Sacramentum Caritatis

I take a few days to concentrate on the parish retreat and family matters, and look what pops up: Sacramentum Caritatis. Cool.

The usual conservative suspects, once agog at the prospects of Pope Benedict turning the liturgical clock backwards to a Golden Fifties, are fussing on the deficiencies of how badly the English translation turned up on the Vatican web site. Could be, right?

They seem to be skipping over the pope’s emphasis on the sign of peace, on the impact of liturgy on charity and justice, and a whole section on participatio. So much for reading for content instead of reading to grade the curia a C-minus for translation.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll add some post with commentary on select passages. But meanwhile, anybody have any thoughts of their own?

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Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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7 Responses to Sacramentum Caritatis

  1. Liam says:

    In charity and justice, it should be noted that the “usual conservative suspects” are hardly united in tone and perspective and reaction (or even goals — many would find the notion of the Golden Fifties laughable, and their goals are more focused on those of the Liturgical Movement that they realize never got widely implemented). I’ve noticed a very wide range among them. Let’s not set up straw men of our own preference for contrasting debate – it’s not a progressive value, and indeed deeply lowers the credibility of progressives voices.

    My own reaction is that the document is relatively in line with what I was expecting, if anything even less directive than I was expecting.

    I am particularly struck by the Pope’s emphasis on the Trinitarian character of the Eucharistic mystery, something that is sometimes glossed over in the Western Christian tradition (unlike the Eastern). All that discussion in the beginning is not merely precatory: it’s the real substance. Benedict gets it, as he long has; he shows here why he was a positive force at Vatican II.

    As for the more directive passages, I welcome the revisitation of the order of the sacraments of initiation, and the clear declaration of the pastoral rather than dogmatic nature of the ordering.

    The reaffirmation of the discipline of celibacy is, interestingly, based exclusively on positive concerns, not in negative reaction. I think that’s something many people will, erroneously, fail to notice.

    The invitation to reconsider how priests are distributed may be the sleeper here if Benedict truly intends to direct his dicasteries more vigorously in this regard. It would be very good….

    As for the passages on matrimony, I would leave detailed commentary to learned canonists to see what, if anything, this portends. But one passage was striking: “…truth is never something purely abstract…”

    As for art: the direction on education of seminarians in this regard is welcome. Parelleled later re teaching chant to seminarians, which is very good indeed.

    As for music: very good, nothing for progressives (as opposed to pragmatists at heart) to complain about, right?

    The commendation of the Liturgy of the Hours is nice but lacks more direction: here is somewhere where progressives might well have preferred an activist bit of legislation, don’t you think?

    I love the direct confrontation and rejection of the widespread practice of treating the presentation of the gifts as a liturgical interlude.

    As for moving the sign of peace, after years of toying with moving it to the beginnning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist, I would now be more inclined to resist that: I think the Roman rite has its own proper logic and history, and that there is embedded wisdom in the current placement. I do agree that sober restraint is a worthy goal in the execution of the ritual, so that the solemn nature of the peace proferred is not confused with something less profound.

    The direction for exploring new texts for the dismissal rite is somewhat pleasantly surprising. I wish that it had gone further to encourage the dismissal rite to be grounded in music as the other parts of the Mass – ending the Mass with an emphatically musical Deo Gratias is better than any final hymn, at least objectively speaking.

    The discussion re placement of tabernacles seems very balanced and well put.

    The later interweaving of larger themes is gracefully expressed.

  2. Todd says:

    On spot, as usual, Liam.

    “The usual suspects,” in this case, were the biggies of the blogosphere: Fr Z, NLM, and amy’s posse. I’d like to think I can tweak at them a bit, all in fun I hope. Especially as they still seem to be strung out awaiting some kind of “liberalization” of the 1962/1570 Missal, I have to confess the target is sometimes all too easy.

    My cursory look at the document finds no real problems, and mostly a sound continuation of liturgical renewal.

  3. Liam says:

    In fairness, the NLM writers actually have difference perspectives (including voices cautioning against the very thing you are associating them with) and I think Amy’s posse should be distinguished from Amy just as anyone’s readership should be. The voices of dejected traditionalist commenters like Kenjiro S. and Eric G. are loud and repetitive but fewer in number.

  4. Brigid says:

    You BOTH might want to make some commentary here:

    http://www.getreligion.org/?p=2283#comments

    Amy shouldn’t have all the fun!

    My take? Truly, similar to Amy’s: we partake and then we go out to change the World, which is what Jesus Christ calls his Church to do. I really do like having a German theologian for Pope!

  5. Woodward says:

    You might want to pause for a moment and take a look at what the “usual LIBERAL suspects,” aka the mainstream media, made of the exhortation — their shocked outrage that a sacramental understanding of marriage, of the Eucharist, of Christian worship in general, continues to be preached by Christ’s Church and His vicar.

    For every Rad-Trad scandalized by the sign of peace or an insufficient amount of Gregorian chant in the Mass, there are 100 trendy secularists scandalized by the reality of Christ present under the signs of bread and wine, embodying God’s love for His creation. They, not the few Catholics who still know Latin and have some quibbles about translations of Church documents, are the ones standing in the way of a “sound continuation of liturgical renewal.”

  6. Todd says:

    Woodward, the mainstream media, so to speak, is far more competent as a seller of goods than a source for insightful news analysis, especially on religion. I wouldn’t consult them on anything but the tracking of our corporate masters and what the indulgence of the moment I should be buying might be.

    Many Catholic liturgical conservatives betrayed their slanted sense of liturgy when they greeted the recent developments in the Diocese of Arlington by focusing their fury on girl altar servers. More sensible bloggers were struck, if not surprised, by the empasis from that quarter. It was not enough to give thanks for the perception of a blessing, but the bile had to flow simply because it was used to flowing.

    No, I think it is largely the conservatives–but certainly not all conservatives–who are upset about liturgical sideshows and lack the focus to discern what is of real importance. Again, that’s not to say liberals don’t lose focus here and there and embarass themselves badly. The point being that any single Catholic or any single philosophical approach does not encompass the entire reality of the Church. Everyone sins and falls short of the grace of God. The sooner we all realize it and acknowledge that conservatives alone (or liberals alone) are insufficient to make up a Catholic Church, the sooner we can get past the pettiness and move toward the real issues.

  7. Gavin says:

    My thoughts on the document are positive. Sure, something with force to it would be nice, but that’s not what the pope’s going for. The real value of this document is that it clearly presents us with the pope’s (and bishops) thoughts. It’s indicative of the figurative pendulum swinging in the other direction. No, I can’t say to anyone in my church “we’re doing chant because the pope says we HAVE to” (and it’d be unfair of him to say such!), but I CAN point to this and say “this is the direction the Church is moving in. Why should we be left in the ’70s?” I can point to this and say “The pope respects many traditions of music, but he obviously thinks that we should follow the rubrics and have chant. No, he’s not forcing us, but shouldn’t we go along with his wishes as we can?” Even with the Motu (which I’m not a fan of), you can still point to it as showing a growing desire for Latin, etc.

    The other part which you may like is that he doesn’t go into extremes and shows himself to be very rational. It seems to me that he is encouraging the use of the sign of peace, and not discounting the vernacular entirely. It’s almost like he’s saying to the ultra-conservative crowd, “Hey, you have your own problems too!” And ultimately, we have to remember this document is not a index of mistakes in the Mass. It’s a teaching document about the Sacrament primarily, and offers liturgical requests in the end of serving the primary goal. Somehow I don’t see how raving attacks against “Fish Person” help out with that second word of the title…

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