The Council Daybook, October 11, 1962

Early this morning, Pope Francis celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica in the shadows of those Council members who’d gathered there 60 years ago.  Today, October 11, 2022, celebrates the 60th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, as well as the (optional) memorial of its convoking pope, St. John XXIII.

John XXIII chose this date to connect this modern Council to the Council of Ephesus in 431, whose decisions confirmed belief in the Blessed Virgin as the Mother of God, the Theotokos.  October 11 traditionally commemorated the Divine Maternity of Mary.  As the Council Daybook describes (a multi-volume work with texts, exchanges and announcements regarding the Council):

“In setting October 11 for the opening of the council, the Pontiff put major stress on the ancient doctrine that Mary is Mother of God rather than on more modern Marian definitions, which are viewed by some Christians as a stumbling block to unity.”

Even the date of the Council’s opening was chosen with respect to unity.  It is no wonder that Pope Francis celebrated Mass today with a plea for unity—and an end to polarization—among Catholics, let alone among Christians.

The first document of the Council, Sacrosanctum Concilium, The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, would likewise echo this plea for unity—so that all might be one (SC 1).

Pope Francis, along with St. John XXIII whom we remember today, invite us to unity, to renewed hearts and to newly-fired spirits.  We are invited to find unity within our Western Church, as sons and daughters of Peter, and with all Christians, as daughters and sons of Mary.

As John XXIII offered in his concluding prayer, in his bull convoking the Second Vatican Council for 1962:

“Renew Your wonders in our time, as though for a new Pentecost, and grant that the Holy Church, preserving unanimous and continuous prayer, together with Mary, the mother of Jesus, and also under the guidance of St. Peter, may increase the reign of the Divine Saviour, the reign of truth and justice, the reign of love and peace.  Amen.”

Prayer together will help us.

Pope John XXIII, Pray for us!

—I consulted Vatican II Council Daybook, Vol. 1, ed. Floyd Anderson (National Catholic Welfare Conference: Washington DC, 1965).

Brief Book Review: Catholic Discordance

Catholic Discordance:
Neoconservatism vs. the Field Hospital Church of Pope Francis
By Massimo Borghesi
Translated from the Italian by Barry M. Hudock

Who should read this? Anyone who finds value and hope in the leadership of Pope Francis; American Catholics who are confused or dismayed by the fractured leadership of our American hierarchy; anyone concerned with the tensions in 21st-century Catholicism.

Why should you read this? Borghesi convincingly presents the hostile efforts of American neoconservative Catholics to undermine the mission of Pope Francis. He interprets the Catholic neoconservative critique of Evangelii Gaudium as a blatant effort to legitimize the superiority of the Western economic system (capitalism) rather than judge it. The main players in this struggle are identified and extensively quoted.

What is the main point? The book contrasts the ideological corruption and political ambition of the “theocons” with Pope Francis’s vision of the church’s mission in the contemporary world. The Pontiff believes that to understand reality (not only its lights but also its shadows), one must look at it from the periphery. Those who oppose his efforts are characterized as subscribing to a technocratic model that views humanity’s quality of life as separate from its environmental context. Francis’s notion of the church emerges as one that goes forth and whose doors are open. It is a missionary church, a church that is a field hospital.

Why does it matter? Since the 1980s, neoconservative commentators have established themselves as the authoritative voice of American Catholicism. These commentators have manipulated the messages of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. Today they are attempting to discount and/or undercut the message of Pope Francis. The emergence of “theo-politics” in American society is carefully traced and its dangers explained.

Why is this book important? The book’s claim is that the division in the church is serious. Borghesi supports this claim with abundant quotes and footnotes from a wide variety of sources. The result is a clear picture of the serious threat to the Holy Father’s efforts to be faithful to the vision of the Second Vatican Council. Francis’s approach to leading the church, his critique of capitalism, and his embrace of the Gospel mandate to evangelize are clearly laid out. Borghesi achieves this by tracing the sources and development of Francis’s thinking and his spirituality, including the influence of Romano Guardini and Pope Paul VI, in order to provide a cogent narrative about his mission and vision for today’s church and the neoconservatives who opposed it.

Borghesi, Massimo. Catholic Discordance: Neoconservatism vs. the Field Hospital Church of Pope Francis. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2021. 280 pages. $29.95. ISBN: 9780814667354.

REVIEWER: Judith M. Kubicki
Judith M. Kubicki is Associate Professor Emerita of Theology at
Fordham University, Bronx, New York.

I Want to Speak with the Manager: A Conversation with Archbishop Roche

With the vastness of the Roman Communion and the immense diversity of expression within the Roman rite, the Catholic experience of liturgical change can be fraught with emotional and intellectual peril. At its core the liturgy is intended to unite us, but it has historically divided us as often as not. Such division – both real and perceived – leads both Catholics and non-Catholics alike to wonder, “Who’s in charge of liturgy?”

Though such a question sounds as nuanced and as blunt as asking “Who’s in charge of cheese?”– it is, after all, the Holy Spirit who ultimately governs – the need for managerial authority looms large over liturgical dialectics in the life of the Church. Christopher Lamb, Vatican correspondent for Britain’s The Tablet, recently sat down with one such authority, Archbishop Arthur Roche, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, to discuss last summer’s promulgation of Traditionis Custodes and the ongoing implementation of the Second Vatican Council’s Sacrosanctum Concilium in letter and in spirit.

In his short time at the CDW, Archbishop Roche has been no stranger to attention: Traditionis Custodes was issued mere months after his assuming office last May.Archbishop Roche is well aware of the fury aroused in some quarters by the restrictions being imposed on the use of the old rite,” Lamb reports, and “he says bishops in touch with his congregation have expressed ‘relief’ at the Pope’s decision to return the oversight of the liturgy to them – as Vatican II intended.

“Long before Francis limited the use of the pre-Vatican Council liturgical books, small traditionalist communities had become centres of resistance to this pontificate. The combination of opposition to the Pope, the calling into question of an ecumenical council, and the promotion of the old rite as an alternative liturgical way of life – sometimes even presented as the only truly Catholic form of the liturgy – represented a serious challenge. Roche stressed that the Pope’s intention was to ‘bring unity’ to the Church, and to end the suggestion that there are two different Churches with two different liturgies.”

Roche stressed that the Pope’s intention was to ‘bring unity’ to the Church, and to end the suggestion that there are two different Churches with two different liturgies.”

The discourse of unity makes some nervous, especially those who view both the Church and the world as a zero-sum game of winners and losers. After all, whose unity is it and on whose terms will such unity be? However, the Church’s liturgy is not a territory to be conquered but the living and abiding presence of God-in-Christ in our midst. Its ongoing development requires far more nuance and listening than binary battle lines can muster. Thus our unity seeks no winners or losers, but sisters and brothers — siblings in Christ.

In the trajectory of liturgical development, Lamb affirms “that changes to the liturgy are nothing new. It was Pius XII who reformed the celebrations of Holy Week in the 1950s, while Roche points out that Pius X…wrote in 1903 about the ‘active participation’ of the faithful in the liturgy, something that was to be strongly emphasised by Vatican II. Its liturgical reforms did not come out of a vacuum, Roche reminds [us]; they were all prepared for by a liturgical movement that dates back to the nineteenth century.”

Traditionis Custodes and the further clarifications released by the CDW in response to questions from bishops about its implementation “made clear that confirmations and ordinations according to the pre-Vatican Council liturgies are now banned, and recommended parishes not to advertise Tridentine Masses in their bulletins. Many of those who belong to the small, yet devoted, groups who are attached to the Missal of 1962 are devastated. They complain that the Pope is ‘cancelling’ the form of Mass they love.”

In this, Archbishop Roche stresses the pastoral depth of both the Pope’s and the CDW’s discernment: “’It’s clear that Pope Francis, along with his predecessors, has great care for those who are finding this difficult and therefore it is still possible to use the Missal of 1962,’ he says. ‘But it is not the norm. It is a pastoral concession.’…Traditionis Custodes is [intended] to bring people ‘closer to an understanding of what the Council required.'”

Understanding and implementing what Vatican II requires has been at the center of the Church’s life and work over the past half century. Such unpacking is not willy-nilly, nor is it as simple as “some Catholics having a personal preference for Latin. It goes to the heart of how the Church sees itself and its mission. It is about the old saying, Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi: how we pray, is how we believe. Roche points out that Vatican II’s dogmatic constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, shifted away from a model of the Church as a ‘perfect society’ to the biblical notion of the Church as the pilgrim People of God.

“In the former, Roche says, it was the priest who ‘represented the intentions of the people’ and took that to God in the liturgy. Vatican II changed that. ‘With the understanding of the priesthood of all the baptised it’s not simply the priest alone who celebrates the Eucharist, but all the baptised who celebrate with him,’ Roche explains. ‘That surely has to be the most profound understanding of what ‘participation’ means. That we’re not just reading, we’re not just singing, we’re not just moving things around in the sanctuary or coping with children or whatever it is, but we’re actually entering deeply into the divine life, which has been made manifest to us in the Paschal mystery…the liturgy is not incidental to our identity…the liturgy is the womb of the Church, which gives birth to Christians and which nourishes the Christian life.'”

‘With the understanding of the priesthood of all the baptised
it’s not simply the priest alone who celebrates the Eucharist,
but all the baptised who celebrate with him,’
That surely has to be the most profound understanding
of what ‘participation’ means.

The importance of formation cannot be stressed enough in the ongoing implementation of the Council. For “while the liturgical and ecclesiological shifts at Vatican II were approved overwhelmingly by the bishops that took part, Roche believes the reasoning behind the reforms is still not ‘fully understood.’ Formation, he says, has been ‘very lacking’ in certain areas of Catholic life, and nowhere is this more true than in seminaries, where there are strong currents pushing for a return to pre-Vatican II styles of dress and liturgy.

“Roche’s congregation is calling on seminaries to teach the ‘richness of the liturgical reform called for by the Second Vatican Council,’ and any newly-ordained priest wishing to celebrate the Mass using the pre-Vatican II liturgical books will need permission to do so from the Holy See. ‘The Holy Father is concerned about formation,’ Roche says, and two years ago he asked the members of his congregation, who include bishops and cardinals from across the world, to discuss the issue. ‘All of them thought that formation was pretty inadequate within seminaries in general as well as within the life of the Church,’ and as a result a document is being prepared that Roche says will address the issue.”

And what about those attracted to the 1962 Missal? Is there still room for authentic dialogue between them and the CDW? Throughout this first year as Prefect, Roche has met with groups advocating for pre-conciliar forms. Indeed, Pope Francis himself has “met with a traditionalist fraternity of priests and gave them a concession to continue celebrating the sacraments in the old rite.” Even so, Roche affirms, the CDW “can’t all be about responding to the liturgical preferences of one group. ‘The Church gives us the liturgy. We pray as a Church community and never simply as individuals, nor as a matter of personal preference.’

“We pray as a Church community and never simply as individuals, nor as a matter of personal preference.”

Though both John Paul II and Benedict XVI “made pastoral concessions to those unable to accept the liturgical reforms of the Council, Roche says that the survey of the world’s bishops had shown that what had been a concession had turned into a ‘promotion to return to what existed before the Second Vatican Council.’ This ‘couldn’t be tolerated because the Council had changed the way in which we’re going forward. That’s just a simple matter.’ It had never been Benedict’s intention to encourage these divisions in the Church. Benedict had also hoped that his concessions would bring back those ‘operating beyond the curtilage of the Church,’ but, as Roche points out, there’s not much evidence that this has happened (he’s talking about the Society of Saint Pius X established by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre).”

As it continues its important work, the CDW “is already implementing the synodal style of Church that Francis is trying to bring about. In 2017, the Pope issued a ruling, Magnum Principium, which gave bishops more authority over liturgical translations, and Roche says he works with them in a collegial manner. ‘We’ve changed the way in which we work with bishops to when I first came to the congregation.'”

What might the synodal style of Church might mean with regard to future translations, adaptations, or usages of the Roman rite? That remains to be seen. As Roche explains, “’We’ve spent the last 50 years translating, the next phase will be facing adaptation…[it’s a] delicate matter.'” Vatican II clearly understands this delicate matter to be work for us all, not only for upper and middle management. Joining with Pope Francis, Archbishop Roche, and the whole people of God, we all have a part to play in liturgy’s development. We are all a little in charge.

Christopher Lamb’s full article can be found here.

Church — Music — Interpreters

Today saw the closing of the third music conference organised by the Pontifical Council for Culture, with the assistance of the Pontifical Institute for Sacred Music and the Liturgical Institute of Sant’Anselmo. Over 150 participants from a large number of countries across the globe gathered in the Old Synod Aula in the Vatican Palace for three days of work on the triad of Church — Music — Interpreters. An outline of the programme will be found at

and a fuller report on the conference will follow here in a separate post.

In the meantime, we can report that the conference was received by Pope Francis in audience this morning. His remarks to the meeting were as follows:

I offer you a cordial welcome as you gather for this Third International Congress devoted to the theme: Church, Music, Interpreters: A Necessary Dialogue. I am grateful to the Pontifical Council for Culture, which, in cooperation with the Pontifical Institute for Sacred Music and the Liturgical Institute of the Pontifical Athenaeum of Sant’Anselmo, has made this meeting possible. I greet all taking part, and in a particular way, I thank Cardinal Ravasi for his kind words of introduction. I hope that the work accomplished in these days may prove to be for everyone a stimulating experience of the Gospel, of liturgical life, and of service to the Church and culture.

We often think of an interpreter as a kind of translator, a person whose task is to convey something he or she has received in such a way that another person can understand it. Yet an interpreter, especially in the field of music, necessarily “translates” in a unique and personal way – in a unique and personal way – what the composer has written, in order to create a beautiful and outstanding artistic experience. In effect, a musical work exists only insofar as it is interpreted, and thus only when someone is there to interpret it.

A good interpreter feels great humility before a work of art that is not his or her property. Recognizing that they put their expertise at the service of the community, such interpreters constantly strive to be formed and transformed, interiorly and professionally, in order to bring out the beauty of the music and, in the context of the liturgy, to serve others through the works they perform (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium, 115). Every interpreter is called to develop a distinctive sensibility and genius in the service of art which refreshes the human spirit, and in service to the community. This is especially the case if the interpreter carries out a liturgical ministry.

The interpreter of music has much in common with the biblical scholar, with the proclaimer of God’s word, but also with those who seek to interpret the signs of the times, and, even more generally, with all those – and each of us should be one of them! – who are open and attentive to others in sincere dialogue. Every Christian, in fact, is an interpreter of the will of God in his her own life, and by his or her life sings a joyful hymn of praise and thanksgiving to God. Through that song, the Church interprets the Gospel as she makes her pilgrim way through history. The Blessed Virgin Mary did this in an exemplary way in her Magnificat, while the saints interpret the will of God by their lives and mission.

Saint Paul VI, in the course of an historic meeting with artists in 1964, offered this reflection: “Our ministry, as you know, consists in preaching and rendering accessible, comprehensible, and indeed moving, the things of the spirit, the invisible, the ineffable, the things of God himself. And in this activity, that transfers the invisible world into accessible, intelligible formulas, you are masters. It is your task, your mission; and your art consists in grasping treasures from the heavenly realm of the spirit and clothing them in words, colours, forms, thus making them accessible” (Insegnamenti II [1964], 313). In this sense, then, the interpreter, like the artist, expresses the ineffable by using words and materials that transcend concepts, in order to convey the kind of “sacramentality” typical of aesthetic representation.

There is a dialogue, because experiencing a work of art is never something static or mathematical. There is a conversation between the author, the work and the interpreter. It is a three-way conversation. And this conversation is original for each of its interpreters: one interpreter understands it this way, and renders it this way; another in a different way. But what is important is the dialogue, that also allows for development in the performance of a work of art. I am thinking, for example, of a work of Bach performed by Richter or by Gardiner: they are different things. The dialogue is something else, and the interpreter must enter into the conversation between author, work and himself. We should never forget this.

The artist, the interpreter and – in the case of music – the listener, all have the same desire: to understand what beauty, music and art allow us to know of God’s grandeur. Now perhaps more than ever, men and women have need of this. Interpreting that reality is essential for today’s world.

Dear brothers and sisters, I thank you again for your commitment to the study of music, and liturgical music in particular. My wish is that, day by day, you may become – each in his or her own way – ever better interpreters of the Gospel, of the beauty that the Father has revealed to us in Christ Jesus, and of the praise that expresses our filial relationship to God. I give you my heartfelt blessing, and I ask you please not to forget to pray for me. Thank you.

The penultimate paragraph about dialogue was unscripted — as usual, the Pope added to his prepared text with some further thoughts “from the heart” as he put it. The fact that the Pope could talk off the cuff about the different interpretations that Karl Richter or John Eliot Gardiner might bring to a work of Bach shows that he is well aware of areas that some people accuse him of being ignorant of.

The comparison of the musical interpreter with a biblical scholar is also interesting. One might take that a stage further and liken the interpreter’s task to that of the translator, whose role is — or ought to be — to make the work come alive for the intended audience. A literalist approach, whether to translation or musical performance, is never going to be enough. More thoughts about this in the fuller report on the conference to follow.

Married Priests?

Pope Francis made unsurprising headlines as a result of a recent airborne press conference, this time on January 27, on his way back from World Youth Day (see the full text here at Zenit). This subject is one that has picked a bit of steam as of late, and this often happens in the wake of revelations of sexual abuse by priests (as an aside, Peter Steinfels recent essay, “The PA Grand-Jury Report: Not What It Seems” is well worth reading, as it complexifies the seemingly simplistic charges leveled in broad brush strokes against the Catholic Church in the much-publicized grand jury report from last year). One argument that is put forward is that if men could discern a vocation to celibacy separately from discerning a vocation to the priesthood, there would be a lower rate of sexual abuse and sexual immorality amongst priests. The Pope’s thoughts on the subject of married priests in the Latin rite (and they are clearly no more than thoughts off the top of his head in response to a question) seem to lean toward an openness to ordaining older, married men in remote places where there is limited access to the sacraments.

A few things are worth considering here. First, news leads such as, “Pope Francis closed the door Jan. 27 on his making celibacy optional for all Catholic priests” are misleading. Obviously, nothing the pope says in such a context is official or binding (I’m tempted to add “irreformable,” but that would lend a kind of officialness to these comments that is entirely unwarranted). The electronic accessibility to every comments the pope makes in almost every moment of his life has the unfortunately consequence of elevating his every thought to “papal teaching” or “what the Catholic Church teaches.” And this is true for those both inside and outside the Church. Reporters frequently treats such comments as if they carry official weight. In an odd turn of events, more progressive Catholics find themselves engaging in their own form of ultramontanism, the kind that so often infuriated them about those on the right when they latched on to a letter or comment of Saint John Paul II or Benedict XVI. Thus, “who am I to judge” turns into an about-face by the Catholic Church and the Pope about homosexuality. While the Pope can amend canon law and thus change this practice, it is also true that the Pope’s comments on the subject are simply, as the Pope himself put it, “only my personal thought” (think of Benedict’s comments in the preface to his first book in the Jesus of Nazareth series about how we was giving his own opinion, not offering official teaching).

Second, the fact that Catholics priests in the various Eastern rites are able to marry (though this is complicated in the US) before being ordained (as well as when exceptions are made for former Anglican priests) highlights a key point: this question about married priests is one of discipline or “law” at the Pope put it in the press conference, not doctrine (or at least central doctrine). While there are doctrinal issues connected to celibacy, the fact that Eastern rite Catholics can have married priests, and the Eastern churches have maintained this practice and it has not been questioned in Rome’s dialogue with them, indicates that this is neither a matter of Faith nor Order.

But what this fact does highlight is a key sociological factor: the longer you have an enormous group of people who has done something in a certain way for a very long time, the harder it is to change. This is not to say that there are not good reasons to want to preserve the presence of celibate clergy. But I think the history of Eastern Christians indicates that this fear is probably not warranted. The sentence Pope Francis positively attributes to Saint Paul VI is telling on this point: “I prefer to give my life before changing the law on celibacy.” He goes on: “My decision is: optional celibacy before the diaconate: no. It’s something personal of mine; I wouldn’t do it. And this remains clear. It’s only my personal thought. Am I closed, perhaps? I don’t see putting myself before God with this decision…I don’t say it should be done, because I haven’t reflected on it, I haven’t prayed sufficiently about this. However, the theologians must study it.”

Third, an openness to married priests would allow for a new kind of discernment to the ordained ministry. Given that the Catholic Church does not teach that celibacy is constitutive of the priesthood, it seems wise to ask why is de facto constitutive of the priesthood for the majority of priests in communion with the Holy See (see the helpful summary of the position in the Catholic Catechism in par. 1579-80 ).

As a priest who serves in the Episcopal Church, I would humbly suggest that bishops and even the Holy Father might talk to married priests and learn more about what it is like to serve the Lord in this way. One of the things that any married priest would say, and any honest married person, for that matter, is that marriage is not the solution to errant sexual desires. As my ethics professor, Stanley Hauerwas, puts it in his provocatively titled essay, “Sex in Public: How Adventurous Christians are Doing It,” Christian marriage is, among other things, a public sexual discipline. You stand up in front of your mom, and your uncle, and your grandmother, and your eighth grade English teacher, and you tell them all that that person right over there is your exclusive sexual partner. Marriage is itself a sexual discipline, for who has only ever had erotic desire for a single person? Which is one of the reasons why engaging in sexual discipline before marriage is a preparation for the sexual discipline within marriage. Further, married priests had a difficult set of loyalties to work out and that negotiation is never simple.

Let me end with a few lines from a recent essay by a colleague Joey Royal over at Covenant, “Celibacy, Abuse, and the formation of Desire:”

Would marriage help a celibate person avoid sexual sin? Perhaps. But that is not its purpose. Anyone who entered marriage with the expectation of satisfied sexual desires will likely be disappointed. After all, how can anyone satisfy ever-changing desires, which are often as mysterious to us as they are to our spouse?

No, the purpose of marriage is ultimately the same as the purpose of parenthood, which is also ultimately the purpose of the priesthood: to manifest the love of God in Christ by giving ourselves sacrificially to others. After all, we are all priests in a certain sense by virtue of our being God’s creatures, and our ultimate vocation as creatures is to give back to God what properly belongs to him. That process inevitably involves sacrifice — not sacrifice as destruction, but sacrifice as union with God through love, expressed in charity to our neighbor.