By Matthew J. Bellisario 2012
In the first part of this series I briefly took a look at the attitude Annibale Bugnini had concerning the changes in the liturgy at VCII. I also took a look at what Pope Pius XII had to say about what he viewed to be serious crimes against the liturgy, which took place with the implementation of the Novus Ordo Mass. In this second part of the series I want to examine the issue of the vernacular. The Vatican II document that was penned concerning the liturgy was ‘Sacrosanctum Concilium’ released on December 4th, 1963. The document made clear that the law of the liturgy concerning language was to be Latin. The document did however make an exception to the vernacular concerning certain parts of the Mass, which quickly became the rule for the entire Mass. Before the ink was even dry on the document those who were in charge of the liturgical committee, along with some bishops, were petitioning Pope Paul VI to go further with the vernacular.
The document stated the following concerning the Latin language,
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.
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.
54. In Masses which are celebrated with the people, a suitable place may be allotted to their mother tongue. This is to apply in the first place to the readings and "the common prayer," but also, as local conditions may warrant, to those parts which pertain to the people, according to tho norm laid down in Art. 36 of this Constitution.
Nevertheless steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.
Here we have the “this and that” character of the document. It would seem that the law of Latin should have been the first rule to be followed, at least concerning the canon. If that is so, why did we not see the vernacular only in the varying parts of the Novus Ordo while retaining Latin in the ordinary parts? In fact this was the case at the very beginning of the new liturgical implementation. Bugnini admits that this was how the document was being interpreted during the Council. But the Council fathers who were involved in the liturgical overhaul were not satisfied with this, and many of the bishops in Europe wanted further concessions. Bugnini writes, “...the vernaculars had to stop at the threshold of the Roman Canon and the sacrament of holy orders. Many thought or hoped that this threshold would not be crossed, or at least not in the near future. But the need was very quickly felt for having the entire liturgy in the vernacular. It was felt with special intensity in certain parts of the world, particularly in the Netherlands, where translations of the Canon were beginning to circulate, along with texts of new Eucharistic Prayers.” (Page 105) If we continue on we see that the Dutch episcopal conference petitioned the Holy See to get these translations approved as well as permission to allow the laity to distribute communion in the hand. The Holy Father had the Consilium headed by Bugnini himself, and the Congregation of Rites study the proposition. Pope Paul VI then had a special committee examine the final proposal. Despite the liturgical law laid down in ‘Sacrosanctum Concilium’, on January 31st, 1967 Paul VI approved a concession, which allowed for the entire Canon to be said in the vernacular and the rite of ordinations to be allowed as well. A special commission was then put together to allow the same concessions to the entire Church. Bugnini writes, “The desire was expressed that in sacred orders the essential formula for the ordination of deacons, priests and bishops remain in Latin, but the decision was left to the conferences.” If you remember in my first post, I pointed out that Bugnini was proud of the change which decentralized the control of the liturgy and allowed the individual conferences to decide what they wanted to do, and we can see one of the unfortunate results from this.
Another interesting problem was the translation issue. Bugnini is perfectly clear that right off the bat there were problems with this. The Church knew this was going to be a serious problem, hence the law of Latin was originally to be preserved. Bugnini discusses this on page 109. As they struggled along with their project he writes, “Thus little by little, the vernacular also came to be heard in the Canon of the Mass.” I bet most Catholics don’t know that the original intent was never to have the Canon in the vernacular. Bugnini admits the fact that the VCII document had been continually interpreted more liberally as time went on. (page 110) He writes, “If the rest of the Mass were to be celebrated in the vernacular while the Canon remained in Latin, it would have been like opening all the doors of the house to a guest and then excluding them form its heart.” You can see how very quickly things began to unravel concerning the implementation of the Mass. The Canon was now no longer a sacred heart to be preserved intact with the Latin language, but it was now a mere part of the rest of the Mass only to be subjected to many vernacular translations.
Many Catholics often attack me for claiming that the Vatican II documents are ambiguous. Yet, this is exactly what Bugnini says concerning the document concerning the liturgy. He writes on page 111, “In article 54 the Constitution says that a suitable place may be allowed to the mother tongue in Masses celebrated with the people, especially (“in the first place) in the readings and the prayer of the faithful and, depending on the local conditions, also in parts belonging to the people. the wording is vague. What is a “suitable” place? What is the point of the words “in the first place”? And what does “parts belonging to the people” include? In the third paragraph of this same article 54, the Council leaves it to the episcopal conferences to judge whether “a more extended use of the mother tongue” is desirable. What limits then did the Council set? If we judge solely on the basis of the text, no one will ever be able to answer with certainty.” Hence my argument stands. Even this council father says that the text is ambiguous. That is what happens when you have a crew of modernist theologians putting their corrupt fingers in the documents. No one, including those who had a hand in putting them together can understand them. Bugnini then concludes that the entire Mass belongs to the people so nothing was really off limits to the vernacular. So much for making any distinctions at all if you are not going to be able to tell anyone what they are. As you can see, the implementation of the Novus Ordo is far from cut and dry. Now you know more of the story on how the entire Novus Ordo Mass was changed to allow for the vernacular, and why the “law” concerning Latin in the VCII document was able to be circumvented.