Battle of the Marinis and the Future of the Liturgy

Washington Post’s coverage on the difference between Archbishop Piero Marini, the liturgist under Pope John Paul II from 1987 onwards, and his young replacement, Monsignor Guido Marini (no relation), the liturgist under Pope Benedict XVI since 2007, is worth the read.  In short, “Marini the Elder” favored trying to add a lot of local flair to the papal Mass held in each country at huge expense to the Mass’s Catholic character, while ‘Marini the Younger’ wants the Mass to be about Christ, not a celebration of culture.  In all, the younger Marini comes through as graceful and hopeful, happy to be helping out as he is.  Still, it wouldn’t be the Post if this weren’t included:

At most papal Masses, a large crucifix flanked by tall candles is now displayed on the altar, even though many progressives say the ornaments block the view of the priest and the bread and wine. They argue that this obstructs the accessibility urged by liturgical reforms associated with the Second Vatican Council.

That’s some mighty careful wording, there.  The speaker (not necessarily the Post reporter, but probably whoever he talked to) is trying to invoke Vatican II to justify things the Council never asked for – or would have approved of.  Of course Vatican II never said anything about taking the Crucifix off of the altar: the entire idea that we need to, since it might block a view of the Eucharist (or even the “bread and wine”) is silly.

Instead, its liberal Catholics employing an absurd double-standard.  It was fine for them to tear apart elements of the Holy Mass throughout the 1960s and 1970s, in direct violation of explicit Church teachings on the matter, yet if the Vatican attempts to undo any of their ugly changes, it’s somehow a quasi-violation of Vatican II, just because it was “associated with” the Second Vatican Council by those trying to shove it down the throats of the Catholic laity.  So liturgical novelties to the Mass can occur in violation of Church teachings and Church Councils (particularly Trent), but reverting to the traditional form of the liturgy violates the “spirit” of a Church Council — even though it’s more in keeping with what the Second Vatican Council actually said.

Still, I’m pleased to see the Post trying to understand what’s going on and why, and listening to someone besides the usual liberal suspects in the process.  The article’s not perfect, but it’s a commendable effort.


  1. Joe,
    I was a kid in the 50’s and experienced the Latin Mass. All of the churches I experienced as a kid gave one a sense of holiness. Some changes I like. I enjoy hearing the Mass in English but I resent many of the new buildings and especially moving the Tabernacle way off to the side or in another room. I went to a church last week that from the outside looked like a bunch of square buildings attached together. Inside it was theater in the round. No stained glass, statues, or even a poor box or candles. It was hard to focus on the mass.

  2. Bill,

    I totally agree. The intended reforms of Vatican II (things like the Mass in the vernacular, and using a much larger portion of Scripture in Mass) have been incredibly gratifying. As someone who’s terrible with foreign languages, I find the Latin Mass beautiful but hard to immerse myself in. So the actual changes called for by Vatican II actually have produced a more involved laity – not involved in the sense of “everyone’s running a committee” (as that term is frequently abused to mean), but involved in the sense of “everyone’s praying together, in harmony, instead of the priest and deacon praying the Mass while everyone else praying the Rosary privately.” I couldn’t be happier for the Second Vatican Council.

    All that said, there’s no question that these much-needed reforms were quickly hijacked by those with very different views: and their faithfulness to Christ and His Church have been exhibited in their de-emphasis of the Blessed Sacrament, and the attempt to water Catholicism down into bland Anglicanism or something weird and New Age.

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