How did Vatican II change the Mass?
45 years after Vatican II, there is a truer unity of ‘spirit’ & ‘law’ . . .
Pope Benedict XVI continues John Paul II’s legacy of instructing the faithful about the true teachings of the Second Vatican Council and working with his bishops to ensure their faithful implementation. This “restoration of the sacred” has most visibly affected the liturgy, for lex orandi, lex credendi – “the way we pray shows what we believe.”
Forty-five years after the Council closed, a truer unity of “spirit” and “law” is being achieved in what Catholics believe and how we pray. Truth is prevailing as the radical reformers who caused much confusion after Vatican II continue to retire from their university chairs and other posts of influence.
One obvious change stemming from Vatican II was the introduction of modifications in the Mass. The essence of the rituals for the sacraments was not changed, but the vernacular was introduced. Latin remained and still remains the standard, universal and official language for worship and doctrine. Countries can get authorization from the Vatican to translate the Mass and sacraments into the vernacular, and that was done after the Council closed. While the Council Fathers never intended the complete removal of Latin from the public worship and prayer of the Western Church, in practice, most American and European countries went 100% vernacular after the Council.
Since the reign of John Paul II (1978-2005), the true spirit of Vatican II was reclaimed by the actual letter of Vatican II. Many innovators had tried to justify their liturgical abuses by claiming they were being faithful to the “spirit” of the law without being slaves to the “letter” of the law. On the contrary, John Paul showed that the intent of the Council Fathers can be found in the documents they issued. He reminded us of the Church’s rich patrimony and heritage, from the Latin language to the elegant and edifying beauty of Catholic art and music.
Abuses came not from Vatican II or because of Vatican II, but from those who distorted the Council Fathers’ intentions and the implementation of the documents. Optional celibacy for priests of the Latin rite, ordination of women, allowing artificial contraception by married couples, removing the obligation to attend Sunday Mass every week, forbidding Latin in any public worship, getting rid of devotions to the Virgin Mary and the saints, removing statues from churches, removing altar (communion) rails, moving tabernacles from the sanctuary and forcing the priest to celebrate Mass facing the people were never required or mandated by Vatican II.
Reprinted with permission from “The Catholicism Answer Book: The 300 Most Frequently Asked Questions” by Rev. John Trigilio Jr. and Rev. Kenneth D. Brighenti (Sourcebooks, 2007).