It appears that the vision of Benedict is seeping out into the Roman Curia at large, and we are finally starting to see some truly excellent statements come out of different congregations. Here are a few updates on things going on in the Curia, (from the website Chiesa, courtesy of blogger Maurus). All of these updates come from L'Osservatore Romano, which itself has undergone a radical change in the past three months since the appointment by Benedict of new director Giovannia Maria Vian. L'Osservatore Romano reports:
Cenacles of Eucharstic Adoration to be Established
On January 5th, Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, announced that he had sent to bishops, pastors, religious superiors, and seminary rectors all over the world a letter to ask that in every diocese "cenacles" of perpetual Eucharistic adoration be established, with the aim of "sanctifying" priests through prayer. One aim of these cenacles that was mentioned specifically was atonement for sexual sins committed by members of the clergy. It is being reported that the letter is being accepted gladly in mnay dioceses throughout the world. I can't think of a better way to combat the damage done by the sexual problems in the Church than to turn to the Lord in Adoration. Way to go Cardinal Hummes.
Greater Caution and Accuracy in Causes for Saints
Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints announced on January 9th that in February there will be a public presentation of the instruction Sanctorum Mater on the process for opening the causes for saints. The document – dated May 17, 2007, the Italian text of which was published in "Acta Apostolicae Sedis" issue no. 6, June 1, 2007, pp. 465-510 – translates into precise norms the guidelines that Benedict XVI gave to the congregation for the causes of saints in a message on April 27, 2006. The review will stress two points: caution and accuracy in looking into causes.
I am very happy about the following comment from the instruction, which says that "the seriousness of the investigations" into the alleged miracles "be safeguarded, [...] the procedures for the examination of which have, over the last twenty years, produced problematic elements." This certainly is true. Many have commented on the haphazard way in which miracles are attested in the post-Vatican II Church, as is the case going on right now regarding Mother Teresa's supposed miracle.
Greater guarantees have also been established concerning the "reputation of sanctity." It remains the case that, in order for the cause to proceed "there must emerge absolutely no element that goes against faith or good morals," so due emphasis must be given to "any findings that contradict the reputation of sanctity." This is excellent: the Church is going to adopt the traditional "devil's advocate" method of establishing sanctity by attempting to find fault with the persons presented for canonization. This ensures that whoever survives this process truly possesses sanctity.
Probably the best part (listen up, all you folks who are already praying to John Paul II) is that the instruction warns that just because an investigation into a cause is already under way does not mean that canonization is imminent, and it cautions that the Servant of God "not be the object of undue devotion." This seems to suggest a remedy to the trend of exaggerated numbers of canonizations during the John Paul II pontificate, and we should recall that one of the very first decisions of Joseph Ratzinger, following his election as pope, was that of reserving only the canonizations for himself and of delegating beatifications to others, generally in the country of origin of the new blessed.
Defense of Benedict's ad orientam Mass
On January 20th, L'Osservatore Romano issued a defense of Benedict's recent ad orientam Mass in the Sistine Chapel written by none other than Guido Marini. Marini made the following comments (my emphases):
"I believe that it is important first of all to consider the orientation that the liturgical celebration is always called upon to display: I refer to the centrality of the Lord, the Savior crucified and risen from the dead. This orientation must determine the interior disposition of the whole assembly, and in consequence, the exterior manner of celebrating as well. The placement of the cross on the altar, at the center of the assembly, has the capacity to communicate this fundamental aspect of liturgical theology. There can also be particular circumstances in which, because of the artistic conditions of the sacred place and its singular beauty and harmony, it would be preferable to celebrate at the ancient altar, which preserves the precise orientation of the liturgical celebration. This is exactly what happened in the Sistine Chapel. This practice is permitted by the liturgical norms, and is in harmony with the conciliar reform."
As to the problem of "turning his back on the people":
"In the circumstances in which the celebration takes place in this manner, this is not so much a question of turning one's back to the faithful, but rather of orienting oneself toward the Lord, together with the faithful. From this point of view, instead of being closed the door is opened for the faithful, to lead them to the Lord. In the Eucharistic liturgy, the participants do not look at one another; they look to the One who is our East, the Savior."
Marini noted that in the Pope's most recent general audience (January 23rd), he made the following comments:
"In the liturgy of the ancient Church, after the homily the bishop or presider of the celebration, the main celebrant, said: 'Conversi ad Dominum'. Then he himself and everyone else stood up and faced the East. Everyone wanted to look toward Christ."
Also reported was news from Angelo Amato, Secretary for the CDF, who gave some clarification on the coming reworking of the Good Friday prayers:
"The references to the condition of "darkness" and "blindness" of the Jewish people will disappear, while the prayer for their conversion will remain. Because in the liturgy we are always praying for conversion, of ourselves in the first place and then of all Christians and non-Christians."
Beyond all of this other good news, the coming of an explanatory letter defining how Summorum Pontificum is to be implemented was reaffirmed. It looks like there is reason for hope in 2008; let' s keep praying for Benedict XVI and for the continued return to Tradition!