What Would You Want the “Council of Cardinals” To Do with Liturgy?

The “Council of Cardinals,” the eight cardinals from around the world named by Francis “to assist him in the governance of the universal Church and to draw up a project for the revision of the Apostolic Constitution Pastor bonus on the Roman Curia,” begins its first meeting tomorrow, October 1.

Cardinal Maradiaga of Honduras, head of the Council, said recently that their task is not just “trying to change this and that,” but the old system “is over. Now it is something different.”

But Council member Cardinal Gracias of India, for his part, does not see the commission turning everything upside down. “I’m against dismantling any system unless you’re sure about what you’re putting in its place. On the other hand, every system must be evaluated constantly,” he said. He sees the Church returning to a more synodal form of government as in the first 1,300 years, with a greater role also for national bishops’ conference.

There is no indication that the Council will discuss liturgy per se. But obviously, changes in governance structure and developments in ecclesiology could have great implications for the Church’s liturgical life.

If you could advise the Council of Cardinals about ongoing liturgical renewal, with a view especially toward issues of governance and process, what would your advise for them be?


  1. Believe it or not, PTB regulars, I would cite the example of the “Ken Untener” managerial model! But before heading out to the huskings, each bishop would be required to demonstrate a competent and coherent understanding of the liturgical canons in force, as well as those documents which are their progenitors. If a metropolitan archbishop (and presumably his expert advisors) decrees that competence to his brothers, they would then be required to completely articulate their liturgical principles and praxis preferences in a public manner to the metropolitans, and by extension to the CDW, and certainly to pastors and the faithful via all available media. At the same time, each bishop would take great pastoral care to not impose sanctions upon parishes struggling with liturgical issues, unless grave abuse is documented and unattended to.
    From there, each bishop should go well beyond the artifice of event Masses and Confirmation Masses as the template for assessment. Like Untener, they should get out on Sundays, in their clerical suits, and take a seat in the nave as unobtrusively as possible, and worship with the flock. These visits are unpublished, not official and serve only to acquire a sense of pastoral efficacy and stability of any parish community at any weekend Mass by any assembly and celebrant.
    I believe then that the tenor of the next ad limina visit to Rome would be much different than photo opps with CEO/CFO reports rubber-stamped onto ledgers. This may be naivete from a 62 year old lifelong DM, but you asked.

    1. @Charles Culbreth – comment #1:

      Charles’ proposal is a great idea. Collegiality is only going to succeed at the top to the extent that we build it from the bottom up rather than the top down.

      Emphasizing episcopal leadership and collegiality on the liturgy at the metropolitan level has great advantages. While there is much potential for a bishop going off the deep end with a personal agenda in his own diocese, being accountable to his fellow bishops in the archdiocese may encourage the advantage of episcopal liturgical leadership while limiting its drawbacks. We want bishops in their dioceses and pastors in their parishes to be liturgical leaders; but we don’t want them to become dictators. We want them to be accountable not only upwards but also to their colleagues as well as the people whom they serve.

      If bishops make headway in changing the liturgies of their dioceses it is better that diversity begins to develop between archdioceses than to have each individual diocese follow a line of development of its own. Also archdioceses already now have some liturgical diversity, e.g. the choice of when to observe the Ascension, and historically they have been diverse.

      The national conference of bishops is too large to develop the practice of liturgical leadership among many bishops. Such large group meetings tend to foster small numbers of key actors performing for the rest of the bishops.

      An archdiocese is more like a small group of bishops, and it would be good if each archdiocese had a bishop or auxiliary bishop who took a leadership role on the liturgy within that archdiocese. That would develop a lot more experience on practical liturgical leadership at the national conference level.

      Most archdioceses are not so big geographically so bishops, priests and laity could come together to discuss liturgical issues without having to travel that far. Effective practical episcopal leadership on the liturgy is only going to exist in frequently dialogue (“encounters” seems to be new buzzword) with the laity (so the bishops can acquire the smell of their sheep).

      However most archdioceses would be big enough to have the diversity of academic, liturgical, musical, architectural, etc. to not only support such leadership but also to provide a challenging audience since many of these people would not have any particular bishop as boss. In other words a bishop exercising liturgical leadership would have to convince priests and laity outside his own diocese as well as his fellow bishops.

      Also this idea is very much in keeping with the new marching orders that bishops are not supposed to fly. They are now supposed to stay in their dioceses (this would give them a break and expand that to their archdiocese).

      And it may also provide a healthier alternative to the careerism of seeking a larger diocese, or some role in the national bishops conference or on the national stage, etc.

  2. Charles – +++++ bravo

    and, then, using Untener’s example, allow episcopal conferences to make liturgical decisions which is what VII laid out.

  3. Please consider reinstating the discarded ICEL 1998 translation of the sacramentary for use in English speaking countries.

  4. Three things:
    1. Allow and encourage episcopal conferences to determine how liturgy will be celebrated in their locale.
    2. Restore 1998 sacramentary (ooooops…Roman Missal).
    3. Take paragraph #34 of SC seriously

  5. I’d prefer an updated translation that can be understood without having to follow along, or going home after mass to look it up and figure it out. My mind wanders now and I just tune it all out except for the singing parts.

  6. Well, there may be change coming. VOTF recently sent a letter to Pope Francis asking for more lay input in choosing bishops. I don’t always agree with everything they stand for but it seemed worth trying.
    Surprisingly, VOTF sent out an email today stating that they had received a written response from none other than Abp O’Malley (one of the council cardinals). In it he alluded to the fact that this would be discussed w/ Francis.

    So you never know…..

  7. Revoke LA and VC.
    Restore the role of the episcopal conferences and strengthen groups like ICEL.
    Permit the conferences to consider approval of more than one vernacular translation but determine common responses for people with input from them.
    Treat SP like Veteram Sapientiae.

  8. Scrap Liturgiam Authenticam immediately, reintroduce sensible translation guidelines in line with those originally envisaged by Vatican II’s Consilium in Comme le Prevoit, allow local adaptations of the Roman rite as envisioned by Vatican II, mandate full consultation (clergy + laity + experts) on translations, restore translation authority to the bishops, scrap Vox Clara.

    Anything less than the above is simply not acceptable.

  9. Forgive me for augmenting my naivete, but no one has died from the however egregious behaviors resulting from the internecine, labyrinthian machinations via LA and VC. No souls have been endangered externally from those changes or from SP as well. Should one need to put the victim card on the table, may they be persons who’ve been truly victimized by the clerical and other staffing assaults upon the very persons and dignity.
    It seems to me that living in community used to be a blessing even for diocesan priests, though that didn’t always alleviate behavioral and moral shortcomings. Well, the lone priest in a rectory cannot hole up in a den or an office reading Rocco, NCR, CNS or whatever media that reinforces the neuroses of the modern priesthood and the siege/crisis mentality of the bishops.
    They need to purposefully encounter Christ in their bishop not at the chancery or convocation/retreat, or at the country club. They need to feel a kinship with their shepherd that will then radiated out to their brothers in their deanery and among their faithful as well. Meetings about mission statements that are totally “Yada yada” are so deleterious to the priest getting their role at the altar and ambo.
    Careerism has become an option for both domestic and foreign clerics re-enacting the sacrifice and the last supper. That reality is self evident even to themselves much less to those nominal RC PiPs who are not helped to make a connection from rites to life in the real world passed the church doors.
    The nomination, vetting and electorial ratification of candidates for a bishopric within diocese in conjuction with the metropolitan superstructure could be a good start to recover the confidence of all who look to the Church, rather than personalities or Q ratings of popular or politically savvy clerics.
    Bishops must convince those in their charge all the qualities of responsibile pastorship, and that begins on how they prepare and conduct themselves with the genuine authority consecrated unto them upon holy orders, particularly when they obviously reflect the alter Christus by expiating the Lord in His own words from the ambo, and certainly at the altar and the presidential chair.
    The church cannot bear much more passive-aggresive conduct from its ordained servants. Liturgical competence can be formulated and its disciplines thoroughly inculcated in major seminaries if the candidates truly feel like they’re not alone in their own psychological foxholes.

  10. I would suggest that they take an honest look at the Ordinary Form of the Mass and allow for elements from the Extraordinary Form to be used as options such as what Pope Francis, or at least the Holy See under his scruntiny, has allowed for the Anglican Ordinariate. Clarify what the Extraordinary Form of the Mass means and make sure the bishop is the one who approves its use in parishes after the proper consultation. But make the normative Mass more in continuity with it with the options of the “prayers at the foot of the altar,” the EF Offertory Prayers and the Last Gospel and the Roman Canon with ithe EF rubrics, but with it spoken or dhanted aloud. Make sure the Introit, Offertory and Communion Antiphons are always chants, the official ones. Make clearer the option too for ad orientem and specific rubrics for it. Adopt the Anglican Ordinariate’s revision of the Roman Calendar for the universal Church.

    1. @Fr. Allan. McDonald – comment #15:
      Can’t see it happening for the roman rite within the next ten years especially under the direction of marini 1. Francis says we need to move forward not look backwards. I’m willing to put a tenner on it, are you? Lol

  11. Laudetur Iesus Christus!
    Well since we are making wishes:
    1.Scrap the Novus Ordo Missal, the 1962 Missal and revoke all the liturgical reforms of the fifties (Return to the Missal of 1948 );
    2. Scrap the 1911 Breviary (saints make mistakes too);
    3.End the document with the formula anathema sit.

    Time to wake up and quote the Bard :“And this weak and idle theme,
    No more yielding, but a dream.”

  12. Anyone wonder if the council of cardinal consultors will report back that either (1) the bishops have feedback that so many complex issues need to be resolved therefore francis decides it wise to convene another ecumenical council, or (2) the bishops throughout the continents themselves raise the possibility of another council or major synod?

    Maybe I’m getting carried away but I see so many parallels between Francis and good pope John. Pope John XXIII’s choice of name was also remarkable and previously thought of as impossible. Even the recent decision to include Joseph in the remaining Eucharistic prayers give a sense of déjà vu. Traumatic incidents upon the psyche which remain unresolved tend to cause one to unconsciously repeat behaviour and patterns of relating that lead to situations being repeated in the hope of reaching a different outcome and moving beyond an impasse or psychological block.

    Can pope Francis really reform the church permenantly without an explicit mandate by the wider church? Surely such major structural reform requires a council or some sort or another?

  13. I don’t understand the posts which call for liturgical diversity then immediately disparage the extraordinary form or SP.
    I second Fr. McDonald in calling not for more division but more catholicity. I’d like to see more if what works well in the EF available in the ordinary form and also working toward one universal calendar and lectionary cycle for both forms so that we are not separated. I think it’s one of the strengths of the church that we are not tied to and split up by each country. I don’t think increasing diversity along national or geographic lines is a good idea. Cultural sensitivity is one thing but trending toward national churches is another.

    1. @Colin Borne – comment #22:

      “I don’t understand the posts which call for liturgical diversity then immediately disparage the extraordinary form or SP.”

      It’s all about Vatican II. For those who accept Vatican II, it’s rather disconcerting to have diversity of “those who accept the liturgical reforms of Vatican II” and “those who do not accept Vatican II’s liturgical reforms and wish to continue celebrating the liturgy as if Vatican II did not happen.” I would be open to much liturgical diversity – but it would be because Catholics in different parts of the world all accept Vatican II but the liturgy is inculturated for various regions, as called for in Sacrosanctum Concilium articles 37-40


      1. @Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #25:
        I certainly wouldn’t count myself as someone who pretends Vatican II didn’t happen. I wouldn’t count myself as someone who sees the 1962 books as the perfect point to freeze time. I like being able to respond. I like hearing the gospel in English. But I also think there is much to learn from the extraordinary form. I believe an honest assessment of what it does right will help with good reform of the OF, with an end goal of having a unified Roman rite once more. To achieve that I think the SP is prudent and pastoral and will help us find those valuable things that the reforms lost. There is value in the preconciliar mass that was lost in the reforms. I see no value in disparaging it or those with an attachment to it. To accept Vatican II isn’t to reject everything that came before.

        Diversity so long as it agrees with one particular interpretation of the council is diversity. I am all for cultural sensitivity but making conferences like the USCCB quasi-Vaticans in their territory would divide the church and close geographic areas in on themselves.

        To bring it back around to the topic at hand: what I would put on a dream list for this meeting is not “undoing” SP, but finding a way to make it unnecessary.

      2. @Colin Borne – comment #26:
        Interesting – you say: “…..not “undoing” SP, but finding a way to make it unnecessary.”

        Suggest that VII and Consilium/Paul VI along with all episcopal conferences did think is was *unnecessary.*

        A few fallacies:
        – that diversity imples that the church has two forms of the one Western Rite (Fr. Ruff explains it well) nor that this is inculturation (it is not)
        – there is a tendency to take certain liturgical components out of context as if they exist separate from their history, the role it had in whatever rite; and its meaning (e.g. see #15 or last gospel – in our current rite, its reason to exist is not supported; it was considered an accretion)
        – this continues in terms of separating liturgy from its ecclesiology and theology (again, as if rubrics or components just exist on their own)

        Thus, you wind up with *likes and dislikes* that ignore liturgical exegesis/history; ignore ecclesiology, and ignore the foundation principles of eucharistic theology. and it feels like it is just reduced to what he or she likes.

        Again, eucharist is the public prayer of the church – SP creates confusion; posits a different ecclesiology (even tho some deny this); and you wind up mixing up eucharistic theologies.

        You seem to want to suggest that we throw out research, liturgical principles and compromise on likes/dislikes to make SP unnecessary. Keep in mind – SP is just a papal proclamation on the lowest level of authority – papal proclamations such as SP have been contradicted and left to die in the past for centuries by other popes.SP had little to no support among episcopal conferences and experts have shown that it contradicted tradition in terms of councils/popes that promulgated new missals/orders of Mass and ending the prior missal.

      3. @Bill deHaas – comment #27:

        Your meme about *likes and dislikes* is tired.

        As much as you may not like the fact that the Vetus Ordo has been liberated, you must accept that it is spiritually nourishing for some… every bit as much as inculturation introduced into the Novus Ordo is nourishing for others. This is the reason that Paul VI, John Paul II (twice), and Benedict XVI chose to grant those attached to the Vetus Ordo increasingly greater freedom to use it.

        Unfortunately, either the Council Fathers, the Consilium, or both were short-sighted in not seeing this when writing and/or implementing Sacrosanctum Concilium. Their approach to liturgical renewal had little to no regard for those who WERE being spiritually nourished by the existing liturgy (and who in turn would find they were NOT being nourished as well by the Novus Ordo).

        For the majority of those who find the greatest spiritual nourishment in the Vetus Ordo, it is not about choosing to accept or not accept Vatican II, any more than someone finding their greatest nourishment at a Byzantine Divine Liturgy or an inculturated African Novus Ordo is an acceptance or rejection of Vatican II.

        The starting point for further analysis is not simply to go back to SC any more than it is to go back to some point before the Council. To analyze and discern requires us to look at everything that has transpired since then.

        As for theology, you said:

        Again, eucharist is the public prayer of the church – SP creates confusion; posits a different ecclesiology (even tho some deny this); and you wind up mixing up eucharistic theologies.

        Tell the folks in the Eastern Rites this, because their liturgies differ in ecclesiology and eucharistic theology in at least as great a difference to the Novus Ordo as the Vetus Ordo does. I dare you.

        As for the intention of this post, my suggestion about liturgy to the council of cardinals would be this:

        Please leave the liturgy alone. Constant liturgical meddling by experts, then the Council, then the Consilium, then the Bishops’ Conferences, then again by various Vatican bodies has caused nothing but chaos for the last 60 years. Let’s allow things to stabilize for about another generation. Then, and only then, might we be able to evaluate the situation and discern a direction to take.

        In the meantime, there are plenty of other things that need attention.

      4. @Bill deHaas – comment #27:
        I’m sympathetic with a lot that you’re saying here but on the issue of taking liturgical components out of their historical context even the ordinary form is composed of somewhat disjointed elements introduced at various stages (and places) throughout the long history of the liturgy that no longer match the original role they had. The various eastern rites tend to be of an even more composite nature. Approaching liturgy that demands no accretions would leave us with no liturgy. That’s not a defense of any particular practice, but a note that perhaps the language of accretion is unhelpful.

        As to the original post, I too am more concerned about extra-liturgical matters, but if we must share, I’d like to see a better English translation.

      5. @Brendan McInerny – comment #29:
        Thanks, Brendan…agree with one difference…..would suggest that Consilium based their work and decisions upon decades of research, etc. and that the core order of mass are not accretions (yes, that word does seem to raise hackles). Yet, most commenters here appear to focus on the accretions without any sense that they understand principles first based upon ressourcement and reform and then an order of mass. (sorry, it didn’t just drop from the heavens – another myth). IMO, you have to start with the principles, the ecclesiology, and the eucharistic theology (note that none of that was responded to with the Eastern Church exception – will repeat what Fr. Ruff often says – we are talking about the Western Rite; not the Eastern Church).

        Another point – Consilium didn’t respect that a small contingent did *spiritually benefit* from the TLM. That is a generalization and judgment that has no factual basis. But, yes, Consilium focused on the whole church; not a small segment nor did it start with surveys about who or who did not get *spiritual benefit*. (talk about secularity – let’s start with who benefits or doesn’t benefit just like a marketing campaign)

        IMO, it sounds like my teenagers – *Don’t get anything out of the mass*. that is why I state – it is the public liturgy and public liturgy is not a spirituality; it is a communal experience that is predicated on what I bring, share, and go forth with (mission). So, *spiritual benefit* to my ears is highly individualistic (sacraments are the opposite of that); seems to land on what I get (sacraments are both); and again actually equates to one of the most secularist ideas of our times – individualism vs. common good. (sounds similar to what Francis said about narcissism and self-referential)

        We aren’t going to find agreement – SP, IMO, is an exception that has had unintended consequences; it impacts only a very small part of the world church; to echo Cdl. Rodriquez on Pastor Bonum – “No, that consitution is over. It is time to write something new.”…..that needs to apply to SP.

        And, IMO, Paul VI carefully granted permission (while ending the 1962 missal) and it is clear from the history that this permission was intended to be a *sunset law* – time limited for one generation. JPII ignored this tradition and Paul VI and his own synods and episcopal conferences. (at best, what he got was unintended consequences) Benedict tried to apply his own highly individualistic interpretation of VII to the liturgy ignoring that there was significant agreement on what VII meant, accomplished, and its direction. In doing so, he ignored valid historical studies, research, and his own episcopal conferences. His SP is an anomaly in church history and tradition.
        Given this post, would just leave it with a request that episcopal conferences make the decisions about SP, etc. and that these decisions be for a specified time period.

      6. @Bill deHaas – comment #31:
        I guess the question would be: if the order of mass didn’t fall from the sky, then how can any of it (save very, very little) not be an accretion?

  14. Andrew rex :like the 1965 ”missal”

    That would be awesome! Please allow for it’s use, or, as Fr. MacDonald suggests, for the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, Little Canon, Last Gospel, and pre-1955 reforms of Holy Week as options in the OF.

  15. Catholics don’t possess an effective culture of mutual discernment at the lay level. Between that and the historically anomalous way bishops have been chosen in the post-Napoleonic era, we may wish to reconsider what issues get decided in the current dysfunctional model. I am thinking liturgy should wait.

  16. Bill, can you cite the evidence to support the claim that Paul VI expected the old rite to completely expire within a generation? I assume you are talking about the English/Heenan/Agatha Christi Indult. Historical context tells me it granted permission for the old rite (albeit in it’s 1967 form) for the foreseeable future with no implied expiration, as does the text of the indult itself.

    I think the issue over SP is about spiritual nourishment, rather than a rejection of Vatican II – at least for Catholics going to SP Masses rather than SSPX ones.

    My hope for a Council of Cardinals is that they either ignore or reaffirm SP, but otherwise tackle things that are actually important. Nobody is leaving the Church because of SP, and it isn’t causing division. Those who think it is a problem at all are uninformed and misguided.

    1. @Jack Wayne – comment #35:
      Briefly because we have debated this endlessly:
      – no, not talkiing about the Agatha Christi indult (and would suggest that this indult, as we have previously debated, did not happen the way some think)
      – my suggestion about *expiration* had to do with the language Paul VI used when he promulgated the new missal and his permission for cases such as older, retired priests.
      – sorry, tried to address your phrase *spiritual nourishment*…..we will not agree when I try to explain *public prayer* and why we do communal eucharist (spiritual nourishment is a we; not a me and is only one of many things we do at the eucharist).

      Finally, your last sentence reveals your lack of knowledge or denial about the impact of SP on some of the European countries and what their own episcopal conferences have been saying for years.

  17. Like most of us, I suppose, I used to think the idea of strengthening of the role of Episcopal Conferences to be a good and progressive one. But that’s before I lived in Barcelona. The fact that those conferences are set up by political borders can mean bad things for local churches. The Spanish Episcopal Conference, made up of a majority who feel free to be often openly opposed to the customs and even languages of local churches is a very negative thing. They also see to it that bishops appointed in, say, the Basque Country or Catalonia, are to the liking of the Castilian prelates. If you think these questions are unimportant or the values frivolous, check out the difference between the community of Benedictine monks at Monserrat and the ones near Madrid who enthusiastically devote themselves to the custody of Franco’s tomb and that of his fellow fascist leaders and host celebrations of fascist anniversaries, etc. The bishops’ radio station is scandalously tied to the majority political party, which relatively few Catalans or Basques vote for, and its broadcasts are routinely openly hostile to them.

    So “national” conferences of bishops would more properly called “state” conferences, since it is politics, not ecclesiology, that determines their composition. (The independence movement in Catalonia, now polling majorities, often mentions having their own Episcopal Conference as an important motive for having their own state.)

    1. @Roger Evans – comment #36:
      Thanks, Roger. You raise a good point, one which has ramifications on many fronts. Do you think there would be merit in opening the question of a reconsideration of how the boundaries of episcopal conferences are drawn? There is nothing divinely ordained about having them coincide with a given political unit, after all.

      Of course the bigger question is why are there bishops appointed who wish to celebrate Franco and treat their brethren in Catalonia and the Basque region so oppressively. I’d like to think that Pope Francis has begun to challenge the way in which episcopal appointments are made. If his program succeeds on that front, there will be more pastoral bishops whose charity and humility would be greater, and the attachment to an authoritarian past would be weakened.

      This is a long-range project, but if it succeeds it would change the dynamic. Isolating people who are acting in ways that are destructive limits the damage, but it doesn’t solve the bigger problem: what sort of bishops are being appointed? How are they exercising their ministry, modeling charity, and governing with justice? If it’s bad for Catalonians and Basques, it’s also bad for Castillian Spaniards to have this example!

    2. @Roger Evans – comment #36:
      It has always given me pause that our own national bishops’ conference, the USCCB, began life in 1917 as the National Catholic War Council. It is probably good to bear in mind the means by which nation states maintain their borders.

  18. I am no liturgical expert by any means. I’m simply a Catholic who attends Sunday mass, but I side with those hoping that the new English missal introduced last year will be replaced by the former one.

    Some of the changes have simply confused people: “chalice” rather than “cup,” “incarnate of the Virgin Mary,” “consubstantial,” “It will be shed for you and for many” rather than “It will be shed for you and for all, ” etc.

    More than the confusion, I find the new missal to have taken much of the beauty out of the English language mass. I understand that one of the aims of the new translation was to be more “faithful” to the Latin and make the English more “lofty.” While I find nothing lofty in the changes, I understand the aim of being faithful to the Latin. But being faithful in translation means more than a word by word translation. It must capture something else. It must, in a sense, also be poetic. I’d prefer a translation of the Odyssey by Tennyson rather than by Justice Scalia.

    The beauty of simple, direct English has been lost in my opinion. The harmony of “Peace be with you, . . and also with you” has been lost by “and with your spirit” It may work in other languages, Italian for example, but not in English. On aesthetic grounds, I find it hard to have such a beautiful sentence in English, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed,” replaced with “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed” (a difficult sentence to utter if one were homeless).

    I’m sorry for this long post. I’m sure this has been discussed over and over, but this has bothered me for a year now. I know the Church has many great problems to face, but I do consider our liturgy important. Maybe we can return to the former missal under Pope Francis–or at least give priests the option.

  19. Given the general, not universal, tenor of the present US hierarchy, I might be inclined to take my chances with the Roman Curia.

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