Catholic Culture Dedication
Catholic Culture Dedication

How an ‘irreversible’ claim might be reversed

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Aug 28, 2017

Father Anthony Ruff, who holds forth on liturgical matters on the PrayTell blog, doesn’t often (if ever) agree with me. So it’s not surprising that Father Ruff was pleased with the Pope’s “magisterial” announcement that “the liturgical reform is irreversible,” whereas I was merely puzzled. Still Father Ruff’s commentary is surprising for other reasons.

First, a tip of the hat to another Benedictine, Father Hugh Somerville-Knapman, for pointing out the irony in the fact that Father Ruff speaks of “mainline liturgical reform and renewal.” To most people, the term “mainline” evokes thoughts of Protestant churches with shrinking congregations. I don’t think Father Ruff would want to encourage such thoughts.

In his analysis of the Pope’s speech, and his listing of its references and footnotes, Father Ruff remarks: “It is obvious just what, and who, is omitted.” He stops there, without spelling it out, but clearly he is calling attention to the fact that Pope Francis did not mention his predecessor, Benedict XVI, who spoke and wrote quite a bit about the liturgy. The implication, apparently, is that with this major address—a rare excursion into liturgical affairs for Pope Francis, who rarely speaks on the topic—the current Pope has thrust aside the ideas of the Pope emeritus.

But that claim, too, has obvious implications, which Father Ruff does not address. If Pope Francis is free to discard the work of Pope Benedict, then the next Pope is free to discard the work of Pope Francis. If so, then the claim that the liturgical reform is irreversible could turn out to be reversible.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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