Rewriting History (Because We Get No Respect).

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10:19 AM 4/8/2008 — I guess it was only a matter of time, but Archbishop Marini has written a book. And why not? When you've been in power for a long time, and some new upstart boss comes along and replaces you just like that, there's only one thing to do: vent your spleen in a juicy, tell-all book designed to embarrass all the enemies you made on the way up, particularly the boss who just replaced you, so that they all go skulking around thinking to themselves, "Well, I guess he showed us." Of course, that's all in your imagination, since your new boss—and those loyal to him who are among the ones you terrorized in your rise to transient power—could care less what you think and have no intention of even reading your book.
     In this case, the jilted power-broker is one Archbishop Piero Marini, born 13 January 1942, currently serving as president of the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses (where I believe he now lords it over a stapler and a box of paper clips while enjoying a commanding view of the back wall of the Vatican cafeteria); but, under Pope John Paul II, presided over the Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff, where he embarked on an ambitious crusade to set a new record for how many liturgical laws could be broken in a single Papal Mass. Prior to that, in 1975, he had served as personal secretary to Archbishop Annibale Bugnini, the controversial chief architect of the liturgical reforms that followed Vatican II. From 1987 to 2007, Marini was the master of papal liturgical ceremonies, the man who appears at the pope's side in every celebration. He was appointed Bishop of Martirano on the 19 March 1998 and was ordained bishop on 14 February of that year. On the 29 September 2003 he was appointed Titular Archbishop of Martirano. In 2005, after the election of Pope Benedict XVI, it was rumored that Marini would be removed from his post and would take up an Italian diocese; he reportedly declined the offer, preferring instead to work within the Roman Curia—hence the nothing job of booking hotel reservations for Eucharistic Congresses.
     What always amazed me about Marini's rise and fall (from a purely political point of view, of course) is how effectively he orchestrated his own downfall. His refusal to "get with the program" of Pope Benedict's movement to recover and restore the sacred to Roman Catholic liturgy is a classic example of a man digging a hole then diving right in. One could say, I suppose, that his refusal to sign on to the Holy Father's reformulating of Vatican II's reform of the liturgy represents his integrity—his unwillingness to compromise deeply held beliefs. Yes, one could say that. I won't.
     The juicy expose in question is his new book, A Challenging Reform, published by Liturgical Press. Let me say right off the bat that I haven't read it, and have little intention of doing so. In case you haven't guessed, Marini is not someone who's opinion matters to me; but he is someone whose opinion matters to Bishop Donald Trautman, his fellow sufferer and comrade in the resistance against Pope Benedict. Trautmant, the bishop of Erie, Pennsylvania, is chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy, in which capacity he has been outspoken in his opposition to Benedict's re-reform. He lobbied hard and viciously to forestall the promulgation of Summorum Pontificum, and is currently involved in doing his best to convince anyone who will listen what a tremendous disaster the new English translation of the Mass of the Roman Rite will be (since all of his proposals for it were rejected). When the aforementioned motu proprio came out, he wasted no time announcing that it didn't apply to his diocese; and, even though the document gave to every Roman Catholic priest the right to use the Missal of John XXIII without special permission, he made it clear that any priest in his diocese that did so would suffer the wrath of a woman scorned.
     As Marini's number one cheerleader from "across the pond," Trautman has taken up his poison-dipped quill to pen a review of his hero's book—a review which raises the question: "Your Excellency, wouldn't you like some cheese with your whine?"—so full of blatant inaccuracies and half-truths that it boggles the mind how a man so manifestly unconcerned with the truth could possibly become a bishop of the Catholic Church. Although the picture painted of Marini's book is clearly intended to be laudatory, Trautman's inability to reign in his own prejudices exposes a "between the lines" image of a work dripping with vitriol on every page. Reading the review, one can't help but hear the phrase "consider the source" ring in one's ears, especially when Trautman says, in the second paragraph, "A Challenging Reform is the best single-volume overview of the beginning of the liturgical reform." If Hitler had reviewed a book by saying, "The best single volume on the history of the Jewish people I've ever read," the inevitable conclusion could not be more clear.
     Trautman begins with a rather transparent broadside against history with one of those paragraphs which purports to be couched in complete objectivity, but which relies on the reader's ignorance of the facts to slip past the reader a complete rewriting of history:

To assist in implementing the “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy,” Pope Paul VI established a group known as the Consilium. It was international, competent, collegial and productive: it generated reformed liturgical texts. But the Consilium met immediate opposition from the Congregation for Rites. As Marini notes: "The Consilium and the Congregation for Rites championed two different perspectives. The Consilium remained true to its mission in support of a liturgy open to renewal. The Congregation for Rites was still firmly anchored to a limited tradition since the Council of Trent and not in favor of the broad innovations desired by the Council."

International? Yes. Competent? That's a matter for debate. Collegial? Well, since anyone who disagreed with the already-agreed-to conclusions was excluded, that's not a matter for debate. Productive? Don't make me go there.
     Yes, the Consilium and the Congregation did champion two different perspectives: one wanted to keep the reform of the liturgy rooted in the Church's unbroken tradition, something the Council had insisted upon; the other wanted to ignore the council completely, and focus instead on what it styled the "spirit" of conciliar reform, even if that "spirit" required ignoring completely what the actual words of the counciliar documents said. Marini's last phrase in that paragraph, "...not in favor of the broad innovations desired by the Council," is an out-and-out lie, since the only two "innovations" specifically recommended by the Council were (1) that translations of the Mass into vernacular languages could be allowed under controlled circumstances so long as Latin remained the regular language used, and (2) that the faithful should be able to sing or say in Latin the parts of the Mass which concern them. Of course, Sister Sunshine and Soccer-mom Debbie, who chair your parish's Liturgy Committee, don't know that; and neither Bishop Trautman nor Archbishop Marini are going to let them get their hands on that bit of trivia, lest they become sympathetic to Pope Benedict’s efforts.
     Of course, whenever history is reviewed—and it's review is reviewed—it is impossible to be completely objective. Because of this, a good reviewer will usually be candid and up front about his own perspective. What's unforgivable is when a reviewer refuses to do this, clothes himself in a veneer of sham objectivity, and states as fact what is clearly opinion, as Truatman does here:

The suspicion and stress encountered by the Consilium in interacting with the congregation point out a basic failure in ecclesiology that persists to this day: a collegial mindset versus a Curial mindset. This was clearly evident at the very beginning of the liturgical reform, when there was strong, strident curial opposition to the conciliar endorsement of the vernacular. The Congregation for Rites sought to limit its use and to deny bishops’ conferences the right to approve vernacular texts. The congregation opposed the use of the vernacular for prefaces and eucharistic prayers. Only with the endorsement of Pope Paul VI did the views of the Consilium finally prevail.

     The poor Consilium! Tortured by the stress imposed on them by that evil Roman Curia! Fact check time: The "collegial mind set" was appropriate during the Council, not afterward, when the Curia had to implement what the Council had mandated. To continue a collegial approach after the Council is over is to invite chaos and doom implementation to failure. The Curia sought to limit the use of the vernacular because the Second Vatican Council mandated that its use be limited and that any translations used be subject to the approval of the Holy See. This, of course, is a sticky point for Trautman, who has been very vocal in his opposition to the new English translation of the Mass recently approved by the Holy See for use here in the United States.

The Consilium also experienced a frontal attack from the Curia, with the unprecedented public opposition of Cardinals Alfredo Ottaviani and Antonio Bacci. Their statements reveal the re-trenchments so embedded in the Curia of that time. Marini’s book fosters in the reader a new esteem for the liturgical re-formers and their efforts to make the liturgy more responsive to pastoral concerns and biblical sources. They paid a personal price for their efforts, but they gave new liturgical life to the universal church.

And this paragraph, more than any other, illustrates Trautman's lapse into complete dementia. What Ottaviani and Bacci were doing was insisting that the Consilium confine itself to what the Second Vatican Council called for, a point made not long ago by Pope Benedict himself when he wondered out loud whether the reform the Church eventually received was what the Council had, in fact, called for. But for a "fluid thinker" like Trautman, the documents of Vatican II only get in the way. With the support of Paul VI, the Consilium was able, in the end, to ignore the Council itself, and write its own reform, since it was they, not the Council fathers, who were enlivened by the Holy Spirit. And like the Apostles themselves, they suffered martyrdom for their faith, poor things.

Thanks to Marini’s book, we now appreciate all the more something we often take for granted: the restoration of the vernacular, “noble simplicity” in the rites, concelebration and reformed liturgical books (Roman Missal, Roman Pontifical, Ceremonial of Bishops, Liturgy of the Hours). He gives us a deeper appreciation of the enormous work that led to “full, conscious and active participation” — the prayer of the faithful, the rediscovery of the priesthood of all the faithful, the Novus Ordo and the recognition of various liturgical ministries entrusted to the laity.

This paragraph is directed right at Sister Sunshine and Soccer-mom Debbie so that they can join Trautman in his fight against Pope Benedict. What the Council mandated about the vernacular we've already covered, blah blah blah. There's a lot here to pick apart; but most offensive is a pet peeve of mine: his insinuation that the twisted reform that followed the Council (which, I add again, had nothing to do with the Council) gave us "'full, conscious and active participation'—the prayer of the faithful, the rediscovery of the priesthood of all the faithful...." This is hubris on a scale unprecedented. Full, conscious and active participation in the liturgy of the Church has nothing whatsoever to do with speaking or doing anything. It has to do with prayer. The idea that one has to say something, do something, minister something, distribute something, etc., in order to fully participate in the Liturgy is, as far as I'm concerned, a heresy. How many uninformed laity are there today who, because of misrepresentations by people like Trautman, believe that lay people can now give out Holy Communion in Roman Catholic churches because, now, the laity can participate the liturgy? And, yet, when that provision was made available, the Holy See made it very clear that it was being done out of necessity, and should not be seen as a fuller participation, since "full participation," such as it is, is a matter of prayer, not activity. Otherwise we would have to conclude that those who don't do these kinds of things, and who "only" just sit there praying the Mass, are participating less fully than the lector, the Eucharictic minister, the choir members, etc. Which, by the way, is exactly what Trautman believes.
     Before I get myself too worked up, let me offer you this parting gift, Trautman's direct, unapologetic attack on Pope Benedict:

But are we seeing signs today of retrenchment, a return to a liturgical practice and piety from before Vatican II? Do we see signs of a preconciliar mentality, a Curial ecclesiology, influencing the liturgy? Are there parallels between the first days of the renewal and the present time? Marini’s book is a wake-up call to contemporary Catholics to sustain the liturgical achievements of the Second Vatican Council so that the past does not repeat itself. Will we learn that lesson of history and imitate those who fought so tirelessly to preserve and hand on the principles of the “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy”?

Is it possible to see this as anything but a call to priests and laity to join him in the fight against the Holy Father? Again, building on the ignorance of most people who believe that polyester vestments, guitars, inclusive language, altar girls and Eucharistic Ministers had their advent at Vatican II, he's clearly calling on everyone to resist Pope Benedict's attempt to implement, for the first time, what the Council's documents on the liturgy actually say.
     But that's OK. Books like Marini's and articles like Trauman's are not spawned from confidence and a sense of success. They spawn from desperation; the desperation of two men who have finally come to realize that they are now on the outside looking in, lashing out with their pens precisely because everything else has failed.
     And that's good news.

Father Michael Venditti