Rorate Caeli

A 1999 letter by Cardinal Ratzinger on the reform of the liturgy

Last week, Fr. Matias Auge CMF, a veteran professor of liturgy in Rome, former consultant to the Congregation for Divine Worship and disciple of the reformers of the 1960's, published an exchange of letters that he had with then-Cardinal Ratzinger on the topic of the reform of the sacred liturgy.

Upon Rorate's request, Natasja Hoven, who works with the Swedish Catholic website Katolsk Observator, made the following translation of these very important letters.

(Commentary to follow shortly.)

Letter from Fr. Matias Auge to Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger:

Rome, 16 November 1998

Most Reverend Eminence,

I beg you to excuse me for venturing to write this letter. I do it in humble simplicity and also with great sincerity. I am a professor of liturgy at the Pontifical Liturgical Institute of Sant’ Anselmo and at the Theological Faculty of the Pontifical Lateran as well as Consultant of the Congregation for Divine Worship. I have read the conference that you gave some time ago on the occasion of the ”Ten Years After the Motu Proprio ’Ecclesia Dei’” ("Dix ans du Motu Proprio ‘Ecclesia Dei’”). I must confess that its content left me deeply perplexed. In particular I was struck by the response you gave to the objections made by those who do not approve of "the attachment to the old liturgy”. It is on this that I would like to pause a little in this letter to you.

The accusation of disobedience to Vatican II is fended off by saying that the Council did not itself reform the liturgical books but only ordered that they may be revised. This is true enough, and the affirmation cannot be contradicted. However, I want to draw your attention to the fact that not even the Council of Trent reformed the liturgical books, as they only occupied themselves with the very general principles. To execute the reform as such, the Council asked the Pope to do it, and Pius V and his successors implemented it in a most loyal way.

Therefore, I cannot understand how the principles of the Second Vatican Council concerning the reform of the Mass, presented in Sacrosanctum Concilium, nos. 47-58 (thus not only in nos. 34-36 as cited by Your Eminence), may be in harmony with the re-instatement of the so-called Tridentine Mass. If on the other hand we consider the affirmation of Cardinal Newman mentioned by you, namely that the Church has never abolished or prohibited ”orthodox liturgical forms”, then I ask myself if, for instance, the admirable changes introduced by Pius X in the Roman Psalter (Breviary – CAP) and by Pius XII in the (ceremonies for) Holy Week have abolished the old Tridentine orders or not. The above mentioned principle could make some people think – for example, in Spain – that it is permitted to celebrate the old Spanish rite – the Visigothic, (which is) orthodox, and return it to its place after Vatican II. To say that the Tridentine Rite is something different from the rite of Vatican II does not seem accurate to me: I would say that it is contrary to the notion of what is meant here by rite. Therefore the Tridentine Rite and the present one are one and the same rite: the Roman Rite, in two different phases of its history.

The second objection was that the return to the old liturgy is likely to break the unity of the Church. This objection is met by you in distinguishing between the theological and the practical side of the problem. I can share many of the considerations made by you in this respect, except some that are not historically sustainable, as for instance the claim that until the Council of Trent there existed Mozarabic Rites (of Toledo and other places), which were then suppressed by the same. The Mozarabic Rite was in fact suppressed already by Gregory VII, with the exclusion of Toledo, where it still remains in force. The Ambrosian Rite, on the other hand, has never been suppressed. Thus I cannot understand why it has been forgotten what Paul VI says in the Apostolic Constitution of April 3,1969, with which he promulgated the new Missal, namely: “We are confident that this Missal will be received by the faithful as a means of testifying to and confirming the unity of all, and that through it, in a great variety of languages, to our heavenly Father will rise one sole and identical prayer.” Paul VI desired that the new Missal should be an expression of unity for the Church. He then adds in conclusion: “What we have here established and ordained, we wish to remain valid and effective now and in the future, despite what may be contrary to it in the Constitutions and the Apostolic Decrees of our predecessors, as well as other provisions also worthy of mention and exception.”

I know the subtle distinctions made by some persons who are legal specialists or considered as such. I believe, however, that these are mere “subtleties” not meriting much attention. One could cite several documents that clearly show the intention of Paul VI in this respect. I can only remember the letter of October 11, 1975, which Cardinal J. Villot wrote to Monsignor Coffy, president of the French Episcopal Commission for Liturgy and the Sacraments (Secretariat of State, no. 287608), in which he said, inter alia: ”By the Constitution Missale Romanum, the Pope prescribes, as you know, that the new Missal should replace the old one, notwithstanding the Apostolic Constitutions and Ordinances of his predecessors, which consequently includes all the dispositions made in the Constitution Quo primum and which would have permitted the preservation of the old Missal [...] In short, as mentioned in the Constitution Missale Romanum, it is to the new Roman Missal and nowhere else that the Catholics of the Roman rite should look for the signs and the instrument of the mutual unity of all ... .”

Your Eminence, please let me say, that being a professor of liturgy, I find myself in the position of teaching facts that seem to me different from those expressed by you in above mentioned conference. And I believe that I have to continue on this road of obedience to the Pontifical Magisterium. I also lament the excesses with which some people after the Council have celebrated and still celebrate the reformed liturgy. But I cannot understand why some eminent Cardinals, not only yourself, think it opportune to call into question a reform approved, after all, by Pope Paul VI and to open the doors more and more to the use of the old Missal of Pius V. With humility, but also with apostolic frankness, I feel the need to state my opposition to such an outlook. I prefer to say openly that which many liturgists and non-liturgists, feeling themselves to be obedient sons of the Church, say to each other in the corridors of Roman universities.

Your most devoted [servant] in Christ,

Matias Augé, CMF

Response of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger to Matias Auge

February 18 1999

Reverend Father
P. Prof. Matias Augé, CMF
Istituto “Claretianum”
L.go Lorenzo Mossa, 4
00165 Rome

Reverend Father,

I have attentively read your letter of November 16, in which you express some criticism in respect to the conference I held on October 24, 1998, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the motu proprio “Ecclesia Dei.”

I understand that you do not share my opinions on the liturgical reform, the way it has been implemented, and the crisis deriving from some of the tendencies hidden in it, such as desacralization.

However, it seems to me that your criticism does not take into consideration two points:

The first one being that the Pope John Paul II, with the indult of 1984, under certain conditions, granted the use of the liturgy preceding the Pauline reform; thereafter the same Pope in 1988 published the motu proprio “Ecclesia Dei”, manifesting his wish to please the faithful who are attached to certain forms of the earlier Latin liturgy; and furthermore he asks the bishops ”by a wide and generous application” to allow the use of the liturgical books of 1962.

The second one is that a considerable number of the Catholic faithful, especially those of French, English, and German nationality and language remain strongly attached to the old liturgy, and the Pope does not intend to repeat what happened in 1970 when the new liturgy was imposed in an extremely abrupt way, with a transition time of only six months, whereas the prestigious Liturgical Institute in Trier had rightly proposed a transition time of ten years (if I am not mistaken) for such an undertaking, one that touches in a vital way the heart of the Faith.

Thus, these two points, namely the authority of the Supreme Pontiff and his pastoral and respectful concern for the traditionalist faithful, that must be taken into consideration.

I, therefore, take the liberty to add some answers to your criticism of my speech.

1. Regarding the Council of Trent, I have never said that it should have reformed the liturgical books; on the contrary, I have always emphasized that the post-Tridentine reform, situating itself in the continuity of liturgical history, did not wish to abolish the other Latin orthodox liturgies (which existed for more than 200 years); neither did it wish to impose liturgical uniformity.

When I said that even the faithful who use the indult of 1984 must follow the decrees of the Council, I wanted to show that the fundamental decisions of Vatican II are the meeting point of all liturgical trends and are therefore also the bridge for reconciliation in the area of liturgy. The audience present actually understood my words as an invitation to an opening to the Council, to the liturgical reform. I believe that those who defend the necessity and the value of the reform should be completely in agreement with this way of bringing Traditionalists closer to the Council.

2. The citation from Cardinal Newman means that the authority of the Church has never in its history abolished with a legal mandate an orthodox liturgy. However, it is true that a liturgy that vanishes belongs to historical times, not the present.

3. I do not wish to enter into all the details of your letter, even if I would have no difficulties meeting your various criticisms against my arguments. However, I wish to comment on that what concerns the unity of the Roman rite. This unity is not threatened by small communities using the indult, who are often treated as lepers, as people doing something indecent, even immoral. No, the unity of the Roman rite is threatened by the wild creativity, often encouraged by liturgists (in Germany, for instance, there is propaganda for the project Missale 2000, which presumes that the Missal of Paul VI has already been superseded). I repeat that which was said in my speech: the difference between the Missal of 1962 and the Mass faithfully celebrated according to the Missal of Paul VI is much smaller than the difference between the various, so-called ”creative” applications of the Missal of Paul VI. In this situation, the presence of the earlier Missal may become a bulwark against the numerous alterations of the liturgy and thus act as a support of the authentic reform. To oppose the Indult of 1984 (1988) in the name of the unity of the Roman rite, is – in my experience – an attitude far removed from reality. Besides, I am sorry that you did not perceive in my speech the invitation to the ”traditionalists” to be open to the Council and to reconcile themselves to it in the hope of overcoming one day the split between the two Missals.

However, I thank you for your courage in addressing this subject, which has given me the occasion – in an open and frank way – to discuss a reality which is dear to both our hearts.

With sentiments of gratitude for the work you perform in the education of future priests, I salute you,

Yours in Christ

+ Joseph Card. Ratzinger

An update on the Rorate Caeli Purgatorial Society ...

Just 24 hours ago we announced the new Rorate Caeli Purgatorial Society (see previous post below). I would like to personally thank everyone who has wished us well on this new apostolate and offered prayers for its success.

In terms of the response, we have already received names to be enrolled by nearly 40 people, most of whom each sent numerous names of passed loved ones.

Possibly even more remarkable is that we also have already secured three holy priests to offer weekly Traditional Latin Masses for all the souls enrolled in the Society! I will make two of the priests' names known on Friday when the first listing of souls is posted (one of the priests must remain anonymous for now). The first TLM will take place this Friday, October 1, at 11 a.m. CST for those here who would like to unite themselves spiritually to the Mass. If there are other priests who would like to do the same, please email me. Also, for our readers, please remember these good priests in your prayers as well.

I would also like to thank The Remnant, New Advent and Vatican Watcher for sharing the news of our Purgatorial Society on their fine websites and I ask all of our sister blogs to please consider sharing the original link to our announcement below with your readers. We want everyone to know that, while sadly many Catholics neither pray for the dead nor even believe in Purgatory, there is a place they can turn, free of charge, to help bring eternal rest and perpetual light to their suffering loved ones.

Our Lady Queen of Purgatory, ora pro nobis!

And please remember to follow @RorateCaeli on Twitter.
Announcement: Rorate Caeli to begin New Purgatorial Society

Last week, my aunt lost her battle with cancer, and went to her eternal reward. When I received the sudden news, I prayed to Our Lady that her reward be Heaven, and then I quickly took to Twitter and Facebook to ask friends and family to pray for the repose of her soul.

When I was finished, I thought about how difficult it is to get people to pray for deceased loved ones, especially in today's society when even most Catholics wrongly believe everyone outside of murderers and rapists are automatically going to Heaven and thus are not in need of prayers. And I thought how wonderful it would be if there was a Purgatorial Society to turn to -- a free one as well.

I am now happy to announce the official launch of the Rorate Caeli Purgatorial Society!

This is where traditionals get to show we're traditional by more than just driving a couple of hours to the closest TLM -- we get to prove our traditional chops the old-fashioned way, by praying for others.

For those who want prayers for their loved ones, some ground rules: 1.) the person must have died within the last month [see below for update]; 2.) Send notice of recent deaths to me directly at my contact info on my profile page, not other contributors to this site, as I am taking on this duty; 3.) Send the info as text in an email as follows: the subject line should read "Rorate Caeli Purgatorial Society" and the body of the email should simply be the first and last name of the deceased and the state and country of origin of the deceased. Example:

Jane Doe, Maryland, United States

Having everyone submit them in this fashion will save me a lot of formatting time. And feel free to add as many names from the last month as you wish.

Each week, most likely every Friday, I will post the entire list I received that week. Then, all our readers will have to do is simply pray for the entire list, asking Our Lord to grant eternal rest and perpetual light on "all the souls in the Rorate Caeli Purgatorial Society."

While I will only post the list for the week, all the souls from the weeks before will forever be members of the Society, and will therefore reap the benefits of the prayers as long as we continue this effort.

Please feel free to start sending me your names now. And everyone please consider praying for the deceased -- one of the selfless spiritual works of mercy that truly make traditional Catholics traditional.

UPDATE: The response to the announcement of this Society has already been strong. I will post the first list of names this Friday. If you have emailed me, rest assured, those names will be added to the list -- I just can't respond affirmatively to all emails. Also, there will not be a listserve function to this -- you have to check this site each Friday for the list. I have also been asked that, just for this first posting of names, that loved ones who died in the last year be allowed, and I have agreed. So please feel free to send me names, properly formatted, of all your loved ones who passed over the last year. If you want to go back throughout time, just say the family name, eg: "The Jones family." Last, if you are a priest and would like to offer a weekly, monthly or even just one Traditional Latin Mass for the souls of this Society, please email me at

And please remember to follow @RorateCaeli on Twitter.

Cardinal Schonborn and Medjugorje. Again.

The blog Te Deum has a detailed post about the events of September 23 in the Stephansdom in Vienna:

Another "slap from Vienna" as Cardinal Schonborn hosts Medjugorje "seers" at his cathedral
The cardinal was present for part of the event , and publicly praised the seers for their 'service'. There is nothing more to say.

Filipino Archbishop denounces the "terrorist proclivities" of some liturgists

UCANews has published the following text by Archbishop Jesus Dosado of Ozamiz, Philippines (who has been featured in previous articles on Rorate -- see this and this.)
The liturgical renewal I would like to see
Looking back, some of the culprits for me for the gradual loss of the true reform of the liturgy were the so-called “liturgists” who were more like technicians and choreographers rather than pure students of liturgy.

They had a peculiar affinity for refined liturgical celebrations coupled with disdain for the old rites and devotions. Unfortunately, some bishops, not pure students of liturgy either, gave in to their terrorist proclivities.

A search for creativity and community were dominant projects in “reform-minded” Catholic circles in the 1960s and beyond. In itself, this might not have been bad. But the philosophy that the community was god, and that “God” was not fully “God” without the community was the source of ideas that have done most damage to the Church.

This secular notion of community made its way into the liturgy to gradually supplant the inherited Christian tradition.

These self-appointed arbiters of the reform were, and I hate to say this, liturgical hijackers who deprived ordinary parishioners – and bewildered pastors – of their right to the normative worship of their own Church. Hence, there was the need for a reform of the reform.

A major goal of Pope Benedict XVI is the restoration of our Catholic identity. Liturgy is a key component of such an endeavor.

Benedict’s broad liturgical approach can be described in terms of “continuity,” i.e. recovering elements of the liturgical tradition which he believes were too hastily set aside or downplayed in the immediate period after the Second Vatican Council.

The idea of a new liturgical movement came with strength from his book, Spirit of the Liturgy.

A relevant section: “I am convinced that the crisis in the Church that we are experiencing today is to a large extent due to the disintegration of the liturgy … in that it is a matter of indifference whether or not God exists and whether or not he speaks to us and hears us. … Such circumstances will inexorably result in a disintegration. This is why we need a new Liturgical Movement, which will call to life the real heritage of the Second Vatican Council.”

Pope Benedict XVI in his Pastoral Letter to Catholics in Ireland situated the sexual abuse of children in the wake of fast-paced social change and a decline in adherence to traditional devotional and sacramental practices.

To his priests in the Diocese of Rome he said, “In the Eucharist we do not invent something, but we enter into a reality that precedes us, more than that, which embraces heaven and earth and, hence, also the past, the future and the present. … Hence, the liturgical prescriptions dictated by the Church are not external things, but express concretely the reality of the revelation of the body and blood of Christ and thus the prayer reveals the faith according to the ancient principle ‘lex orandi – lex credendi.’” (“the law of praying establishes the law of believing.”)

To be sure, the Pope has great regard for the Novus Ordo. He issued a Letter to the Bishops on the Occasion of the Publication of Summorum Pontificum where he narrated why he wanted to expand the use of what is now called the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite and, in so doing, he deliberately responded to the fear that this expansion was somehow intended to demote the Novus Ordo or undermine the Vatican Council’s call for liturgical reform, saying it was unfounded.

For the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, (now Pope Benedict XVI) the liturgy is of its nature an inheritance, a space we inhabit as others have inhabited it before us. It is never an instrument we design or manipulate. Self-made liturgy is a contradiction in terms, and he distrusts liturgies that emphasize spontaneity, self-expression and extreme forms of local inculturation.

In his own book, Spirit of the Liturgy, Cardinal Ratzinger scathingly compared such liturgies to the worship of the Golden Calf, “a feast that the community gives itself, a festival of self-affirmation. Instead of being worship of God, it becomes a circle closed in on itself: eating, drinking and making merry … It is a kind of banal self-gratification … no longer concerned with God but with giving oneself a nice little alternative world, manufactured from one’s own resources.”

In his view, the liturgy is meant to still and calm human activity, to allow God to be God, to quiet our chatter in favor of attention to the Word of God and in adoration and communion with the self-gift of the Word incarnate.

The call for active participation seems to Benedict XVI to have “dumbed” down the mystery we celebrate, and left us with a banal inadequate language (and music) of prayer.

The “active participation” in the liturgy for which Vatican II called, he argues, emphatically, does not mean participation in many acts. Rather, it means a deeper entry by everyone present into the one great action of the liturgy, its only real action, which is Christ’s self-giving on the Cross.

We can best enter into the action of the Mass by a recollected silence, and by traditional gestures of self-offering and adoration – the Sign of the Cross, folded hands, reverent kneeling.

For the Pope, therefore, liturgical practice since the Council has taken a wrong turn, aesthetically impoverished, creating a rupture in the continuity of Catholic worship, and reflecting and even fostering a defective understanding of the Divine and our relationship to it.

His decision to permit the free celebration of the Tridentine liturgy was intended both to repair that rupture and to issue a call to the recovery of the theological, spiritual and cultural values that he sees as underlying the old Mass.

In his letter to the bishops of July 2007, he expressed the hope that the two forms of the one Roman liturgy might cross-fertilize each other, the old Missal being enriched by the use of the many beautiful collects and prefaces of Paul VI’s reformed Missal, and the celebration of the Novus Ordo recovering by example some of the “sacrality” that characterized the older form.

It is just like Anglicanorum Coetibus, the Apostolic Constitution providing for personal ordinariates for Anglicans entering into full communion with the Catholic Church, about which the Pope talked to the Bishops of England and Wales in their ad limina visit.

“It helps us to set our sights on the ultimate goal of all ecumenical activity: the restoration of full ecclesial communion in the context of which the mutual exchange of gifts from our respective spiritual patrimonies serves as an enrichment to us all,” Anglicanorum Coetibus reads.

Despite Summorum Pontificum, Pope Benedict himself has only celebrated the ordinary form of the Mass in public, “facing the people” in the manner of the Novus Ordo, using modern languages, all as stipulated in the Liturgical Books of the different countries where he celebrated.

Many people, for example, were waiting for him to use “for many,” instead of “for all” in the United States, but he did not do so.

The Pope celebrated ad orientem (to the east) once more at the newly renovated Pauline Chapel, whose altar was repositioned so that it could be used to celebrate both ways – and the Pope chose the traditional direction in the Mass he celebrated with members of the International Theological Commission.

Small changes to the accessories, vestments and ritual rubrics point to the Pope’s Reform of the Reform. On Corpus Domini of 2008 he began to give Communion exclusively on the tongue to the kneeling faithful.

In November of that year with a new master of pontifical liturgical ceremonies, the Crucifix and candle holders returned to the papal altar, from which the post-Conciliar liturgical reform had taken them away putting the Cross to the side and replacing the candelabra, if at all, by little temple lights.

On the Feast of the Epiphany last year, the Pope wore the guitar-shaped so-called Philippine chasuble instead of the post-Conciliar flowing chasuble, to underscore the continuity between past and present, manifested through liturgical vestments.

Then there are the ritual silences during the liturgies, observed after readings, after psalms, after the homily, and most especially, after Communion.

With these silences, the Pope is starting to educate the faithful who follow papal liturgies to a better, more appropriate attitude of concentration and meditation.

What is the Pope up to? In the words of Monsignor Guido Marini, “I think what the Holy Father is trying to do is to wisely bring together traditional things with the new, in order to carry out, in letter and spirit, what Vatican II intended, and to do it in such a way that papal liturgies can be exemplary in all aspects. Whoever takes part in, or watches, a papal liturgy should be able to say, “This is the way it should be done. Even in my diocese, in my parish!”

And that is how I would like the direction of the liturgical renewal to take with the Mass to be recast, yes, but in order to remain what it is, Calvary and the Upper Room

Eastern Catholic Varia

1. From the website of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church comes news of the consecration to the episcopacy of the bishop-designate for the Syro-Malankara Exarchate of USA, Rt. Rev. Msgr. Dr. Naickamparambil Thomas, who took the name Thomas Mor Eusebius. A picture gallery can be found here.

The all-lace alb (see above) of the new bishop is intriguing. I've noticed from numerous pictures that in the Chaldean, Syrian and Malankar Eastern Catholic Churches, the lace alb (sometimes more "lacy" than baroque-style Roman Catholic ones) continues to be in use.

Other interesting photogalleries can be found in the website, such as the photos for the 78th and 79th anniversaries of the reunion with Rome of the first Malankara Catholics. (In true Indian style, these events were extremely colorful.)
2. The Nazrani, a Syro-Malabar Catholic website dedicated to the revival of the Chaldeo-Malabar liturgical tradition (East Syrian in provenance, in contrast to the West Syrian provenance of the Syro-Malankara Church), is publishing a series on the "Divine Praises" (the Divine Office) according to their tradition. So far the following have appeared:

It is a painful story, noting the decay and mutilation of this Office in the centuries after that Church's reunion with Rome, and its apparent truncation in recent years. At the same time it (and the Nazrani site as a whole) bears witness to the strong desire among a number of the Syro-Malabars to reinvigorate their liturgical tradition, freeing it of undue Latinizations from the past while protecting it from further inroads of the influence of the Novus Ordo.
3. The Monasterio Catolico Bizantino de la Transfiguracion de Cristo, one of the handful of Catholic monasteries in the world where the monastics live according to the Russian tradition, now has its own Youtube channel with videos of parts of some ceremonies, and of sermons.
The Russian Greek Catholic tradition has been of particular interest to me, in that it seeks to live the glorious Russian Orthodox spiritual and liturgical tradition in communion with and fidelity to the Holy See. Founded by Blessed Exarch Leonid Feodorov and other heroic souls, encouraged by Pope St. Pius X, defended by the blood of a number of martyrs for Catholic unity, it enjoyed its greatest success in the 1920's and 1930's. Sadly, this tradition has been undergoing a steady decline since the 1970's, with many parishes and communities either closing or losing their ability to have regular liturgies. (The best directory for the communities outside of Russia can be found here; for Russia itself, a directory of the small Greek Catholic community can be found here.) The last Russian Greek Catholic bishop, Andrei Katkov MIC, died in 1996 and has never been replaced. (Essays that explore the history of this Church can be found here and here.)
4. The official website of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has a photogallery and a video from the recent episcopal consecration of Venedykt (Aleksiychuk), recently appointed as auxiliary bishop of Lv'iv.
5. Salvem a Liturgia has posted photographs of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic parish (Paroquia Sao Josafat) in Prudentopolis, Parana, Brazil. The church itself has been Ukrainian Greek Catholic from the very beginning. The blogosphere is awash with pictures of Greek Catholic parishes and liturgies in Europe and North America, but very few from Latin America, where the population of Eastern Catholics is not insignificant.
Some of the pictures:

While I'm at it, I would like to bring attention to this Melkite Catholic blog from Brazil: Sinaxe.

Some time back, Salvem a Liturgia also posted pictures of the Divine Liturgy in Brazil's sole Russian Greek Catholic parish. (See this and this.)

(H/t for nos. 1 and 4 to the ByzCath forum.)

Sermon on Blessed John Henry Newman

Mass in Honour of Blessed John Henry Newman, 20th September 2010

Catholic University Church, St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2

Preacher: The V. Rev. Gerard Deighan, Adm.

There are 14 steps leading up to this pulpit, and I assure you that with every one of them the preacher’s sense of unworthiness increases. Because this is Blessed John Henry Newman’s pulpit, designed by him, and built by him, and from which he preached – he who was – who is – one of the greatest teachers and preachers of the faith who ever lived. But my sense of inadequacy is matched by a sense of privilege to be here this evening, in Newman’s own church, the day after his beatification.

It is well known that there are very few first class relics of our new Blessed. How appropriate, considering the self-effacing man he was, that practically all trace of his remains has vanished from this world! Now it can, of course, be said that the best relic of Newman we have is the large body of writings which he left us, writings of such lasting worth that one day they will surely make him a Doctor of the Church. But I consider that this building we are in is itself a precious relic. It is so much Newman’s church. Not only because he bought the ground on which it is built, and paid for its construction out of his own money; but because he designed it himself, albeit in close collaboration with the architect John Hungerford Pollen.

At the time there were two fashions in church architecture, the neo-Classical, which was going out of vogue, and the neo-Gothic, which was all the rage. Neither would do Newman. His independent and original taste wanted a small basilica, in the style of early Christian Rome. And that is what we have, a modest building, but one which seemed to him, and to many since, “the most beautiful one in the three Kingdoms”. As we enter here we are transported at once back in time, and out of time. We are reminded of an age when the faith of the Church was strong, despite, or perhaps because of, persecutions; an age long before the great divisions which were to rend Christendom between East and West, Protestant and Catholic. Newman here was doing architecturally what he had done intellectually in his quest for the true faith; he was going back to an earlier age, the age of the fathers, to seek for truth nearer the source. I like to think he would have some sympathy with us this evening as we celebrate here the Holy Mass in its more ancient form; especially with those of us who did not grow up with the Latin Mass, but discovered it later on in life. We found it strange, and at first confusing; but also, how beautiful and alluring! We did not understand the words, but somehow we better grasped the mystery which all words strain to express. It is interesting to think how part of Mr Newman’s conversion involved his abandoning the vernacular liturgy with which he had grown up in favour of – well, exactly this form of the Mass which we are celebrating now. But I am told it would not be wise to insist too much on this analogy!

Cor ad cor loquitur – Heart speaks to heart. Newman’s motto was always quite well known, but now, after Pope Benedict’s triumphal visit to Britain, there can be few Catholics unfamiliar with it. Where does it come from, and what does it really mean?

When he was made Cardinal, Newman found that he needed a coat of arms. Humble priest that he was, he had never used arms before, so he simply adopted his father’s arms, which comprised three red hearts. Now what motto would he put to it? What spontaneously came to his mind at the sight of those little hearts was the phrase cor ad cor loquitur, but where had he first heard those words? On his way to Rome to receive the red hat he actually wrote to a friend to ask him to find out, suggesting it was from the Bible or from the Imitation of Christ.

In fact the words are from St Francis de Sales, and Newman had quoted them during his time in Dublin, in an article for the Catholic University Gazette on the subject of preaching. Newman’s point there was that a preacher will only touch hearts if he is speaking from the heart; only if he really believes and means what he says will his message touch people at their innermost core. That was Newman’s greatness as a preacher, and indeed as a writer. He grappled with live topics; he faced them honestly, and avoided no aspect of their difficulty; he probed into every facet of a subject; and so when he spoke, or wrote, anyone who likewise was a seeker after truth recognised the truth of what he had to say. Newman thought about essential questions in an essential way; it is this which gives his writings perennial value. I wish this evening to exhort you concretely to do two things; and here is the first: read Cardinal Newman! His beautiful English may seem difficult at first; but behind those elegant words you will find a remarkable source of wisdom, and guidance, and inspiration.

Cor ad cor loquitur. One human heart speaks to another human heart. But there are three hearts in Newman’s coat of arms, not two; whose can the third heart be? It is, we may imagine, the very heart of God. God’s heart speaks to the heart of every man, and speaks to him in the depths of his heart. Newman will be remembered for many teachings, but for none more than his teaching about conscience. Of course this word is greatly misunderstood nowadays, as it was in Newman’s time. It is taken to mean a person’s own opinion. To follow your conscience is to do what you want. How different, and more profound, is Newman’s idea. For him, conscience is not the voice of man, but rather the voice of God which speaks in man’s heart. To be a man of conscience is to be someone who has learnt to recognise that voice, and listen to it, and to follow its promptings. It was by following his conscience in this sense that Newman was led to abandon his native Anglicanism and become a Catholic, despite the huge personal sacrifices this involved. How he stands as a model and inspiration for us in this regard! We must learn to be more quiet, to hush our own inner voice, our noisy thoughts, and to listen to God’s voice within us. We must seek to find the truth to which that voice directs us, setting aside all falsehoods we may have listened to before, and all mere shadows of the truth: ex umbris et imaginibus in veritatem. And we must do this no matter what the personal cost.

At the same time, for Newman the God who speaks privately within us has also spoken in public revelation, and there can be no contradiction between these two voices, for they are one. All his life long, Newman was the implacable foe of liberalism in religion, the idea that religion was a purely subjective matter, that one religion was as good as another. In a speech on the day he was raised to the rank of Cardinal he portrays the liberal attitude as follows: Men may go to Protestant Churches and to Catholic, may get good from both and belong to neither… If a man puts on a new religion every morning, what is that to you? It is as impertinent to think about a man's religion as about his sources of income or his management of his family. How modern that sounds! And how much we need Blessed John Henry today as the champion of revealed religion. There is religious truth, and it is one, and it is objective, and it does not change, though our understanding of it may develop; this religious truth has been revealed by God, it is necessary for our salvation, and its fullness is to be found only in one true Fold of the Redeem, the Catholic Church.

Cor ad cor loquitur. As one man’s heart may speak to another’s, and as the heart of God speaks daily to the heart of man, so may the heart of man speak to the heart of God. What I mean is prayer. But in particular I have in mind that prayer for which Newman is best remembered: his prayer of intercession. As a man of prayer he had no pretensions. He was no St Teresa or St John of the Cross. When he prayed, it generally involved poring over long lists which he made out, and kept scrupulously up to date, of the people he wished to pray for. In this he is a model to us. Firstly, a model of caring for others so much as to keep them in our thoughts, and in our hearts; but also a model of bringing our loving thoughts of others before God, and asking Him to care for them, and bless them, and heal them, or forgive them, or grant them eternal rest. Newman was a faithful intercessor while here on earth; and now that he is in heaven we can be sure his power of intercession is even greater. So here is my second concrete exhortation to you this evening: Pray to Blessed John Henry! Pray for all your needs, and for those of your friends and foes! Come to his church here on St Stephen’s Green, where it is so easy to feel his presence, and pray! And pray for miracles! He has already granted one, and must grant at least one more if he is to be declared a saint. Pray with faith, and with hope. And pray with love. For when heart speaks to heart, the language spoken must needs be love; that love which has its infinite source in the very heart of God.

In one of his short meditations Newman writes:

    O my God, shall I one day see Thee? What sight can compare to that great sight! Shall I see the source of that grace which enlightens me, strengthens me, and consoles me? As I came from Thee, as I am made through Thee, as I live in Thee, so, O my God, may I at last return to Thee, and be with Thee for ever and ever.

He is with Him. May we one day be with Him too. Blessed John Henry, pray for us. Amen.

On the reported blessing of the Quran: The rector of the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament speaks

A few days ago, Rorate picked up a story that had been making the rounds of some Catholic and secular (and at least one Muslim) websites: the report that a ceremony had been organized in front of the very doors of the Cathedral of the Diocese of Sacramento, where flowers were offered to the Quran and which reportedly involved no less than the rector of the Cathedral, Fr. Michael Kiernan, thus giving the impression that the alleged ceremony had the sanction of the cathedral authorities.

Rorate, however, has received -- via a reader -- the following letter from Fr. Kiernan himself to clarify the story:

...I am always sorry when people are disturbed by actions of the church. There are a number of things it might be helpful to clarify in this situation. While I was not part of the planning and did not participate in the event, I’m happy to share with you some information.

First of all, the “Qu’ran blessed at California cathedral” was misconstrued and of course the event was not in the Cathedral building but merely on the steps allowing visibility from the square.

The term "blessed" has distinct meaning in our Catholic faith. There was no such action in that event. Unfortunately, the term which was used by a Presbyterian Minister and adopted by the media could be misunderstood. During the event some people went forward to place a rose on a table holding a copy of the Qu’ran which perhaps could mistakenly be seen by the unknowing as a "blessing." Also, it was stated that “During the ceremony, Father Michael Kiernan, rector of the cathedral, read from the Beatitudes.” I did not read anything and did not even participate in the event. The facts are as follows:

The Interfaith Service Bureau (ISB) of Sacramento made up of many denominations planned an event for the public square not owned by the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament. The previous Sunday, a wonderful presentation of the commemorative stamp of Blessed Teresa was held with our Bishop present in the same space. The ISB asked if they could use the Cathedral steps to allow people to see what would be going on in the square. Everything was outside the Cathedral on the steps and no one entered the sacred space. This was all the participation by the Catholic Church, except for a Franciscan priest from another parish, who read a short scripture passage. The event was brief, led by Dr. David Thompson, a Presbyterian Minister, who is President of the Interfaith Service Bureau. There was no opening prayer (hence no combined prayer) and there were no speeches of any kind. A few passages from the Qu’ran were read by various faith representatives. It lasted about 20 minutes after which those gathered sang a hymn "Let There Be Peace on Earth."

The purpose of the event was as follows:

· In anticipation of the burning of the Qu’ran, this interfaith gathering was intended as a statement by religious leaders that religious intolerance has no place in Sacramento and that the pain of 9/11 is felt by Americans of all faiths and nationalities, Christians, Jews, Muslims , Hindus, Sikhs and people of goodwill in all religions.

· As both President Bush and President Obama have reminded us, the United States is not at war with Islam but with Islamic Fundamentalists who have taken an even higher toll on their own people in places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. That is a fundamentally different thing.

· One doesn’t have to be a Muslim to feel the hatred and disrespect shown by burning a Qur’an. Of course, some Christians do not enjoy the same freedom to practice their religion in Islamic countries but that is beside the point. The United States is called to be different. Millions of people have come to this country to find religious freedom. Our Muslim neighbors are no different. Freedom and tolerance are cherished American values. When anyone here is under attack, we need to hold them closer than ever.

· The interfaith meeting in the front of the Cathedral is not an “endorsement” of Islam but an expression of care and concern for our Muslim neighbors here in Sacramento as we would care for any other religious group with respect and sensitivity.

I hope this clarifies matters for you. Most of the information came from the secular press and was unfortunately presented by some sort of Catholic publications which should know better. It is sad that some in our church run with half-baked reports and assume the worst. Our dear Bishop Soto, the Diocese of Sacramento (and if I may humbly add, the Rector of the Cathedral) work hard do things correctly in every way as much as possible.

Finally, you know well how at the Cathedral we celebrate with reverence and respect in accordance with the Church teachings which guide us in all things at the Cathedral. Let us pray for each other, our holy Church and all whom God has created. God bless you in Jesus, our Savior and Lord, the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, and the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Mother.

Rev. Michael F. Kiernan
Cathedral Rector

The Australian lay sex abuse scandal

In an ongoing partnership with the traditional newspaper The Remnant comes a timely yet unfortunate account of a lay sex abuse scandal in Australia.

The author, R.J. Stove of Melbourne, was kind enough provide this linked PDF for Rorate Caeli readers, free of charge.

To view this important piece, please click HERE.

To subscribe to this critical fortnightly, click HERE.

And please remember to follow @RorateCaeli on Twitter.

Romanian Orthodox and Roman Catholic priests concelebrate Divine Liturgy in Romania

Vassula Ryden, a visionary known for her "private revelations" that promote indifferentism, and who continues to be enthusiastically supported by many Catholic and Orthodox clergy and hierarchs despite occasional warnings from the Vatican (and a few from the Orthodox Churches), enthusiastically relates in the latest report on her website that as part of her Mission in Romania on May 2010, a Romanian Orthodox priest invited a Roman Catholic priest to concelebrate the Divine Liturgy of Pentecost.

The Romanian priest is Fr. Daniel Crecan, who is also identified in the report as a Romanian ORTHODOX (not Greek Catholic) parish priest in Bocsa Mantana of the Orthodox Eparchy of Caransebes. The Roman Catholic priest is named as Fr. Rolf Philip Schoenenberg.

The report further states that communion was given to the Catholics present, and alleges that Vassula's mission trip had the support of the Orthodox Metropolitan Nicolae Corneanu, who made headlines in 2008 when he received communion at a Greek Catholic Divine Liturgy. (The report also makes the erroneous claim that Patriarch Kirill had invited Pope Benedict XVI to visit Russia, and quotes Vassula as stating "An Orthodox will not become Catholic, nor is there a need for a Catholic to become Orthodox. We are asked not to differentiate among us, but to respect each other's traditions and celebrate around one altar. The Eucharist must be shared by all.")

Inter-faith Quran blessing in a Catholic Cathedral

Abbot Joseph of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Monastery of the Transfiguration in California reports on the following event in his blog, Word Incarnate:

On September 11, 2001, an Islamic jihad murdered at least 3000 American citizens on our own soil, causing immense human sorrow, economic loss, and national humiliation. Now how do you think that event was commemorated in the Catholic cathedral in Sacramento, CA, in 2010? By holding a service to bless the Koran, of course—even though the ones who perpetrated those evil deeds believed the inspiration for them was found therein.

It seems that insanity is reaching new levels in certain places. Here is a portion of the story: “Representatives of different religions, including members of the Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Mormon, and Druid [yes, California has everything] communities, took part in an interfaith blessing of the Qu’ran at Sacramento’s Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament on September 11. During the ceremony, Father Michael Kiernan, rector of the cathedral, read from the Beatitudes… Several dozen people placed roses on the Quran, in front of the main doors to the cathedral. Upon placing their roses, people said before the crowd, ‘Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.’”

Yes, you read it correctly, they placed roses on the Koran in a Catholic cathedral dedicated to Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. Do you see anything wrong with this picture? (A Druid placing a rose on the Koran in a Catholic cathedral: I couldn’t have made that up if I tried!)

More reports can be found here, here, here and here.
(UPDATE: Fr. Kiernan has clarified the story and denied his involvement. See HERE.)


In the Evensong service with Anglicans at Westminster Abbey, Pope Benedict XVI wore a stole first worn and which first belonged to Pope Leo XIII.

[Tip: Cantuale Antonianum, via Le Forum Catholique]

Filipino liturgists call for more liturgical liberalization

The website of the Archdiocese of Manila has posted the following statement made on September 16, 2010 by the assembled diocesan directors of liturgy of the Philippines. Take note of the references to the "Tridentine" Mass, which is clearly seen as a threat.

It can scarcely be a coincidence that this statement came out on the website of the Archdiocese of Manila around the third anniversary of Summorum Pontificum.

The annual national meetings of diocesan directors of liturgy in the Philippines are led by the Chairman and Executive Secretary of the Commission on Liturgy of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines. The current Chairman is Archbishop Romulo Valles of Zamboanga, the Executive Secretary is Fr. Genaro Diwa, all under the influence of the long-time Executive Secretary of the same Commission, Fr. Anscar Chupungco OSB. 

September 13-16, 2010


We, the delegates to the 25th National Meeting of Diocesan Directors of Liturgy (NMDDL), raise our hearts and voices in thanksgiving to Jesus Christ, the Leitourgos of divine worship. For twenty-five years, NMDDL has been a consistent instrument of the continuing liturgical formation of diocesan directors of liturgy. It has created closer ties among the directors and has promoted better coordination between the Episcopal Commission on Liturgy and the diocesan commissions in the implementation of the liturgical reform of Vatican II.

As we look back with gratitude at what NMDDL has accomplished, we look forward to what remains to be done so that the liturgy will become more vibrantly the source and summit of the Church’s life in the Philippines. Hence, we recommend attention in the future meetings to topics like the following:

1. The Use of the Vernacular. While we respect the option to use Latin and celebrate the Tridentine liturgy, we uphold the use of the vernacular in our parishes and communities and recommend translations that faithfully reflect both the spiritual doctrine of the texts and the linguistic patterns of our vernacular languages. (A not-so-subtle jab at Liturgiam Authenticam. Also, the "respect" for Latin and for the TLM has been practically nonexistent on the ground. CAP.)

2. Spirituality of Liturgy. Active participation is one of the many blessings Vatican II has bestowed on our parishes and communities. We wish to remind ourselves, however, that active participation should lead to deeper spiritual encounter with Christ and the Church. Hence our liturgical celebrations should foster the necessary environment of prayer and awe in the presence of the divine mysteries, excluding those expressions that trivialize the sacred celebration.

3. Liturgical Inculturation. The interest in recent times to revive the Tridentine Liturgy should not draw the attention, especially of the Church leaders, from the unfinished agenda of liturgical inculturation. We are of the persuasion that liturgical renewal, as envisioned by the Constitution on Liturgy of Vatican II, entails liturgical inculturation and that our rich cultural heritage has much to offer to make the Roman liturgy truly Filipino.

4. Liturgical Studies. Sound tradition and legitimate progress are key phrases that express the program of liturgical reform. It is consequently necessary to study the history and theology of the liturgy, be familiar with culture, and be imbued with liturgical spirituality and pastoral zeal for the Church. We, therefore, recommend that those involved in liturgy, particularly the clergy, should be sent by their bishops or superiors to enroll in academic institutions that specialize in liturgical studies

5. Lay Ministers. Our parishes and communities are blessed with numerous and worthy lay liturgical ministers. However, some dioceses in the Philippines still reserve to male persons ministries like serving at the altar and leading Sunday celebrations in the absence of a priest. We believe that we should encourage the ministry of women where it is allowed by universal law. (This is an about-face from the position enunciated only last year by Cardinal Rosales for the Archdiocese of Manila, in favor of having only males as altar servers. Although altar girls are allowed in the Philippines, the majority of parishes still do not have them.)

6. Liturgy Newsletter. Part of continuing liturgical formation of diocesan directors and their collaborators is liturgical information. We request the Episcopal Commission on Liturgy to publish and disseminate regularly through newsletter, in print or by electronic media, recent liturgical norms, guidelines, and other pertinent information on the liturgy.

As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of NMDDL, we recall the visionary initiative of Archbishop Jesus Dosado who, together with Fr. Camilo Marivoet, CICM, and Fr. James Meehan, SJ, established and promoted the annual meeting. We are in their debt. Likewise, we remember with gratitude the dioceses that have generously hosted NMDDL and the speakers that shared their liturgical expertise with us. Lastly, we thank His Eminence Gaudencio B. Cardinal Rosales of the Archdiocese of Manila for hosting NMDDL at this significant year of its existence.

That in all things God may be glorified! (which helps us to identify Anscar Chupungco OSB as the author of this piece.)

To put this statement in perspective: in the entire Philippines, which has 70-75 million Catholics served by around 9,000 priests and nearly 3,000 parishes, there are only ELEVEN locations under diocesan auspices where every-Sunday Traditional Latin Masses are available. (To be exact, there are 14 such Masses distributed among the 11 locations, which are scattered among 2 archdioceses and 7 dioceses.) Of the locations, only two are parish churches, another is a seminary chapel, while yet another is a small chapel inside a cathedral compound. Some of the rest are not easily accessible to the average churchgoer. As for the Latin Novus Ordo, I am not aware of a single parish or cathedral in the country where there is a regularly scheduled (at least monthly) Sunday Latin Novus Ordo (although there is at least one cathedral where the Eucharistic Prayer is regularly said in Latin). And yet the Philippine liturgical establishment apparently feels that these Masses are enough of a threat so as to justify a call to arms about "upholding the vernacular" and continuing the agenda of inculturation...

Blessed John Henry Newman

England has a long tradition of martyr saints, whose courageous witness has sustained and inspired the Catholic community here for centuries. Yet it is right and fitting that we should recognize today the holiness of a confessor, a son of this nation who, while not called to shed his blood for the Lord, nevertheless bore eloquent witness to him in the course of a long life devoted to the priestly ministry, and especially to preaching, teaching, and writing. He is worthy to take his place in a long line of saints and scholars from these islands, Saint Bede, Saint Hilda, Saint Aelred, Blessed Duns Scotus, to name but a few. In Blessed John Henry, that tradition of gentle scholarship, deep human wisdom and profound love for the Lord has borne rich fruit, as a sign of the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit deep within the heart of God’s people, bringing forth abundant gifts of holiness.

Cardinal Newman’s motto, Cor ad cor loquitur, or "Heart speaks unto heart", gives us an insight into his understanding of the Christian life as a call to holiness, experienced as the profound desire of the human heart to enter into intimate communion with the Heart of God. He reminds us that faithfulness to prayer gradually transforms us into the divine likeness. As he wrote in one of his many fine sermons, "a habit of prayer, the practice of turning to God and the unseen world in every season, in every place, in every emergency – prayer, I say, has what may be called a natural effect in spiritualizing and elevating the soul. A man is no longer what he was before; gradually … he has imbibed a new set of ideas, and become imbued with fresh principles" (Parochial and Plain Sermons, iv, 230-231). Today’s Gospel tells us that no one can be the servant of two masters (cf. Lk16:13), and Blessed John Henry’s teaching on prayer explains how the faithful Christian is definitively taken into the service of the one true Master, who alone has a claim to our unconditional devotion (cf. Mt 23:10). Newman helps us to understand what this means for our daily lives: he tells us that our divine Master has assigned a specific task to each one of us, a "definite service", committed uniquely to every single person: "I have my mission", he wrote, "I am a link in a chain, a bond of connexion between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do his work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place … if I do but keep his commandments and serve him in my calling" (Meditations and Devotions, 301-2).

The definite service to which Blessed John Henry was called involved applying his keen intellect and his prolific pen to many of the most pressing "subjects of the day". His insights into the relationship between faith and reason, into the vital place of revealed religion in civilized society, and into the need for a broadly-based and wide-ranging approach to education were not only of profound importance for Victorian England, but continue today to inspire and enlighten many all over the world. I would like to pay particular tribute to his vision for education, which has done so much to shape the ethos that is the driving force behind Catholic schools and colleges today. Firmly opposed to any reductive or utilitarian approach, he sought to achieve an educational environment in which intellectual training, moral discipline and religious commitment would come together. The project to found a Catholic University in Ireland provided him with an opportunity to develop his ideas on the subject, and the collection of discourses that he published as The Idea of a University holds up an ideal from which all those engaged in academic formation can continue to learn. And indeed, what better goal could teachers of religion set themselves than Blessed John Henry’s famous appeal for an intelligent, well-instructed laity: "I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it, who know so much of history that they can defend it" (The Present Position of Catholics in England, ix, 390). On this day when the author of those words is raised to the altars, I pray that, through his intercession and example, all who are engaged in the task of teaching and catechesis will be inspired to greater effort by the vision he so clearly sets before us.

While it is John Henry Newman’s intellectual legacy that has understandably received most attention in the vast literature devoted to his life and work, I prefer on this occasion to conclude with a brief reflection on his life as a priest, a pastor of souls. The warmth and humanity underlying his appreciation of the pastoral ministry is beautifully expressed in another of his famous sermons: "Had Angels been your priests, my brethren, they could not have condoled with you, sympathized with you, have had compassion on you, felt tenderly for you, and made allowances for you, as we can; they could not have been your patterns and guides, and have led you on from your old selves into a new life, as they can who come from the midst of you" ("Men, not Angels: the Priests of the Gospel", Discourses to Mixed Congregations, 3). He lived out that profoundly human vision of priestly ministry in his devoted care for the people of Birmingham during the years that he spent at the Oratory he founded, visiting the sick and the poor, comforting the bereaved, caring for those in prison. No wonder that on his death so many thousands of people lined the local streets as his body was taken to its place of burial not half a mile from here. One hundred and twenty years later, great crowds have assembled once again to rejoice in the Church’s solemn recognition of the outstanding holiness of this much-loved father of souls. What better way to express the joy of this moment than by turning to our heavenly Father in heartfelt thanksgiving, praying in the words that Blessed John Henry Newman placed on the lips of the choirs of angels in heaven:

Praise to the Holiest in the height
And in the depth be praise;
In all his words most wonderful,
Most sure in all his ways!
(The Dream of Gerontius).

Benedict XVI
Homily - Mass of Beatification of John Henry Newman (Birmingham)
September 19, 2010

Yes, that is just what the Church in Belgium needs: more Liberalism

From the successor of self-confessed pedophile Vangheluwe:

Jozef De Kesel, the new Bishop of Bruges, has placed celibacy and the status of women within the church under debate. In addition, he sees the church as blind to the suffering of abused victims.

According to De Kesel, celibacy should no longer be required [for a person] to be a priest. "One could say that there should be celibate priests, but, for people to whom celibacy is humanly impossible, the opportunity should be given of becoming a priest," he told Radio 1.

The bishop is also open to the possibility of women priests. "That is certainly negotiable and I hope for it, but it is still more sensitive than the issue of celibacy. I think that the discussion about celibacy can proceed much faster than the debate on the admission of women to the priesthood."
[Source:, tip: C. Gillibrand; see also, in Dutch, De Standaard, De Morgen,, Nederlands Dagblad; in French, Le Vif, Le Figaro]

Newman, Tyburn, and our own time

This is an evening of joy, of immense spiritual joy, for all of us. We are gathered here in prayerful vigil to prepare for tomorrow’s Mass, during which a great son of this nation, Cardinal John Henry Newman, will be declared Blessed. How many people, in England and throughout the world, have longed for this moment! It is also a great joy for me, personally, to share this experience with you. As you know, Newman has long been an important influence in my own life and thought, as he has been for so many people beyond these isles. The drama of Newman’s life invites us to examine our lives, to see them against the vast horizon of God’s plan, and to grow in communion with the Church of every time and place: the Church of the apostles, the Church of the martyrs, the Church of the saints, the Church which Newman loved and to whose mission he devoted his entire life.
Let me begin by recalling that Newman, by his own account, traced the course of his whole life back to a powerful experience of conversion which he had as a young man. It was an immediate experience of the truth of God’s word, of the objective reality of Christian revelation as handed down in the Church. This experience, at once religious and intellectual, would inspire his vocation to be a minister of the Gospel, his discernment of the source of authoritative teaching in the Church of God, and his zeal for the renewal of ecclesial life in fidelity to the apostolic tradition. At the end of his life, Newman would describe his life’s work as a struggle against the growing tendency to view religion as a purely private and subjective matter, a question of personal opinion. Here is the first lesson we can learn from his life: in our day, when an intellectual and moral relativism threatens to sap the very foundations of our society, Newman reminds us that, as men and women made in the image and likeness of God, we were created to know the truth, to find in that truth our ultimate freedom and the fulfilment of our deepest human aspirations. In a word, we are meant to know Christ, who is himself “the way, and the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6).

Newman’s life also teaches us that passion for the truth, intellectual honesty and genuine conversion are costly. The truth that sets us free cannot be kept to ourselves; it calls for testimony, it begs to be heard, and in the end its convincing power comes from itself and not from the human eloquence or arguments in which it may be couched. Not far from here, at Tyburn, great numbers of our brothers and sisters died for the faith; the witness of their fidelity to the end was ever more powerful than the inspired words that so many of them spoke before surrendering everything to the Lord. In our own time, the price to be paid for fidelity to the Gospel is no longer being hanged, drawn and quartered but it often involves being dismissed out of hand, ridiculed or parodied. And yet, the Church cannot withdraw from the task of proclaiming Christ and his Gospel as saving truth, the source of our ultimate happiness as individuals and as the foundation of a just and humane society.

Finally, Newman teaches us that if we have accepted the truth of Christ and committed our lives to him, there can be no separation between what we believe and the way we live our lives. Our every thought, word and action must be directed to the glory of God and the spread of his Kingdom. Newman understood this, and was the great champion of the prophetic office of the Christian laity. He saw clearly that we do not so much accept the truth in a purely intellectual act as embrace it in a spiritual dynamic that penetrates to the core of our being. Truth is passed on not merely by formal teaching, important as that is, but also by the witness of lives lived in integrity, fidelity and holiness; those who live in and by the truth instinctively recognize what is false and, precisely as false, inimical to the beauty and goodness which accompany the splendour of truth, veritatis splendor.

Tonight’s first reading is the magnificent prayer in which Saint Paul asks that we be granted to know “the love of Christ which surpasses all understanding” (Eph 3:14-21). The Apostle prays that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith (cf. Eph 3:17) and that we may come to “grasp, with all the saints, the breadth and the length, the height and the depth” of that love. Through faith we come to see God’s word as a lamp for our steps and light for our path (cf. Ps 119:105). Newman, like the countless saints who preceded him along the path of Christian discipleship, taught that the “kindly light” of faith leads us to realize the truth about ourselves, our dignity as God’s children, and the sublime destiny which awaits us in heaven. By letting the light of faith shine in our hearts, and by abiding in that light through our daily union with the Lord in prayer and participation in the life-giving sacraments of the Church, we ourselves become light to those around us; we exercise our “prophetic office”; often, without even knowing it, we draw people one step closer to the Lord and his truth. Without the life of prayer, without the interior transformation which takes place through the grace of the sacraments, we cannot, in Newman’s words, “radiate Christ”; we become just another “clashing cymbal” (1 Cor 13:1) in a world filled with growing noise and confusion, filled with false paths leading only to heartbreak and illusion.

One of the Cardinal’s best-loved meditations includes the words, “God has created me to do him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which he has not committed to another” (Meditations on Christian Doctrine). Here we see Newman’s fine Christian realism, the point at which faith and life inevitably intersect. Faith is meant to bear fruit in the transformation of our world through the power of the Holy Spirit at work in the lives and activity of believers. No one who looks realistically at our world today could think that Christians can afford to go on with business as usual, ignoring the profound crisis of faith which has overtaken our society, or simply trusting that the patrimony of values handed down by the Christian centuries will continue to inspire and shape the future of our society. We know that in times of crisis and upheaval God has raised up great saints and prophets for the renewal of the Church and Christian society; we trust in his providence and we pray for his continued guidance. But each of us, in accordance with his or her state of life, is called to work for the advancement of God’s Kingdom by imbuing temporal life with the values of the Gospel. Each of us has a mission, each of us is called to change the world, to work for a culture of life, a culture forged by love and respect for the dignity of each human person. As our Lord tells us in the Gospel we have just heard, our light must shine in the sight of all, so that, seeing our good works, they may give praise to our heavenly Father (cf. Mt 5:16).
And now, dear friends, let us continue our vigil of prayer by preparing to encounter Christ, present among us in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. Together, in the silence of our common adoration, let us open our minds and hearts to his presence, his love, and the convincing power of his truth. In a special way, let us thank him for the enduring witness to that truth offered by Cardinal John Henry Newman. Trusting in his prayers, let us ask the Lord to illumine our path, and the path of all British society, with the kindly light of his truth, his love and his peace. Amen.
Benedict XVI
September 18, 2010

Cross, Blood, Martyrs, and the Church in agony

The visitor to this Cathedral cannot fail to be struck by the great crucifix dominating the nave, which portrays Christ’s body, crushed by suffering, overwhelmed by sorrow, the innocent victim whose death has reconciled us with the Father and given us a share in the very life of God. The Lord’s outstretched arms seem to embrace this entire church, lifting up to the Father all the ranks of the faithful who gather around the altar of the Eucharistic sacrifice and share in its fruits. The crucified Lord stands above and before us as the source of our life and salvation, "the high priest of the good things to come", as the author of the Letter to the Hebrews calls him in today’s first reading (Heb 9:11).

It is in the shadow, so to speak, of this striking image, that I would like to consider the word of God which has been proclaimed in our midst and reflect on the mystery of the Precious Blood. For that mystery leads us to see the unity between Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, the Eucharistic sacrifice which he has given to his Church, and his eternal priesthood, whereby, seated at the right hand of the Father, he makes unceasing intercession for us, the members of his mystical body.

Let us begin with the sacrifice of the Cross. The outpouring of Christ’s blood is the source of the Church’s life. Saint John, as we know, sees in the water and blood which flowed from our Lord’s body the wellspring of that divine life which is bestowed by the Holy Spirit and communicated to us in the sacraments (Jn 19:34; cf. 1 Jn 1:7; 5:6-7). The Letter to the Hebrews draws out, we might say, the liturgical implications of this mystery. Jesus, by his suffering and death, his self-oblation in the eternal Spirit, has become our high priest and "the mediator of a new covenant" (Heb 9:15). These words echo our Lord’s own words at the Last Supper, when he instituted the Eucharist as the sacrament of his body, given up for us, and his blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant shed for the forgiveness of sins (cf. Mk 14:24; Mt 26:28; Lk 22:20).

Faithful to Christ’s command to "do this in memory of me" (Lk 22:19), the Church in every time and place celebrates the Eucharist until the Lord returns in glory, rejoicing in his sacramental presence and drawing upon the power of his saving sacrifice for the redemption of the world. The reality of the Eucharistic sacrifice has always been at the heart of Catholic faith; called into question in the sixteenth century, it was solemnly reaffirmed at the Council of Trent against the backdrop of our justification in Christ. Here in England, as we know, there were many who staunchly defended the Mass, often at great cost, giving rise to that devotion to the Most Holy Eucharist which has been a hallmark of Catholicism in these lands.

The Eucharistic sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ embraces in turn the mystery of our Lord’s continuing passion in the members of his Mystical Body, the Church in every age. Here the great crucifix which towers above us serves as a reminder that Christ, our eternal high priest, daily unites our own sacrifices, our own sufferings, our own needs, hopes and aspirations, to the infinite merits of his sacrifice. Through him, with him, and in him, we lift up our own bodies as a sacrifice holy and acceptable to God (cf. Rom 12:1). In this sense we are caught up in his eternal oblation, completing, as Saint Paul says, in our flesh what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, the Church (cf. Col 1:24). In the life of the Church, in her trials and tribulations, Christ continues, in the stark phrase of Pascal, to be in agony until the end of the world (Pensées, 553, éd. Brunschvicg).

We see this aspect of the mystery of Christ’s precious blood represented, most eloquently, by the martyrs of every age, who drank from the cup which Christ himself drank, and whose own blood, shed in union with his sacrifice, gives new life to the Church. It is also reflected in our brothers and sisters throughout the world who even now are suffering discrimination and persecution for their Christian faith. Yet it is also present, often hidden in the suffering of all those individual Christians who daily unite their sacrifices to those of the Lord for the sanctification of the Church and the redemption of the world. My thoughts go in a special way to all those who are spiritually united with this Eucharistic celebration, and in particular the sick, the elderly, the handicapped and those who suffer mentally and spiritually.

Here too I think of the immense suffering caused by the abuse of children, especially within the Church and by her ministers. Above all, I express my deep sorrow to the innocent victims of these unspeakable crimes, along with my hope that the power of Christ’s grace, his sacrifice of reconciliation, will bring deep healing and peace to their lives. I also acknowledge, with you, the shame and humiliation which all of us have suffered because of these sins; and I invite you to offer it to the Lord with trust that this chastisement will contribute to the healing of the victims, the purification of the Church and the renewal of her age-old commitment to the education and care of young people. I express my gratitude for the efforts being made to address this problem responsibly, and I ask all of you to show your concern for the victims and solidarity with your priests.

Dear friends, let us return to the contemplation of the great crucifix which rises above us. Our Lord’s hands, extended on the Cross, also invite us to contemplate our participation in his eternal priesthood and thus our responsibility, as members of his body, to bring the reconciling power of his sacrifice to the world in which we live. The Second Vatican Council spoke eloquently of the indispensable role of the laity in carrying forward the Church’s mission through their efforts to serve as a leaven of the Gospel in society and to work for the advancement of God’s Kingdom in the world (cf. Lumen Gentium, 31; Apostolicam Actuositatem, 7). The Council’s appeal to the lay faithful to take up their baptismal sharing in Christ’s mission echoed the insights and teachings of John Henry Newman. May the profound ideas of this great Englishman continue to inspire all Christ’s followers in this land to conform their every thought, word and action to Christ, and to work strenuously to defend those unchanging moral truths which, taken up, illuminated and confirmed by the Gospel, stand at the foundation of a truly humane, just and free society.

How much contemporary society needs this witness! How much we need, in the Church and in society, witnesses of the beauty of holiness, witnesses of the splendour of truth, witnesses of the joy and freedom born of a living relationship with Christ! One of the greatest challenges facing us today is how to speak convincingly of the wisdom and liberating power of God’s word to a world which all too often sees the Gospel as a constriction of human freedom, instead of the truth which liberates our minds and enlightens our efforts to live wisely and well, both as individuals and as members of society.

Let us pray, then, that the Catholics of this land will become ever more conscious of their dignity as a priestly people, called to consecrate the world to God through lives of faith and holiness. And may this increase of apostolic zeal be accompanied by an outpouring of prayer for vocations to the ordained priesthood. For the more the lay apostolate grows, the more urgently the need for priests is felt; and the more the laity’s own sense of vocation is deepened, the more what is proper to the priest stands out. May many young men in this land find the strength to answer the Master’s call to the ministerial priesthood, devoting their lives, their energy and their talents to God, thus building up his people in unity and fidelity to the Gospel, especially through the celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice.
Benedict XVI
September 18, 2010