Thursday, January 03, 2008

Vatican’s Top Liturgist Retires, But Says Liturgical Reform Is Irreversible

Archbishop Piero Marini, from 1987 to 2007 the Vatican’s top liturgist and master of ceremonies for papal masses and other liturgical events, has just published a new book, A Challenging Reform: Realizing the Vision of the Liturgical Renewal.

Long regarded as the chief in-house champion of the liturgical reforms endorsed by the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) and implemented by Pope Paul VI in 1969, Marini knew by the end of his career that his enthusiasm had been well corralled.

So it was no surprise that his book gives a new public pitch for the reforms he never let John Paul II or Benedict XVI forget, as he quietly stage-managed them at their sides during their public liturgies.

But given Rome’s efforts over the last 40 years to turn back the clock on the church’s official liturgy, what is remarkable is Marini’s confidence that the liturgical reforms launched by Vatican II were necessary, inescapable and “permanently valid,” and that they set the church on a path that is irreversible.

Not only that: Marini believes that the Consilium—the collegial, consultative, international group of liturgical experts which guided the initial implementation of Vatican II’s liturgical reforms despite having no judicial authority of its own—is a model for a new way the Vatican could operate.

These were his themes in
an interview with John Allen Jr., published in the 12/28 print edition of the National Catholic Reporter.

Marini sees nostalgia for the church’s liturgical past as unproductive, and dangerous. Speaking of young priests so afflicted, he asks: “How is it possible to be nostalgic for an era they didn’t experience? I remember this period. From the age of 6 until I was 23, in other words for 18 years, I lived with the Mass of Pius V. I grew up in this rite, and I was formed by it. I saw the necessity of the changes of Vatican II.”

He compares those who long to march backwards to “the woman from the Old Testament who turned around and became a pillar of salt.”

He finds several principles of Vatican II’s liturgical reforms perennial:

Insistence that liturgy celebrates what is contained in the Bible.

Ensuring that liturgy remains grounded in the practices of the early church.

Remembering that the priesthood of liturgical presiders is derivative from the priesthood of all believers, and not the other way around.

The possibility of adaptation in liturgical language.

Liturgy as both the summit and the source of the church’s communal life.

Marini’s book was finished before last July, when Benedict XVI made it easier for local priests to celebrate the old Latin Mass. Marini tries really hard not to comment on the change. He tells Allen calmly “I might have different ideas.” But he says the pope needs to be taken seriously on two statements that accompanied his decree: that his motive was to re-establish unity with disaffected Catholic conservatives, and that greater availability of the Latin rite “in no way detracts from the validity of the liturgical reform.”

It is no secret that a major piece of Vatican II’s unfinished business is the reform of the Vatican curia, the complex bureaucracy of “congregations” instituted by the pope in 1588 to implement the Counter-Reformation policies of the Council of Trent.

Noting that the church got along for over 1,000 years without the Roman congregations, Marini says “eventually it will be necessary to return to the Consilium as an example of how to streamline the congregations, so that they are not just organisms bound by certain rigid norms, but more flexible bodies for resolving the problems of the world today.”

Marini says this necessitates that the bishops be more involved in decisions about the church. He says that was the intention of Paul VI in creating the Synod of Bishops and encouraging national bishops’ conferences. Unfortunately, he notes, these bodies have been reduced to appendages for creating documents and giving the pope advice.

No comments: