Fr Neuhaus lays out simply one of the greatest mysteries of the modern era in the Catholic Church:
Nobody seems to know why Pope Paul VI allowed Bugnini to take such liberties with the Church’s worship, or why, in 1976, he “exiled” him to a diplomatic post in Iran, where he died.
Essentially, you can speculate all you like about what went on in that decade, but in the end, we will never know what Pope Paul thought Cardinal Bugnini was doing with the “reform” of liturgy. But it seems he woke up to it eventually. Contra Piero Marini (who, it seems, knew perfectly well what Bugnini was up to), what happened was not according to the “Spirit of Vatican II”, unless there can be contradiction between the “spirit” and the “letter” (as so many seem happy to imagine).
There are many who will point to the “horror years” and say “This proved that the Catholic Church isn’t who she claims to be” (I have my eyes on you, PE), but the indefectibility does not mean that from time to time the Church doesn’t get the “wobbles”! A quick glance at Church history should be enough to prove that point. Forty years is such a short time in Church history, and often major upheavals take more than a century or two to sort out and usually leave their mark in some way upon the Church’s life–usually, be it noted, to the eventually betterment of the Church and of her proclamation of the Gospel.
This is in itself a great mystery, and one that we see working out again under the current pontificate. In his column, Neuhaus points to well known passages in Ratzinger’s “Spirit of the Liturgy”, where he speaks of the pope’s responsibilityfor the organic growth of the Church’s life, worship and doctrine. In a memorable image, Ratzinger described the role of the Pope as
the task of a gardener, not that of a technician who builds new machines and throws the old ones on the junk-pile.
Neuhaus also reminds us of the rule in the Church (expressed in the Catechism and many other places) that “no sacramental rite may be modified or manipulated at the will of the minister or the community.”
Perhaps that gives us some clue as to why the Pope “tolerates” the sort of thing that happened at the Nationals Stadium and will probably show the same toleration to what happens here on World Youth Day. Chalk it up to being pastoral. He doesn’t impose his own liturgical preferences upon the Church no matter how well grounded they may be in theology and tradition. He trusts that the guidance of the Holy Spirit will not abandon the Church and that with firm but gentle teaching, guidance and example, the Church will regain its liturgical balance–and be even richer and stronger liturgically for the experience of the recent hardships.
To use another image, rather than that of gardener/technician, broken bones need to be re-broken in order to be reset, but wounds need to be tended with the tender applicatoin of oil and wine (to use Jesus’ own image) if they are to heal. It will forever remain a mystery why or how Paul VI let his guard down and allowed Bugnini to hack away at the liturgy in the way that he did, but Benedict’s strategy for healing the wounds is no mystery at all.