The article is written by Rita Ferrone who lives in the Archdiocese of New York where it is reported that Mass attendance is now about 12% of the Catholic population. This means that 88% don't attend Mass. I guess there would be even fewer attending Mass if the Mass had remained in Latin.
There are many reasons why Catholic Mass attendance has declined. The root of it goes back to the immediate aftermath of Vatican II and what it did to Catholics of that period who then handed on either their function or dysfunction to subsequent generations. It seems that the dysfunctional Catholic crowd of the 1960's has won the day.
All of this has compromised the Catholic Church's ability to go out to the world with the Good News. So the pious platitudes in the article I reprint seem like a gross denial of the reality or patting oneself on the back for the small crowd today that does everything right because of the vernacular.
Don't get me wrong. I love the vernacular as a young teenager when it was first introduced in my parish and I love the new and glorious revised English translation we have today. I wish that some Latin had been mandated to remain and I think Pope Benedict had the recipe for it.
Fortunately not only does the EF Mass (what Pope Francis acknowledges is a part of the post-Vatican II Magisterium or patrimony and he himself calls but one form of the Latin Rite that has two expressions) preserve the patrimony of the EF's liturgical sensibilities and heritage, it also perseveres Latin and assist the Church with her vernacular liturgy to evangelize Catholics first and then the world.
This article just seems to limp and deny reality about Catholics and their need to be evangelized or re-evangelized and what Catholics are actually doing to evangelize the world. Catholics prior to the Council with a strong Latin Liturgy and strong vernacular devotional life and a strong belief in the Catholic basics as taught by the Baltimore Catechism were much more effective at evangelizing that we are today. In fact dissenting Catholics today who dissent knowingly or unknowingly reduce the effectiveness of Catholic evangelization.
Prior to Vatican II in this country, up until the 1960's, converts to the Catholic Faith was at an all time high especially in the African American Community--this with a Latin Liturgy. Will anyone like the author of this article care to explain this?
But here is the article from Commonweal: (read the comments at this link at the end of the article. They are a hoot, especially the first one!)
Unity, Not Uniformity
What the Vernacular Liturgy Says About the Church
March 7, 1965, came to be known as Bloody Sunday in the civil-rights movement, as peaceful protesters in Selma, Alabama, were assaulted by police wielding clubs and tear gas. The same day, Pope Paul VI entered All Saints Church in the suburbs of Rome and said Mass in Italian. It was the first vernacular Mass celebrated by the pope in modern times. Pope Francis will mark that anniversary about two weeks from now.
At first glance, these two events seem to have nothing to do with each other. After all, what difference can it possibly make to the cause of racial justice that Catholics are now permitted to celebrate Mass in the vernacular? It was a big deal for the Catholic faithful and clergy at the time, to be sure. But we’ve gotten used to it. For many, then as now, its value seems to rest in nave and sanctuary and not in the streets. I believe a link exists, and is worth considering. The introduction of the vernacular was not only undertaken for the good of the people already within the fold. It was also intended as a pledge and a promise for the Catholic Church to reach out beyond itself, for the sake of its mission. Pope Paul VI said it clearly from the balcony of St. Peter’s on that day: “The church has made this sacrifice of an age-old tradition [Latin] and above all in unity of language among diverse peoples to bow to a higher universality, an outreach to all peoples.”
Use of vernacular languages in the liturgy is an outstanding sign of Vatican II’s famous “opening to the world”—the world not as a great shopping mall of delights, but as angry and wounded, a despairing world in need of the gospel of compassion and justice and joy. The world of the poor. The world of Selma. In the words of Gaudium et spes, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World: “The joys and hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men [and women] of our time, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ.” Too many Catholics tend to think of the document on the Liturgy, Sacrosanctum concilium, as one end of the spectrum, and Gaudium et spes as the other. They belong together.
Paul VI’s words surely resonated with missionary bishops and others on “the periphery”—the developing world, churches oppressed under communism, Eastern Rite Catholics—who took part in the debate at the council. Although they remained respectful of Latin, they were not convinced by the claim that Latin is the great “sign and psychological agent” of the church’s unity. Bishop Franz Simons of Indore, India, for example, pointed out with merciless clarity that Latin, which was supposed to unite, had actually become a source of division: between clergy and laity, between East and West, and between the church and the world. Patriarch Maximos IV Saigh, leader of the Melkite delegation, famously refused to speak Latin at the council, preferring to use French as a reminder to the Latin Rite bishops that Latin is not the language of all Catholics. It’s not as though these bishops didn’t prize unity. They did. But they wisely looked to the Holy Spirit to provide it through many tongues, as the Spirit provided it on the day of Pentecost.
Arguments explaining the shift to the vernacular have so often been pragmatic that I fear we’ve overlooked the symbolic importance of what we do when we celebrate the liturgy in our own language. The result is a flat, ho-hum account of what the church is up to. Latin is mystical and interesting. The vernacular? Just words. Besides, if we evaluate the shift to the vernacular only in terms of practicality, the story is over. The goal of a fully vernacular liturgy has been achieved. Taking the vernacular for granted has left the church vulnerable to efforts to “re-Latinize” our vernacular translations.
We have vernacular liturgy but we may have missed what is most essential about it. Use of vernacular in the liturgy is a matter of mission and evangelization. When Paul VI celebrated the liturgy in Italian, it was a pledge to future generations that the church and her liturgy would lean toward outreach and mission. This is where the growth continues. The Mass Pope Francis will commemorate was the end point of a long journey; but, more important, it is also a starting point.