Sunday, June 29, 2008

Fr. Neil Roy's Review of Marini's A Challenging Reform

I am not certain how this one almost slipped by unnoticed here on the NLM: Review of Challenging Reform by Archbishop Piero Marini by Fr. Neil J. Roy (Adoremus Bulletin, June 2008)

Here is an excerpt to give you a taste of the review which pulls few punches:

Displeasure at the current state of the liturgy emerges as a leitmotif at the turn of nearly every page, and reaches a crescendo in the question posed by the editors in the epilogue: “Would the bishops of the Second Vatican Council recognize the faithful implementation of their decisions in the present contentious liturgical climate?” (160).

(Readers eager to know precisely what the surviving Fathers of Vatican II have said about the revised rite of Mass would do well to consult “The Fathers of Vatican II and the Revised Mass: Results of a Survey”, by Alcuin Reid in Antiphon: A Journal for Liturgical Renewal 10.2 (2006), pp. 170-190.)

It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the book serves more as a “J’accuse” than a simple memoir. Bitterness and even rancor bleed through the text on many a page. Compared elsewhere to a spaghetti western with heroes wearing white hats and villains wearing black, the account is reminiscent likewise of a medieval chronicle, in which history, hagiography, and moralizing all conspire to tell a plangent, nay at times even maudlin, tale.

Marini portrays Bugnini in glowing terms as the tireless visionary and dauntless reformer who, advancing an agenda of inculturation and purportedly vindicating the cause of national episcopal conferences the world over, battles the prejudices of the Roman Curia enthralled by the ultimate foe, the Council of Trent. Time and again throughout the chronicle Trent rears its hydra-heads to threaten authentic liturgical reform. Its tinpot army is the Roman Curia, in the vanguard of which march and fight the Congregation of Rites, founded by Sixtus V in 1588 and dissolved by Paul VI in 1969.

Note Marini’s characterization of Bugnini’s attitude toward liturgical reform in contrast to that of the Congregation of Rites:

"This new approach to liturgical renewal was entirely foreign to the spirit of the Council of Trent. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the Congregation that had been instituted four hundred years earlier by the Council of Trent to safeguard a uniformity of practice in the celebration of the Roman Rite should argue against the right of the bishops’ conferences to make such determinations." (77)

Opponents of Bugnini’s aims or methods (particularly Cardinals Alfredo Ottaviani and Antonio Bacci) emerge as myopic, jealous, petty, and hopelessly démodé. The tale takes an abrupt turn, however, when Paul VI, heretofore Bugnini’s papal patron and mainstay, exiles Bugnini to Iran and reduces the Congregation of Divine Worship (formerly the Consilium entrusted with the execution of the reforms mandated by Sacrosanctum Concilium), merging it into the Congregation for the Discipline of the Sacraments:

"Instituted and then suppressed by Pope Paul VI, they [the Consilium and the Congregation for Divine Worship] stand as witnesses to the prophetic vision as well as the limitations of his pontificate". (157)

As long as Paul VI gave Bugnini full sway in matters of liturgical worship, the pope ranked as an enlightened ruler; once, however, he manifested his displeasure and reorganized the offices of worship and sacraments, he falls from favor:

"The decision reached in 1975 can only be seen as a negative event in the history of the church’s liturgy. The Congregation for Rites, instituted in 1588 to safeguard the Tridentine liturgy, existed for almost four centuries. However, the Congregation for Divine Worship, instituted to implement the liturgy of the Second Vatican Council, lasted for a mere six years. Even the most optimistic historian would be forced to suspect that the institutional suppression was hardly wise and that in the heat of that month of July, personal resentment seems to have prevailed." (156-157)

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