Cardinal Arinze speaks about Latin, music, and translation

The incomparable Fr. Z. gives a long summation of three long interviews published on Zenit with His Eminence Francis Card. Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments. Here is just a single long commentary:

5. Did Vatican II discourage Latin?

Some people think, or have the perception, that the Second Vatican Council discouraged the use of Latin in the liturgy. This is not the case.

Just before he opened the Council, Bl. Pope John XXIII in 1962 issued an Apostolic Constitution to insist on the use of Latin in the Church. [Again, Card. Arinze has brought us back to this important and purposely ignored document.] The Second Vatican Council, although it admitted some introduction of the vernacular, insisted on the place of Latin: "Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites" (SC, n. 36).

The Council also required that seminarians "should acquire a command of Latin which will enable them to understand and use the source material of so many sciences and the documents of the Church as well" (Optatam Totius, n. 13). The Code of Canon Law published in 1983 enacts that "the Eucharistic celebration is to be carried out either in the Latin language or in another language, provided the liturgical texts have been lawfully approved" (can. 928). [Okay: 1) Apostolic Constitution of John XXIII; 2) a document of Vatican II; 3) 1983 Code of Canon Law. How hard is this?]

Those, therefore, who want to give the impression that the Church has put Latin away from her liturgy are mistaken. A manifestation of people’s acceptance of Latin liturgy well celebrated was had at the world level in April 2005, when millions followed the burial rites of Pope John Paul II and then, two weeks later, the inauguration Mass of Pope Benedict XVI over the television.

It is remarkable that young people welcome the Mass celebrated sometimes in Latin. Problems are not lacking. So, too, there are misunderstandings and wrong approaches on the part of some priests on the use of Latin. But to get the matter in better focus, it is necessary first to examine the use of the vernacular in the liturgy of the Roman Rite today. [We need to get Latin into parishes, Your Eminence. International gatherings are not enough. But he knows this and speaks of this elsewhere.]

6. The Vernacular: Introduction, Extension, Conditions

The introduction of local languages into the sacred liturgy of the Latin Rite is a development that did not occur all of a sudden. After the partial experience gained over the preceding years in certain countries, already on 5 and 6 December 1962, after long and sometimes impassioned debates, the Second Vatican Fathers adopted the principle that the use of the mother tongue, whether in the Mass or other parts of the liturgy, frequently may be of advantage to the people. In the following year the Council voted to apply this principle to the Mass, the ritual and the Liturgy of the Hours (cf. SC, nn. 36, 54, 63a, 76, 78, 101). [Did the Council not actually say "occasionally"?]

Extensions of the use of the vernacular followed. But, as if the Council Fathers foresaw the likelihood that Latin might lose more and more ground, they insisted again and again that Latin be maintained.

As already quoted, article 36 of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy began by enacting that "particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rite". Article 54 required that steps be taken, "enabling the faithful to say or sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass belonging to them". In the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours, "in accordance with the centuries-old tradition of the Latin rite, clerics are to retain the Latin language" (SC, n. 101).

But even while establishing limits, the Council Fathers anticipated the possibility of a wider use of the vernacular. Article 54 indeed adds: "Wherever a more extended use of the mother tongue within the Mass appears desirable, the regulation laid down in Article 40 of this Constitution is to be observed". Article 40 goes into directives on the role of Bishops’ Conferences and of the Apostolic See in such a delicate matter.

The vernacular had been introduced. The rest is history. The developments were so fast that many clerics, Religious and lay faithful today are not aware that the Second Vatican Council did not simply introduce the vernacular for all parts of the liturgy. [And I think the supression of Latin was purposeful, not just a consequence of circumstances.]

[Some good history follows here. This is very useful.] Requests and widenings of the use of the vernacular were not long in coming. At the urgent request of some Bishops’ Conferences, Pope Paul VI first allowed the Preface of the Mass to be said in the vernacular (cf. Letter of the Cardinal Secretary of State, 27 April 1965), then the entire Canon and the prayers of ordination in 1967.

Finally, on 14 June 1971, the Congregation for Divine Worship sent notice that Episcopal Conferences could allow the use of the vernacular in all the texts of the Mass, and each Ordinary could give the same permission for the choral or private celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours (on the whole development, see A.G. Martimort: The Dialogue between God and his People, in A.G. Martimort: The Church at Prayer, I, p. 166).

The reasons for the introduction of the mother tongue are not far to seek. It promotes better understanding of what the Church is praying, since "Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful be led to that full, conscious and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy… (and which) is their right by reason of their Baptism" (SC, n. 14).

At the same time, it is not difficult to envisage how demanding and delicate the work of translation must be. Even more difficult is the question of adaptation and inculturation especially when we think of the sacredness of the sacramental rites, the centuries-old tradition of the Latin Rite, and the close link between faith and worship encapsuled in the old formula: lex orandi, lex credendi. [There is a reciprocal relationship between the way we pray and what we believe. Change the prayer, we change belief. Consider that in the light of "inculturation". Inculturation is always taking place. It is unavoidable and it is desirable. However, in this ongoing process, what the Church has to give to the world must always have logical priority. When that gets reversed, and the Church takes a back-seat to the world, unaccepaptable and damaging distortions result. Back to translation and inculturation. With the translation of a Latin prayer be sculpted for this or that culture? I think that is a bad idea. The style of language used should cut across cultural lines. Thus, the model (as suggested by Liturgiam authenticam) should be from the canon of English literature, not from ephemeral and colloquial language.]

Don't miss this fascinating 3-part summation on the standing of Latin in the Liturgy, Music and issues of translation!