The struggle over the Secretary

The fine Italian language blog Rinascimento Sacro has an interesting post (my translation).

Canizares: either Ranjith or a Benedictine
Andrea Tornielli

The illness of the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, Card. Canizares, now well overcome, caused the delay of the publication of the appointment of the Secretary of the same Congregation, Sri Lankan Archbishop Malcom Ranjith Patabendige Don as Archbishop of Colombo, now decided for some time.  There are those who speak of days or weeks, even some months.  Certainly there is an arm wrestling context about the appointment of the new Secretary, given the key role which this dicastery has in advancing the reconciliation on the "battlefield" of the liturgy and in seeking to implement the "reform of the reform" long desired for many years ago by then-Cardinal Ratzinger.  Canizares, the ex-Archbishop of Toledo, nicknamed "little Ratzinger", would want Ranjith to still remain in Rome.  In the probable case that he is not able to keep him, he would want as his number two a collaborator which continues along the same line.  The only certainty is that he would be an anglophone.  But at the moment it is useless to forward names (and there are some), because the situation is in continuous evolution.

I have been in contact with a few of my spies.

I think what is going on here is that Archbp. Ranjith’s enemies have really started pushing to get rid of him by promoting him to the see of Colombo.  However, Card. Canizares very much intends to advance the liturgical and ecclesiological vision of Pope Benedict.  For that he needs to have the right Secretary, who will not fight him.  Ranjith’s enemies want someone who will balance Card. Canizares (read: thwart).

I remember once in the office I worked in long ago, the Cardinal President, His Eminence Card. Mayer (now our oldest living Cardinal) was having a bit of a dispute with the Secretariat of State over an important point.  Eventually it came to the point where Card. Mayer suggested that if it was his own person which was the obstacle, he would be happy to step down and let his position be filled by someone else.  They really didn’t want that, for it would put the Holy Father is a tough position: he would have to fill that highly controversial chair at a difficult time.

It strikes me that something of that same struggle is going on here.  The enemies of the Pope’s agenda have a strong hand, but so does Card. Canizares.  However, choosing a new Secretary of the CDWDS is far less problematic for the Holy Father than choosing a new Prefect to replace someone who has just been in office for a few months.

The thing which makes me pause a little is that opening to an alternative, a "benedettiano"… a "Benedictine", not in the sense of a Benedictine monk, but someone who is in on Pope Benedict’s team.

It is too early to forward names.

I could make some suggestions!

Should it come to pass that Archbp. Ranjith is moved to Colombo, I will wager that the new man would also be not only sympathetic the older liturgy.  

My random thoughts:

The Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei" is going to be more closely associate with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.  The reason for this is clear: there will need to be doctrinal talks with the SSPX and the PCED is still the competent dicastery.  However, the liturgical oversight exercised by the PCED will have to go to the CDWDS someday.  There will have to be desk at the Congregation which resolves liturgical questions.  There must be some folks in the Congregation competent to handle these questions (…actually, there are now!).  Archbp. Ranjith fills that bill at this time.  If he moves, the new man will have to have some liturgical competence.

So… an anglophone, an English speaker… in harmony with Benedict XVI’s liturgy and ecclesiological vision for the Church… of good reputation and/or record of scholarship… friendly to (if not also versed in) the older form of Mass….

Too early for names, but we should keep watching for small signs.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. joe says:

    Should the contingency come to pass, would it be perverse to pray for Abp. Terrence Prendergast, SJ? I believe he fulfills the criteria stipulated above and he might profitably discomfit a few of his brethren.


  2. Tominellay says:

    Congratulations, Father Z!

  3. sacerdosinaeternum says:

    I vote Fr. Z!

  4. Tom says:

    Thanks for the sensitive analysis, Father. I hope that any ‘anglophone’ doesn’t come from the UK (Leeds to be precise) – Australia (aux. in Melbourne to be more precise) would be a better bet.

  5. Blessed Karl says:

    I see people saying “congratulations Fr. Z” and “i vote Fr. Z”

    Question: Is Fr. Z actually one of those being considered for this position or is this just wishful thinking? [In NO WAY. The Lord will return before anything like this would ever happen. Don’t even go there.]

  6. I think Fr, Z would be an excellent choice –I don’t know him personally, but say this as evidenced by his great knowledge of all things ecclesiastical as expressed here at the WDTPRS blog.

  7. Scott says:

    The idea of it being an english speaker makes me think that perhaps the enemies of the Holy Father have won. I cant think of a prominet English speaker who could fufil this role who is a Bishop. However I think it would be great if someone from one of the traditionalist orders was given the role. Say someone from the Institute of Christ the King or the FSSP.

  8. Joshua says:

    Perhaps Cardinel Pell? [A Cardinal won’t be moved to be a secretary of a dicastery.]

  9. LCB says:

    It’s not FR. Z.

    It’s His Hermeneuticalness. It ain’t Westminster, but it’ll do.

  10. Tom says:

    Scott said \”…I cant think of a prominet English speaker who could fufil this role who is a Bishop…\”

    Bishop Peter Elliott, Auxiliary in Melbourne, is surely one who could fit the bill.

  11. Sacerdos ignotus says:

    Yep, Elliott sounds just right.

  12. Paul Q says:

    I agree that Bishop Peter Elliott would be great. He was the president of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family and our parish pastor when we lived in Melbourne for two years (studying at the Institute). He’s orthodox, of course, and says the Mass with great reverence. He has also spent significant time in Rome and knows what’s up.


  13. Clement says:

    “an anglophone, an English speaker… in harmony with Benedict XVI’s liturgy and ecclesiological vision for the Church… of good reputation and/or record of scholarship… friendly to (if not also versed in) the older form of Mass….”

    Let us pray that this “anglophone” is the great Prince, Archbishop Burke. [No… that would be a demotion. Archbp. Burke is the head of a dicastery. Becoming Secretary would be a steop down. Perhaps one day Archbp. Burke might be moved laterally to be the head of another dicastery, such as the CDWDS.]

  14. Do these appointments generally go to men who are already Bishops or do they sometimes go to priests? If the later how about Oratorian Fr. Uwe Lang, currently at the Pontifical Council for Cultural Patrimony. [No, he is now at the CDWDS.]

  15. Clement says:

    I believe His Excellency, Bishop Rifan speaks English…

    Could he be a possibility, Rev. Father?

  16. mike says:

    Zuhlsdorf Zubito!


  17. LCB says:

    Oh I didn’t realize we were playing the game for real :-D

    Fr. Aidan Nichols, OP?

  18. Most Excellent Sledgehammer says:

    Bishop Elliot would be very good. Might I also suggest Alcuin Reid?

  19. Prof. Basto says:

    RINUNCE E NOMINE, 11.05.2009


    Il Santo Padre ha accolto la rinunzia presentata dall’ Card. Giovanni Battista Re, per raggiunti limiti di età, all’incarico di Prefetto della Congregazione per i Vescovi ed ha chiamato a succedergli nel medesimo incarico S.E. Mons. Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don, finora Segretario della Congregazione per il Culto Divino e la Disciplina dei Sacramenti.


    Il Santo Padre ha nominato Segretario della Congregazione per il Culto Divino e la Disciplina dei Sacramenti il P. John T. Zuhlsdorf, del clero della diocesi suburbicaria di Velletri-Segni, assegnandoli la Sede Patriarcale titolare di Constantinopoli dei Latini.


    [Ha Ha…. very droll. But please don’t joke about that. I can see someone picking up this text and putting it somewhere as if true. That would not be good.]

  20. Deo volente says:

    Bene, Professor! Bene!


  21. Tom says:

    Alcuin Reid is a deacon, so he’d hardly be eligible for advancement to the episcopacy.

  22. irishgirl says:

    I’d nominate Fr. Z…and if not Fr. Z, then His Hermeneuticalness would do!

  23. Michelle Marie Romani says:

    What about Fr. Uwe Lang? He’s the one who wrote the book, “Turning Towards the Lord“. He is already a consultor for the Office of Liturgy for the Supreme Pontiff.

  24. FOLKS: No more posts about me in that position. I will delete them. It might be amusing, let’s not go there.

  25. Berthold says:

    It may actually be helpful for some readers (including me) to introduce the role of a secretary of this congregation, with relation to the Prefect and other members. Does he have enough power to paralyze things, for instance?

    At least in the moment this congegation is only responsible for Novus Ordo (although it would be logical to change this), so a priest or bishop who does Novus Ordo well and is not unfriendly to the Extraordinary Form would be the natural choice.

    It would also be good if the Secretary had some scholarly expertise in liturgy; this isn’t necessary for day-to-day business but will be essential for the revision of Novus Ordo that will hopefully start in earnest at some point.

  26. Fr. BJ says:

    Hmmm… the anti-spam word is “hermeneutic”. Could this be a sign that it should be Fr. Finigan in that post!? Deus lo vult!?!!?

    Still, I thought we were rooting for him to go to Birmingham! We shall see!

  27. EJ says:

    If it were that Bishop Elliott were to be appointed as secretary, then we would not only have good reason to breath a great sigh of relief, but we would have good reason to also be extremely grateful… IF IF IF that were to happen. Bishop Elliott is not only sympathetic to the older form of Mass, but by celebrating it himself personally on occasion as a bishop, he has demonstrated his support for it. Does anyone know for what reason then-Msgr. Elliott was sent back to Australia? Was someone trying to get rid of him at the Curia, as happened with Archbishop Ranjith a few years back? If this was the case, then returning him to Rome would be a very clear message from the Pope to the opposition.

  28. I would not be surprised if the Holy Father asks Fr. Cassian Folsom, OSB to the position.

    However, the Pope knows how important he is to the community there in Norcia and may not want to jeopardize it.

    We shall see………

  29. Ricky Vines says:

    I feel just like a St. John Vianney when it comes to all this posturing and politicking. I am
    at a total loss. I guess this is when a St. Thomas More will come in after all, the Church
    still needs to be in the world although not of it. But I was not expecting the world to be in
    the Church though.

  30. RichR says:

    Fr. Z,

    Am I right in thinking that the preferences of the Pope and the Prefect are the most influential components of this decision? If so then we should all sit back and relax. Pope Benedict is keenly interested in liturgy, and will likely take an active role in filling Ranjith’s shoes. The Prefect is of like mind.

    Even if the Pope has enemies, how strong a hand do they have here?

  31. TJB says:

    I highly doubt it would be Abp. Terrence Prendergast, SJ. He is one of the few decent Bishops in all of Canada, we can’t afford to lose him!

  32. You know…contemplating all the political angles and nuances and buzz-saws the Pope has to juggle makes me rejoice in the ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY I enjoy that (a) I can never be ordained, and so therefore (b) I will never be in any danger whatsoever of being elected Pope. There are so few things in life about which one can be absolutely certain, I don’t see why the feminists can’t just sit back and appreciate this one.

  33. RC says:

    Perhaps a real Benedictine: Abbot Michael Zielinski?

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