Rita Ferrone is the author of several books about liturgy, including Liturgy: Sacrosanctum Concilium (Paulist Press).
By this author
On a thread initiated by Fr. Robert Imbelli earlier this month (“The Whole Christ” February 7), a question arose about praying with the psalms. I mentioned a couple of essays on this subject that I have found helpful, and Bob, seconded by Tom Blackburn, kindly invited me to share some insights from these works. I wrote a bit at that time, but other duties intervened and I was unable to finish. Thinking (rightly or wrongly) that others too might be interested in these ideas about the psalms, and given the fact that the older thread is now unlikely to be visited by any but the most obsessive blog followers, I’m posting some of this material here, in two parts.
When I read in the National Catholic Reporter blog that thirteen German moral theologians and pastoral theologians signed a document critiquing Catholic moral teaching on sexual issues, it did not surprise me or raise my expectations for the Synod on the Family. After all, theologians have been reflecting on sexual morality in various thoughtful and rigorous ways for years. Not all of their conclusions match those which have been proposed by the magisterium. But almost no one in the hierarchy seems to listen to those whose conclusions do not match theirs, so it has virtually no effect on deliberations in Rome.
To be sure, the theologians made some worthwhile suggestions. These included a “new paradigm for evaluating sexual acts” that would consist of at least three dimensions: a caring dimension to protect what is fragile; an emancipatory dimension which takes “the side of those who lose in relationships, the ones who are left and hurt to the core;” and a reflexive dimension which honors the joy of intimacy along with the vulnerability it entails. All good thoughts. But who is listening?
The recent observations, on the other hand, made by Martin Gächter, auxiliary bishop of Basel in Switzerland and published in his diocesan newspaper and the Swiss Catholic publication KIPA, did surprise me—both for their candor about the extent of the problem and for the bishop's admission that the Church doesn’t have all the answers. He said we must seek a common understanding through respectful, open exchange and patient listening. In his own words:
On January 6, the National Catholic Reporter suspended and hid all comments indefinitely, citing the proliferation of “malicious, abusive, and vile” comments.
In September 2013, the traditionalist blog, Rorate Caeli closed comments, citing overload:
Last night a CNN special on Pope Francis (Pope Francis, A Man of Many Firsts) aired in the US, in which I appeared as one of several commenters, including John Allen, Chris Belitto, and Cardinal McCarrick. As promised, I'm opening a thread to discuss the program.
First of all, let me say that I thought the program was well done. Although it did not shy away from controversy, it presented a positive view of what is already being talked about as an historic papacy. Some of the “firsts” named in the program were: first pope from Latin America, first pope who is a Jesuit, first pope to take the name Francis, first pope to use the term “gay.” Are there other “firsts”? Yes, of course. We could brainstorm a whole list of them. But the ones they chose to highlight were a fair summary.
I enjoyed the footage from World Youth Day. In particular, the aerial view of the 3.5 million people at the Mass on Copa Cabana beach was stunning. Speaking of views from a height, the panorama of St. Peter’s Square, seen from the vantage point of the new pope right after his election—the crowds, the lights, the hush that fell before he said “Good evening”—was also impressive. The close-up shots, at the Holy Thursday service at the prison, in the airplane on the return trip to Rome from Brazil, and of miscellaneous contact with individuals, were memorable too and fun to watch.
Of course, the story of a person—especially a person who has awakened admiration and interest in so many people—is easier to tell than so many other kinds of stories. We are hardwired to see events through stories about individuals.
Where I find myself thoughtful in retrospect is around this basic question: What is really happening in the pontificate of Pope Francis, and how do we talk about it? What do the pictures and the commentary really tell us?
I’m so surprised, and actually disappointed, that Desmond O’Grady’s “Can Francis Cure the Curia?”—posted to the Commonweal homepage on August 31—seems to have received little or no attention. It’s important, maybe the most important thing on the horizon for the future of the Catholic church, and thus in some sense important for all the churches. Does no one have an opinion, a concern, a perspective on what is happening in this arena?
The closer you get, the worse it looks.That seems to be the takeaway from a collection of surveys over the past year intended to gauge the response of Catholics to the new English translation of the Roman Missal. The controversial new English translation of the Roman Missal had its debut at the end of 2011, amid doubts of its ability to gain wide appeal. Give it a chance its advocates advised, youll get used to it.
A year later, when a CARA survey reported that 70% of lay Catholics in America agreed with the statement that The new translation is a good thing, it seemed these predictions were justified. To say that the translation is a good thing might seem to be a rather lukewarm endorsement, but these results were positive enough to be encouraging. Online polls conducted around the same time however revealed a more troubling picture, showing considerably more negative opinion, especially among priests, who arguably have the greatest investment in the new translation because of their role in the daily celebration of the liturgy. They use the Missal every day, and know its pluses and minuses better than anyone.
- The Tablet found that clergy gave the new translation very negative marks. Of the 1189 clergy who participated, 70% were unhappy with the translation and wished to see it revised. In a strange twist, considerable numbers of respondents who preferred the Extraordinary Form (which is in Latin) took the survey. 94% of them approved of the new translation. But 57% of those who preferred the Ordinary Form disliked it.
- US Catholic polled more than 1200 priests in a reader survey, and found that 58% agreed with the statement: I dislike the new translations and still cant believe Ill have to use them for the foreseeable future. 49% of Catholics in the pews also registered unhappiness with the translation whereas only 17% said they enjoy them as much as or more than the old translation.
Observers have taken the more critical Tablet and US Catholic results with a grain of salt. Yes, they indicate dissatisfaction, and especially strong dissatisfaction among clergy, but how reliable are these polls?
The results of a new study, released today, sets our knowledge of the opinions of priests on a firmer footing.
The Battle for Meaning
Paulist Press, $14.95, 144 pp.
Liturgy and Ecclesiology in Sacrosanctum concilium
Liturgical Press, $19.95, 168 pp.
One wonders what the Cardinals in the conclave will be looking for in the man they will select to be the next pope. A March 2 editorial in the Tablet entitled "Reform Dominates the Agenda" suggests that structural reform is urgently needed to address an inner breakdown in the Church. Here are some excerpts:
Ive been waiting to read that the newly-installed Archbishop of San Francisco, Salvatore Cordileone, has offered a warm and sincere apology to the Episcopal Bishop of San Francisco, Marc Andrus. But as of today, Im still waiting.Heres what happened, as far as published sources have revealed it.