04 April 2017, The Tablet

Odd text from Cardinal Sarah is often praiseworthy, sometimes questionable, unfortunate and downright mistaken

Over the weekend, Cardinal Robert Sarah, who runs the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, argued in a message sent to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the publication of the Motu proprio Summorum Pontificum by Pope Benedict XVI that those promoting a “modern liturgy” had caused disaster, devastation and schism by trying to reduce the Mass into a “simple convivial meal”. 

Here Fr Anthony Ruff, who is a Benedictine monk and liturgical expert, gives his opinion on the text (which can be read in full here):

"This is an interesting, rather odd talk by Cardinal Sarah. It is at times praiseworthy, at times questionable, and at times unfortunate and downright mistaken.

It is good to see the cardinal prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship affirm with strong language the Liturgical Movement and the Second Vatican Council. His desire for “unity and peace” regarding liturgy, and his statement that “Catholics ought to experience unity in the truth, in faith, and in love” is inspirational.

But Cardinal Sarah attaches excessive weight to Summorum Pontificum as if it is the fulfillment of Vatican II, when it is contrary to the intent and clear directives of the Vatican II liturgy constitution. His claim that Vatican II did not abandon the Missal of Pius V is simply mistaken.

His interpretation of Vatican II in general is questionable, for it emphasises only continuity (which of course is there) and underemphasises how much rupture is involved in the liturgy constitution’s paradigm shift.

It’s unfortunate that Cardinal Sarah is so unrelentingly negative about the liturgical reform. It seems that in his mind the reformers have brought only “disaster, devastation, schism, destruction, self-destruction, liturgy wars, and superficial, devastating subjectivism.”

It would be good if he could study the reforms more deeply and understand, for example, what “mystery” means in Catholic theology, or how “sacrifice” and “meal” are not opposed to each other in some sort of zero-sum game.

And this is odd: Cardinal Sarah strongly supports Liturgiam Authenticam and the botched new English Missal. That’s a risky move when his boss seems to be going in another direction."

Fr Anthony Ruff is a Benedictine monk and liturgical expert based at St John's School of Theology, Collegeville, in Minnesota, US. He moderates the Pray Tell blog 

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