Msgr Marini’s Sense of Continuity

I read the link Neil provided. My regular readers know of my aversion to the method of fisking/cheerleading often provided by some bloggers. It seems to me to be the imposition of a conversation where none really exists. Or in the vase of the NLM post, a rather transparent selective reading.

I have about an hour here before I need to get to the office today, so I’d like to address the very first part of Msgr Marini’s comments. If it seems to be fruitful, I might continue with the rest of his talk throughout the weekend.

I think that in hard science, the human sciences, and even in theology, one needs an accurate diagnosis before proposing countermeasures or cures. I’m not sure Msgr Marini has the diagnosis element completely together. It may be that his own experiences in Italy and his other postings are seriously at variance from the US. If so, that points to a certain disruption between national conferences and cultures–which would be its own malady, perhaps.

Can one truly speak of a Church of the past and a Church of the future as if some historical break in the body of the Church had occurred? Could anyone say that the Bride of Christ had lived without the assistance of the Holy Spirit in a particular period of the past, so that its memory should be erased, purposefully forgotten?

I’m not sure the distinction is made with a sense of speaking of two churches. Vatican II was a momentous event, both for people heartened by it and those embittered. Even for the neutral, it brought signal changes in liturgy. It’s unavoidable that people note the pre-conciliar and post-conciliar period. Catholics note fondly (or not so well) the days of beloved pastors or school principals or even music directors. I think they recognize that when they’ve known one leader has had a special gift, those years tend to be highlighted. It might be that the successors struggle to follow up.

Perhaps a more concrete example was one of my other Iowa parishes before and after the church renovation. Despite worries going in, like a ballooning budget and a 300-signature petition, the sense of the renovation was overwhelmingly positive. People were certainly critical of the lower lighting levels before, the better piano after, and other aspects. But I don’t recall people setting in their minds that baptisms were somehow “new” or “improved” or different” because after they were celebrated at a font (not a stand on wheels) and with music.

It marked a big difference in the style of the rite. There may well have been “improvement” in that music was then always provided, or that there was space in and around the font, not just a crowded front row, or that the oils came from nice glass vessels mounted in a wall (as opposed to small vials taken from the sacristy).

I do think that some believers have attached a certain ideology to the before and after aspects of the council. Many of those who were dismayed by the council and its implementation left the Church, either into schism or perhaps into a certain embittered isolation from their home parishes.

I think its been clear that those who have viewed the Church as two entities are mostly from the traditionalist side, and their witness has sometimes been to enter into schism from Rome. If continuity must be raised as an issue with some traditionalists, then I see Msgr Marini’s point as being rightfully an invitation to return to Rome and to embrace the teachings of Vatican II, giving a nod to the reality that many Catholics find certain aspects of church teaching troubling, and that many such troubled souls can certainly find grace and benefit within the Church, and facilitate benefit to others.

Among those who did remain “continuous,” where there is bitterness might be found among those minorities who populate the internet, and have found either fellowship or trolldom in the expression of opinions. Often strong opinions. And in the follow-up, frequent argumentativeness or bluster or, unfortunately, a lack of charity. These would seem to be begging a pastoral approach. The matter is not the style of liturgy, but the style of social interaction.

Toward the end of his introductory remarks, Msgr Marini offered this:

The authentic spirit of the liturgy does not abide when it is not approached with serenity, leaving aside all polemics with respect to the recent or remote past. 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. The only disposition which permits us to attain the authentic spirit of the liturgy, with joy and true spiritual relish, is to regard both the present and the past liturgy of the Church as one patrimony in continuous development.

Shawn Tribe at NLM highlighted this portion in whole. But as I read it, I find it to be a challenge to all extremists to set aside rancor. While I accept the shortcomings of the pre-conciliar Missal, I’ve never had a problem with accepting that Catholics still found fruit in it, and still do today. I also recognize serious flaws in the post-conciliar Roman Missal(s) and my advocacy for greater harmonization with Scripture, especially the Lectionary, and for more vernacular-composed elements doesn’t alter the reality that I find spiritual fruitfulness in the celebration of Mass. I certainly don’t see the purpose of dismantling the post-conciliar reform to get at a few deeper essentials. The pre-conciliar Mass is part of our tradition. It provided the framework on which the reformed Roman Rite was developed.

If I were discussing this with Msgr Marini in a seminar or more personal format, I might suggest a spiritual value I have found helpful. After a long period in my life of struggling with it, doubting it, and even considering it sinful material when I was much younger, I’ve come to a certain … serenity, if you will, with dissatisfaction.

Shortly after I married, my spiritual director and I wrestled with the meaning of my strong inner sense of dissatisfaction. My new marriage didn’t seem ideal. My ministry was often flooded with a sense of non-accomplishment. I was impatient with my musicianship. The quality of some of the musicians I worked with was below what I was used to in a large city or at a large public university.

My wise friend suggested that instead of struggling with my dissatisfaction and trying to suppress it, I should embrace it. That was one of the singular insights of my own life. While I don’t often speak of my life as pre-acceptance and post-acceptance, I might. I was the same man before and after: the same talents, same gifts, same flaws, same hangups, same ministry, and same Sunday duties. But I entered a different way of living. It was more than just doing things in a different way. I found that in accepting dissatisfaction, I actually became less bitter, and I received a certain grace (no other way to describe it) and, if you will, harmony.

One commonality most liturgists of any stripe share is an extreme dissatisfaction with the way things are. Traditionalists bemoan bucking the momentum of hymns and their publishers or informal priests and their banter. My colleagues and I are dismayed at developments in the CDWDS and the backpedalling from reform (as we see it) not to mention the gross mischaracterization of our ideals and dreams.

Msgr Marini cites the blessing he has known of working with Pope Benedict closely these past two years. On one hand I rather envy that, and would wish him a snarky, “Good for you!” On the other, any talented human being wants to work in a stimulating environment where she or he can grow, develop, learn, change, and become competent. I have that now, so I can add another snarky, “Good for me!”

What Msgr Marini doesn’t experience in the liturgy tussles is the routine frustration and disappointment of those “discontinuous” internet discussions: the accusations of trolldom, the casual insults, the general embitteredness that seems to get reinforced with a certain degree of relish.

Speaking for myself, I know many overtures I’ve offered over the years have been rebuffed. I find most traditionalists willing enough to refer to me and other progressives as “pagans” or “heretics” but singularly unwilling to engage in a substantive dialogue. I can single out a very few exceptions to this: Jeffrey Tucker being one.

So while Msgr Marini seems to be misdiagnosing how most Catholics approach Vatican II, the lack of continuity, rather than being a function of 1962-65, is actually present among the Body of Christ itself, as a function of today, of yesterday’s insult, and last week’s gauntlet. As a priest, Msgr Marini must have in his formation and experience a pastoral history with the problem of conflict and division. Instead of speaking of musical or liturgical solutions, it might be that the Church’s liturgy would be well strengthened in addressing the divisions among believers and facilitating healing as much as is possible.

So for starters, that would be where my dissatisfaction with Msgr Marini’s address would begin.

Image above: CNS | Alessia Giuliani

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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10 Responses to Msgr Marini’s Sense of Continuity

  1. Liam says:


    While I might quibble here and there (cuz I quibble, dontcha know?), this is the good stuff.

    I am particularly heartened by your drawing in the most salient issue of all – the real pink elephant in the American (or perhaps First World) Catholic dining room – namely, though you didn’t use this term, spiritual dryness (which can occur at any age, but is seems most often to eb characteristic of midlife) and it’s role in ruddering the use of liturgy as an topical subject for the consolation thereof.

    So many of our conflicts come from expectations (remember the recovery adage that expectations are premeditated resentments) that are premised on the avoidance of spiritual dryness, whereas the Catholic and Orthodox spiritual traditions give the witness that spiritual dryness is not the detour but part and parcel of the path. And, while our tradition is rich in witness and tools for our faithful in this regard, we largely leave them untended. In the US, I think that’s because culturally we abhor even talking about spiritual dryness as anything other than pathological; and our consumerist culture feeds that abhorrence.

    Anyway: thank you.

  2. Copernicus says:

    Are you and the monsignor really at odds over the last point you make, Todd? “Approaching with serenity” would take care of a lot of the ills you cite.

    Anyway an excellent post, as usual. It seems to me the phrase hermeneutic of continuity is generally bandied about by people who don’t understand the meaning of the word hermeneutic: all they want is a more tangible and cosmetic continuity with tradition, while being oblivious of the irony that they are the ones failing to view the church’s present condition through a lens of continuity with the past.

  3. Gina from Maryland says:

    Copernicus and Todd:

    Have either of you read Msgr Gamber’s “The Reform of the Roman Liturgy?”

    Re: …”the phrase hermeneutic of continuity is generally bandied about by people who don’t understand the meaning…all they want is a more tangible and cosmetic continuity with tradition, …oblivious of the irony that they are the ones failing to view the church’s present condition through a lens of continuity with the past.”

    Am I correct that you insinuate that Pope B16 is one who is bandying this about?

    This is the easy path of dismissiveness. I have read posts here for 3 months and see a general pattern where a tribe of like-minded colleagues disparage those not indoctrinated in your tribe.

  4. Copernicus says:

    Am I correct that you insinuate that Pope B16 is one who is bandying this about?

    On the contrary: I’m suggesting that people who like to reproduce Pope Benedict’s words don’t necessarily understand fully what they mean.

    It’s rather similar to the way in which the hermeneutic of reform, of renewal in continuity (Pope Benedict’s original words) have morphed, by dint of endless repetition in tendentious corners of the blogosphere, into the phrase hermeneutic of continuity. There’s a lot more to the Pope’s writings than seems to be appreciated by those who merely mine them for slogans.

  5. Chris from Maryland says:


    OK – so I conclude you haven’t read Msgr Gamber’s “The Reform of the Roman Liturgy?” So you are missing an enormous amount of what Pope Benedict means by the hermeneutic of continuity – therefore – you are guilty of the accusation you make against others.

    So, what are you insinuating? For instance – I am bandying the phrase about because I take issue with you?

  6. Copernicus says:

    I’d count myself tolerably well read on liturgy and the liturgical reform, but I’m afraid Gamber really isn’t to my taste! Have you read any of Klauser, Cabié, Crichton, Nicholls, Butler or Ainslie?

    (Actually please don’t answer; I have no wish to know.)

  7. Chris from Maryland says:


    Perhaps you should reserve your commentary to discussions of Klauser, Cabié, Crichton, Nicholls, Butler and Ainslie, and refrain from long, dismissive commentary on things you are willfuly unkowledgable about, like the hermeneutic of continuity, by which Pope Benedict refers back to Msgr. Gamber.

    All of which means, Copernicus, that what you really hold, but were unwilling to state before, is that it is what Pope Benedict XVI holds that is really not to your taste.

  8. Chris from Maryland says:

    I am grateful for Liam’s 1:30 post – that is an appeal to an example of Catholic discourse.

  9. Tony says:

    My colleagues and I are dismayed at developments in the CDWDS and the backpedalling from reform (as we see it) not to mention the gross mischaracterization of our ideals and dreams.

    When you take a wrong turn, sometimes it’s best to go back only to where you made that wrong turn and turn the right way to continue your journey.

    I like to think that I am not a “traditionalist” but rather “of a traditional bent”. I believe that the reforms of the Council (as written) were necessary. The overwhelming acceptance of Sacrosanctum Concilium by all the different Bishops was a testament (in my opinion) of the influence of the Holy Spirit.

    Far be it from me to try and buck the Paraclete :)

    However, I see a liberalism in implementation and innovation that was never intended by the document, as a matter of fact even warned against.

    I’ll trade you a fiddleback chasuble for a chanted Agnus Dei. ;) (But don’t ask me to give up my Altar rail.)

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