On the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the publication of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, La Nef (juillet-août 2017 – n. 294) offers a long position paper by Cardinal Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship. In it, the cardinal proposes and makes concrete his well-known position on the “Reform of the Reform” of the Mass liturgy of Paul VI. The text’s first part is historical and doctrinal, which leads to a second part with specific proposals.
Sarah says that “the liturgy has become a battlefield, the place where the champions of the pre-conciliar Missal and those of the reformed Missal of 1969 face off.” In this situation, the aim of his paper is “liturgical reconciliation.” While I appreciate the cardinals’ love for the liturgy and his good intentions, I think that his reasoning is not without some ambiguities.
Following Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Sarah claims that the extraordinary form of the Roman liturgy is entirely consistent with the requirements of Vatican II. He asks: “How can we think that the Council wished to contradict what was in use before?”
Of course, Your Eminence: “contradiction,” no; but “reform,” yes. Sacrosanctum Concilium “desired to undertake a general restoration of the liturgy” (no. 21). And of course it was a matter of reforming the liturgy which was celebrated in the Church at that point in time.
Later, in support of his thesis, Sarah argues that it is “incorrect to hold that the two forms of liturgy express opposing theologies. The Church has a single truth which she teaches and celebrates.” Again, I must say: two “opposing” theologies, no; but “different,” certainly. As the cardinal himself says, quoting Benedict XVI, “the history of the liturgy consists of growth and progress.”