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Liturgy & Liturgical Law Forum: Spirit of the Law (Latin Language etc)

by Catherine Frakas 19 Feb 2001

Spirit of the Law (Latin Language etc) QUESTION from A. Basto October 13, 2001
The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, in the Constitution on Sacred Liturgy Sacrossantum Concilium, promulgated by Pope Paul VI, set the framework and the guidelines for the celebration of the Holy Liturgy.
That framework for the revised liturgy was put into being by a set of documents, issued by various authorities in the Church, including instructions approved by the Supreme Authority in the Church, but always having the implementation of the Vatican II directives as a goal. In that system of liturgical laws, the Constitution Sacrossantum Concilium is the paramount law.
Nevertheless, I have a growing feeling that it is not being observed in the real world and that the authorities in the Church, including the Supreme Authority, I dare say, are not taking steps towards its full and faithful implementation. (I did not mean to sound disobedient: I submit myself with loyalty to the ruling power of the Supreme Authority and of all other Church authorities, but I feel that, almost 40 years after the promulgation of the new law, little has been achieved to preserve the spirit of Sacrossantum Concilium, after many abuses in its implementation and many excesses in its interpretation)
For me, it is impossible to believe, for example, that the norms regarding the use of latin and of the vernacular in the liturgy are being properly carried out. That's what the Holy Council stated in article about the use of latin in the liturgy:
36. 1. Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.
2. But since the use of the mother tongue, whether in the Mass, the administration of the sacraments, or other parts of the liturgy, frequently may be of great advantage to the people, the limits of its employment may be extended. This will apply in the first place to the readings and directives, and to some of the prayers and chants, according to the regulations on this matter to be laid down separately in subsequent chapters.
3. These norms being observed, it is for the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned in Art. 22, 2, to decide whether, and to what extent, the vernacular language is to be used; their decrees are to be approved, that is, confirmed, by the Apostolic See. And, whenever it seems to be called for, this authority is to consult with bishops of neighboring regions which have the same language.
Translations from the Latin text into the mother tongue intended for use in the liturgy must be approved by the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned above.
Since I have a great admiration and respect for this forum as a orthodox and faithful interpreter and teacher of liturgical law and of the Catholic Faith, I would like to hear from you on that subject.
ANSWER by Mr. Jacob Slavek on October 16, 2001
Dear Mr. Basto,
You bring up some very important concerns. I think that it is important to state right away that Masses exclusively in the vernacular appear to be permissible, based on Vatican II, the later documents, and the approval of the bishops.
With that having been said, however, there does exist the line in Vatican II which states that Latin is to be preserved. How much Latin? It appears that at least a little.

Pastors should see to it that, in addition to the vernacular, the faithful are also able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass belonging to them.(n.47) This is from Musicam Sacram, a document following Vatican II. Although not saying that they should actually use Latin at Mass, this statement suggests that the faithful at least need to be ABLE to sing or say the Ordinary in Latin if they are to have the Mass in the vernacular. (The Ordinary of the Mass is the parts of the Mass that do not change, such as the Gloria, the Creed, Sanctus, etc.) In the early eighties, The Vatican Bookstore published a small inexpensive booklet containing the people's chants of the Mass in Latin. It is these chants that all the faithful should know. I think it is still available, go to and search for Iubilate Deo.
Continuing in Musicam Sacram, we read:
48. Once the vernacular has been introduced into the Mass, local Ordinaries should determine whether it is advisable to retain one or more Masses in Latin, particularly sung Masses. This applies especially to great cities in churches with a large attendance of faithful using a foreign language.(n.48)
This seems to suggest that the church fathers were anticipating an exclusive vernacular Liturgy.
So on to your concerns.. why isn't anybody doing anything about this? What do they need to do? They have laid down the law, anyone not following is in disobedience! The other day as I was researching for another answer I came across some recent document in which the fathers demanded that the liturgical laws be followed. By recent, I mean less than two or three years ago. Having spent a reasonable amount of time trying to locate it, I am not able to provide a reference here. Anyway, the point is that it is clear that liturgical laws are to be followed. Rome can demand and demand, but it seems that there will ALWAYS be those who think they know better. I don't really know what to do or say about them. I think that in theier infantile reasoning, they consider the Pope to be all the way over in Rome, where he can't hurt me, all cozy in my little parish with my community doing whatever I please.
I don't know if you have read my recent response to Papal Authority... anyway, I say some encouraging things there for those who are in despair of the lack of Latin. I also want to say again that our seminaries seem to becoming more and more orthodox, which means that eventually our priests will be more orthodox. I think that the reason for this is that we are starting to realize, after thirty years or so, that this whole progressive movement just isn't working. So it isn't. Many are starting to realize this. Many are feeling greater loyalty for the church and her teachings and rules. We need to remember that change takes time, both good changes and bad.
Mr. Slavek
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