Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Alive With Speculation

The traditional Roman corner of the web is, indeed, alive with speculation. Yesterday this little notice appeared on the Vatican website:


On Saturday, December 10, it was made public that the Holy Father appointed:

. . . . . .

- Archbishop Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don, apostolic nuncio to Indonesia and East Timor, as secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

And we said to each other pretty much what you're saying now: "Eh? Who's he?"

The first indications that I read were not promising: a speech that used the phrases beloved of Asian Renewal Theology and the radical "inculturation"-ists.

But some other views of the new secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship then began to be seen. We learned that the Archbishop wrote an article for L'Osservatore Romano in 2004 praising Redemptionis Sacramentum and criticizing liturgical free-wheeling. And then this appeared in the Holy Whapping's comment box, a quotation from an article in an Italian paper, Il Giornale, which reads:

An expert of Sacred Scripture, Ranjith was well known by Joseph Ratzinger: the new Secretary of the Vatican department for Liturgy was in fact one of the front-line Asian bishops affriming the salvific unicity of Christ in the diverse and difficult religious landscape of those countries, where even Catholic theologians seem to indulge in syncretistic conceptions at times. His return to the Curia is of particular meaning also for the perspectives of the liturgical reform and for the possible return of the Lefebvrists to the full communion with Rome.

As a matter of fact, Msgr Ranjith is an esteemed prelate among traditionalists and Lefebvre's followers, and in the april of 2004 he signed one of the first authoritative comments to thew Instruction Redemptionis sacramentum, the document against liturgical abuses. In that text, the new Secretary of CDW recognized that in some cases the conciliar reform didn't bring the results that were hoped, and denounced a "reductionist interpretation" of the Eucharistic sacrament and the many irregularities in its celebration.

Another correspondent provided a link to the Archbishop's L'Osservatore article (it's here) in which there is no hint of inculturation. Instead we find:

The great liturgical reform does not seem to have given rise to the
desired reawakening and reinforcement of the faith, especially in the
ancient Christian Churches.


I think that the general problem was an erroneous idea of the purpose
of the Council. Indeed, speaking of the conciliar reforms, Cardinal
Joseph Ratzinger says: "The [Council] Fathers wanted to update the
faith, indeed, to present it with its full impact. Instead, people
gradually formed the idea that the reform consisted merely of throwing
out the ballast, in other words, of divesting it so that in the end
the reform did not appear to radicalize the faith but to dilute it"
(Il Sale della Terra, p. 86).

And just this evening this arrived in my In Box, a citation to a 2002 article in The Angelus, the magazine in the United States of the Society of St Pius X. The article is here. It is by Fr Franz Schmidberger, at the time of writing the First Assistant to the Superior General of the Society of Saint Pius X. The relevant quotation is almost half-way down on the cited page, just a couple of paragraphs down from the subheading "Glimmers of Hope":

Another tiny light of hope is the appointment of a bishop from Sri Lanka to the Roman Curia. His name is Bishop Malcolm Ranjith [say: Ran'-jit]. I had
the opportunity to meet him last year in March (2001) in his diocese in the
bishop's house in Ratnapura, located in the middle of Sri Lanka. We had a
very good discussion for two hours. He told me, there is no doubt that there
is a profound link between the crisis of the priesthood, the crisis of the
identity of the priest, on the one side, and all that is going on in the
liturgy on the other side. He said if we want to restore the Church, if we
want to bring a true renewal to the Church, we must begin there, in the very
center. We understood each other very well.

At the very beginning of the month of October, we suddenly heard that Bishop
Ranjith was nominated an Archbishop, and that he was appointed Joint
Secretary to the Congregations for the Propaganda of the Faith and the
Evangelization of the People in Rome. Some days later, I again had the
opportunity to meet him, because he has a married sister in Germany. Once
again, we had a very deep and very healthy conversation, and he said, "I
agree 200% with you that there really is a problem in the Church with the
liturgy and the priesthood, and both go together. We must work on this, and
there is no doubt that the Pope has to set free the true Catholic Mass for
everyone-I am going now to Rome where I will have my private chapel. I have
just taken care to get a Missal of St. Pius V to celebrate Mass as it should

Things may indeed be looking up for the classical Roman Rite. Even the Pauline Rite might be made presentable. It could happen.

[Addendum: It looks like Dom Bettinelli was the source for my source on that last SSPX item. In any event, he has a post that sure looks like it here.]