Welcoming home Cardinal Ranjith

His Eminence Cardinal Ranjith was welcomed back to his homeland, Sri Lanka, in great style.



  1. As Barbara Bush said about Sarah Palin – “such a nice person and what a spokeperson for the “native” state/country. She/he should stay there!”

    1. Nice of you to share in the celebratory nature of this post! As my sainted mother used to say, if you can’t say something nice about someone don’t say anything at all.

      1. Uhmm, are you saying something nice about the other commenters with your comment? 🙂

  2. How à propos for one once charged with nurturing the liturgy of the Church. My galero is bigger than yours! Should we just give up now?

  3. It may be gawdy by some people’s standards, but shouldn’t it be looked at from the Sri Lankan culture and perspective?

  4. That parade float was very inexpensive. The red cloth covering it is Card Ranjith’s cappa magna. Full marks for creative use of Church resources.

    On a serious note: what is the case for ecclesiastical triumphalism? I have found this article by Gerald Warner, a blogger who has just one tone in his vocal register: the eristic. This should convey its flavour:

    The cappa magna, a ceremonial cloak for cardinals and bishops, was first regularised in 1464. In 1952 Pius XII, in a misguided fit of radicalism, shortened the cardinalitial cappa from six yards to three. That moment marked the beginning of the Church’s downward trajectory. In 1969 Paul VI, in an orgy of vandalism reminiscent of the burning of patents of nobility in the French National Assembly in 1789, abolished the winter ermine hood on the cappa, along with the cardinals’ galero hat, the red tabarro cape, buckled shoes and just about everything that compensated for the sacrifices Catholicism imposes on the faithful.

    Yes, well. Anyone care to argue the case for tiaras, cappas, fancy parade floats and other manifestations of triumphalism? Or to make the case that restoring this stuff will reverse the Church’s ‘downward trajectory’?

      1. The pre-Vatican II Ceremonial of Bishops specifies that when a Bishop enters his city for the first time to take possession he rides on a horse or a mule, if I remember correctly.

  5. Realizing how easy it is to get hung up on Sacrosanctum Concilium 116, and not go any further …

    “Ordinaries, by the encouragement and favor they show to art which is truly sacred, should strive after noble beauty rather than mere sumptuous display. This principle is to apply also in the matter of sacred vestments and ornaments.” (SC 124)

    From Christus Dominus:

    “(Bishops) should also be mindful of their obligation to give an example of holiness in charity, humility, and simplicity of life.” (15)

    “In exercising their office of father and pastor, bishops should stand in the midst of their people as those who serve.” (16)

    1. Todd, you’re obviously well-intentioned but a little out of touch with the latest in the “Reform of the Reform.”

      One of the Explanatory Notes to “Summorum Pontificum” explains it all, and it goes (from memory) something like this:

      “Into the closets and get it ALL back out: it’s 1962 again!”

      or words to that effect.

      At least, that’s what the New Evangelisation appears to be about!

      Catholics are a tiny minority in Sri Lanka: you watch now as millions of his fellow-countrymen flock to the Sri Lankan baptismal fonts, seeking membership of the oh-so elegant-yet-understated church of Cardinal Ranjith (famed in Rome for being able to weave his belief of the need for a return of the Prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel after every Mass into EVERY conversation – even once, I believe, in a chat in very broken Italian about the merits of a good Brunello with Roberto himself at Da Roberto in the Borgo Pio – overheard by none other than our own dear Professor Rindfliesch himself).

      1. The liberality of my local round-church parish – where several months ago we joined the national trend of saying (for the right to life) the Prayer to St. Michael after every Mass — must be demonstrated by the fact that we remain standing to say it. I assume that in conservative parishes they kneel to say it.

  6. It looks like a cross between the parade scenes in Ferris Buhler’s Day Off and Animal House. Maybe a Monty Python skit. Hey keeping with the season how about that scene in the Nutcracker where fifty people come out from under the Snow Queen’s dress. I think we’re getting warmer here.

  7. I’m sure that we would all have it be so that Bishops were just “ordinary old people like you and me”, but the fact remains that they’re not, nor is the Pope. There is also a (deliberate?) absence of context for this photo and story. Is this something that His Emminence set up and arranged for himself as a sumptuous display of power and glory? Or was it a celebration initiated by the faithful to welcome him home? Was it maybe a parade for some cultural or religious observation? It would be interesting to know what was really going on before applying the label of power hungry, glory seeking ego-maniac to Cardinal Ranjith. His writings would seem to indicate quite the opposite. Keep in mind also that there is a considerable difference between one promoting the greatness and majesty of the Catholic Church and indulging one’s self in pretending to be worthy of that greatness and majesty. Remember that one of the key features of the immense scope and size and exquisite decoration of Gothic and Rennaissance architecture was to make man seem small and insignificant. Perhaps some people are so cynical that they just can’t imagine that there are people who believe that the church is greater than they can ever be and who approach the celebration of that greatness with humility and self-abasement.

    To assume that this is nothing more than celebrating one’s self would seem to be a great deal of “projecting”.

    1. Settle down, Jeffrey. No one’s saying it was the cardinal’s idea, nor that he’s promoting himself, nor that he is not a humble man.

      It doesn’t matter whose idea it was – it still looks ridiculous.

      And I really don’t think any of the designers of the great gothic cathedrals would have got involved in the creation of the monstrosity in the photograph.

      1. Come on Rita take it easy on The Drakester he’s on his break from making a Christmas tiara for Pope Benedict and just dropped by to say bah humbug.

    1. If it was inculturation wouldn’t he be riding on an elephant or water buffalo? And yeah I can see when I look at the picture it’s not the Cardinal who’s being honored it’s a way of honoring the church. Wow.

      1. Perhaps you have to have spent time (as I have) in areas where both water buffaloes and such festive processions are common to see that this is is, indeed, an in-culture expression of a minority Christian community’s pride in itself and in an honor it sees as recognition of its legitimate status. Of course, these native customs often seem ridiculous to people who retain a certain colonialist mentality.

  8. In search of more positive language, here is an excerpt from another piece by Gerald Warner. Emphasis added…

    Triumphalism, so monotonously condemned by the Catholic agnostics, is the only logical response to the glory of the Resurrection. Tremble, all Modernists and you who presumptuously claim We Are Church – the spirit of Trent is abroad once more. Welcome to the Counter-Reformation.

    So the galeros, cappas and whatnot are about celebrating the glory of the Resurrection, rather than exalting the prelate who wears them. Does that work for anyone?

    Here is Rocco Palmo’s entry on the parade:

    Led by the overwhelmingly-Buddhist country’s prime minister, much of the island’s political, cultural and pan-religious establishment turned out to greet Ranjith as his flight touched down in the capital. As native dancers performed and monks of other faiths prayed, thousands thronged Colombo’s streets — many decorated to celebrate the occasion — as the new cardinal was paraded through on his way to a thanksgiving stop at the country’s patronal shrine of Our Lady of Lanka, where the new cardinal prayed at the tomb of the first Sri Lankan raised into the papal “Senate,” Thomas Benjamin Cooray.

    Though this looks more like national pride than Catholic triumphalism.

      1. What would you have had him, do, say “No, thanks” and walk? There is something to be said for graciousness to one’s hosts.

      2. A leader makes his philosophy and wishes known. He’s not a newcomer to Colombo by any means. But perhaps he was surprised at the airport. Who knows?

        Symbolic gestures can be quite powerful, including bishops who have sold their mansions and live with their clergy or among the poor. I’m willing to give Cardinal Ranjith the benefit of the doubt on this “cultural expression.” But what else does he have planned for his people?

    1. “So the galeros, cappas and whatnot are about celebrating the glory of the Resurrection, rather than exalting the prelate who wears them. Does that work for anyone?”

      It doesn’t work for me, no. Thanks just the same. 🙂

      Of course, we’re all liable to view things from within our own cultural perspective, so to me this float looks like something out of a Disney parade, and I’d really rather not see the church go there. I feel the sort of embarrassment that would afflict me if the Knights of Columbus got up an Archbishop Dolan balloon for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.

      On the other hand, here are some pictures of Sri Lankan street festivals.
      Colorful. Whoever said he should be riding on an elephant was right.

  9. I can’t figure out how ostentation of any sort can be compatible with the gospel. Whether this silly display is the Cardinal’s idea or the culture’s idea, it has no place in the lives of gospel people. For that matter, neither do “Princes of the church” or “Lord Cardinals.” We ought to be more haunted by Jesus’ warning to beware of those who wear exaggerated religious clothing in order to be noticed.

    1. I can’t figure out how one can so assuredly impute ostentation in the sense of exultation of self to the good cardinal; this event is not something he would have wished for himself. I’m sure he consented to it in the spirit of celebrating the Sri Lankan Church and the honour it has received by extension of his red hat.

      Can you direct me to the Lord’s denunciation of clothing, per se? Plenty of reformers have in self purported fits of corporate humility sought to remove cultic vestments but have not been so humble as to have passed on doctrine as they received it.

      I’ve often thought that good vestments attempt to represent in the feeblest of ways the dazzling light of the Transfiguration, and there is nothing to prevent the minister from wearing a hairshirt underneath if he feels himself to be failing to distinguish his own personal pride from the legitimate symbols and sanctified traditions of the Church that have been approbated by countless saints. Francis, to name but one.

      1. +JMJ+

        Fr. Jan is referring to Matthew 23:5, “They do all their deeds to be seen by men; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long…” But I don’t think Jesus is condemning the wearing of religious clothing… just the wearing of religious clothing for the disordered joy of the attention it gets you.

        See, the tricky thing about Jesus’ statements about doing things that are seen by others is that first He says, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven,” and then He says, “Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them.” There’s a subtle (but important) difference between the two. I think vestments that evoke the Transfiguration (or some other mystery of our faith) without making it look like the priest believes himself to be the Transfiguration are good and good for us!

  10. Fr. Jan is referring to Matthew 23:5, “They do all their deeds to be seen by men; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long…”

    Many thanks for that, Mr Pinyan. I wholeheartedly agree with the distinction that your draw out, and I would further observe that the plainer the vestment the more noticeable are the particularities of a face and, by extension, an individual personality.

  11. I have no problem with liturgical vesture. Special vesture is an important ritual component. I’m talking about what is on display between liturgies. For example, in my book, the Cappa Magna is the broadened phylactery of today. I don’t buy the argument that Cardinals and other hierarchy have no control over what they wear or what kind of float they will ride in. They don’t need to wear what Jesus or Francis wore, but they do need to wear the gospel, with its simplicity and its sense of the poor among us. I recall that Jesus also had words for those who like to walk around in long robes, who like to be greeted in public, and who get the best seats. “They will receive the greater condemnation.” Centuries later, we’re still going through all kinds of contortions to explain how Jesus really didn’t mean this to apply to Catholic clergy.

    1. “they do need to wear the gospel, with its simplicity and its sense of the poor among us”

      This is the take-home quote for the day. Thank you, Jan!

      1. We can only imagine how the funds spent on this joyful public celebration could have been spent on desperately-needed binders, copying machines, and filing cabinets for grim-faced liturgists, and the consequent loss to the spiritual lives of the faithful of Sri Lanka. One is deeply saddened.

      2. “grim-faced liturgists”

        Evidently, you don’t know many liturgists, do you?

        Plus, you’ve missed the point entirely. Simplicity. The poor among us. The gospel is about these things.

      3. Simplicity. The poor among us. The gospel is about these things.

        Indeed. In the context of rejoicing.

    2. Jan>>I have no problem with liturgical vesture. Special vesture is an important ritual component. I’m talking about what is on display between liturgies. For example, in my book, the Cappa Magna is the broadened phylactery of today. I don’t buy the argument that Cardinals and other hierarchy have no control over what they wear or what kind of float they will ride in.<<

      Jan, in an earlier thread I mentioned imo the biggest two weapons used against traditionalists are: bullying and ridicule. This thread is a good example of the latter. There's little desire for discussion!

      Ah yes, your quote…you, and not just you, are beginning to sound like puritans. What do you want? Some rule banning liturgical vestments outside of Church? No parades? No fun?

  12. Couln’t pass this up from 3 years ago circa his time over the CDW and quoted from Fr. Z:


    Highlights: “especially appreciated 1.h, though (the one about liturgical blessings). I like that he made sure to say that even if you are (as a laymen) only praying over someone, adopting gestures that look like you’re blessing them is cause for confusion or misinterpretation. I have brought this issue up more than once in my parish because the EMHCs insist upon either holding their hand over someone or tracing a cross on their forehead if the person does not receive.”

    “cacophonic exuberance.
    1h …. illusion, confusion or misinterpretation.

    His Grace clearly knows exactly what has been going on in his Archdiocese and is taking steps to improve it. This is just the start, as he notes that in the near future he will be publishing a booklet that will spell out many more things.”

    From Ranjith’s letter: “Inordinate and loud music, clapping, long interventions and gestures which disturb the sobriety of the celebration are not permitted. It is very important that we understand the religious cultural sensitivity of the Sri Lankan people. Majority around us are Buddhists whose culture of worship is thoroughly sober; and Muslims and Hindus too do not create any commotion in their worship. In addition, we know that there is a strong opposition to Fundamentalist Christian sects in this country, and we as Catholics, have been striving to explain that Catholics are different from these sects. However, some of the so-called praise and worship exercises seem to resemble more of the Fundamentalist religious exercises than those of the Roman Catholics. Let us respect our cultural diversity and sensitivity.”

    1. Hey Bill get with the program will you? This Cardinal was once the #2 man at the Congregation for Divine Worship. He’s following his own diocesan norms the way CDW follows their own translation norms. I believe the approach is called “faithfully but not slavishly.” ha ha ha ha

  13. Local guy goes to Rome and gets high position, then comes home and the people (Catholic and otherwise) want to celebrate one of their own.
    What’s the fuss with us?
    The car/ float is not to my taste, but I’m not going to say it’s against the gospel or anything.
    Is this just another excuse to vent frustration at the direction of our Church? If this had been a Russian Orthodox churchman, would the same negativity apply?

      1. Perhaps, but so what? Joy looks ridiculous sometimes. Life looks ridiculous sometimes.

        Perhaps he’s more concerned about the Gospel rather than keeping up pseudo-humble appearances and squashing the people’s legitimate joy in a culture that seems to like colorful displays.

      2. Now Jack, why do you say this and at the same time deplore clown masses? (As I am sure you do.) Is it because one is in church and the other out of doors?

        The reason I ask is that the same reasons are adduced for clown masses — “what, are we against joy?” “Celebration isn’t afraid to be ridiculous.” Etc. Just like you said.

        So, if a priest dressed as a clown on a float, it would be OK? I just want to get this clear. Or, if a priest dressed like a priest rides in a float that makes him look like a circus act, that’s OK?

        I thought guys with conservative liturgical sensibilities were all rather straight laced and sober when it came to the deportment of clergy. Am I wrong? I freely admit that my jansenist tendencies are indeed aroused by seeing cardinal’s hats on festival floats. I’m willing to own it. But I also disapprove strongly of funny hats in the pulpit as homily illustrations, and driving motorcycles down the aisle on Palm Sunday to amuse the youth. I see these things all as a piece — with value placed on sobriety, sense, and dignity. Or not, as the case may be.

      3. But Rita, this is not a religious celebration. It’s not a liturgy. Doesn’t that makes a world of difference? In fact this has hardly anything to do with religion, it seems to me.

      4. Does deportment outside of liturgy have nothing to do with liturgy, Claire? We were always taught that it did. Besides, the ordained are public persons, who represent the church. Their religious role and garb witness to their status and call for a certain circumspection when on public display.

      5. “Am I wrong?”

        Well, Rita, it’s a matter of context. As Ecclesia de Eucharistia 11 says, the Eucharist “is the sacrifice of the Cross perpetuated down the ages.” Of course, everyone would deplore clowns cavorting around the foot of the Cross, and likewise at the Mass that perpetuates the same sacrifice.

        But there’s nothing wrong with a priest looking or acting like a clown in non-liturgical situations. And, indeed, there are probably liturgical occasions on which joy and exuberance are entirely appropriate. There’s nothing traditional vs. liberal about these obvious distinctions, like between the cleric and the situation.

        Let me add that – as a frequent observer of both sides of the fence – that the side on which this blog lies seems singularly lacking in joy and humor. Is everyone who naturally belongs here really so serious and sober? Why not lighten up? Have some good clean fun. Laugh at the ridiculous; why get uptight about it? Enjoy the glory and triumph of our faith. No one will be offended. Will they? (The visiting trads surely won’t.)

      6. Their religious role and garb witness to their status and call for a certain circumspection when on public display.

        Oh, for Pete’s sake. Does this purse-lipped puritanism pertain to all of the baptized? Even the laity have a duty to live the Gospel in public, after all. We too “represent the Church.” Does this mean we too are called to this joyless, impoverished “circumspection”? Was Our Lord to be blamed for allowing an extravagant fuss to be made over him by the sinful woman, and again on his entry into Jerusalem?

        Does deportment outside of liturgy have nothing to do with liturgy,

        It has plenty to do with sacramental character. But liturgy? Not unless you want to evacuate all meaning from that word. If everything is somehow liturgical, then nothing is.

        If you simply disapprove of Cardinal Ranjith, then say so plainly and be done with it.

      7. Robert, “does this apply to the baptized”? You betcha. And you don’t need to sling mud at the puritans to find it. Just read Jerome.

        Weren’t you ever taught by nuns?

        Thanks CH, for your thoughts. I just wanted to get on record some views about priests as clowns since this seems to be such a favorite whipping boy. But I have to disagree with you about joy and humor. I find much on this blog intensely funny — and some of it is intended to be so!

      8. +JMJ+

        Does deportment outside of liturgy have nothing to do with liturgy, Claire?

        If the liturgy doesn’t provide an occasion for laughter, does that mean priests should not laugh outside the liturgy either?

        A priest dressed up as a clown outside of a liturgy is very different (to me, at least) from a priest dressed up as a clown inside a liturgy. And that example is miles away from a priest doing something illicit or immoral outside of a liturgy.

        Their religious role and garb witness to their status…

        If that’s true, why don’t more “public” priests (like Fr. McBrien) wear their religious garb in public? (By that, I mean their clericals, not their liturgical vestments.)

        I’m not saying it’s not true, mind you, just asking why, if it is true, some priests choose not to manifest it.

      9. I deplore “Clown Masses,” but never refer to them since they almost never happen in my experience. I find getting hung up on clown Masses an unproductive pass time for traditionalists. Like others, I would say there’s a difference between being a clown inside Mass and being one outside.

        Catholicism is and has been a joyful religion – the many traditional parades, processions, and festivals that still take place attest to this. I seem to recall the New Liturgical Movement recently spotlighted a long-running German procession where people hop and dance to oompah music. While some people with traditional liturgical leanings have been sadly pushed towards being dour, not all are.

      10. I guess it doesn’t strike me as ridiculous. Funny, strange, foreign, yes, but it doesn’t give me any bad vibes. Unlike processions with humongous capes carried by a server, that call to mind the monarchs of old times; unlike those occasional pictures of tiaras, that suggest an excessive emphasis on authority and power, this photo seems harmless to me.

        Plus, the big hat is just a hat, not a cross or an altar or a bible. Even if it’s a little bit funny, that’s no big deal. But that’s just my gut reaction.

  14. A former pastor of ours became a bishop. The parish invited him back and gave him a nice dinner.
    Archbishop Ranjith became a Cardinal and his folks gave him a nice parade.
    Both groups were pretty happy about the occasion, and isn’t that what really matters?

    1. Yeah, sure, and your former pastor probably just looked like a new bishop eating dinner, whereas Cardinal Ranjith looks like God-knows-what!

      1. It is pretty funny to contemplate our former pastor up there on a float in a parade – as a straight talking farmer’s son from rural Ontario he’d do much better driving the thing.

  15. Funny: Everybody seems to remember everything that Jesus said, except for that “Judge not…” part. I met plenty of cardinals and bishops who wore the cappa magna in past years (Pell, O’Brien, Burke to name a few) and pretty much all of them actually do wear the Gospel. They do not only wear it on their tongues, though, but also in their hearts. Pretty much all of them are humble, too. Which makes sense, because when you are humble, you just subject yourself to the liturgy you celebrate and do not say something like: “I can’t wear beautiful vestments, because it might make me feel less proud about my humility”.

    Plus: What Ray said.

    1. “Judge not . . . ”

      I suspect referred to something other than commenting on how ridiculous a grown man looks on the back of a truck. I’m no exegete, but I suspect Jesus wasn’t defending ridiculous behaviour when he said that. But what would I know?!

      And if “Judge not . . . ” is such an important Gospel precept, maybe you should leave the comments box alone, and stop judging other commenters, Alipius!

      1. Fine. Show me where I did not merely make an observation (“Everybody seems to remember…”) and indeed judged (“… how ridiculous a grown man looks…”). You had your chance to prove me wrong and show me how I observed falsely, but instead you did a QED.

  16. Chris, I can only hope that comments like yours don’t reach Sri Lankans who celebrated this event. My guess is they’d be seen as elitist and hurtful.
    It’s not your thing, I get that. Just let the Sri Lankans have their day- why not?

    1. Oh, I DID let them have their day – and they had it, and someone took photos of it – and the Cardinal looked ridiculous.

  17. Rita> Am I wrong? I freely admit that my jansenist tendencies are indeed aroused by seeing cardinal’s hats on festival floats. <

    Dear Rita,

    Your comments on this thread make me want to ask:

    Do you have anything against public processions like they still have in European countries on Corpus Christi Day? You could also ridicule the Catholic penitents in Spain for walking around in dunce hats!

    I think you and many here are making much ado over nothing simply because Cardinal Ranjith is a friend to traditionalists.

    1. Dear George,

      I think Corpus Christ processions are a different sort of thing, bearing, as they do, the Body of Christ. Any I’ve seen have had a certain decorum. I’ve never seen one with a float, to tell the truth. Are there some? The penitentes in dunce hats have a long history, which doesn’t apply to giant cardinal’s hats as parade ornaments; I guess someone could ridicule them, but it wouldn’t be me. The spectacle in question seems to me rather more like carnival. Except that it’s not going to be Lent soon.

      But whatever the case, I have learned something valuable here, namely that traditionalists are fun people who like to have a good time outside of liturgy and don’t mind when priests dress up as clowns. They are also greatly in favor of inculturation, and would be just as delighted to see Fr. McBrien on a float as to see Cardinal Ranjith. All in all, it has been a stimulating discussion! 🙂 I’ve got to go do some work now.

      1. The Pope every year (in clement weather) on Corpus Christi/Domini (actually he does it on the Thursday, which is not celebrated as Corpus Christi/Domini in his diocese of Rome, where the procession mostly takes place, but it is in the Vatican, where he lives, but I digress) after Mass at his cathedral travels, with the consecrated Host in the monstrance, on a float up the via Merulana to Santa Maria Maggiore, on what has been variously called “a float” and “the back of a truck” – there to be greeted by Bernard Cardinal Law of most blessed memory and impart solemn benediction.

      2. Rita, you’ve got the germ of a great idea here, just need to put the parts together:

        The penitentes in dunce hats have a long history . . .

        They . . . would be just as delighted to see Fr. McBrien on a float . . .

        Go with it!

      3. CHE,

        I can assure you that many, many Bostonians would love to see a certain emeritus red hatter in a duncecap in the Evacuation Day* Parade; perhaps at the famed roast that passes for a breakfast preceding the parade.

        * Which doubles as the St Patrick’s Day Parade, of course. The British evacuated Boston on St Patrick’s Day 1776 after Gen. Washington and the colonials fortified Dorchester Heights with captured cannon from Fort Ticonderoga traipsed across snowy New England during the winter; also conveniently dated for Hibernian emigres to Boston in the 19th century. Bunker Hill Day three months later in the year also happens to fall on the feast day of St Botolph, the eponymous patron of old Boston in Lincolnshire.

  18. Jack Wayne :
    Perhaps, but so what? Joy looks ridiculous sometimes. Life looks ridiculous sometimes.
    Perhaps he’s more concerned about the Gospel rather than keeping up pseudo-humble appearances and squashing the people’s legitimate joy in a culture that seems to like colorful displays.

    Perhaps, and perhaps not, Jack. I’m not suggesting, unlike you, what his motives, or those of anyone else, might be or might not be. I’m just saying he looks ridiculous. And he does. And it gets worse:


    1. None of those photos look ridiculous – quite the opposite. There’s some Catholic kitsch of debatable taste, I suppose, in the form of the float and banners. Most of what went on looks rather charming unless you have a problem with people not dressing or acting like westerners.

      You think he looks ridiculous, fine, but not everyone does. You’re starting to be a broken record. Repeating an opinion over and over again won’t make others accept it too.

  19. Ranjith is said to be very arrogant by those who’ve had dealings with him in Sri Lanka. The pattern of pomp and arrogance seems to be rife among Cardinals these days. There is an inner emptiness.

      1. Good point especially since incultration is best experienced in the lavish displays of public and private piety and devotions. Keep in mind that piety and devotions are two things that many in the Church after Vatican II wanted to erase. I wonder if others are offended by the saying that even the “Devil quotes Scripture?” I suspect many don’t believe in the devil any longer.

      2. Not believing that anyone concerned about Summorum Pontificum is a collaborator with the devil hardly implies a belief that the devil doesn’t exist.

        In this case, the quaint local custom of a triumphal procession on a float sends a stong signal of ultramontanism on Ranjith’s part; it is that, rather than his friendship to traditionalists, that I find worrying.

      3. I think you should look up ultramontanism and its history and see that it is not entirely a negative thing, but rather very positive as it concerns the role of the papacy in the faith, morals, canon law and governance of the Church.

      4. Ummm, do you mean the benefits to the faith in terms of ecumenism with Eastern Orthodoxy? Or the ecclesiological imbalances which Vatican II had to struggle to overcome? Or the Church’s credibility among intellectuals (eg that over half of professors of history in Germany left the Church)? Do you mean the benefits to morals in terms of the centralized papacy condemning freedom of conscience, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, separation of church and state, democracy?

      5. Those are good questions, but all irrelevant to the point I was making. The pope today, in the post Vatican II Church has a primacy over the Church regardless of whom this might offend. My comment has everything to do with post Vatican II teaching, ecclesiology and canon law. So may I ask what your point was in bringing up all the other things from the past? Certainly I know for a fact you are not stuck in the past and neither are most Catholics who accept Vatican II and subsequent developments since that time. I suspect there will be future developments until the Lord returns. But neither you or I are clairvoyant. I presume neither of us would have anticipated Sumorum Pontificum in 2007, three long years ago. So I might ask what part of papal authority based upon Vatican II and current Church law and practice do you not agree?

    1. Fr. Alan, you missed it.

      Everything I wrote has to do with current challenges, current difficulties, current misunderstandings of Rome’s role in the church. Nothing of what I wrote was about the past for its own sake. The ultramontanism of the 19th century – of which you wrote positively – continues to harm us, in my view.


      1. Fr. Anthony, I hope you don’t impute to your students something they didn’t say or write. You say I was writing “positively” of 19th century Ultramontanism. I actually wrote not everything about it was negative which implies that some of it was negative. But I’m writing about it in today’s context, Vatican II, post Vatican II and subsequent documents asserting papal authority in the Church of today. As far as I can ascertain, those who hold to papal authority today as understood by Vatican II, subsequent documents and developments, are not 19th century retros. Those who hold it also understand there can be and will be future developments in the exercise of papal authority. But I was clearly speaking about the history of it and today’s expression of it which is not 19th century. It is post Vatican II. You didn’t answer the questions I raised, but did impute to me what I did not write. Very odd.

  20. Father> Or the Church’s credibility among intellectuals (eg that over half of professors of history in Gemany left the Church)? <<

    Father, as I understand, many German intellectuals don't believe in miracles a priori (I think one said it was impossible to believe in both miracles and power tools). That assumption would rule out most elements of the Credo. Isn't it more intellectually honest to leave and stop pretending if you don't believe?

    1. All true, but irrelevant to what I wrote. I’m talking about the 19th century, and the German historians who objected to Pius IX. I don’t think they had power tools then. They were all Catholics before they left– I’m not sure you should impute anything else to them without evidence.

      1. Father,

        Thanks for clarifying! I’m learning a new name: Doellinger (sic?) anyone else I need to study?

  21. Fr. MacD and Fr. Anthony – you might enjoy this recently posted article by Lash at America…..it comes at Fr. Anthony’s points above but then expands them.


    Highlight: “It is for ecclesiology,” said Robert Murray, S.J., an English Jesuit, “that [the term] magisterium till about the mid-nineteenth century referred to the activity of authorized teaching in the Church. The use with a capital ‘M’ to denote episcopal and especially papal authority was developed mainly in the anti-Modernist documents.”

    The 19th-century shift from the name of a function, that of teaching, to the name of a group of officers or “functionaries” was for two reasons most unfortunate. First, it was unfortunate because it created the impression that in the church only bishops bear responsibility for witnessing to the Gospel. (We should never forget that most bishops were first catechized by their mothers.) Second, it was unfortunate because bishops seldom do much teaching in the ordinary sense, being preoccupied with the cares of middle management. As a result, the contraction of the range of reference of magisterium to the episcopate alone served only to deepen the subordination of education to governance that I have deplored.”
    “I have referred to the contraction of the range of “official teachers” to the episcopate. In fact, during the 20th century the magisterium contracted even further. John Paul II’s encyclical “Veritatis Splendor” is addressed “to all the bishops of the Catholic Church.” Near the end of it, the pope says: “This is the first time, in fact, that the Magisterium of the Church has set forth in detail the fundamental elements of this teaching,” thereby contracting the range of reference still further—to himself.”

    Over-centralization; papacy becoming too focused on its own personalism?

      1. The problem, as B16 seems to be aware of at times, is that the greater the authority Rome claims for itself, the greater the rightful expectations of accountability to the faithful. The Scandal has highlighted this in a harsh way, in particular the issue of disciplining of malfeasant bishops.

        What might be called the Ut Unum Sint option (undoing some of the centralization of the 2nd Millennium) is likely going to be the way that Rome gets out of the accountability trap it has created for itself in the past 200 years. But that will be the work of several pontificates.

      2. What is odd and no one seems to object is that we have gotten more centralized since 2002 in terms of the abuse issue. Prior to that it really was up to each bishop to determine how he would handle these cases. I think canon law was somewhat clear about it, but few bishops in their local diocese followed canon law, rather they followed the advice of psychologists. A more centralized approach would be for the pope to have very strict, universal laws for bishops to follow and then directly intervene with papal nuncios or metropolitans into the affairs of a local diocese to make sure that these are followed. Obviously subsidiarity still plays an important role in that the local church must follow the universal mandates that only the pope can promulgate. So do we look to Rome, meaning the pope to solve all our local problems? Maybe not, but many in the world at large, even non Catholics, expect it when it comes to sex abuse crisis and remedies for it.

      3. I think there’s plenty to object to in the Vatican’s centralization in this area, and I think the results could be fairly bad because of it. These are the people who said gays can’t go to seminary – the hypocrisy of the people stating this is unbelievable! – and they have thereby tried to perpetuate the old system where gays stay closeted in order to survive. What does that do to their personal maturation, their relational abilities, their sense of boundaries? The Vatican had a conference to which it invited five experts, all non-Catholic, on sexuality. The five were unanimous that a ban on gays is not helpful for healthy, chaste, mature sexuality. And then Pope Benedict did the exact opposite of what they advised. There’s plenty to object to! As Karl Liam Saur well put it, if the Vatican wants to centralize in this area, then it should expect that it will be held to higher accountability.
        It’s not true that bishops followed advice of psychologists. In one case, Cardinal Law sent a priest for eval to St. Luke’s and they said he was unfit for ministry. So Cardinal Law shopped around to find another psychologist who would give him the result he wanted. The priest went on to abuse. (Later he was tragically murdered in prison.) Oftentimes bishops ginored the cautions of psychologists. Oftentimes they didn’t give psychologists all the facts they knew about a priest which would have helped the priest be treated. The psychologists and treatment centers can’t defend themselves because every case is confidential. Let’s stop blaming them for the malfeasance of bishops.

      4. Fr. Anthony, I see your complaints but few suggestions for a decentralized approach to the sex abuse crisis. Bishops found psychologists who would help them keep a priest a priest. In other words they didn’t want to lose any priests and yes I decry the blaming of psychologists rightly or wrongly on this scandal, it stays at the feet of the bishop who made bad decisions and hid away these cases from the laity. These bishops chose psychologists over canon law! That’s the issue.

        So, do we need strict canon law for these cases in a more centralized way or not? Should the local bishop laicize priests without recourse to Rome? Should local church tribunals make the decision and formulate their own plan of prevention independent of other bishops of the world?

        Just what does due-process include locally and internationally for accused priests and then those found guilty independent of civil law? Who mandates this?

      5. As to bishops following the advice of psychologists, there is truth in this claim, but probably only in the sense that we follow the advice of authorities when they tell us what we want to hear anyway. So in the 70s many psychologists said that pedophilia was “curable.” Bishops listened to this because they wanted to hear this, since it meant they could quietly send priests off, get them “fixed,” and reassign them. But when particular psychologist said particular priest were not “cured” after treatment. . . well, bishops didn’t want to hear that, so they ignored those psychologists.

        It’s just human nature in one of its uglier manifestations.

      6. Fr Allan

        The plea for centralization is to take the logic of the past 200 years of centralization to its logical next step, since Rome so far has been afraid of other approaches to holding bishops accountable for their malfeasance except when Rome has seen fit to (the current titular bishop of Partenia not having been sacked fro shielding abusers, btw…showing that when Rome wants to act, it does, and thus leaving a huge shadow over other sees where it has failed to act – this is the necessary consequence of centralization, as accountability is necessarily aligned with authority).

        Me? I want synodal government, where bishops can be disciplined. Processes for laity to instigate complaints and intitiate the coadjutor process. Then again, I also want to reform how bishops and pastors are chosen. (All of which, happily, does not require changes in doctrine or dogma.)

        Since I know that is ways off, for now, let’s take centralization to its logical conclusion to see the wonders it can bring us.

        I fully realize that synodal government and other reforms alluded to are not panacaeas; far from it. But they are, in the long run, more likely better aligned with a more fruitful ecclesiology.

        What is not credible is for Rome to assert authority where it wants to and then deny accountability when it doesn’t want to. That’s where we are today. It will not stand for long, and Rome will incur compounded interest on the debt, as it were, in the form of decreased effective pastoral authority.

  22. What positive aspects of today’s ultramontanism? Let’s see – can you list them? SSPX, Maciel/Legionnaires, Opus Dei, EWTN, Wanderer, Fr Z, can go on and on?

    Allen writes a nice opinion piece and again his positive bias towards this papacy is noted. Not sure most of his points are even true; much less balanced. He basically lists three agenda items and compares B16 to extremists – what does that prove?

    The sexual abuse case in Germany and the recently exposed 1988 letter – sorry, this blows things all out of proportion. The man has been in the corridors of power since 1980 – what has really changed that was not pushed by those outside the bishops/curia? The Hullerman case reveals that Ratzinger behaved just like most other bishops in the world in the early 1980’s. Given what he was exposed to from 1983 on, his letter says some things but does what? He continues to passively move along; trying to work the system; etc. Juxtapose that abuse process (or lack of) to his quick action on what he considered to be “dissenters” – Curran, Hunthausen, Dignity, central/south american liberation theologians, his moves against Romero, etc.

    Would suggest that over 1/3 of all catholics have left the active church – that is impotence. What is he doing about that? Would also suggest that your comparison to Rowan is limp – Rowan is facing an immediate and dramatic split over the role of women as bishops…..where is B16 facing the same type of confrontation – e.g. active catholics who have left (he is doing what beyond preaching about the culture of relativism); catholics who continue to struggle with the current church’s stance on many moral issues (again, what is he doing beyond talking about the “culture of death?)

    In terms of Rowan’s issue – Do you really think that the catholic church will avoid this same issue forever?

    1. Bill, I’ll make just two comments and let others judge your post. In terms of EWTN, in the south where we Catholics are a small minority, EWTN has brought a tremendous number of people to our RCIA process. They would not have gotten interested in the Catholic Church or the Mass without it. So your harsh evaluation seems a bit misguided.

      Secondly, if those who want to “deconstruct” the Catholic Church according to the model of the Orthodox and perhaps the Anglicans win the day, then what has happened to them in terms of impotency or just outright apathy concerning their leadership will indeed happen to the Catholic Church.

  23. The only way Benedict and his bishops have to disguise their impotency is to keep up a quixotic campaign to affect civil legislation, at the UN and in countries such as Spain, Italy, the Philippines, the USA, Britain, Argentina, Mexico. This is really a kind of bullying, and it makes the Church a trouble-making presence in the political and diplomatic arenas.

  24. “These bishops chose psychologists over canon law! That’s the issue.”

    As Fritz capably said, no it’s not. These are bishops who know what they want to hear, then go out and find sycophants to tell it back to them.

    I would hope, but I doubt, Pope Benedict is any different. Zenit’s headline putting him at the “heart of reform” is laughable. When you are at the heart of reform in a bureaucracy, you’re on the outside looking in. Never did I get a sense that the CDF was on the outside looking in.

    Cardinal Ratzinger’s mo as CDF head was to target people to punish, then come up with the justification later. Given this track record, why should Catholic gays and women religious think anything’s changed?

    As for the Sri Lankan cardinal, people thronged to see Jesus, too, and put him at the center of a parade. The pomp of Palm Sunday sure lasted along time, didn’t it? How many bishops would be content to emulate the Master of Mark 1:35 when pursued?

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