Cardinal Koch in Freiburg: “The Crisis of the Church is above all a crisis of the liturgy”

What follows is a quick translation of a Vatican Radio report. Cardinal Koch’s words are given a special edge by the fact that he was speaking at the theological faculty of the University of Freiburg, a stronghold of “progressive” theology:

Allowing the Old Latin Mass is just “a first step” according to Kurt Cardinal Koch, an official of the Roman Curia. The time is however not yet ripe for the next steps Koch said on the Weekend in Freiburg. Liturgical questions are overshadowed by ideology especially in Germany. Rome will only be able to act further when Catholics show more readiness to think about a new liturgical reform “for the good of the Church.” The Cardinal spoke at a conference on the theology of Joseph Ratzinger, which also considered Ratzinger’s pontificate as Pope Benedict XVI. In July 2007 Pope Benedict decreed that Tridentine Rite Masses according to the Missal of 1962 may once again be celebrated world wide. The Missal of 1970 is however still the “normal form” of the Eucharistic Celebration in the Roman Church. Koch is the President of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity. He tried to refute the charge that Pope Benedict is going against the Council [i.e. Vatican II] in liturgical questions: “the Pope suffers from this accusation.” On the contrary, the Holy Father’s intention is rather to implement conciliar teachings on the liturgy which have been ignored up till now. Present day liturgical practice does not always have any real basis in the Council. For example, celebration versus populum was never mandated by the Council, says the Cardinal. A renewal of the form of divine worship is necessary for the interior renewal of the Church: “Since the crisis of the Church today is above all a crisis of the liturgy, it is necessary to begin the renewal of the Church today with a renewal of the Liturgy.

8 thoughts on “Cardinal Koch in Freiburg: “The Crisis of the Church is above all a crisis of the liturgy”

    • Yes. In retrospect Koch’s appointment to Christian Unity looks like a good move. At the time I was hoping for Bishop Gerhard-Ludwig Müller, but now I think Koch was a better choice. A few months ago Koch gave a talk here in which he blamed the Reformation for the subsequent secularization of Europe–a very Mülleresque thesis, but whereas G-L M sounds like a triumphalist/energumen when he says things like that Koch just sounds really eloquent and charming…



  2. I’ve been trying to duck liturgical issues for the past year, mainly because I was burned out by Orthodoxy’s “Liturgy is Everything” mentality, but it’s obviously a question which cannot be avoided forever. While I haven’t come anywhere near exhausting the views of the various liturgical camps in the Catholic Church, it seems to me that the real question ought to be, “What is the liturgy for?” Only then does it seem prudent to move on to any discussion of “reforming,” “correcting,” “implementing,” etc. this-or-that change.

    Despite my appreciation and support for the Tridentine Mass, I dissent from the traditionalists on the view that its 1962 form represents the “Mass for all time.” Eventually efforts will have to be made to update the Calendar and, perhaps make minor modifications to its contents — a practice which was carried out repeatedly from the 16th C. onward. My concern is that when the time comes, the traditionalists will retreat into absolutizing the 1962 Mass (similar to how ultra-trads absolutize, say, the pre-1955 Missal and Breviary) to the point where they won’t accept any changes, even if they are prudent under the circumstances. But I can also sympathize with their worries that changes, at least as they have been undertaken in the last century, typically imply dialing things down to the lowest acceptable level. The simplifications to the Breviary and Missal made by Pius XX and John XXIII had some strong pastoral justifications, but they also resulted in some unfortunate watering-down (particularly Matins and the Ferial offices during Lent in the Breviary). Some of the “test changes” to the 1962 Missal, such as the deletion of Judica me, were probably unnecessary and thankfully haven’t been retained. (Interestingly, the dropping of the third Confiteor — which is technically mandated by the 1962 Missal — hasn’t become normative either.)


    • The “liturgy is everything mentality” is found among a number of Catholics as well. A lot of “traditionalists” seem to hold an extreme version of Card. Koch’s thesis; thinking that if we would just go back to celebrating the Vetus Ordo the world would suddenly be transformed into a sort of Counter-Reformation Spain with an internet…

      (By the way: have you got some kind of elaborate game of hide-and-seek going? How come you suddenly changed blogs without notice? Now I’ve missed about a month’s worth of your posts. The strange thing is all your commentators from your old blog are back at your new one — did you send them all some kind of secret message? I must say though that the new blog looks nicer – the seraf fonts are much better).


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