Fueled most recently by an article on the sacred liturgy published in L’Osservatore Romano, Cardinal Robert Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, is skyrocketing toward the outer limits of neo-conservative stardom.
The highlight of the article – what some headlines are disingenuously portraying as the imminent return of ad orientem worship to the Novus Ordo – reads:
Contrary to what has sometimes been maintained, it is in full conformity with the conciliar Constitution [on the Sacred Liturgy]—indeed, it is entirely fitting—for everyone, priest and congregation, to turn together to the East during the penitential rite, the singing of the Gloria, the orations, and the Eucharistic prayer…
For the record, even the Novus Ordo missal itself presumes that the rite is being celebrated ad orientem. As such, it’s difficult to imagine why the cardinal’s words are being received with so much excitement.
More importantly, while it is true that Sacrosanctum Concilium does not specifically call for a liturgy versus populum (facing the people), it most certainly set the stage for it.
By positioning the purpose and the value of the so-called “reform” in terms of its contribution to ecumenism.
In the words of the Constitution, the reason for undertaking the effort of reforming the ancient Mass “is to foster whatever can promote union among all who believe in Christ.”
In reality, this translates to nothing more inspired than a directive to craft a rite wherein Protestants will feel right at home, and that includes, of course, a rite wherein the priest-as-presider faces the people in the manner of a heretic minister.
In spite of this, Cardinal Sarah, like just about every other “full communion” prelate in Rome, is determined to hold the Council harmless, and what’s more, to treat it as if it is a widely misunderstood gift from Above, saying:
Sacrosanctum Concilium is not in fact a simple catalogue of “recipes” for reform, but a true and proper Magna Carta for all liturgical action. In that Constitution, the Ecumenical Council gives us a masterful lesson in methodology.
He even goes so far as to say, “The hour has come to listen to the Council.”
Right, as if the nonsense that has come to define Catholic life over the last fifty years (liturgical and otherwise) isn’t attributable in large measure to the Roman Pontiffs who, far from ignoring the conciliar text, have allowed it to serve as the guiding light of their pontificates.
Note as well the gratuitous reference to Vatican II as “the Ecumenical Council.”
Not only is Vatican II not the ecumenical council, given its lack of intent to define and bind, it is truly more akin to a glorified Synod of Bishops, and we all know how faithful they can be in providing a Magna Carta for the Church’s renewal!
More to the point, the Second Vatican Council was – as the documents it produced most surely attest (Sacrosanctum Concilium included) – a “pastoral” exercise that provided Masons and modernists with an unprecedented opportunity to construct the foundation upon which the anthropocentric church of their dreams would be built; all under the guise of a solemn act of the sacred magisterium.
And boy did they seize it!
Unable to recognize this reality, Cardinal Sarah maintains:
The conciliar Constitution invites us to rediscover the Trinitarian origin of the work of the liturgy.
This is simply a variation on the false notion that the Church prior to Vatican II had drifted away from its most fundamental principles and was therefore in great need of ressourcement – a return to sources – with the specific implication here being that prior to the Council, the Church had somehow lost sight of the true nature of Holy Mass.
This is what psychologists would call “projection,” and Our Lady, “diabolical disorientation.”
The immediate pre-conciliar era was one during which the overwhelming majority of self-described Catholics faithfully assisted at Mass without fail every Sunday and Holy Day, they frequented the sacraments, and had an unshakeable belief in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.
Today, nearly fifty years after Sacrosanctum Concilium was officially implemented, leading to the “reformed” (more properly, deformed) liturgy known as the Novus Ordo, the exact opposite is true.
Undaunted, Cardinal Sarah points to the “conciliar Constitution” that effectively set the current liturgical crisis in motion as the key to its restoration; a proposition that cannot but call to mind Einstein’s definition of insanity.
Quoting from Sacrosanctum Concilium, he writes:
The hour has come to listen to the Council. The liturgy is “above all things the worship of the divine majesty” (§33). It can form and teach us only insofar as it is completely ordered to divine worship and the glorification of God.
As indicated, Cardinal Sarah is quoting from SC 33.
Now, pay very close attention as this reference gives us a perfect opportunity to consider just how dangerous the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy truly is, and why the last thing anyone needs to do is to “listen to the Council.”
In context, the reference given by Cardinal Sarah reads:
Although the sacred liturgy is above all things the worship of the divine Majesty, it likewise contains much instruction for the faithful . For in the liturgy God speaks to His people and Christ is still proclaiming His gospel. And the people reply to God both by song and prayer.
Moreover, the prayers addressed to God by the priest who presides over the assembly in the person of Christ are said in the name of the entire holy people and of all present. (Sacrosanctum Concilium 33)
There is a great deal to discuss here; perhaps more than meets the eye, so we’ll take it a portion at a time.
Although the sacred liturgy is above all things the worship of the divine Majesty, it likewise contains much instruction for the faithful .
Cardinal Sarah quoted the first half of this sentence as if to suggest that it’s emblematic of those allegedly overlooked portions of the conciliar text that, once “listened to,” will contribute to the liturgical renewal desired.
Not all that long ago, I may have agreed with him, but thanks be to God, I now recognize that these words of the Council are highly deceptive and gravely dangerous.
First of all, let us ask, what is “worship of the divine Majesty,” and how is it performed?
No doubt, there are countless ways in which mankind worships the divine Majesty; Eucharistic adoration, individual and communitarian prayer, various devotions like the Way of the Cross, etc.
Keeping well in mind the ecumenical impetus behind the proposed liturgical reform, it is important to recognize that when individual heretics gather to participate in their “Sunday services,” the majority do so with the intention of offering praise and worship of the divine Majesty as well.
At this, it should be evident why it is a dangerous thing to imagine that the sacred liturgy (and here I speak specifically of Holy Mass) is above all things the worship of the divine Majesty. (The Latin text uses the word, praecipue, which can also be translated, especially.)
In reality, Holy Mass is above all things (i.e., more than anything else) the true and propitiatory Sacrifice of Jesus Christ offered for both the living and the dead unto the attainment of mercy, that each might enter ever more perfectly into Holy Communion with Almighty God.
As such, while we can say that the Mass is the most excellent worship of the divine Majesty at our disposal (precisely because it is the perfect Sacrifice of Christ into which we enter by the power of the Holy Ghost), it is at best misleading to characterize the Mass as this above all things.
Why is this distinction so important?
Embracing the Council’s false characterization of the Mass as simply worship “above all else” leads one to imagine that it is essentially the Catholic version of the Protestant Sunday service.
Can there be any doubt that this is precisely what most Catholics, including even many a daily communicant, believe?
Notice as well that the conciliar proposition under review provides a footnote (34) that reads:
Cf. Council of Trent, Session XXII, Doctrine on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, c. 8.
Session XXII, Chapter VIII of the Council of Trent reads, under the heading, “On not celebrating the Mass everywhere in the vulgar tongue; the mysteries of the Mass to be explained to the people”:
Although the Mass contains great instruction for the faithful people, nevertheless, it has not seemed expedient to the Fathers, that it should be everywhere celebrated in the vulgar tongue…
Setting aside for the moment the fact that the Novus Ordo is “everywhere celebrated in the vulgar tongue,” note that from here, the chapter goes on to briefly exhort pastors to explain the mysteries of the Holy Sacrifice in their sermons. That’s it.
The intent of this chapter is plain; nowhere does it or any other portion of the canons and decrees of Trent suggest that the Mass is “above all else” or “especially” a worship service, but this is precisely the message imparted in the text of Vatican II.
SC 33 promotes a Protestant view of the Mass more plainly still when it goes on to say:
For in the liturgy God speaks to His people and Christ is still proclaiming His gospel. And the people reply to God both by song and prayer.
Imagine that! The liturgy of the Catholic Church is thus reduced to a reading of the Gospels that invites the people to respond by breaking out in song and prayer!
To top it all off, as if to leave no room for confusion, the priest must also be reduced:
Moreover, the prayers addressed to God by the priest who presides over the assembly in the person of Christ are said in the name of the entire holy people and of all present.
Don’t let the gratuitous reference to the priest acting “in the person of Christ” distract you; the real intent here is to paint the priest as presider, even to the point where the masterminds of the text evidently found it necessary to put forth yet another falsehood; namely, that the prayers spoken by the priest at Holy Mass are “said in the name of the entire holy people and of all present.”
In this, the revolutionaries, the same who looked forward to a new rite wherein the priest would largely lose his unique identity, tipped their hand.
In the Mass of Ages (the one celebrated by the Council Fathers and the one to which they necessarily refer), there are numerous prayers that are spoken exclusively by the priest (i.e., not in the name of the people); e.g., his Confiteor, the Munda cor meum (prior to the reading of the Gospel), the Lavabo, the Placeat Tibi, and most notably the Prayers at the Consecration…
More can be said about the degree to which the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy is indeed culpable for the liturgical disaster that followed, but that at this, I trust the point has been made.
While it may be the case that Cardinal Sarah is more Catholic in his thinking than many of his confreres (including his humble boss), ultimately he’s but another man of the Council; unable to see it for what it truly is – a grave danger to any and all who wish to find, embrace, and persist in the one true faith.
He is, therefore, part of the problem; not the solution.
Until such time as the leaders of the Church, the pope chief among them, abandon the increasingly untenable proposition that Vatican Council II was an outpouring of Divine guidance, if only we will listen, the crisis through which we are currently suffering will most certainly worsen.
More specifically as it concerns the sacred liturgy; until the Novus Ordo Missae is acknowledged for what it truly is – an unmitigated disaster, born of impious desires, that needs to be abrogated – no amount of reforms-of-the-reform (a return to ad orientem worship included) will amount to a hill of beans.
Cardinal Sarah, by contrast, even went so far as to fire what looks like a “warning shot” of sorts, daring faithful Catholics (often called “traditionalists” in our day) to point out the obvious deficiencies and dangers inherent to the all-too-ordinary form posing as the Roman Rite:
[The liturgy] must cease to be a place of disobedience to the prescriptions of the Church. More specifically, the liturgy cannot be an occasion for divisions among Christians.
As prelates like Cardinal Sarah content themselves with proposing traditional band aids to mask the Novus Ordo’s deficiencies (not through binding legislation, mind you, but only via the occasional newspaper article or conference lecture), the liturgical life of the Church remains earthbound and arid, promising to produce yet another generation of self-identified Catholics who have no idea that they’ve effectively become Protestant.
And this, my friends, is the stuff of neo-conservative stardom.
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