This will interest Pray Tell readers. Msgr. Andrew Wadsworth is probably best known in liturgical circles today as the head of the International Commission on the Liturgy (ICEL), the translation agency that worked with the world’s English-speaking bishops to produce the forthcoming English missal. (Although that translation got pretty hacked up by the Holy See before final approval… but that’s another story.) As someone so intimately involved with the post-Vatican II Missal of Paul VI in his ICEL position, Msgr. Wadsworth is obviously a supporter of the reformed rite. Among his labors for the reformed rite are many speeches concerned with its worthy celebration.
But there is a diversity to Wadsworth’s liturgical interests, including a lively interest in the pre-Vatican II rite of Mass celebrated in Latin according to the 1962 missal. As The Tablet reported it is January 31, 2009 issue, “His keenness for the old rite was evident when he acted as deacon at the Tridentine Rite celebrated by Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos, president of the ‘Ecclesia Dei’ Commission, at Westminster Cathedral” the previous year. The Tablet added, “His supporters say that it would be wrong to see him through a single lens when he has a great love of liturgy in all the rites of the Church.”
It seems that Wadsworth’s great love of liturgy in the old rite extends surprisingly far. He recently wrote a rather glowing review of a book by a sedevacantist – that is, someone who believes that the bishop’s “seat” in Rome is “vacant” – sede, sedentary, sitting around, seat, see, I think you get the connection – because there is no valid pope in the See of Rome since Vatican II. The author of that book sees a “threat to Catholic doctrine inherent in the Mass of Paul VI.”
The book in question is Work of Human Hands: A Theological Critique of the Mass of Paul VI by Rev. Anthony Cekada. Rev. Cekada is, as Wadsworth puts it, a “well-known sedevacantist apologist.” (And here I admit: he wasn’t known to me until now.) Cekada says that he is clear about “rejecting the new liturgy in favor of the old liturgy on the basis of a clear theological rationale.” That is to say, Cekada does not believe that the new liturgy is theologically defensible.
To be sure, Wadsworth’s review of the book is nuanced, and he states his disagreement with some of the author’s opinions. But it is striking how much he seems to agree with, as for example when he writes this: “Cekada’s identification of a paradigm shift in Why Change the Offertory? goes a long way in explaining a diminishing of an understanding of the priesthood and the sacrifice offered in the Mass, as does his inference of a deliberate wish to subvert on the part of some.” According to Wadsworth, the sedevacantist’s book is “full of ..credible analysis” and “an important contribution to the current debate.” He writes, “I encourage others to read it.”
For a fuller account of Msgr. Wadsorth’s review of Work of Human Hands: A Theological Critique of the Mass of Paul VI, see Cekada’s kindly response to Wadsworth. For the full review itself, you’ll need to get your hands on the most recent issue of Usus Antiquior, or else shell out $39 here to buy the review.