Fear to Tread
This is obviously a hot button topic and I invite you respond under the comments.
One person has quoted the following section of the Vatican II Constitution, Sacrosanctum Concilium, in support of the idea that only very, very limited vernacular (English in our case) was ever intended by the council Fathers.
"The use of the Latin tongue is to be maintained
in the Latin rites, except where some special law obtains" (SC 36 §1).
If this was the entire comment the constitution made on the subject of Latin and if we assumed the intended 'style' of the Constitution matched that of Trent, then it might be a straight forward case. This is not the case. The Second Vatican council does not adopt the forceful juridical style of Trent which demands universal conformity on pain of excommunication. Instead the council adopts a 'pastoral' style and seeks to persuade through the force of its argument.
1. Retain Latin only universally (following Trent),
2. Continue Latin with some limited vernacular,
3. Allow a complete move to the use vernacular.
On the surface the Bishops appear to have voted for the second option. Isn't that what SC 36.1 seems to imply?
In fact there is more to the story than a surface reading might suggest and a closer reading of the Constitution leads to other conclusions. First there is one interesting intervention that took place on this issue. During the debate the Melikite Patriarch Maximos IV Saigh addressed the Council. Patriarch Maximos rose and spoke to the council in eloquent French. He was apparently a good speaker. He suggested the absolute value assigned to Latin in the liturgy was strange [assez anormal] to the Eastern Church. He recommended changing the wording of the schema so that it would read that Latin was "the original and official language of the Roman rite" and that instead of Episcopal conferences should "propose" to the Holy See the use of vernacular, instead they should "decide, subject to approval of the Holy See." This speech was greeted very favorably. When the final text was approved they passed over the first request with very little change to the schema but included the second request. Again on a surface reading the council Fathers appear to have voted for the second choice above to continue the Latin tradition with only limited vernacular, but the second change made the it possible for local bishops and Episcopal conferences to choose to implement much wider use of the vernacular at their discretion. In order to understand the intension of the restriction; "The use of the Latin tongue is to be maintained in the Latin rites, except where some special law obtains" (SC 36 §1), one must also consider what is written next in the text. If we keep reading in the text after 36.1, there are three places which affirm the authority of bishops and bishop's conferences to make decisions in adapting the use of Latin. Unlike Trent which required uniformity Sacrosanctum Concilium allows for regional diversity and the possibility for legitimate inculturation into the vernacular.
Having said this all of this, it is quite clear that the Bishops could not have predicted the sweeping changes that would occur as a result. The idea that the whole church would move to the vernacular rapidly and so completely was not imagined. For example in SC 54 the council Fathers noted, "Nevertheless steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them."