New Liturgy Head in the Curia

clovcmIt’s not under wraps anymore; Rock has the goods (here and here) on the new head of the CDWDS (Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments).

Perhaps it is a good sign when one brings one’s own red carpet welcome to a new job.

Rock and a few others are all over this and musing about the stalled English translation. What does this all mean for a non-English speaker at the top of the Roman liturgy heap?

I have to wonder if there’s not some American/English hubris afoot in some of this commentary. Catholic liturgy is celebrated less in English than in the other languages of the Church put together. Germans and Italians have been put on liturgical notice lately, so let’s not get the false notion it’s All About Us. I’m sure the Prefect will have lots of other issues on his desk, not just those pesky American translating foot-draggers.

The new prefect has been around. He was born in and ordained for the Diocese of Valencia. He later transferred to Madrid. JP II appointed him Bishop of Ávila in ’92. In 1996, he was named Archbishop of Granada. 2002 saw another “promotion” to Toledo and the office of Primate of the Spanish Church.

The only useful comment I can think of is that Pope Benedict doesn’t seem to have many misgivings about episcopal careerism. Four years in Ávila. Six in Granada. Six in Toledo. I don’t think that’s a good witness for the Church, nor of the leadership needs in these dioceses.

Can anybody, Liam perhaps, shed some light on the image I lifted from Whispers?


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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22 Responses to New Liturgy Head in the Curia

  1. Jeff Pinyan says:

    That red cloak is the cappa magna, I believe. Information about it can be found at

    Dappled Photos


    New Liturgical Movement

  2. Liam says:

    He’ll have to say goodbye to the CM when he moves to Rome, as it’s no longer worn there, only outside Rome. And without ermine. Only Fluffy (as some endearingly called him) gets to wear fur (which, btw, I don’t mind in the limited circumstances in which it’s used).

  3. Liam says:

    And on the careerism front, I of course would prefer that we resume the ancient canonical presumption in favor of bishops staying married to the diocese for which they were elevated to the episcopate, rather than serial monogamy. But I have some other changes I’d propose to how bishops are currently chosen, too.

  4. Jimmy Mac says:

    It’s a wee bit hard to take seriously a presumably straight man who dresses way too much like a drag queen … and appears to be enjoying the apparel a lot.

  5. It’s a wee bit hard to take seriously a presumed adult whose predictable schtick is the smart-ass wisecrack, often expressing a good dose of condescending moralism — all as a tiresome substitute for engaging in actual conversation with people you disagree with…

  6. Trent says:

    Come on, Father…where’s your sense of humor? I thought it was funny…

  7. Trent:

    That schtick was funny the first 500 times he used it here.

    I might also point out the stupidity of the comment about “drag.” But I think that point would be utterly lost on Jimmy Mac.

  8. Rev. Trent Williams says:

    Sorry, I haven’t been reading here long, so I’ve probably missed some of the earlier back-and-forth.

    I will second Todd’s original comment, though, that it’s probably not a good sign when one brings one’s own red carpet welcome to the new job ;-)

    In all seriousness, though, I’m just a Protestant lurker here, so I don’t really have a direct stake in all this. But as someone who plans liturgy and music, I like to keep up with developments in the Catholic Church as well.

    For what it’s worth, which is probably not much coming from me, I can’t say that I’m crazy about these new translations. It seems like at least some of the bishops weren’t too thrilled with them either. I know that much of the revitalization in liturgy and worship in my own tradition came in response to post-Vatican II developments in the Catholic Church. I can certainly appreciate that there are corrections that need to be made, but I hope whoever is in charge of this process doesn’t go too far in the other direction. It’s important to be poetic and elegant, as well as accurate, in translations–whether biblical or liturgical.

  9. Todd says:

    I see Fr Fox’s comment about “drag.” I can’t imagine they let the cappa scrape along the floor no matter how polished it is.

    I’m sure there’s a solid history behind it, but the connection to liturgy or ministry today is so faint as to be blurred by any cultural trends in the modern world: bridal trains at best, and cartoon farces at worst.

  10. Todd:

    I don’t particularly care about the cappa magna per se–I don’t own one myself, nor plan to get one.

    But I do object to the snotty, cavalier reference to “drag” regarding clerical/liturgical attire. The same comments can be and are made about a cassock, a surplice, an alb, a dalmatic, a cope and a chasuble. Would we prefer to have clerics celebrate liturgy in business suits?

    Very offputting, to say the least, is this supercilious contempt directed toward something that pertains to our tradition, that isn’t about utility, it’s about expressing someone unquantifiable, that is meant to convey dignity, even glory.

    Yes, the era of the “princes” of the Church is over; but that is still part of who we are, and it is actually possible not to want that all back, but to miss parts of it too. And before we say how awful that was and how better things are, we might pause to consider that the verdict of history may not, find our approach better on balance.

    There is something thrilling about a bishop, and it didn’t start with the middle ages, it starts in the Book of Acts, where you see the awe that came over those who met the Apostles. People still feel that awe in their successors in our midst. At least some people do. And that is good and right.

    There are a lot of folks who like the fact that the Church is significantly rooted in the far past, that has accumulated all manner of things, both sublime and silly, from every age through which she has taken her pilgrimage, and isn’t bothered by that archaism or superfluity in the least.

    Of course, there are others who can only sneer.

  11. Jimmy Mac says:

    My, my … haven’t I touched a wee sore spot! Do you really think that the cappa magna and other frilly clerical garments can be construed as anything other than drag? Call it wisecrack schtick if you will, but I have enough experience with people who delight in drag to know it when I see it. There is nothing theologically, ethically, philosophically or practically redeeming about running around look as ridiculous as the good cardinal does in that photo! It simply reinforces the prejudice (that I admittedly share) that so many of Catholic clerics live in a dream world of pseudo-monarchism that they like to reinforce with how they present themselves. The last thing that this church needs in the 21st century is continued use of trappings that were best discarded a few hundred years back … except, of course, by the few, the haughty and the self-delusional.

  12. Jimmy:

    You’re not in a good position to lecture anyone about being haughty and self delusional.

  13. Pingback: Why Clerical Wear? « Catholic Sensibility

  14. Jimmy Mac says:

    How about rebutting my objections to the garb and skipping the unpriestly ad hominum attacks, OK?

  15. Let’s try to stick with a good topic. One can argue the pastoral and theological merits of clothing, either liturgical or non-liturgical. We can steer away from the insults and keep it interesting.

  16. Jimmy Mac:

    I wasn’t aware you were even interested in serious discussion; I’ve never seen anything but hit-and-run smartass.

    I made my argument; I don’t see you rebutting it.

  17. Jimmy Mac says:

    Fr. Fox:

    Your argument seems to be this: clerics in the past dressed quite differently from how they do now. This represents part of the church’s patrimony and, as such, it should not be spoken of disdainfully.

    I will direct you to Todd’s recent post on clerical wear as I think there are many good comments on the value of clerical wear that does not give the appearance of “gilding the lily”.

    My objection to the misplaced, affected elegance seemingly enjoyed by the likes of Burke, Pell and, now, Cañizares, goes to what I think is unwarranted, glorified clericalism. I have many biases in this respect, and freely admit that not all are original thoughts of mine, but are those with which I am in whole-hearted agreement:

    1.In the priesthood of all believers, the ordained priest performs a separate but equal function to those of other Christians. His role is functionally ordered to the common priesthood of the faithful, as the one who calls us together to become what we are (the Body of Christ).

    Many Catholics were of grace pouring from Christ through Mary to the Pope, then down through the bishops to priests and deacons with what’s left over trickling down to the rest of us. While Lumen Gentium does speak to a hiearchical teaching authority acting as spokespersons for the Body of Christ, grace itself is not conceived this way in the document. Rather, the ministerial priesthood and the common priesthood of the faithful face one another, side by side, and are ordered to one another. Grace flows in a circle, rather than running down a pyramid.

    2.If ordination deepens a change received at baptism, is the ministerial priest ontologically different from others from the moment of initiation into the Body of Christ? Whenever the change occurs, what does it mean to say that the ministerial priest differs ontologically or essentially from others? This notion of the permanent character of ordination was intended to protect the Church from doubting that Christ worked through the community even if her priests were failures and sinners. The idea of a permanent change in the recipient of ordination was never intended to set the ministerial priests apart as some sort of higher class of being.

    3.I was raised in pre-Vatican II Catholicism in which creed, code and cult, or, if you will, words, works and worship, were clearly distinguished, one from the other. Today it appears that a small but clearly powerful clerical element wants to elevate the cultish aspect, not only of the the church but their ordination, to a place of misdirected prominence. The cappa magna is but one example of a delusional and monarchial strain that flies in the face of points 1 and 2 above. I believe that this also extends to excessively ornamented chasubles, ornately lacy surplices, and birettae of any kind. They have no validity in preaching the Gospel or fulfilling the mission of the church. Instead, they facilitate the wearers in bouts of preening and delusions of grandeur not appropriate to the servant ministry of the ordained.

    Do I sneer at this strain? Do I look askance at the careerism that this obsession with displays of clerical frippery bespeaks? Absolutely!!!

    Look again at this display of wretched excess (including that worn by Bl. John XXIII): Todd put it best: “bridal trains at best, and cartoon farces at worst.”

    4.You seem to be quite miffed at my use of the term “drag.” I will repeat what I said earlier: I have enough experience with people who delight in drag to know it (the delight and the drag) when I see it. To deny the rather obvious connection between the ostentatious, out-sized manifestation of the worst of clericalism and drag is to either have led a sheltered life or to be in denial. George Wilson, SJ, in his “Clericalism: the Death of Priesthood,” emphasizes that we must examine underlying attitudes that create and preserve destructive relationships between ordained and laity. Ostentatious, self-aggrandizing “drag” is but a manifestation of this destructive relationship that clericalists seems to need to need to maintain a false sense of superior difference between themselves and the laity.

  18. Jimmy Mac says:

    That should be: “Many Catholics were led to think of grace pouring ….”

  19. Jimmy Mac:

    Thanks for the well developed comments.

    I differ from you on point two–the priest takes on a character of Christ that is unique. But even absent that, I would not hold that it follows that the cleric wearing distinctive dress is somehow an offense against the dignity of the baptized. Even if there were no special dignity to the ordained, the wearing of distinctive dress would make sense pertaining to the dignity of the office.

    It may not pertain to you, but it continually amazes me how often folks who take such umbrage at things deemed too traditional or worse, old, are folks who reveal they lived before the Council. Maybe not you, but it seems to me a lot of folks are just being reactive; that is certainly my experience with folks who go ballistic if they hear Latin. Maybe a generational thing.

    No, as I thought I made clear, it wasn’t reference to “drag” per se that irritated me so much; it is what I found to be your constant manner I dubbed “smartass.”

    You don’t like the “frippery” — that’s pretty clear. But you know, other people feel differently about it. Not my thing, but it sure doesn’t offend me. And many of the laity get a kick out of it, just as they get a kick out of all ceremonial, whether of the military, the Knights of Columbus, or marching bands.

    One trouble with your argument is that your critique can just as easily be applied to any and all vestments, any and all adornment to churches, any and all fine things used in the liturgy. And it has, even if not by you. That you do not see a value to something does not mean it lacks value to others.

    Finally, it sure seems to me a good part of your argument rests on your psycho-analysis of clergy who go for this sort of thing. While you are free to say what you want, I rather wonder what gives you moral standing or competence to engage in such reading of hearts and minds?

  20. peregrinus says:

    Hi Jimmy.

    I don’t think the wearing of a distinctive dress is necessarily linked to a “higher/lower class of being”.

    The best of the Catholic tradition recognizes the value of signs and symbols to communicate the divine realities and the ineffable. I’ve always understood that the ornate vestments, rich vessels and ornamented chausables are meant to honour Christ who is present, not the man who’s wearing or using them. While some may have gotten the wrong idea that the finery is for the human priest, the price paid on the other side is an impoverishment in Catholic imagination and an impotence to the liturgy’s ability to lead men and women to transcend into the heavenly realities which we are already participating in.

  21. Todd says:

    I submit two tests for the observation that liturgical finery is not about the person wearing it, but about honor for Christ who is present:

    1. The attitude toward fancy bridal fashion. Would Cardinals Llovera, Pell, Burke, and their apologists accept the whole gamut of bridal dresses that cross the threshhold of their churches as an expression of the celebration of Christ in the sacraments?

    2. Would the same people be prepared to concede the same affirmation for “we” that is sung by the assembly in liturgical song? This “we” is often criticized for being “all about us!” but in fact, reflects a contrast away from individualism and a focus on God.

    I might be prepared to concede the cappa magna and other aspects some Catholics might consider excessive. Of course, there still remains the reconciliation with letter and spirit of SC 124. But let’s be honest: part of Jimmy’s sniffing at this vesture would include my perception that like concessions are not always easily granted. And regardless of the theoretical side of the vestment discussion, in practice, many of the reform2 prelates seem to be emphasizing personal power over Christ’s grace.

    Granted, Cardinal Llovera has barely had a chance to warm his desk chair, but if he’s willing to contribute more openness to his office, I can overlook the cape.

  22. Jimmy Mac says:

    Fr. Fox et al:

    I think you will find that most of those who learned their Catholicism pre-VII had a chance to see the excesses of the clericalist structure at their worst. Layfolk were not only not urged (in the main, mind you) to mature as Catholics, or Christians, but were actively discouraged by men who dressed in a manner that we are discussing. This “frippery” (I actually like the word … it is acidic and rolls off the tongue easily!) denotes that “communion rail” attitude of those days: these are things and places that are off limits to you. The hierarchical pyramid made it very clear where our place was … and it was a long way down. The clerical dress clearly denoted ranks within the clergy and, most of all, made it clear that WE were not to go where THEY were privileged to go. And God help the smartass who dared challenge the system or question their betters or actually debate something about which they were not to interfere. I remember the days when we had to have a priest’s permission to attend a Protestant church for any reason (weddings, funerals, christenings, etc.) We were actually told that Catholics didn’t need the bible; we had the church! .. and we are actively discouraged from actually reading on without hand-holding by the church, i.e., the clergy. Control: “father knows best”; mistaking clergy for clerisy.

    I suspect that most laity, if questioned about how they view this kind of clerical garb, will be less than gushing about it. And if they knew how much it cost THEM …

    When I see something like this ( it all comes back because this kind of apparel was more common than not. Even in my little rural Midwestern parish, the finery clearly differentiated between US and THEM. We were there to observe the show being conducted by one on a pedestal, with clothing to match.

    I clearly admit to being a smartass about things like this. However, that “smartassedness” has grown out of 60+ years of anger about so many things perpetuated by men who, when speaking officially, dress up in this clearly monarchial manner.

    Most of the priests (granted a small sample size) whom I have met that are into liturgical frippery tend to be what might be loosely classified as JPII priests. I have found their tendencies to be absolutist, authoritarian, liturgically very conservative and, in general, not the kind with whom I share any common sense of church.

    Call me low-church Catholic: the simpler the vestments and church ornamentation, the better. That’s why I like this place:

    Enough said.

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