A liturgical conference focussing on traditionalist and restorationist talking points which appear to be at odds with Pope Francis’ vision for Catholic worship will take place in the San Francisco archdiocese this week.
“Sacra Liturgia”, a conference on liturgical formation and celebration, was founded by Dom Alcuin Reid, a traditionalist monk who has been suspended after he was clandestinely ordained without permission from his bishop.
Although he is the principal organiser of Sacra Liturgia and had been scheduled to speak at the gathering, a spokeswoman for the event said he “is no longer associated” with the conference. Dom Alcuin’s community in France has now been suppressed by the Bishop of Fréjus-Toulon, Dominique Rey, who had allowed the Australian-born monk to establish a monastic foundation in his diocese more than a decade ago.
The conference, which runs from tomorrow to Friday, is being hosted by the Archbishop of San Francisco, Salvatore Cordileone and will take place in the archdiocesan seminary of St Patrick’s, Menlo Park, in the heart of Silicon Valley. Archbishop Cordileone will conclude the conference by celebrating a Traditional Latin Mass at the historic Mission Dolores basilica, founded in 1776 by St Junipero Serra, a Spanish Franciscan missionary. Last July, Francis issued restrictions on the celebrations of the Old Rite, the liturgy used before the reforms to Catholic worship mandated by the 1962-65 Second Vatican Council came into effect. Soon after the restrictions were announced, it emerged Archbishop Cordileone and instituted a monthly Traditional Latin Mass in San Francisco’s cathedral although he emphasised that this was approved before the Pope’s decision.
The conference takes place after the Pope’s recent remarks that a “significant” number of groups in the United States have adopted a “restorationist” mentality which frustrates the implementation of Vatican II. He also said that the “current problem of the Church is precisely the non-acceptance of the Council”.
The reforms to Catholic worship by Vatican II sought to encourage a “full and active participation” of all believers in the liturgy. The reforms introduced local languages into celebrations while priests started to face the people during Mass.
Among the speakers at the Sacra Liturgia conference are Cardinal Robert Sarah, the Holy See’s former liturgy prefect, and Cardinal George Pell, the Vatican’s former treasurer.
During his tenure, Cardinal Sarah, who is supported by many liturgical traditionalists, was publicly corrected by the Pope on more than one occasion over the liturgy. One of these corrections took place following a Sacra Liturgia conference in London in 2016 when the cardinal called for priests to start celebrating Mass facing east (ad orientem), with their backs to the people. The cardinal will offer a keynote address titled “Liturgical formation”.
Other speakers include Dr Michael Foley, a theologian, who will talk on the topic “Learned Gaffs: The Impact of Flawed Scholarship on the Liturgical Reforms of the Twentieth Century”. Cardinal Pell will talk about “Daily Mass in the Life of a Priest” and his time without the Mass while he was in prison. The Australian cardinal was acquitted of sex abuse charges by the High Court of Australia in 2020.
Sacra Liturgia has received some high-profile endorsements. Among those attending the event is Harrison Butker, the American footballer and 2020 Super Bowl champion. He is described as someone “who loves the Traditional Latin Mass”.
Sponsors have also been asked to back various elements of the conference. The “Cardinal Pell Package”, priced at $50,000 (£40,670), offers sponsors recognition at the conference and a chance to “meet and greet” the cardinal along with two invitations to a VIP dinner. “The Cardinal Sarah Package,” costing $20,000 (£16,260), also offers the chance to “meet and greet” the cardinal and be recognised in the conference material.
A spokeswoman for the event said they “look for sponsors to keep it affordable” as the cost of “tuition” only covers half of the conference costs.
While Archbishop Cordileone has described himself as “grieved” by traditionalist criticisms of the Pope, he has been described as someone who has “repeatedly questioned Francis’s push for a more open and consultative Catholicism”.
In the past, Bishop Rey was a supporter of the Sacra Liturgia. That seems to have stopped. After Alcuin Reid’s illicit ordination, the Vatican ordered the bishop to stop carrying out ordinations. This was reportedly due to a policy of welcoming trainee priests from outside the diocese and a lack of rigour in priestly formation.
Francis has said his restrictions on the Old Rite are designed to protect the unity of the Church. Benedict XVI had lifted restrictions. The new prefect of the liturgy office, Archbishop Arthur Roche, has said this had been turned into a “promotion to return to what existed before the Second Vatican Council”.