the liturgist's lament

By Diogenes (articles ) | Feb 12, 2008

Having (finally!) been relieved of his duties as the Vatican's chief liturgist, Archbishop Piero Marini-- not to be confused with his successor at that post, Msgr. Guido Marini-- has written a little book defending his approach and denouncing his critics.

If you enjoy liturgical dance, conch-shell fanfares, and rainbow chasubles-- in short, if you are high on the "spirit of Vatican II"-- you probably miss Archbishop Marini, and would enjoy his new book, A Challenging Reform: Realizing the Vision of the Liturgical Renewal, 1963-1975.

Father George Rutler is not a big fan, however, and his acerbic review of the Marini book for First Things blasts gaping holes in the arguments that the author uses to justify his divergence from accepted liturgical norms. ("Marini is not a slave to the Principle of Non-Contradiction," Father Rutler notes.)

Archbishop Marini wants to revive the excitement that he, at least, apparently felt during the era of liturgical experimentation that followed Vatican II; he is contemptuous of those who harken back further to the traditions of bygone centuries. Father Rutler wants to know "why nostalgia for the 1560's is inferior to nostalgia for the 1960's, except for dentistry."

The Marini book is an apologia for the work of professional liturgists over the course of the last four decades. Not surprisingly, then, the archbishop is now on tour, promoting his book and rallying the spirits of his fellow liturgists-- who might otherwise be depressed by the trend toward liturgical sobriety under Pope Benedict XVI. Their day has come and gone, their work has lost its luster, the people in the pews are bored with their latest shenanigans. Still you can't expect the liturgists to go quietly, because...

The blithe obliviousness of many experts to damage all around them is, nonetheless, breathtaking.

Amen. The whole review is a "must read."

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  • Posted by: - Feb. 17, 2008 11:05 AM ET USA

    We manifest our bad actions as a result of bad thoughts which then enter the will. Bad liturgy is caused by bad theology; it doesn't just happen by accident.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 15, 2008 7:20 PM ET USA

    Comment, I can't agree. True, one needs to shun the "heresy of formlessness"--of saying liturgical forms have no inherent content, but there's also an error of formalism, that conflates excessively content and form as certain traditionalists, in my opinion do. This last error is historically characteristic of the Eastern Orthodox, not Catholics. "Quo primum" as anyone who knows the language of old canon law call tell, is in no way directed at future popes, just future printers.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 13, 2008 11:07 PM ET USA

    His travels, justifications, and nostalgic look backwards reminds me of old hippies in today's society. As a matter of fact he might just be an old hippie!

  • Posted by: - Feb. 13, 2008 2:56 PM ET USA

    Actually, Ephod, liturgy purports to be the direct and repeated public worship of Almighty God Himself. That is why St. Pius V issued Quo Primum in 1570 to immortalize the Traditional Mass, to protect Catholics against Luther, Cranmer and Bugnini/Marini-type innovations. Bad liturgy is therefore arguably much worse than bad theology, but it seems Abp Marini and his bosses will long be remembered for both.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 13, 2008 8:27 AM ET USA

    I'd like to know if +P. Marini is the actual author of the book or is P. Keith Pecklers, SI, and P. Mark Francis, CSV the real authors.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 12, 2008 4:47 PM ET USA

    Well, Comment, liturgy may not have been J.P.-II's strong points, but his service to the Church can and will stand on its own. I dare say its memory will last long after almost everyone else alive in the Church during that great pontificate--Marini included--is forgotten. Bad taste in liturgy is indeed bad, but theological error per se it is not.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 12, 2008 3:40 PM ET USA

    Absolutely a must read. Heidi, save the price of the book and use it toward a subscription to First Things. It's a must read every month! (Or, wait a couple of months till this month's number becomes free on line.)

  • Posted by: - Feb. 12, 2008 10:55 AM ET USA

    It is wonderful that we have outlets like CWN and Fr. Rutler criticizing Abp Marini’s penchant for radical liturgies and lamenting the “blithe obliviousness of many experts to damage all around them.” But we need to be honest Catholics and go one step further. Remember, Abp Marini arranged papal liturgies for Pope John Paul II for many years with the Pope’s full approval and participation. We must surely acknowledge that Abp Marini’s errors reflect directly on the person he served for so long.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 12, 2008 10:51 AM ET USA

    Unfortunately, one must be a subscriber to "First Things" to read the article - pity!

  • Posted by: - Feb. 12, 2008 10:41 AM ET USA

    Fine read, indeed! Worthy of being sent to every pastor who allows such "reforms" as the kick club liturgical dancers, and the finest variations on treacle themes by Haugen, along with lay homilists at mass; or whose own faith rarely transcends that of the United Secularist-Humanist church down the street.