Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Excerpts from Rutler's Review of Marini

FIRST THINGS: A Journal of Religion, Culture, and Public Life now has Fr. George Rutler's review of Piero Marini's book, A Challenging Reform available online to subscribers of that journal.

I have been given permission by First Things to post a selection from the piece here on the NLM for non-subscribers.

I'd encourage people to watch eventually for the entire piece, which is very good.

The Spirit of Vatican II
by George W. Rutler

To young people today, Vatican II reposes in a haze with Nicaea II and Lateran II. Their guileless ignorance at least frees them from the animus of some aging liturgists who thought that the Second Vatican Council defined a whole new anthropological stage in the history of man. The prolix optimism of many interpreters of that council has now taken on a ­patina—not that of fine bronze but more like the discoloration of a Bauhaus building. Reflective minds, ever grateful for the more important contributions of Vatican II, have had to reconcile a declaration (on the twenty-fifth anniversary of Sacrosanctum Concilium) that the vast majority of the faithful enthusiastically have welcomed liturgical changes with subsequent pontifical acts of reparation for liturgical confusion.

In his new book, A Challenging Reform, Archbishop Piero Marini has done historians a service in tracing the development of the modern liturgy.


Marini is not a slave to the principle of noncontradiction. The Consilium was "to reflect the hopes and needs of local churches throughout the world," but two sentences later Holy Mother Church becomes something of a nanny: "In order to renew the liturgy, it was not enough to issue new directives; it was also necessary to change the attitudes of both the clergy and the lay faithful to enable them to grasp the purpose of the reform." In case the people thought something was being done to them instead of for them, various means of social communication would be required "in preparing the faithful to welcome the reform."

The result was implemented on March 7, 1965, with the instruction Inter Oecumenici. Busy hands then set to work in their laboratory to introduce the "broad innovations" that the author says were desired by the council. Some of these matched propositions of the 1786 Synod of Pistoia that Pius VI condemned for its Jansenism. These included vernacularism, elimination of side altars, didactic ceremonial, and astringency of symbols. The versus populum ­posture of the celebrant was taken for granted in the romantic archeologism that Pius XII warned against in Mediator Dei. Translation of the ­lectionary gradually expanded to a practical neglect of Latin. Regrettably, the author seems to take an unedifying satisfaction in how the Congregation for Rites was "marginalized" and "now had to submit to the authority of the Consilium and accept its reform unconditionally."


The editors of Marini's A Challenging Reform explain that their aim is to "keep alive" the "vision" of the Consilium, but their diction is a voice in a bunker, embittered by the failure of people to be grateful. If an organism is truly healthy, it does not need a life-support system.


For all its proponents' goodness of intention, this kind of thing confuses universality with internationalism, treats the awesome as picturesque, suburbanizes the City of God , and patronizes nations and races.


Perhaps greater contact with pastoral reality would have anticipated the chaos that comes when ardent but misbegotten theories are imposed on the people of God who do not regularly read Notitiae. The blithe obliviousness of many experts to damage all around them is, nonetheless, breathtaking. At times in various lands it is like watching a venerable procession of Alcuin, Ivo of Chartres, Gueranger, Fortescue, and Jungmann and finding, at the end Inspector Clouseau.

Those entrusted with so great a project as the Second Vatican Council would have done better had they not felt obliged to act with such haste. One problem in the frantic rush for deadlines was the inconvenience of the Italian postal system. There will never be another ecumenical council without email.

Rev. George W. Rutler is pastor of the Church of Our Saviour in New York City and the author of Coincidentally: Unserious Reflections on Trivial Connections.

Copyright (c) 2008 First Things (March 2008)

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