Francis on “triumphalism,” liturgical and otherwise

In his usual conversational and somewhat imprecise manner of speaking, Pope Francis spoke about “triumphalism” at Mass this morning in St. Martha’s guesthouse.

Finally, said Pope Francis, there is the group of Christians who ” in their hearts do not believe in the Risen Lord and want to make theirs a more majestic resurrection than that of the real one. These, he said, are the “triumphalist” Christians.

“They do not know the meaning of the word ‘ triumph ‘ the Pope continued, so they just say “triumphalism,” because they have such an inferiority complex and want to do this …

“When we look at these Christians, with their many triumphalist attitudes, in their lives, in their speeches and in their pastoral theology, liturgy, so many things, it is because they do not believe deep down in the Risen One. … “

It seems this could refer to pompous and pretentious celebrations of the liturgy favored by some “traditionalists” and “conservatives,” including some recent celebrations of the pre-Vatican II “extraordinary form,” doesn’t it? What do you think?



  1. I’m not exactly sure how to phrase this, but I think that to some degree the amount of study and work put into the liturgy immediately prior to and following the Council led to a liturgiolatry that has some characteristics in common with the triumphalism that F1 mentions. There were/are folks who, in my experience, believe in the ritual more than they believe in the Resurrection.
    (I’m amazed at the number of liturgical scholars I’ve encountered at the North American Academy who no longer attend church on Sundays – and not just Roman Catholics!)

  2. Really?

    Triumphalism could certainly apply to some liturgically traditional conservatives I’ve met – but not nearly all. I think it could equally apply to some liturgically progressive liberals – but not nearly all.

    Honestly, must we try to use the Pope’s words to polarize the Church’s liturgy any more than it already has become?

    Based solely on whether someone is a liturgical traditionalist or progressive, WHO AM I TO JUDGE their belief in the resurrection? The Pope’s comment above puts liturgy among a long list of other criteria.

  3. Triumphalism can occur when one focuses merely on the resurrection without the cross. It is not either/or but both. Of course the Mass is meant to focus on the entire paschal mystery, but the ways we celebrate the Mass today, one wonders how well we symbolize the suffering aspect of Christ and appropriate the sufferings of Christ into our Catholic spirituality especially at Mass–doing so is far from triumphalism. It is easy to be happy/clappy and this is what so many want, a psychologized Catholicism that is therapeutic rather than challenging and a Mass that is only a fellowship meal and not the sober sacrifice it is meant to be.

  4. Very confusing. I don’t think he is talking about groups of lay people like Traditionalists or Progressives. But rather he is talking about clergy because he states their “pastoral theology, liturgy…”

    What is interesting is that there was an interview with the head retired “exorcist” about 2 yrs ago. He stated that there were cardinals (curial?) who were atheists and didn’t believe anymore but occupied powerful positions in the Vatican. One can speculate that Pope Francis is referring specifically to those he knows who have lost their faith but somehow prefer Traditionalism with the trappings and the triumphalism of pre Vatican II ? Also makes a great “cover”.

    Why doesn’t someone just ask him?

  5. I think he’s referring to Christians outside the Catholic Church. I believe he is speaking of a group primarily found among fundamentalist evangelicals and pentecostals. They have a theology of once saved, always saved and a focus (spoken frequently) on the triumphant Christ.
    When they speak of the battle between believers and the rest of the world, they speak in militaristic terms. In the USA they see the flag as much a symbol of their faith as they do the cross. Their hope is only in the second coming of Christ where those who remain faithful will triumph over the antichrist and his minions. I hear this all the time from pastors of large, very hip, public relations firm driven churches who draw heavily from ex-catholics who leave for any number of reasons. They are in a church where they now have power over all the things the Catholic church told them to suffer through with faith. One of the biggest draws is the belief that they now have power over their finances. They don’t have to be poor. Poverty is not God’s will. Prosperity (wealth, comfort, constant happiness) is what the Lord has in mind for you.
    These kinds of pastors and churches in South and Central America are
    pulling cradle Catholics away from the RC in droves. It’s also happening right here in the US. They trade tradition, liturgy, a call to humility and service, and the incarnation for, fundamentalism, legalism, the promise of power and control over your own life and destiny all in the name of Jesus. Triumphalism is all about personal power. I believe that is why they are so drawn to politics and political careers.

  6. Maybe Pope Francis had in mind costumes such as the cappa magna, that outlandishly large red cope worn by some cardinals. Outside of a Renaissance basilica they invite snide remarks. and even inside Renaissance basilicas they look pretty silly.

    Recently I saw a picture of a bishop with an elaborately embroidered mitre which seemed at least three times taller than his own head. All out of proportion. Grotesque.

  7. I appreciate your point Fr. Anthony. I find that websites such as NLM do not represent my understanding of the Mass, liturgy, and personal spirituality. I still sort of self-identify as traditionalist, but maybe a better descriptor would be “pietist” (though, pietism dangerously borders heterodoxy). I find much of what websites of this ilk exalt as “transcendent” or “organic” instead to be ostentatious, self-celebratory, and theatrical. I do wonder if some in this mode of traditionalism would cease interest in the EF if they were required to attend a quickly-said 30 minute quiet EF Low Mass (with sermon and communion) every Sunday for a number of months.

    Any liturgical ideology, when placed in self-aggrandizing hands, can be used to place human concerns and desires ahead of Christ resurrected. Even a desire to attend said Masses which exclude any sound other than the human voice might be viewed by many as exclusionary. Sometimes exclusion is subtle or overt, but at any time exclusion fractures the Body.

  8. This could very easily refer to triumphalists of any liturgical stripe – and it would seem Francis thinks so too, since he speaks generally and doesn’t single out the folks AWR doesn’t like. The most pompous liturgies I have ever personally witnessed were progressive in nature, and I would argue they are more common than pompous EF Masses (which get a lot of publicity online, but tend not to be the norm).

    I think some people want to make Pope Francis an anti-EF or anti-ROTR Pope, and it comes off as grasping at straws.

  9. It’s insanity for the Vatican to continue publishing these excerpts without publishing full texts. They’ve argued, I believe that the final texts are not polished or reliable or signifigant enough to be officially published but these excerpts don’t mitigate the problem, they coumpound it by adding additional layers of obscurity.

  10. I find it disappointing that the poster chooses to remain anonymous. Opting to suggest an interpretation of the Pope’s remarks in only a one-sided manner is scurrilous at best.

    Some externals at both EF and OF Masses are grossly inappropriate, whether the 30-foot-long capes or the ‘maidens’ dancing in with bowls of incense. In both cases they broadcast a “look at me” attitude that does nothing to enhance our purpose in coming together.

    More commonly, I see triumphalism in the person of some visiting priests who turn their sermon into a case of self aggrandizement. The Mass isn’t a suitably large event, being merely the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, until they can rouse the masses to their tune.

    Perhaps it’s just possible that what the Pope is suggesting is to de-gaudify the whole thing, whatever your bent, and return to what the Mass really is.

  11. It seems the more fruitful route would be to apply Pope Francis’s words to our own approach to the liturgy and Christian life, reassessing whether we – ‘progressive’ or ‘traditional,’ ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’ – puff ourselves and_our_ way up, rather than trying to interpret this as a condemnation of our ideological opponents.

  12. Whoever it was that the Pope was speaking of with his reference to “Triumphalists” one would be hard pressed to find that in most Traditionalists. For all of the pomp that one might find in the Usus Antiquior (or in a Mass celebrated according to the Usus Recentior with traditional sensibilities) one would be hard pressed to find many in attendance who do not believe that Jesus Christ is Risen.

    Rather, you will find the vast majority (if not the totality) not only understand that they unite themselves both to the Cenacle and Calvary at the Mass, but also that the Risen One is present Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Eucharist. That is belief in the Triumph of the Risen One, and traditionalists desire to give worship to God that is consistent with that Triumph — but that isn’t triumphalism.

    That isn’t to say traditionalists can’t be triumphalists… but you have to find a more of a reason than the desire for reverent and transcendent (or as you prefer, “pompous and pretentious”) liturgy.

    You would do well to read the way that James Martin, SJ, a Jesuit who is by no means conservative, explains “triumphalism”:

    He frames the issue in a way that does not discriminate between theological or ideological slants — i.e. in a way that progressives (like those who feel their “resurrection” of liturgy after Vatican II is more important than allowing the worthy celebration of the Paschal Mystery in its preconciliar form) could be as guilty as any traditionalist.

  13. It sounds to me like the Pope was referring to the triumphalism of those bishops and priests in the post-conciliar period who felt they had “won” a battle, and decided they could do whatever they wanted to do with the liturgy. Instead of rendering to the lay faithful the Mass as the conciliar reforms provided, they triumphally replace words and phrases in the Mass whenever they pleased, clericalistically acting as though they knew better than the poor lay faithful who had assembled to worship according to the Liturgy of the Church.

    Pope Francis is a faithful bishop, who loves the Church and her liturgy. He may give off-the-cuff remarks in his homilies, but he’s always lovingly careful to proclaim the liturgy of the Church as it was handed down by the council fathers and the consilium.

  14. I also have to agree with Samuel — It is extremely problematic for us to have soundbites of the Pope’s homilies without having the full text in its entirely. Without context, the soundbites allow far too much speculation and wild interpretation, as this thread has already demonstrated less than 20 posts in.

  15. After re-reading what Vatican Radio published I think Francis was referring to other Christian denominations, possibly cults whose only purpose is to make money and grow.

    He may have had in mind Scientology founded by Hubbard, Theosophy by Helena Blavatsky, Unity by Charles Fillmore, Paul Weirweil’s Way International and a host of other “Christians”.

  16. “Triumphalism” is not a word invented by Pope Francis, as if we have no context or no clues as to why he used the word. Jack Wayne, Samuel Howard, Matthew Morelli, Dylan Barker – all the usual suspects – bend over backward to say that “triumphalism,” when used by the pope, doesn’t mean “triumphalism.”

    Meanwhile, following the usual pattern, many of the traditionalist commenters at Rorate Coeli take the pope’s words to mean what “triumphalism” usually means, and take offense at it because they sense that Francis is critiquing their liturgical traditionalism.

    In Catholic parlance, “triumphalism” means the tendency before Vatican II to exalt the Catholic Church at the expense of other traditions, to emphasize the glorious triumphs of Catholic history and downplay the problems, and to like imagery of the Church, including in the liturgy, that is pompous and majestic.

    It’s possible, I suppose, that Pope Francis is using “triumphalism” in some transferred sense to mean progressives or liberals after Vatican II, or to refer to Christians of other denominations. Possible, but unlikely, since “triumphalism” is a word with a pretty particular history of usage in Catholic sources of the last 75 years or so.


    1. @Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #18:

      Yes, I realize that is the history of the word. This is nothing new to me, and it’s clear that the the folks at Rorate Caeli and Fr. Cedaka here take it as such.

      But the issue that I take with your interpretation of it is this: he says that “triumphalism” manifests itself “because they do not believe deep down in the Risen One.” That is a serious charge to make without any other context to explain it.

      THAT is the reason why I don’t believe that he is lodging such an accusation against traditionalists exclusively — the Resurrection and the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist are not disputed matters. When traditionalists exalt the Catholic Church, it is BECAUSE the Catholic Church is the one Church founded by Christ that has Christ the King as its head. For all that you can say is wrong about the triumphalism of the traditionalists, the charge of not believing in the Risen One does not fit the profile.

      If I am wrong, so be it… but I pray that I’m not. I wish to ascribe the best of motives to the Holy Father (especially in light of the fact that we don’t have the entirety of his comments). But if I am wrong, then I wonder how he sees fit to judge what is in the hearts of those who he thinks do not believe in the Risen One.

      And even then, even if the Holy Father is condemning the triumphalism of the traditionalists, that still does not mean that every traditionalist is a triumphalist, nor that everyone who wants a more transcendent and reverent liturgy (what you call “pompous and pretentious”) is either a triumphalist or a traditionalist. Your equating of them is a gross oversimplification.

      1. @Matthew Morelli – comment #35:
        Matthew – no, I don’t equate them, I associate them.
        I’m not sure what the pope means about believing deep down in the Risen One. I suspect he means that one can assent intellectually very strongly, can claim to believe it, but deep down in their psyche they cling to other things (triumphalism) rather than the Risen One they claim to believe in. Again, I’m not sure if that’s what he means, but this proposed interpretation would account for how the pope applies it to people whom we all think would believe very strongly in Catholic doctrine. Perhaps – I don’t know. I know that in my own life I have claimed to believe some Christian doctrines (I think of the Real Presence) with complete orthodoxy for a very long time, while later coming to realize that I hadn’t really grasped the whole point of it. I think all of us Christians on all sides do this more than we think.

  17. Actually, I am interpreting triumphalism to mean triumphalism – you are interpreting it to mean “traditionalism.”

    Do you feel that only traditionalists and conservatives can be triumphalist? That the term primarily refers to them?

    1. @Jack Wayne – comment #19:
      Jack, I think I replied to this already but I’ll trying repeating myself and I hope clarifying if to you.

      It’s possible for triumphalism to be used in a transferred sense to mean other than traditionalists and conservatives. But a speaker would probably signal this unconventional meaning. As the word has been used for at least a half century now, its connotations most likely suggest traditionalists and conservatives. We’re talking about likelihoods of meaning based on the history of how the word has been used.


      1. I guess I stand corrected – I interpreted triumphalism to be a type of arrogance in how one approaches the faith, since that is how I usually experienced the word before, and not a term tied to a particular style of liturgy. However, if it is primarily used in Catholic parlance to refer to some people who like traditional liturgy, or who are generally traditional or conservative, then I will accept that. I learned a new meaning of the word that I had never encountered before (no sarcasm intended). I had assumed Pope Francis was not so much condemning a tiny minority of Catholics, but was trying to get *everyone* to think about how they present themselves to the world.

        Perhaps there is a similar word to describe arrogant people who are at the opposite end of the liturgical spectrum, or who may consider themselves liberal? What do you call someone who considers himself to be a follower of Vatican II, but is arrogant and condescending in how he presents the faith or celebrates liturgy?

      2. @Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #23:

        Father, does this history of the word also apply in the Spanish speaking Catholic world?

        I suspect understanding the Pope would be easier for all us English speakers if we shared more of his cultural reference points. In the meantime, we will just have to muddle along I suppose!

  18. “Triumphalism” is not a word invented by Pope Francis, as if we have no context or no clues as to why he used the word. Jack Wayne, Samuel Howard, Matthew Morelli, Dylan Barker – all the usual suspects – bend over backward to say that “triumphalism,” when used by the pope, doesn’t mean “triumphalism.”

    I said nothing of the sort.

    My point was that the full meaning was obscure. If you didn’t agree with this, why did you hedge your words so, “It seems … could … doesn’t it? What do you think?” Why not simply state “this refers to traditionalists.”? You even called the comments “somewhat imprecise.”

    1. @Samuel J. Howard – comment #20:
      It probably refers to traditionalists. But it’s not 100% certain. I’m dealing with the most likely meaning. You and some others are (again) using the loophole that it’s not 100% certain to say that it could mean these unlikely things. Yes, it could – but it’s unlikely.

      1. @Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #22:
        I have not expressed any opinion about what it means. I have merely said that the complete meaning is somewhat obscure, something you yourself admitted when you said at the top that the Holy Father’s way of speaking is “somewhat imprecise.”

        It’s rather rude of you to attack me for opinions I have clearly not expressed. Given that I have not expressed an opinion about to whom the Pope’s remarks referred, it is not possible that I have either “ben[t] over backward” or “use[ed] a loophole” to suggest that the referent was “unlikely things.”

  19. It’s important to remember that the context for the comment is how Christians present themselves and the Catholic faith to non-believers.

    The word triumphalism has a history. It is located most of the time in the discussion of the place of Catholicism in the context of divided Christianity, and also with respect to religions which do not confess Christ. There can be a very arrogant way of presenting Catholicism, as if no other religious group or Christian tradition has any value. That is usually called triumphalism.

    I think the Holy Father is pointing out that Christ’s triumph manifests itself in humility and service rather than in arrogance. The faith rooted in Christ’s actual risen life does not despise or demean others, but draws out the “seeds of the gospel” and brings them to fruition.

    It’s rather ridiculous to argue, as some seem to above, that triumphalism is a big problem of the church after Vatican II and was never so before. The term arose in response to excesses of the pre-Vatican II church, and to the extent that Vatican II is not internalized, it persists. We might as well admit it, and move on.

    Plainly, Pope Francis is talking about proclaiming Christ without arrogance.

  20. Apologies for repetition of some points stated above; I returned to this thread after a time and did not see all the comments that had been added in the interim, particularly Fr. Anthony’s @ #18 which pointed out the history of the term.

  21. I agree with all the confusion but in my opinion, Pope Francis is one bold and brave soul. I only liked two popes, one is Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis. The world is in chaos today, the Pope has a lot in his plate but he remains brave despite the adversities.

  22. Please note, Father Ruff, that the Pope does not even say that it is Catholics of whom he is speaking, but Christian triumphalists. To narrow that to a small group of Catholic activists is a bit of a stretch.

    I use the term the same way our university prof did when we kicked somebody’s tush in football in the late 60s: Triumphalism is bad form.

  23. Jack Wayne : What do you call someone who considers himself to be a follower of Vatican II, but is arrogant and condescending in how he presents the faith or celebrates liturgy?

    Culpably ignorant?

  24. Once I talked to someone who used to be a very active and devout Catholic but who told me that he was no longer practicing and, in fact, no longer believed in God. I answered without thinking: “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.”

    He reacted by saying with annoyance that my answer showed a kind of arrogance. How did I know that I was the one who was right? Maybe he was the one who had progressed on the search for the truth, and I was the one who was confused, he said.

    I suppose that my answer did reveal that I think of the Christian faith as superior to atheism. “Triumphalist”, in that sense.

  25. Frankly, the Holy Father’s words in his daily homily are not as clear as one would expect when the Pope speaks, because as we see here, everyone can interpret what he says according to each person’s ideology or wishful thinking. He does seem to use language that is rather divisive for a pope to use, in terms of describing the current “heretics” of the day or whatever. And now we have triumphalism that can be described as most of us would have described it in the 1970’s, as that horrible, old, pre-Vatican II Church that Vatican II suppressed or we can describe it as a cariacature of the narcissistic clergy and laity of the progressive post-Vatican II Church. Which is it? We don’t know since the pope seems to denigraequally the gnostics (progressives) and traditionalists (Pelagians) in his descriptions which are also not classical defintions of these heresies, but his own definitions.
    The Holy Father tells us to go forward with the love of Christ without embarassment, but not in a triumphalistic way. Most pre-Vatican II Catholics, and my family included, were very private with their Faith and my father bent over backwards not to offend non-believers or non Catholics by even sending secular Christmas cards rather than religious ones, but he certainly believed the Catholic Church to be the true Church. Today, though, we the Church are more egalitarian about not only the other Christian denominations but all religions and see them all as equal in terms of “getting people saved.” Why go forward with one’s faith in the public square if that is one’s perspective. Live and let live would seem to be the philosophy of so many today, which at least keeps the peace. So whatever the pope says, the problems of the Church today aren’t so much with the small, small minority of those who only want the pre-Vatican II liturgy, what is now called the EF, but those who have marred to reformed liturgy, as seom call it, with a triumphalistic attitude.

  26. I would like to know who were attending, to be able to parse with more certainty. If the congregation had any relation to the interdiscastery meeting later on, I would think it is a simple call to self-examination by those who hold authority and might suffer temptation to abuse power. Also, I am aware that, in the Latin languages, “Christians” is most commonly used by Catholics to refer to Catholics, especially in contexts where the Catholic Church is a numerical majority.

    I see Pope Francis simply calling us to examine our conscience in the light of the Gospel, so that what is sacred may not be perverted by our will to power, but that the sacred gifts of the liturgy purify us who minister and receive them.

  27. Here is an example of self-declared triumphalism – an essay by Gerald Warner that ends, “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.”

    I cite the piece, published in The Scotsman just after the promulgation of Summorum Pontificum, as an example of rhetoric that is traditionalist, triumphalist, arrogant and utterly wrong. The four characteristics don’t always go together, and I’m sure people can find progressive essays that are also triumphalist, arrogant and wrong. But in this case, they do. Warner’s article is an almost pure example of what Pope Francis was targeting.

  28. @Fr. Ruff, #22

    Fr. Ruff is correct — and I’m delighted to be able to agree with him for once! — there is no question that “triumphalist” is equivalent to “traditionalist.”

    Francis is a man of the ’60s, an era that I lived through as a seminarian. “Triumphalism” was the dismissive term progressives used to describe those of us who still retained an “old Church” take on theology, liturgy, the true Church, etc.

    To tweak the progressives for their use of the term, Brent Bozell even founded a magazine named “Triumph,” which published all sorts of articles attacking the progressives and their reforms.

    Somewhere in the heated discussions on traditionalist boards, one poster claimed that the term first appeared in Miriam Webster’s in 1964. That would be about right, in my experience.

    So, Francis’s comment is indeed a major smackdown for trads. Prelates solicitous for their careers, therefore, are well advised to hock their cufflinks and turn their cappa magnas into World Youth Day commemorative beach towels.

    1. @Father Anthony Cekada – comment #34:
      For information: the first citation for “traditionalist” in the OED is for 1666. And that for “triumphal” can be traced by the OED to 1430-40, but “triumphalism” to 1964.

  29. I agree with Rita and Father Anthony. When I think “triumphalism” I am reminded of pictures of well-known archbishops and cardinals all dolled up for the unreformed mass, including the scarlet galero, capa magna, etc.

    I’m also reminded of the many televised masses that I’ve seen broadcast from the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in D.C. which to me seem all about people congratulating themselves for being the faithful Catholic elite.

  30. Would it further the discussion to recall Bishop (Cardinal?) deSmedt from Belgium (??) at the beginning of Vatican II about the three things needed to be exorcized from the Church — triumphalism, clericalism, juridicalism?

  31. There are usually two reports of each of Francis “meditations.” One by Vatican Radio in the post link above and another by L’Osservatore Romano which is usually but not always a day later. Their report for this same Mass is now posted on the Observatorre Romano website , and is a much longer one, and gives a better idea of the thought structure which as usual is a triad: fear, shame, triumphalism:

    Christians without fear shame or triumphalism

    The second category is that of those “who were ashamed, and for whom professing that Christ has risen brings a little shame to this world which is so advanced in the sciences”. In Pope Francis’ opinion it is they whom Paul thinks of when he warns: “be careful that no one makes prey of you by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe and not according to Christ”. In practice these are the Christians who distort the reality of the Resurrection: for them “it is a spiritual resurrection that does the whole world good, a blessing of life”; but basically “they are ashamed to say that Christ with his flesh and his wounds is risen”.

    The second category are obviously the “gnostics” – one could argue this is the liberal interpretation of the resurrection.

    Lastly the third group are Christians who in their inner depths “do not believe in the Risen One and want for themselves a more majestic resurrection than that of Jesus”. The Pope described them as “the triumphalistic”, since “they have an inferiority complex” and put on triumphalistic airs in their life, in their discourses, in their pastoral work and in the liturgy”.

    This does not offer us any more details but in the context it could be argued that these are the “pelagians” the self made Christians who point to their works, or the works of the Church in a triumphalistic manner. They do not emphasize Jesus triumph as much as their own triumph or the triumph of the church.

    In applying the “pelagian” label to traditionalists we need to be careful. When traditionalists presented Francis with the number of rosaries they had said for him, he was not being critical of their prayerfulness but of the numbering of them as an indication of one’s superiority.

    Recently I have noted the use of the phrase “storm heaven” with our prayers for this, that or the other. (I have seen this on a traditionalist website as well as traditionalist e-mails in a local parish). That seems to somehow see us as being triumphant even over God! Let our will be done!

  32. Both of the reports are posted on the “Meditations” or “Reflections” web page. I usually wait to I see both of them posted, then download them into a word file, and do a little cross checking.

    As one might expect the print version is often longer and more literary than the radio version. However the radio version often is more colorful.

    We really do not have verbatim reports of Jesus; we have four separate Gospels. The absence of the verbatim should open us to the Holy Spirit and help us avoid the idolatry of words and fundamentalism whether in the Gospels or in the Pope’s reflections.

  33. Thank you, Fr Cekada, for the pointer to Triumph. I had not come across this before.

    Mark David Popowski wrote a fascinating PhD dissertation on the journal, Roman Catholic Crusading in Ten Years of Triumph, 1966 – 1976: A History of a Lay Directed, Radical Catholic Journal..

    Accessible through the link in the previous sentence and well worth a look.

    1. @Jonathan Day – comment #42:
      Jonathan – pages 300-310 on Vietnam… about a lack of historical context; ignorance of history and foreign policy; and a complete misunderstanding of Vietnamese culture. They glorify the *domino theory* (overwhelmingly disproved); skip over 20 years of US adminstrations’ decisions and involvement in Vietnam; they think France’s re-impositiion of a colonial empire is (triumphant* because it is catholic; ignore both WWII goals and early UN votes, etc.

      Nice advocacy piece but based upon opinion; not facts.

      1. @Bill deHaas – comment #45:
        Bill, the pages you cited looked to me as though they were reporting the views of the editors of Triumph, not asserting those views as factual or even rational.

        I think that Popowski was broadly sympathetic with the people and the journal he was studying — not always a bad stance for a historian. But the dissertation is hardly an “advocacy”.

        I don’t think it is a stellar piece of academic work. The fundamental thesis, that Triumph was “radical”, doesn’t strike me as earth-shaking or even counterintuitive. Popowski has turned it into a book, as well, but that is hard to find and expensive.

        Nonetheless I found the piece — literally — “fascinating” because the movement and the journal that Popowski describes are such a clear, “pure” case of thoroughgoing, triumphalist traditionalism. And it is an easy read, not weighed down by a lot of academic jargon and apparatus.

      2. @Jonathan Day – comment #50:
        Agree – did not mean to confuse. And agree with Jordan’s take above – Triumph appears to think the specific catholic monarchies are the triumphant endpoint….about as far as you can go in terms of ignoring catholic social justice teachings – smacks of the worst of the anti-Modernism times.

        Wonder if this daily homily is also linked to these comments from Francis’ reply to an Italian paper:


        •God’s mercy “does not have limits” and therefore it reaches nonbelievers, too, for whom sin would not be the lack of faith in God, but rather, failure to obey one’s conscience.
        •Truth is not “variable or subjective,” but Francis says he avoids calling it “absolute” — truth possesses us, he said, not the other way around, and it’s always expressed according to someone’s “history and culture, the situation in which they live, etc.”

      3. @Bill deHaas – comment #57:

        And agree with Jordan’s take above – Triumph appears to think the specific catholic monarchies are the triumphant endpoint….about as far as you can go in terms of ignoring catholic social justice teachings – smacks of the worst of the anti-Modernism times.

        I just thought of something while in the supermarket. For some reason this is where I get my good (?) ideas.

        The sub-movement within triumphalism which idealizes and glorifies previous forms of government (feudalism, early modern autocratic monarchy etc.) isn’t necessarily concerned with questions of social justice. Granted, these earlier forms of “western” government weren’t all that keen on preserving stellar human rights records, but much the same can be said of many nations today.

        Triumphalist dreams of a return to both political autocracy and the Church’s self-imposed isolation during Trent are, in my view, surface symptoms of a greater fear of democratization within the Church. Some deeper fears might include a permanent Roman synod, for example. This would be, in effect, a perpetual council. For a liturgical-political movement that largely defines itself on opposition to a council, the idea that the bishops of the world (and perhaps even laypeople!) might perpetually govern merely amplifies the threat around which the original movement coalesced. The result is a pining for an idealized world none of us today have ever experienced. Anything, for those who want to hold onto the medieval political structure of the Church, is better than an effective denial of the current power structure despite its demonstrated incompetence in many affairs.

  34. A very short excerpt from the final chapter of the dissertation illustrates triumphalism in action. The Society for a Christian Commonwealth, the publisher of Triumph was in severe financial straits. Accordingly, the last issue was published in January, 1976.

    Let’s continue with Popowski’s dissertation:

    Defiant to the end, the editors said farewell in a letter addressed to the “World” in their characteristic, triumphalist tone:

    [We] proceeded to explain with consummate patience exactly what was wrong with you and why; and even told you where you could go (with increasing precision we think) for a cure. All of this was yours, mind you, for a mere ten dollars a year. But far from learning Triumph’s easy lessons, you refused even to read them much: which is why, let’s face it, you are ten times worse off today than you were ten years ago.

    The failure of the journal, they noted, did not entail the failure of their movement. They would continue to be crusaders—intent upon reinstituting the Kingship of Christ.

    By “the Kingship of Christ”, the editors meant – among other things – that a confessional, Catholic state was the only acceptable form of government. This was another element of triumphalism, and I think, a central one.

    1. @Jonathan Day – comment #44:

      By “the Kingship of Christ”, the editors meant – among other things – that a confessional, Catholic state was the only acceptable form of government. This was another element of triumphalism, and I think, a central one.

      Yes, I have noticed this disturbing trend also. Some sectors of the traditionalist movement tend to idealize certain times in history (such as the counter-reformation) or certain ruling families of Europe (e.g. the Hapsburgs). I suspect that this interest in early modern monarchy and even a fascination with feudal or peri-feudal political and social structures stems not directly from Tridentine liturgy, but rather a mistaken sense that pre-modern life was more moral than postmodern life. This assertion certainly does not stand up to history. And yet, neo-feudalism and neo-early-modern-monarchical revivals are common tropes in traditionalism despite the presence of a multitude of incongruities in these arguments.

      One step towards a “non-triumphalist” Tridentine worship is a recognition that previous “western” political and social structures are not morally indefectible. Part of the recognition of the fallibility of all era is an embrace of some of the reforms of the council. A general agreement of the cardinals who favor the EF to dress according to the reforms of Paul VI for Pontifical Mass (e.g. cease wearing the cappa magna, buskins, gloves etc.) is a small concession which signals at least a partial desire to dialogue with a Roman rite which mostly worships in the postconciliar liturgy. If Pope Francis is still pope without the mozzetta, than an archbishop or cardinal who skips the cappa and ermine is still a prelate.

  35. I think it’s rather bold for the Pope to say that deep down these “triumphalists” (whatever he’s using that word to mean) don’t believe in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. From what I’ve known the word “triumphalism” to mean, I don’t see how he arrives at that conclusion.

    What are we to make of this? If I detect in M. Jackson Osborn or Jack Wayne the airs of triumphalism, I should suspect that they really don’t believe in the Resurrection? If I start to sympathize with triumphalists, should I question my own belief in the Resurrection?

    1. @Jeffrey Pinyan – comment #46:
      I suspect that he means that a certain kind of triumphalism is a kind of “whistling past the graveyard”: on tries to mask one’s lack of faith in Christ’s real-though-now-hidden triumph over death with an emphasis on the earthly triumphs of the Church.

      1. @Fritz Bauerschmidt – comment #47:
        I see. I tend to interpret “triumphalism” not as a mask to cover lack of faith, but rather as a manifestation in earthly things (e.g. vestments, architecture) of that hidden triumph of Christ (which one has faith in). Thus the emphasis on regal vestments (because Christ is King), for example.

      2. @Rita Ferrone – comment #60:
        Maybe the question is, when is a celebration/expression of genuine faith through music, architecture, processions, ceremonial, etc. healthy, and when has it crossed the line into unhealthy triumphalism?

        I suppose Bruckner’s Te Deum could be labeled as “triumphalist”, but I don’t for a minute doubt the genuine faith that inspired his musical setting. And the music is of such power that it continues to be beloved and inspiring to this day, even for non-Christians. The splendor of sacred art and architecture, far from putting people off of the faith, is in many cases a powerful means of reaching out to non-Christians. Of course, some people are put off by the triumphalism of a St. Peters – others are awed and inspired. I’m not sure how to apply a cut-and-dry test to determine when triumphalism is positive or negative. The true test (whether it masks a lack of faith) is a matter of personal spirituality, and not really for us to decide in others.

      3. @Jared Ostermann – comment #61:

        I think you may be confusing artistic grandeur with triumphalism.
        Triumphalism is an ideological standpoint, not an artistic style. Triumphalism is always a negative thing as I see it, but not all expressions of glory or grandeur are triumphalistic.

        Allow me to take a different example. Many people love Wagner’s Ring cycle. So did Hitler, who saw Wagner’s music as the perfect expression of his aspirations for the Third Reich. Is the distortion in the music or in the person who uses it to claim the innate superiority of the Aryan race to all others? Still it’s not entirely, as you suggest, a matter of personal spirituality.

        I’m not prepared to lump all Wagner enthusiasts in with Hitler. But neither am I going to say that there is not something objective in the drama of Wagner’s works that plays up to the idea of little dark people vs. big noble Aryans.

        Similarly, some artistic styles, works, and artifacts tend to lend support to triumphalism, to express it, to stand as symbols of it. People who are attracted to “splendor” may be many, but the test is whether they are prepared to follow Jesus, not in “the splendor of riches, but the splendor of truth.”

      4. @Rita Ferrone – comment #62:

        No – I am taking the specific definition of triumphalism offered by Fr. Ruff and others above and arguing that some artistic creations are imbued with or inspired by triumphalism. St. Peters is a great example, as I see it, all the way down to the angel of death stomping on Protestant England in one of the sculptures. I’m not speaking about people misappropriating existing artefacts.

        And my question is whether triumphalism expressed in art or ceremony is always antithetical to true faith. Or phrased another way, are we saying that it’s impossible for true faith to express itself in a triumphalist way? Or that those who are drawn to or inspired by triumphalist splendor are always flawed in their personal faith?

      5. @Jared Ostermann – comment #63:
        Yes, an image of the angel of death stomping on Protestant England would be an expression of triumphalism. It is abhorrent and not an expression of the true faith, no matter how many people like it.

        There is no guarantee that what “inspires” people is ipso facto something good. Peter the Hermit inspired a number of crusaders to kill Jews on their way to the Holy Land. Very inspiring fellow. Not for the people who were killed of course.

      6. @Rita Ferrone – comment #65:
        Ok – the England stomping is an extreme case. But I think the rest of St. Peters is equally triumphal (if not pointedly against a specific country) – the entire building screams “this is the true Church! This is the one Christ founded on Peter!” It’s there in big gilded letters around the inside of the dome…

        Is the rest of the building a poor expression of faith? Is someone weak and poor and flawed in their faith because they are attracted to that grandeur?

        What I’m getting at with all this is that there is a healthy triumphalism – expressing deep and genuine belief in the truth of the faith and the resurrection through grand architectural or artistic gestures. And for some people the grand and glorious is one draw to the faith (not merely to vague “inspiration” but to an actual life of faith).

      7. @Jared Ostermann – comment #67:
        Let me put it this way. I’m not personally attracted to the Baroque. I can recognize the genius of someone like Bernini and I’ve seen extraordinary examples of baroque art and architecture. But I’ve never found the baroque style particularly inspiring or generative for my faith. Most of the time it seems to me overblown, too dramatic and theatrical in its effects, manipulative even.

        I am careful, however, not to equate the Baroque with triumphalism. It is both more and less than that. More because it can be a vocabulary for religious passions which have nothing to do with triumphalism — St Teresa in Ecstasy is about mysticism, not triumphalism, for example; and less because it’s an art form, and no art form can be equated with someone’s faith absolutely.

        Nevertheless, it seems to me that the convergence of a highly dramatic style with a trend toward triumphalism in the Church’s self-understanding does create a perfect storm in some ways, or a situation in which, as you say, “the entire building screams ‘This is the true Church!'” — a message which can drown out the virtues of humility, and listening for the “still small voice.” I regard this result as problematic.

    2. @Jeffrey Pinyan – comment #46:
      I had a similar concern as Jeffrey. Sometimes when this pope speaks off the cuff, there are sweeping generalizations that I’m uncomfortable with – I also don’t see how he’d arrive at the conclusion that the triumphalists don’t believe in the Resurrection. I think it’s just part of Francis’ style to speak this way.

  36. Michael Skaggs : It seems the more fruitful route would be to apply Pope Francis’s words to our own approach to the liturgy and Christian life, reassessing whether we – ‘progressive’ or ‘traditional,’ ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’ – puff ourselves and_our_ way up, rather than trying to interpret this as a condemnation of our ideological opponents.

    I just want to quote Michael’s remark because I think it is the wisest thing said so far on this thread and it seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle of parsing Francis’s remarks.

    Surely the Holy Father did not intend his homily to become a stick with which we beat our fellow Catholics, rather than a lens through which to examine our own souls.

  37. As I stated earlier he may be describing some cardinals in the curia who have been exposed as having lost their faith and are now agnostic or atheistic (interview w/ former Vatican Exorcist) but nonetheless hide behind the externals and push a traditionalist agenda.
    In my opinion this is what he may be referring to especially since he met later that morning with some of the individuals involved with the curial overhaul and the upcoming announcement/decision next month of what that reform will involve.

    Regardless, I think this is much ado about nothing, wait till heads roll next month and we’ll be asking what triumphalist comment?

  38. I suppose that one possible narrative is: here is some members of the church who are not heeding his call for humility. They can’t let go of their confident, arrogant, even triumphalist attitude. Why? Maybe because they’re afraid. Why? Because if they let go, they would be exposed and one would discover that… that what? What is there to be afraid of? Afraid of being exposed as a fake, for example, if deep down they do not believe in the Resurrection.

    Of course that logic is full of holes. I think it makes more sense if you take it backwards: if you are among the few who truly, deeply, wholeheartedly believe in the Good News, then you are not afraid to let go of pomp and arrogance. You are not so attached to this or that liturgical feature. You can become open, humble and flexible, because only the Good News matter.

    Yes, Pope Francis is not as clear, crisp, precise in the details of his wording as Benedict was, not by a long shot. But his actions together with his words are shaping up into a coherent larger picture. Benedict lacked that high-level clarity (for example, he urged the bishops of Ireland to be open and transparent, but never took questions about his own time as bishop in Munich. That’s not consistent and sends a decidedly mixed message.) It’s a radically different style. I guess one just can’t have everything.

  39. The task of bearing witness to Christian faith in humility has been much on the Pope’s mind recently, as this newly published “Letter to Non Believers” in La Repubblica shows.

    Consider these excerpts, and see if they don’t give context to his remarks about triumphalism.

    “Reflecting on the question of absolute truth, Pope Francis says he prefers to describe the truth in terms of a dynamic relationship between each Christian and Jesus, who said, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’. The truth of God’s love, the Pope insists, is not subjective, but it is only experienced and expressed as a journey, a living relationship with each one of us, in our different social and cultural contexts.”

    and this:

    “Our arduous task, he says, is that of communicating God’s love to all, not in a superior way, but rather through service to all people especially those on the margins of our societies.”

  40. One more comment, about homiletics vs. scholarly discourse. Homilies can say things in ways that scholarly discourse can’t, and vice versa. One tool of the preacher is association of ideas, or words that lead to other words, and open up insight. We shouldn’t evaluate a homily in the same way we evaluate an encyclical or a treatise.

    The association of ideas is not hard to plot in the Pope’s homily.

    1. The resurrection is a triumph.

    2. What kind of triumph is it?

    3. Not the kind that is recognized in triumphalism.

    4. Rather, it is something more important: the power that expresses itself in humble service animated by love and forgiveness.

    5. Those who glory in triumphalism have lost sight of (have no confidence in) the real triumph.

    Homilies aren’t watertight, but they can inspire and present an idea from multiple angles.

  41. Without intending the merest disrespect for Holy Father Francis, this seems to me to be one of those remarks that is certainly lacking in infallibility, lacking as well in profound dimensions, and that might have been made by almost any priest, bishop, or homilist on a very average day and place. In other words, it hardly makes it to the category of inspired teaching, and is thought remarkable only because of the man who happened to have said it. It shouldn’t be cause for victorian jumping all over those whose preference it is to offer resplendent liturgy and labelling their heartfelt worship as triumphalist, even though those who like to attire themselves in 30 foot long capes and tasteless 3 foot tall mitres rather deserve the bad press that they get. Equally desrving of bad press are those who have a rather triumphalistic estimation of their very liberal version of Vatican Two-ness. I think that, upon reflection, Holy Father Francis would not council pillorying out of hand the heartfelt worship of those of either a high or low church bent.

    And, I think that Rita’s above comments about Wagner are quite pelucid and apt.

  42. This homily was prompted by today’s reading from Colossians beginning:
    If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above,
    where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.

    Each of the 3 errors — shame, fear, triumphalism — is contrasted with the Resurrection. In triumphalism, there is a failure to believe that CHRIST was resurrected. The Resurrected is some kind of heavenly being, not the human with holes in his hands and feet. So the triumphalist believes someone was resurrected, but it was the ornate king who loves gold and silver, not the meek and humble Jesus.

    This is a problem of interpretation. You could say “the greatest treasure of St Francis is his poverty.” The strength of this saying lies in its contradictions: by definition, poverty is not treasure so earthly values are overturned by this saying. A triumphalist fails to grasp this, thinking poverty is another treasure alongside gold, cappas, chalices, etc.

  43. As some of you know, I’m no theologian and I don’t play one on TV.
    That said, those who’ve dwelt upon insisting that cappa magnas, copes and red shoes are tantamount to a false triumphalistic bent are just as mistaken as those who would claim that the Holy Father’s new (old, 30 year’s old) Renault sedan is a testament to holy impoverishment. Both extremes are besides the point of Christian witness.

    1. @Charles D. Culbreth – comment #67:
      I would disagree on both points.
      I think in our current situation, cappa magnas etc. are very much false triumphalism. Just look at the reaction they occasion.
      But having a simple care could very likely be a testament to holy poverty.

  44. These are fascinating comments. I have learned a lot reading them. Not answers, mind you, but different ideas and ways of viewing something.

    Fwiw, I believe Pope Francis views himself primarily as a shepherd. Part of his flock is going one way, part another, and he’s just trying to steer them the best he can to go in the same direction. Real experienced shepherds have a difficult time doing that with sheep; Pope Francis is working with people.

  45. Triumphalism and its sibling, grandiosity, involve egoism projected into a cognitive-spiritual blindspot that allows us to rationalize them as serving a Good and Worthy Purpose.

    The Incarnation and Paschal Mystery are grand – but one thing they are *not* is grandiose.

  46. Francis during a part of his early formation was very influenced by the Byzantine Liturgy. So he likely sees a unity between the Passion (Mercy) and Resurrection (Joy) this is portrayed very well both in words and music in the frequently used Hymn of the Resurrection sung at Saint Elias:

    Having beheld the Resurrection of Christ, let us worship, the holy Lord Jesus, the only Sinless One! We venerate Thy Cross, O Christ, and Thy Holy Resurrection we praise and glorify; for Thou art our God, and we know no other than Thee; we call on Thy name. Come, all you faithful, let us venerate Christ’s Holy Resurrection! For, behold, through the Cross joy has come into all the world. Let us ever bless the Lord, praising His Resurrection. By enduring the Cross for us, He destroyed death by death.

  47. Although Francis has been critical of much of Liberation theology, he still endorses some of the basic concepts of the Spirituality of the Poor; it is simply his experience of the slums.

    Where do we encounter Christ today?

    Gutiérrez answer is that we encounter Christ in the poor. I think he would agree that we encounter Christ glorified here on earth in the Beatitudes:

    “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
    Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
    Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
    Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
    Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
    Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.
    Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
    Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
    Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you (falsely) because of me.
    Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven NAB Chapter 5

    Where do we encounter Christ suffering today?

    31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory.
    All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
    He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
    “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.
    For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,
    I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
    “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?
    When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?
    39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
    40 “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ NIV Matt Chapter 25′

    These two passage were central to Gutiérrez course that I took on the spirituality of the poor at ND.

    Again Joy (Resurrection) and Mercy (the Wounds of Christ) are the key words repeated time and time again by Francis.

    Francis is going to have to continue repeating things to get through the fog of the culture wars.

  48. Like was said, imprecise (infuriatingly so). I would hesitate very much to read discontinuity into a summary of the Pope’s informal statements. If he were referring to what you suggest, he would be condemning Benedict (whom he expresses love and esteem for) and Marini (whom he has maintained as his MC). He would, furthermore, he condemning the vast majority of the liturgical history and magisterial texts on the liturgy. More likely, he is speaking about a spirit that is expressed in many ways, including liturgically. Speaking as someone whose love for Jesus and belief in the resurrection has only been bolstered by exposure to the rich liturgical heritage of the Church, I sincerely hope he is not referring to me and those like me. If he is, it shows a grave ignorance about us. I don’t feel the need to defend myself right now, but suffice it to say that there is no way I would remain Catholic if the resurrection was false, and I can say that with confidence about those I share my way of life with. Let’s not jump to conclusions here. If the Pope wants to say what some people are reading into this, he has the ability to be clear and tackle it in a straight-on manner.

  49. I might add, however, that whether he means to or not, Pope Francis’ comments could easily have the effect of re-creating an insular spirit and re-igniting a critical spirit within the supporters of continuity that I have largely seen die (in person, if not on the internet). I remember very well what it was like to be attached to the traditional prayers and devotions prior to Benedict. It felt like I was doing something wrong, even though I knew that I wasn’t. I only discovered these things in 2003, but it made me so full of joy and love that I could not leave it behind. If the Church had told me I was disobedient, I would have left it behind. But the Church told me no such thing. Everything I did was permitted. And yet I was made to feel disobedient just for doing what the Church does. I would not like to go back to a time like that. If the Pope wants to suppress the spirit of continuity, he should do so directly. It does not seem healthy for true sheep to be made to feel like they’re wolves when they are doing nothing more than what the previous Pontiff encouraged. Just 2 cents. Hope it’s not too off topic.

  50. Pope Francis’s comment raises an issue that many ‘reform-of-the-reform’ advocates have tried to gloss over.

    Counter-Reformation ecclesiology invoked Bellarmine’s “perfect society”: the Church as a complete institution, parallel and superior to the state. Governance in the Church, as in the state, was to be top-down and monarchical –more perfect in the Church than the state, because the Church enjoyed absolute (perfect) control, from the pope to the local priest. This view didn’t encounter serious challenge until Vatican II.

    Many who struggle with Vatican II say that the Council departed from ‘tradition’ in rejecting the “perfect society” (compare, e.g., Unitatis Redintegratio with Mortalium Animos) and proposing the Church as a “sacrament” for the world.

    I think that the innovation took place at the counter-Reformation and that Vatican II represented a return to the tradition, rather than the other way round. Vatican II created a discontinuity precisely because Trent created a discontinuity that needed to be put right.

    Someone who wants to both to accept Vatican II and to minimise its return to the tradition – e.g. by declaring it a ‘pastoral’ council, or by invoking the ‘hermeneutic of continuity’ – now faces a dilemma. There are plenty of bishops who don’t hurl excommunications, don’t attack progressive theologians, etc. Clearly, the “perfect society” is out of control.

    Toward the end of Benedict XVI’s papacy a “restorationist” scenario emerged, even in the mainstream media: the SSPX would be reconciled, and Benedict could be succeeded by someone like Card. Burke. The perfect, ordered society would be restored.

    Enter Pope Francis. From the start, he rejected the concept and trappings and symbols of “the perfect society”, not only through what he said, but in his conduct. No hint of “perfect society” (triumphalism) here, but the Church as a servant, as a sacrament – medicine for the health of the world, not its governor.

    Anyone still hoping for restoration of the perfect society now must assume that the Church itself is very, very sick – right up to the top. Hence Michael Voris is prepared to write off virtually all of the clergy and declare that restoration needs to come via the laity; this was the view of the editors of Triumph, after all.

    The sedevacantists, the SSPX, the mad blogger who publicly prays that Pope Francis will suffer a heart attack – these ‘triumphalists’ are clearly insane. But at least they are consistent in their views.

    Pope Francis has become a sign of contradiction for those trying to occupy a middle ground.

  51. If Pope Benedict’s hermeneutic of continuity rested in the restoration of the liturgy, it seems that Pope Francis “hermeneutic of continuity” rests in popular devotions, beginning first with Mary, the Mother of God and the Faithful, the Church as Holy Mother, the cult of the saints, and belief in angels, exalted and fallen, the devil as the tempter and father of lies. This is as pre-Vatiican II as you can get and what so many in the post-Vatican II Church following the Council tried to erase, the popular piety of the laity and to replace it with a clerical form of prayer residing in the the Liturgy of the Hours and Mass.
    For Francis, the Holy Rosary is important, as is Adoration and Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament. In many ways, the focus on devotions, Marian and otherwise is very pre-Vatican II and thus he his helping the Church to recover that which was lost in the years since.
    He has also criticized the intellectuals or academics of the Church and basically told them to stay in their university settings and asked papal nuncios to submit names of priests for bishops who are pastoral and of the popular devotion types.
    So let’s not gloss over the restoration of popular devotions for the laity similar to what was experienced prior to the Council and Pope Francis on it, the devil, and fidelity to the Magisterium of the Church. It isn’t triumphal, but it is pre-Vatican II devotionalism so derided by post-Vatican II elitists. Lest we forget, in Brazil at the end of the Mass and at the solemn blessing, the Pope took the statue of Our Lady in hand and bless the assembly with it as in Benediction. I wonder if Bugnini was turning in his grave?

    1. @Fr. Allan. McDonald – comment #81:
      “He has also criticized the intellectuals or academics of the Church and basically told them to stay in their university settings”

      Can you give a citation for this? It seems very unlikely to me.

      Wouldn’t this imply that Pope Benedict, as an intellectual and academic, ought to have stayed in his university setting, and ought never to have been elected pope? Pope Francis never said anything like this.

      In the other parts of your remark, Allan, you are pushing this “hermeneutic of continuity” far beyond anything Pope Benedict ever said or implied — I think this is YOUR hobbyhorse, not Benedict’s or Francis’s.

      1. @Rita Ferrone – comment #87:
        I’ll have to look for it but when I read that he had said it my initial reaction as with much of Pope Francis differences with Benedict was to flinch a bit. Maybe someone else can track it down.

      2. @Father Allan J. McDonald – comment #91:

        From the Vatican website, this is what the pope actually said in his address to participants in the Papal Representatives’ Days:

        You know the famous expression that indicates a basic criterion in the choice of the person who must govern: si sanctus est oret pro nobis, si doctus est doceat nos, si prudens est regat nos — if he is holy let him pray for us, if he is learned, let him teach us, if he is prudent let him govern us. In the delicate task of carrying out the investigation required prior to making episcopal appointments, be careful that the candidates are pastors close to the people: this is the first criterion. Pastors close to the people. He is a great theologian, has a learned mind: Let him go to university where he will do such great good! Pastors! We need them! May they be fathers and brothers, may they be gentle, patient and merciful; may they love poverty, interior poverty, as freedom for the Lord, and exterior poverty, as well as simplicity and a modest lifestyle; may they not have the mindset of “princes”. Be careful that they are not ambitious, that they are not in quest of the episcopate.

        Which is nothing of the kind Father Allen said the pope said.

        The rest can be found here:

        Oh and hello, I’m a long time lurker and first time poster.

      3. @Elisabeth Ahn – comment #94:
        Thank you, Elizabeth. And welcome to the company of people who post (out of the lurker’s domain, she comes…)

        I see now what Pope Francis was talking about. It’s indeed quite different from Allan’s recollection, which I had questioned. The point is that bishops need to be pastors first and foremost.

        This isn’t about sequestering academics in an ivory tower, it’s about the people skills needed in bishops. It also shows respect for those with learning, because the maxim he quotes is about letting the learned teach us.

      4. @Rita Ferrone – comment #87:
        Here is the citation and from Archbishop Charles Brown, Papal Nuncio to Ireland:

        “It seems the days of great academics pontificating and becoming bishops is past and Francis wants pastoral men, shepherds in the best sense, as his leaders.

        The Pontiff is looking for “true shepherds who know their sheep” in appointing new bishops to vacant dioceses across the country.

        Archbishop Brown revealed the directions he received from Pope Francis himself in a meeting with nuncios from all over the world. “He wants men who are true pastors, true shepherds, men who know their sheep,” Archbishop Brown said. “He doesn’t want people who are hyper-academic. He doesn’t want people who are detached from their people, or who want to lord it over their people.
        “He wants shepherds who are with their sheep, who – as he said very memorably – have the smell of their sheep on them.”

      5. @Fr. Allan. McDonald – comment #96:
        Thanks for sharing your source on this, Allan. I now see why you thought this was what Pope Francis said.

        But if you look at #94, above, Elizabeth has the quote from Pope Francis himself. It’s actually different from what Archbishop Brown reports.

        I also don’t know what Archbishop Brown means when he says “the days of great academics pontificating and becoming bishops are over.” These days have not occurred within our lifetime. The number of true academics among bishops is very few. And although quite a number have advanced degrees, most are in canon law. Few read books regularly. There was a study of American bishops which said they read one book a year on the average. This is not the profile of “great academics” by a long stretch.

        So, it seems to me that Archbishop Brown is creating a straw man the “pontificating academic”, but while exiling him, also ignores a key point Francis made about having bishops who are NOT CAREERISTS, out for their own advancement. He says nothing about avoiding those who WANT to be bishops.

        Is the great era of careerist bishops, who seek self-advancement, over now too? Granted, this was an oral comment. Not exact. Yet it’s always interesting to see what a nuncio remembers from what the pope said, and what he forgets.

        Thanks again.

  52. The more I read of Pope Francis’ homilies, the more convinced I am that his… lack of precision… in speaking it intentional. I believe he is trying to provide “food for thought” and things for us think about and reflect on rather than providing absolute answers or conclusions. That seems to dovetail nicely with his emphasis on the individual’s need to walk on their faith journey, accompanied by the church but not dragged by the nose by the church.

  53. I think Francis’ hermeneutic of continuity rests in Jesus. Popular devotions certainly are important, but only as they reflect Christ. Consider his comments on a traditional group that greeted his papacy:
    they said: “Your Holiness, we offer you this spiritual treasure: 3,525 rosaries.” Why don’t they say, ‘we pray for you, we ask…’, but this thing of counting… And these groups return to practices and to disciplines that I lived through – not you, because you are not old – to disciplines, to things that in that moment took place, but not now, they do not exist today…

    This is an example of the triumphalism Francis criticizes. Why don’t they say ‘we pray for you’? Instead they use glorifying language, “a spiritual treasure,” in a way that is reminiscent of secular values, as if 3525 prayers are more valuable than one. “we pray for you” is a more potent expression of solidarity and recognition of God as the source of all that is good.

    In any event, there is a clear expression of discontinuity in terms of devotional practices:”at that moment… But not now” is discontinuity defined. Devotional practices are important, but today’s devotions, not yesterday’s.

    1. @Jim McKay – comment #83:

      Thank you Jim. These are all excellent points.

      You are entirely correct that the rosary, or any devotion, cannot be quantified. It’s important to remember though that the rosary has both a totemic and talisman-like hold over the traditionalist imagination. The rosary is totemic so far as it is the sacramental most often identified with the Mass. To say the rosary during Mass, or even have one in the hands during Mass, is a marker of traditionalist piety during the sacrament. The rosary is talisman-like so far as you mention: the rosary and its prayer become defenses against perceived evils or a means to influence the supernatural to effect change in the human world.

      I find the (soundless) recitation of the rosary during Mass to be both comforting and a method to improve concentration. I suspect this was (and is, in the EF community) the same for some Catholics. However, the union of the rosary and Mass in the popular imagination detracts from the Mass. “Rosary crusades” and the like highlight the peril of an uncomfortably close association between sacrament and sacramental.

    2. @Jim McKay – comment #83:
      I think Pope Francis is not as fond as language like “spiritual treasure” as other people are, and it’s a matter of taste.

      Would he have better liked to hear “our whole village is praying for you” or “we pray for you day and night” or “we are continually assailing heaven with our prayers for you”? Or is “we’re praying for you” the best thing he can imagine to hear, and all these other are overly pietistic (secular-reminiscent) embellishments?

      I don’t know if Jesus prefers one to the other.

  54. Jesus prefers that we go to our room, close the door and pray to our Father in heaven.

    Jordan and Jim are quite correct. Pope Francis prefers individual prayers rather than being presented 3525 magical rosaries.

    1. @Dale Rodrigue – comment #86:
      There’s nothing inherently magical about 3525 rosaries, and I wouldn’t expect those who participated in that spiritual bouquet of rosaries believe there’s anything magical about it.

      We all offer plenty of non-individual prayer outside of our closed-door rooms. We’re just (hopefully) not doing so like “the hypocrites”. And maybe some of those 3525 rosaries were prayed in solitude behind closed doors… who knows?

      1. @Jeffrey Pinyan – comment #88:
        The magical description was in reference
        to part of Jordans comment that they have: “..talisman-like hold over the traditionalist imagination”. You personally might not expect that those who participated believe that there’s anything magical about it but I believe some do perceive their rosary beads are talisman like.
        As Jordan alluded to, many do have talisman ideas “defenses against perceived evils or a means to influence the supernatural to effect change in the human world.”
        Rosaries are not “spiritual treasures” and are not holy objects. Rather, the prayers are, preferably behind closed doors as Jesus advised.

    2. @Dale Rodrigue – comment #86:
      While I have been generally pleased with Pope Francis, I found his attitude towards the Spiritual Bouquet off putting and not in keeping with his usual humble spirit. He came off as an ingrate. When someone is praying for you, regardless of whether it is in a way you personally like or not, you should accept it gratefully and happily.

      We are a large Church with more than enough room for both “I pray for you” and “we as a group prayed 3525 Rosaries for you” without making it a humility contest.

  55. Rita – thought that Mr. McKay brought the correct balance to #81. Would suggest that Francis’s homily is as a parish priest and is pastoral.
    He starts with the community of faith (not sacramental objects);

    he invites the community to action (sacramentals are secondary, the community’s action is primary. Canonizing the sacramental object as continuity focuses on the wrong subject);

    Community actions (i.e. conversion, call to prayer) are grace filled (focusing on objects reduces our economy of grace to the time period of Tetzel; buying or purchasing grace by the number, times, etc. Thus, we can make God do something via our sacramentals – bad theology);

    Francis is consistent – Mr. McKay’s link also underlines when Francis has used *isms*….these isms (sorry, mis-interpretation to assign these to either progrssives or conservatives) speak to objects/ideologies; not community faith actions. The *isms* seek to control God’s mercy…..not unlike what some think about sacramentals.

    What is continuous – community of faith’s actions
    What changes – sacramentals and ways we pray; popular devotions are just that *popular*….they change as communties, cultures change

    To suggest that we *canonize* certain popular devotions is to miss the point and to insert some type of pre VII and post VII is a hobbyhorse. Let Francis speak for himself – why always the need to re-interpret him?

  56. Rita, Jim and Jonathan (from the other post):

    This 1968 article by Yves Congar seems to express well what Francis is speaking about in his daily homilies about *holy mother Church* –

    Key points:
    – see bottom of page 38 (evidence of that in some comments on PTB)
    – see bottom of page 39 on liturgy
    – see the *entire church at work* (not specific things e.g. single homily, single rosary, etc.)
    – bottom of page 42

  57. Rita – don’t you love it. Second hand statement who is *supposedly* relaying his opinion about what Francis said but now the commenter says:

    “He has also criticized the intellectuals or academics of the Church and basically told them to stay in their university settings”

    Which is NOT what Francis said at all.. What we have hear are lazy rumors – taking out of context a very good statement of Francis and reframing it to fit your own hobbyhorse while substantiating this with a second hand comment from someone else entirely.

    Well, we know what would happen in a college setting if this was done on some type of submitted paper- failure to cite sources accurately; asserting something and supporting this by using someone else’s opinion; attributing things without proper references.

    Gets to #92 – “Let Francis speak for himself – why always the need to re-interpret him?”

    1. @Bill deHaas – comment #95:
      “…why always the need to re-interpret him?”

      Bill, like pounding a square peg into a round hole, it’s the only way to make Francis fit that particular mindset.
      I think Jonathan #80 has it right.

  58. Rita —

    I too remember Pope Francis as saying something like ‘academics, stay in your ivory towers’. At least he was quoted that way. i was quite surprised. Sorry, I don’t have a reference.

    1. @Ann Olivier – comment #99:
      Hi Ann,

      Elizabeth has the quote — see #94. It seems to have been passed around in a way that made it increasingly demeaning to a subspecies that is almost non-existent anyway: learned bishops.

      Of course there are bishops who are intellectually vain, but few who are genuinely learned.

      But the positive point was to choose pastors to be bishops, not careerists, and not intelligent but remote minds. Rather, pastors who have a heart. Good advice.

  59. About the Rosary being said at Mass: Given its popularity we ought to ask *why* was it so popular. I suspect that at least part of the reason for is that it’s very chantlike, highly repetitive, and for some unexplained reason highly repetitive prayers are spiritually very useful. They concentrate the mind, at least for many people.

    Ask any former Catholic “what do you remember of the prayers at Mass?” and I bet they’ll likely say, “…through, my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault” and “Lord, have mercy, Lord, have mercy, Christ, have mercy, Christ, have mercy”, or some other oft-repeated prayer or response.

    I say add more chantlike prayers to the Mass. (And why not?)

    1. @Ann Olivier – comment #99:
      Or maybe it was popular because the assembly was so detached from the Mass that rather than sitting there as bored spectators some recited the rosary to do something. And I’m sure some were praying the rosary too. At least that is what I remember.

  60. “…Christ has triumphed, and we conquer by His mighty enterprise,
    We with Him to life eternal by His resurrection rise.” ODE TO JOY

    “Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
    Sing ye heav’ns and earth reply, Alleluia.” LLANFAIR

    “Jesus Christ is ris’n today, Alleluia!
    Our triumphant holy day, Alleluia.” EASTER HYMN

    “The whole world keep high triumph and all that is therein.” ELLACOMBE

    “Who, triumphant, burst the bars of the tomb’s dark portals…” GAUDEAMUS PARITER

    “Easter triumph, Easter joy, sin alone can this destroy.” SALZBURG

    “…He has risen up in triumph from the darkness of the grave…” HOLY ANTHEM

    “This is the feast of victory for our God, Alleluia….” Hillert

    “…Led on their way by this triumphant sign,
    the hosts of God in conquering ranks combine.” CRUCIFER

    Just scratching the surface…

    1. @Charles Culbreth – comment #1:
      I’m not entirely sure what you are suggesting with these hymn texts. But to be clear on the issue – lots of triumph is great when it is Christ’s, as in these texts. When it’s human self-aggrandizement, that’s the problem. So all the triumph language in hymn texts doesn’t make ecclesiological triumphalism OK, it shows how misplaced it is.

  61. This comment is directed at nobody in particular.

    I’ve been in every circle in this debate and shared most of the opinions about liturgy at some point or another.

    We all of us want our more majestic resurrections. Some far-out traditionalists want the majestic, triumphant resurrection of an SSPX prelate riding a white steed into Rome and restoring the glories of preconciliar papal liturgy, hailed by Catholics everywhere who have come to see the error of their ways. More conservative folks sort want from the current ashes to rise a sort of Anglo-Catholicism with a beautiful vernacular translation and smells and bells and whistles and loud and enthusiastic congregational hymn-singing. Liberals want every culture’s most characteristic expressions to replace the equivalent Roman ones, and want enthusiastic, local, community and culture driven liturgical celebrations.

    We all want our thing, that we work on, that we’re invested in to rise from the current odd position of the Church, to predominate and exclude all other Catholics.

    Oh, and we’re so sensitive. 1973’s translation is changed slightly, and we cry and cry over injustice and the bully hierarchy destroying our precious traditions. But of course there’s no sympathy for those whose entire liturgical world and prayer life was changed by force from 1962 to 1970 and beyond. Scholarship doesn’t allow it. They were “wrong” we are “right” and our notions of liturgy are just what the Church needs, and it is OK to use the hierarchy to force those huge changes on the people. The same goes vice versa for traddies who would love nothing better than to re-impose the EF on the whole Church in the same way.

    Instead of feeling nothing for the “wrong” when their way of praying is taken from them, we must actually, really, love and understand each other, understand the variety of preferences and embrace them, within due limits and Church discipline, belittle nobody’s prayer life.

    If neither Christ, nor even prayer and love of brother are at the center of our affections, but rather liturgical scholarship and aesthetic preference, then we are truly triumphalists, no matter how plain our mitres. If prayer and Christ animate our liturgies, then we may stand upright before God and neighbour in fiddleback and polyester alike.

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