In this book, French historian Yves Chiron turns his attention to one of the most influential figures of 20th-century Catholicism: Annibale Bugnini, guiding spirit of liturgical reform in the period surrounding the Second Vatican Council. Highly controversial in his day, and down to the present, Bugnini has attracted high praise from his disciples and vilification from his detractors—but all agree that without his energetic organizational skills and access to the levers of power, the most extensive overhaul of the Roman Catholic liturgy in the history of the Church would not have taken place as it did.
Yet who was Bugnini, really? What were his formative experiences, personal ideals, intellectual assumptions, practical aims? How did he accomplish so much in so short a time? Why, after such a singular collaboration with Pope Paul VI, did he suddenly fall from grace and suffer exile? Should he be remembered as liturgiae amator et cultor, lover and servant of the liturgy (his epitaph), or as the éminence grise of an unscrupulous reinvention of Catholic worship? Can we cut through the legendary, the polemical, and the partisan, to arrive at a clear portrait of the man and his work? Until now, there has been no biography that makes extensive use of all available documentary sources, including Bugnini’s own memoirs, Vatican publications, private correspondence, interviews, articles, and lectures. The present book has filled this lacuna with the scholarly care and dispassionate analysis for which the author’s books are praised at all points on the ecclesiastical spectrum.