Varietates Legitimae 1: “Legitimate Differences”

Let’s start the Easter season fresh with another liturgical document, Varietates Legitimae (VL). As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, we have seventy numbered sections to tackle. The first eight form an introduction, through which we will be exposed to the curia’s thinking on inculturation and liturgy.

From that foundation, we can assess together (with ample comments from readers, I hope) how VL has been fruitful or not the past seventeen years. Keep in mind I’d also like to assess whether inculturation is only a basic principle for “mission lands,” or if it has any traction in the post-Christian West.

1. Legitimate differences in the Roman rite were allowed in the past and were foreseen by the Second Vatican Council in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, especially in the missions.(cf. no. 38; no. 40.) “Even in the liturgy the church has no wish to impose a rigid uniformity in matters that do not affect the faith or the good of the whole community.”(cf. no. 37) It has known and still knows many different forms and liturgical families, and considers that this diversity, far from harming her unity, underlines its value. (Orientalium Ecclesiarum, 2; Sacrosanctum Concilium, 3 and 4; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1200-1206, especially 1204-1206)

This occasional tension between unity and uniformity causes a bit of confusion among Catholics, from catechumens all the way out to bishops. Diversity is a strength of Catholicism and the Roman Rite. The curia has said so. Vatican II backs them up. We would do well to consider the point, if not outright agree.

Otherwise, see anything worth speaking up about? What do you expect to see in a Roman document on inculturation?


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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One Response to Varietates Legitimae 1: “Legitimate Differences”

  1. Hi, Todd! I haven’t read this document yet, so I’m glad you’ve chosen it.

    Region XI of the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions (that’s pretty much all of California, Reno, Las Vegas, and Hawaii) is preparing to host the 2012 national FDLC gathering, following up on this year’s gathering in Portland. Both conferences are focusing on the topic of multicultural liturgy.

    As a region, we’ve noticed that the reaction to multicultural issues, across the U.S. in general, has changed significantly since the mid-90s, even since the early 2000s. We notice a more open reception among liturgical leaders to discussing the need for attending to inculturation of the liturgy. We’ve also noted that we’ve had to update our sense of culture and ideas and principles for inculturation over the last two decades. What may have worked 20 years ago probably doesn’t today, simply because culture is so tied into the way we understand ourselves as a society. And that is constantly developing.

    So it will be interesting to view this document from this standpoint almost 20 years after it was written.

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