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Vatican infighting: We told you two popes could be a problem

July 01, 2013|By Michael McGough
  • Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, left, with Pope Francis at the Vatican on May 2.
Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, left, with Pope Francis at the Vatican on May… (Associated Press )

The awkwardness of having two popes -- one active, one emeritus -- is dramatized by a controversy over the rumored appointment of a new head of the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Sacraments, the Vatican office that oversees Catholic liturgy.

The Catholic News Agency reports that Pope Francis is considering entrusting that post to Archbishop Piero Marini, who served as “master of ceremonies” for Pope John Paul II. As I discussed in an Op-Ed article for The Times several years ago, Piero Marini is the “bad Marini” in the eys of Catholic traditionalists, who prefer the "good" Guido Marini, the master of ceremonies for Pope Benedict XVI who was inherited by Pope Francis.

The first Marini is associated with modernistic liturgies, including those that drew on indigenous  customs. Marini No. 2 is a fastidious traditionalist. With his assistance, Benedict excavated the golden vestments and jeweled miters of the pre-Vatican II papacy, trappings that the ostentatiously simple Francis has put back into mothballs.

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The possibility that the old Marini might soon be presiding over the office responsible for worship appalls Catholics who revere Benedict for reviving the pre-Vatican II Latin Mass and “reforming the reform” of the liturgy undertaken after Vatican II. Damian Thompson, a columnist and blogger for the Daily Telegraph in Britain, wrote Sunday:

“Please, Pope Francis, do not let this happen. The archbishop (not to be confused with the current Vatican MC, Msgr. Guido Marini) devised some of the ugliest liturgies in Catholic history for John Paul II -- and, moreover, was distinctly snide in his attitude toward Benedict XVI's much-needed reforms.”

Thompson then made this appeal: “Benedict XVI, one need hardly be reminded, is still alive. What could be more wounding to him than the appointment of such a divisive figure to the church's top liturgical post?”

In other words, the current pope shouldn’t do what he thinks best because the former pope is still alive and wouldn't approve. That’s an odd position for a supporter of a powerful papacy to take. And it's hard to reconcile with Benedict’s own assurance when he stepped down that he would show “unconditional obedience” to his successor.

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