Monday, April 08, 2013

Lello Scorzelli's Ferula: a return to the past

Broken, tortured, twisted, contorted are the words that come to mind looking at this crucifix. It has the sense of  being in flux, half-formed, raw in its conception. It is still incredibly disturbing, what it represents is truly disturbing, the death of Christ, which represents something beyond the story of the Gospel but actually what I find disturbing is the mind of the artist that imagined it. It comes from the era of brutalism of concrete and "machines for living in", from that artistic period when art itself hung stretched and distorted before its own death, screaming in agony at its fear of its own pain, confronting humanity with its own ugliness.

Some have suggested it is a Jansenist image, I don't know about that. It represents humanity debased. Here is the victim of man's inhumanity to man, there is nothing divine here, it is absolute self emptying. Here is man mangled and remade by the regimes of Stalin and Hitler, Pol Pot and Mao, and yes, of the murderous torturers of South America. Here, grace is excluded, the hand of God is absent.

It symbolises too the uncertainty of the post-concillior Church, stripped bare, in flux, not fully formed, a broken human institution, humbled, gasping in a particular moment of history, more dead than alive. It is austere without any beauty. It is the Church of Good Friday, devoid of any sense of Grace, or of Easter hope.
I can understand its appeal to Paul VI, it seems to sum up everything we know about his tortured loneliness, and for John Paul II it seemed to sum up his sense of the "victimhood" of his rather Polish spirituality, in the same way I can see why Pope Benedict rejected it, it fitted uneasily with his theology of "Joy" and "Man-Redeemed", the traditional Papal Ferula, gilt empty victorious cross of the now risen Christ, spoke eloquently of his own theology.
Last night Lello Scorzelli's ferula reappeared at the enthronement in the Lateran in the hands of Pope Francis. More than any other Papal ornament it symbolises a return to the time before Benedict and a return to the uncertainties of Paul VI, and to a more austere Church. For Pope Francis it perhaps a symbol of "the poor", and a sign of an austere Church, in an austere world. For a Pope ordained priest in 1969 it is perhaps "the" symbol of the "modern" Papacy, for someone whose priesthood was spent in Villas and in the oppression of the Peronist and post-Peronist Junta, it is perhaps the perfect symbol.

For the rest of us it is a return to a period in the history of the Church which many priests of my age and older see as being the Church of their youth, it marks a rupture with Benedictine reforms, whether Pope Francis intends this to be said I doubt but it certainly marks a return to the past.

Perhaps it was too soon to put away those arrangements of Kum-by-yaa.


Pablo the Mexican said...

"We have killed Him"

Nothing to do with the salvific action of Christ upon the cross.

A truly evil, diabolical cross from people that celebrate the crucifixion as a victory for Hell; Satan's kingdom.

"Rome will lose the Faith and become the seat of the anti-Christ".


Elaine said...

Father, you sound fed-up. Please be encouraged by those of us who pray for priests like you every day; those of us who travel miles to attend Mass in the Extraordinary Form;those of us who quietly refuse to accept the liturgy of Kum -by-yaa We are not going anywhere, we will not be detracted from meeting with Our Lord in His rightful place each Sunday (on our knees and on our tongue). Be encouraged dear Father, be encouraged.


I can understand your sentiments, but at the end of the day if there is a return to the negativity of the late 60's in Britain, it will be down to one thing, and one thing only....

It will be the fault of traditionalist pew sitters who keep moaning, but fail to get off their behinds and do nothing about it'.

At St. Mary's Louth a small group of us are proactive. The liberals have got total control of the Parish Council so there is no catechetal programs of any note, no devotional events, basically nothing of any worth, but we do not let them get away with it:

1) we go around and talk to people and when the opportunity arises we discuss Catholicism. Literally 80% of the time most people say something which is incorrect about their faith and we always (without exception) gently tell them the correct version.

2. If a known liberal states something in public (e.g. after coffee) we always pull them up on what they are saying and give them the correct catechetal version (without exception).

3. We try and get like minded people together.

4. The older traditionalists literally just put their foot down and get the job done (have you seen my latest post about the restoration of St. Mary's?).

I am not a charismatic, but do you know what they tell their members at the end of every charismatic conference? They clearly tell them that it is their job to go out and renew their churches. "No ifs, no, buts". Traditionalists could learn a lot from this.

I think moaning traditionalists should take their hands out of their pockets and start to do something about it themselves instead of crying over the absence of Pope Benedict (a man I love and admire dearly). He is not their anymore so we have to do the hard work.

Finally, I believe that Catholics have lost the understanding that once you have prayed for something then you should hope that the prayer will be answered. There have been hundreds of thousands of 'Prayers for England' said'. I suggest instead of saying anymore of them that Catholics should start to believe that God will answer these hundreds of thousands of prayers.

gemoftheocean said...

*sigh* I thought I'd seen the last of that particular piece of "art." [Will the next pope with artistic taste please "lose" this?]

Physiocrat said...

Perhaps the hundreds of thousands of families, yes, whole families are kept prisoner, in North Korea's concentration camps could identify with it.

George said...

Pope St. Pius X (1903): "Among the cares of the pastoral office, not only of this Supreme Chair, which We, though unworthy, occupy through the inscrutable dispositions of Providence, but of every local church, a leading one is without question that of maintaining and promoting the decorum of the House of God in which the august mysteries of religion are celebrated, and where the Christian people assemble to receive the grace of the Sacraments, to assist at the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar, to adore the most august Sacrament of the Lord's Body and to unite in the common prayer of the Church in the public and solemn liturgical offices. Nothing should have place, therefore, in the temple calculated to disturb or even merely to diminish the piety and devotion of the faithful, nothing that may give reasonable cause for disgust or scandal, nothing, above all, which directly offends the decorum and sanctity of the sacred functions and is thus unworthy of the House of Prayer and of the Majesty of God."

From his intro to his Motu Proprio on Sacred Music.. I thought it was sort of relavent to the situation with the Scorzelli Ferula..

Anonymous said...

Ora Pro,

Good intentions, but I think you're mistaken in a fundamental. "Traditionalists" don' go to the Novus Ordo, period.

I live in the US. In 2004 I took my family out of the Novus Ordo. For nine years now, every Sunday, and sometimes more, we drive 40 miles one way to the nearest FSSP apostolate. It's not easy. But it's necessary. If you, and every other "traditionalist," of the sort you mention, i.e., small "o" orthodox Catholic, did the same, after a short time, the NO would collapse.

The Reform of the Reform, while well-intentioned, was a fool's errand from the beginning. The energies spent in it should have been spent while Benedict was with us in agitating for a complete abrogation of the Novus Ordo and a return to the Traditional Mass, in both Latin and hieratic vernacular. Added to that should have been the caveat of mortal sin for any priest who knowingly departed from the rubrics.

Had Benedict done this, we could have been spared what's to come.

Pastor in Monte said...

Father; the occasion was the dedication of a slab of the piazza outside the basilica to the memory of Pope John Paul II, who carried this cross throughout his pontificate.
It may have no more significance than that. Please God.

Jacobi said...


It’s early days yet. Our new Pope is a bit of a showman and likes the spotlight technique.
Sadly, the spotlight approach tends to throw other critical areas, in our chaotic post-Vatican 11 Church into darkness.

I agree with ORA PRO NOBIS about “traditionalist pew sitters who keep moaning”. Frankly I’m getting a bit fed up with the complaints I hear and read in the traditionalist Catholic community.

The reality is that Pope Benedict XVI, with Summorum Pontificum and Universae Ecclesiae, has given us all the authority and clearance we need to restore the traditional Gregorian Mass and its associated liturgy. This Mass is one of two full co-equals within the Latin Rite. Any group of parishioners can request it and the bishop is obliged to comply. Any priest is at liberty to say our ancient Mass - as you and some others do I hasten to add - at any time in his parish and as part of the parish liturgy. He does not need permission from his bishop – or from his parishioners. A little tact however would no doubt be in order!
We need priests and congregations, not more documents!

It will take time but the combined effect of the traditional orders and other like- minded priests and laity, will have the desired effect - and I do not thinks Pope Francis will in any way object, so let’s get on with it.

We must all evangelise within the Catholic community, speak to priests and laity, not just to restore “nice music” etc, but to restore the very spirit of Catholicism, in Continuity.

NBW said...

Not that cross again! I am sure there are many Catholic artists that would love to create a beautiful Cross for Pope Francis. Is he sending us a message?

fidelisjoff said...

Never knowing any thing other than the post conciliar church and having no emotional connection to Vatican II I am moving to the view that in time a Chirch leader, even Pope, may say the Council was a disaster for the Church in the West.

Fr Ray Blake said...

No Father, you are mistaken, the blessing of the Piazza took place before HH vested for Mass, the ferula was used during Mass.

Long-Skirts said...


Brer bishops
Brer priests
And brer people of god
Love the new Rite
Think the old Rite is odd.

Brer mother of ten cried,
"The old's tried and trued."
Brer people of god cried,
"Chill out
Take a lude."

Brer priest said,
"Ms. Brer have a coke
Serve with me
And together we'll create
A two Rite harmony!"

With these words
Brer mother got sick
And threw up
So brer priest urged her, "Go!
If you can't drink our cup."

"So you're urgin' I go?"
And her head she did scratch,
"Jus' please don't throw me
In no Pius the
Tenth Patch!!"

But brer priest
Flung brer mother
Out the door shut the latch
And forced her to land
In a Pius the Tenth Patch.

So mostly the
New Rite is given the nod
By brer bishops
Brer priests
And brer people of god.

But high on a hill
Brer mother of ten
Is singin' and kickin'
Her heels
Up again...

"I was born and raised
In a Pius the Tenth Patch
Known as the Catholic Church
And there still ain't
No match!!!"

Physiocrat said...

There was nothing wrong with the Novus Ordo Mass I went to at Jonsered this evening. We sang Marian hymns in Swedish at the entrance, offertory and recessional, the readings were in Swedish with the responsorial psalm chanted to psalm tone. The ordinary and creed were sung Latin - Missa de Angelis and Credo III, all unaccompanied. The priest faced the congregation but there is a big cross in front of him on the altar. To criticise such a liturgy would be to take scruples to a ridiculous extreme.

The same applies even more so to the Novus Ordo Masses celebrated at the London and Oxford Oratories at 11 am every Sunday. Who could reasonably criticise such a liturgies?

Parate Viam Domini said...

Talking of the moaning 'traditionalists' or 'orthodox Catholics' in England please would someone direct me to them, because in ALL the parishes I have been acquainted I haven't found them - maybe the ODD one. They may be there somewhere - but I don't see them. There are no young people or very very very few.

It's the same old, same old faces at eveything !

The LMS are currently holding their annual training week. I can guess that it will be the same old faces at that - I hope that I'm wrong.

Regarding your noble attempts at conversion over coffee - this is excellent but my mind wanders to the Psalmist - "they have ears and they hear not".

Sorry I'm not being negative but rather relating to my own personal experience, I'm being relaistic.

Physiocrat said...

@Pastor in Valle

I read that as "dedication of a slab of pizza" at first.

Donald R. said...

The Church declined abysmally during the pontificates of Paul VI & John Paul II. This is not a good sign. And I agree with those who note this "ferula" is without artistic merit.

Anonymous said...

I like Blessed Pius IX's ferula (and a good many other things we may not see again, at least for a while), but we ought not to set these aspects of our faith over against each other: that is αἵρεσις. Did not the Apostle say, "nos autem praedicamus Christum crucifixum Iudaeis quidem scandalum gentibus autem stultitiam"?

James said...

I prefer a cross with a corpus to B16's 'Proddy' thing. I like that we are reminded of our Divine Saviours passion and most cruel death. Aesthetics aren't everything.

Delia said...

I think it really suited John Paul II - a Pole who had lived through the war, the Nazi and Soviet occupation, etc., etc. Can't say I care for it much, though. If Pope Francis is going to use it, I think it would be much better to confine it to Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, or maybe the whole of Lent – or maybe Fridays as well! It would be a nice gesture of continuity if he used both this one and the one used by Pope Benedict, as appropriate.

Amfortas said...

This post and the comments constitute a masterclass in semiotics. Perhaps we should spend less time reading the 'signs of the times' - or projecting our own fears onto what we see and hear - and a little more time on our knees. Myself included!

TLMWx said...

Well I think we have to be able to look upon Him whom we have pierced and have our hearts broken at the sight of Him We should not be misdirected by nauseating art to hating a piece of art and not our sin.

Nicolas Bellord said...

I think the concept of a Jansenist crucifix is rubbish. It is an urban myth that a crucifix with the arms pointing to near the vertical somehow represents a supposed Jansenist view on predestination i.e. only a few are saved. It is much more to do with the practical problem of trying to carve a crucifix out of one piece of wood or ivory rather than having to use separate pieces.

Incidentally I have always found it very difficult to discover what Jansenism actually was other than an endless dispute over very fine theological points which in the end the Church had to call a halt to. I have always regarded the problem with Jansenists was that they regarded themselves as a very superior lot who looked down their noses at the rest of us! Pascal had some good points though when attacking the casuistry of the Jesuits.

Jansenism is now just used as a term of abuse.

Православный физик said...

Looks like a rewind to that's so 70's church....I was hoping that cross would never appear again....I thought the Pope did not have a corpus on his ferula for theological reasons.

Adulio said...

Pope Francis - the pope of discontinuity.

Physiocrat said...

Why don't we all wait a couple of years, or decades, before passing judgement? For those of us who are in favour of a traditionalist approach to liturgy, the initial reaction will be one of disappointment, but what really counts is what goes on in our own patches where we can do something about it.

Benedict has made his contribution and it is up to us to continue get on with putting those ideas into practice.

We should bear in mind that the Catholic church has many tasks in the world. The social teaching encyclicals are seriously defective and getting them in order is a task that still has to be done. Benedict made a start with "Caritas in Veritatis" but the ideas there need to be worked out. There is also an need to develop the material set down in the huge volume of material left by John Paul II.

The weird cross is not my cup of tea but we should not get too hung up about it. It can be read as a message of identification with the poor and oppressed. I would not be comfortable with a parish where there was fine liturgy and nothing was done for the beggars at the church door.

JARay said...

I do find myself largely in agreement with Ora Pro Nobis (except when he cannot differentiate between 'their' and 'there'). That said, this crucifix does portray a Christ in torment, barely human, and that is how Scripture prophesied he would look. Perhaps the criticism should be made that too many crucifixes look too nice.
I have always found this particular crucifix unpleasant and perhaps that is what it ought to be.

John Nolan said...

There are in fact two Scorzelli ferulas, more or less identical. The Pope used the earlier one, first used by Paul VI in 1965. As soon as Benedict announced his resignation Marini should have had the foresight to have them melted down.

It used to be the custom that the pope's former diocese presented him with a tiara. Could not Buenos Aires present Pope Francis with a dignified ferula, possibly in silver? He would then have to use it.

Anne Mansfield said...

I have a photo of BENEDICT carrying the Scorzizzi (sp?)
cross most reverently.

Anita Moore said...

Physiocrat said...
Perhaps the hundreds of thousands of families, yes, whole families are kept prisoner, in North Korea's concentration camps could identify with it.

Even assuming they ever see it, which is doubtful: why would the North Koreans, who have to live every day amid ugliness, find inspiration in ugliness in the Church?

Physiocrat said...
The weird cross is not my cup of tea but we should not get too hung up about it. It can be read as a message of identification with the poor and oppressed. I would not be comfortable with a parish where there was fine liturgy and nothing was done for the beggars at the church door.

The idea that it is either fine liturgy or providing for beggars at the door is a fallacy. We have the wherewithal to do both. In fact, we do the beggars at the door no favors by doing crummy liturgy. Beggars -- and we are all beggars at God's door -- need to be raised up out of the gutter, not have everybody else join them there.

We have got to learn again to distinguish between authentic Christian poverty and the false, ice-cold, sterile, destructive asceticism of the Church's enemies.

Our Lady of Good Success-pray for us. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Physiocrat said...

@Anita Moore

We aspire to liturgy and chase the beggars away from the front of the church, or walk past them as if they were not there. Allegedly they are part of an Eastern European gang, and that may be the case, but we should be able to do better than that. Last summer the police were actually called. It does not put out the right message.

Fine liturgy and help for the poor must go together.

Our Lady of Good Success-pray for us. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Catholicus said...

I love the Lello Scorzelli crucifix; it reminds me of the drawing by St John of the Cross. I think it helps the Holy Father be close to the crucified one. You can see that in the photographs of John Paul II. But really it's just about individual taste and preference. People are reading far too much into every action of the Pope. One guy at Rorate Caeli has a list of about fifty dreadful things the new Pope has done including drinking tea in public and walking. People need to calm down and wise up.

Physiocrat said...

@viterbo - there is organised begging in this town. The police was called last summer to remove the beggers. Giving money to these people is not the right thing to do in the circumstances but calling the police does not give quite the right message.

Dominie Mary Stemp said...

I have read that this "broken cross" is what satanists used in the 6th century as it isn't respectful of our Lord. I don't know if this is true but I prefer the traditional straight crucifix. Why is it bent at the top?

Arun said...

The staff of Paul VI, John Paul I and John Paul II parrtly of Bendict XVI is a very powerful one. It is simple and shows the crucified Lord in all its power - a sign of contradiction to the world. That Francesco has chosen to use this now is a sign of continuity with his 4 predecessors. It is not a golden cross which looks far too doiminant and ornate. No its power is in its simplicity and I always thought Francesco would bring this one back, and it has happened within one month of his election. No ornate crozier for him.
Also, I should point out that the ferula you show in close up is NOT the same one as that which Paul VI and now Francesco is using. The position of the head is different, the legs are in different position. They are small design issues, but they are different and this point needs to be made. The head on the papal crozier is not bending down at 45 deg.

Frederick Jones said...

My children tended to sing" Come by car, come by bus, or train, or plane", but they felt that "by bike" was lacking in respect.

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