Cong. for Divine Worship… but no longer Discipline of the Sacraments?

The intrepid Andrea Tornielli is reporting that, well… here it is in my quick translation:

In the next weeks there will be published a document of Benedict XVI which will reorganize the competences of the Congregation for Divine Worship entrusting to it the task of promoting a liturgy more faithful to the original intentions of the Second Vatican Council, with less room for arbitrary changes and for the recovery of a dimension of greater sacrality.

The document, which will have the form of a Motu Proprio – it was reviewed by the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts and the Secretariat of State – was motivated mainly by the transferance of competence concerning marriage cases to the Roman Rota.  This deals with cases of so-called “ratum sed non consumatum”, that is, regarding marriage which takes place in church but isn’t consummated due to lack of carnal union of the spouses.  There are about 500 cases a year, and they epsecially from Asian countries where there still exist arranged marriages with girls of a very young age, but also in Western countries for cases of psychological impotence in fulfilling the sexual act.

With the loss of this section, which passes to the Rota, the Congregation of Divine Worship will not longer be concerned with sacraments and will maintain only its competence in liturgical material.  According to some authoritative leaks a passage in the Motu Proprio of Benedict XVI could cite explicitly the “new liturgical movement” of which Antonio Card. Cañizares Lloverahe spoke recently during a speech at the consistory last November.


If and when the Congregation is reorganized by Pope Benedict, it may be that it will bear a different name because of all this.

Remember that the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments focuses on the proper celebration of the rites of Holy Church and deals with some other matters having to do with sacred things and places.  When Tornielli writes, above, that the Congregation will no longer deal with sacraments, he is talking about validity. In most matters the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith determines whether sacraments in concrete cases were valid or not.  This matter of marriages which were “ratum non consummatum” seem not to need the competence of the CDF, perhaps because of the procedure used to handle the cases.  “Ratum non consummatum” indicates that there was a marriage but that it was not made permanent, for life, because it was not consummated.  It isn’t strictly a matter of whether or not there was a valid sacrament that could not be “undone”, as it were.  This is why, I think, it will go to the Rota not the CDF or CDW.


At the Il blog degli amici di Papa Ratzinger there is a text of interest:

A provision of the Pope which will change the Congregation for Divine Worship is coming.  After a leak in the press, the Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi clarifies: “It is true that a Motu Proprio has for a long time been under study to arrange the transferral of a technical-juridical competence – as, for example, the dispensation for marriage ‘ratum sed non consummatum’ from the Congregation for Divine Worship to the tribunal of the Sacred Rota. But there is no foundation or motive to see in this an intent to promote a control of a ‘restrictive’ type, by the Congregation in promoting a liturgical renewal desired by the Second Vatican Council.”


Tornielli fired back on Il blog degli amici di Papa Ratzinger (my translation):

In my article I didn’t dare speak of a “reform of the reform” because I know it is a subject that produces hives at its very mention.

Tornielli goes on to remind readers about his interview with Card. Cañizares.

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  1. dans0622 says:

    Interesting development. Hopefully, more personnel will be assigned to the Rota so that such cases can still be quickly processed. In any case, there is still the paragraph of Pastor bonus which says the CDWDS “fosters and safeguards the regulation of the administration of the sacraments, especially regarding their valid and licit celebration” (n. 63). See Pastor bonus, nos. 62-70 for the duties of this Congregation.

  2. Hidden One says:

    I do not understand what Fr. Lombardi wrote. I guess I’ll just have to wait for the motu proprio.

    On a less serious note, if the Congregation’s name gets shortened, it will be easier to say. I would appreciate that!

  3. basilorat says:

    Regarding Validity of Sacraments mentioned above:

    I shan’t forget what our Sacraments professor once taught us regarding the difference between invalidity and illicitity. He said, “Men, an invalid sacrament means Our Lord is not present! An illicit sacrament means he’s there but he’s pi**ed!”

  4. In the comments, Tornielli says this, but I don’t know Italian:

    Nel mio articolo non ho osato parlare di “riforma della riforma”, perché so che è tema che produce l’orticaria al solo nominarlo. Ho soltanto detto che da quanto mi risulta il motu proprio tecnico-giurico che trasferisce competenze dal Culto divino alla Rota dovrebbe contenere un passaggio nel quale si accenna al “nuovo movimento liturgico”. Sul significato di questa espressione non ho citato fonti anonime ma quanto mi disse lo scorso dicembre il cardinale Canizares, parlando dell’esplicita volontà del Papa. Padre Lombardi dice che sarebbe sbagliato vedere in ciò un intento restrittivo della Congregazione nella promozione del rinnovamento liturgico conciliare. Io avevo capito dalle risposte di Canizares che la Congregazione vuole promuovere una maggiore fedeltà alle indicazioni del Concilio.
    Andrea Tornielli

  5. Fabrizio says:

    Saint Irenaeus,

    here’s a slavishly literal translation:

    “In my article I didn’t dare speak of “reform of the reform” because I know it’s a topic that gives (some people) the hives at the sole mention of it. I only said that to my knowledge the technical-juridical motu proprio transferring competences from Divine Worship to the Rota should contain a passage hinting to the “new liturgical movement”. On the meaning of such phrase I did not cite anonymous sources but what Card. Canizares told me last December, speaking of the explicit will of the Pope. Fr. Lombardi says that it would be wrong so see a restrictive intent on behalf of the Congregation in the promotion of the conciliar renewal of the Liturgy. From the answers of Canizares I had understood that the Congreagation wants to promote a greater fidelity to the indications of the Council”

  6. Tina in Ashburn says:

    If “the Congreagation wants to promote a greater fidelity”, I hope there are teeth in this.

    How long Oh Lord must the laity endure the whims of the faithless shepherds?

  7. Ioannes Andreades says:

    I would hope that oversight of the E.F. gets transferred to the CDW. Not having oversight at the CDW makes it seem like a second-class, irregular use. Moreover, having oversight over at Ecc. Dei makes it seem the the E.F. is still a response to the SSPX group and is still primarily directed at reintegrating them.

  8. Flambeaux says:

    Tina in Ashburn,

    Until the consummation of the world.

  9. Quirinus says:

    Ioannes Andreades says:

    “I would hope that oversight of the E.F. gets transferred to the CDW. Not having oversight at the CDW makes it seem like a second-class, irregular use. Moreover, having oversight over at Ecc. Dei makes it seem the the E.F. is still a response to the SSPX group and is still primarily directed at reintegrating them”

    OTOH, being part of CDF and thus part of what was once known as “La Suprema”, gives ED more “weight” in the turf wars in the Curia and in protecting the rights of the Summorum Pontificum groups in the dioceses around the world. I think this will become more evident in future years, when the generation of new -and more traditional seminarians will become our clergy. Also, let’s not forget that with SSPX and with certain traditionalists the problem IS more theological than liturgical. If it wasn’t for the Americans among them, the French part of SSPX would have settled for the 1965 Missal.

    [Rem acu, O Quirine, tetigisti!]

  10. Brian2 says:

    Not to be disrespectful to Fr. Lombardi, who has a hard and thankless job… but when has he ever been in the loop when something was happening in the Curia (He was out of the loop on SSPX/Williamson, he was out of the loop on the Good Friday Prayer, he was out of the loop on Anglicanorum Coetibus, the Austrian bishop candidate, and so on). I would take his pronouncements with a grain of salt. Torinelli is usually right though

  11. MichaelJ says:

    I realize that this is only tangentially related, and hope that Father Z will indulge a very slight detour down a shallow rabbit hole, but why is a Motu Proprio being reviewed by the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts? It gives the appearance at least that his Holiness must seek outside approval before issuing a Motu Proprio. [Nooooooo. They work for him. It goes there so that everything is nice and tidy. If it is legislation, it needs to be correct.]

    More importantly, if I understand their charter correctly, the PCILT does not have the authority to interpret Papal documents such as a Motu Proprio so it seems that their review is rather pointless. [You have misunderstood why the document is being reviewed by the Council.]

  12. chironomo says:


    Perhaps the MP contains provisions that the Holy Father wanted to make sure were going to stand up to possible criticism or challenges from critics on canonical grounds. I’m not sure what those might be, but I don’t think the review was for the purpose of determining the Pope’s ability to issue a Motu Proprio.

    I’m thinking particularly of provisions which may lead to conflicts with the authority (generally though to be) held by Bishop’s Conferences or local Ordinaries. Can the CDW be given authority to legislate contrary to practices that they have established and approved in their own Diocese?

  13. catholicmidwest says:


    I don’t know why compliance with the CDW can’t be…ahem…arranged. After all, it is the home office. Lots of things can be arranged if the need exists and the timing is right. Sometimes people just need to be made aware of what’s in their own interest, yes?

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