Marini (not Guido) says John Paul II wanted all the liturgical nonsense

On the Italian blog Palazzo Apostolico there is a piece by Paolo Rodari in which he say that the former papal MC, Archbp. Piero Marini states that Pope John Paul II wanted all the liturgical novelties which sprinkled his pontificate (and, in my opinion, not in a good way).

I don’t have time to translate this, but the core is this:

  • Piero Marini was the next to continue the line of liturgical thought of Fr. Bugnini.
  • Some say Marini imposed the liturgical hijinkx on a conservative Pope.
  • Marini says, in a new book called “Io sono un Papa amabile. Giovanni Paolo II”, published by San Paolo and written with Bruno Cescon, that John Paul wanted those things and, “would have desired something more” to break out of the rigid Roman canons.
  • Every voyage, a new liturgy.

And there is an awful anecdote about the Pope’s reaction to some liturgical dance.

I think Archbp. Marini is terrified that his liturgical world has been eclipsed and that the shadow that now blankets him is getting deeper.   This is an apologia for, in my mind, the indefensible, and I just don’t but that the late Pope went along with everything Marini did.  Some, yes.  All, no.  I don’t buy it.

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  1. sprachmeister says:

    He’s said this before. There was an interview with this Marini about a year ago in the German magazine Liborius (which I just happened to read while I was waiting in an airport). In it you could practically hear him sighing heavily that his pet liturgy project was “goin doun the lavvy pan”.
    You can even see the page online for the Liborius magazine website (though unfortunately you’d need to subscribe to read it, I think).

  2. cantus says:

    Not sure about where JPII stood but when I saw the words, “Every voyage, a new liturgy” all I could think of was “Every voyage a new heresy”. When it comes to liturgical dance there is no greater than this one.

  3. Ioannes Andreades says:

    Would be interesting to get corroboration from a certain Polish cardinal.

  4. TNCath says:

    I don’t buy it either. While he was no liturgical expert as is Pope Benedict, Blessed Pope John Paul II spoke out numerous times against abuses in the liturgy and called for fidelity to the rubrics as indicated in the GIRM. It was also in his pontificate that Liturgicam Authenticam was promulgated.

    At the risk of this posting’s getting delayed for moderation, I attach the following link to an address by His Holiness to the Bishops of Washington, Oregon, Montana, Idaho, and Alaska on their ad limina visit in 1998:

    This sounds like sour grapes on the part of Archbishop Marini, and I’m somewhat surprised he is being allowed to publish such nonsense.

  5. Legisperitus says:

    A sad attempt to appropriate the good name of the newly-beatified Pope to shore up his collapsing agenda.

  6. rfox2 says:

    May God have mercy on the soul of Bl. John Paul II. I have to believe that, similar to the Assisi shenanigans, John Paul II had good intentions for the liturgical innovations. But, it cannot be denied that at the very least, he allowed the liturgical aberrations to occur. I find it impossible to believe that the pope was caught completely by surprise by what went on at papal liturgies. If it happened one or two times, and the pope had put Marini on notice, it would be more believable. But, the fact that Marini remained the papal MC tells me that the pope was fully aware of what would happen and at some level approved of it. John Paul II may have been many things as pope, but he was neither completely ignorant nor incompetent as a bishop.

  7. BaedaBenedictus says:

    I think you have it, Father. Kind of like Paul VI with Bugnini (Piero Marini’s master), in which Bugnini flung a barrage of novelties at the Holy Father, and Paul accepted some and rejected others.

    It’s interesting to note how much more traditional John Paul’s Masses were early in his pontificate. It’s almost as if his resistance to Piero Marini’s shenanigans slowly wore down over time.

    It’s safe to say though that John Paul was not an especially liturgical guy. A great teacher and probably a future Doctor of the Church, but not too insistent about the liturgy. I think he was honestly and sincerely puzzled why some Catholics were so insistent about keeping the TLM—“Why does it matter so much?” I can imagine him saying. To his credit he was willing to allow them the TLM, though not over the objections of their bishops. Of course in 1983 the s**t would have really hit the fan if he had dared to issue something like Summorum Pontificum.

  8. James Joseph says:

    The idea that the John Paul II was liturgically self-centered seems to go against George Weigel’s writings. It also seems to go against his wearing of fiddle-back chasubles, saying the Ordinary Form facing the Tabernacle. If he had it was only to endure the theological error hoping it will go away and thusly ward off schism, and/or personal weakness in exercising his leather belt across our backsides.

    If anything my former pastor James P. Maroney has taught me it is to be level-headed, not jumping to conclusions, and that there are many priests and bishops who are a little afraid to assert the discipline of the Sacraments.

  9. Centristian says:

    With all due respect to the venerable memory of Blessed Pope John Paul II, I must say that it is rather difficult for me to imagine that the late pope simply didn’t want any of the liturgical novelties he presided over for decades to happen, and that they were all just foisted upon him by his Master of Ceremonies (a claim I have often heard and read). If the pope did not approve of what was going on at his own liturgies (not to mention everywhere else), then why did he consent to all of it? Not just once, or twice, but consistently, for over a quarter of a century?

    I cannot imagine that it was just a matter of the pope allowing Archbishop Marini to get away with doing things that were contrary to his own liturgical sensibilities. Why would the pope allow his MC to publicly contradict his actual wishes over and over again? That makes no sense to me. At some point, early on, he would have told his MC that he did not approve of what was going on and would have given instructions to begin correcting things.

    I have to believe that Pope John Paul II’s liturgical vision for the Church was accurately revealed by the liturgies he celebrated. I don’t believe his true vision was hidden by them. The alternative supposition–that Bl. John Paul II was actually a liturgically traditional pope who was just a helpless puppet and victim of a sinister MC–is just unrealistic, to me. So for that MC to come out in a book and write, “you know, the pope himself wanted all of this,” doesn’t necessarily strike me as sour grapes as much as it strikes me as…well…stating the obvious. I never imagined otherwise.

  10. Henry Edwards says:

    Father Z: I just don’t buy that the late Pope went along with everything Marini did.

    Some of us live in parishes where the pastor’s word is law, and nothing happens, liturgically or otherwise, without his consent.

    Could you enlighten us with a few words about how or why this would not be the case with the Vicar of Christ on Earth regarding the liturgy in his own (St. Peter’s) Basilica.

  11. RichardT says:

    Was there also a (very human) need in our last Pope to be popular, which he thought was partly satisfied by these liturgical innovations?

    In contrast the current Pope seems to do very little to court popularity, but seems delightfully surprised at how loved he is. There is a shy, surprised smile that he has in several photographs, which is utterly charming.

    This is of course pure speculation, based only on their public appearances, as I have no personal knowledge of either Pope.

  12. dcs says:

    Is it fair to ask, if Pope John Paul II did not approve of Abp. Marini’s liturgical novelties, why he elevated the latter to the episcopate (and consecrated him himself) and (later) gave him the title of Archbishop? It’s one thing that Abp. Marini was not punished. It’s quite another thing that he was rewarded.

  13. Mundabor says:

    The late Pope might not have positively wanted the novelties, but he certainly didn’t stop them and therefore at least tolerated them. Personally, I think that a favourable treatment of liturgical innovations was very much in line with the late Pope’s desire to “connect” – particularly with the young – at the cost making rather notable mistakes. That he might not have endorsed the very worst I do not doubt, but this is the Pope who gave us the Assisi gathering in 1986, a beautiful example of desire to “connect” gone awry, and therefore I trust that he would go very far anyway. It might well be that Marini stresses too much certain episodes to make his point, but I wouldn’t say that his portrait is unfair.

  14. tzard says:

    I note that Bl. John Paul II cannot defend these allegations.

    Another note: From the description it’s not clear whether the pope expressed this wish, or this was just an assumption, ala “the spirit of Vatican II”.

    Anything more – from misrepresentation of the facts to alzheimers – is pure speculation here.

  15. Mundabor says:

    “Was there also a (very human) need in our last Pope to be popular, which he thought was partly satisfied by these liturgical innovations?” Richard, if you ask me I think that he came to believe that the work of evangelisation would be helped by a strong connection with the person of the Pope. I can’t believe that he would see in this a matter of personal quest for popularity, but rather of seeing the figure of the Pope as an excellent testimonial for the Church. Unfortunately, the testimonial ended up being more popular than the product, with huge gatherings to see him of whom it was legitimate to wonder (as the then cardinal Ratzinger himself did) how many were churchgoers; and with an entire generation of people calling themselves Catholic but unable to recite I do not say the works of mercy, but even the Ten Commandments. This way, JP II came to be the Che Guevara of modern times: a person whom million carry on their t-shirts, but without knowing what he really stands for or, in case, caring for it.

  16. Geoffrey says:

    I don’t buy this at all, but it will certainly give traditionalists something to feed on.

    It was Archbishop Piero Marini himself who said that Blessed John Paul the Great was “not a liturgist” and so left everything to him, whereas His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI is a liturgist and he checked over every detail while the archbishop was still his MC.

    In 2006, Archbishop Marini is quoted as saying: “With John Paul II I had a bit more freedom… We had an implicit pact, because he was a man of prayer and not a liturgist” and that with Pope Benedict XVI: “I have to be a bit more attentive, because he is an expert on liturgy.”

    I think this speaks volumes. Blessed John Paul trusted the archbishop to do the right thing; Pope Benedict XVI did not.

  17. albizzi says:

    This is IMHO the first new controversy we got about the late pope JPII (the Great) AFTER his beatification. I didn’t expect it so early.
    A string of other controversies will probably appear that will hopefully make the Vatican a bit more prudent in launching his canonization trial and delay it for many years.

  18. HighMass says:

    As stated in an earlier message the DEAD cannot defend themselves……….Blessed John Paul Pray for us!
    I don’t buy it either……Marini and Bugnini had an agenda………and have done quite well accomplishing there agenda in the past……just look at the last 40 yrs plus……..

    Thank GOD for Pope Benedict XVI! and Guido Marini…….Listened to the Holy Mass From Venice yesterday…….the crowd was asked to respect the Holy Fathers wishes and observe silence……

    We all need to continue to Pray for the “Reform of the Reform”

    Fr. Z, Kudo’s to YOU, we need more Priests Like YOU!

  19. dcs says:

    Blessed John Paul trusted the archbishop to do the right thing

    I trust my employees to do the right thing too. However, when they don’t do the right thing I correct them, and if they continue to not do the right thing I certainly don’t reward them.

  20. Brooklyn says:

    Father Z – I wish you would expound more on why you “don’t buy it.” You personally knew Blessed JP II, you were around when a lot of these things were happening, so your perspective would be greatly appreciated on why you don’t believe JP II was complicit in the “liturgical novelties.” I am sincerely asking, because I truly don’t understand how an apparently holy man like JPII allowed these things to happen, and allowed so much damage to the liturgy.

  21. ContraMundum says:

    “May God have mercy on the soul of Bl. John Paul II.”

    Given the fact that he is a BLESSED, this seems to be a pointless prayer.

    That said, the liturgical abuses, such as dancers with icons appearing during communion during his historic trip to Ukraine (I guess someone thought that mere communion would be too boring), are some of the reasons it is ridiculous to put this saintly pope on par with Gregory the Great and Leo the Great.

  22. BaedaBenedictus says:

    “the crowd was asked to respect the Holy Fathers wishes and observe silence……”

    I heard this announced repeatedly in different languages during the Beatification Mass last week. I thought it was wonderful!

    I was at the papal Mass at Yankee Stadium in 2008, and I still remember the Mass getting interrupted repeatedly by flag-waving, clapping, hollering, cheering, and chants of “Benedicto! (clap clap clap clap clap) Benedicto! (clap clap clap clap clap)….” etc. etc.

    It’s so so encouraging to see the Holy Father brick-by-brick instituting things to increase the solemnity of the Masses he celebrates. The announcements to observe silence are a wonderful development!

  23. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    His Holiness wrote one thing and did nearly the exact opposite. He gave us Domenicae Cenae, and did nothing to advance repair of bad liturgy. He wrote repeatedly about liturgical discipline, and how the Pope’s liturgy is the model to follow, and then allowed all manor of liturgical abuses — but not abuses, since they were committed by the Pope himself. He also insisted that there was a great spring-time taking place, despite mountains of evidence to the contrary.

    I don’t know if the archbishop is making up things or not, but I find the timing of the report interesting. Beatifications aren’t infallible, but canonizations are. Perhaps he won’t be canonized on the same breathless pace?

    God writes straight with crooked lines, no?

  24. BaedaBenedictus says:

    “…are some of the reasons it is ridiculous to put this saintly pope on par with Gregory the Great and Leo the Great.”

    Blessed John Paul the Good. It has a nice ring to it.

  25. Glen M says:

    So we are to believe Bl.Pope JPII knew how to bring the hammer down on Liberation Theology and the SSPX, but couldn’t control his own MC? You don’t have to be an expert in liturgical studies to know how to say the black and do the red.

  26. ContraMundum says:

    “Blessed John Paul the Good. It has a nice ring to it.” Yes, it does. I could certainly go along with that, because John Paul certainly had a good heart.” Blessed John Paul the Kind” would work, too.

  27. jesusthroughmary says:

    ContraMundum says:
    9 May 2011 at 3:36 pm

    “May God have mercy on the soul of Bl. John Paul II.”

    Given the fact that he is a BLESSED, this seems to be a pointless prayer.

    My understanding is that beatification merely allows the faithful to believe that the blessed is in heaven, but does not prescribe such a belief. It is possible, then, to believe that Bl. John Paul II is in purgatory, in which case the prayer would be fruitful. (Of course, a Catholic may not believe that a blessed is in Hell, although I have seen several supposed Catholics engage in such blasphemy with regard to Bl. John Paul.)

  28. Geoffrey says:

    “I truly don’t understand how an apparently holy man like JPII allowed these things to happen, and allowed so much damage to the liturgy.”

    Let us not forget that Blessed John Paul did appoint Francis Cardinal Arinze as Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, which issued the instruction ‘Redemptionis Sacramentum’ in 2004, shortly after Blessed John Paul’s last encyclical letter ‘Ecclesia de Eucharistia’. It is apparent that he began to turn his attention to the liturgy at the end of his pontificate, enabling Pope Benedict XVI to continue. All in God’s good time, not ours.

  29. trespinos says:

    Thank you, TNCath, for linking to that address of 1998 to the bishops of the Pacific Northwest states. Though I was residing there then, I don’t recall ever hearing about the Pope’s address. I do know that by 1998, that area had begun its about-face from the disastrous liturgical experiments that had come before, and I’d like to think that the Pope’s words helped encourage the movement. (In a curious way, the Seattle Cathedral of St. James’ rector’s attempt to foment opposition to the improved MR translation last year can be seen as acknowledgment that the tide had long since turned against him/P. Marini/Bugnini in the struggle.)

    I only regret that the Pope’s address could not also have been directed to the bishops of the California provinces, who have lagged behind their Northwest brothers until now. When I arrived in California in 2006, the “Catholic cultural shock” to someone from the Northwest was considerable. The new episcopal appointments here though do give hope.

  30. Ezra says:

    The “awful anecdote” is indeed awful, and – if untrue – warrants a swift and public rebuke from others who were present at the time. I find it impossible to believe. Marini perpetrated some real horrors, especially during trips overseas; the prayers of the faithful for the Mass in Vitoria (also from the Brazil 1991 voyage) give a flavour of what he was getting away with at the time.

    Some of the Marini-arranged “celebrations” managed to make the LA Religious Ed. Congress liturgies look dignified.

  31. Athanasius says:

    Wait a minute, was he the Pope or was he the Pope? If he didn’t agree with it he could have removed Marini instead of making him a Cardinal(!). I’m tired of this bend over backwards to not criticize the late Holy Father. He died with the sacraments so I don’t doubt he was in heaven, but his beatification is a joke to just beatify the abuses of the council and the abuses of those like Marini.

  32. RichardT says:

    Mundabor (3:08 pm) – thank you, that makes a great deal of sense.

  33. Mundabor says:

    “My understanding is that beatification merely allows the faithful to believe that the blessed is in heaven, but does not prescribe such a belief. It is possible, then, to believe that Bl. John Paul II is in purgatory”.
    + 1

    I have written about my understanding of the matter here:

    Personally, I have no problem whatsoever in believing that the late JP II is in Heaven, and that he went there directly at death; but this is, of course, nothing to do with my opinion about his pontificate.


  34. Mundabor says:

    Thanks RichardT,

    to say some more words about the matter, in my experience rather often people who have a positive “image” of the late Pope have, when I ask, a rather shallow understanding of Catholicism. Some months ago a friend of mine said to me in the same breadth that he liked JP II and that he didn’t understand where is the problem in praying together with Hindus and Muslims. Not to put too fine a point on it, I think he is rather representative of the airport-filling, banner-waving masses of those years. The Assisi-crowds “likes to like”, provided it doesn’t change anything in their habits and way of life.

    When I was in Germany people could tell me how much they liked JP II and how wrong the Church was about contraception, abortion, divorce, homosexuality etc **in the same sentence**. Popularity: yes. But evangelisation?

    JP II filled the airports, whilst the church were emptying.

    I often had the impression that JP II sincerely thought that the masses followed him because they wanted to get nearer to Catholicism; but in my eyes most of them followed him because they wanted to feel better with themselves.


  35. BLB Oregon says:

    In 26 years of his pontificate, and before that, Bl. Pope John Paul II wrote down a few of his scholarly opinions. How many in the Church’s history have left us so many thoughts, expressed in such detail or from such a position of authority? He voiced a few, too. If it isn’t in his writings, isn’t in his homilies, and isn’t in any other remarks he made in public, it is hardly fair to propose that the matter was his “secret policy.”

    He was no coward. What he kept secret, he didn’t mean to make policy. I mean that what he kept secret ought to be assumed to be those writings he had not satisfied himself were ready to be taken at face value, with no explanation or clarification or else were matters that he believed personal opinions of no interest to the Universal Church.

    Had he died from that assassination attempt, from which his life was preserved, I’d be more willing to believe that he took some things to his grave that he meant to say. As it is, I believe he had ample opportunity, ability, and courage to say what he intended to say to the Universal Church. Anyone with hopes that he would have said more has to live with his choice to have said no more than he did, and ought to honor his wishes.

  36. Ef-lover says:

    Actions speak louder then words. The pope is the highest authority in the church , I can’t believe JPII
    would have let Marini pull the wool over his eyes or walk all over him for close to 25 years. JPII could have put an end to all the liturgical nonsense if he really wanted to ( once yes, maybe twice yes , but for 25 years , come on) by putting Marini on notice and even replacing him if he did not shape up.

  37. JonM says:

    I agree with what Athanasius posted.

    Ultimately, the principle of respondeat superior has to come into play at some point when addressing the administration of the previous pontificate.

    These specific claims made in the book have to be investigated before embraced as fact. But the incontrovertible fact is that papal masses were frequently offered way outside of the books.

    Qui tacet consentit. Liturgical conduct at papal masses is not something that can be debated on the same plane as poor episcopal appointments, scandals, etc. Pope John Paul II might not have been particularly absorbed with the liturgy, but he did permit liberality in his own masses throughout his reign.

    With this in mind, while it would wrong to accept the book’s claim without investigation, it would be simply illogical to claim that Pope John Paul II had no share in what went on.

    At some point, even if think for various reasons that the previous pontificate was a ‘turning point’ or ‘galvanizing moment,’ direct, unimpeachable data has to be addressed in an intellectually honest manner.

  38. Geoffrey says:

    “If he didn’t agree with it he could have removed Marini instead of making him a Cardinal(!).”

    Archbishop Piero Marini is not a member of the Sacred College of Cardinals.

  39. muckemdanno says:

    rfox has it right. JP2 was pope for 25 years and he went along with all these kinds of liturgies. He was the boss, he could have removed or reprimanded Marini at any point but obviously did not.

    JP2 was, on matters of liturgy, a “liberal.” It all happened on his watch. It’s crazy to blame his immediate subordinates for what happened on his watch over the course of 25 years.

  40. catholicmidwest says:

    rfox is right. You can be surprised a few times, but not hundreds of times, consecutively. He allowed these things to happen, and one must believe that because he put up with, no, participated in, decades of this, that he must have approved.
    After all, he was the Pope. He had a 25-year reign. He could have changed it if he had wanted to.

  41. catholicmidwest says:

    Yes, mundabor,
    But there are many, many Catholics in high places (and low) who ardently wish to make the Church important to more people, no matter what they have to do to accomplish that, and no matter how “important” is defined. For them, the throngs in Rome for the funeral of PJP2 were heaven on earth. The church was the center of attention and they with it. They will not let go of the notion that earthly attention is the way to “evangelization,” no matter how that earthly attention is acquired.

  42. muckemdanno says:

    How many comments above reflect this line…”I just can’t believe that it’s possible that what Marini says is true…”

    It’s truly frightening that people are so enamored of the cult of personality that they cannot engage in critical thinking.

    If you believe that JP2 did not want any of this stuff, then you have to conclude that one of the following is true (a) JP2 was not very bright and could not see what was happening and who was responsible (b) JP2 was bright and saw what was happening and who was responsible but was completely powerless, even though he was pope.

    I doubt that anyone believes (a) but some probably believe (b) – but if you do then you are basically the biggest “conspiracy theorist” going.

    Unfortunately, the true story is usually the simple one…JP2 was very powerful, very intelligent, and very eager to implement the reform of the liturgy…which he did.

  43. Jason Keener says:

    It is hard to understand why Pope John Paul II allowed Marini to work for him so long. It seems that either the Pope agreed with Marini’s work or was too cowardly to fire him. Unfortunately, these seem to be the most plausible explanations, and neither of them make the late Pope look very good. I still believe, however, that for the most part, Pope John Paul II lived a very holy life as a private person and Roman Pontiff. Saints are not perfect in every action they undertake.

  44. catholicmidwest says:

    Excuses, excuses, excuses. PJP2 was the pope for more than a quarter century. This was how he wanted it, or he would have changed it. Stop making excuses for him.

  45. BLB Oregon says:

    “If you believe that JP2 did not want any of this stuff, then you have to conclude that one of the following is true (a) JP2 was not very bright and could not see what was happening and who was responsible (b) JP2 was bright and saw what was happening and who was responsible but was completely powerless, even though he was pope.”

    I think JP2 was neither omnipresent nor omnipotent. That does not make him either unintelligent or utterly impotent. I also think that some are not giving much account to the direction the ship of 700 million souls and this world of 6 billion was heading when he took the tiller. I would go so far as to say it takes some measure of chutzpah to sit in judgement of the vicar of Christ, and doubly so for those who have never been burdened with an episocopal office during these very difficult and complicated times in the history of the Church.

    As Mother Theresa used to say: God did not call me to be successful. God called me to be faithful. Could Bl. John Paul II have been more successful, do I think he would have done some things differently if he could do it all over? I don’t doubt it. Do I think he was faithful? Yes, I do, and I don’t feel it takes a cult of personality to explain my willingness to think so. I think it is a rational assessment. I think our present Holy Father would say the same. You’ll go a long ways before you find a more rational man among the princes of the Church. Has he done some things differently, signalling that he doesn’t think his friend was perfect? Yes, but not so differently as some thought he would, and not always with the success they’d hope for. That says something, for those of us who like empirical evidence.

  46. Joseph says:

    All this discussions tell me, that this declaration of being blessed was way to hastily. There are a lot of historical facts which have yet to emerge. If it weren’t under the reign of BXVI, I’d say it was by popular demand.

  47. BaedaBenedictus says:

    BLB Oregon,

    Your premises are right, but your conclusions are not. Yes, it is better to be faithful than successful. But in matters of the papal liturgy, that’s precisely the problem. His Masses were often *not* faithful to the rubrics or the spirit of the Roman liturgy. It may have been “successful” to have all of that Marinian “inculturation” and those “relevant” and “meaningful” novelties, but it certainly wasn’t faithful.

  48. BaedaBenedictus says:

    BLB Oregon,

    I would add that in the balance Blessed John Paul was most faithful, a great light of holiness, a great teacher, a man of astonishing courage, and certainly I belief his intentions were good about the liturgy. But, alas, it was a serious blind spot for him.

  49. Why is it so hard for so many people here to believe this? Do you really think that JPII was held hostage by his MC?? Break out the old videos. Look for yourselves, people! Nobody was holding the pope down. Nobody had him chained! Nobody was forcing JPII to smile at those half-dressed African liturgical dancers!

    Piero Marini isn’t lying. Why would he lie?

    Time to exit your fantasy world, people.

  50. AnAmericanMother says:

    There are reasons for the hearsay rule. This is one of them.

    I don’t put a lot of credence in people who put words in a man’s mouth after he’s dead and can’t respond.

    As for why should somebody lie . . . or more likely twist the truth to his liking . . . Happens all the time. To defend his legacy, support his position, gain an advantage. Another reason for the hearsay rule.

    Why he was put up with all those years is a separate issue. My personal observation – just a general one as I am not a Vatican-watcher and know none of the parties involved: most people have a limited tolerance for conflict and can only fight so much and for so long. They wind up choosing their battles. Maybe not the same choices others would have made.

  51. jflare says:

    I don’t pretend to be an expert on the matter, but I’ve generally understood our late Pope to have toed a very thin, fine line, especially liturgically. As I understand it, he had a brutally difficult job.
    When Karol Wojtyla came to the papacy as John Paul II in 1978, where did the Church stand liturgically?
    Well, on one hand, he had die-hard traditional factions who won’t allow any changes to be made to Mass at all; on the other hand, he had equally fervent modern factions who wished to simplify the Mass considerably and omit much of the traditional trappings. Both wanted their way to prevail immediately.
    Oh, yeah, he wanted ALL the faithful to pray the Mass from the depths of their being.

    How to solve this mess?
    One way might be to impose a sort of “compromise Mass” on both sides and threaten both with excommunication or other suitably grave penalty against anyone who dissents. Oh..wait..several nations’ bishops conferences had already exercised a sort of de facto authority by imposing the Novus Ordo in 1969. At the same time, since technically, the traditional Mass has never been officially abrogated, several traditionalist orders have simply ignored the potential abuse of authority..and have continued offering the traditional Mass and hang the opinions of the bishop’s conferences.

    Efforts between 1969 and 1978 haven’t healed wounds, but rather have deepened and widened that rifts that existed before. Now the Church isn’t suffering from lapses of discipline precisely, but has managed to come to the brink of open schism anyway.

    Unfortunately, neither side has precisely broken any canon law rules, so you can’t precisely reprimand either side without either inherently promoting the other side or angering enough of the faction you’ve chastised to simply throw in the towel.

    Now what?
    Well, you can try what John Paul appears to me to have tried: You tolerate the already-enabled changes inflicted by the Novus Ordo, thus allowing local bishops to do their jobs and encouraging them to exercise their authority AS bishops. At roughly the same time, you encourage some degree of traditional expression, but still allowing the bishops to be bishops, by enabling them to offer indults to those orders and parishes that wish to celebrate the traditional way.
    ..And, you challenge the entire faithful to pray the Mass SOMEHOW, even though you know they’re probably going to abuse the opportunity to a fair extent.

    Granted, this sounds almost more like a conspiracy theory than a practical means of guiding the Church, but from all that I’ve read, seen, and heard, it’s likely to be reasonably close to accurate.

    I’ve never quite believed that John Paul II, himself, necessarily cared much for numerous of the practices that he tolerated in the Mass. At the same time, he seems to have felt that the people of the Church needed to have the chance to exercise some authority within their own parishes and nations, thus having the opportunity to learn from their own mistakes.
    Oh, by the way, the whole time that all this goes on within the Church, you’re still up to your eyeballs in unceasing spiritual warfare against the Soviet Union’s authoritarian communism on one side, and the adamant materialism of the United States on the other.

    Under the circumstances, can we truly be shocked that his pontificate tolerated such rampant experimentation and abuse? I think he acted as a true father and allowed his children to learn from their mistakes. Seems to me that his successor, Benedict, may well have helped bring about the situation that John Paul caused to occurr. They WERE well known to have collaborated heavily, after all.

    I think we’re only now beginning to see the fruits of the effort.

  52. puma19 says:

    I have to say I am of the same mind as Centristian who posits that it would be impossible for Blessed John Paul II to just ‘give in’ or be a puppet to Arch Marini for all those two decades or so that the latter was the pontiff’s MC. He travelled the planet with the pope in his great missionary work. Stood side by side with him at vatican ceremonies, St John Lateran and elsewhere. Have people forgotten just how calm, serene and methodical Marini was? He was the perfect MC in the global public domain. But to claim that for all those 20 or so years he ruled the pope on the liturgy etc seems to me to be totally wrong. +Marini could not and would not have been able to do anything in papal liturgies that the Holy Father did not like, agree with personally etc. And let us not forget. Blessed John Paul created Marini first a bishop then an archbishop while he was MC. I cannot remember any 20th century papal MC being created a bishop let alone an archbishop while in their position. The pre-eminent Dante the MC many remembeer was never a bishop whilst MC. That John Paul did this, only serves to emphasise the great faith and trust he had in +Marini for all those years. He cannot just be thrown to the wolves. Time to think again and see what the Holy Father did and how he trusted in his loyal MC.

  53. Virgil says:

    I just had to take Father Z’s bait, “And there is an awful anecdote about the Pope’s reaction to some liturgical dance.” YES ! ! !

    My translation:

    It’s 1991 at San Luis de Maranhao, in Brasil. The local bishop suggests to insert a liturgical dance into the Papal Mass. At the Gospel, two female dancers come out in delicate dresses, maybe silk. They dance. The wind blows up their dresses to reveal quite a bit of their respective intimate places.

    In the sacristy the cardinals are commenting, “Maybe it was planned that way?” Marini says that it was, and asked for the opinion of the president of the Brazilian bishops’ conference, Luciano Mendez de Almeida: “Well, I saw the angels of the resurrection.”

    More over, the Pope turned around to say, “Beautiful, beautiful!” It was as if to say: the Pope knew of the novelty and approved. They grumbled among themselves. Among these, perhaps, was even Joseph Ratzinger, who today as Pope is getting used to a different sort of liturgy in his Church.

  54. albizzi says:

    I don’t understand those who want to separate the personal life and the public life of JPII in order to assess his “sainthood” because if one takes in account his public action as a Pope, everybody knows that there were many questionable things that were sweeped under the carpet by those who were in charge of his beatification.
    I guess that the day I will pass away and appear before God, He will not judge me only on a part of my eartly life because the way I handled my spiritual life probably had less consequences than all the good (or bad) deeds I could make in my life, on my family, my friends, my co-workers, etc…
    I want just to give as an example the way JPII contemptuously ignored his request of a just and legitimate canonical trial to the late Abbé de Nantes (who died in 2010) suspended by his bishop bcs he dared to write and send to the Vatican his “Liber accusationis”.
    In all equity, this was a bad deed: Everyone has the right to be tried when he feels to undergo an injustice.

  55. dcs says:

    It is one thing for the Pope to tolerate the weird, novel practices of his master of ceremonies and not “fire” him. It really is difficult to tell people that their services are no longer wanted. (I’ve only had to do it a couple of times and felt sick for days each time.) I imagine it is even more difficult within the Church. It is quite another thing for the Pope to raise the man to the episcopate, consecrating him himself, and later give him the title of Archbishop. That’s not toleration, but approval.

  56. Joe in Canada says:

    Ezra, I believe that is the Offertory. This is the Prayers of the Faithful:

  57. Centristian says:


    I like your post. It’s very generous to the late pontiff and I appreciate your desire to express such a generosity where I have not always been so able to, myself. I loved and even liked Pope John Paul II, truly, and I think that he did many things that were, in fact, great. I do not think it is at all inappropriate that the world styles him “The Great”. I have no problem with “Blessed”, either.

    I always have imagined that Pope John Paul II was, in fact, liturgically unorthodox, however, which always perplexed and disappointed me, and that assessment of mine is simply based upon what I saw him do, consistently, for 26 years. It wasn’t simply the form of his liturgies that convinced me of it, but his own personal demeanor during them, which to me seemed more like that of an American politician than a pontiff: handshaking and hugging and gladhandling and smirking and clapping and swaying…it wasn’t very pontifical, whatever it was.

    If an American bishop were to celebrate Mass the way Pope John Paul routinely did, Father Z would no doubt post the YouTube video of it on his blog and we would all heap opprobrium upon this unfortunate prelate.

    If Pope John Paul II was purposely unothodox in terms of liturgy, I should also say that I ever imagined that he was certainly well-intentioned, if misguided.

    It could be, however, that things are rather less black and white than what I have always imagined, as your words suggest. It could well be that he was so absorbed with the age and the responsibilities and burdens of his office that he was not at all focused on the style and form of the liturgies into which he was interjected. I find it unlikely that he was so liturgically oblivious…but not impossible.

    I have known priests who were deeply focused on the mission aspect of their priesthoods but who were completely tone-deaf, liturgically speaking. What sort of music was sung or played, what sort of vestments were provided, what sort of liturgical environment was created…these priests could have cared less. They simply didn’t think in terms of “left” or “right” or “progressive” or “traditional”. They just played the liturgical cards they were dealt at any given celebration of Mass by the sacristan, or the parish liturgist, or the MC or whomever.

    If one perhaps happened to wear a flowing yellow caftan with a peace sign emblazoned upon it to celebrate Mass, he would have just as willingly donned an elaborate cloth of gold fiddleback if that was what he found laid-out for him on the vesting table in the sacristy. I’m a sacristan…I did actually did that to one of the priests I’m speaking of once and he just went ahead and put on the fiddleback chasuble without paying any attention to what he was putting on. Couldn’t have cared less. Wasn’t his focus.

    I am also sure that many pre-Conciliar popes had a complete lack of liturgical astuteness and that at one time, the papal MC really did run the show without the pope ever questioning anything, simply doing what his MC told him to do. But that made sense in an age in which liturgy never changed. In the 1970s and 80s and 90s and beyond, however, it seems it would be reckless to simply yield all liturgical authority to your MC, knowing that the universe is looking to you to provide a universal liturgical example in an age of uncertainty and confusion.

    When John Paul II became pope, the new, post-Conciliar styles of liturgical celebration (and their many aberrations) had only obtained for eight years. Eight years. That’s all. That’s not a significant number of years in the history of the Roman Rite. That’s not a huge hurdle to overcome. It doesn’t take a quarter of a century to wean the Church off of the liturgical habits of eight short years. But I don’t think John Paul’s style of celebration was actually about slowly weaning the Church off of anything. It seemed more to me he was stepping on the accelerator, rather than the brake pedal.

    If it were so that Pope John Paul II was a liturgical traditionalist (and I just don’t think anyone can sensibly make that claim), his pontificate would have been the point at which the liturgical mess that ensued following the Council could have been most easily undone and replaced by what the Council actually envisioned. He could have spent the next 26 years of his life and reign correcting the mistakes and setting the proper liturgical tone and example (although I don’t think it would have taken 26 years to repair the damage of eight).

    Had Pope John Paul II done, beginning in 1978, what Pope Benedict XVI is doing now, in terms of liturgy, I am certain that the typical liturgical celebration in the Catholic Church would be very much different than the sort of liturgical celebration that typifies our Masses, today. I’m sure the Church would be much different in many respects, for that matter.

    And if Benedict XVI can do what he is doing as a frail, unpopular octogenarian in the year 2011, forty long years after the introduction of the Paul VI Missal, in an age in which liturgical aberrations are the expected norm, then certainly Pope John Paul II–a popular and vigorous young pope in his sixties–could have easily done the same a measley eight years after the new Missal’s emergence, when liturgical irregularities were relatively new and fresh, and therefore easier to identify as irregularities, before they had become popularly canonized by decades as the expected norms.

    Perhaps Pope John Paul II was not, after all, consciously liturgically liberal. Perhaps had his MCs always been traditional men, all of his liturgies would have been as traditional as his MCs. Perhaps had his sacristans had traditional tastes, his vestments would not have been as weird or as avant-garde as they usually were. Perhaps had the musical directors of his liturgies had a solidly Catholic musical aesthetic, John Paul’s liturgies would have sounded magnificent rather than jazzy or folky or hand-clappy or dancy. Perhaps.

    But who were all of those people looking to for leadership? Whence did they all get their cues? Who was in charge for 26 years?

    “Seems to me that his successor, Benedict, may well have helped bring about the situation that John Paul caused to occurr. They WERE well known to have collaborated heavily, after all.”

    I have no doubt that’s true. When Benedict XVI became pope, there was no solid indication that he was going to be doing anything different, liturgically speaking, then what had been done for the previous 26 years. Benedict began, let us not forget, as John Paul II in uglier vestments and shorter miters, inaugurated in an appallingly simplistic and thoroughly lacklustre installation service. He carried the same crozier, celebrated Mass the same way, tolerated the same nonsense…Benedict was the same as John Paul, only with even worse taste.

    I cannot imagine that what Benedict XVI began to do only a few short years ago represents the culmination of 30 years of collaborating with John Paul II and 30 years of planning for a return to traditional worship that was finally able to happen, but which required, somehow, 30 years of the precise opposite of traditional worship before it could.

    I think that Pope John Paul II and the man then called Ratzinger were both going in one and the same direction together, only that Ratzinger was beginning to have his doubts that it was altogether the right direction. It was only in the last few years that he seems to have positively decided in favor of the outright abandonment of the liturgical trends set during his predecessor’s reign, trends that he was actually continuing at the beginning of his own.

  58. puma19 says:

    The more I look at this piece and the comments coming in I am convinced of the right position of the latePontiff in his whole pontificate. After all, this was the Vicar of Christ, the Successor of Peter (as we hear so much about from the present incumbent these days) who was at the heart of the faith’s liturgical practice. But on this matter of the pope swaying etc at liturgies by one commentator, that is not true. The Holy Father was a deeply reverent and indeed saintly celebrant. I was there at his first Mass as pontiff in the piazza, just a mere 25 yards from the altar and his reverence then and for 27 years after was always the same. He was an inspiration as a priest celebrant, always the saint at the altar.
    But my main point here, is what ought to happen and what ought to have happened to the Sistine squawkers? This is a choir that needs radical overhaul. It really needs to just go. Compare that so called music to the great choirs of Westminster Cathedral or Notre Dame and you have to wonder why they the SC has not just evaporated. Why no great organ music in St Peter’s. Stirring music to set the heart on fire from Pelstrina to great Gregorian chant of the monks or Mozart and Haydn? That seems to me to be the great failure in liturgical practice in the Vatican. How it could improve 100 fold and stir the hearts and minds in a time now when return to cathedral worship is massively increasing across the world. One area that the vatican MC and others need to get to get to grips and bring about massive reform.

  59. Ezra says:

    Joe in Canada,

    You seem to be right. It’s the kind of liturgy where one easily loses one’s place!

  60. Lori Pieper says:

    It wasn’t simply the form of his liturgies that convinced me of it, but his own personal demeanor during them, which to me seemed more like that of an American politician than a pontiff: handshaking and hugging and gladhandling and smirking and clapping and swaying…it wasn’t very pontifical, whatever it was.

    I’m with puma19; I find this statement questionable. I attended several liturgies celebrated by JPII (in Rome as well as here in the U.S.) and I never saw any of that during those Masses. The most memorable occasion was in 1979 in my home state of Iowa, where JPII celebrated Mass at Living History Farms, one of the the very few times during his jaunts to the U.S. where he celebrated the liturgy outside a large city. My whole family was there, along with a very devout crowd of some 250,000 people.

    I was amazed at the way the Pope radiated devotion; his demeanor at the altar was majestic. The people were wholly with him. Later, after he had left, it was passed along to us (by one of our bishops, I believe) that when the Pope was asked what he thought about the Masses and the people on his trip, he said that he liked the people in Iowa best, because they were so reverent and attentive. We were very proud!

    I think a lot of people here are not quite seeing that what the JPII did on his trips to countries like Africa and other Third World places was done with due regard to differing cultures and ways of worship. Some sort of dance is indeed permitted in the liturgical norms when it is part of an indigenous people’s traditional approach to worship. Both the pope and Marini would have done things with this in mind. A lot of these liturgies were undoubtedly planned by the people at the local level (just as they are here in the U.S.) and it is rather hard to criticize what is done without coming across to the people as a kind of cultural imperialist. So the liturgies in these circumstances are given more leeway. Obviously this is going to lead sometimes to what we Westerners consider a lack of decorum, but JPII was able to take this the spirit in which it was intended, and he could enter into those celebrations, as we all saw many times.

    When Pope Benedict was in Africa, I suspect he saw a lot in the liturgy he was not accustomed to, but didn’t throw a fit about it; he encountered a few things at the papal liturgies in the U.S. that perhaps weren’t his personal preferences, but nevertheles entered into the spirit of the occasion and tried to lead the people by his own devotion (at least that was my impression). Things are a bit different in Rome and at home in the Vatican, where he is more directly in charge of the liturgy, and where he can more freely lay down the law. But his guiding principle, and that of JPII seems to be to be a sensible one: “The Sabbath [liturgy] was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”

  61. Mundabor says:

    Lori Pieper,

    I hear what you say, but I personally am very glad that Pope Benedict is less into the spirit of the occasion and more into the spirit of the liturgy. I don’t think Christianity in Africa will suffer, either.


  62. BaedaBenedictus says:

    “I think a lot of people here are not quite seeing that what the JPII did on his trips to countries like Africa and other Third World places was done with due regard to differing cultures and ways of worship. Some sort of dance is indeed permitted in the liturgical norms when it is part of an indigenous people’s traditional approach to worship. Both the pope and Marini would have done things with this in mind. A lot of these liturgies were undoubtedly planned by the people at the local level (just as they are here in the U.S.) and it is rather hard to criticize what is done without coming across to the people as a kind of cultural imperialist.”

    Indeed, John Paul wasn’t new in this. For sure Marcel Lefebvre was incorporating shaman exorcisms and bare-breasted women reading the Epistle in Masses in Africa all the way back in the 1950s. ;-)

  63. catholicmidwest says:

    I also attended liturgies said by Pope John Paul II. They were outdoors, and they were like a big party in the park. Lots of confusion.

    I attended a mass said by Pope Benedict XVI in Rome the year after he became our pope. It was indoors under the Holy Spirit window. It was reverent, detailed and very different than PJP2’s masses.

    In fact, I have attended the public audiences of both popes as well, and even they were different as night and day, but in a different sort of way.

  64. catholicmidwest says:

    Lori, you said, “….and it is rather hard to criticize what is done without coming across to the people as a kind of cultural imperialist.”
    Really? I wonder if St. Peter thought that way? St. Paul? St. Stephen? Pope Pius X? Pope Gregory the Great? Do I need to go on????

    And you said, ““The Sabbath [liturgy] was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Meaning according to you, that the “spirit” is more important than the “form?” REALLY. Does that mean we can have church for ourselves in the backyard? How about the beach? If we feel sufficiently holy, that’s all that’s required according to your view, is it not?

    Also, Sabbath and liturgy are 2 different words, with 2 different meanings. And in case you didn’t know til now, be advised, words have meaning. That’s what they’re for.

  65. Lori Pieper says:

    If we feel sufficiently holy, that’s all that’s required according to your view, is it not?

    No it isn’t. Where did you get that idea? Please read my post carefully. I was not in the least advocating the abrogation of liturgical rules and norms. I even pointed out that certain things are allowed in the rules and that this was perhaps why JPII allowed them.

    Also, Sabbath and liturgy are 2 different words, with 2 different meanings

    Do you think I wasn’t aware of that? (That is why I put the “liturgy” in brackets to begin with).
    But surely there is some sort of analagy possible betwen the holy day and the rites celebrated on it?
    The truth is that God made the day of the liturgy and asked us to rest on it. He didn’t make that rule simply because he likes making rules or because He feels the need to be obeyed. Us and our physical and spiritual health were the goal. When he uttered that famous saying, Jesus was pointing this out. In the practical sense, He must have felt his disciples would have a hard time resting on the Sabbath if they were starving. The legalist Pharisees couldn’t get that.

    In the same way God made the liturgy, made the Eucharist (and what a stupendous “invention” or if you will simply a stupendous reality it is). Jesus spent a long time teaching it and its meaning to us. He gave us a very good idea of how we are to use it. Everything he did was designed to make use of the human senses and imgination to lift us to God. The Church has striven throughout the centuries to preserve the substance and the meaing of this through her liturgical rules. The rules are the walls that hold the goodness, not the goodness itself. Once again the rules are not there for His sake, or the rules’ sake, but for our sake. So I would say this is a very analagous situation. I just wanted to point out that often the “liturgical police” forget this. The rules and norms are not what we worship. It isn’t there for its own sake, but for ours. If we know this, then we get a sense of proportion when we discuss them. That’s all I meant.

  66. Lori Pieper says:

    Sigh. That comment was just perfect when I pressed preview. What happened?

    Also, Catholicmidwest, if you really want to make an analogy between Benedict XVI’s Masses and those of JPII you might want to make it between the outdoor Masses of both. Because Benedict has also celebrated lots of outdoor Masses. Otherwise, you’re more or less comparing apples and oranges.

  67. catholicmidwest says:

    Well, Lori,
    I don’t know why PJP2 allowed the things he allowed. In fact, I don’t think anyone has a better explanation than his MC at this point because I haven’t heard anything but excuses from anywhere else.
    I, for one, don’t believe that PJP2 was a victim of his MC or anyone else when it came to liturgy because I don’t see how a pope could be victim like that unless he’s only a figurehead, and I don’t think that’s true.
    All these excuses form some kind of a myth, I think, to explain things away that people don’t want to confront logically.

  68. BaedaBenedictus says:

    I was at Yankee Stadium in 2008, and I thought Benedict’s Mass was wonderful. Plenty of Latin, chant, no nonsense.

    Benedict is SO not a rock star, but people don’t seem to mind!

  69. Lori Pieper says:


    I never said JPII was a victim of anyone or anything. I merely pointed out logical reasons why he might have acted as he did. I don’t consider logical reasons “excuses.”

    I think the late Pope, being a very brilliant man, and a lot better placed to understand the needs of the whole Church than either you or me, might have had a different idea of what it was prudent to do in certain liturgical situations, and his ideas might well have been better than ours. He might also have been wrong, but won’t have the right to say so until we’ve been in his shoes, which seems unlikely ever to happen. I’d prefer to think he had good reasons for his actions.

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