William Oddie: Is Pope Francis thinking of appointing as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship a disciple of Annibale Bugnini deeply hostile to Benedict XVI’s reforms?

The titles of articles at Catholic Herald seem to be getting longer and longer – sometimes it looks like they just cut and paste the first paragraph of the article!

Here is William Oddie on a story causing much excitement on the web lately: “Is Pope Francis thinking of appointing as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship a disciple of Annibale Bugnini deeply hostile to Benedict XVI’s reforms?”

Here’s my take on things: the distinction between “hermeneutic of continuity” and “hermeneutic of rupture” isn’t very helpful and has probably outlived its usefulness. Whatever truth there is to it, it tends to cause more confusion than it’s worth.

To be sure, Benedict XVI had a nuanced view of things and could even speak of legitimate ruptures within larger continuities. But for some many of Benedict’s would-be disciples – Oddie is a prime example – the things becomes an excuse to paint in black and white, increase divisions,  escalate tensions, and label others inaccurately. To tie Piero Marini to a “hermeneutic of rupture” is an example of such rather simplistic thinking. It would be more accurate to explore how much Marini affirms a rich mix of continuities and ruptures, and how much this reflects the rich mix of continuities and ruptures found within Vatican II itself. But then the whole interpretative model starts to break down – which is why I think the distinction may have outlived its usefulness.

Going forward – whether Piero Marini is appointed to the CDW or not – it seems best to keep mining Sacrosanctum Concilium for its riches, to keep asking what can better be implemented in it, and to be open to the contributions made by many people from many perspectives. Benedict XVI among them.

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Are you keeping track of Marini-1 and Marini-2? Back in 2008 someone made this playful video about the coming reign of Marini-2:

Note, this was about Marini-1 being replaced by Marini-2 as papal MC. Now the rumors are about Marini-1 heading up another department, the CDW.

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For his part, Piero Marini is strongly supportive of our new pope:

It’s a breath of fresh air, it’s opening a window onto springtime and onto hope. We had been breathing the waters of a swamp, and it had a bad smell. We’d been in a church afraid of everything… With Francis we’re talking about positive things; he puts the emphasis on the positive and talks about offering hope… In these first days of his pontificate there’s a different air of freedom, a church that’s closer to the poor and less problematic. He doesn’t like living surrounded by great paintings and gold.

While we all wait with great expectation for the CDW appointment, here are some punchy blog posts that have appeared ever since the Marini rumors began. Damian Thompson wrote a while ago, “Please, Pope Francis, do not hurt Benedict XVI with this move.”  Fr. Tim Finigan over at The Hermeneutic of Continuity is praying fervently for the protection of the church. And my favorite: over at Patheos, Katrina Fernandez wrote, “Is your bar stocked? It’s gonna be a long papacy. … I’ll just be staying drunk till the next conclave, m’kay.”

Oh, here’s where you can buy Piero Marini’s book from LitPress.


28 thoughts on “William Oddie: Is Pope Francis thinking of appointing as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship a disciple of Annibale Bugnini deeply hostile to Benedict XVI’s reforms?

  1. heehee, that title is hilarious.

    as are those blog posts.

    As I have commented on another post, so far, all the rumors about Pope Francis’s curiaI appointments have proven to be true.

    And I think this one will too; I hope it does turn out to be true.

    1. @Elisabeth Ahn – comment #2:
      Well the rumors are myriad. But, in fact, some that were held as gospel did not turn out to be true. Notably, that Archbishop Mueller would be removed from CDFF and sent to a diocese in Germany. As well, that Cardinal Filoni would be exiled from the Curia (Evangelization of Peoples) and sent to Palermo as archbishop.

      1. @john Robert Francis – comment #21:

        well, I have never heard of the ones you cited.

        For what it’s worth though, I did suspect Cardinal Filoni would stay when the pope said in public (during his meeting with the general directors of the Pontifical Missionary Works, which Filoni is charge of) that in addition to being the head of the congregation, Filoni also had another important job: (to paraphrase) that of being his personal professor who teaches him about the Church, also joking that he doesn’t have to pay for these lectures, since Filoni gives them for free.

        As for Abp. Müller, the only ones I’ve heard about him involved Liberation Theology and Gustavo Gutiérrez, so.

        @Jack Rakosky – comment #22:

        Your speculation on P. Marini and CDW sounds reasonable — too reasonable in fact 🙂

  2. I’m a bit confused, what direct control does the CDW have over papal liturgies? If Marini 1 replaced Marini 2 as Papal MC, well then I might see some reason for alarm. But if M1 becomes the head of the CDW won’t that mean as much obscurity for him as the current head has had, unless of course Marini 1 is photoed in cappa magna.

    1. @Fr. Allan. McDonald – comment #3:
      Fr. Alllan, sorry if I contributed to the confusion. I’ve added this to the post, right below the Marini-1 / Marini-2 video:
      “Note, this was about Marini-1 being replaced by Marini-2 as papal MC. Now the rumors are about Marini-1 heading up another department, the CDW.”
      Hope that helps and thanks for your question.

  3. You need to have some understanding of where Oddi is coming from… For an interesting read look up his wiki page. He was a CofE cleric who moved over to Rome in protest of the first wave of female ordinations. He wasn’t accepted for the catholic priesthood but took over as CH editor moving it decidedly to the right. He stepped down as part of a libel settlement that would have bankrupted the paper but still has a blog presence in which he is allowed to rant uncensored. Many of his postings are very offensive.

    Interestingly although Oddi would consider Marini-1 to be part of the hermeneutic of rupture, he considers the SSPX within the hermeneutic of continuity.

  4. Anthony, I agree with you that the distinction between “hermeneutic of continuity” and “hermeneutic of rupture” isn’t very helpful and has probably outlived its usefulness. Whatever truth there is to it, it tends to cause more confusion than it’s worth.

    I would add, though, that this confusion was there from the moment that the unfortunate language was introduced. As I have argued in PTB at some length, I don’t think it was ever a productive distinction. And its fruits have been bitter indeed — escalating tensions, as you mention, and also lots of guilt by association.

    I got a good laugh from Oddie’s describing Lit Press as “an obviously highly ideological outfit”. Look who’s talking!

    The online critiques of liturgical reform and of reformers like Piero Marini and Bugnini become curiously self-referential: William Oddie quotes Fr Z who quotes Fr Finigan who quotes William Oddie. The conversation becomes a “self-enclosed circle, inward facing, looking at one another”.

    Do those last phrases sound in any way familiar?

  5. The quoted words are hurtful in a church that needs healing. Whether the next prefect is for the reform of the reform or church in the round he ought to be able to respect all opinions.
    To reduce those with whom you disagree to such an abstract degree ends up being a debate with one’s own imagination. It’s entirely possible for a person to have a different interpretation of SC without pretending it didnt happen or without being motivated by fear. To call what you disagree with a swamp isn’t good leadership. It’s not wit. It’s snide and mean-spirited. That attitude makes this rumor worse to me than any vestments he might prefer.

  6. Certainly the “continuity” vs. “rupture/reform” trope is tiresome inasmuch as it gets translated into “conservative/traditional” vs. “liberal/progressive.” And equally certainly one never has continuity without some degree of rupture nor rupture without some degree of continuity (a point I recall Jonathan arguing with great cogency).

    But, still, I wonder what to call it when I hear (as I did just last night) statements of the form “We used to believe/do X, but since Vatican II we now believe/do Y,” without any attempt at conveying a sense that for X and Y are/were legitimate expressions of the Catholic faith.

    1. @Fritz Bauerschmidt – comment #9:
      Well, you might call it “dumb.”

      But, seriously… As a matter of intellectual honesty and fairness, I too find caricatured presentations of historical change frustrating.

      But I’ve come to understand three things which go on among ordinary people (not scholars or intellectuals, but people in the Church community at large):

      1. The need to argue for the legitimacy of the Church’s past is strong among those who feel or believe that, as a matter of faith, its institutions and actions are always divinely sanctioned. I’ve heard people argue for the Crusades, the Inquisition, burning of heretics — everything. As long as the Church did it, it was legitimate and good. I don’t think Pope Benedict wanted to encourage a mindless endorsement of everything in the past as good, but he would be sympathetic to the desire to revere and defend the Church’s honor.

      2. The need to justify the legitimacy of the Church’s past is also strong among those who want to return to or revive some aspects of that past. Here, I think Pope Benedict found himself, as a matter of fact.


      3. For people who are not interested in returning to a previous state of affairs, and for whom the honor or truth claims of Catholicism are not diminished by acknowledging change in the Church’s history, it doesn’t really matter to them to justify the positions people took in the past. It matters far more to them to justify and explain the state of affairs we find ourselves in at present.

      My point here is that a “hermeneutic of rupture” doesn’t really describe what is going on in their heads. They are simply not attending to things they regard as irrelevant. Case by case, the same people are quite open to seeing the relevance of things that happened in the past, if you really present it well. But until they are persuaded, it’s about as urgent to them as explaining to their kids how a manual typewriter functions.

      1. @Rita Ferrone – comment #14:
        All three of your points seem right to me, though I might add a 4th: There are those who find past aspects of Catholic belief and practice profoundly embarrassing, and saying “We used to believe/do X, but now we believe/do Y” is a way of relieving that embarrassment.

  7. To second what Mr Bauerschmidt wrote, mere continuity or restoration were simply not options that Benedict XVI, or Pope Francis, left on the table.

  8. Here is the best analysis I have found on what Benedict said and meant (in response to comments above):


    Pertinent highlights:
    – Dec. 22, 2005…..”Before Pope Benedict’s speech, a few Italian prelates had expressed reservations about the five-volume History of Vatican II, of which Giuseppe Alberigo was the general editor and whose English edition I edited. They promoted as a counterweight to it a collection of very critical reviews entitled Il Concilio Ecumenico Vaticano II: Contrapunto per la Sua Storia. When it became known that Pope Benedict was going to address the interpretation of Vatican II, these critics anticipated that he would repudiate the view of the council thought to have guided the editors and authors of those five volumes. This is also how they interpreted the pope’s speech.”
    – “….by contrasting two ways of interpreting the council. (I take it that he did this for rhetorical reasons; there are, of course, more than two contesting interpretations of Vatican II.) The first he called the “hermeneutics of discontinuity.” In two short paragraphs he describes this approach as running the risk of positing a rupture between the preconciliar and the postconciliar church, thus ignoring the fact that the church is a single historical subject.”
    – “One might have expected Pope Benedict to call the position he favors the “hermeneutics of continuity,” and careless commentators have used that term to describe his view. Instead, he calls it the “hermeneutics of reform.” He devotes the greater part of his talk (85 percent by word-count) to explaining what he means by the phrase. And the greater part of this explanation sets out why at the time of the council there was need for a certain measure of discontinuity. After all, if there is no discontinuity, one can hardly speak of reform.”

    Thus, Fr. Komonchak dismisses this whole kerfuffle as carelessness or folks playing to ideologies.

  9. On my sabbatical in Rome, our group today was able to visit the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization. Archbishop Fisichella spoke to us and took questions. He pointed out that in Italy, there are children who show up for First Holy Communion catechesis who do not even know how to make the “Sign of the Cross” at the age of 6 or 7. He went on to say, that these sorts of basic things need to be transmitted in the context of the family, not independent of them. This disorientation of the Faithful in Italy and elsewhere has occurred in a brief 30 to 50 years, much of it resulting from indifference to the faith. This is the real rupture for Catholics who should be a leaven in society and whose family’s lives, intimately connected to the Church through parishes show forth Christ. What has contributed to these demise? Poor Catechesis? Poor preaching? Poor liturgy? We can’t blame the EF or this or any theology of continuity.

  10. “What has contributed to this demise?”

    Recently I was taking care of a 4th grader who goes to Catholic school and comes from a church-going family. At night time, as he was a bit too active, I said: “Why don’t you say your prayers, it’ll calm you down.” The child answered, in genuine bewilderment: “Say my prayers? What do you mean? How do I do that?”

  11. Re Father McDonald’s queries: “What has contributed to these demise? Poor Catechesis? Poor preaching? Poor liturgy? We can’t blame the EF or this or any theology of continuity.”

    I would think that everyone in this forum would know the principal reason why children don’t know how to “say their prayers” or how to make the sign of the cross. It’s called cultural Catholicism (or Christianity) and its inability to hand down the faith that comes to us from the apostles. Children who are raised by parents whose parents did a lot of churchy things without ever making the connection between “saying prayers” and praying, or with making signs of the cross but not having much of a relationship with the God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, or going to church without much “loving and serving the Lord” in their day to day lives…..are not going to be shown how to be followers of Christ. The reason we need a new evangelization is because we have huge numbers of “Catholics” who know some doctrines and practices but who have never really been converted. If someone doesn’t really know Christ why would he give a fig about what he taught, much less about what “his church” teaches. So along come the orthodox Catholics with a capital C who just know that the problem is that people don’t know the richness of the CCC. The biggest problem is that so many don’t know Christ and have made no conscious choice to be his disciples. This goes for the ordained as well as the unordained. This is why there was a Vatican II. Tragically, many in power saw the emphasis on personal relationship with Christ as something foreign to authentic faith….something Protestant and started to unravel the efforts at renewal. I see Francis in clear continuity with all the Popes since John XXIII in their efforts to bring about a greater awareness of discipleship and mission. Thank God for the disturbance/mess Francis is creating!

    1. @Fr. Jack Feehily – comment #16:
      Thanks, Fr. Jack – as if liturgy’s purpose is catechesis (don’t we have this debate over and over on PTB).
      If you were ever in CCD prior to or during VII, you would find the same examples of kids who didn’t know this or that; how to pray; etc. Sometimes, folks say they don’t know how to pray because they are embarrassed or are too nervous to try. And we already know from historical documents, witness, examples that VII was well aware of this phenomenon in Europe which led to many of the suggested changes, reforms, and directions during VII.

      Again, find #12 to be just another *cheap shot* to defend his mantra about the EF. And he states that he will no longer interpret Francis’s comments (they are just not *magisterial* or too *off the cuff* or *misplace what is truly important to the church*) and then goes on for paragraphs to say that Francis’ words must be compared to the catholic catechism and other official teachings; and that they are not *papal teachings*.). BTW – did you know that Francis’ comments carry little authority – that an *encyclical* is the highest form of papal authority and only if the pope himself wrote it (well, there goes a few hundred encyclicals out the window). Or that catholics can not dissent from an encyclical – really?
      Could have sworn that my theology classes taught something different in terms of dogmatic statements, conciliar statements, and that papal statements have various levels of authority….shoot, can think of quite a few motu proprios that had to be later contradicted and overturned because they were just flat wrong. Does this level of clerical misunderstanding rise to the level of a 6-7 year old who can’t do the sign of the cross?

    2. @Fr. Jack Feehily – comment #16:
      I happen to agree with what your wrote and that Pope Francis’ style is modeling the way to do the “new evangelization.” But the problem in the Church apart from cultural Catholicism isn’t the knowlege that people have or don’t have. I have Italian relatives from my mother’s generation who were very devout, loved God, loved the Church, loved Mary and prayed the Rosary daily but could not pass a test on the content of the faith, but they know God and Mary! That’s not my point.
      My point is that many, many Catholics, what some call the nones, simply don’t give a flip for traditional Cathollicism or its perversion, progressive Catholicism. They are indifferent to faith and God. It is the indifference or approaching the faith as a consumer rather than a disiciple that is worrying. Even here in Rome some of our teachers ask us to look at those who visit the various shrines and go to see the pope. Are they pilgrims or tourists? For the most part, even the Catholic ones, are tourists, not pilgrims. Contrast this with Italy 50 years ago and I mean in terms of religious events and true pilgrimages. There is a rupture and only the blind fail to see it.

      1. @Fr. Allan. McDonald – comment #23:
        I might add that if the “indifferent” about 80% of our Catholic population would simply convert to being “cultural Catholics” in continuity with what that meant in previous generations, that continuity would be a vast improvement.

  12. Somewhere in all this discussion of rupture and continuity there should be space for the old saying: “The Church never changes, she only varies”. Pope Francis’ suggestion that we might look to the Eastern Church (Byzantine) practices concerning ‘marriage law’ and ‘clerical celibacy’ as a way out of the ‘present mess’ is an interesting insight — maybe something like an application of Baumstark’s “Comparative Liturgy” and its methods to the Roman Church’s approach to legal problems. This ‘humble use of historical method’ has already helped sort out the Roman practices concerning Ordinations, and could still be further used in regard to “Initiation Sacraments for Infants and Children”.

  13. Doesn’t this turn of events bring to mind della Chiesa and Merry del Val? We can forgive but We cannot forget.

  14. I ordered the Marini Lit Press book on Monday when I finally understood why Francis likely saw him almost immediately just like he did Oscar.

    I don’t think it was mainly about future liturgical reform. Nor mainly about the CDW. Francis had already decided to push councils and synods of bishops, and limit the Curia to its quartermaster functions.

    Marini had much experience with the Concilium, one of the largest projects ever that involved consultation with the bishops and which was done outside the regular curial structure. Francis would obviously want to know what worked well, what did not, what would you do differently? What are the good and bad in the “process “of liturgical reform since Concilium? As a “quartermaster” organization what should the role of the curia be in helping the bishops make better decisions?

    It seems to me that Francis is going to want Marini’s advice about this larger issue of promoting councils and synods, and may also want to give the bishops access to that same experience.

    Early on there were rumors that Oscar might become Secretary of State. We now know that he and Francis did talk about the Secretary of State position, and we know that Francis also made a decision at that time to offer it to the incoming guy. So evidently there were discussions then about who were the best people and where they might be located even if it has taken a long time for the story to unfold. Oscar would probably have been tied down by positioning him at State.

    One reason for the long unfolding seems to be the great care that Francis is lavishing on the curia( the whole curia, not just the heads) through many ways, e.g. the morning Masses. All this while gently lowering them from the papal court of the past to a more limited but essential function as quartermasters.

    IF Marini goes to CDW it will probably be only to dismantle there the things that are contrary to the importance of bishops conferences and to have it become a model of the limited role of curial departments. I doubt Marini is going to preside over an extensive Bugnini type reform from the CDW, nor even have the role in general liturgical reform that Bugini had from outside the Curia. Francis wants to develop a horizontal structure to supplement the vertical one. I think Francis is going to let National and Regional Bishops conferences determine the nature and pace of their liturgical reform.

    1. @Jack Rakosky – comment #22:
      I agree about your speculation on what a putative Marini1 appt would tend to mean, should it come to pass, but which I am not expecting it will…

  15. Well reform of the curia will be substantial. The Secretary of State will become a Secretary to the Pope and a “Moderator” of the Curia will likely be established.

    Who might be that moderator? Probably someone who has been a residential bishop rather than a curia person. Oscar?

    But a moderator will likely need a # 2 familiar with but not sympathetic with the curia. Marini-!?

    Are the pieces of the puzzle coming together?


  16. For what it’s worth, Bill Oddie is bonkers. The circulation of the CH has plummeted since he took over. At one time it was a respected Catholic newspaper; now it is the organ of a splinter group.

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