From the June 30, 1962 issue of America:
The recent decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites authorizing baptism of adults in seven stages, instead of all at once, underlined many significant facts. As Fr. Frederick R. McManus, president of the Liturgical Conference, pointed out, the change stresses the sacrament’s social nature. It is a sign that the Church is anxious to demonstrate that this is a public rite, not simply a private affair.
The Congregation of Rites itself acknowledged that certain baptismal details—touching the forehead, the use of salt and oil—might be considered indelicate or superstitious in certain countries. The bishops may now eliminate them. This goes far toward settling an old controversy in the Church.
Bishops throughout the world had requested the seven stages (really a return to the ancient form) in order that they might make better use of the liturgy’s teaching power. The Congregation of Rites noted that the bishops desired to convey to the people the deep significance of the catechetical instruction in the texts of the rite. The decree declares for the whole world, therefore, that all the formulas of the baptismal rite may be pronounced in the vernacular, with the exception of the exorcisms (which may be read in the vernacular after the Latin) and a few other words, e.g., the sentence of the baptismal formula itself.
“This is a tremendous and welcome breakthrough in the use of the mother tongue in Catholic public worship,” said Fr. McManus. And for the first time, he noted, the Holy See has taken a broad initiative in this matter by leaving approval of the vernacular versions to the bishops of the various countries.
Pope John’s Apostolic Constitution on Latin in the training of clergy in the Roman rite (Veterum Sapientia—see AM. 3/10, p. 748) contained a directive that bishops and heads of religious orders should see to it that “none of their subjects, moved by an inordinate desire for novelty, write against the use of Latin either in the teaching of the sacred disciplines or in the sacred rites of the liturgy.” Some observers thought this put an end to the movement for more vernacular in the liturgy. Veterum Sapientia, it is now quite clear, dealt with the training of priests and, in passing, rebuked certain types of writing against the use of Latin. To the people, on the other hand, the Holy See had been granting more use of the vernacular in country after country and now grants it throughout the world, that the faithful may comprehend what the liturgy teaches them.
There is joy and gratitude in many hearts for these gifts from good Pope John. And apparently there is more to come. On his recent visit to this country. Cardinal Larraona, prefect of the Congregation of Rites, predicted that the Second Vatican Council would approve the use of modern languages in the Mass of the Catechumens, the first or “teaching” part of the Mass. The Central Preparatory Commission had already considered the idea for the council agenda. Prayerfully, hopefully, we await the outcome—for the greater glory of God.