ON THE SACRED LITURGY
SOLEMNLY PROMULGATED BY
POPE PAUL VI
ON DECEMBER 4, 1963
40. In some places and circumstances, however, an even more radical adaptation of the liturgy is needed, and this entails greater difficulties. Wherefore:
1) The competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned in Art. 22, 2, must, in this matter, carefully and prudently consider which elements from the traditions and culture of individual peoples might appropriately be admitted into divine worship. Adaptations which are judged to be useful or necessary should then be submitted to the Apostolic See, by whose consent they may be introduced.
2) To ensure that adaptations may be made with all the circumspection which they demand, the Apostolic See will grant power to this same territorial ecclesiastical authority to permit and to direct, as the case requires, the necessary preliminary experiments over a determined period of time among certain groups suited for the purpose.
3) Because liturgical laws often involve special difficulties with respect to adaptation, particularly in mission lands, men who are experts in these matters must be employed to formulate them.
When you are entrusted with preaching the Gospel to all the nations, how far can you adapt to local custom to make your point without “selling the farm,” as the saying goes? If you have taken basic philosophy in college, or are current in the literature, you have some exposure to the expanding interest in linguistics and signs in the communications of ideas. The modern father of linguistic philosophy is Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951); in a letter to fellow philosopher Bertrand Russell, Wittgenstein wrote: "The main point is the theory of what can be expressed…by propositions—i.e. by language—and, which comes to the same thing, what can be thought and what cannot be expressed by propositions, but only shown; which, I believe, is the cardinal problem of philosophy." Put another way, some realities can be expressed in words and propositions, some only in other mediums, and the search for the elusive connector is maddening.
If it was maddening for the early twentieth century Wittgenstein, it has been equally so for the Catholic Church, harder for some parts than others. Catholicism has wrestled with this issue of communicating with new cultures from its earliest days. Last Thursday’s Reformation post highlights the misunderstanding (doctrinal and otherwise) between the Latin West and the Greek East. In reading para. 40, one is reminded of many clashes of faith and culture. The methodology of mission work in more recent centuries, for example, was often the reshaping of a culture to the worship model of Rome, an intact Catholic culture of faith and morals transplanted into a new place. The classic film “The African Queen” (1951) opens with a vivid portrayal of a British Methodist missionary, played by Robert Morley, trying to conduct a typical English Sunday service, pump organ and “Rock of Ages” in full form, to a rather primitive tribe in the African jungle on the eve of World War I. [I have a six-minute clip here from Netflix.]
Other Christian missionaries were more accommodating. Around the time of the Reformation, the Jesuit Order, specifically Matteo Ricci, who served the Chinese mission in the years 1584-1610, approached missionary work with Chinese leaders and intellectuals in a collaborative way. In its biography of Ricci, Wikipedia states that “Chinese culture was strongly intertwined with Confucian values and therefore [Ricci] decided to use existing Chinese concepts to explain Christianity. He did not explain the Catholic faith as entirely foreign or new; instead, he said that the Chinese culture and people always believed in God and that Christianity is simply the completion of their faith. He borrowed an unusual Chinese term…[meaning] ‘Lord of Heaven’ to describe the God of Abraham, despite the term's origin in traditional Chinese worship of Heaven. He also cited many synonyms from the Confucian Classics.”
Ricci’s methods disturbed the Franciscan and Dominican missionaries, who reported his work to Rome. After some years the “Chinese Rites Controversy” ended Ricci’s approach, after his death, but thoughtful churchmen never forgot this paradigm, nor the inherent dangers in the marriage of proselytizing and colonializing. Unfortunately, their thought did not carry the day given the Church’s defensive posturing against seizure of the papal states and the various brands of Protestant theology. Catholic Missionary work entailed the acceptance of the propositions and the Roman culture. John Jay, the colonial representative to Spain during the American Revolution, remarked that the three worst things about Spain were the flies, bull-fighting, and the Inquisition. His fellow ambassador John Adams, on the other hand, was talked into attending the reception of a French postulant into a women’s’ contemplative religious order, a rite he found intriguing. Both Jay and Adams, free-thinking Protestants advocating the rights of man, both found Catholicism an “out-of-culture” experience, regardless of their visceral reactions to its rites.
Sacrosanctum Concilium was promulgated in 1963, and para. 40 was cobbled together before the debate and promulgation of Dignitatis Humanae (1965), whose full English title reads “Declaration on Religious Freedom: On the Right of the Person and of Communities to Social and Civil Freedom in Matters Religious.” DH is a classic example of culture impacting the Church; it laid to rest for the last time the deeply held Church contention that religious error [non-Catholic tenets] enjoyed no rights in civil society. DH also contributed to the demise of another aging belief still maintained by some, that the only true and legitimate form of government is a Roman Catholic theocracy. [There are blogsites today that still advocate for the old belief.]
Both Vatican II documents have been helpful in correcting troublesome issues of past missionary or evangelizing work in the Church. But the Council only dimly conceived of what the present-day Church might look like, notably Western Europe and the United States. Every now and then I get a slap in the face regarding the changes in my own lifetime. Last night my wife and I attended a diocesan charity banquet held in the social hall of one of our flagship parishes in the diocese. We planned to attend the Vigil Mass first, and I was worried about finding parking, so we left early and arrived in time to get a choice spot for both events.
Parking was not a problem. That turned out to be the problem. As the minutes ticked down for Mass, I was stunned—there is no other word—at the small attendance. Margaret turned to me at some point and asked, “Are you sure this is the right church for the dinner?” Unfortunately, we had to proceed over to the dinner after Mass, so we did not have any privacy to process what we had seen, which included the total absence of minors at the Eucharist. When we did finally have a chance to talk, we concurred—the Church is in big trouble.
After World War II, when the French bishops became alarmed over declining attendance, permission was given for a cluster of priests to be relieved of parochial duties and take jobs with the angry long-shore men. The hope was to discover the root of the anger and the spiritual hungers and moods who had left the Church, and use this information in new ministries of outreach. Many in France had concluded that their country, known over the centuries as “the Daughter of the Church,” was mission country in the truest sense after the World Wars. Pope Pius XII put an end to the project in 1955, one reason being his concern about the priests’ growing sympathy with socialist causes. Pius’ action here convinced remaining French Catholics that the Church had no interest in conversation with the blue collar/laborer segment of the country’s society, and further alienated those who had remained faithful.
The emptying churches of the United States do worry American bishops, but generally they are loathe to make their concerns public. Moreover, the bishops do not want to know why church attendance and membership is down, because such knowledge, if made public, would force them to experiment—to change the public face of the Church, really—in ways they are not prepared to go. The easy answer is to place the blame on the laity—present and particularly past members—who are seen as disobedient or unwilling to listen. Dialogue is a two-way process, though, and some bishops are “stiff-necked, too. Some of the pastoral initiatives of Pope Francis, for example, seem to some churchmen as a “sell-out” of the Church.
How the Church evangelizes in the years to come—and the measure of success it will achieve—will depend upon discovering Wittgenstein’s lost key to communicating the linguistics of Gospel ideal with the visible reality of Catholic life.
ON THE SACRED LITURGY
SOLEMNLY PROMULGATED BY
POPE PAUL VI
ON DECEMBER 4, 1963
38. Provisions shall also be made, when revising the liturgical books, for legitimate variations and adaptations to different groups, regions, and peoples, especially in mission lands, provided that the substantial unity of the Roman rite is preserved; and this should be borne in mind when drawing up the rites and devising rubrics.
39. Within the limits set by the typical editions of the liturgical books, it shall be for the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned in Art. 22, 2, to specify adaptations, especially in the case of the administration of the sacraments, the sacramentals, processions, liturgical language, sacred music, and the arts, but according to the fundamental norms laid down in this Constitution.
These generic principles were penned and approved in 1963, when the focus of the Church’s attention was turned to the basic challenge of revising the rites and writing new texts for the sacraments, all seven. The task of preparing the texts and rites for the 1970 Mass of Pope Paul VI was placed in the hands of the Vatican Congregation of Divine Worship. Through the 1960’s the official Latin text was formulated. However, this was only half the job; the Council had granted permission for the Mass and other sacraments to be celebrated in the vernacular or the language of the place. The new rites, notably the Mass, would require translation into countless other languages, and certainly beyond the competence of the Roman Congregation. Moreover, the Council itself had directed that conferences of bishops play a role in liturgical adaptation.
In the United States, then, the standing NCCB [National Conference of Catholic Bishops, later named the USCCB] was entrusted with preparing an English translation, as were the bishops’ conferences of other English-speaking nations. It did not make sense for these countries to go it alone. During the Council itself, bishops of English speaking countries elected to form a translating company, ICEL or The International Commission on English in the Liturgy, in 1963. Wikipedia, describing the translators’ [ICEL’s] philosophy, describes the overarching philosophy of the translators as dynamic equivalence, or “capturing the meaning of the prayer but avoiding technical terms: ‘no special literary training should be required of the people; liturgical texts should normally be intelligible to all, even to the less educated’. The resulting English translation of the Roman Missal (called the Sacramentary in the United States) received wide acceptance, but was also criticized for straying too far from the Latin originals and for occasional banality in the language.”
Several examples of the ICEL philosophy are evident in examples that most of you are easily familiar with. In response to the Latin text’s et cum spiritu tuo, “and with your spirit,” ICEL translated the Latin into “And also with you,” which seemed more in tune with American parlance. A more doctrinally charged translation involved the consecration of the Precious Blood. In ICEL’s English translation, the formula I used for my entire span of priestly ministry, Jesus refers to his blood as being shed “for you and for all.” The Latin text reads pro multis, or “for many,” though in Latin the absence of an article can also legitimize a reading “for the many,” i.e., for all. ICEL was forced to decide on which expression to use; the “for many” suggests that Jesus’ blood was not shed for all; “for all” suggests a mechanical waving of the magic wand, without a nod toward the faith of the individual seeking redemption. During Pope Benedict’s reign, he ordered that the pro multis be translated as “for the many” as a better rendering of Jesus’ words in Mark and Luke. The new translation of 2011, used today, speaks of Jesus’ blood poured out “for the many.”
ICEL is chaired by bishops in the English-speaking world, and it continued to provide translations for such documents as the revised marriage manual in 1992. In the 1980’s, however, American bishops encountered more scrutiny from Rome regarding approvals of the English translations they were submitting from ICEL. The ICEL philosophy of translation was under serious scrutiny. When Rome reformed the missal in 2003, it ordered translators to return to the fundamental meanings of the Latin. ICEL, an arm of the episcopacy, was hardly able to protest. It is true, though, that the USCCB indicated it would not be ready for a new translation by Advent, 2011, the traditional opening of the liturgical year. Rome offered an extension to Ash Wednesday, 2012, which would have had significant impact upon American Church publishers and parishes—two different sets of books and resources in the same fiscal year! The USCCB met the Advent 2011 deadline.
I can’t say that today’s translation impacts me one way or the other, although if left to my own memory, I easily slip back to the 1970 English translation of the Creed, particularly where “consubstantial” is concerned; the older English translation “one in being” with the Father is closer to the Nicaean Greek term homoousios, “of one substance.” At least that’s what I think. The Council fathers may not have foreseen these kinds of problems arising from paras. 38 and 38; it is more than likely that they were considering the challenges of distant missionary ventures in the style of Matteo Ricci and Francis Xavier.
It is also true that administrative interventions from Rome carry political messages; the call of Pope John Paul II for a new translation of the Mass which led to the 2011 product concurs with the composition and release of the Catechism. It is no secret that John Paul and his trusted advisor Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (the eventual Benedict XVI) hoped to rein in what they saw as excesses in the expression of Catholic life in the United States and hoped to tighten unity in practice.
The first English translation of the Mass (Pope Paul VI) was criticized as too banal. The 2011 translation has been reviewed as too heavy and verbose. Will there be yet another translation in our lifetimes (or at least mine?) It is known that Pope Francis believes the conferences of bishops to be better judges of suitable translations for their cultures. Early in September 2017, Francis issued a motu proprio (executive order) changing the Church’s Canon Law procedure governing the Vatican’s role in approving liturgical texts. For a full explanation, see this America Magazine report here. I doubt that we would see any radical change in the translation of the Mass in the immediate future. If recent history is any indication, our USCCB has some considerable difficulty speaking the same language even when the debate is English.
To mark the third anniversary of the Catechist Café, I am updating some of the weekly post topics. The Saturday post on Sacraments remains the same. For a full description, check in here.
ON THE SACRED LITURGY
SOLEMNLY PROMULGATED BY
POPE PAUL VI
ON DECEMBER 4, 1963
37. Even in the liturgy, the Church has no wish to impose a rigid uniformity in matters which do not implicate the faith or the good of the whole community; rather does she respect and foster the genius and talents of the various races and peoples. Anything in these peoples' way of life which is not indissolubly bound up with superstition and error she studies with sympathy and, if possible, preserves intact. Sometimes in fact she admits such things into the liturgy itself, so long as they harmonize with its true and authentic spirit.
Paragraph 37 is the tip of a very big iceberg involving the very nature of sacraments. The question reaches to the core of how a sacrament is to be celebrated and how much of its rite may be changed without changing the nature of the sacrament itself.
It can be safely asserted that the immediate references of para. 37 are the experiences of the Jesuit missionaries who launched energetic campaigns in the East and in the West after the Reformation. Growing up in New York State, I learned very early of the Jesuit missions in what is now the Empire State and Canada, particularly St. Isaac Jogues and his companions, who were martyred by the Iroquois Indians. Incidentally, their collective feast is this coming Thursday, October 19 with a major observance at their shrine in Auriesville, N.Y. There is rather good documentation of their work, but there is little or no evidence that the North American Jesuits incorporated any native religious rites into the Mass or other aspects of Catholic life. This was due in part to the violent and primitive circumstances of their setting.
However, the missions to the East were another story. Shortly after the Council of Trent (concluded 1565) an enterprising Jesuit named Matteo Ricci ventured into China. He is the first Christian missionary known to have mastered Chinese before arriving upon the scene, and he and his companions could converse with officials and academics. Ricci appreciated Chinese civilization and undertook to assist its thinkers in grasping Western culture. His linguistic and scientific skills enabled him to translate Euclid’s geometry into Chinese and Confusius’ wisdom into Latin.
Ricci made converts to Catholicism, but his theology and catechetics were adventuresome. He respected the philosophical and religious outlooks of the orient. Regarding Ricci and the Chinese, the Wikipedia entry captures his work well: “Chinese culture was strongly intertwined with Confucian values and therefore [Ricci] decided to use existing Chinese concepts to explain Christianity. He did not explain the Catholic faith as entirely foreign or new; instead, he said that the Chinese culture and people always believed in God and that Christianity is simply the completion of their faith. He borrowed an unusual Chinese term, Tiānzhǔ (天主, "Lord of Heaven") to describe the God of Abraham, despite the term's origin in traditional Chinese worship of Heaven.”
Two other missionary orders, the Franciscans and the Dominicans, complained that Ricci’s methods exceeded the boundaries of Catholic practice and worship, and the Jesuits were reported to Rome. Thus began “The Chinese Rites Controversy” within the Church that lasted for nearly a century. It is a long and complicated issue, and the Dominicans and Franciscans eventually sided with the Jesuits, but Clement XI in 1704 banned the use of the worship rites developed by the Jesuits.
In the twentieth century and down to the present, the issue of adaptation to local peoples has reemerged under the study of ecclesiology, or “the theology of the Church,” as inculturation. [Protestants use the term “contextual theology.”] Nearly all the popes since Leo XIII (d. 1903). Pope John Paul II took a generally more favorable stance toward Matteo Ricci’s original work. John Paul came to the papacy in 1978 with a cherished hope to reunite with the Eastern Orthodox Church; he understood, however, the cultural historical chasm between Istanbul and Rome.
During Vatican II itself, the daily Mass at St. Peter’s rotated among the various rites of the Catholic Church; there are around two dozen. It was a strong reminder that the “rigid uniformity” mentioned in para. 37 was not a reality in the Catholic world, and had not been since the earliest days of the Church. The theological issue remains, though, as the concluding sentences of the paragraph make references to possible “superstition and error” and the need to clarify what falls under the “true and authentic spirit” of the Church. Many of the recent Vatican investigations of theological works have involved issues of inculturation, the most noteworthy being the case of the American theologian Peter Phan and his writings on Asian-Christian relations. I have included a news story explaining his 2004 case here.
The matter of inculturation is not the preserve of only theologians. Pastors and parish personnel find themselves facing issues of inculturation on both practical and theological matters. In Central Florida, for example, the influx of Hispanic peoples and cultures has continued unabated since I arrived here in 1978. In my tenures as pastor I had to come to grips in my own mind with the established custom of the Quinceanera, the rite of passage of a 15-year-old girl into womanhood. In my parish here, the event was celebrated in a Catholic setting, often with the extravagance and the cost of a wedding. My theological instincts led me to reflect upon the relationship of the Quinceanera to the celebration of Confirmation, as there is overlap of meanings to a degree in terms of major religious experiences in the adolescent life cycle.
On a theological level, the Hispanic ministry staff of the parish was significantly influenced by the Latin American “Liberation Theology,” which interpreted Catholic life in terms of freedom from oppression. This created considerable parish and (especially) staff tension. It was not easy pastoring two cultures simultaneously, and I don’t see that problem resolving itself any time soon. [I am happy to say, though, that all the staff of 35 years ago has mellowed considerably, including me, and we are the best of friends today. In fact, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the parish last Sunday and relived “the good old days.”]
Paragraph 37 soothes the hard line taken by Clement XI of the eighteenth century, but makes clear that the matters of interfaith relations and inculturation are delicate matters, particularly regarding sacramental practice and catechetics.
The Catechist Café gets a third-anniversary overhaul. Read about it here. "Sacramental Saturday" will not be changed.
ON THE SACRED LITURGY
SOLEMNLY PROMULGATED BY
POPE PAUL VI
ON DECEMBER 4, 1963
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.
(4.) 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.
On this matter that affects all of us to a significant degree, I returned to two sources we have used before for a refresher on the Council’s discussion on the Liturgy, Xavier Rynne’s popular Vatican Council II (1967, 1996) and John O’Malley’s What Happened at Vatican II? (2008). Despite the “culture wars” that continue to rage in some Catholic circles to this day—specifically the contentions of some in the Catholic press and blogosphere--that the reform of the Roman Missal and the loss of the Tridentine Mass is the cause of the collapse of the Church in the West, the fact is that even many conservatives at the Council shared concern about the limited participation of the faithful at Mass. Pope Pius X and Pope Pius XII had both initiated reforms of the Tridentine Mass before the Council, a point often forgotten.
O’Malley writes that in the 1962 session the principles of the document that would become Sacrosanctum Concilium were read to the Church fathers, but there was “no mention of what had been a burning issue in the [planning] commission and would be the most time-consuming aspect of the discussion in St. Peter’s, the use of the vernacular at Mass.” (p. 133) However, the written text did contain the general wording of para. 36 above. O’Malley has researched a curious point: para. 36 takes a more conservative position on the vernacular than the Council of Trent (1545-63), which states “it is wrong to maintain that the Mass must everywhere be celebrated in the vernacular.” Trent’s directive is, in fact, present day policy in the Church. However, in 1563 the term “vernacular” was so closely associated with Protestants that Latin, in the popular mind, became the language of orthodoxy. [The same dynamic came into play regarding Trent’s teaching on the faithful receiving the Eucharist from the cup.]
In the debate itself, Cardinal Frings of Cologne spoke eloquently and with competence in advocacy of the vernacular. Two of the United States’ Cardinals, Spellman of New York and McIntyre of Los Angeles demurred. Spellman accepted English, for example, for the other sacraments but not the Eucharist, and McIntyre’s argument was simply “The sacred Mass should remain as it is.” In press conferences during the days of the debate, bishops from “the new countries” [missions and newly colonized regions] expressed to reporters their desire that vernacular language be incorporated into their home culture. On the floor of the Council, His Beatitude Maximos IV of the Melkite Rite (speaking in French, not the required Latin!) pointed to the obvious reality that Latin was not used at all in the Eastern Rites, and certainly not his own. Maximos’ proposals that Latin be used as the template or original version of the sacraments, and that conferences of bishops oversee their local translations, is reflected in the language of para. 36.
The debate on Sacrosanctum Concilium and the use of the vernacular dragged out over 328 interventions from the floor and 297 in written form, about a month out of the Council’s first session in 1962. The debate over liturgical language was intense; Rynne’s account (pp. 56-76) is worth researching. In one sense, the unfolding dynamic of the Council itself was undermining the claim that worshipping in Latin would maintain unity of the Church, an argument still heard today. As the official language of the Council, Latin proved so unworkable that Cardinal Cushing of Boston offered to buy a translation service like that used at the United Nations. The Curia, which was not eager to facilitate debate, turned down his offer, and Cushing decided to boycott the second session. For all of that, SC and the directives of para. 36 passed overwhelmingly, but the language of para. 36 regarding Latin vis-à-vis the vernacular or native language does not say exactly what the general Catholic public thinks it means.
Para. 36 does not say that the yet-to-be-composed Vatican II ritual of the Mass should be issued in the vernacular or local language. The originals of all sacraments would continue to come forth from Rome in Latin. Even Maximos’ proposal, coming from the large Greek-worshipping wing of Catholicism, recognizes a primacy of Latin throughout the universal Church. SC, in speaking of a region’s mother tongue, states that “the limits of its employment may be extended,” and then goes to enumerate the Scriptures and “some prayers and chants.”
O’Malley comments that the commission charged with composing the new Mass rite did its work with the understanding that the Eucharistic Prayer would remain in Latin. In truth, there is an ambivalence about the matter of language that runs through the entire document Sacrosanctum Concilium. Some of this reflects the common experience of “composing by committee,” which was just as problematic in Latin as in any other language. In para. 54 of SC, for example, we find the directive: “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. And wherever a more extended use of the mother tongue within the Mass appears desirable, the regulation laid down in Art. 40 of this Constitution is to be observed.” [Para. 40 essentially calls for greater diligence and longer periods of experimentation in cases where more “radical adaptation of the liturgy” is required, which presumably includes full use of the vernacular.]
Events ran faster than the paperwork. Within a few years of the Council the Mass in its entirety was being celebrated in the vernacular worldwide. O’Malley explains that “it had become increasingly obvious that the principles of intelligibility and active participation did not sit well with maintaining for such a meaningful part [i.e. the Eucharistic Prayer] a language only priests understood.” (p. 140) A victory of common sense and liturgical consistency.
There is much I could add by way of anecdote and analysis regarding the reintroduction of the vernacular into Catholic worship in the 1960’s, and following Saturday posts will provide opportunity for that. But I need to put one contention to bed. Vatican II did not outlaw the Latin Mass. A Catholic priest, given the circumstances, has always enjoyed the right to celebrate the Mass of Pope Paul VI (1970) or what we popularly call the Vatican II Mass, in Latin. The local bishop has the authority to determine the appropriateness of doing so; if my pastor, on his own whim, celebrated this Sunday’s conventual or primary Mass in Latin, he would be disciplined by the bishop. If, however, there was a request from a segment of his parishioners that one of the Sunday Masses be offered in Latin, he is certainly free to do so.
The problem is: when a priest gets a request for a Latin Mass (as I did once or twice), the expectation is that I would be offering the Mass of the Tridentine Rite, not the rite of Pope Paul VI. In recent times Rome has permitted the use of the Tridentine rite on a regular basis in dioceses, perhaps for the “good of troubled souls,” as the old saying goes. But I would caution that some (not all) requests for this rite are generated by an attendant belief that the Mass of 1970 is defective, or even heretical by some lights. This would be a rejection of a standing teaching of a pope and bishops in solemn Council. That is a dangerous business in any language.