Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The MC's "Reformiam Authenticam": Marini as Headliner

The more gullible might've believed that the launches of Archbishop Piero Marini's freshly-published treatise on the liturgical reform would be nothing more than a progressive pow-wow in exile.

If that were the case, though, Friday's release event in London wouldn't have featured Msgr Bruce Harbert, looking for all the world like a superfan.

Normally based in Washington, the ICEL chief was just one of 100 of the Anglophone crowd's "great and good" who gathered in the Throne Room of Archbishop's House, Westminster for the former papal MC's presentation of A Challenging Reform: Realizing the Vision of the Liturgical Renewal.

In October, ending a tenure that won him both zealous fans and outraged critics, Pope Benedict named Marini as president of the Pontifical Commission for Eucharistic Congresses, a post whose relatively easy pace has enabled him to emerge on his own after an unprecedented 20 years as the master-planner of Vatican worship.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor hosted, with the papal nuncio to the Court of St James Archbishop Fausto Sainz Muñoz leading a phalanx of bishops that, among others, included Bishop Arthur Roche of Leeds, the chair of ICEL, the English-speaking body responsible for liturgical translations. Also present were the book's editors, "Yank" liturgists all: the Gregorian don Fr Keith Pecklers SJ, the Viatorian Superior-General Fr Mark Francis, and the venerable Dr John Page, ICEL's longtime chief steward.

CNS' John Thavis summarizes the book's points:
[Marini] has chronicled the birth pangs of the liturgical reform generated by the Second Vatican Council and warned of a Roman Curia tendency to return to a "preconciliar mindset."...

Marini recounted the rise of a decentralized and dynamic reform movement in the 1960s and its "curialization" in the 1970s by Vatican officials afraid of losing control.

Many of the hard-won liturgical changes were accompanied by tensions and disagreements inside the Vatican's central bureaucracy, he said....

The book offered an unusual look behind the scenes at the Vatican, beginning with the Second Vatican Council's approval in 1963 of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, which launched an extensive revision of Catholic worship.

In 1964, Pope Paul VI established the Consilium for the Implementation of the Constitution on the Liturgy, an international body that operated with considerable independence from existing Roman Curia offices.

From the beginning, Archbishop Marini wrote, the consilium's efforts met with resistance from traditionalist Curia members, who tried to curb the reform by "opposing real liturgical change and maintaining the status quo."

In 1969, the consilium was transformed into the Congregation for Divine Worship. Just six years later, the worship congregation was disbanded under growing criticism from other Vatican offices.

"This was probably one of the first signs of a tendency to return to a preconciliar mindset that has for years now characterized the Curia's approach," Archbishop Marini said in the book's conclusion.

"As more and more time passes since the Second Vatican Council, an event charged with such hope and desire for renewal, its distinctive contributions seem to be increasingly questioned," he said.

The book focuses in large part on Italian Father Annibale Bugnini, secretary of the consilium and its driving force. As a young priest, Archbishop Marini worked closely with Father Bugnini and at one point was his personal secretary.

Under Father Bugnini, the consilium reflected the liturgical ideas and enthusiasm of local churches, rather than the more cautious approach of Rome, the book said.

Thanks in part to Pope Paul's strategic support, the consilium managed to introduce a succession of significant changes in the liturgy, despite initial efforts by the Vatican's Congregation for Rites to block or delay the reforms, Archbishop Marini said.

He said the Roman Curia's opposition took many forms: official and open disagreement, scathing articles published under pseudonyms, newsletters or pamphlets circulated among the hierarchy, and private meetings.

Hostility sometimes was based on hearsay. When the consilium conducted closed-door liturgical experiments in a chapel near the Vatican, rumors flew around Rome that "unimaginable heresies" were in preparation, the archbishop said.
...the more things change.......

And, present at the launch, the National Catholic Reporter's John Allen relays the author's remarks:

“Almost all the issues of the past remain issues today,” Marini said, citing in particular tensions between conservation and progress, and between “the center and the periphery.” He described his book as “an invitation to look to the future, to take up with enthusiasm the path traced by the council.”

Marini said that four historical factors made the results achieved by the Consilium possible:

  • The presence of the council fathers in Rome during the first two years of implementation of Sacrosanctum Concilium, Vatican II’s constitution on liturgy. The bishops themselves, he said, were “the first guarantors of reform.”
  • The personal support of Pope Paul VI
  • The rapid emergence of a network of “competent scholars,” led by Lercaro and Bugnini

The Consilium itself, “a new office, international in character and working outside the norms of the Roman Curia,” which was “well-suited to the work of reform.”

As the central figures from Vatican II pass from the scene, Marini said, “it is important for the church to retain and renew the spirit that gave rise to the liturgical movement, and that inspired the council fathers to approve the constitution on the liturgy as the first fruit of that great grace of the 20th century which was the Second Vatican Council.”

The council, Marini said, had four “precise goals”:

  • Offering renewed vigor for Christian living
  • Adapting ecclesial structures to meet the needs of the time
  • Promoting the unity of all Christians
  • Strengthening the church’s mission of extending its embrace to all humanity

“The liturgical reform was not intended or executed as merely a reform of certain rites,” Marini argued, “but as the basis and inspiration for the aims the council set.”

“The goal of the liturgy is none other than the goal of the church,” he said, “and the future of the liturgy is the future of Christianity and Christian life.”

Marini said that the “theological and pastoral principles” at the heart of Vatican II “remain perennially valid,” and ended with an almost lyrical note: “The Holy Spirit that inspired the liturgical movement and the council fathers still encircles us like a sacred cloud, and guides us like a column of fire,” offering “beauty ever new” as well as “joy and hope.”

The crowd in the Throne Room responded to Marini’s presentation with sustained applause.

Already presented in Paris in advance of the UK event, the Marini tour comes Stateside in February.