Rita Ferrone

Rita Ferrone is the author of several books about liturgy, including Liturgy: Sacrosanctum Concilium (Paulist Press).

By this author

The Many Firsts of Pope Francis

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?

Ignore Curial Reform—It’ll Go Away

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?

New Missal Survey Shows Most Priests Dissatisfied

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.

Praying with the Council

Vatican II
The Battle for Meaning
Massimo Faggioli
Paulist Press, $14.95, 144 pp.

True Reform
Liturgy and Ecclesiology in Sacrosanctum concilium
Massimo Faggioli
Liturgical Press, $19.95, 168 pp.


Church Reform and a New Pope

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:

I Guess He Really Meant It

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.

Big Ideas?

George Weigel recently posted an essay about the current presidential campaign on the blog of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Its entitled: Campaign 2012: Burke vs. Hobbes? Its a good thing he put a question mark at the end of the title. Although Weigel wants to make big claims about a conflict of worldviews implicit in the election, the sketch he gives us ought to raise a big question mark.

Improvisation and the Passion

One usually associates improvisation with jazz. But chant also holds the potential for improvisation, as the choir of Trinity Church (Episcopal) Wall Street, in New York, showed this past weekend.Their singing of the Passionaccording to Mark (see below)deserves to be widely heard. I know I was drawn into the meaning of the story deeply through their singing of it. The papers the singers are holding contain words only. The music is improvised. Even the choral parts are improvised. The singers'diction is exemplary.

An Illuminated Easter Proclamation

The Illuminated Easter Proclamation, illustrated by Deacon Charles Rohrbacher Liturgical Press, 2011; $79.95Ive long been intrigued by the phenomenon of exsultet scrolls. The medieval practice, found principally in Southern Italy, of singing the exsultet from a richly illuminated scroll,brought together visual and musical arts in an incomparable way.