Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sacrosanctum Concilium, Pt. 7

When we last left the Constitution on the Liturgy (which, yes, was a while back), we had just gotten to the bit about how Latin was to be preserved as the language of the liturgy. I wanted to carve out some discussion about this because the context seems very important to understanding what was going on and what more than a few bishops might have been thinking in going along with it. We know, for example, that the wholesale replacement of Latin by the vernacular was regarded as a joke. Literally. So what was the discussion about?

Mostly, it seems to have been focused on the mission fields. For example, as Fr. Wiltgen relates in The Rhine Flows Into the Tiber:

Archbishop D'Souza [of Nagpur, India] . . . added: "The use of the vernacular in the administration of the sacraments is a must, for the simple reason that the beautiful rites are completely lost on our people if they are in Latin." If local languages and customs were not introduced into the liturgy, the Church would "never make the impact it should on our country. . . "

This is all very interesting coming from a Indian bishop. First off, I'm not sure how significant the whole Latin issue would be for someone in his situation. Aren't most Catholics in India of the Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara persuasion? I'm having trouble finding information on this, but all indications are that the Indian liturgies wouldn't have been in Latin anyway. Second, it's kind of weird to hear these kinds of comments given that one of the primary proponents of the TLM is Cardinal Ranjith of Sri Lanka. Third, I have to wonder how legitimate these concerns are. The major evangelical global evangelical pushes were from the Latin Church. This would mean the TLM as the primary liturgical expression. Was the culture of the indigenous folks in South America really so different from Southeast Asia that entirely new liturgical practices were necessary? To my knowledge, the vernacular wasn't introduced to make it any easier. Saying that one group of people is just way too unique to be open to something carries an air of hubris.

There's no doubt, though, that the mission fields were heavily promoted in the conciliar debates about the liturgical reform. Was there perhaps a ulterior motive for eliminating Latin? Fr. Wiltgen, somewhat approvingly, seemed to think so:

As long as Latin texts and Latin rites were universally used in the Church, the Roman Curia would be competent to check and control them. But if hundreds and even thousands of local languages and customs were introduced into the liturgy, the Curia would automatically lose this prerogative. Episcopal conferences with knowledge of the local languages and understanding of local custom would then become the more competent judges in the matter. And this was precisely what the evolving majority was insisting upon.

We've been over the Curia-hate as a major force behind the conciliar reforms already. This looks to have been another manifestation somewhat clothed in the trappings of concerns for potential converts. However, we can't chalk the whole movement up to such motives. There were clearly some legit concerns over this, expressed by parties as conservative as Bishop Antonio Castro de Mayer who Fr. Wiltgen reports as being willing to permit a limited use of the vernacular in "certain cultural areas."

Let's be clear here that I'm discussing this because of the overall collapse of Latin in the liturgy. Whether or not local customs or rituals can be incorporated into the liturgy strikes me as a completely different topic. This has been done successfully in the past and without major incident (the Chinese Rites stuff being a notable exception). For the areas already accustomed to the Latin Rite, why was any accommodation needed? I'm not really finding any explanation for that, other than some comments by Bishop Zauner of Linz, Austria, who was a figure in the Rhine alliance of bishops.

He emphasized that the vernacular was a necessary condition for the active participation of the people. If that was the case, then why does the Council say otherwise both directly (in preserving Latin) and indirectly (by emphasizing the contemplative aspects of participation)? As we've been focusing on, how much stock can we put into the exaltation of participation in the Pauline Mass when the whole liturgy of the Church has been put in permanent workshop mode after its implementation?

The other thing I wanted to point out in all this is the popular "knowledge" of the Council's stand on language. MacAffee Brown, Blanshard, and MacEoin take it for granted that all liturgy will be in the vernacular after the Council. Why would they do this given the actual text of the Constitution and the positioning of Latin as primary and vernacular as an exception to the rule? Their own works don't explain. It's just how they reported on it, which is more proof that you can't trust secular sources for honest news about Catholic events.

Hopefully, my recovery will give me the chance to get back on track with my review of the Council. I know I'm not the kind of guy Msgr. Gherardini had in mind for conducting this kind of study, but I know some of you ask about it and enjoy, so I'm working on getting back into it again.

More to come...


Mark of the Vineyard said...

The whole active participation bit is still a bit confusing to me. We see as far back as St. Pius X calling for it (and he was part of the original Liturgical Movement which started gaining shape in the late 19th century). In my Missal (which is a 1930's edition of the Gaspar Lefebvre OSB missal), it even mentions that St. Pius X wanted the faithful to follow the Mass more closely (i.e., to "follow" the priest, and not so much doing one's own thing).
So what exactly should one understand as active participation? Did the meaning change over time?

Throwback said...

My take is that SC itself defines participation pretty well. See here:

It emphasizes an interior and contemplative action.