More from John Allen on Msgr. Marini and Benedict XVI

This is a companion piece to Mr. Allen’s interview with Msgr. Guido Marini, the papal MC.

My emphases and comments.

Liturgist: Pope aims to ‘propose’ practices
Mar. 03, 2010
By John L Allen Jr

ROME — For the better part of five years, plenty of experts on Catholic liturgy have been waiting for the “real” agenda of Pope Benedict XVI, known as a traditionalist on matters of worship, to emerge from beneath a façade of patience [But… read Ratzinger on liturgy!  It’s genuine patience.] seemingly built on dropping hints rather than imposing sweeping new rules.

Now, however, the pope’s own liturgist insists that the patient façade is actually the agenda[Of course.  When speaking about, for example, ad orientem worship Papa Ratzinger clearly knows that it is superior to versus populum worship.  But he warns against an imposition, which would create many problems… much as it did when the liturgy was being torn to pieces during and after the Council.  We must avoid abrupt changes for the sake of the people of God.]

One month ago, that papal liturgist, Msgr. Guido Marini, sparked wide debate with his public call for a “reform of the reform,” suggesting to some a desire to roll back the clock on liturgical reforms associated with the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). However, Marini insists that no such rollback is underway, and no dramatic new rules are in the works[An obvious point, but one that must be repeated and repeated and repeated for the readers of NCR, who are more than a little obtuse on this point.]

When Benedict employs more traditional touches in his own liturgies, such as giving Communion on the tongue, [That might be a "traditional" touch, but it has continued to the norm for the Church.  Communion on the hand is an aberration from the norm permitted by indult.] those amount to “proposals,” Marini said, intended to gradually influence the church’s liturgical culture, and are not harbingers of forthcoming papal edicts.

“I don’t believe that the liturgy of the church needs any radical changes or distortions,” Marini said, saying he “fully” agrees with a comment from then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, that Catholic liturgy needs a “period of stability” after the wave of dramatic, and at times contentious, reforms that flowed from Vatican II.

Marini, the master of papal liturgical celebrations, spoke in an exclusive interview with NCR Feb. 9 in his Vatican office. (Read more of the interview here: Q & A with Msgr. Guido Marini, papal liturgist.)

When Marini addressed a Jan. 6 conference in Rome sponsored by the Australian Confraternity of Catholic Clergy and the U.S.-based Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, he seemed to call into question at least some of the reforms from Vatican II, such as active participation by laity in the liturgy [I am glad Mr. Allen started this with "seems", because that was patently absurd.  What is needed is a deeper understanding of what "active participation" means.] and greater “inculturation,” meaning adjusting the church’s rites to reflect local cultures.  [And we need a better understanding of inculturation, apart from the selling out of Catholic identity which we usually see.]

In his conversation with NCR, however, Marini said that undoing those reforms is not what he had in mind. Marini conceded that the liturgical winds are blowing in a traditional direction, but said any change should happen slowly and without new upheaval.

“I believe it’s a matter of consolidating what we already have, in a more authentic way, according to the true mind of the church,” Marini said. He said that’s what Benedict has in mind when he talks about “development in continuity.”

Marini, 44, has served as Benedict’s master of liturgical celebrations since October 2007. In that role, he is the chief organizer of the pope’s own celebrations; liturgical policy for the wider church is set by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, presently headed by Spanish Cardinal Antonio Cañizares. [Not to mention Pope Benedict.]

Trying to turn back the clock on Vatican II “wouldn’t make any sense, because it’s not how the life of the church works,” Marini said. New developments, he said, should happen “organically,” and “the best way, the most correct way … is certainly not to reject the reforms that were determined by the Second Vatican Council.”


The rest of the article is pretty much a summary of other points and you can read them on your own.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Will D. says:

    [That might be a “traditional” touch, but it has continued to the norm for the Church. Communion on the tongue is an aberration from the norm permitted by indult.]

    I think you mean “Communion in the hand is an aberration…,” but the point is right on. The Pope’s using light reins to bring the liturgy back into order, and I applaud him for it.

  2. slow and steady wins the race…The ship is slowly being set right

  3. Desertfalcon says:

    So will we continue to see a seperate OF and an EF in the future?

  4. mpm says:


    Depending on your lifespan, my guess would be, “Yup”.

  5. Moscatelli says:

    According to clerical rumours, patience has its limits – according to these rumours, legislation on ad orientem worship would be in the offing.

  6. ssoldie says:

    The word is “organically”. Reclame our Catholic culture.

  7. joanofarcfan says:

    I say just roll the clock back all the way right now. I guess I’ve been upset for too long.

  8. ipadre says:

    “Active Participation” is always a problem. This term is not only misunderstood by the laity, but by Religious, Priests and some Bishops. I once had a mother call me follow 1st Communion. She was angry and disturbed that her daughter didn’t “do anything” during the Mass. “Every child should do something”. I tried to explain to her that she did the greatest thing of all by receive Jesus Christ in Holy Communion. Nothing could calm her down or giver her any common sense.

    I have just one more thought. Marini said: “Trying to turn back the clock on Vatican II “wouldn’t make any sense, because it’s not how the life of the church works”. No one cared about that after the Council! Maybe we shouldn’t change anything through directives from above, but we sure do need some strong and decisive teaching on Liturgy from above (the Holy Father and CDW). This kind of teaching needs to come as major documents and frequent teachings. Of course, we need to do the same in our parishes, schools, dioceses, etc… But many people say that when we do it, it’s just our “opinion” or “style”.

  9. Widukind says:

    Proposals are well and fine, and do set the agenda, but perhaps there needs to be a bit of bite to them. As example, for ad orientem, one may say: “Yes, the Holy Father desires this or prefers this.” And the response: “Well, where has this been legislated? It is only his opinion.” Nevermind that the GIRM allows for it, there does need to be some type of new directive given that clearly states such has always been permitted. The same could be said about kneeling for Holy Communion. A bishop who I know said that while one cannot deny Holy Comminion to a person who kneels, the norm for receiving Holy Communion in the U.S., approved by Rome, is standing, etc. So a dichotomy exists:
    the Holy Father’s proposal and the approved norms. Because there is no directive from Rome clearly permitting it, a priest (knowing full well the better reasons for kneeling) would find it difficult to defend his disobedience to the U.S. norm if pressed upon by a member of his parish. All the reasoning in the world would not be convincing to him. Simply put: “Father is doing his own thing. He is being disobedient to the bishop. He is setting a bad example in being defiant to approved practices.” (This is from personal experience.) If there is the desire that these proposals catch on, there needs to be something explicitly stated that such are permitted, and have always been permitted. Or else, no matter how often and vigorously they are proposed, there will always be a cold reception by the people for the most part, and so then be a source for division.

  10. merrydelval says:

    Cheers for Widukind’s comment. As a priest, I am in the unenviable situation of having to abide by the usual customs (Communion standing, in the hand, Mass facing the people), even as I am aware of their problematic nature. And even though I teach about proper reverence for the Eucharist, that the Mass is not about us, but about God, if what the people see is not totally in line with that teaching, then what message does that send? I respect the Holy Father’s cautious approach in leading by example, but in my own mind there is a great fear, which perhaps is my own lack of trust in God. So many aspects of the “Reform” were imposed inorganically; how can the liturgy be restored only by example, as if it will happen organically merely by the charismatic example of the Pope? Even if the Pope imposed nothing in terms of legislation, but wrote an encyclical explaining the why of Mass ad orientem, Communion kneeling and on the tongue, and the true spirit of the liturgy, with specific proposals to restore the liturgy and why they are being proposed, think what that could do. Also, so many of these things are indults anyway; and if the Pope gave the indult, why can he not take it away? I know that some of my parishioners think that I am doing my own thing, disobedient to Vatican II because I sing the orations, occasionally wear a Roman chasuble, and don’t pray Mass like a talk show. To have some support in a real way would be so encouraging. How many priests would then run to embrace the Holy Father’s vision in parishes and schools, and we could not be held back by others?

  11. Fr Martin Fox says:

    I like John Allen–he’s a breath of fresh air in a bunker filled with rancorous fumes–but I don’t care for the “roll back the clock” imagery. And, yeah, I know some of you do; but it’s the opposition’s framing. What we are for is not a relic of the past, but that which is eternal and timeless.

    Also, it is rather arrogant for anyone to assume they know what represents “progress” and the hope of the future. I have no idea what the future holds, if I did, my parishes’ financial security would be assured. So I don’t pretend to say, “such-and-such is future, such-and-such is backward.” That is arrogant. And I simply refuse to play along with that framing.

    When you let your opponents frame the issue, you give up a huge advantage.

    We want what is beautiful, good and true, regardless of what age it comes from, because it belongs to all, of every place and time.

  12. From the illustrious Vincenzo:

  13. Maltese says:

    *and greater “inculturation,” meaning adjusting the church’s rites to reflect local cultures. [And we need a better understanding of inculturation, apart from the selling out of Catholic identity which we usually see.]*

    Ahh, “inculturation,” a word I love!

    But let us not forget “lex orandi, lex credendi”! But I will say this about these beautiful Catholic people (and I really mean that) in probably the poorest part of the earth: look at how they are dressed; they show a due reverence and respect for the sacred that we in the west have utterly lost.

  14. idatom says:


    merrydalvel, ipadre, Fr. Fox, Fr. Z., and all priest who love the church, take hart she has always had problems, her priests have been taken for granted since the last supper. Nothing new. Trust in God, don’t worry about what others say, don’t let your opponents frame the issue, and avoid abrupt changes good advice for all of us from each of you.

    Thanks for giving your lives to the church, more folks appreciate your efforts than you could ever imagine.

    Tom Lanter

  15. catholicmidwest says:

    You know, I’ve had a few interesting experiences that come to mind when I read this stuff. Do you know that you can talk to a Mormon for hours before you catch on to the fact that the apparent agreements that you have are based on parallel but different definitions–in fact, definitions that can be entirely contradictory, but fit into a context that sounds like genuine agreement. It’s a fascinating and confounding experience. Reading some of this is like that.

  16. catholicmidwest says:

    I have no idea where this is all going or what it means. I only hope the new translations make it through the process okay, and we get on with that at least.

  17. southern orders says:

    Msgr. Marini is quite the MC and so articulate. You really can’t miss what he is saying and what he is saying is quite revolutionary and profound. I have a commentary on the interview on my blog, with some nice pictures in living color:

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