memory of living through a liturgical revolution. How long do you think it will be before a new liturgical movement circa 1940 is in full swing?
A. I would suggest that a new liturgical movement circa 1940 has been in full swing since 1940! But revolution is hardly the word to describe the aggiornamento to which Pope John XXIII called the Church. … Sadly, abuses of the liturgy and other self- indulgent nonsense have always been with us, even before the Second Vatican Council. Recall Pope Paul VI’s lament that “ anyone who takes advantage of the reform to indulge in arbitrary experiments is wasting energy and offending the ecclesial sense” ( August 22, 1973).

Q. As a seminary instructor, what is your view of the upcoming crop of priests? Are they more in tune with the Benedictine reforms than the older priests?
A. I would describe the seminarians whom I have been privileged to teach as characterized by two qualities: They are men of deep faith and men of deep intellectual curiosity. Their desire is not just to understand what they are supposed to do at Mass, but why they do it. The Celebration of the Liturgy is, for them, inextricably bound up with their spirituality.

Q. Finally, what advice can you offer lay Catholics who want a more traditional liturgy but cannot get past the parish liturgical gatekeepers or the pastor’s inertia?
A. First: “If I have not love, I am nothing.” The first obligation of anyone who has been baptized into the dying and rising of Jesus is to love. That means to love those who are the hardest to love (or even to understand), to forgive those whom we perceive as having wronged us, and to act with patience, kindness, and humility in everything we do, including the promotion of the Sacred Liturgy.  …


  1. Have always found it interesting that the USCCB or Rome does not address the heretical positions espoused by the Wanderer (in many ways, it is just a diffferent persuasion from the Old Catholics from Vatican I), EWTN, etc.

    Would suggest that these types of “museum” pieces get a pass from bishops, Rome, etc. Can only remember one significant confrontation with EWTN and Cardinal Mahoney on his Eucharist paper.

  2. That’s some interesting history. I’m really grateful to The Wanderer mainly because it is the only Catholic paper in the country that is willing to run 2,000 words per week on the topic of sacred music. I find this incredible, and yet they have carried my single-minded writings on the issue of liturgical music for more than two years, week after week! This illustrates a very progressive spirit! As for being “ultraconservative” – I don’t really see it. The paper’s politics are all over the map, and clearly there is no party line there; after all they have given this liberal a great deal of column inches and never once censored my writings. All hail The Wanderer!

    1. Ah, the hazards of taxonomies.

      The conservative Ronald Regan was liberal… he supported liberal, free market ideology.

      Libertarians, who are usually more at home in the Republican Party, generally consider themselves liberal in the sense of not wanting government to restrict freedom (as they understand it).

      How confusing…


  3. “The paper’s politics are all over the map …”

    If that were true, they’d give me a weekly counterpoint for you, Jeffrey.

    I will admit they ran a letter of mine once that contradicted their liturgical worldview. But they also allowed the original writer a reply that passed my word limit.

  4. Well, to introduce even more complexity, The Wanderer frequently runs long attacks on free market theory, claiming that it is an idol that contradicts Catholic social teaching. I don’t agree but I tolerate the difference of opinion on these matters. To introduce even more complexity, the paper has run some of the most fantastic anti-war writings I’ve ever seen, and between cutting taxes and ending war, I would say that the latter is more important in the scheme of things. Of course noting is as important as Gregorian chant 🙂

  5. It was nice to see Msgr. Moroney refer to Fr. Z’s “Prayer Before Logging Onto the Internet “:

    “We would be wise to fol­low the counsel of one popular blogger who recommends that his readers pray before surfing the In­ternet that God might direct our hands and eyes only to what is pleasing to Him.”

  6. Have always found it interesting that the USCCB or Rome does not address the heretical positions espoused by the Wanderer (in many ways, it is just a diffferent persuasion from the Old Catholics from Vatican I), EWTN, etc.

    It’s irresponsible to accuse someone of heresy without producing examples.

  7. Have always found it interesting that the USCCB or Rome does not address the heretical positions espoused by the Wanderer (in many ways, it is just a diffferent persuasion from the Old Catholics from Vatican I), EWTN, etc.

    I too have found it interesting, and unfortunate, that the USCCB or Rome doesn’t address the great variety of heretical positions espoused by Catholic media. I would be most supportive of such action…

  8. I don’t read the Wanderer, but attaching heresy to the paper as well as To EWTN without examples strikes me as a fruitless approach.
    Someone want to educate a simple member here? Specifics would be helpful.
    I do know my pastor reads at least Jeffrey Tucker’s column most of the time. When I saw an article about social justice and paying musicians fairly in my personnel folder, I too was glad that the editors of the W give Tucker the freedom to wander on sacred music. 🙂

  9. In the early years of JP2’s pontificate, the Wanderer would publish the text of his Wednesday general audiences. These were fascinating reflections on the nature of our humanity as reflected through the Adam and Eve story. Others have since republished these audiences as the foundation for understanding “The Theology of the Body”, but the Wanderer was the easiest way for me to get them.

    One week I picked up the paper and read the Pope’s words “From the point of view of biblical criticism, it is necessary to mention immediately that the first account of man’s creation is chronologically later than the second, whose origin is much more remote. This more ancient text is defined as “Yahwist” because the term “Yahweh” is used to name God…” (19 Sept 1979)

    Next to this was an article denouncing modern biblical criticism, pointing out that the Vatican had condemned the notion that someone other than Moses had written the Pentateuch, and that no good Catholic would ever consider the 4-source theory to explain Genesis. If they did, they were a heretic.

    I am not saying that was an example of the Wanderer espousing an heretical position, but it does show an heretical attitude. They had the truth and nothing anyone could say could possibly dissuade them; even the Pope obviously embracing what they condemn could not shake them. I doubt the juxtaposition was intentional, but even as an accident, the dissonance was too great.

    I have rarely touched an issue since.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.