Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

The Spirit of Vatican II

Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

The Spirit of Vatican II

Article excerpt

The Spirit of Vatican II A CHALLENGING REFORM: REALIZING THE VISION OF THE LITURGICAL RENEWAL, 1963-1975 by PIERO MARINI Liturgical Press, 205 pages, $15.95 (paper)

Reviewed by George W. Rutler

TO YOUNG PEOPLE TODAY, Vatican II reposes in a haze with Nicaea II and Lateran II. Their guileless ignorance at least frees them from the animus of some aging liturgists who thought that the second Vatican Council defined a whole new anthropological stage in the history of man. The prolix optimism of many interpreters of that council has now taken on a patina-not that of fine bronze but more like the discoloration of a Bauhaus building. Reflective minds, ever grateful for the more important contributions of Vatican II, have had to reconcile a declaration (on the twenty-fifth anniversary of Sacrosanctum Concilium) that the vast majority of the faithful enthusiastically have welcomed liturgical changes with subsequent pontifical acts of reparation for liturgical confusion.

In his new book, A Challenging Reform, Archbishop Piero Marini has done historians a service in tracing the development of the modern liturgy. The result is a highly revealing account of the intentions of prominent players, and the author shows a genuine innocence in his assumption that readers will share his preference for theory over practice. His polemical tone will agitate those whom Marini calls "reactionaries" to think that their misgivings about the events of 1963 to 1975 were not totally hallucinatory.

Marini worked in the secretariat of the Consilium ad Exsequendam Constitutionem de Sacra Liturgia with Annibale Bugnini, who started as a modest bureaucrat and gradually shaped the advisory committee into a rival of-and, eventually, a replacement of-the Congregation for Rites. The Consilium was suppressed in a latter period of the Pauline pontificate, which, Marini implies, was not as good as the pontificate of John XXIII. The talented author began as secretary to the hero of his narrative as a young priest but like a son of Noah, he never mentions that Bugnini eventually was relieved of his curial post and went on to write what may be the definitive history of Catholicism in Iran.

A more disinterested remembrancer of those heady days would not have had such access to the intricate workings of the Consilium, and this thin, even epistemologically anorexic, book will long be of interest to ecclesiologists as they study its awkward ballet of resentments and vindications of the sort commonly found in youthful diaries that were not burned in maturity. There are no grays in the book: Champions like Lercaro, Giobbe, and Larraone were "brilliant" and "charismatic" and "progressive," while anonymous members of the Congregation for Rites were "anchored in the past" and often "overplayed their hand."

Bugnini was indefatigable in his work and followed the path of his namesake Hannibal crossing the Alps: "We will either find a way, or make one." The "progressives" promoted an ineffable "spirit of the council" and "knew that the path would not be easy." Their project was bold: "The liturgy inspired by the council needed to leave behind Tridentine forms in order to embrace the genuine expression of the faith of the whole church." This involved a malleable treatment of tradition, by which reform became rupture and development meant invention, with little regard for the sensibilities of others, including the Eastern churches.

Not disdaining the machinations of politics, the Consilium even assumed some of the work of what is now the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Prescinding from the claim that the liturgists did their preparatory work "patiently and humbly since October 1963 with the pope's support" in order to be "more pastoral," Marini fuels the suspicions of conspiracy theorists by admitting: "Unlike the reform after Trent," the liturgical reform after Vatican II "was all the greater because it also dealt with doctrine." On May 24, 1964, the pope instituted "an innovation in the administrative structure of the Curia" when he instructed the Congregation for Rites to grant juridical approval to the changes proposed by the Consilium. …

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