In his letter of May 23, Fr Clifford Howell, S.J. says that Catholics are duty bound to abide by the authorised changes in the liturgy of the Church as implemented by local • episcopates.
What is at issue is not. the legality of the reforms, but the wisdom. Surely he must agree that there is something wrong with a liturgy which a decade and more after its conception, is the cause of dissatisfaction and division in the Church — so much so that the editor of The Clergy Review scathingly criticises the new rite as having reached "a state of utter indecisive confusion."
I am convinced that the principal reason why the liturgy has been reduced to a state of verbalistic mutation and frenetic experimentation is the virtual loss of Latin in the Mass.
This was not the intention of the Constitution on the Liturgy which made the use of the vernacular permissible not mandatory— and laid down that the faithful must be made familiar with and able to say or sing in Latin those parts of the Mass rightfully theirs. If I may put it in a form of syllogism.
Here is how two Popes laid down that Latin is a necessary, unifying and disciplinary force in the public liturgy of the Church.
"The use of the Latin language prevailing in a great part of the Church affords at once an imposing sign of unity and an effec
tive safeguard against the corruption of true
doctrine." (Pius XII in his encyclical on the liturgy Mediator De0.
"Latin is also a most effective bond, binding the Church of today with that of the past and of the future in wonderful continuity.
"Let no one write against the use of Latin in the teaching of the higher sacreid studies or in the liturgy, or through pre judice make light of the Holy Spirit's will in this regard or interprets it
falsely." (Pope John in his apostolic letter Veterum Sapientia, 1962).
The mind of the Second Vatican Council was that Latin should be retained in parts of the Mass publicly performed. Two members of our hierarchy have stated: "Catholics, like the bishops at the Council, failed to foresee that 1.atin would virtually disappear from Catholic churches." (Cardinal Heenan in an address to the Church Leaders' Conference in September, 1972).
"There has been a far too drastic shelving of the great Latin tradition in the liturgy. That this has happened so widely is clearly against the mind of the Church as expressed in the Second Vatican Council." (Bishop Wheeler of Leeds preaching at the Requiem for Dom Bernard McElligott, the noted liturgist, in Westminster Cathedral, March, 1972).
The changes in the liturgy since the Council involving the universal use of a prosaic and ever-changing vernacular in the Mass have opened the door to an indiscipline of language and to pluralistic experimentation in the form of the rite. As Fr Michael Richards wrote in April of this year:
"The Mass as we have it in English will remain where it has descended, at the level of the bingo hall. The only way to have any sort of real tidiness in our worship is to stick to the Latin text of the new missal, or at any rate to one English text. Nothing else will save us from chaos and frustration." (The Clergy Review, April. 1975 — my italics).
It is therefore necessary for Rome to make a mandatory reinfusion of Latin to parts of the Mass — which would be in keeping with the original intention i of the Constitution on the Liturgy — so as to restore some semblance of order and uniformity, and as a curb to openended, and often unauthorised, experimentation in the liturgy.
D. G. Galvin Meadow Bank,
The Common, Woncrsh, Surrey.