Q. As a pastor, I am subject to an argument among my parish musicians about the use in Mass of traditional music to Latin texts. One side claims that Latin music should be used only in Latin Masses, and the other side says that Latin music may be used in English (and Spanish) Masses. Is there any rule about this?
A. Here’s a reply from Msgr. M. Francis Mannion:
Bilingual possibilities in the liturgy were established long before the Second Vatican Council, and they have taken hold in a more comprehensive way after the council. There is no explicit rule about this, but there is an assumption underlying all the official documents on liturgy and music that music set to Latin texts may be used in the vernacular liturgy.
Vatican II’s Constitution on the Liturgy states: “The musical tradition of the universal Church is a treasure of inestimable value, greater even than that of any other art” (No. 112). It continues: “The treasure of sacred music is to be preserved and cultivated with great care” (No. 114), and it asserts as a general principle, “The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services” (No. 116).
Numerous Church documents have reasserted these principles, and it has become commonplace to combine music set to Latin texts with vernacular liturgical celebration.