Catholic Culture Dedication
Catholic Culture Dedication

The Renewal of the Church’s Traditional Liturgy

by Alberto Carosa


A series of addresses relating to the work of the International Center for Liturgical Studies (CIEL), a French group which is spearheading a worldwide effort to restore the traditional Catholic Liturgy. An interview with Msgr. Schmitz and an address by CIEL President, Loic Merian are also included.

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Inside the Vatican



Publisher & Date

Urbi et Orbi Communications, August-September 1999

The movement to renew the Church’s liturgy continues to widen its scope and impact worldwide. This spring, Paul Augustin Cardinal Mayer, Former Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, made clear Rome’s appreciation and support.

Loic Merian, 32, a French telecommunications engineer, is founder member and president of CIEL, the "Centre International d'Etudes Liturgiques" (International Center for Liturgical Studies). With other French Catholic lay people he founded CIEL in 1994 with the aim of deepening faith through the study of the richness of the Roman liturgy. To this end, CIEL has organized an international colloquium of historical, theological and canonical studies on the Roman rite each year.

CIEL's fourth international academic colloquium, Ministerial Priesthood and Common Priesthood in the Celebration of the Eucharist, was held in October 1998 at Poissy, on the outskirts of Paris. Speakers from many different nations addressed the distinction between the ministerial or ordained priesthood and the baptismal priesthood of the laity in the Eucharistic celebration.

These proceedings were recently presented in book form in Rome and London, significantly prefaced by Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, and including letters from other two senior prelates. Cardinal Jorge Medina Estevez, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, and his predecessor, Cardinal Paul Augustin Mayer. Moreover, in Rome on March 17, Cardinal Mayer presided over the 1998 presentation at Hotel Columbus in Via della Conciliazione, a hundred yards from St. Peter's Square.

The support of these "princes of the Church" is an indication of the increasing interest with which CIEL's activities are being followed in the Vatican.

Msgr. Rudolf Michael Schmitz was the keynote speaker at the Rome presentation in his capacity as theological and academic advisor to CIEL.

A member of the Priestly Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, he was born in l957 in Cologne. After he was ordained (by Cardinal Ratzinger) in 1982, he obtained a doctorate in Dogmatic Theology at the Gregorian University in Rome, collaborating also in the Congregation for the Sacraments. He has published several articles on philosophy, theology, and canon law. To learn more about CIEL, we interviewed Msgr. Schmitz. We also present excerpts from an address by CIEL president Loic Merian. —Alberto Carosa

In Rome on March 17, Cardinal Mayer, now 88, delivered the following address on the occasion of the presentation of the proceedings of the 4th annual liturgy' colloquium of the International Center for Liturgical Studies, a French group which is spearheading a worldwide effort to restore the traditional Catholic liturgy. Mayer is a close personal friend of Cardinal Ratzinger (both are German). The warm support Mayer gives to CIEL in this address is significant for the liturgical movement worldwide. Here is Mayer's complete text.

The "Centre International d'Etudes Liturgiques," the name of which is found recapitulated under the beautiful sign "CIEL" (heaven), today presents this fourth volume, the proceedings of the colloquium which took place in October of 1998, in France, in the diocese of Versailles. I would like to make clear, for those who do not yet know precisely what this Center is, the characteristics of the work carried out by CIEL.

By whom was it founded? Why was it founded? By what means does it seek to accomplish its mission? And what a beautiful mission it is!

By whom was it founded? By faithful laity. Permit me to see in this a "sign of the times," and a very positive "sign of the times." Today the idea grows more widespread that the laity must always be contributing to the life of the Church, by taking part just like missionaries, in the proper sense of the term, in communicating the gift of the faith and the patrimony of the Church, particularly concerning the liturgy. This is to be done in the strictest collaboration with priests who are under the guidance of bishops united with the Pope.

CIEL was founded, then, by laity. But it is necessary to be precise about this. These are laity who are not rebels, who are not more or less arrogant in the desire for a new Church, but who are profoundly Catholic. In brief, these are laity who profess the faith of the Church in its totality, with orthodoxy, and who accept in the spirit of obedience the entire sacramental, doctrinal, and canonical authority of the Church. They do not place themselves on the same level as official institutions, do not exercise a "parallel magisterium," do not attribute to themselves any kind of right to regulate and direct the liturgy. But they do, on the other hand, avail themselves of the provisions contained in canon law concerning autonomous associations of the laity, which are free, and in a certain sense encouraged, to make known to ecclesial authority their own desires and perhaps also, sometimes, their own fears.

Why, then, was CIEL founded? Because these faithful have recognized, sometimes bitterly, the urgent need to provide better information for the faithful in general, particularly as regards the liturgy, since they have been left in confusion. Though not in the same way, in all cases, everywhere, but in diverse "strata" of the Catholic people, this confusion has markedly increased and is sadly apparent. There is practical and doctrinal confusion, which one can also observe in discerning the "connection" between the ministerial priesthood and the "royal priesthood" of all the faithful. This confusion is found addressed in the instruction dealing with questions concerning the collaboration of the faithful in the ministry of the priest (published in 1997 and signed by eight heads of Roman dicasteries). The reactions provoked by this instruction are also very significant, and they have made it apparent how necessary it was to intervene.

And now, by what means does CIEL attempt to achieve, to abide by, and to carry out its mission? By seeking to maintain contact with everyone, in the broadest manner possible, and in seeking persona] contact with numerous bishops. This last must be emphasized because personal contact is a great help; it opens hearts, and the spirit, to mutual understanding. In addition, the high-level university professors who participate in the colloquia, impart a scientific note to the work, as well as an interdisciplinary character, an avowed and accentuated internationalization, and an "internationality" of publication. In fact, the proceedings are printed in three languages, namely, French, English, and German, and thus they benefit from a steadily broadening distribution.

And so we arrive at this fourth volume, entitled The Ministerial and Common Priesthood in the Eucharistic Celebration. It follows the three previous volumes, which concerned themselves with themes of no less importance. One observes that this lay association has understood how to bring these particularly crucial themes "up to date."

The proceedings of 1995, The Liturgy, Treasure of the Church, presents to us the splendor of the liturgy, and its magnificence. Even if it is sometimes delivered into the hands of everyone's own "unauthorized creativity," the liturgy remains always a treasure of the Church and consequently must be considered with great veneration and great delicacy.

The proceedings of 1996, The Veneration and Administration of the Eucharist, confronts us with the central mystery of ecclesial life.

The proceedings of 1997, Altar and Sacrifice, has a very significant title in that it makes clear immediately that it concerns not just a "table," or a "banquet," or a "meal," but an altar, which evokes a sacrifice.

The themes of the colloquia provide a witness to the perception of the "delicate" problems that concern the Church of today in the domain of the liturgy and equally in those of doctrine, faith, and pastoral matters.

Needless to say, it is not possible here to evoke all the riches afforded by the "contributions" to this 4th volume.

Nevertheless, it is necessary to single out the "claim" made on behalf of the Catholic priesthood, which is developed in this 4th volume. The issue is the priesthood of Christ, the unique participation of our ministerial priesthood in the unique priesthood of Christ. The volume courageously faces the controversy loud enough in our time regarding this priesthood, a controversy coming from the outside, as it always has come, not diminished, even sometimes more pronounced, but coming today also from within the Church, which is more painful still.

An example of this controversy arising from inside the Church was recently provided by Herbert Haack, a Swiss exegete, ' who has been for many years a professor at Tubingen. Haack once published a book entitled Taking Leave of the Devil (Abschied von Teufel). More recently, Haack is "taking leave of the Catholic priesthood, According to Haack, the ministerial priesthood of the Church would not exist at all except for the inculturation of the Church in the Hellenistic world. This is an assertion already heard previously from very liberal Lutherans, but which now finds itself repeated in the Catholic world. According to Haack, in the earliest days of the Church, the Eucharist was not celebrated by a priest but rather was "guided" or "directed" by a president, either male or female.

Obviously, our faith cannot be "sacrificed" to a dubious historical hypothesis, for it is a living reality in the ecclesial life. It is well that the volume presented today takes great care to describe, starting from the New Testament, the Priesthood of the Lord Jesus Christ, and, in the living faith of the Church, the ministerial priesthood.

In the last part, the volume discusses both the "royal priesthood" of all believers, which manifests itself particularly in the liturgical celebration, and "active participation" (the key phrase of the last ecumenical council on the constitution of the liturgy), an expression, which must be correctly interpreted, as the Holy Father himself has emphasized on numerous occasions. This participation is not limited to words, chants, and gestures (which enter necessarily into "active participation"), but must be an interior relation in faith, hope, and charity with all that Our Lord did; and in this domain, one can be immensely active in silence. It is in this manner that the relation between participation of the faithful and the Eucharist becomes apparent, a relation which one sees developing in the first six centuries, and afterward in the Middle Ages.

Besides the radical hypotheses of Professor Haack, there is presently an "inter-ecclesial" "intra-Catholic," tendency, which avoids using the term "priest" and substitutes for it "president," especially in the English "Presider," as it was employed in a long letter issued by eminent bishops in the United States. They speak in general of the "President" of a democratic society. We are as a consequence aware of the fact that, with this expression, we enter, whether we desire it or not, into an interpretation of the "president" who finds himself elected by an assembly so as to be deposed by the assembly as well.

Unhappily, the "taste" for this title of president seems to be widespread in the Church. I once had occasion to hear a certain important Roman ecclesiastic make the following three assertions:

"What is the 'priestly seat'? The presidential seat.

"What is the Eucharistic prayer? The presidential prayer.

"What must the priest learn? The art of presiding."

Before such a deformation of the priesthood one is simply astounded.

We can ask ourselves, in such a context as this, if it would not be preferable to use the expression "ordained ministers." Ministers ordained from here, ministers ordained from there, ministers ordained by us Catholics, ministers ordained in the Lutheran church.

But that usage proposes a spiritual reality, which would be equivalent in the two cases, whereas the word "minister" (or the expression "ordained minister") assumes a very specific meaning when it is applied to a Catholic priest, and a very specific spiritual reality when it concerns a Protestant pastor.

The priest is consecrated, as the proceedings emphasize. Joseph Pieper, the great philosopher, who died two years ago, used to say "consecrated priest," and not merely "ordained." We understand him thoroughly now, for by itself an ordination "gives little." When I accept a duty, that doesn't change me, whereas a consecration changes one interiorly, and forcefully. It is a profound spiritual change, a spiritual identification with Jesus, not perceptible or verifiable psychologically, but real. Identification with Jesus, who then offers the possibility of acting "in Christ" ("agere in persona Christi").

The priest consecrates, and the words of the consecration are not a simple recital of the institution; they are the words of Our Lord spoken through the intermediacy of the priest, and it is this identification with the priestly character, which the published proceedings vigorously describe.

One last observation: in the Church there is a "sharing" ("communion") of diverse gifts, a reciprocal gift between the "ministerial" priesthood and the common "royal priesthood."

Please permit me here to refer to an experience I had as Secretary of the Congregation of Religious, on the occasion of a work managed in common with the Congregation of Bishops, for the purpose of preparing the document "Institutione Mutuae Relationes" This document concerns relations between bishops and religious. The theme was approached under the aspect of "structure." What do bishops expect of religious, and what do religious expect of bishops? One of the members at this time, the cardinal archbishop of Berlin, declared: "It advisable to modify this structure."

Such a declaration seems to be much in line with those made by unions and employers, who state what they expect and what they demand of the other party.

In actual fact, it would be more Catholic to say what the bishops can give to the religious and what the religious can give to the bishops.

And it seems to me, finally, that the proceedings of these colloquia from the practical rather than the intellectual perspective show that between the ministerial priesthood and the "common priesthood" of the faithful, there exists a profound "exchange"; and if this exchange is effected on the part of both parties with faith, with humility, and with greater love, then the Church cannot help but be enriched.

I thank you. •

Interview With Msgr. Schmitz

On a theological level, what are the motivations underlying the establishment of CIEL?

Monsignor Rudolph Michael Schmitz: Time and again the Prefect for the Congregation of Faith, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, has warned that a mentality insensitive to the mysteries of liturgy is a serious threat to the very foundations of the Catholic faith. Ratzinger stresses the importance of knowing the perennial treasures of the liturgy and he proposes a "new liturgical movement" to renew a liturgical spirit imbued with a true Catholic sense of mystery. CIEL was established precisely to heed this call. It has no other aim than to study the wealth of the liturgical tradition and break down a certain "damnatio memoriae" (memory condemned), in which the classical liturgy is "forgotten" because it is perceived as representing a "liturgical archaism."

CIEL makes no claim to any liturgical magisterium whatsoever, which is and must be exclusively reserved to the ecclesiastical authority, as stipulated in section 838 of Canon Law. CIEL's aim is much less pretentious and inspired by the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, mostly Sacrosanctum Concilium, which called for more participation of the laity in the liturgical life of the whole Church. In other words, CIEL is no more than a free association of faithful in terms of Canon 215, with the simple goal of contributing to the deepening of faithful's liturgical sense. After having acquired a more in-depth knowledge of the liturgy, should the faithful express their spiritual needs and wishes in full submission to their religious authorities, they would simply exert a right expressly encouraged by Canon 212.

What is your role as official advisor and theological consultant to CIEL?

Schmitz: My role is to consider the fundamental theological issues involved in these discussions and to give canon law advice to the laymen who are working in CIEL.

You are often referred to as one of the most promising "rising stars" in the firmament of Catholic theology. How fitting is this description?

Schmitz: I should say it is an exaggeration, because certainly first of all I am not so young and secondly, I am not so rising. It seems to me theology should be above all "science of God," therefore theocentric, and with my modest possibilities I want to contribute to this theocentrism in theology in general and especially in the theology of today.

Could you summarize the content of your speech at the 1998 CIEL colloquium?

Schmitz: Yes. The universal call to holiness, irrespective of state of life, sex or age, which was propagated by the great bishop of Geneva and Annecy, St. Francis de Sales, has been taken up repeatedly by the papal Magisterium over the centuries. It was also vigorously recalled by the Second Vatican Council, which, by citing the encyclical Rerum Omnium of Pius XI, refers to St. Francis as the doctor par excellence of this truth. In his Introduction to the Devout Life and in many other places the "doctor of hearts," as the venerable Pope Pius XI calls him, underlines the importance of the liturgy and in particular of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for holiness. In this way, the Second Vatican Council did not fail to draw attention to the liturgical origins of the gift of personal sanctification and therefore the direct connection between participation in the liturgy and the grace of holiness.

Since sacred rites can make a particularly effective and intense bestowal of grace possible, there is a need for a great objectivity in these rites. Without a doubt, the Church's Magisterium has constantly reiterated the obligation of the priest and congregation to adhere strictly to the rubrics indicated by the supreme authority, thus demonstrating a determination on the part of all the recent Popes not to allow the liturgy to become a prey to the whim of the individual. This determination derives from the awareness the Church has of her duty to administer the mysteries of the faith in such a way that they remain an objective source of the sanctifying presence of God, who wishes to give himself to us in order to draw us towards him. Such piety will never be limited only to participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, but will always embrace the full wealth of the liturgical life of the Church.

It is fair to say that the subjectivism, which has managed to penetrate the heart of the sanctuary, has not only given rise to the Charybdis of a banal rationalism, but also, often amongst the most devout, the Scylla of a sugary bigotry or apparition mentality. Both are opposed to the Magisterium. Each weakening of the objectivity of the rites can only impede the fulfilment of the universal call to holiness.

The sanctification of the soul is always the fruit of objective participation in the divine life present in the Church, our Mother. When people voluntarily and definitively cut their links with the true Church of Christ, they are no longer able to participate fully in the liturgy or the abundance of grace, which it confers. Furthermore, one must clearly state that "liturgy," giving the word its full ecclesiastical import, would not take place in a situation where the authority of the Church to guarantee the objectivity of such transmission of salvation is denied in a formal manner.

How did you encounter the traditional liturgy?

Schmitz: It is due mainly to the Institute of Christ the King and to friends of mine in Rome. I was ordained in the new rite, but I have seen that without the treasure of the classical liturgy we can't continue the liturgical life of the Church without impoverishing it. Cardinal Ratzinger, Cardinal Medina and other cardinals of the Roman Curia are underlining this danger, without polemics and peacefully, seeking to combine the tradition of the Church in liturgical matters and the actual life of the Church. What the Institute Christ the King can contribute to this peaceful and nonpolemic issue, we will do with the help of God.

Address By CIEL President, Loic Merian

Excerpts from the speech of the president of CIEL, Loic Merian, at the 3rd CIEL-UK Conference on April 24, 1999 in England.

In June 1998, a thesis was published in Rome for a doctorate of liturgy at St Anselm's by Father Nicola Giampietro, in the presence of Cardinal Medina, Prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship (of Rites)... The thesis is devoted to the writings of Cardinal Ferdinando Antonelli from 1948 to 1970. Cardinal Antonelli was appointed member of the commission for the reform of liturgical books (the commission that wrote the changes in the Holy Week liturgy) by Pius XII. He was also, during the Council, secretary to the preparatory liturgical commission and then member of the Consilium on the liturgy. It appears that his enthusiasm for the works of Pius XII and Sacrosanctum Consilium was completely dissipated by the work of the Consilium that followed. Here are several quotations from his book:

20th June 1964:

"Today, at half past noon, the Consilium ad exsequendam Constitutionem session closed. It was a constructive session. But the spirit displeases me. There is a spirit of criticism and intolerance towards the Holy See, which lead to anything good. And also, a study of the liturgy too rational, with no concern for real piety."

19th April 1967:

"Paul VI declared himself hurt because dangerous experiments were being made on the liturgy, and even more, he was saddened by certain tendencies to desacralize the liturgy. However he restated his confidence in the Consilium...

23rd april 1967:

"We cannot deny that the work undertaken is colossal. There is, nevertheless, no organization to our reflection. We move on, we move on, the most important thing is to produce something. Vague plans multiply without us ever arriving at a clear thought. Cardinal Lercaro is not the man needed to direct a discussion. Father Bugnini has only one concern: to move on and finish. The voting system is worse. Normally we proceed by a show of hands, but nobody counts who raises his hand or not, and nobody declares how many participants approve or disapprove. A real disgrace!"

1st november 1967:

"Confusion. Nobody has any sense of the sacred and obligatory liturgical law. The continual changes, imprecise and sometimes the least logical, and the condemnable system, in my view, of experimentation have overwhelmed the dikes and everyone is making himself arbiter. Tiredness is widely felt. We are tired of the continuous reforms and everybody wants to arrive at some kind of stability."


"In the Consilium, there are few bishops with a specific liturgical background, very few who are true theologians. The most serious lack at the Consilium is the lack of theologians. It is as though they have all been excluded. And that is a dangerous aspect. What is saddening, however, is the fundamental idea, the mental attitude, the pre-established position, that many of those who influenced the reform, and others, have no love, no veneration for that which has been passed on to us. From the beginning, they have no esteem for all that exists today. A negative spirit, unjust and destructive... They have perhaps the best intentions, but with this spirit, they are inclined to destroy rather than to restore." 1968-1971 (On Bugnini): "I could say a lot about this man. I must add that he has always had the support of Paul VI. I would not like to be wrong, but the worst fault with Father Bugnini is his lack of theological training and sensibility. These are serious lacks because in the liturgy, each word, each gesture translates an idea that is a theological idea. I have the impression that we have made a lot of concessions, in the matter of the sacraments especially, to the Protestant spirit."

The book of Father Giampietro, who is now a member of the Congregation of Divine Worship and personal secretary of Cardinal Medina, is of great importance. •

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