Rorate Caeli

Cardinal Sarah: A Church that Claims a Reversal of Her Liturgy is a Church with no Credibility

Cardinal Robert Sarah
Le Figaro
August 13, 2021

[Main excerpts:]

Doubt has taken hold of Western thought. Intellectuals and politicians alike describe the same impression of collapse. Faced with the breakdown of solidarity and the disintegration of identities, some turn to the Catholic Church. ...  But is the Church capable of responding to these calls? Certainly, she has already played this role of guardian and transmitter of civilization. ...

[Cardinal Sarah at the Abbey of Saint Mary of Lagrasse]

Without a sacred foundation, every bond becomes fragile and fickle. Some ask the Catholic Church to play this solid foundation role. They would like to see her assume a social function, namely to be a coherent system of values, a cultural and aesthetic matrix. But the Church has no other sacred reality to offer than her faith in Jesus, God made man. Her sole goal is to make possible the encounter of men with the person of Jesus. Moral and dogmatic teaching, as well as mystical and liturgical patrimony, are the setting and the means of this fundamental and sacred encounter. Christian civilization is born of this encounter. Beauty and culture are its fruits. ...


What is sacred for the Church, then, is the unbroken chain that links her with certainty to Jesus. A chain of faith without rupture or contradiction, a chain of prayer and liturgy without breakage or disavowal. Without this radical continuity, what credibility could the Church still claim? ... 

This is undoubtedly the reason for which Benedict XVI could authoritatively affirm: 

“In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture. What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place.” ...


 At a time when some theologians are seeking to reopen the liturgy wars by pitting the missal revised by the Council of Trent against the one in use since 1970, it is urgent to recall this. If the Church is not capable of preserving the peaceful continuity of her link with Christ, she will be unable to offer the world “the sacred which unites souls,” according to the words of Goethe.

Beyond the quarrel over rites, the credibility of the Church is at stake. If she affirms the continuity between what is commonly called the Mass of St. Pius V and the Mass of Paul VI, then the Church must be able to organize their peaceful cohabitation and their mutual enrichment. If one were to radically exclude one in favor of the other, if one were to declare them irreconcilable, one would implicitly recognize a rupture and a change of orientation. But then the Church could no longer offer the world that sacred continuity, which alone can give her peace. By keeping alive a liturgical war within herself, the Church loses her credibility and becomes deaf to the call of men. Liturgical peace is the sign of the peace that the Church can bring to the world.

What is at stake is therefore much more serious than a simple question of discipline. If she were to claim a reversal of her faith or of her liturgy, in what name would the Church dare address the world? Her only legitimacy is her consistency in her continuity.

Moreover, if the bishops, who are in charge of the cohabitation and mutual enrichment of the two liturgical forms, do not exercise their authority to this effect, they run the risk of no longer appearing as shepherds, guardians of the faith they have received and of the sheep entrusted to them, but as political leaders: commissars of the ideology of the moment rather than guardians of the perennial tradition. They risk losing the trust of men of good will. ...

In liturgical matters, neither pastoral violence nor partisan ideology has ever produced fruits of unity. The suffering of the faithful and the expectations of the world are too great to engage in these dead-end paths. No one is too much in the Church of God! 


[Source: Translation provided by National Catholic Register.]