CDW changes… curial politics at work

The intrepid Andrea Tornielli writes today on his blog:

In today’s Il Giornale in the Sunday culture section insert dedicated to books, I’ve published a review of the new work by Fr. Nicola Bux, [of "The Bux Protocol"] a theologian from Bari esteemed by Papa Ratzinger, a deep scholar of the orthodox world.  It is entitled "The Reform of Benedict XVI" issued by Piemme, available from Tuesday in bookstores.  It is a very interesting book for your understanding and framing in their real meaning what the Pope desired to accomplish in promulgating the Motu Proprio on the old liturgy (all post the article in the first comment for your convenience).  In the passage of some weeks there are expected important developments at the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments.  The Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze, in fact, has already arrived at 75 years, and on 23 November he will celebrate his 50th anniversary of priesthood.  Before Christmas or at the beginning of the year, the Archbishop of Toledo, the Spanish Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera should leave his post.  But it seems that the Secretary of the Congregation, Sri Lankan Malcom Ranjith Patabendige Don is also on his way, destined for the role of Archbishop of Colombo, the capitol of Sri Lanka.  It is very hard to make at the same time changes of the Number One and Two in a dicastery: it is therefore probable that, is certain rumors can be confirmed, some months will pass between one appointment and the other.

This is very much along the lines of conversation I have been having with friends in Rome in various offices.

The main point is this.  If Cardinal Arinze retires first, then Archbishop Ranjith with stay well into the time of the next Prefect, whoever that may be, Card. Canizares or another we don’t know. 

If Archbishop Ranjith leaves, then Cardinal Arinze would probably stay on a little longer, until there is a new Secretary in place and at work.

The behind the scenes, a struggle is going on over control of the direction of the CDW.

Dog bites man.

First, Archbishop Ranjith is a formidable figure.  He would surely have some influence in the difficult problems in Sri Lanka.  I suspect that the government there would love to have a man like him in place to help calm things down. At the same time, Archbishop Ranjith was hand-picked by Pope Benedict for his harmony of liturgical vision.  He is resisted by others in the curia who are clinging to the old Piero Marini/Bugnini vision.  The enemies of Pope Benedict’s reforms will with great determination be pressing for "balance".  That is code for undermining Pope Benedict’s work, and Pope Benedict himself.  In this case "balance" would mean either a Marini-ish/Bugnini-ish figure as either Prefect or Secretary of CDW… for "balance" to the extreme projects of Pope Benedict.

It is not impossible that a Secretary moves directly up to Prefect of the same Congregation, but it would be a rare move.  It’s just not really done that way.  However, if Archbishop Ranjith is allowed simply to be pushed out of the Curia under the cover of his being needed in Sri Lanka, and a squishy Marini/Bugnini guy is placed in the CDW for "balance", it will be very hard for many of Pope Benedict’s supporters in the Curia to want to raise their heads above the common herd. 

To my mind, the appointment of strong men with a liturgical vision in keeping with Pope Benedict is balance, true balance, after the decades of devastation of the Lord’s vineyard through the misapplication of the post-Conciliar ideals of liturgical reform.

We need Benedict’s men in these key dicasterial posts, not the sort of men who will cling to the washed-up rubbish that so damaged worship for decades.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. TJB says:

    I don’t understand why Pope Benedict doesn’t just get rid of those in the Curia who “are clinging to the old Piero Marini/Bugnini vision.” He got rid of Piero Marini easy enough, and look at the incredible amount of good that has resulted. Why not show the other hippies the door? The sixties are over, so their terms in the Curia should be also.

  2. RichR says:

    As a layman who watches what comes out of Rome, I would say that the elevation of Ranjith to Prefect would be a great sign of hope to us Americans who are starving in the liturgical desert. We need strong leaders and a consistent message. Ranjith has taken some bullets for the Holy Father, so we hope that he is rewarded for his loyalty.

    As far as appointing someone “for balance”, I don’t see that in BXVI’s methods. He has issued a motu proprio that basically reasserts the supremacy of papal jurisdiction anywhere in the world (a defined doctrine) to the chagrin of “democrats” in the Church. The HF clearly does not see himself in need of checks and balances.

  3. ray from mn says:

    “He got rid of Piero Marini easy enough.”

    Taking 30 months or so to “get rid of Piero Marini” was not easy I would bet. He had been Master of Pontifical Liturgical Celebrations for twenty years. That’s a lot of time to make lots of powerful friends.

  4. Chris says:

    Today at Mass a man in his eighties walked up to communion leaning on a stick and, with great reverence, received the host on his free hand. I was momentarily distracted by the memory of Abp Ranjith’s sweeping statements about how communion in the hand necessarily led to irreverence. The news he is on the way to Sri Lanka has made my day!

  5. Chris: It is not right to receive Communion in the hand with one hand only.

    Also, your anecdote really doesn’t constitute a strong argument in favor of Archbp. Ranjith moving or staying, either way.

  6. Jordanes says:

    Chris said: I was momentarily distracted by the memory of Abp Ranjith’s sweeping statements about how communion in the hand necessarily led to irreverence.

    Are you remembering anything that actually happened?

    The news he is on the way to Sri Lanka has made my day!

    There is no news that he is on the way to Sri Lanka, just gossip.

  7. Maureen says:

    If a person can receive Communion reverently in one hand, good for him — but bad for those who encourage him to do so. I mean, if I can walk along a cliff’s edge safely, I’ve obviously got good balance — but that doesn’t mean that everyone can manage it. Also, even if I can walk along the cliff’s edge, I certainly won’t get anywhere as quickly as I could walk there along the flat ground. So plenty of devout people take Communion in the hand devoutly, but it’s probably not the best practice.

    I just saw a beautiful Early Christian picture of two fish (representing Christians and the Eucharist), swimming up to the surface and taking bread into their mouths. I thought that was a very good image of receiving Communion.

  8. Ambrogio Q. says:

    Can Father explain in more detail this tension in the Curia?
    Is it explicit and with clear divisions? What types of things would
    inhibit Pope Benedict from making decisions with tranquility and without interference should this be the case? Who exactly in the Curia opposes Benedict? And on what level does it occur? Cardinals, archbishops, prefects,presidents, monsignor-bureaucrats? What form does the opposition take? Is it just gossip and deliberately slow translations? Or is it actual insubordinance and organised plotting? I don’t want to be too curious but your post invites such questions and I would really like to know the true logic behind Benedict’s decision making insofar as it can be discerned.

  9. Jerry says:

    if Archbishop Ranjith is allowed simply to be pushed out of the Curia under the cover of his being needed in Sri Lanka, and a squishy Marini/Bugnini guy is placed in the CDW for \”balance\”

    Fr. Z – are you able to explain a little more about the politics of such appointments. I\’m not interested in names as much as the process: Who (by function) would make such an appointment? Doesn\’t the Pope approve them? Why would he approve one he objects to? If rejecting it would cause a backlash among his opponents in the Curia, what is preventing him from cleaning house?

  10. Piers-the-Ploughman says:

    I have some appreciation for why the Holy Father has patience for his reluctant bishops hundreds and thousands of miles from him. It is a little harder for me to understand why the Pope can not name his own “cabinet” so to speak. Yes he is the Pope of all, but let Archbishop Ranjinth head the CDW. If the Archbishop moves too quickly, I suspect the Pope will somehow know it.

  11. Chris says:

    Dear Father Z
    when I studied philosophy the rule was that what has been can be. This man (any many others) receives in the hand with utter reverence. [That doesn’t change what I said above. There is a prescribed way to receive Communion in the hand. The one-handed method is not one of them.] Therefore to say that receiving in the hand is necessarily irreverent, or even less reverent, is NOT TRUE. [Whatever. I think you are wrong, but that obviously makes no difference to you.] It only takes one white sheep to prove all sheep are not black. Ranjith was wrong – on this as many other issues where he made sweeping statements- and I am delighted he is going! [Enjoy that thought. You have some screwy ideas, but you are entitled to them.]

  12. Piers-the-Ploughman says:

    Do you have any strong sympathy for the Archbishop’s basic positions which happen to coincide with Tradition, or is it simply the “sweeping nature” that you feel makes the Archbishop opposes any and all exceptions and would be unreasonably aggressive in implementing the traditional view?

    “What has been, can be” does make sense, but was not Pope Pius XII skeptical of that type of argument? Is there such a thing as organic growth?

  13. RichR says:

    Abp Ranjith’s sweeping statements about how communion in the hand necessarily led to irreverence.

    Where does he say what you’ve stated above, for I can not find this? Please cite a reference to maintain the credibility of your assertion. He says that CitH lends itself to abuses, but no where did I see him saying that it necessarily leads to irreverence. Maybe you only heard this secondhand through the secular media, so I could understand your confusion.

  14. Chris says:

    Archbishop Ranjith said, the introduction of the practice of receiving Communion in the hand coincides with the beginning of “a gradual and growing weakening of the attitude of reverence toward the sacred eucharistic species (

    Ranjith: We need to recover the sense of the sacred. I speak only for myself, but I am convinced of the urgency of reviewing the practice of Communion given in the hand, returning to giving the particle to the faithful directly in the mouth, without them touching it, reinforcing thereby that in the Eucharist there is really Jesus and that everyone must receive Him with devotion, love and respect. (

    The Vatican wants the host “placed directly into the mouths of the faithful so they don’t touch it (with their hands)… because many don’t even realize they are receiving Christ and do this with scant concentration and respect,” Ranjith said. (

    I think it is fairly clear that +Ranjith sees the introduction (re-introduction) of communion in the hand as going ‘hand in hand’ with irrevererance. He didn’t use the word ‘necessarily’ but I don’t think it is unfair as a summary of his position. Otherwise why is he so keen to stop it rather than, for example, improve catechesis.

  15. RichR says:

    Coincidence is not the same as causality. Post hoc, ergo propter hoc. Yes, poor catechesis is the root cause, but most people will not go to an adult religious ed class – they just go to Mass on Sunday. So, the Church must police the situation as to best they can to safeguard the sacraments. By changing policy back to Communion on the Tongue, they can highlight the fact that what we receive in the Host is not ordinary food, but something special. Whether or not you choose to go to an R.E. class, you will notice this change, and it will cause you to reassess what you are doing and believing. So, CitH may not necessarily cause irreverence, but I don’t see how it increases it. And if it can be an occasion of sin (irreverence) for some, then it needs to be retired.

  16. David in Toronto says:


    Let’s consider this for a moment:

    Go into your Church and look under a pew…you might just find a consecrated Host stuck there with bubble gum. You might find Him in a hymn book; I know an EM who chased somebody to get it out of his pocket and into his mouth.

    Consider even the thievery by Satanists for black mass desecration and my fellow Canadians in once Catholic Quebec for their thrills of desecration on YouTube…at least they believe!

    One, just one sacrilege committed against the Holy Eucharist is enough reason to eliminate communion in the hand. It was wrong when it was an abuse coming from the lowland countries of Europe, Paul VI was wrong for permitting it under indult, Bishops were wrong for asking for the indult, we are wrong for going along with it and it must change.

    The Pope is demonstrating how it must be done, I believe (and pray) he will revoke the indult.

    On this matter, Chris, respectfully, you are not well informed; and, you are wrong.

  17. Jordanes says:

    Chris said: Ranjith was wrong – on this as many other issues where he made sweeping statements-

    So you say, but you have not demonstrated that you are right. You have, however, demonstrated that you were wrong about what Archbishop Ranjith said.

    and I am delighted he is going!

    You mean you are delighted that he might be going if the rumors prove true. But let’s not forget that the Pope recently sacked a lot of Archbishop Piero Marini’s people. We’ll just have to wait and see what the Pope does. These rumors and whisperings have been circulating since before April, and yet Archbishop Ranjith is still at the CDW.

    He didn’t use the word ‘necessarily’ but I don’t think it is unfair as a summary of his position.

    The fact that he didn’t say “necessarily” shows that it is not an accurate, and therefore not a fair, summary of his position. It does not necessarily lead to abuse and irreverence, but experience proves that it does undeniably lead to abuse and irreverence.

  18. Michael says:

    CRIS, you say “when I studied philosophy the rule was that what has been can be”… So, what? Are you suggesting that what can be – should be? If so, you must have studied philosophy at the Corpus Christi College.

    Or, “It only takes one white sheep to prove all sheep are not black”… Are you suggesting that in a flock, which is supposed to breed black sheep, the white one should be used for breeding ?

    It is a historical fact that the primitive practice of the early Church was abandoned exactly because of the development of doctrine of Transubstantiation, and it is the present fact that the sole Christian Church that has retained the primitive practice is the Nestorian Church, which separated itself from the mainstream Christianity after the Council of Ephesus A.D. 431. As the Pope Paul VI said in Memoriale Domini, the primitive practice was abandoned out of the “pressing sense of reverence” toward the Blessed Sacrament.

    I would be in favour of a statistical enquiry among the hand communicants, with the aim of establishing a percentage of those who believe in Real Presence; and comparing it with the traditional communicants.

    It takes a great Faith to believe that the Consecrated Host, and any of its accidental identifiable fragments, is Christ Himself, body and blood, soul and divinity; and this Faith has to be continuously sustained by external signs. That stands behind the ablution, washing hands, meticulous cleaning of vessels etc. and behind the abandonment of the primitive practice; not to mention abuses.

    And we know that the push for the communion in the hand started in Holland, and coincided with the Dutch Catechism in which the doctrine of Transubstantiation was undermined. At the same time the doctrine was abandoned in Catechesis. Also at the same time the Paul VI found it necessary to publish his encyclical on the Eucharist (Mysterium Fidei), exactly to reinforce the dogma of Transubstantiation, against the superficial notions of transignification and transfinalization which were widely promoted.

    The practice was introduced illegally, and inspite of Memoriale Domini, gradually pushed through illegally, until the fait accompli situation was created to enable the hierarchies “legally” to ask the Holy See for its permission.

  19. Chris says:

    I think we’ll have to agree to disagree. Fr Z recognised my being entitled to my ‘screwy ideas’ (which of course I don’t accept are screwy at all) and I have no intention of changing them. I was brought up with TLM and communion on the tongue under one kind. I found the changes frustrating but, as understanding grew, was able to embrace them. [This of course begs the question of precisely what you understood. Other people “understood” things too. Most people didn’t understand anything. So… what you offer here as a sly way of suggesting that people who disagree don’t “understand” as you wisely do is pretty empty of content.] Communion in the hand and, subsequently, under both kinds has deepened my devotion to Christ who places Himself into our, always unworthy, hands. It is the same devotion I see reflected in the faces of hundreds of communicants week after week, [You really think that you can read “devotion” in that manner? Can you tell how often they go to confession too?] whether they receive on the tongue (about 10-15% here)or in the hand. I cannot conceive of standing up and saying to them ‘Sorry folks, our Bishops have had it wrong all this time, you have to stop that and go back to the ‘old way”. Thankfully I am 100% sure it isn’t going to ever happen. Anyone for a wager?

  20. Blonde Bertha says:

    Comment by David in Toronto:-
    ”Let’s consider this for a moment:
    Go into your Church and look under a pew…you might just find a consecrated Host stuck there with bubble gum. You might find Him in a hymn book; I know an EM who chased somebody to get it out of his pocket and into his mouth.”

    In 40 years experience of going to mass, I have never found a host stuck under a bench with bubble-gum or in a hymn book (and I’d be very surprised if you had too). [I have. But then you have no responsibility to look. So, your personal experience here perhaps isn’t all that helpful.] I’ve also never seen anyone putting the scared host in the pocket or purse. This is just unsubstantiated scare-mongering.
    In my parish, I don’t see anyone receiving holy communion irreverently even though the majority of people receive on the hand while standing before receiving from the chalice. Receiving in the hand may have originally resulted from an indult (which is now also a well established custom) but it is a legitimate option and up to the individual (and not for the priest to impose their own preference) [I think that should be “his” preference. But your premise must still be denied. The Church’s preference is that Communion be received on the tongue. Permission was given as an exception for Communion to be given in the hand.] .

    If I were to receive holy communion from the holy father (now gloriously reigning) I would happily kneel but he would find that my mouth would be closed firmly shut and my hands reverently extended as is my right! [No… not in that situation it wouldn’t be your “right”. Whom are you trying to impress? ] I have never received communion on the tongue and to start doing so now would be a discontinuity i would find disturbing.

  21. TJM says:

    Blonde Bertha, so you don’t modify your behavior for your host at a dinner party? That sounds a bit rigid and inflexible. Tom

  22. TJM says:

    Blonde Bertha, one last thing. In 1968 Holy Communion was still received on the tongue in almost every parish I can think of. Were you in alydissident parish? Tom

  23. Mitch says:

    Bugnini-ish? again? What a game of politics they play in the Curia. It makes one wonder sometimes if those clinging to the disasterous ways of Vat II implementation care about the souls they are entrusted. I do not feel comfortable putting my faith in their hands for another minute, more or less another decade or so. It is such an open policy of defiance to the Holy Pope to play these political games. What is their end goal? Do they really think we can just go on and on with the way things are? If the Holy Father says certain things are best aren’t they supposed to go out of their way to make those things happen? Very confusing..

  24. Jordanes says:

    The Holy Father gives Holy Communion only on the tongue to kneeling communicants. He’s the Holy Father, the one with authority to grant an indult or to refrain from granting one. Since he doesn’t give Communion in the hand at his Masses, there is no indult — meaning no permission — for anyone to receive Communion in the hand from him. Therefore Blonde Bertha does not have any right to clamp her mouth shut and hold out her hand, demanding that the Pope bend to her will.

    It would also be a petty stunt to approach the Holy Father in that way, knowing that he grants Communion on the tongue only. Communion is not the time to make a scene — it’s about Jesus, it’s not about me. Anyone who would approach Communion with such an attitude ought to be denied, for the good of his soul.

  25. Jordanes: I can also guarantee that no one would do something so profoundly arrogant. I have seen some pretty important people reduced to embarrassed mumbling in the presence of the Vicar of Christ.

    No… no one in his right mind would do that.

  26. TJM says:

    Father Z, you are soooooooooooooooooo right. No one with the claim to being a Roman Catholic would do something that arrogant and wilfull.
    All the best, Tom

  27. Blonde Bertha: If I were to receive holy communion from the holy father (now gloriously reigning) I would happily kneel but he would find that my mouth would be closed firmly shut and my hands reverently extended as is my right!

    One of the best arguments I’ve heard for people kneeling at a communion rail, instead of a single kneeler. So the priest can simply ignore any such boorish behavior, and move on without pause to the next communicant.

  28. Volpius says:

    “but it is a legitimate option”

    Only as long as the Pope allows it to be one, the Church has authority over her disciplines not you or me, which is just as well when I think about it.

    “as is my right!”

    It is the Popes right to deny you the Holy Eucharist ;)

    Ever heard of an interdict?

  29. Lucia says:

    Personally, I receive the Eucharist in the hand often because I am sick and consider it a courtesy. If I was instructed to receive otherwise in such a case I would–after all, Chris, Blonde Bertha, and others, is the *way* in which we receive our Lord more important to us than the fact that we are receiving Him? Honestly!

  30. Michael says:

    I am curious to learn in what sense your “understanding grew”, and “deepened”, your previously shallow, “devotion”. Or the latter was deep but not deep enough?

    And the penetrating insight into the “devotion” you “see reflected in the faces of hundreds of communicants”…

    “I have no intention of changing” sounds like an argument of one who is cornered, and yet determined to stay put like that BLONDE below your last post. You are in a good, brave company…

    “Thankfully I am 100% sure it isn’t going to ever happen “…What an eschatological projection ! And a rational proof !

    Aren’t you aware that the Eastern Churches would never reunite on your terms? And rightly so, as long as we do not eliminate such ideas from our midst.

  31. Gordon says:

    I would like to know a little more of the Archbishop of Toledo. I would find it quite amazing for the Primate of Spain to go to Rome for a curial position. Don’t think too many Spanish primates go that way. Other than the papacy, there must be few church positions in the world with the honor of being Archbishop of Toledo. But, really we never seem to hear anything about what this one is like, either as bishop or his views on “reform of the reform” or on the old mass, etc. That would be interesting to learn. Tho, think most of us would prefer Mgr. Ranjith. Everything is pure speculation just now. Best wait and see what happens.

  32. Romulus says:

    as is my right!

    Bertha — it isn’t all about you, dear. Surely you know that “eucharist” means “thanksgiving”. Everything that we are and have — including life and faith — is an unmerited gift. Preeminently and incomparably, there is the real and substantial gift of our Lord himself in the Blessed Sacrament. I cannot think of a worse time to be bellowing about rights and what we have coming to us.

  33. Blonde Bertha says:

    TJM – I did not receive my first communion until I was 7 years old and in 1976 communion in the hand was allowed. I am not aware of any latin catholics that recieved communion from birth. I did not belong to a dissident parish, I am an orthodox and loyal catholic.

    Fr Z – The indult allows me the choice to legitimately choose between holy communion on the tongue or in the hand. The fact that communion in the hand derives from an indult does not make it any less of a legitimate option. I have always recieved communion in the hand revrently (and afterwards the precious blood from the chalice when available) and i will continue to do sdo as long as it is permitted. I am not aware of any canon or liturgical law that permits any cleric (even the holy father) to restrict that choice on an ad hoc basis. [Why am I even doing this…. Look, friend. The indult was given by the Holy See so that Conferences of Bishops could decide if… if… Communion could be given in the hand in a region. The Holy Father is the Church’s LAW GIVER. The Vatican offices which give to Conferences the chance to do XY or Z derive their ability to do so from THE POPE and only because he tells them they can. So… yes… the Holy Father can restrict this. Also, according to the Holy See, if there is risk of profanation of the Eucharist a parish priest could decide that people will not receive in the hand in his parish (cf. Redemptionis Sacramentum. You simply don’t know what you are dealing with here, I’m afraid.] If the indult is repealed then that is of course a very different matter. Until that time, I believe the holy father would have no basis (in canon or liturgical law) to refuse me holy communion in such circumstances (assuming I was correctly disposed, ie not remarried, in a state of mortal sin etc). [You are wrong. The Holy Father can make that determination for whatever reason he chooses. But this is ridiculous. You are not going to be doing this, so this is pointless.] I would not support any cleric refusing communion to someone who insisted on kneeling or recieving on the tongue, and the situation i outline is on a par. [And we will just have to live with that, I guess.] The holy father may prefer people to recieve kneeling on the tongue but the exsistence of the indult (until repealed) does not mean he can insist on it. [sigh] I have seen people at papal masses recently recieving on the hand (while kneeling according to the new practice) so obviously despite what you would like to be the case, it clearly isn’t mandatory. Incidentally, I don’t feel very comfortable about the practice of recieving communion from the holy father in this way when everyone else at these masses recieves standing, it suggests to me that communion from the holy father is more holy than from any other minister and personalises the sacred presence. [Okay… I get it. This is all about you.]

  34. Blonde Bertha says:

    TJM:- ‘so you don’t modify your behavior for your host at a dinner party? That sounds a bit rigid and inflexible.’

    Christ, of course, is the Host not the holy father. Holy mother church permits communion in the hand as a legitimate option.

  35. wsxyz says:

    Bertha, The Pope is the lawmaker. If he does not wish to give communion in the hand, then you have no right to it from him.

  36. TJM says:

    Blonde Bertha, I see you were born in 1970 and thus you received your “religious training” during a time period in the Church when there was little or no teaching of the Catholic Faith, so I doubt if you even know what’s orthodox or not. But that’s not your fault. It’s the fault of your teachers. However, I assume since you are posting here you are seeking orthodoxy so I believe you may wish to accept the counsel of people trained in orthodoxy like Father Z instead of making statements about things you don’t know anything about, including your assumption that the supreme authority in the Roman Church lacks the power to refrain from giving you communion in the hand. Tom

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