On 27 February 2007 a talk titled “The Mass: Pre & Post Vatican II” was given by Fr Paul Staes, CICM at Catholic Spirituality Centre in Upper Serangoon. Fr Staes was ordained before the Second Vatican Council in 1961. So in 2006, he celebrated his 45th Anniversary of his Sacerdotal Ordination. I was not able to attend this talk myself, but some notes and commentary were posted online (http://catholicwriter.wordpress.com/2007/02/28/the-mass-pre-post-vatican-ii/ and http://groups.yahoo.com/group/catholicact/message/7560). Various misconceptions were included in this, and I shall proceed debunking the various myths and fallacies.
Before I begin in earnest, let me first say that this article is in no way meant as a personal attack. The purpose of what shall follow is to clarify certain misunderstanding regarding the Classical Latin Mass, also know as the Tridentine Mass, Traditional Latin Mass as well as the Divine Liturgy of Pope St Gregory the Great.
First and foremost it is an utter fallacy that it was only in the Council of Trent that the Tridentine Mass came into being. The thrust of this article is not the historical development of the Mass.It is sufficient to note that the 1474 Missale Romanum was almost exactly the same as what Pope St Pius V promulgated in 1570, almost 100 years later. One should also note that the Bragan, Ambrosian, Benedictine, Dominican, Carthusian, Carmelite and Premonstratensian Rites all pre-dated the Council of Trent by more than 200 years. Quo Primum, that promulgated the 1570 Missale Romanum, explicitly allowed these rites to continue to be used alongside the actual Roman Rite  . Legitimate liturgical diversity was hence allowed even after the Council of Trent and well the Mass was celebrated in Latin prior to the Council of Trent. The Bragan, Ambrosian, Benedictine, Dominican, Carthusian, Carmelite and Premonstratensian Rites that were all more than 200 years before the Council of Trent, were all in Latin  . It is also with good reason that these rites are rightly called variations of the Latin Rite. Unfortunately, the Pope Paul VI disregarded all this on 3 April 1969, in the Apostolic Constitution that effectively gave us the Missal of Paul VI. When comparing the 1570 Apostolic Constitution with the one in 1969, it is very clear that the former had the utter most respect for the Sacred Traditions that had been handed down to us as well as the organic development of the liturgy, while the latter sought to innovate .
Yet back to the commentary and notes that I have referred to. “So unlike a number of the people who are pro-Tridentine Mass today, but never really lived in the pre-Vatican era, this guy actually celebrated the Tridentine Mass then.”
Now this seems like a very strange comment to make, and its not very logical either. Personally I would prefer the term Classical Latin Mass to Tridentine Mass. It is not very accurate to attribute the Mass to the Council of Trent. The 1570 Missale Romanum was a product of hundreds and hundreds of years of organic liturgical development. As such, it does pre-date the Council of Trent. Yet I digress. If I could just reconstruct the premise: To desire the Classical Latin Mass, one must have lived in the era before the Second Vatican Council. This is as good as saying that if one is to hold a certain opinion, one must have lived in a specific era. This premise is simply not true. The 1988 Motu Proprio Eccelsia Dei does not have a single line that imposes any form of era or age limit. It specifically states that “respect must everywhere be shown for the feelings of all those who are attached to the Latin liturgical tradition…  ” This was clarified by the Secretary of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei Msgr Camille Perl, in September 1995 .
Now with regards to celebrating the Classical Latin Mass ‘then’, well in terms of rubrics, celebrating the Classical Latin Mass “then” and “now” is exactly the same. What changed were various disciplines, like the need to pay for pews. The use of the word ‘then’ may also denote differences in the social situation between ‘then’ and ‘now’. It does not follow that because Classical Latin Rite was celebrated in the era before the Second Vatican Council, it was only for the time before (and during) that period. What is so special about celebrating the Classical Latin Mass ‘then’? Perhaps a pertinent point would be the ability to experience the Classical Latin Mass from young and being able to live and breath in that Rite. Yet even then, there were converts, who experienced the Classical Latin Mass later in life. Another perspective could also be about the level of understanding of what is happening in the Mass “then”. This however has more to do with the quality and level of the catechesis and not the text of the Missal.
“To start with, I recall one of Father Paul's sharings about how a pro-Tridentine Mass person came up to him to say how beautiful the Latin language is, and how the Church should all return to celebrating Mass the 'old' way. So Father Paul begins to speak to this person in Latin, and the person is stunned, unable to understand what Father Paul says. To which Father Paul goes, ‘Oh, I'm sorry. You don't speak Latin?’ ”
One is required to be able to converse in Latin to attend the Mass in Latin? Or one is required to converse in Latin to desire the Mass to be celebrated in Latin? For a moment let’s just set aside the differences between the Missal of Paul VI and the Classical Roman Missal.
Assuming Latin just like any other language, the premises can be reconstructed as one is required to converse in a particular language to attend mass in that language and one is required to converse in a particular language to desire mass to be celebrated in that language. So, for example one is required to be able to converse in Bahasa Indonesia to attend Mass in Bahasa Indonesia. On the surface it seems to make some sense, but unfortunately there is a fatal flaw in this line of reasoning. One can only attend a Mass celebrated in the vernacular in the language (or languages) that one is conversant in. So if a person who is conversant only in Tamil should only go for Mass in Tamil and a person who is conversant only in Mandarin should only go for Mass in Mandarin. With this mentality, the natural product would be a form of detachment between the different language communities. Consequently, within just the context of a Sunday Mass, a Mandarin speaker who is Catholic will have zero contact what a Tamil speaker who is Catholic because the difference in timings and location. One can argue that the two may be able to meet if they attend Mass in English, but then again both of them may not exactly conversant in English.
The imposition of the requirement of fluency implies that the lack of it is an impediment to the “full, conscious, devout, intelligent and active participation ” that is legislated by the Second Vatican Council Document Sacrosanctum Concilium (The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy). It does not follow that that a high level of fluency allows the best participation in the Mass.Participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is both interior and exterior. Knowing the language and being able to verbalise is one thing but actually meaning what you say is another. One can be fluent in any language, but one can still just only say something only for the sake of saying it. One can be fluent in English and know what to say in the various responses of the Mass in English and at the same time have absolutely no sincerity in saying them. Hence, fluency is not an impediment to participation. What really impedes participation is making the responses in the Mass without putting one’s heart to it. A mistranslation would also be another impediment but that is a matter for another time.In this section, I began by assuming that Latin is just like any other language. Pope John XXIII, who initiated the Second Vatican Council, states otherwise in his Apostolic Constitution Veterum Sapientia, “…the Latin language can be called truly catholic…and must be esteemed a treasure … of incomparable worth  ”. Here Pope John XXIII was quoting from his predecessors Pope Pius XII and Pope Pius XI. In Sacrosanctum Concilium, it is very clearly stated that “The use of the Latin language… is to be preserved in the Latin rites. ” It is further stated that “… care must be taken to ensure that the faithful may also be able to say or sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.  ”
The are 24 Churches that constitute the Catholic Church and there are 8 distinctive Rites namely, the Latin, Armenian, Alexandrian, Ge’ez, West Syrian Maronite, East Syrian, West Syrian, and Byzantine . Each Rite has its own distinctive liturgical language and tradition. For example, for the Alexandrian Rite is used by Coptic Catholics and their liturgy is in Coptic. Syriac is used in the Liturgy of by the East and West Syrian Rites.
It was the Latin Church that effectively spread and sustained the Faith to this region. As such it is the Latin Liturgical Tradition that is proper to most Catholics in Singapore. The default language of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass remains as Latin. As recently as 2004, the Instruction by the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments states that “Priests are always and everywhere permitted to celebrate Mass in Latin. ”
Latin is a source for unity for Catholics in the Latin Rite. Yet it is a wonder why it is so seldom used and hardly ever taught. One is not baptised into the Teochew, Hokkien, Tamil, Malayalam, or English Rite. In Singapore , being baptised into the Catholic Church more often than not (not forgetting the presence of our Eastern brethren) means being baptised into the Latin Rite. The Second Vatican Council requires that the laity be sing or say the Ordinary of the Mass that pertain to them in Latin. It does not require the laity to converse in Latin.
It can be argued that one can also blabber something in a foreign language with the correct pronunciation and annunciation with absolutely no idea of what one is verbalising. Yet the fault here does not lie in the language or the need to use the language, it lies with the catechesis as well as the heart of the individual. One cannot simply fault the use of Latin.
To the mind of Pope John XXIII there is also educational value to be found in Latin. Latin is “most effective training for the pliant minds of youth. It exercises, matures and perfects the principal faculties of mind and spirit. It sharpens the wits and gives keenness of judgment. It helps the young mind to grasp things accurately and develop a true sense of values. It is also a means for teaching highly intelligent thought and speech.” Herein then lies the relevance of Latin.
 http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Pius05/p5quopri.htm “This new rite alone is to be used unless approval of the practice of saying Mass differently was given at the very time of the institution and confirmation of the church by Apostolic See at least 200 years ago, or unless there has prevailed a custom of a similar kind which has been continuously followed for a period of not less than 200 years, in which most cases We in no wise rescind their above-mentioned prerogative or custom.”
 http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Pius05/p5quopri.htm “From the very first, upon Our elevation to the chief Apostleship, We gladly turned our mind and energies and directed all out thoughts to those matters which concerned the preservation of a pure liturgy, and We strove with God's help, by every means in our power, to accomplish this purpose.” …… “Hence, We decided to entrust this work to learned men of our selection. They very carefully collated all their work with the ancient codices in Our Vatican Library and with reliable, preserved or emended codices from elsewhere. Besides this, these men consulted the works of ancient and approved authors concerning the same sacred rites; and thus they have restored the Missal itself to the original form and rite of the holy Fathers.” …… “this work has been gone over numerous times and further emended, after serious study and reflection”
http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/paul_vi/apost_constitutions/documents/hf_p-vi_apc_19690403_missale-romanum_en.html “Now, however, our purpose is to set out at least in broad terms, the new plan of the Roman Missal. We therefore point out, first, that a General Instruction, for use as a preface to the book, gives the new regulations for the celebration of eucharistic sacrifice.” …… “It must be acknowledged that the chief innovation in the reform concerns the eucharistic prayer.” ……. “we have decided to add three new canons to the eucharistic prayer” ……
 http://www.latin-mass-society.org/gresser.htm “The Motu Proprio does not speak of any restrictions, including age limits, on those who aspire to worship according to the liturgical books of 1962. Neither does it state that only those who had previous experience of the Latin liturgical tradition could have such an aspiration.”
http://www.rc.net/rcchurch/vatican2/liturgy.asc Sacrosanctum Concilium No 14 “Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that full, conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations…” …… No 50 “…devout and active participation by the faithful…” …… No 79 “…enabling the faithful to participate intelligently...”
http://www.catholicculture.org/docs/doc_view.cfm?recnum=1160 Veterum Sapientia “In addition, the Latin language ‘can be called truly catholic.’ It has been consecrated through constant use by the Apostolic See, the mother and teacher of all Churches, and must be esteemed ‘a treasure... of incomparable worth.’ ”
http://www.rc.net/rcchurch/vatican2/liturgy.asc Sacrosanctum Concilium No 36 “The use of the Latin language, with due respect to particular law, is to be preserved in the Latin rites.”
http://www.rc.net/rcchurch/vatican2/liturgy.asc Sacrosanctum Concilium No 36 “… Nevertheless care must be taken to ensure that the faithful may also be able to say or sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.”
http://www.holyspiritinteractive.net/columns/guests/kevinyurkus/othercatholics.asp and http://www.holyspiritinteractive.net/columns/guests/kevinyurkus/othercatholics2.asp
 http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccdds/documents/rc_con_ccdds_doc_20040423_redemptionis-sacramentum_en.html Redemptionis Sacramentum No 112 “Mass is celebrated either in Latin or in another language, provided that liturgical texts are used which have been approved according to the norm of law. Except in the case of celebrations of the Mass that are scheduled by the ecclesiastical authorities to take place in the language of the people, Priests are always and everywhere permitted to celebrate Mass in Latin.
http://www.catholicculture.org/docs/doc_view.cfm?recnum=1160 Veterum Sapientia “There can be no doubt as to the formative and educational value either of the language of the Romans or of great literature generally. It is a most effective training for the pliant minds of youth. It exercises, matures and perfects the principal faculties of mind and spirit. It sharpens the wits and gives keenness of judgment. It helps the young mind to grasp things accurately and develop a true sense of values. It is also a means for teaching highly intelligent thought and speech.”