As I write, I’m still absorbing Magnum Principium, the Holy Father’s new apostolic letter given motu proprio (“on his own initiative”) and released on September 9. His Holiness legislated changes to how liturgical translations receive approval. There is more about this elsewhere in these pages. In a nutshell, however, the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship has hitherto been able to be more involved in the preparation of vernacular translations of Latin liturgical texts before affixing its stamp of approval. Now the Congregation will be less involved. Preparation of translations will rest with the conferences of bishops; Rome still gets the final say of approval. Moreover, the explanatory note accompanying the letter confirms that approval of translations of sacramental forms (eg the words of consecration during Holy Mass) is still reserved to the Pope himself.

Speaking of Latin, let us not forget that Latin is the official language of prayer of the Latin Church and that the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council explicitly mandated that Latin remain the liturgical language, even while they gave some allowance for more use of the vernacular. Clearly that was ignored, which makes me chuckle at the phrase in the letter: “The Latin Church was aware of the attendant sacrifice involved in the partial loss of liturgical Latin, which had been in use throughout the world over the course of centuries” (emphasis added). And poor Johnny, who died in the explosion leaving only his ring finger to be found, suffered a partial loss of life and limb. I renew gratitude for Benedict XVI’s legislative motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum, which went into effect on September 14, 2007.

This change to the Church’s law and to the role of the Congregation is also a step in the Pope’s reduction in the role of offices of the Roman Curia and a redirection of their power to conferences of bishops. One of the first things I thought was, if this can happen to the liturgical Congregation, then will it also happen to the Congregation which oversees the Church’s doctrine? It’s a small step. Indeed, liturgy is doctrine. Changes in the way we pray inevitably produce changes in what we believe.

The signal given by grafting more power onto bishops’ conferences prompts me to remind the faithful reader that you have the right respectfully to express your concerns directly to your bishops. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Make yourselves heard.

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