Varietates Legitimae 49-51: Multiple Cultures

Finishing up VL’s consideration of prudence, I thought it would be helpful to link the last three sections of this sub-topic.

49. In a number of countries there are several cultures that coexist and sometimes influence each other in such a way as to lead gradually to the formation of a new culture, while at times they seek to affirm their proper identity or even oppose each other in order to stress their own existence. It can happen that customs may have little more than folkloric interest. The episcopal conference will examine each case individually with care: They should respect the riches of each culture and those who defend them, but they should not ignore or neglect a minority culture with which they are not familiar. They should weigh the risk of a Christian community becoming inward looking and also the use of inculturation for political ends. In those countries with a customary culture, account must also be taken of the extent to which modernization has affected the people.

50. Sometimes there are many languages in use in the one country, even though each one may be spoken only by a small group of persons or a single tribe. In such cases a balance must be found which respects the individual rights of these groups or tribes but without carrying to extremes the localization of the liturgical celebrations. It is also sometimes possible that a country may be moving toward the use of a principal language.

51. To promote liturgical inculturation in a cultural area bigger that one country, the episcopal conferences concerned must work together and decide the measures which have to be taken so that “as far as possible, there are not notable ritual differences in regions bordering on one another.” (SC 23)


Rome is wise to leave the discernment of VL 49 in the hands of competent bishops, plus the local clergy and laity.

The problem of multiple tribal languages is very real, and not just for the larger nations. The common, if not principal language, is often a European tongue, and this presents a problem on some levels. Liturgiam Authenticam was a little too-accepting of colonial languages, I thought. This too is an important discernment that must be made on the local level.

We Americans do not always realize it, but national boundaries in the Third World are often an imposition from colonizers, and don’t always adhere to the boundaries of nationalities and cultures. How does the Church support ministry and liturgical inculturation without appearing to take sides in political simmerings in hot spots? Cooperation and collaboration seem needed more than ever.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in post-conciliar liturgy documents, Varietates Legitimae. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Varietates Legitimae 49-51: Multiple Cultures

  1. Liam says:

    A couple of caveats:

    Understand that the Roman mindset plays a great deal of reliance on the idea of lawful authority as a legitimate basis for social order. And Rome was dealing with cultural pluralism many many centuries before the USA was a glimmer in anyone’s eye; it’s actually the development of the nation-state where the “nation” is mostly ethnically and culturally homogenous that’s relatively new in the Roman scheme of things. (Even the “barbarian” kingdoms of the era from AD 400-1000 were *not* ethnically or culturally homogenous – there was a great deal of ethnic fluidity, opportunism and, of course, cruelty in the creation of those “peoples”. E.g., who the “Franks” were and who the French became are two rather different things….)

    And, we should remember that, there are people in the former colonial world who would rather retain certain impositions of colonizers instead of reverting back to the precolonial state of things. Americans, for example, ran into this in Iraq, and finding lots of Iraqis who have become rather attached to the idea of an Iraq that is not divided up more non-colonially, as it were.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s