Cardinal Koch on the Pope’s intentions regarding the liturgy

Rorate Caeli provides quick translation of a Vatican Radio report and emphasises that Cardinal Koch’s words are given a special edge by the fact that he was speaking at the theological faculty of the University of Freiburg, a stronghold of “progressive” theology:

Allowing the Old Latin Mass is just “a first step” according to Kurt Cardinal Koch, an official of the Roman Curia. The time is however not yet ripe for the next steps, Koch said on the Weekend in Freiburg. Liturgical questions are overshadowed by ideology especially in Germany. Rome will only be able to act further when Catholics show more readiness to think about a new liturgical reform “for the good of the Church.” The Cardinal spoke at a conference on the theology of Joseph Ratzinger, which also considered Ratzinger’s pontificate as Pope Benedict XVI. In July 2007 Pope Benedict decreed that Tridentine Rite Masses according to the Missal of 1962 may once again be celebrated world wide. The Missal of 1970 is however still the “normal form” of the Eucharistic Celebration in the Roman Church. Koch is the President of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity. He tried to refute the charge that Pope Benedict is going against the Council [i.e. Vatican II] in liturgical questions: “the Pope suffers from this accusation.” On the contrary, the Holy Father’s intention is rather to implement conciliar teachings on the liturgy which have been ignored up till now. Present day liturgical practice does not always have any real basis in the Council. For example, celebration versus populum was never mandated by the Council, says the Cardinal. A renewal of the form of divine worship is necessary for the interior renewal of the Church: “Since the crisis of the Church today is above all a crisis of the liturgy, it is necessary to begin the renewal of the Church today with a renewal of the Liturgy.”

(Previous posts on Cardinal Koch’s various statements on the ‘Reform of the Reform’ can be found here and here.)

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7 Responses to Cardinal Koch on the Pope’s intentions regarding the liturgy

  1. JabbaPapa says:

    Whilst I generally agree with the Cardinal, in terms of both tone and content, there are two specific comments that I’d like to comment upon :

    For example, celebration versus populum was never mandated by the Council, says the Cardinal.

    Well, no — but this is mainly because the liturgical orientation of the priest relative to the congregation has been under discussion for well over a thousand years… He is OTOH absolutely correct that versus populum most certainly is NOT a teaching of the Council.

    Since the crisis of the Church today is above all a crisis of the liturgy

    This, OTOH, I must strongly disagree with.

    The liturgical questions and the continual arguments about those questions are very arguably symptomatic of the crises in the Church, but the central crisis is a crisis of vocations — and not just the crisis in the clerical vocation itself, but extensively all of the vocations that clergy, religious, and laity are called towards, as the fundamental basis of a Catholic life, which is under a massive attack from contemporary secularism (including, lest people think I am just pointing fingers, in my own vocational life and attitudes).

    Curiously enough one of the healthier vocational areas is that of the vocation of non-Catholics towards conversion, whether baptism and the rest of the initiatory rites, or in the Ordinariates. The vocation of foot pilgrimage has also regained an astonishing level of strength and vigour in the past decades.

    In both of these cases, we can see that the strength of these vocations comes from an openness of the Church towards outsiders, whereas where the Church has become weaker, is where congregations and dioceses and the vocational attitudes have become inward-looking, and unengaged with the crises of a contemporary life, as if too many people believed that what is contemporary should be simply rejected and fled.

    This is not to say that one should ignore the virtues of liturgical tradition itself — and after all, liturgist is also a vocation in itself — but just as I find that these neverending liturgical arguments, that have been caused TBH so irresponsibly by some rather extreme decisions by the liberal faction in the Church, to be very destructive of the far more important focus on the relationship of our Church and her traditions with contemporary life, contemporary reality, contemporary anxieties, and contemporary worldviews (so, you see, a symptom ; rather than the disease itself).

    Christ did not seek to change the religion of His time by focusing on it from within, nor by discussing liturgical questions — but He changed it by going towards Publicans, and whores, and criminals, and Gentiles, and all of those others outside of Israel who needed to hear His Gospel, and the Word of God.

    The central crisis in our Church, and it has been ongoing for centuries, is not a crisis of liturgy, but a crisis of openness — and the central solution to that crisis is always going to be to open your heart.

    This is not to say that these liturgical questions are in no need of a proper liturgical solution, but then again, the proper Catholic attitude towards any truly divisive question is to simply and humbly accept that divisions exist regarding that question. Various abuses need to be carefully and delicately, but also clearly and decisively weeded out — however the tendency in the liturgy as a whole is that it has become a variable quantity ; or rather, it has become a common basis with several local variations. The work that needs doing is to establish which exact commonalities are absolutely required in every single Form of the liturgy, and which no local variation may ever depart from.

    But it is very unhelpful, IMO, to present this work as being as if “the” central crisis of the Church.

    The central crisis of the Church is its relationship with contemporary modernity — which is of course why the main heresy of our day and age is Modernism, in all of its subtle and protean nature, and in the errors that it can provide to the thinking of even some of the more staunch Catholics…


  2. toadspittle says:

    “The vocation of foot pilgrimage has also regained an astonishing level of strength and vigour in the past decades.” says Jabba and he’s not wrong, as Toad can attest.
    But the motives of a very great many of these new “pilgrims” are open to considerable sceptical speculation.
    However, that is a whole ‘nother topic.


  3. JabbaPapa says:

    One thing I’ve learned, and it took me a looooooong time, is to no longer distinguish between pilgrims and “pilgrims”.

    I can’t see that it’s my lot in life to speculate on the validity of someone else’s motivations on the Road…


  4. toadspittle says:

    “I can’t see that it’s my lot in life to speculate on the validity of someone else’s motivations on the Road…” says Jab.
    Well, noble as the thought is, Toad suggests Jabba might just change his mind if he had to spend time picking up discarded plastic water bottles, fag packets and chocolate bar wrappers each week.
    As is (part of) Toad’s lot in life.


  5. JabbaPapa says:

    toad might realise that Jabba is already aware of such things, and on more than one Pilgrim’s Way …


  6. JabbaPapa says:

    but cripes, sometimes our vocations can have their fairly annoying aspects …

    FWIW I have never thrown away such ghastly detritus along any Road …


  7. toadspittle says:


    Indeed Toad has yet to meet any pilgrim who expresses anything but horror at the Carnage on the Camino.

    And he knows enough about Jabba to be sure that he is not the kind of person who would even dream of doing such unseemly things.

    (Toad mainly blames packs of youngish male Spanish cyclists in skin-tight, hideous, lurid spandex outfits in “shocking pink” and “electric blue” and “lime green” – emblazoned over every centimeter in advertisements for contraceptives, Cinzano and car tyres.)

    But that’s also another story.


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