The reform of the Vatican curia that Pope Francis is carrying out is being done partly in sunshine and partly in shadow.
Among the provisions recently adopted in shadow, there are two that are emblematic.
The veil was lifted on the first by the vaticanista Marco Tosatti, when on December 26 he broke the news of an order the pope had given to a dicastery head to summarily fire three of his officials, an order given without explanations and without accepting objections.
It is now known that the dicastery in question is not second-tier, it is the congregation for the doctrine of the faith. And the three officials fired enjoyed the full approval of their prefect, Cardinal Gerhard L. Müller, in his turn made the target of repeated acts of humiliation, in public, on the part of the pope.
But which of the three rejects is the official whom Francis personally – as Tosatti has reported – reprimanded harshly by telephone for having expressed criticisms against him, which had come to the pope’s ear through an informant?
It is the Dutch priest Christophe J. Kruijen, 46, in service at the congregation for the doctrine of the faith since 2009, a theologian of acknowledged expertise, awarded with the prestigious Prix Henri De Lubac in 2010 by the French embassy to the Holy See, unanimously bestowed upon him by a jury made up of the cardinals Georges Cottier, Albert Vanhoye, and Paul Poupard, for his theological thesis entitled: “Universal salvation or dual outcome of the judgment: to hope for all? A contribution to the critical study of a contemporary theological opinion concerning the realization of damnation,” defended at the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas under the direction of the Dominican theologian Charles Morerod, afterward rector of the same university and now the bishop of Lausanne, Geneva and Fribourg.
The “last things,” or death, judgment, heaven, hell, are Kruijen’s favored subject for his studies. But he is also appreciated for his excellent essay on the Jewish philosopher and then Carmelite nun Edith Stein, killed in Auschwitz in 1942 and proclaimed a saint in 1998: “Bénie par la Croix. L’expiation dans l’oeuvre et la vie d’Edith Stein.”
In the public writings and remarks of Fr. Kruijen there is not a single word of criticism against Francis. But all it took was a tattle lifted from one of his private conversations to bring him into disgrace with the pope, who brought the whip down.
This too is part of the reform of the curia, by the orders and in the style of Jorge Mario Bergoglio.
The second measure taken in shadow concerns the congregation for divine worship, the prefect of which is Cardinal Robert Sarah, he too the object of repeated public humiliations on the part of the pope, and now condemned to preside over offices and men who are pulling against him.
Directed by the secretary of the congregation, the English archbishop Arthur Roche, a commission has been set up within the dicastery at the behest of Francis, the objective of which is not the correction of the degenerations of the postconciliar liturgical reform – meaning that “reform of the reform” which is Cardinal Sarah’s dream – but the exact opposite: the demolition of one of the walls of resistance against the excesses of the postconciliar liturgists, the instruction “Liturgiam Authenticam” issued in 2001, which sets the criteria for the translation of liturgical texts from Latin into the modern languages.
With Benedict XVI these criteria had been further reinforced, in particular through the pope’s intention to hold firm the “pro multis” of the Gospel and the Latin missal in the words of consecration of the blood of Christ, against the “for all” of many current translations.
But Francis immediately made it understood that this matter left him indifferent. And now, with the institution of this commission, he is meeting the expectations for a modernization of liturgical language championed, for example, by the liturgist Andrea Grillo, a professor at the Pontifical Atheneum of St. Anselm and in great esteem at Casa Santa Marta:
There are those who fear that after the demolition of “Liturgiam Authenticam,” the next objective, of this or another commission, will be the correction of “Summorum Pontificum,” the document with which Benedict XVI liberalized the celebration of the Mass in the ancient rite.
(English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.)