Hoenes del Pinal, “From Vatican II to speaking in tongues: theology and language policy in a Q’eqchi’-Maya Catholic parish”

Hoenes del Pinal, Eric. 2015. “From Vatican II to speaking in tongues: theology and language policy in a Q’eqchi’-Maya Catholic parish” Language Policy DOI 10.1007/s10993-015-9364-0 [Pre-Publication Release]

Abstract: One of the most far-reaching reforms undertaken by the Catholic Church as part of the Second Vatican Council was the adoption of vernacular languages in the liturgy. The transition from Latin to vernaculars was not unproblematic, how- ever, as it raised several practical and theoretical questions regarding the relation- ship between local churches and their languages. This paper examines the issues of language choice in the liturgy of an ethnically homogenous Q’eqchi’-Maya parish in Guatemala. While the aims of Vatican II have largely been met in the parish with Q’eqchi’ functioning as its de facto language, within the last decade Charismatic Catholicism has presented a challenge to Q’eqchi’ liturgical monolingualism. Catholic Charismatics’ theological commitment to unmediated experience of the divine is manifested through linguistic practices that subvert Q’eqchi’s status in the parish. Specifically Charismatics’ use of Spanish in their services has become an issue of contention in the parish. Though members of both congregations are equally likely to be functionally bilingual in Spanish and Q’eqchi’, language choice in ritual settings has become a marked and highly charged point of contention between them. In examining the conflict this paper proposes that the congregations’ language practices can be understood as de facto policies authorized by their distinct constructions of the role of language in religion. The paper contextualizes this local debate in light of the historical changes in the Catholic Church’s policies regarding the use of vernaculars in the liturgy.

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