Today we are celebrating the promulgation of Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on Liturgy.

50 years later!  Has it been so long?

Sacrosanctum Concilium, states this about Gregorian chant. The Latin of SC 116 is often rendered as:

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.

This isi a weak. To my ear it doesn’t convey the force of the vocabulary which sounds like legal language having to do with property, possession, heredity. This is a powerful declaration about something being a prized possession, even the most prized of all, since it is in the “princeps locus” the “first/chief/most distinguished place”.

So, according to your Fathers of the Second Vatican Council, under Bugninicare

If you want your Gregorian Chant, you can keep your Gregorian Chant. PERIOD.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Fr. Z, in addition to “pride of place” apparently being a circumlocution to avoid ascribing the “principal place” to Gregorian chant, I recall seeing somewhere a claim that whereas that “other things being equal” in English seems to weaken the statement of SC 116, the “ceteris paribus” in Latin rather strengthens it.

    116. Ecclesia cantum gregorianum agnoscit ut liturgiae romanae proprium: qui ideo in actionibus liturgicis, ceteris paribus, principem locum obtineat.

    So I wonder whether on this happy anniversary of the great leap forward liturgically, you might favor us with a slavish literal translation for those inquiring minds who ask What Does The Statement Really Say?

  2. Supertradmum says:

    Weak indeed, and I am still perplexed, after all these years, as to why Latin is absolutely “hated” by some clergy and some lay people. I can understand “preferences”, but not out and out hatred.

    The change in the music over the past fifty years has added to the confusion as to Who we are worshiping and why.

    I agree with Henry that a really good translation by our favorite priest blogger would be welcomed.

  3. wmeyer says:

    Fr. Z, to join the chorus, I fully expected that you would have given us not only the “often rendered as”, but a slavishly literal translation from the Latin.

  4. Legisperitus says:

    “Other things being equal…”

    “Particular law remaining in force…”

    The Church was undone with ablative absolutes.

  5. wolfeken says:


    When one celebrates, there are usually a few accomplishments as a result of the thing being celebrated.

    Sacrosanctum Concilium was a horrible blueprint of uncessary reform during the height of the Catholic Church’s successful years (as measured by those pesky indicators such as Mass attendance). Name something new that came from it (that didn’t already exist before) that should be celebrated. Anyone?

  6. wolfeken: “Name something new that came from [Sacrosanctum Concilium] that should be celebrated.”

    In his NLM piece on SC today, Peter Kwasniewski mentions that “the places where these points from Vatican II are most being lived, week in and week out” are traditional Latin Mass Communities. Indeed, it’s sometimes said that, in order for the typical bishop to see Vatican II’s ballyhooed “actual participation” in actual practice in his diocese, he probably would have to attend his local TLM.

    In any event, on the basis of observation of the TLM in numerous locations both before Vatican II and now, I must admit that the typical TLM is now more beautifully celebrated by priests and servers, with better music and chant by choirs and scholas, and more fully and actively participated in by the people, than it was then.

    Is this genuine fruit of Vatican II? I would suggest that it is indeed, but perhaps someone else can explain how and why this is so.

  7. Salvelinus says:

    One thing that drives me bananas (here in Central Texas) is all of the “Bilingual” – English/Spanish masses. Most of the neighborhood parish mass schedules are utterly confusing. (i.e. 8AM English, 10AM Bilingual, 11:30 Spanish). There is one place down here (Mission of Divine Mercy – that had an ingenious idea that I wish more churches would do.
    They offer a regular TLM, according to the 1962 rubrics, and then also offer the Novus Ordo in Latin, particularly the Canon, which is all in Latin (ad orientem, of course). For the latter, they have the standard lay-people for the readings if one so chooses to go there.

    I would LOVE to see this done, which would unite us Catholics more, instead of separating us by “Novus Ordo English Catholics” “Novus Ordo Spanish”, and “Traditional Catholics” by the mass that we attend.

  8. Mike says:

    My parish music director has decided differently: “And I will lift you up on Eagles’ wings…”

  9. anilwang says:

    Salvelinus says: I would LOVE to see [all Novus Ordo masses to be one].

    Sadly, I don’t think this is possible any time soon. Latin has gone into disuse among the general public, modern liturgical songs are language specific (and music is one area that’s alway been hard to tame, even in the high point of Church music), and enculturation has been quite deep.

    That being said, there’s no reason why all our common Catholic prayers can’t be in Latin so that Catholics from any country can pray together inside and outside the parish (e.g. the Rosary), and Latin can still have a play within our liturgies. Since they are common prayers, they should be easy to learn and know what they mean once. It would help unify all the NO liturgies and would open the door for the Liturgy of the Eucharist to be in Latin (since it has few variations) and common liturgical rubrics (e.g. “Dominus Vobiscum”/”Et cum spiritu tuo”) to be in Latin. Beyond this, I don’t think much more can be done.

  10. Magpie says:

    ”Show me just what Bugnini brought that was new and there you will find things only banal and on-the-spot, such as his command to spread by a new order of Mass the new faith which he preached.”

    — Magpie the Great

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