Chapter II: General Norms
11. This instruction is binding on all rites of the Latin Church. Thus, what
is said of Gregorian chant applies to all the chants which are used in other
Sacred music is to be taken generally in this instruction as embracing both
vocal and instrumental music. But at times it will be limited to instrumental
music only, as will be clear from the context.
A church ordinarily means any sacred place; this includes a church in the
strict sense, as well as public, semipublic, and private oratories; again the
context itself may restrict the meaning to a church in the strict sense.
12. Liturgical ceremonies are to be carried out as indicated in the
liturgical books approved by the Holy See; this applies to the universal Church,
to particular churches, and to religious communities (cf. canon 1257). Private
devotions, however, may be conducted according to local or community customs if
they have been approved by competent ecclesiastical authority (cf. canon 1259).
Liturgical ceremonies, and private devotions are not to be mixed; but if the
situation allows, such devotions may either precede or follow a liturgical
13. a) Latin is the language of liturgical ceremonies; however, the
liturgical books mentioned above, if they have been approved for general use or
for a particular place or community, may make use of another language for
certain liturgical ceremonies, and in such cases, this will be explicitly
stated. Any exceptions to the general rule of Latin will be mentioned later in
b) Special permission is needed for the use of the vernacular which is a
word-for-word translation in the celebration of sung liturgical ceremonies (Motu
proprio Inter sollicitudines AAS 36 [1903-1904] 334; Decr. auth. S.R.C.
c) Individual exceptions to the exclusive use of Latin in liturgical
ceremonies which have already been granted by the Holy See still remain in
effect. These permissions are not to be modified in their meaning nor extended
to other regions without authorization from the Holy See.
d) In private devotions any language more suited to the faithful may be used.
14. a) In sung Masses only Latin is to be used. This applies not only to the
celebrant, and his ministers, but also to the choir or congregation.
"However, popular vernacular hymns may be sung at the solemn Eucharistic
Sacrifice (sung Masses), after the liturgical texts have been sung in Latin, in
those places where such a centenary or immemorial custom has obtained. Local
ordinaries may permit the continuation of this custom 'if they judge that it
cannot prudently be discontinued because of the circumstances of the locality or
the people' (cf. canon 5)" (Musicæ sacræ disciplina: AAS 48  16-17).
b) At low Mass the faithful who participate directly in the liturgical
ceremonies with the celebrant by reciting aloud the parts of the Mass which
belong to them must, along with the priest and his server, use Latin exclusively.
But if, in addition to this direct participation in the liturgy, the faithful
wish to add some prayers or popular hymns, according to local custom, these may
be recited or sung in the vernacular.
c) It is strictly forbidden for the faithful in unison or for a commentator
to recite aloud with the priest the parts of the Proper, Ordinary, and canon of
the Mass. This prohibition extends to both Latin, and a vernacular word-for-word
translation. Exceptions will be enumerated in paragraph 31.
However, it is desirable that a lector read the Epistle and Gospel in the
vernacular for the benefit of the faithful at low Masses on Sundays and feast
Between the Consecration, and the Pater noster a holy silence is
15. In sacred processions conducted according to the liturgical books, only
the language prescribed or permitted by these books should be used. In other
processions, held as private devotions, the language more suited to the
faithful may be used.
16. Gregorian chant is the music characteristic of the Roman Church.
Therefore, its use is not only permitted, but encouraged at all liturgical
ceremonies above all other styles of music, unless circumstances demand
otherwise. From this it follows that:
a) The language of Gregorian chant, because of its character as liturgical
music, must be exclusively Latin.
b) The priest and his ministers must use only the Gregorian melodies given in
the standard editions when they sing their parts according to the rubrics of the
liturgical ceremonies. Any sort of instrumental accompaniment is forbidden.
This is binding also on choir, and congregation when they answer the chants
of the priest or his ministers according to the rubrics.
c) Finally, if a particular indult has been granted for the priest, deacon,
subdeacon, or lector to read solemnly the Epistle, Lesson, or Gospel in the
vernacular after they have been chanted in their Gregorian melodies, they must
be read in a loud and clear voice, without any attempt to imitate the Gregorian
melodies (cf. no. 96e).
17. When the choir is capable of singing it, sacred polyphony may be used in
all liturgical ceremonies. This type of sacred music is specially appropriate
for ceremonies celebrated with greater splendor, and solemnity.
18. Modern sacred music may also be used in all liturgical ceremonies if it
conforms to the dignity, solemnity, and sacredness of the service, and if there
is a choir capable of rendering it artistically.
19. Hymns may be freely used in private devotions. But in liturgical
ceremonies the principles laid down in paragraphs 13-15 should be strictly
20. Religious music should be entirely excluded from all liturgical
functions; however, such music may be used in private devotions. With regard to
concerts in church, the principles stated below in paragraphs 54, and 55 are to
The Sacred Text
21. Everything which the liturgical books prescribe to be sung, either by the
priest and his ministers, or by the choir or congregation, forms an integral
part of the sacred liturgy. Therefore:
a) It is strictly forbidden to change in any way the sung text, to alter or
omit words, or to introduce inappropriate repetitions. This applies also to
compositions of sacred polyphony, and modern sacred music: each word should be
clearly, and distinctly audible.
b) It is explicitly forbidden to omit either the whole or a part of any
liturgical text unless the rubrics provide for such a change.
c) But if for some reason a choir cannot sing one or another liturgical text
according to the music printed in the liturgical books, the only permissible
substitution is this: that it be sung either recto tono, i.e., on a
straight tone, or set to one of the psalm tones. Organ accompaniment may be
used. Typical reasons for permitting such a change are an insufficient number of
singers, or their lack of musical training, or even, at times, the length of a
particular rite or chant.