Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Language Barrier is THE Issue

I got into a discussion in the comment section of another blog today about the issue of vernacular translations of the Old Rite, and how such a thing would cause an explosion in popularity of the Traditional Mass, but is unfortunately opposed by many traditionalists. I've turned it into a blog post here.

I talked about how this attitude (ie, trads opposing even a nice Vernacular translation) plays right into the hands of status-quo loving members of the hierarchy. Because even after Summorum Pontificum, the idea in allowing it is clearly still to appease current “constituents” of the Old Rite, not to give it a wider appeal. There is no concept among the powers-that-be in the Vatican of changing the usus antiquior in ways that would make it more appealing to the general population if such changes might disaffect some trads, because it is still viewed primarily as a concession to please specifically those who are already devotees. Even if for every disaffected trad, the changes might attract 5 previously uninterested Catholics to the traditional liturgy, they aren't interested in that. They're interested in simply appeasing a specific special interest niche, a specific "lobby," namely the traditionalist movement itself.

But my point is that the Extraordinary Form is no longer (and never should have been) the province only of traditionalists (as much as I might identify as one myself).

Deciding how to treat the Old Rite based on catering to the tastes or opinions of the “trad community”...is what leaves the Old Rite stuck in its esoteric ghetto, even now.

Decisions on the Old Rite should no longer be made with “what trads want” in mind, but with a mind to maximizing its popularity among ALL good Catholics.

The language barrier is still THE issue when it comes to the progress of the Old Rite in the general Catholic population. Though I’d like to think Catholics would be familiar enough to keep the Ordinary chants (ie, the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Pater Noster, Agnus Dei, and Ita Missa Est) in Latin, as well as the Canon itself (which is silent in the Old Rite anyway)...a vernacular translation of the Old Rite ala the Anglican Missal, as well as making most of the now-silent Offertory and Communion prayers audible…would instantly solve 95% of church-going Catholics’ objections or hesitancy to embrace the Traditional Mass, beyond maybe the “inertia” issue which would go away after a couple years once people got used to the old again.

But the trads and the status-quo hierarchy are co-enablers on this issue.

The hierarchy is still highly invested in the Novus Ordo, and for some reason (I suspect Ecumenical motives) are determined that it remain the normally preferred Mass of Catholics, to the extent that “vernacular liturgy” and “Novus Ordo” are conflated, without mentioning the major changes in text and rubrical gestures that were “slipped in under the radar” when vernacular liturgy was introduced. Most Catholics are still under the impression that the only changes were the language and the direction the priest faced, and that Latin is the essential feature of the TLM.

Trads, in the mean time, provide a continued excuse for not allowing the the “Fourth Option” of a Vernacular Traditional Mass (the other three being Traditional Latin, Vernacular Novus Ordo, and Latin Novus Ordo), since many trads are vehemently against it and the greater allowance of the TLM is still largely portrayed as a concession to appease them. Even if it would bring hordes of Catholics not previously involved with traditionalism into the Old Rite, more than enough to make up for the loss of any disaffected trads to schism, the hierarchy doesn't care because (contrary to naive notions that Benedict wants to "gradually" encourage use of the Old Rite as mainstream)...in reality, to them the Traditional Liturgy is not a Good in itself to be promoted among Catholics generally, but simply a bone thrown to those who are already traditionalist, a bargaining chip to be used in reigning in a rowdy minority population.

For most Catholics in the pews, opposition to the traditional rite is actually just almost entirely the language barrier. Show them a Latin Novus Ordo and they will be just as turned-off as by a TLM. On the other hand, have them compare the two translations side by side (ala http://www.latin-mass-society.org/missals.htm) and most will not have any particular objective preference for the Novus Ordo. Some may tend to it subjectively just out of familiarity, but many (if they are not totally apathetic toward their Faith) will be pleasantly surprised or curious about the Old and think that it's more substantial prayers and gestures are really cool.

For the laity, the issue is the language barrier. But, for whatever reason, many in the hierarchy are dead-set against the old TEXT, in whatever language. I remember a story that when Summorum Pontificum came out…all sorts of frightened bishops and liturgists suddenly started recommending the Latin Novus Ordo as a viable alternative. As if the Latin was the main reason that people wanted the Old Rite, a concession they were willing to make (but only in the context of the New). So it’s clearly not just about opposing the Latin for those hierarchs. For some reason, they fear the older TEXT itself…

The TLM has been allowed to meet demand. But the Pope and most of the Curia and bishops…have no concept of changing the 1962 missal any time soon to increase demand among those who would only become interested once such changes had been made (the language barrier being the main one). They’ll allow the Old Rite for those who want it, to keep us happy, but there is no concept of a need to promote it or change it to make it more appealing among to those who have no interest currently.

Such a “parallel reform” is unthinkable to them, because they are still utterly committed to the current reform (ie, the Novus Ordo). Any further reforms must, in their mind, be reforms of that reform. There is no idea of going BACK to some previous starting-point and “trying again” with a different set of changes.

Even when you get the sense that the intended “final” form of the reformed liturgy that Benedict is working towards will look MORE like 1962 than it will like 1970…the hermeneutic of that crowd is still going to portray it simply an iteration of the Novus Ordo, not as an “alternate reform” of the Traditional liturgy. Even though the “distance” between the ‘62 Missal and the final imagined end-point is less than between the ‘70 and the final imagined end-point.

So then why not take 1962 as the starting point instead of the 1970. If the former has a “shorter distance” to travel? To do otherwise seems like saving face is getting in the way of practical considerations.

I imagine the analogy of altered piece of clothing. A woman has several copies of a dress she likes. She decides to get one of them altered. The alterations turn out terrible. She likes a few things, but all in all it’s clear that a major overhaul will be needed. The dress is too small, the seams are crooked at points, the dress is in many ways unrecognizable. She wants a much more moderate alteration. She wants it to resemble the original much more closely than it resembles its current altered form, but that’s going to require RE-ADDING fabric, removing seams, sewing certain cut parts back together, etc.

To me…it makes little sense for the woman to try to salvage the altered dress when she has multiple copies of the original and could just “try again” on another copy of the original.

If Coca-Cola had been this stubborn with New Coke just to save face…well, I guess there is a reason the Church isn’t for-profit...


The Harlequin King said...

I intend to post a link to your blog on mine, if you don't mind. I just discovered this and you're saying a lot of things I've thought on the inside but didn't want to start a hornet's nest about.

With regard to: "as well as making most of the now-silent Offertory and Communion prayers audible"

I guess that would be okay in a recited/low Mass. A mostly audible Offertory in the sung or solemn TLM would present a problem for the Gregorian schola I'm a part of, though. We sing continually throughout the Offertory with the Offertorium antiphon, repeated with the use of very melismatic verses from the Offertoriale. I believe a silent Offertory, accompanied by the traditional chants, is the ideal.

But perhaps, like in the NO, the "Orate, fratres" could be entirely audible, and its response, the "Suscipiat Dominus", could be recited by everyone in common. The Secret prayer could also no longer be a secret, just as in the NO.

A Sinner said...

Well, those are the sorts of particulars that can be debated.

However, my solution to the particular issue you raise...is to restore a (perhaps somewhat drawn-out) Offertory Procession.

Though, hopefully, not like the Novus Ordo model of having the gifts on a table in the aisle and having the ushers ask some lay people 5 minutes before Mass starts if they'd like to bring them up.

It worked different ways in the past, but I can imagine the deacon and subdeacon processing out of the sanctuary preceeded by acolytes with candles/torches.

The veiled chalice and the cruets would be waiting at the back (where, in a Cathedral, the vesting chapel would be). Maybe the ciborium would be carried up too, or maybe it would be waiting on the altar the whole time, or in the tabernacle (depending on whether those hosts were already consecrated, etc).

I'd think all of that could take up SOME time, at least, for the Offertory antiphon and its associated Verses.

Jonathan said...

You basically mean a Latin form of The Great Entrance : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NpzJthfXPo&feature=related

I'm not sure how that would work out considering that The Eucharistic Bread offered for The Sacrifice is different (Prosphora vs Host).