Cardinal Sarah: A pink slip for a red hat

Especially during the tourist season, the church at which I exercise my liturgical ministry receives a large number of visitors.

A surprising number of them, usually women, make it a point to tell me with an air of disapproval for what we have on offer that in their home country they only go to Latin Masses.

I have no idea what they expect me to say or do about that.

The one time I asked one such woman if she understood Latin, she said she did not, but used an English-language missal to follow the Mass prayers.

I refrained from pointing out that in that case, she was praying the Mass in English rather than Latin.

The cherry trees in Tokyo will bloom in a couple of weeks, and the tourism season will once again be upon us.

While I look forward to the cherries, when for about two weeks Tokyo may be the most beautiful metropolis in the world as well as the largest, I have some apprehension about the tourists.

My apprehension is due to the fact that they may confront me with a powerful ally.

Cardinal Sarah is the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship. In other words, the cardinal is the Vatican prelate in charge of the church’s liturgy.

In that role, he has been an enemy of what has been achieved in the church’s worship since the Second Vatican Council (1962-65).

When Pope Francis asked that provision be made for women to be part of the ceremony of washing of feet on Holy Thursday, the cardinal delayed action for more than a year.

He was corrected by the pope for his insistence that Mass be celebrated with the priest facing away from the congregation.

The pope gave him a public dressing down for minimizing the import of papal support for restoring authority over liturgical translations to the bishops, as was mandated by an ecumenical council.

Cardinal Sarah’s latest foray has been to attack the reception of communion in the hand as evil, the work of the devil.

How am I or others to respond when, as may well happen, we are confronted by people who say they have the cardinal on their side as they want no part in the majority of the world’s Catholics at worship?

I could point out that the appointment of Vatican prefects has nothing to do with their expertise or even interest.

The only qualification they need is a red hat and Cardinal Sarah, who clearly does not know or understand either liturgical history or theology, has that qualification.

The other, and main, qualification is, of course, their appointment by the pope and their ongoing tenure in their position, since they hold it at the pleasure of the pontiff.

If Cardinal Sarah with his uninformed piety remains in office, it means he has the endorsement of the pope.

How can I respond to that?

Pope Francis apparently has his reasons for keeping Cardinal Sarah in his present position at the Vatican, but those reasons do not play well or even make sense where the church really lives.

The pope’s rationale for keeping the cardinal as point man for liturgy is of no help or use to those of us outside the Vatican.

It is time for Cardinal Sarah to receive a pink slip. Continue reading

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