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THE LEGITIMACY OF THE USE OF THE VERNACULAR (ENGLISH) LANGUAGE IN THE CELEBRATION OF THE EXTRAORDINARY FORM OF THE MASS ACCORDING TO THE MOTU PROPRIO SUMMORUM PONTIFICUM OF POPE BENEDICT XVI
11/16/2007 5:34:00 AM -Rene Henry Gracida, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi

THE LEGITIMACY OF THE USE OF THE VERNACULAR (ENGLISH) LANGUAGE IN THE CELEBRATION OF THE EXTRAORDINARY FORM OF THE MASS ACCORDING TO THE MOTU PROPRIO SUMMORUM PONTIFICUM OF POPE BENEDICT XVI

The fundamental basis for the legitimacy of the use of English in the celebration of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass is to be found in Article 6 of Pope Benedict XVI's Motu Proprio:

Art. 6. In Masses celebrated in the presence of the people in accordance with the Missal of Blessed John XXIII, the readings may be given in the vernacular, using editions recognized by the Apostolic See.

To understand why Pope Benedict authorized the use of the vernacular language even though the Missal as originally promulgated by Blessed Pope John XIII in 1962 is entirely in Latin, one must return to the Decree Sacrosanctum Concilium issued on December 4, 1963 by the Second Vatican Council. In Article 36 (2) the Council stated:

But since the use of the vernacular, whether in the Mass, the administration of the sacraments, or in other parts of the liturgy, may be of great advantage to the people, a wider use may be made of it, especially in the readings, directives and in some prayers and chants.

In Article 54 the Council further stated:

A suitable place may be allotted to the vernacular in Masses which are celebrated with the people, especially in the readings and "the common prayer," and also, as local conditions may warrant, in those parts which pertain to the people, according to the rules laid down in Article 36 of this Constitution.

Further, to understand the relationship of the Missal of Blessed Pope John XXIII to the Council's Decree it is important to note that he died on June 3, 1963. Also, lest one exalt the Missal promulgated by Blessed Pope John XXIII to the equivalent of having been cast in stone as were the Ten Commandments, it is important to remember that is was but one of many revisions of the Missal. Saint Pope Pius X revised the Missal in 1910 and it was published in an Editio Typica by his successor, Pope Benedict XV. Pope Pius XII revised the Missal before he died in 1958 and it was published in an Editio Typica on June 23, 1962 by Blessed Pope John XXIII.

Following the promulgation of the Council's Decree Sacrosanctum Concilium on December 4, 1963, the bishops of the United States petitioned the Holy See on April 2, 1964 for the use of the vernacular in those parts of the Mass celebrated with the Missal of 1962 permitted by Articles 36 and 54 of the Decree. On May 1, 1964 the Holy See granted permission for the bishops of the United States to print the Missal of 1962 with the following parts of the Mass in English:

a) the Epistle and the Gospel

b) the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus-Benedictus and Agnus Dei

c) the Lord's Prayer with its introductory admonition

d) the formula Ecce Agnus Dei and Domine, non sum dignus before the communion of the faithful.

e) the Introit and the Gradual

f) the antiphons at the Offertory and Communion

g) the acclamations, salutations and formulas of dialogue in which the people participate.

Accordingly, the bishops of the United States published, on September 21, 1964 a new EDITION OF THE MISSAL OF BLESSED POPE JOHN XXIII ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON JUNE 25, 1960 NOW KNOWN AS THE MISSAL OF 1962.

IT SHOULD BE CLEARLY UNDERSTOOD BY ALL THAT THE EDITION OF THE 1962 MISSAL PUBLISHED IN THE UNITED STATES IN 1964 IS IDENTICAL TO THE EDITIO TYPICA OF THE MISSAL PUBLISHED IN 1962 IN EVERY RESPECT EXCEPT THAT THE PARTS OF THE MASS ENUMERATED ABOVE a) THROUGH g) ARE IN ENGLISH INSTEAD OF LATIN. ALL RUBRICS, ALL PRAYERS, ALL OTHER TEXTS ARE IDENTICAL IN BOTH THE 1962 AND THE 1964 EDITIONS OF THE MISSAL OF BLESSED POPE JOHN XXIII.

The use of the vernacular (English) in the celebration of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass is therefore legitimate and is clearly in keeping with the mind of the Second Vatican Council and Pope Benedict XVI.

+Rene Henry Gracida, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi

November 11, 2007

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