By Jason Horowitz IN ROME On a rainy Christmas Eve (even the clouds of heaven shed tears on the way this thing has unravelled), Pope Benedict XVI followed a procession of Swiss guards, bishops and priests down the central nave of St. Peter’s Basilica to celebrate midnight Mass before dignitaries and a global television audience.
And Monsignor Guido Marini, as always, followed the pope.Queue sinister music, as the Jafar-like henchman enters the scene. A tall, reed-thin cleric with a receding hairline and wire-framed glasses, Marini, 45, perched behind the pope’s left shoulder, bowed with him at the altar and adjusted the pontiff’s lush (all about the opulence here– what of the poor?) robes. As Master of Pontifical Liturgical Celebrations, he shadows the pope’s every move and makes sure that every candle, Gregorian chant and gilded (cha–ching $!) vestment is exactly as he, the pope and God intended it to be. Psst– Marini thinks he’s God. “The criterion is that it is beautiful,” Marini said.
But beauty, especially when it comes to the rituals of Roman Catholic liturgy, is a topic of great debate between conservative and liberal Catholics, who share differing views on everything from the music and language of the Mass to where a priest should stand and how he should give Communion.This friends, may be an understatement of biblical proportions. Although, I don’t really hear “liberals’ talking about beauty in the liturgy; rather, you would hear about immanence, or participation, or accessibility. Some of the key trappings (a bit confusing here– are they “key” or are they mere “trappings”?) of the Mass – the vestments and vernacular, the “smells and bells” (OK, just trappings)– have taken on a more ancient air since Benedict succeeded John Paul II, and since Marini succeeded Piero Marini.
Piero, 68, is a gruff Vatican veteran, a progressive who advocates a more modern ritual that reflects the great church reforms of the 1960s. (Yep, they sure were “great” “reforms”. Don’t worry about getting a seat in the pews if you’re late for Mass these days– you’re good.) The younger and more punctilious Guido (the dilettante), who is not related to Piero, has argued for more traditional liturgical symbols and gestures – like the pope’s preference that the faithful kneel to accept Communion (in line with AT LEAST 1,500 years of customary practice and in order to better express the reality of just Whom it is we receive) – that some church liberals interpret as the harbinger of a counter-reformation.If only. If only… Also, as an aside, I guess that if it really is a “counter-reformation”, that must mean that the changes after the council would be Protestant-y, right?
‘Battle of the Marinis‘
The coincidence of their shared last names has resulted in YouTube links like “Battle of the Marinis.” (“These things on the YouTube are fun but not important,” said Marini the Second.) But within Vatican and wider liturgical circles, the Marini schism is actually a profound one about the direction of the church.It is, but “schism” doesn’t quite capture the process as much as restoration. The liturgical changes enacted under Guido Marini are “a great microcosm for broader shifts in the church,” said John Allen, a veteran Vatican watcher with the National Catholic Reporter. Blind hog, meet acorn. Since the Marini II era began in October 2007, the papal Masses clearly have a stronger traditional element. Guido Marini, who has degrees in canon and civil law (Boo! Lawyers!) and a doctorate in the psychology of communication (his name in Swedish translates Sven Gali), caused considerable consternation (Insert your own metaphor here. I am silent.) among some progressive Catholics in January when he talked to English-speaking priests about a “reform of the reform.”
In an interview Thursday, he argued that the changes should not be seen as a liturgical backlash to modernity but as a “harmonious development” in a “continuum” that takes full advantage of the church’s rich history and is not subject to what he has called (and, in fact, are) “sporadic modifications.” Liturgical progressives (i.e., proponents of a non-Catholic Catholic liturgy), like Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie, Pa., are concerned that Marini considers the reforms of the 1960s ecumenical council known as Vatican II as being among those sporadic modifications.(Ahem. Give this man $100) 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. (Duh. And they do know that they don’t stay bread and wine, right?) They argue that this obstructs the accessibility urged by liturgical reforms associated with the Second Vatican Council. (“Associate with” is exactly right. They are not of the council, but “progressives” do love to “associate” their schemes with it.)
Marini responds by saying that the crucifix reminds the faithful of who is really front and center in the Mass. He also says that the pope cannot sit in front of the altar when it bears the crucifix because “the pope can’t give his back” to sacraments on the altar.
For Marini, Gregorian chants must be the music of the church because they best interpret the liturgy. And in September, ahead of the pope’s visit to Britain, Marini told the Scottish paper the Herald that the pope would celebrate all the Prefaces and Canons of his Masses in Latin.A most welcome development, which nicely sidesteps the “pro multis” mistranslation.
Piero Marini, who stepped down in 2007 after serving as the master of celebrations for 20 years, has championed the (Spirit of [tm])Vatican II reforms, including the simplification (er, destruction is more like) of rites that he believes facilitates active participation. Facilitates= /involuntary shudder/. In the name of “inculturation,” or integrating church rites with local customs, the silver-haired Marini in 1998 accepted the request of local bishops to allow a troupe of scantily clad Pacific islanders (!) in St. Peter’s Basilica (!!!) to honor (??!!) the pope with a dance during the opening liturgy of the Synod for Oceania. During John Paul II’s visit to Mexico City in 2002, Marini likewise granted a local bishop’s wish to let an indigenous Mexican shaman (!!!!) exorcise (curse) the pope during a Mass there. PLEASE, somebody tell me how this is not a grave violation of the First Commandment. I’ll wait. He said the changes that have been made since he left are obvious. “You don’t have to ask me,” said Marini, who has expressed wariness about the rollback of liturgical reforms. “Everyone can see it for themselves.” About the best endorsement of the new Marini one could ask for. A ‘more sober’ style
His successor said that the two clerics had a good relationship and that it was only natural that things change under a new regime.
“It’s true that there were celebrations that gave more space to different expressions, but that was one style and now there is a different style, one that is more sober and more attentive to the essential things,” said Guido Marini, who, like his predecessor, hails from northern Italy but who, like the pope, expresses admiration for the old Latin Mass. (Cue sinister music; flash lightning.) He added that Benedict considered the Mass a heavenly space that shouldn’t be modified with “things that don’t belong.”
Marini has said there are no plans to force the changes on parishes around the world, but he hopes that they slowly spread and seep in.I join in this hope, and if the Holy Father wants to speed things along a bit, that would be even better.
Under Benedict, the faithful at papal Masses take Communion on their knees and receive the wafer (That would be God) on the tongue. Guido Marini said the change “recalls the importance of the moment” and keeps the act from becoming “banal.” A recent picture of Queen Sofia in Spain receiving Communion from the pope in her hand – and while standing and not wearing a veil – brought rebukes from conservative Catholics. (“Reform of the reform apparently put on hold,” read the Catholic blog Rorate Caeli.) (Yes, a distressing picture, which may have been in ignorance on her part. If it shows an intentional disregard of the Papal reception norms, it just provides a very small example of the fact that many of the aristocracy were often helpful in bringing down the old order that justified their own positions over the last few centuries.) Perhaps the most apparent and luxurious (cha–ching!$!) sign of the new era is the pope’s vestments. Benedict has worn an ancient form of the pallium, or cloak, preferred by first-millennium pontiffs. (The pallium of the more recent Popes, through JPII, was the same as any Metropolitan Archbishop. It was Marini 1 who changed it to a more Greek style of earlier times. Then the Pope, during Marini 2, changed it back to something more like before, with a slightly different fit and red crosses instead of black. FYI.) He also brought back the ermine-trimmed red satin mozzetta, a short cape. And the pope clearly does not obey the article of American political faith to never don an unconventional cap. He has sported a red saturno, a sort of papal cowboy hat, and an ermine-trimmed camauro, a crimson cap that resembles a Santa hat and is worn on nonliturgical occasions. (All about the clothes, you see– i.e., the Pope is being frivolous. A very similar reason, BTW, why some dismiss the ICRSP for their concern with beauty in the liturgy.) According to one senior Vatican official who spoke on the condition of anonymity, Marini sent him a page-long list of vestments he had to wear during a special ordination in St. Peter’s. “I didn’t recognize half of the things on it,” the official said. “Then I had trouble getting it all on.”
“The pope likes new things and antique things,” explained Marini, who compared the pope’s attire to someone in a family who likes modern fashions like, say, Gucci shades but also “the treasures of the family.”(Cf. Matt. 13:52). At a Dec. 16 evening Mass, the pope opted for a paisley patterned crimson and gold chasuble, while Marini, his fingers tented in front of him, wore a white cotta with breezy lace (what insinuation here, I wonder…) sleeves over a purple cassock. As the frail (I think what he means is this: Don’t worry, leftist nuns, he’ll die soon so just ignore him. Then back to the Table of Plenty!) pope sat in his throne (who does he think he is?!), Marini adjusted Benedict’s robes and at the appropriate moments removed the gold miter in order to place a white skullcap atop the pontiff’s white hair. He adjusted the pages of prayer books that altar boys propped up before the pope. After the chorus sang about the divine promise made to David, Marini helped the pope up to read a prayer. At the end of the Mass, the pope followed the candles and large crucifix back up the nave. Marini, as always, trailed immediately behind. (A particularly disgusting paragraph, as Jafar follows out the senile old coot from his outdated throne, a dithering “leader” who can’t do anything himself. God has His own plans, of course. I can only pray that the next Pope is one even less to their liking– but let’s just pray for the Holy Father we already have.) “It’s hard work,” Marini said. “But it’s beautiful.”