Council Takes Historic Votes to Bring Vernacular to the Mass

44th General Congregation
October 9, 1963

The Fathers of the ecumenical council have passed amendments to the schema—or draft constitution—on the liturgy which will eventually introduce the vernacular into parts of the Mass.

This history-making decision was taken as the council Fathers at the general meeting on Oct. 9 passed seven more amendments to the second chapter of the liturgy schema. Five amendments had been passed on the previous day.

The first four of the Oct. 9 amendments dealt with the introduction of the vernacular into parts of the Mass, especially in the lessons or readings from the Bible and in the various texts which are properly recited or sung by the people.

At a press briefing followed the council meeting, Father Frederick McManus of the Catholic University of America, a council expert, pointed out that the amendment dealing with the vernacular was more generous than the original unamended text of the schema. The original text, he said, spoke of “the lessons, the oratio communis [common prayer] and some chants,” whereas the amended text makes it possible to use the vernacular in the “parts pertaining to the people.”

This was the area defined by the schema in which the vernacular could be used. Precisely how much or how little of this concession would be applied was left by the provisions of the schema to the national hierarchies. However, “parts pertaining to the people” could include all the chants of the Ordinary (Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus and Agnus Dei) and of the Proper (In­troit, Gradual, Offertory and Communion). It was not said, but it could be assumed, that the vernacular could be used in these parts whether recited or sung.

Archbishop Paul J. Hallinan of Atlanta, a member of the council’s Liturgy Commission who had an active part in preparing the schema, said at the same press briefing that there are four steps to be taken before the vernacular may actually be witnessed in the Mass:

1. Approval of the chapter, which now appeared virtually certain.

2. Promulgation of the constitution by Pope Paul VI and the council.

3. Approval of the national hierarchies.

4. Preparation of the texts in the vernacular to be used.

Archbishop Hallinan said that nations of the same language groups were counseled by the schema to collaborate in the composition of liturgical texts in the vernacular. He revealed that informal meetings of such bishops are already underway for the purpose of preparing uniform liturgical texts.

The amendments voted on and approved by the Oct. 9 meeting were numbers 6 to 12 of 19 amendments. Nos. 6 to 9 dealt with the vernacular. No. 10 added to the schema a strong recommendation that the people take part in the Mass by receiving Communion and from Hosts consecrated at the same Mass rather than from Hosts consecrated at a previous Mass. No. 11 proposed a textual change in connection with the extension of Communion under both species to others than the celebrant on certain occasions. No. 12 dealt with the necessity of the faithful being present at both parts of the Mass, that is, “the service of the word and the Eucharistic service.”

The sixth amendment used the phrase “may be given” instead of “shall be given” in the text on the vernacular, intending to allow a certain freedom of action while at the same time making provision for an increased use of modern languages in the liturgy.

Acting on the recommendation of several bishops, the eighth amendment urged that the faithful also learn in Latin parts of the Ordinary of the Mass lest they be deprived of the opportunity of common liturgical prayer when traveling in foreign countries or taking part in international gatherings.

The original text of the schema, in treating the reception of Communion under both species, gave only one example, the Mass of ordination. The 11th amendment added two others: the Mass of religious profession and the Mass celebrated after reception of Baptism.

The original text of the schema urged assistance at the entire Mass, including the didactic part, as an integrating part of one sole liturgical act. In the 12th amendment, the Liturgical Commission was unwilling to make this a matter of precept, but was satisfied with urging priests to so advise Catholics, especially for Sun­days and holy days of obligation.

The number of council Fathers voting on the amendments totaled 2,254. All amendments passed by an overwhelming majority. The largest number of neg­ ative votes came on the 11th amendment.

Asked why this was so, Father McManus said:

“We never know the motives of the bishops when they cast their votes for or against. However, I believe the greatest objection was to a phrase in the text which said ‘the dogmatic principles of the Council of Trent remaining in effect’.”

Discussion at the press briefing returned to the previous day’s matter—amendments four and five—on making the homily an integral part of the Mass. Father McManus remarked that this amendment means that the homily must be given at all Sunday Masses. Archbishop Hallinan repeated that “homily” means “exposition of the mysteries of the Faith and the norms of Christian life.”

Where this provision would seem to be particularly applicable, said Archbishop Hallinan, would be in such cases as sermonless “summer schedules” in some parishes and in those dioceses where Bishops’ pastoral letters displace the Sunday sermon. Bishop Thomas K. Gorman of Dallas-Fort Worth was also present at the briefing and remarked on the latter case that “sometimes the letter is better than the sermon.”

It was revealed by Archbishop Hallinan that the “remaining six booklets of amendments” that will complete the schema on the liturgy are already complete and may be taken up immediately for continued voting in the council.

Discussion on the schema “On the Nature of the Church” continued on the floor of the council hall as votes were being cast on the two topics: the collegiality of bishops and the permanent diaconate.

The first to speak was Achille Cardinal Lienart, Bishop of Lille, France, who said that “the treatment of the collegiality of the bishops and their relationship with the Roman Pontiff could give the impression that there is a question of two antagonists, one of whom must eventually be sacrificed to the other.” This is an erroneous impression, he said.

Paul Cardinal Richaud, Archbishop of Bordeaux, France, followed with a speech in favor of the permanent diaconate, saying that “many young men fear the priesthood because they see many priests worn out by numerous occupations not directly connected with the administration of the Sacraments and the exercise of priestly powers.” His suggestion was that the permanent diaconate would relieve this problem.

Archbishop Jean Weber, Bishop of Strasbourg, France, and Bishop Michael Browne of Galway, Ireland, added their voices in favor of the collegiality of bishops. Archbishop Geraldo de Proenca Sigaud, S.V.D., of Diamantina, Brazil, spoke against it. Bishop Frane Franic of Split, Yugoslavia, was against both the collegiality of the bishops and the permanent diaconate.

A new element was raised in the discussion, which urged that the priesthood be treated more thoroughly in the schema along with the episcopate and the diaconate.

This position was represented in the speeches of Bishop Antonio Anoveros Ataun of Cadiz, Spain; Archbishop William Conway of Armagh, Ireland; Archbishop Denis Hurley, O.M.I., of Durban, South Africa, and Bishop Michael Doumith of Sarba, Lebanon.

Archbishop Conway said that the schema should have a special chapter on priests and the priesthood “to put the dignity of the priesthood into bolder relief.” He recalled that the First Vatican Council neglected the bishops to give attention to the pope. Now, he said the Second Vatican Council should not neglect the priests to give attention to the bishops.

Archbishop Hurley suggested that chapter one of the schema should be divided into three parts: episcopate, priesthood and diaconate. He said: “The priest is the hands and feet, the eyes, ears and very voice of the bishop, and this should bring him greater attention in this discussion of the structure of the Church.”

Bishop Emile Blanchet, rector of the Catholic university in Paris, urged that something on atheism be added to the text. Bishop Eduardo Martinez Gonzales of Zamora, Spain, suggested that it would be useful to recall the genuine concept of the hierarchy in the schema.

Before the work of the day began, the secretary general of the council, Archbishop Pericle Felice, announced the deaths of three council Fathers: Bishop Gioacchino Di Leo of Mazara del Vallo, Italy; Archbishop Salvatore Siino, Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines, and Bishop Leo R. Smith of Ogdensburg, N.Y. The assembly was led in prayers for their repose by Eugene Cardinal Tisserant, Dean of the College of Cardinals.

Msgr. James I Tucek
NCWC bureau chief

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