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Sunday, December 05, 2010

Missal translation and "What Happened at Vatican II"

I'm becoming more interested in the missal translation issue and thought I'd post an except from John O'Malley's What Happened at Vatican II which touches on that (pp. 130-139) ....


Sacrosanctum Concilium would be introduced by Antonelli, who .... went on to present the eight chapters of the text, which covered every aspect of liturgical celebration .... About liturgical languages, the [first] chapter said:

Latin is to be retained in the liturgies of the Western church. Since, however, "in some rites it is clear that the vernacular has proved very useful for the people" [a quotation from Mediator Dei], it should be given a wider role in liturgy, especially in readings, announcements, certain prayers, and music. Let it be left to episcopal conferences in different parts of the world, in consultation if need be with bishops of nearby regions speaking the same language, to propose to the Holy See the degree and the modes for admitting vernacular languages into the liturgy.


In his presentation, Antonelli quite properly did not go into detail. When he finished, the president for the day opened the floor to discussion. How would the document be received? .... Cardinal Frings of Cologne led off from the presidents' table. His opening words: "The schema before us is like the last will and testament of Pius XII, who, following in the footsteps of St. Pius X, boldly began a renewal of the sacred liturgy." Frings then sounded what would become a leitmotif of the majority: the council was carrying forward work that had already begun. His next sentence was equally significant: "The schema is to be commended for its modest and truly pastoral literary style, full of the spirit of Holy Scripture and the Fathers of the Church. He then made four brief suggestions, three of which pertained to use of the vernacular. Within ten minutes of beginning and letting it be known how highly he thought of the draft document, he sat down ....

Maximos IV rose to speak and shook the bishops to attention right off by addressing them in French. His voice was strong, his tone assured. Here was a speaker, the council fathers immediately recognized, with a quite different perspective, a speaker representing a venerable tradition that had not been subject to many of the historical developments that so much conditioned the traditions of the western church. Maximos praised the document but said he would confine his remarks only to section 24, concerning Latin:

The almost absolute value assigned to Latin in the liturgy, in teaching, and in the administration of the Latin church strikes us from the Eastern church as strange [assez anormal]. Christ after all spoke the language of his contemporaries ... [In the East] there has never been a problem about the proper liturgical language. All languages are liturgical, as the Psalmist says, "Praise the Lord, all ye people." ... The Latin language is dead. But the church is living, and its language, the vehicle of the grace of the Holy Spirit, must also be living because it is intended for us human beings not for angels.

He had two suggestions. First, instead of saying that Latin was to be kept as the language for the liturgy, the text should be emended to say simply that it is "the official and original language of the Roman Rite." Second, instead of saying that the episcopal conferences "propose" to the Holy See whatever use of the vernacular they think appropriate, the text should say that the conferences "decide," subject to the approval of the Holy See .....

Ottaviani had criticized Sacrosanctum .... He took the floor ... with a series of rhetorical questions that made clear how utterly unacceptable he found the schema. Among the questions: "What now, are we dealing here with a revolution regarding the whole Mass?" He insisted that the Mass not be changed ... In 1956, he reminded the council, Pius XII had made it clear to liturgists who had just completed an important meeting at Assisi that Latin was and would remain the language of the Mass.

He was well over the ten-minute limit. Cardinal Alfrink, presiding that day, interrupted the powerful head of the Holy Office to inform him that he had already spoken for the maximum amount of time. This was treatment to which Ottaviani was not accustomed: "I've finished! I've finished! I've finished!" The basilica broke into applause. Ottaviani, insulted and humiliated, boycotted the council for the next two weeks, a dramatic and extraordinarily meaningful gesture from somebody of his stature.

Finally, on November 4 Cardinal Tisserant, the presiding president of the day, put Sacrosanctum Concilium to a vote ... . The outcome of the voting astounded everybody -- a landslide in favor, 2,162 votes, with only 46 opposed. That was a 97 percent approval. The next year, on December 4, 1963, the council overwhelmingly gave its approval to the revised text of Sacrosanctum Concilium, and Paul VI then promulgated it. The final vote was even more of a landslide: 2,147 in favor, 4 against. This was the first document approved by the council and, compared with others, was remarkable for how little it had changed from the original version. Regarding Latin, for instance, the text, though softened slightly, remained substantially the same. Regarding the other hotly contested issue, however, the text in three places affirmed the authority of bishops and bishops' conferences to make decisions in adapting the liturgy to local circumstances. This action effectively nullified Canon 1257 of the Code, which placed all decisions about liturgy exclusively in the Holy See.



Blogger Deacon Denny said...

That's a very interesting bit if history, Crystal. I wish that our current bishops would have taken it to heart, and held out for their original proposals for the Sacramentary, rather than capitulating to Rome on this.

9:24 AM  

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