“It is very important that we return as soon as possible to a common orientation, of priests and the faithful turned together in the same direction – eastwards or at least towards the apse – to the Lord who comes”.
Cardinal Sarah is Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship. So you might think he has the authority and proper role to request this change of priests throughout the world. But his proposal was not set forth in a document of the Holy See, approved by the Roman Pontiff. It is a personal request, not a decision of proper Church authority.
Each priest is under the authority of his local Bishop, and each Bishop (as well as each priest and each member of the faithful) is under the authority of the Roman Pontiff. Cardinal Sarah is suggesting that each priest ignore their Bishop and the Pope, and act based on the traditionalist preference for liturgical form, rather than the currently approved form in each diocese. And that is a call to rebellion.
If the Latin Mass is approved in a particular diocese, and the particular priest follows that form as permitted by his Bishop, then all is well. But Cardinal Sarah would have no reason to make such a request if it were limited to the aforementioned case. Instead, the Cardinal is proposing that all priests use the ‘ad Orientem’ liturgical form, as if it were an inflexible dogma, rather than a flexible and dispensable point of liturgical form.
Essentially, what Cardinal Sarah is saying is that “ad Orientem” (to the East) celebration of Mass is not merely good or best, but required, as if every other choice were entirely unacceptable. He asks priests to use that form without regard to episcopal or pontifical authority. And this is an expression of the more general argument made by traditionalists: that their understanding of doctrine and discipline is dogma, therefore it should be followed without regard to Church authority. And if proper authority in the Church decides differently on discipline or doctrine, many traditionalists automatically assume that the decision is erroneous.
Certainly, there is nothing inherently wrong with ad Orientem celebration of Mass. The Church used this element of liturgical form for centuries. But there is growing support, among traditionalists, for the claim that whatever elements of liturgical form are preferred by the traditionalist subculture should be treated like dogma: unchanging and unchangeable truth. They see the traditionalist position on every point of doctrine and discipline as if it were above the authority of Popes and Councils and the body of Bishops dispersed in the world.
But consider this: the Council of Florence infallibly taught that all Old Testament disciplines have been dispensed by Christ and His Church. Those disciplines were imposed by God through Divine Revelation — which is a greater way to decide discipline than the way that liturgical form is decided in the Church. And yet those divinely-imposed disciplines were all taken away by Christ. Therefore, discipline is not dogma; discipline can be changed or dispensed by proper authority in the Church.
A priest who ignores his Bishop, the local Bishops’ Conference, and the current liturgical form approved by the Holy See, to follow the private suggestion of Cardinal Sarah, is rebelling against Church authority. This is the path to schism. I am convinced that when Pope Francis eventually decides some question of discipline or doctrine contrary to the understanding of Cardinal Sarah, that he will rebel against the Roman Pontiff, and lead a schism against the one true Church.
Pride goeth before a fall. Those Catholics who assume that their understanding of the Faith cannot err will eventually fall away.
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