Friday, December 07, 2007

Dr. Alcuin Reid reviews Piero Marini's "A Challenging Reform"

[An important review of a book that divulges some important insights into the nature and process of the liturgical reform as it occurred. I really must get a copy of this text.]

by Alcuin Reid (for The Catholic Herald)

A Challenging Reform: Realising the Vision of the Liturgical Renewal, 1963-1975 by Piero Marini, Liturgical Press

History will record as one of the hallmarks of this pontificate the renewal of the sacred liturgy currently underway in accordance with a “hermeneutic of continuity”, a spirit that is open to legitimate progress but also firmly grounded in the riches of liturgical tradition.

This worries a number of liturgists who have propagated the “hermeneutic of rupture and discontinuity” over recent decades (the “Vatican II changed all that” brigade) and who do not want to go “backwards”. Among them one may number the recently replaced papal Master of Ceremonies, Archbishop Piero Marini, who has published this slender monograph – oddly enough in English only and not, apparently, in Italian.

Its purpose, as the books editors – K. Pecklers SJ, M. Francis, CSV and J.R. Page whose aversion to the liturgical reform of Benedict XVI is apparent – make clear, is to “keep alive” the “vision that inspired the work of the Consilium.” This was the executive group established by Paul VI for the purpose of implementing the reform called for by Vatican II, headed by the progressive Italian Cardinal Giacomo Lercaro and orchestrated by the hyper-efficient Vincentian Annibale Bugnini. They, Marini tells us, “were known for their leadership and open-mindedness” and were “just the kind of individuals needed to advance a liturgical reform that would respond to the needs of the contemporary world.”

One does not attempt to keep something alive unless its life is threatened. Let us be clear: this publication is a partisan response to what Marini terms “a tendency to return to a preconciliar mindset that has for years now characterised the Curia’s approach”. This perceived trend, some liturgists believe, has gained considerable momentum in this pontificate. The book is also an act of filial homage by Marini to his mentor, Bugnini. Marini was at Bugnini’s side in the work of reform from the outset while still a young deacon and priest. It is a pity that their close personal association is not clearly acknowledged or discussed here.

Nevertheless, the book is significant because for the first time the political manoeuvring and motivations of Bugnini and Lercaro et al as they sought rapidly to bring about “a liturgy that would be more pastoral and open to the needs of the contemporary world” are openly discussed.

What is clear is that the implementation of the liturgical reform was politicised from the beginning. The “enemy”, the Congregation for Rites, which was responsible for the liturgy after the Council of Trent, “was still firmly anchored to a limited tradition since the Council of Trent and not in favour of the broad innovations desired by the Council.”

Whether the Council desired any such thing is a moot point. Nevertheless, we are told that the Curia and Congregation for Rites “were in no way suited for the implementation of the Vatican II reform. It was likely that the radical nature of the liturgical reform promoted by the Constitution on the Liturgy was not fully appreciated by the Curia.”

Hence it was necessary to establish a body that did appreciate this but which also had independence of the Curia. This took time and political effort on the part of Bugnini and Lercaro and the most fascinating facet of this book is Marini’s account of the ensuing intrigues as they wrestled to ensure for themselves exclusive authority and the interpretation implementation of Sacrosanctum Concilium. Eventually, when Paul VI’s personal support had been harnessed, Marini was able to boast that it was the “Consilium that had the upper hand.”

And so Marini can rejoice that “the support of the Pope and the collaboration of those forces that had long awaited the liturgical renewal” combined to make it “possible for the Consilium to begin to produce the new revised rites.” This relied on “two crucial further factors: the efficient functioning of the Consilium and the marginalisation of the Congregation of Rites.” The Consilium was “competent, international, collegial, efficient, and unconstrained by precedent,” he claims, and “was greatly aided by the direct access of the president and secretary to the Pope.” Furthermore, “its innovative approach to reform which was closer to reality and more suitable for implementing a liturgical renewal able to fulfil the desire of Vatican II by meeting the needs of the modern world.”

Bugnini’s personality and efficiency were crucial. We are told that he was “continually seeking to expedite the work of reform.” He was in a hurry because “it was necessary to accomplish as much as possible during the time the Council was in session” and lest afterwards the Curia might “not only impede the reform but even thwart it.” We are also told that the secretariat of the Consilium – in which Marini worked – exerted “considerable influence over the progress and orientations of the reform.”

He admits that “it had received an extraordinary amount of authority for directing the reform in each country.” Indeed it had. And, as anyone who has perused the documents that came from the Consilium well knows, they exercised this authority at every conceivable opportunity.

Marini claims that the result of this reform was that “at long last the hopes and dreams of the liturgical movement had borne fruit.” Sixty years after Pope Pius XII’s seminal encyclical Mediator Dei, we may well ask whether this is indeed the case. Many pastors and scholars would not agree that, in Marini’s words, that “the liturgy inspired by the Council needed to leave behind Tridentine forms in order to embrace the genuine expression of the faith of the whole church”.

For the liturgy is more than an “expression of faith” of this or of any other passing generation. Some ask whether the Consilium was itself faithful to the vision of the Council, or whether it operated from its own ideologies under the auspices of Vatican II. Marini regards Bugnini’s work as “one of the greatest liturgical reforms in the history of the Western church.” He writes: “unlike the reform after Trent, it was all the greater because it also dealt with doctrine.” Doctrine? This is precisely the point that critics of the reform – Marini calls them “reactionaries” – have made for decades: that the reform was inspired by different if not divergent doctrine.

This is why there is urgent need today to consider a reform of the reform: to look again at the partisan work described in this book and to correct it in accordance with a hermeneutic of continuity, not of rupture. Let there be development of doctrine, certainly, but not divergence.

A Challenging Reform is of undoubted historical importance and the book places some new material in the public domain. One must lament, however, that Marini does not note all his sources. His assertions surely rest on a lot of archival material that ought to be accessible to scholars. It must also be said that the editors would have done well to check Marini’s text more thoroughly: Dom Capelle died in 1961 not 1971; Archbishop Lefebvre performed schismatic acts in 1988 not in the 1970’s; and the Congregation for Rites was instituted by Sixtus V in 1588, not by the Council of Trent. The book’s subtitle is also a little misleading, for its account of the reform is quite thin after 1965. One would, for example, very much like to learn more about the “not always unanimous dialogue between the Pope and the Consilium” that led to the promulgation of the new Order of Mass, to which Marini refers. Nevertheless today, under Benedict XVI, as we continue to look again at the liturgical reform – which was without doubt a seismic event in the history of Western liturgy – this volume certainly enjoys its rightful place.

Source: The Catholic Herald

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