Under Benedict XVI, the outlook for liturgical conservatives in the Church looked more promising than ever. Two of Benedict’s most significant documents – Summorum Pontificum and Sacramentum Caritatis – sought to renew the liturgical life of the Church in different ways. Reverence in the liturgy, it seemed, was making a comeback, and the “reform of the reform” – the curbing of post-Vatican II excesses – appeared to be advancing.
But for the last four years Pope Francis has not made liturgy a priority and the little he has said has not been terribly reassuring for “reform of the reform” supporters. He recently asked young people who are devoted to the Latin Mass: “Why so much rigidity?” This prompted outrage and upset among some priests and laypeople.
Unsurprisingly then the recent news that the Pope has established a commission to review Liturgiam Authenticam – the 2001 Vatican decree outlining the principles on which vernacular Mass texts should be drafted – has been greeted with unease in some quarters.
The 2001 decree, which ultimately led to the new English translation of the Mass adopted in 2011, mandated that Mass texts be more faithful to the original Latin. It sought to make the liturgy not only more dignified and reverent but also more theologically accurate. The fear is that the review may lead to a reversal of this approach, returning the language to a more “everyday” vernacular that loses the precision of the Latin.
The traditionally minded have raised a number of concerns about the prospect of revising Liturgiam Authenticam. In a blog post, Fr John Zuhlsdorf said: “What I think might happen is that they will make various translations ‘options’ which priests can choose from. That is, after all, what the Novus Ordo is: a rite filled with lots of options. In any event, if they go down this road, and right now I don’t see anything preventing it, I think it might get pretty ugly.”
Does this mean there is a possibility that some parishes will revert to the old Missal translation?
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