Lingua latina simul cantare sciant
by Gary D. Penkala
Part I: No Latin? Only Latin?
"Oh, that song's very beautiful, but we're not allowed to sing Latin anymore."
"Latin went out after Vatican II."
"We want to be relevant, so we don't sing Latin."
In meeting with various church musicians over the years I have often heard just such comments.
These point out a major fallacy, or "minor heresy" in post-Vatican II liturgical thinking; namely, Latin is illegal and has no place in Catholic liturgy.
Although minor, these ideas may qualify as heresies nonetheless, being "religious opinions at variance with authoritative standards."
And what are these authoritative standards?
They are contained in documents from the Vatican Council - the corporate work of cardinals and bishops, ratified, implemented and supported by popes - and also found in documents drawn up collectively by the American bishops.
Let's examine these documents carefully, and also examine how they are being misinterpreted in widespread instances.
The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Article 36, states, "Though existing special exemptions are to remain in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites."
Only then does the document allow (not command) the use of the vernacular, as regulated by local bishops' conferences.
It is the will of the Council that "steps be taken to ensure that the faithful are able to say or sing together, also in Latin, those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which are rightfully theirs." (Article 54)
Before I myself am misunderstood, let me say that I am not campaigning for a full return to the Latin Mass.
I do feel, however, that some clergy and musicians, in their zeal to implement the reforms of Vatican II, have overlooked the above paragraphs while concentrating their attention on certain others that have thus become overemphasized.