'Reviving the Sense of the Sacred'

Upcoming motu proprio will address annulment — and possibly the Mass.

Pope Benedict XVI will issue a document in the near future that will slightly modify the responsibilities of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments so that very technical marriage annulment cases will be handled by a Church court.

However, the Vatican said the document, which will be published as a motu proprio, is not aimed at restricting the liturgical renewal envisioned by the Second Vatican Council.

Papal spokesman Father Federico Lombardi confirmed to reporters Feb. 9 that the new document “has long been under study” and that its purpose will be “to lay down the transferral of a technical legal competence.”

As an example, he mentioned the dispensation for ratum sed non consummatum matrimony [a marriage that is valid but not consummated] that will move from the Congregation for Divine Worship to the Tribunal of the Roman Rota.

But he added: “There are no grounds or reason to see in this an intent to promote a control, of a ‘restrictive’ kind, by the congregation, of the fostering of the liturgical renewal willed by the Second Vatican Council.”

Father Lombardi’s clarification followed a Feb. 9 blog post by the respected Italian Vaticanista Andrea Tornielli, who wrote that “authoritative rumors” were suggesting the document would promote a “new liturgical movement,” which has frequently been mentioned recently by Cardinal Antonio Cañizares, the prefect of the congregation.

The “new liturgical movement,” a phrase first used by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in 1997, is an attempt to restore what many believe was lost in the post-Vatican II period (essentially a sense of the transcendent) through liturgical abuses.

In his blog post, Tornielli agreed that the forthcoming document, which has been reviewed by the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts and by the offices of the Vatican Secretariat of State, is mainly motivated by the transferral of legal competences to the Roman Rota.

According to his analysis, the document is intended to help the department achieve the goal of “promoting a liturgy that is more faithful to the original intentions of the Second Vatican Council, with less space for arbitrary changes, and for the recovery of a dimension of greater sacrality.”

He said that the department, which some would like to rename as the “Congregation of the Sacred Liturgy” or the “Congregation of the Divine Liturgy,” would henceforth busy itself with this new liturgical movement, including the creation of a new section of the department dedicated to sacred art and music.

He took his lead from comments Cardinal Cañizares had made at the special consistory in November last year and in an interview with Tornielli in December, in which he gave some thoughts on how his department could better lead the reform of the liturgy.

“The new liturgical movement will have to discover the beauty of the liturgy,” Cardinal Cañizares said during the interview. “Therefore, we will open a new division in our congregation dedicated to ‘art and sacred music’ at the service of the liturgy. This will lead us to offer, soon, a criteria and guidelines for art, song and sacred music. As well, we will offer as soon as possible criteria and guidelines for preaching.”

The Spanish cardinal added: “We must devote ourselves to revive and promote a new liturgical movement, following the teaching of Benedict XVI, and revive the sense of the sacred and of mystery, putting God at the center of everything.”

Many of the faithful who have become angry with liturgical abuses over the years hope that such an initiative will soon be forthcoming, but, for the moment, this document won’t be it. Tornielli’s conclusions were described by one Vatican source as “totally false,” although his story did elicit confirmation from the Vatican that this new document, which simply involves a “technical issue” regarding marriage cases, will be published soon. No date has so far been given.

“It’s nothing racy,” one liturgical expert told the Register on condition of anonymity. “The Pope could do whatever he wants with it, but it wouldn’t be the normal way that the Holy See would respond to a situation like this, and, so, I don’t think this will be the case.”

Yet a promotion of the new liturgical movement is expected sometime in the future, especially as such a reform is seen as crucial to the New Evangelization. In a 2009 interview with the Register, Cardinal Cañizares stressed that evangelizing increasingly secular society “isn’t only a question of changing laws,” but about changing the mentality, “because the dominant mentality is not a Christian one.”

“I think that we must do as St. Benedict did in his time,” he added. “Reconstruct a world by focusing on two things: to search for God, and then to imitate the person of Christ. This involves renewing the liturgy, reintroducing a correct sense of freedom, presenting a true and stronger sense of religiosity, and so on.”

His concerns echo the Pope’s, which are well known. In his 2000 book Spirit of the Liturgy, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger lamented a trend in worship, which had become no longer about “going up to God, but drawing God down into one’s own world.”

“Ultimately,” he wrote, “it’s no longer concerned about God, but with giving oneself a nice little alternative world, manufactured from one’s own resources. Then liturgy really does become pointless, just fooling around. Or still worse, it becomes an apostasy from the living God, an apostasy in sacral disguise.”

“All that is left in the end is frustration, a feeling of emptiness,” he said. “There is no experience of that liberation which always takes place when man encounters the living God.”

Edward Pentin writes from Rome.