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By Diogenes (articles ) | Feb 27, 2007

A recent lecture at St. Peter's College in Jersey City highlights long-standing tensions on matters liturgical within the Vatican:

[Fr. Keith Pecklers, S.J.] mentioned Archbishop Piero Marini, the papal master of ceremonies, who for years stood by Pope John Paul II when he presided at Mass. Pecklers said Marini has a book coming out next year blaming the "liturgy wars" on the Congregation for Divine Worship, an office of the Vatican that oversees worship for the Catholic Church worldwide. It's a matter of control.

"The Congregation sought to maintain a monopoly on the liturgical reform and approval of liturgical texts," said Pecklers, paraphrasing Marini. Pecklers said the bishops of a region or a bishops conference -- say in the United States or Canada -- are being undermined in liturgical matters and especially over translations of the prayers at Mass.

A Vatican document, Liturgiam Authenticam, published in 2001, "now requires that all liturgical texts -- including the people's parts -- will need to be translated literally so as to conform to the Latin original," said Pecklers. He believes the new translations may cause more confusion among the faithful -- who are used to the current prayers -- and drive some people away from the church.

This particular intra-Vatican split, as well as its players and its battlelines, had already been identified by the NCR's John Allen in a lecture he gave three years ago in Milwaukee:

"The Congregation of Divine Worship is much more conservative, sober, Romanesque," Allen said. "The Office of Liturgical Celebration doesn't buy that at all. Their liturgies are more modern, dynamic, expressive." He joked that the liturgical office staff "try to set a record for how many liturgical rules they can break in one papal Mass. These things usually have dance numbers that rival 'Cats.'"

As usual, Allen is on target. At one pole of the Vatican liturgical divide stands Cardinal Jorge Medina Estevez, former prefect of the CDW, as its rallying figure. At the opposite pole is Archbishop Marini, officially the head of the Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff and unofficially the mascot for the Desperate Housewives, as this faction of Roman clergymen is known by unsympathetic onlookers. John Allen is a sober journalist, and his references to "Cats," to "dance numbers," and to the camp naughtiness of striving "for how many liturgical rules they can break in one papal Mass" may facetiously exaggerate the operations of Marini's Office, but they accurately convey its ethos.

It's undeniable that Pope Benedict has insisted on somewhat greater decorum than his predecessor regarding pontifical liturgy, but it's just as undeniable that the Liturgy Wars continue to split the Church, from the humblest Mass-center in the Marianas Islands to the Basilica of St. Peter itself. It must be an odd sensation for the Pope to celebrate Mass -- prayerfully, as ever; by the book, as ever -- hearing the knives being sharpened in the background while his own acolytes gaze meaningfully at the exposed neck of the Roman Rite.

Apparently the Pope feels it's a risk worth taking. As with any ritual, the relation of the Eucharistic Liturgy to its participants is both expositive and transformative. The liturgy is expositive in that it gives external expression to interior dispositions; thus the interior dispositions of some persons move them to genuflect, and the interior dispositions of others move them to perform dance numbers from "Cats." The liturgy is transformative in that those who submit to its words and actions -- even if they submit under protest -- are taken up into something larger than themselves and so changed to become that which they were not earlier. Pope Benedict clearly believes such obedience effects its own education, including that of Archbishop Marini.

Can the rest of us -- who have zero control over the direction of the liturgy -- trust those who profess contempt for the rite? Well, to the same extent we "trust" the beast whose restraining chain is pulled guitar-string-tight as he stretches for our throat. Perhaps the more pertinent question is, how long can we trust the chain?

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  • Posted by: - Feb. 28, 2007 3:28 PM ET USA

    One wonders how long it will be before the music of the St. Louis Jesuits is exised from American liturgies.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 28, 2007 9:40 AM ET USA

    If memory serves me correctly, the Archbishop has to present the plan for review by the Holy Father - something he didn't have to do with JPII. Again, keep those who you don't trust closer. The Holy Father works quietly and though some wonder, I believe he knows exactly what he's doing and why.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 27, 2007 8:18 PM ET USA

    I think I read somewhere that Marini's latest 5-year "contract" as papal liturgist expired last Saturday. The pope either gives him another role now or confirms him for another 5 years. I am waiting anxiously for the announcement from Rome. Hopefully all this recent posturing from Marini is because he has been told he won't be renewed.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 27, 2007 7:08 PM ET USA

    Di....We look forward to the pictures as well as the articles! This picture looks like our pastor when he banned us from his office!!!!

  • Posted by: - Feb. 27, 2007 6:40 PM ET USA

    Thank you God for the Toronto Oratory!

  • Posted by: - Feb. 27, 2007 2:26 PM ET USA

    The wheel of justice grinds exceedingly slow as does the Church regarding abuses; but it grinds exceedingly fine. The Mass will be returned to the proper decorum. The abuses instituted by Bugnini and his ilk will pass away.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 27, 2007 1:49 PM ET USA

    "The Congregation sought to maintain a monopoly on the liturgical reform and approval of liturgical texts..." How dare they continue a process started by the Apostles! Get with the program guys preteens gyrating in tights makes for great entertainment.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 27, 2007 11:54 AM ET USA

    This story raises a question as to why the Pope has kept Abp Marini in place?

  • Posted by: - Feb. 27, 2007 9:32 AM ET USA

    Sadly, there are many in the Church who hold its sacred liturgy in contempt and trash the meaning of reverence. One need only look to the leadership of the Archdiocese Los Angeles or even to a local parish to find utter egotism triumphing over Christ at mass. Changing this requires strength and fortitude that can only come from grace itself--for the enemy is well emcamped as usual in all the strategic places.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 27, 2007 9:24 AM ET USA

    It should be noted that Archbishop Marini was the personal secretary of none other then Archbishop Bugnini the chief architect of the Novus Ordo mass. It's too bad he was not sent along with his master to Iran 30 years ago when he was appointed Papal Nuncio at the time of the Ayotollah Komeni. This would be an opportune time to send that bum there now.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 27, 2007 7:52 AM ET USA

    Deo gratias for Diogenes & the work he is doing for the Church. God is using Diogenes well in making such critical info public, for we need to understand the gravity of the liturgical battles: the Eucharist is the source & summit of the Christian life -- & the traitors are striking at the heart of the Church. I hope that the Holy Father gets a copy of this insightful blog to help him understand further, if he does not already, the battles being fought in his own household. Mary, ora pro nobis.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 27, 2007 7:20 AM ET USA

    The sad part about all of this is that it is so unnecessary. All the Holy Father need do is roll up a copy of L’ Osservetore Romano and crack the beast across the snout. Notwithstanding all the pious breast-beating that it would cause the “progressives,” until he subdues the enemies in his own house, Roman Catholicism will continue to founder on the tides of modernism on which it was cast 40 years ago.