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Post Vatican II: Response to Enrique Torner
Created by John Eipper on 08/13/18 4:04 AM

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Vatican II: Response to Enrique Torner (Edward Jajko, USA, 08/13/18 4:04 am)

Here are my comments on Enrique Torner (ET's) posting of August 4, 2018, on Vatican II and various of its conciliar decisions.

ET wrote: Instead of a comprehensive list of the changes that Vatican II imposed (not even my article could be comprehensive), I would like to mention the ones that I thought were most visible and controversial. The first ones I'd like to notice are: the permission of the use of vernacular languages instead of Latin during the liturgy.

My response (EAJ): This was a momentous change in the practice of the Church, and in some respects a baby-and-bathwater change. Technically, Latin remains the official language of the Church, although few priests seem to study it these days. I have occasionally corrected the Latin of priests. The official text of Sacred Scripture remains the Latin Vulgate of St Jerome. There is a Vatican office charged with the continuing updating and refinement of the Vulgate. The unofficial working language of the Vatican is Italian, this being a post-Conciliar development. Local authorities were charged with devising translations of the liturgies of the Church and also choosing a translation of the Bible for use in the liturgies. In the US, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops chose the New American Bible. This text seems to be under constant revision. As for the liturgies, the International Commission on English in the Liturgy was established by the Vatican to devise an English-language liturgy for the Anglophone world. This commission, under the leadership of a Scottish bishop, did good work but annoyed some people by, for example, taking into account the beautifully worded liturgies of the Church of England, which has centuries of experience using the language. The work of the ICEL was summarily taken over by the Vatican and placed under the control of a cardinal who knows no English. Some eight years ago a clunky English-language liturgy of the Mass was imposed on American Catholics by the USCCB. The Vatican office that devised it had as its basic principle adherence to the text of the Latin Mass. I am angered at each Mass I go to by a) how bad and inaccurate the translation is and b) the passivity of my fellow Catholics, who have accepted the new liturgy as, as the Jews would say, Torah min ha-shamayim. That is to say, the Vatican has spoken.

I said this was a baby-and-bathwater change. The Trappists--Cistercians of the Strict Observance--who once kept silent most of the time but had a tradition of beautiful Gregorian chant that went back to early medieval times, decided to throw away that tradition in favor of a sort of chant in the local language. I have heard Anglican chant, and it is quite beautiful and uplifting. I have hear modern Trappist chant, and it is awful. There is a sad irony in the Church's permission of the right to use the local language in its most sacred liturgies. In the early 1600s, Fr Matteo Ricci and his fellow Jesuit missionaries in China petitioned the then mostly Italian Vatican for permission to translate the Mass and other liturgies into Chinese, because the Mandarins they were working to convert could not grasp the Latin. The Vatican refused, because the Latin was of essential. So the Jesuit mission floundered and failed. China could have been Catholic had the Vatican shown more sense.

ET: Allowing lay people to participate in Mass in different roles, including that of playing instruments never before allowed in church, like the guitar, for example...

EAJ: In Austria in 1818, “Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht” or “Silent Night” by Fr Joseph Mohr and Franz Gruber, was written to be sung in church with guitar accompaniment. The significant addition of a role of the laity in the Mass was as readers from Scripture (but not the Gospel) and communion ministers. Members of the laity were also allowed to bear the Blessed Sacrament to the sick and homebound.

ET: And the loosening of restrictions that regulated the Catholic calendar, like that of abstaining from eating meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and all the Fridays of Lent...

EAJ: Here Enrique misspeaks. It is the other way around. The obligation of abstinence from meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and the Fridays of Lent remains in force. The former obligation of abstaining from meat on all other Fridays of the year was the one that was lifted. Local ordinaries--bishops, archbishops, cardinals--also have the right or power, as they always have had, to decree the suspension of abstinence on certain days (for example, when St. Patrick's day falls on a Friday in Lent).

ET: And the recognition of nuns' rights to occasionally leave the convent in lay women's clothes to spend time with family and friends and "get involved in social justice campaigns and educating other women."

EAJ: I don't understand Enrique here. One result of Vatican II was the decision of many, but not all, orders of nuns to abandon their traditional habits, i.e., the special clothing they wore, and to adopt modern dress, albeit conservative. The nuns' habits were a remnant of medieval times. They were the clearest and most obvious sign of status as a nun, but were in many ways a hindrance. This was undoubtedly done on purpose, by the men of the Curia whose clothing allowed greater freedom. But it was dangerous. Nuns were traditionally among the worst drivers; they had too much cloth hindering them and their veils cut off peripheral vision. But with Vatican II, many, perhaps most, orders of nuns abandoned their traditional habits. It was not for the specific reasons Enrique lists--unless the Spanish Church was different--but to adapt to the modern world in which the nuns lived. Some nuns and orders kept a quasi habit, a shortened dress and a trimmed veil. Others scrapped their traditions in their entirety. There was and is no rule across the Church, save for modesty. The modernized dress allows nuns to participate in many activities of ordinary life, teaching, working in business, and running parishes. I think it is interesting to say the least that Muslim women in the world of Islam, from North African through to Afghanistan, either retain or have adopted forms of dress that are similar to nuns' habits, i.e., medieval garb.

ET: I start with these council decisions because they remind me of experiences I had in my childhood: seeing my grand-uncle (who was a priest) officiating Mass in Latin in the temple of the "Sagrada Familia" in Barcelona (I must have been 5 or 6 at that time); a flashback of a birthday party I attended when I was a teenager on Good Friday in which meat was served because the hosts had purchased an indulgence at their church (this took place at a small town north of Barcelona); and, finally, a very few childhood memories of one of my aunts dressing like a nun before she left the convent and devoted herself to minister to people in need. I would be very interested in hearing similar experiences that other WAISers may have had during the period following Vatican II.

EAJ: Surely this is simply careless wording. Whatever the history of the Reformation may have been, one cannot buy an indulgence in or from the Church. First of all, an "indulgence" as a technical term in religion is a remission of temporal punishment in Purgatory. I won't go into the reasons why indulgences can be granted. But they can't be bought (they couldn't, in pre-Reformation days either; that was a scam). They have to be earned. As for what happened with Enrique's family, perhaps permission was sought--the lay meaning of "indulgence"--to consume the meat on a day of abstinence. I was once the organizer of a luncheon at the Hoover Institution for a conference in Persian studies when, partway through the meal, I realized that it was Good Friday, and did my best to limit myself to the salads and other non-meat dishes. But I saw, on the other side of the room, a couple of Christian Brothers from St. Mary's College, who had accompanied the primary speaker and host, a member of their faculty and an Iranian, happily consuming whatever was on the table, whether meat or not. When in Rome, I suppose. As for the aunt who was a nun, dressing like a nun before leaving the convent, well, what can one say? How else would she have dressed, assuming that her order had not abandoned the nun's habit?

ET: Of course, millions of Catholics ignored the decision, but others tried to follow it. Regardless, the pope's decision was very vivid in the minds of young couples when they were entertaining the idea of using birth control.

EAJ: There is, in the Roman Catholic Church, something that the Vatican, Curia, etc., do not stress. It is known as the Doctrine of the Reception of Doctrine. Reception of Doctrine means that the faithful accept a teaching of the Church. Something similar to this is found on American highways, every hour of every day. The posted speed limit may be 55 miles an hour. How fast do drivers go? Whatever the posted speed limits may be on American highways, drivers tend to drive faster, unless they see or are pulled over by police. The official speed limit is the Doctrine--which means teaching--and the reception of that doctrine is shown in the general disregard of drivers. It's the same thing in the Church. The teaching, the doctrine, is that people should abstain from premarital sexual relations and that those who are married should, if they wish to limit the size of their families, use natural forms of birth control rather than artificial kinds. But the practice of Catholics shows that this doctrine has not been accepted, not received. It is therefore effectively a dead letter. At some point, a pope, perhaps the Francis who stresses mercy, may abolish it, to ease the consciences of the faithful.

JE comments:  Ed, were the Church of England liturgies rejected because they sounded too old-fashioned, or because they sounded too Anglican?  This sounds like a missed opportunity for some healthy ecumenism.  David Duggan is WAIsdom's expert on all things Episcopalian.  I hope he'll comment.

As for correcting a priest's Latin...how does one do that diplomatically?

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  • Buying Indulgences in 1960s' Spain (Enrique Torner, USA 08/17/18 7:46 AM)

    Gary Moore naturally reacted when he read in my post that in the 1960s in Spain, we could buy an indulgence during Lent so we could eat meat on Ash Wednesday or on a particular Friday.

    In a more recent post, Edward Jajko gently tried to correct me, saying that an indulgence is a document made to reduce somebody's time in Purgatory, and that I must have meant to use another word. Actually, the meaning of "indulgence" has changed over the centuries, and, in addition, there are and have been several types of indulgences. Finally, to top it off, for a long time, Spain was granted a very special indulgence called "The Indulgence of the Holy Crusade," which, in turn, was the origin of a variety of indulgences.

    Contrary to what most people think, indulgences are not a thing of the past. Proof of this is that some bishops requested that the Second Vatican Council clarify their meaning and practice. In 1963, Paul VI requested that a commission be established to study the subject, but the council did not get to hear the report until the very end, in 1965. It was not until January 1, 1967 that Paul VI finally issued the apostolic constitution Indulgentiarum Doctrina, a long instruction that was a modest reworking of the medieval teaching on indulgences. The definition he offered was the following: "An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven." If you want to read the whole text, here's the link:


    Canon Law, of course, has a chapter devoted to indulgences that I bet our friend and colleague David Duggan knows very well:


    As I mentioned earlier, Spain had its own unique set of indulgences. "La Bula de la Santa Cruzada" (this is the original Spanish name; I'm not sure if my English translation is what English-speaking historians call it) was granted by Pope Julius II to the Catholic Kings of Spain Ferdinand and Isabella in 1509 following the example of Popes Urban II (1088-1099) and Innocent III (1179-1180), who granted a plenary indulgence to all the soldiers who volunteered to fight in the Holy Crusades. The next popes continued granting the indulgence, which would take on different functions and subsequently acquire different names, like "bula de carne" (indulgence to eat meat), "bula de composición" (granted to those who had taken somebody else's property, if its owner was unknown), "bula de lacticinios" (which allowed its owner to eat milk products), "bula de difuntos" (to apply a particular indulgence to a dead relative or friend), and others. These indulgences were granted under certain conditions: they were only applicable for a limited period of time; and the donations were supposed to benefit local churches. So, in a way, Edward Jajko was right: indulgences may not be bought. However, stating that they are earned would not be accurate either. It's all a matter of language: "I'll give you an indulgence so you may eat meat this Friday for a charitable donation of $10!" A donation? Well...

    These Spanish indulgences were officially terminated by the Spanish Episcopal Conference in 1966, but, as I mentioned in my last post, at least the "meat indulgences" were still given by churches in the early ‘70s, obviously unofficially (typical Spanish!), if not fraudulently, in exchange for a charitable donation. As recently as 2013, the Spanish newspaper ABC had an article entitled "Bulas a peseta para comer carne en Cuaresma" (Indulgences for 1 "peseta" -the Spanish equivalent to a cent in the 1960s--so you may eat meat during Lent) that explains the history of these indulgences, and even includes a picture of a religious procession that took place in Madrid in 1918. Here is the link:


    In case you would like to see an up-close picture of one of these indulgences, I am attaching one dated from 1957 (see below). If you would like to own an original of 1918 signed by Benedict XV, if you can wait until August 20, you could buy one for only 18 euros here:


    I wonder if it still works! Oh, and one more historical fact, to, more or less, answer our dear editor's question "What was the price of Friday's meat in Spain back in the 60s?": I couldn't find the exact answer, but, in 1966, Spaniards spent 11% of their mean salary on meat, while, in 2016, they only spent 3.6%!


    JE comments:  I love old, yellowed papers.  This one is called an "indulto" (forgiveness or amnesty) and not an indulgence per se.  The difference in legal terms may be crucial.

    To the best of my calculation and 3 minutes of Googling, 5 pesetas (one "duro") in 1957 is €1.42 today, or around U$1.60.  The document is careful to call this fee a "limosna" (charitable donation).  See the stamp in the lower right corner.

    I'd also like to call WAISer attention to Enrique Torner's extended essay, "The Second Vatican Council," which is now available on the WAIS publications page.  Scroll down to the final entry.  And while you're at it, check out our thirteen other monograph-length publications, including Prof. Hilton's celebrated memoirs:


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    • Buying Indulgences: Philippines (Francisco Ramirez, USA 08/18/18 4:35 AM)
      The indulgence given to Spain (Enrique Torner, 17 August) also applied to its colonies. Growing up in the Philippines meant that meat was not prohibited during Lent.

      So, what happens when you go to a country where the prohibition is in place? I chose to do as the "Romans" did when I showed up in 1967. My cousin at Holy Cross (in the early sixties) assumed that the indulgence was not land-limited but traveled with the person, like a passport.

      JE comments:  I bet your cousin went into law, Francisco!  The 1957 "indulto" we saw yesterday is quite clear, however:  it applies to the faithful residents of Spain and "other territories subject to Spanish domination," as long as said individuals "avoid scandal."  Not sure what that means--firing up your Weber Kettle on the church steps?

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    • Post-Vatican II Liturgy and Anglican Liturgy (David Duggan, USA 08/21/18 3:04 PM)

      I have been asked to comment on whether the post-Vatican II Roman Catholic clergy bridled at the use of Anglican liturgies because "they sounded too old-fashioned or because they sounded too Anglican."

      I hazard to answer because 1) I am not a liturgist and know little of the Roman Catholic forms; 2) I do not know all the differences between the Church of England's Book of Common Prayer (often referred to as the 1662 book) and the Book of Common Prayer used in "The Episcopal Church" (formerly the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, but renamed because churches in Honduras and the Virgin Islands fall within the USA's "province" for purposes of governance under the world-wide "Anglican Communion"); and 3) the differences seem to be based on theological issues that have largely been cast aside in the Church's never-ending quest to seem relevant to the modern age. This much I can say, however, based in part on my near life-long worship in Episcopal parishes in this country (never abroad, I have to confess), in part on my curbside research into the various forms, and in part on my undoubted preference for the language of the archaic prayer books.

      First, a primer on liturgies. So far as can be determined, the early church did not have a common (i.e., adopted throughout the several churches) form of liturgy, i.e., an order for worship to be followed by priest and people. But thanks to Jesus' words recounted in the synoptic Gospels (Matt. 26:26-28; Mark 14: 22-24; Luke 22: 19-20; curiously not in John, but see John 6: 53-56), the early church remembered Jesus' last supper with the words, "Take, eat, this is my body given for you," and "Drink ye all of this, for this is my blood of the new covenant, shed for you and for many." See also I Corinthians 11: 23-26, Paul's exhortation to Christians to do as the Lord commanded. In the 4th century CE, St. Basil wrote out a form of liturgy for the Eucharist which, at least in its current English translation, sounds familiar. Among other things his prayer of consecration includes an "oblation" by which the elements (bread and wine) are asked to be blessed for our use, and that we be dedicated to be a "holy and living sacrifice" unto God.

      Fast forward some 1200 years, and in 1549, Thomas Cranmer, Henry Tudor's last Archbishop of Canterbury concocted the first modern prayer book, incorporating an order of worship for Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Holy Communion to be used throughout the realm (and not just by nobles or literates). Apart from the collects (prayers for each week of the liturgical--or church--year) it is impossible to know how much Cranmer actually wrote, and there are signs that he incorporated aspects of the Sarum (Salisbury) Rite, along with Lutheran rites on the continent (his wife was a German whom he had met as Henry's ambassador to the Holy Roman Empire). Still, the prayer of consecration, particularly that said when the host and wine are presented to the believer, bears undoubted allegiance to the continental reformers who were opposed to the "hocus-pocus" (a corruption of "in haec corpus," in this body) idea of "transubstantiation," that the priest's incantation converts the bread and wine to literal flesh and blood: "The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is given for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life. Take and eat in remembrance that Christ died for thee, and be thankful."

      For 100 years, there were wild gyrations of the English prayer book, as the faith oscillated between being governed by the reformers, and those who would establish an English papacy. But in 1662, two years after the Stuart Restoration, a new prayer book was adopted which is in substantial form with that in use today. As I read the English liturgy, gone are the elements of oblation: that we are offering these gifts of bread and wine in remembrance of Christ's "blessed passion and precious death, his mighty resurrection and glorious ascension...," along with the invocation that we "may be partakers of his most blessed body and blood." For whatever it is worth, most forms of the liturgy in use in the Episcopal Church USA omit both of these recitations (although it is preserved in one of the six). The Episcopal BCP, significantly revised in 1976 from the 1928 version which I learned and committed much to memory, was up for revision at this year's General Convention of the church body. Perhaps remembering the backlash which accorded the last prayer book revisions 40 years ago, the bishops demurred.

      On two personal notes, despite Enrique Torner's suggestion that I must be very familiar with the Roman Catholic Church's canons regarding indulgences, I confess that I was unaware of them. But as I read them, it seemed that nothing had changed since 1517, except that no exchange of money is prescribed for their grant. Particularly suspect is the notion (Canon 994) that one can be "appl[ied] to the dead by way of suffrage." Martin Luther must be spinning in his grave some 500 years after Tetzel shamed the Germans into buying indulgences so that their dead relatives could be sprung from purgatory. And I have recently been to Roman Catholic masses (after an absence of some 20 years). Though there is no way to follow the priest's words (the missal in the pews does not contain the prayers), I have listened intently and heard nothing which I could not abide. Having been invited to partake as a "Catholic" (Roman not specified), I received communion. The host was the worst I ever tasted.

      JE comments:   How many of you knew the etymology of "hocus-pocus"?  Only in WAIS, my friends.  And David, in your mass you sampled what the Spaniards would call "mala hostia"--bad host, although in Spain this is an extremely vulgar way to say you're in a bad mood.

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      • Hocus-Pocus! An Etymology (Edward Jajko, USA 08/23/18 6:50 AM)
        Ah, John, not so fast. I said that I have corrected the Latin of priests. Now I offer a correction of an Episcopalian's (David Duggan, August 21st).

        The old corruption "hocus pocus" does not come from "in haec corpus." The latter is an impossible form that does not exist. (If it did, it would be "in hoc corpore," but those words were not found in the Latin Mass.) "Hocus pocus" is a corruption of the Latin words of Jesus in the Consecration of the Mass: "Hoc est enim corpus meum"--For this is my body. "Hoc est ... corpus" morphed into "hocus pocus." Why "pocus" and not "copus"? It's possibly easier to say, it rhymes, and in any event it's for the same reason that Latin "periculum" became Spanish "peligro."

        JE comments:  Yes, "periclo" and "periglo" are hard to pronounce.  Spanish does have "película" (film), however.  Languages are fond of metathesis.  Spanish-speakers often say "ariopuerto" instead of the correct mouthful aeropuerto.  And don't forget "relators" and George W's beloved "nucular."

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