Marini2 is Reform2

I notice on NCR the piece in which Papal Liturgist Msgr Guido Marini comes out as a reform2 advocate.

I purposefully use the word continuity, a word very dear to our present Holy Father. He has made it the only authoritative criterion whereby one can correctly interpret the life of the church.

Count me a doubter on the emphasis in continuity. It may well be a buzz word for obstruction in some circles. I think we’ve seem the fruits of the hermenteutic of obstruction in the post-conciliar era: a retirement of Reconciliation form III, the deep-sixing of the English translation of Roman Missal II. Hopefully Msgr Marini was just taking the pope’s words out of context. I see it as more of a matter of priorities. The liturgy must be malleable to well-discerned pastoral needs, especially those discerned by large bodies of bishops. Continuity is also a pastoral principle, not an excuse to retain subjective favorite aspects of liturgy.

Marini suggested that continuity is a potential unifying force in the liturgy. I can’t agree.

The liturgy cannot and must not be an opportunity for conflict between those who find good only in that which came before us, and those who, on the contrary, almost always find wrong in what came before.

That liturgy is the opportunity for conflict is unavoidable. It was so in the immediate post-conciliar period. It may be more heated today.

Liturgy also involves sacrifice. It may be that much-loved aspects of the Roman liturgy: the Last Gospel, the offertory prayers, and the concession of the Low Mass must be permanently let go. Are reform2 advocates prepared to live the notion of sacrifice that many of them believe is absent from the modern Roman Rite? Are they prepared to concede the undeniable benefits of certain aspects of the reformed liturgy: the lectionary, the permanent diaconate, and yes, even the vernacular?

The way to resolve conflict is not by avoidance. Like it or not, resolution doesn’t happen by splitting the difference or by counting up mutual concessions (We give up clown Masses in return for your fiddlebacks.) It’s going to take a much wider discussion than the pope and his liturgist hitting and sometimes missing on contemporary liturgical problems.

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Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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22 Responses to Marini2 is Reform2

  1. Liam says:


    You may think those are “undeniable” (btw, I would say that getting rid of the “silent” dimension of the canon ought to rank – and high – on that list; let’s not take it for granted). But putting it that way obstructs more than it persuades (I am continually disheartened by the unnecessary use of conclusory arguments by people trying to persuade – folks in authority at least have the excuse/delusion that they don’t need to persuade, but it helps us nothing to imitate them in that regard). There are folks who deny them quite heartily. I am not persuaded by those folks, but they are not phantoms.

    And, what would sacrifice of your vision for Reconciliation Form III (the Vatican would of course deny that the form was sacrificed, only abuses of the form were….) be so gruesome? And are the new offertory prayers that critical they could not be sacrificed? Neither of those things strike me as high on the list of progressive liturgical reforms.

  2. Todd says:

    Fair enough. I gave quick examples, and not the best.

    In this forum, I don’t know that persuasion is a likely final result. Persuasion takes place more in face to face exchange–the pastoral situation of parishes, for me.

    The Marini news item is a reported piece. He didn’t convince me. I posted a link and commentary. I doubt I would convince him either. Such is the nature of internet “dialogue,” two people talking past each other separated by thousands of miles, at times.

    I think you also know my intent is to be provocative here. If I thought I could be persuasive, a conference or seminar or working group would be a far better setting for it.

  3. Gavin says:

    “If I thought I could be persuasive, a conference or seminar or working group would be a far better setting for it.”

    I for one would like to see such a thing. The “traditional” and “progressive” liturgical visions CAN be resolved. We’ve seen a bit of that with the Catholic Radio interviews. I think if there were a frank, open, and honest discussion, free of buzzwords, both sides would see they have the same goals and could come to some good influence in both camps.

  4. Liam says:


    I think we have such a glut of provocativeness that it’s no longer provocative. It has a very short half life.

  5. Todd says:

    Thanks, Liam. That’s a very provocative thought in itself, and something I will consider seriously. You may have tilted the blog direction more than you realize.

  6. Chris B says:

    Re: “Are reform2 advocates prepared to live the notion of sacrifice that many of them believe is absent from the modern Roman Rite? ….
    The way to resolve conflict is not by avoidance.”

    Scornful and dismissive comments like this don’t resolve conflict.

    If more Catholics behaved like Pope Benedict there would be a lot more understanding and unity, and a lot less conflict.

  7. Liam says:

    One thing I learned from acoustical observation: People strain to tune out shouts, but strain to listen to whispers.

    Maybe that’s why God resorts to a still small voice at times…

    On the other hand, I am not sure how long it will take Americans – whose ears are literally and figuratively subjected to far too much high-decibel content – to regain our ability to grasp quiet, subtle content.

  8. Liam says:

    Chris B

    I don’t demonize the Pope at all, but let’s not fall into the opposite mistake of idealizing him. Neither does him or use service.

  9. Jimmy Mac says:

    What the good Msgr. forgets when he posits ”that the liturgy is sacred presupposes the fact that the liturgy does not exist subject to the sporadic modifications and arbitrary inventions of one individual or group” is that which he pines for and is supporting, i.e., “reform of the reform”, is itself one more development in an unending cycle of liturgical adaptations, growth, enculturation and incorporation of various cultures, needs and political forces.

    I suspect that if God could be a blogger, we would be told that all worship is pleasing in God’s sight. The idea of one form being more pleasing than all others is just another manifestation of hubris. It smacks of authoritarianism, and as Richard McCormack, SJ, stated: authoritarianism is authority that has ceased to struggle to become leadership.

  10. Liam says:

    I doubt that. Even in the Gospels, Christ makes it clear that some forms of worship please God much more than others.

    Even were we to grant your thesis, that would mean you should not struggle to promote your way of worship as best as you so often do….

  11. Jimmy Mac says:

    And my way of worship that I “promote” is what?

  12. Neil says:

    The text of Msgr Marini’s speech can be read here.

    I don’t think that Marini’s use of the word “continuity” is necessarily problematic. He speaks of Pope Benedict as an “authentic master,” and the Pope elaborated on “continuity” in his address to the Curia on December 22, 2005. There, Benedict opposed a “discontinuity” defined as the belief that the Second Vatican Council eliminated an old constitution and created a new one. This “discontinuity” would seemingly suggest that the Church has not been “one subject of the journeying People of God” (my emphasis), but has occasionally become so unrecognizable as to require major surgical transformation.

    I think that we would all see this sort of “discontinuity” as extreme.

    Thus, “continuity” doesn’t necessarily mean more of the same, always. Benedict favorably quotes John XXIII’s words, “The substance of the ancient doctrine of the deposit of faith is one thing, and the way in which it is presented is another,” and goes on to say that the Church’s decisions on “contingent matters … should necessarily be contingent themselves,” dependent, no doubt, on pastoral considerations. This, I would think, includes certain liturgical matters.

    What must remain continuous in “continuity” are the “principles” that motivate the contingent decisions regarding these “practical forms.”

    In Msgr Marini’s speech, we see him trying to identify “principles,” while recognizing that forms do change. He wants to establish the “principle” of the orientation of the liturgy, but understands that there have been different ways to express this, most recently (and, in his opinion, most positively) involving a Crucifix placed on the altar (obviam sponso). He wants to say that “adoration” or “union with Christ” is a permanent “principle,” and, although he surely knows about the long history of receiving Communion in the hand, suggests that it is presently best expressed through the practical form of receiving Communion in the tongue, kneeling.

    One can agree with Msgr Marini on both “continuity” and even the identity of the “principles,” while disagreeing about the “practical forms” that best manifest the “principles.” So, one doesn’t need to question his overall framework to ask a couple questions, such as:

    1. Can’t we say that versus populum celebrations of the Mass effectively “face the Lord” insofar as they direct collective attention to the altar from which Jesus, through the Father’s sending of the Spirit, gathers his Church together into sacramental (and, here, quite visible) unity?

    2. Can’t we say that “adoration,” particularly of the Christ who empties himself, is effectively fostered when we receive communion in the hand as we imagine, following the well known words of St Cyril, that we make a “throne from our hands in which to receive the King”?

    We can also suggest that he needs more evidence to support his conclusions.

    I would think that he’d welcome the discussion.



  13. Liam says:


    You rather regularly promote the liturgy at MHR as superior to whatever you are criticizing at the moment.

  14. Jimmy Mac says:

    I am guilty of agreeing with the Council Fathers that “Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy. Such participation by the Christian people as ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people’ (1 Pet. 2:9; cf. 2:4-5), is their right and duty by reason of their baptism.” SC II, 14.

    Luckily I have found a place where Mother Church is taken at her word. If that is “promoting” something, then so be it.

  15. Liam says:

    You are welcome to that smugness.

  16. Todd says:

    My sense, from afar, is that Jim’s community is intentional about liturgy. Intentionality is the quality that most affects the local celebration of liturgy, probably even above obedience, slavish translation, or any of the other buzzwords. That presumes that there’s a spiritual focus behind the intentionality, a quality I have no reason to presume doesn’t exist at MHR.

  17. Tony says:

    The liturgy cannot and must not be an opportunity for conflict between those who find good only in that which came before us, and those who, on the contrary, almost always find wrong in what came before.

    Let me give the Msgr. a big AMEN!

    Are they prepared to concede the undeniable benefits of certain aspects of the reformed liturgy: the lectionary, the permanent diaconate, and yes, even the vernacular?

    I certainly am.

    The new lectionary is wonderful. Much fuller than the old. The only problem I see is the translation and that’s being addressed.

    The permanent diaconate you know I agree with.

    I also agree with the vernacular, but in what cases it is used. I’d like to see the vernacular used in the readings, homily, and those prayers that the people join (either with the priest or antiphonally). I’d like to see Latin used in the parts the priest says alone including the canon.

    Like the holy father, I’d like to see the extraordinary form exert a “gravitational pull” on the ordinary, and visa versa until they both merge into one beautiful, and consistent liturgy.

  18. Liam says:


    My point being that, if intentional worship is more pleasing to God (because it it more effective at sanctifying the faithful, let’s just say), then it makes no sense to pass off a statement that implies that it doesn’t matter how one worships because all worship is pleasing to God. My critique is more directed at the latter pose.

  19. Chris B says:


    You didn’t address my point, and the text I quoted shows that the author, as evidenced previously, readily resorts to dismissing and belittling those he disagrees with.

    And “Thanks but no thanks” for your calibrated advice on my affection for Pope Benedict.

    I don’t think any Catholics need worry about an overabundance of the faithful imitating, much less idealizing, Pope Benedict.

  20. Jimmy Mac says:

    If worship is the reverent honor and homage paid to God, as the dictionary defines it and I have always believed it to be, then I don’t think it is wrong to assume proper intentionality in worship as defined above. Therefore I stand by my original statement that all worship is pleasing in God’s sight.

    So far as smugness goes, I have seen more than an average amount of it exhibited on this site by more than one participant. That in and of itself doesn’t seem to be a disqualifying factor in what has been said.

    If referencing what many in the church have viewed as an essential part of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (II, 14) is deemed to be “smugness,” so be it. Better theologians than I (I do not consider myself to be one by any means) are guilty of the same sin, I guess.

  21. Tony says:

    Therefore I stand by my original statement that all worship is pleasing in God’s sight.

    But I disagree that all worship is equally pleasing in God’s sight.

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