Chaos Looms with Possible Silver Lining: Pope Decentralizes Authority on Liturgical Translations, Revisions

UPDATE: It is worth reading Ed Condon’s commentary on the UK’s Catholic Herald regarding this Motu Proprio: What no one’s noticed about the new liturgy rules. He explains that, if followed faithfully, this would actually make new liturgical translations more difficult since it requires “unanimous” agreements among bishops. This, of course, assumes bishops are faithful to the document in Rome…which we know isn’t always the case.

17_09_09_Magnum_principiumToday the pope issued a “motu proprio” titled Magnum Principium which effectively lessens the centralized power of the Congregation of Divine Worship (CDW, of which Cardinal Sarah is prefect) as it pertains to approved liturgical translations and revisions. Pope Francis (who seems to favor a decentralized Catholic Church) wishes to allow councils of bishops in various countries to make official liturgical translations in their respective vernacular language rather than the CDW having the ability to dictate which translations from the official Latin texts (because, after all, we are the Latin Church) are allowed in different places of the world. What has just happened may or may not be a big deal. Time will tell.

Despite Pope Francis wishing for greater unity in the Church, this document will likely do the opposite just as many other ideas following the Second Vatican Council have done. At best, this will work to enshrine the disunity of Masses in various languages. At worst, this will open the door for all sorts of chaotic translations or even practices at Mass. The document begins attempting to cite the wishes of Vatican II:

The great principle, established by the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, according to which liturgical prayer be accommodated to the comprehension of the people so that it might be understood, required the weighty task of introducing the vernacular language into the liturgy and of preparing and approving the versions of the liturgical books, a charge that was entrusted to the Bishops.

Is “the great principle” simply a synonym for “the spirit of”, it sure seems like it. And we all know where “the spirit of Vatican II” has gotten us in the past 50 years.  This, of course, ignores the explicit directive of the Second Council contained within the document Sacrosanctum Concilium where it states:

36. 1. Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.

A bit more from the beginning of Magnum Principium:

The Latin Church was aware of the attendant sacrifice involved in the partial loss of liturgical Latin, which had been in use throughout the world over the course of centuries. However it willingly opened the door so that these versions, as part of the rites themselves, might become the voice of the Church celebrating the divine mysteries along with the Latin language

So, it kicks off by stating the obvious sacrifice the Church has made with attempting to suppress its mother tongue since V2. Remember, Bl. Pope Paul VI himself even prefaced the changes by discussing how unfortunate this was going to all be! Then it states that this means forthcoming translations of liturgies were to be celebrated along with the Latin language. I’m no liturgical expert but it seems to me that these allowances for vernacular translations were in spite of the official Latin texts, not along with.

It is no secret that liturgical and theological progressives in the Church have been pining to sanitize the association with Latin in the Church. They feel it is archaic, distant, and cold…unwelcoming. With every small decision they have been able to make, and in spite of the direct wishes of the Second Vatican Council, they have worked to silence the tongue of their ancestors, a language which is perfectly fit for the Holy Liturgy. Just think of Judaism ignoring Hebrew or Islam ashamed of Arabic.

Here’s exactly what changed in the Code of Canon Law as pointed out by CNA:

[Canon 838, 2] has been changed to read: “It is for the Apostolic See to order the sacred liturgy of the universal Church, publish liturgical books, recognize adaptations approved by the Episcopal Conference according to the norm of law, and exercise vigilance that liturgical regulations are observed faithfully everywhere.”

Similarly, 838, 3 previously read: “It pertains to the conferences of bishops to prepare and publish, after the prior review of the Holy See, translations of liturgical books in vernacular languages, adapted appropriately within the limits defined in the liturgical books themselves.”

The text will now read: “It pertains to the episcopal conferences to faithfully prepare versions of the liturgical books in vernacular languages, suitably accommodated within defined limits, and to approve and publish the liturgical books for the regions for which they are responsible after the confirmation of the Apostolic See.

The changes apportion a greater portion of responsibility for the preparation and approval of liturgical translations to episcopal conferences, rather than the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments.

It might not seem like a big deal and we might not notice any difference anytime soon (or, hopefully, ever) in the United States (our council of bishops being the USCCB) but there are countries with bishops councils that are going to be excited to immediately use this document in an unfaithful manner. For instance, look what the bishops of Argentina and Germany have done immediately in the wake of chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia.

This, however, cannot create havoc for too long because while Francis is choosing more and more progressive dinosaurs to be bishops their immediate predecessors (wolves) are dying off. Soon there will be mostly only faithful, joyful, serious, and orthodox priests to choose from to make bishops (and, from bishops, cardinals). But what about the “silver lining” in the title? Well, I predict this will only work to fuel the speed at which the laity, seminarians, priests, and bishops are becoming interested in the treasure of our inheritance, the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM). Let’s say some bishops conferences in Europe (where they are more likely to use this document in an unfaithful manner) decide to make some wacky and despicable changes to the Holy Mass. This could only take place in the novus ordo (ordinary form) celebration of it. The TLM won’t change. Where do priests or seminarians turn to if their council of bishops wants them to do something that doesn’t sit easy with them? Where do the faithful turn to when the Mass becomes even more protestantized, banal, and ugly? The answer, of course, if obvious.

As I stated above, the bishops who loath the treasures, traditions, liturgy, and languag of the Church will soon go away. It is inevitable. There is no future in watered-down, beige Catholicism. To quote Rod Dreher’s funny and completely accurate tweet:


In the meantime, let’s see how this all plays out. ☩

For more (and much insightful) commentary, check out Father Z’s notes on this.


Watch a Step-by-Step Explanation of the Traditional Latin Mass

Interested in a quality explanation the Traditional Latin Mass? This video made by the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP) dissects each part of the Extraordinary Form with multiple camera angles and complete narration. Have you ever wondered what various postures, movements, words, or sections mean, or have you never been to a TLM and want to know more about it before you assist at one? This video can be helpful.

The video highlights the depth, beauty, and seriousness the ancient Mass contains, contrasting most Ordinary Form Masses in this country.

Looking for more educational materials on the TLM? Check out the wonderful book Treasure and TraditionIt’s excellent reading material for understanding the classical liturgy and more. The book is also beautiful. ☩


(H/T Catholic Memes)

Bill Murray & Jagger’s Former Spouse Agree: We Love the Latin Mass


In a new book coming outGenuflections: Famous Folks Talk About Growing Up Catholic (Eckhartz Press, $15.95.), human rights advocate and rock legend Mick Jagger’s former spouse Bianca Jagger discusses her Catholic faith and discusses her fondness for the Extraordinary Form of the liturgy:

“When Pope Paul the VI and the Second Vatican Council introduced the service in the vernacular in 1964, the Latin Mass was almost eliminated — so we lost a Mass in a common and universal language and a solemn high tradition of the Catholic Church,” Jagger said.

“I disagree with those who think that Latin Mass is elitist. We used to be able to go anywhere in the world, even where we didn’t speak the language, and the Mass would be familiar. So I continue to support the idea that we should revive the Latin Mass all over the world.”

Jagger touched on this subject in a 1983 magazine article in which she and Andy Warhol, the late artist, veered off topic while interviewing the musician Sting about a new film The Police front man was starring in:

“I prefer Mass in Latin to English,” Jagger said.

“I do, too,” Warhol offered.

Sting chimed in, “Me, too, the mystery in it.”

Another celebrity, albeit not discussed in the book (that I know of), who recently professed his fondness for the traditional form is superstar Bill Murray (as if we didn’t love him already). Murray, raised in an Irish Catholic household with a sister who is a nun, discussed this in The Guardian.


He talks about how 19th-century candidates risk not getting canonised because the church is keen to push ahead with the likes of John Paul II and Mother Teresa. “I think they’re just trying to get current and hot,” he smiles.

One new saint he does approve of is Pope John XXIII (who died in 1963). “I’ll buy that one, he’s my guy; an extraordinary joyous Florentine who changed the order. I’m not sure all those changes were right. I tend to disagree with what they call the new mass. I think we lost something by losing the Latin. Now if you go to a Catholic mass even just in Harlem it can be in Spanish, it can be in Ethiopian, it can be in any number of languages. The shape of it, the pictures, are the same but the words aren’t the same.”

Isn’t it good for people to understand it? “I guess,” he says, shaking his head. “But there’s a vibration to those words. If you’ve been in the business long enough you know what they mean anyway. And I really miss the music – the power of it, y’know? Yikes! Sacred music has an affect on your brain.” Instead, he says, we get “folk songs … top 40 stuff … oh, brother….”

Detroit’s New Extraordinary Form Parish

With much anticipation, Detroit’s new parish dedicated exclusively to the Extraordinary Form celebrated its first Mass! Over summer it was announced that the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest (ICKSP) would be taking over possession and care of the church from the diocese of Detroit. Before this agreement, the beautiful church faced the possibility of closing down due to an urgent need of repairs which the diocese wasn’t sure would be worth the money. ICKSP (what an annoying acronym to type) helped take care of the most pressing repairs and it is now up and running under the new management, including the new rector, Canon Michael Stein who is 31-years old.

The new parish is called St. Joseph Oratory and ICKSP held its first Mass last Sunday. The Solemn High Mass said by ICKSP’s provincial superior, Canon Matthew Talarico (assisted by Canon Stein and Deacon Jonathon Fehrenbacher), had 300 in the pews.

Below are some beautiful images from the new parish’s Facebook page.


















Which Senses Does Your Parish’s Music Appeal To?

Many American Catholics assume that church music is inherently crappy. While I am by no means a music expert (and I might even be mistaken on some of the technical terms I use below), I think liturgical music is very important. Like for most Catholics my age growing up, the bad music at Mass was just “part of the deal”…something to put up with while fulfilling our duty of Sunday Mass. When I moved to a different parish a few years ago, I realized some churches indeed have very competent musicians only to eventually realize that the music wasn’t necessarily appropriate for the Sacred Liturgy.

Since moving to a new parish, I realize the importance of traditional liturgical music. Most cradle Catholics in our country have only been exposed to two different types of liturgical music:

1) Bad music primarily because of bad (or very old) singers. Sometimes they have an entire choir of poor vocals and sometimes they have a lone singer at the pulpit. There is likely no Gregorian chant or [acceptable] polyphony because of the difficulty of both. While often it’s not the parish’s fault there are no decent choir members available, sometimes there are indirect reasons the parish is unable to attract talented laity.

2) “Progressive” or rhythmic music. This parish relies on modern instruments such as guitars or drums. Usually this parish has the pews stocked with the most “modern” hymnals and sometimes even comes up entirely with their own songs to use for Mass. These parishes tend to put on a concert of sorts, making the focus of Mass on the music and the musicians rather than God.

Of course, the worst would be a combination of the two!

Since the Second Vatican Council, many parishes have felt empowered to radically change their liturgical music even though Vatican II clearly states that Gregorean chant should always have it’s proper place in the Mass:

The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.”
Second Vatican Council’s Sacrosanctum concilium, no. 112

The entire situation saddens me because many Catholics just don’t know just what they are missing out on! Catholic music is actually fantastic, these people just have never heard actual Catholic music, they have only heard secular music with crummy, [kinda-]Christian lyrics or Catholic music presented so poorly they naturally turn their ears off. Make no mistake: I love many forms of secular music. In fact, I sort of fancy myself as a music aficionado, so don’t get the wrong impression. But good music takes on different forms depending on the situation and the only way music can enhance a Sacred Liturgy is by being…sacred.


So why are drums, guitars, and strong lead vocals bad in church? It’s because their music appeals to our body rather than our soul or our mind. When you work out, what do you listen to? Probably rock, maybe some hip-hop or rap…something with a beat that gets you moving. A rhythm helps us jog just like it helps us dance. But we are not at Mass to tap our feet or bob our heads. We are at Mass to encounter Heaven and participate prayerfully. We want music that seeks to raise us up above the natural world.

When you want to study or do anything else that requires deep thinking, what do you listen to? Probably some form of classical music–symphony, piano, or singing. Probably something with a more reverent melody. Why is that? It’s because Classical music is appealing to our minds and our spirit. It opens our mind up to ponder what exists beyond our own physical body and natural world. This is why Gregorian chant and [reverent/traditional] polyphony are the most appropriate choices for music at Mass. I must also admit that I am becoming quite partial to the original Latin lyrics in these forms of music too–I think we should bend soul and intellect to understand these sacred lyrics, rather than watering them down to a form we more easily can understand (this isn’t to discuss the differences between the Latin Mass or the Novus Ordo Mass since Latin can be used in either). Not only are these forms of music more appropriate, they are absolutely gorgeous when done right…so gorgeous it can be hard not to fight tears:

Regina Caeli – I love this polyphony, it’s gorgeous.

Salve Regina  – If only more Ordinary Form Masses closed with this during ordinary time!

Agnus Dei – What prepares you better for the reception of our Lord, this ancient prayer chanted in Latin or the more modern (and often mumbled) “Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world…”

Kyrie (polyphonic) & Gloria (chanted) – Many parishes put little emphasis on the [english-translated] Kyrie and I have been to some suburban parishes that treat the Gloria prayer as a blues song with rolling piano licks, drums, and lead vocals–seriously.

So what senses does the music at your parish appeal to…your body or your soul?

The featured image at the top is from here where monks chant in choir stalls.

For much more on traditional Catholic music, this is a topic the blog Views from the Choir Loft discusses regularly and much better than I can.