Saturday, May 02, 2009

The Wisdom of Latin

Some points about Latin and the Catholic Church:

-- Latin Has Never Been Abrogated as the Language of the Church. Latin is still the language of the Church, even though Vatican II extended, in limited cases, the use of vernacular tongues. Some points from the documents of Vatican II illustrate how far we have strayed from the true teachings of the Council:
Sacrosanctum Concilium (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy), 36.1: Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.

Id. at 54:....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.

Id. at 101.1: In accordance with the centuries-old tradition of the Latin rite, the Latin language is to be retained by clerics in the divine office. But in individual cases the ordinary has the power of granting the use of a vernacular translation to those clerics for whom the use of Latin constitutes a grave obstacle to their praying the office properly. The vernacular version, however, must be one that is drawn up according to the provision of Art. 36.

Optatum Totius (Decree On Priestly Training), 13: Before beginning specifically ecclesiastical subjects, seminarians should be equipped with that humanistic and scientific training which young men in their own countries are wont to have as a foundation for higher studies. Moreover they are to acquire a knowledge of Latin which will enable them to understand and make use of the sources of so many sciences and of the documents of the Church.
-- Latin Makes it Harder to Tinker with the Liturgy. It is altogether possible to commit liturgical abuses in Latin, but it cannot be possible to do it to the extent it has been done in vernacular liturgies.

-- Latin Preserves the Integrity of the Faith.
The safest way to preserve Catholic doctrine intact is by preserving it in a language that is no longer a vernacular tongue, and therefore no longer subject to the vicissitudes of change and evolution.

-- Latin Is a Mark of Universality. The Mass in Latin was recognizable to any Catholic. A Catholic could travel anywhere and be perfectly at home at Mass, even though he could not understand the language of the homily. Those who hold that Latin left the majority of Catholics ignorant of what truly happens in the Mass bear the burden of proving their assertion. The existence of children's books explaining the preconciliar Mass (I happen to own one from the 1940s), boys who served the Mass, Latin classes in Catholic schools, and the existence of Missals providing the Latin text side-by-side with the vernacular translation, all serve to give the lie to the idea that people did not understand the Mass before the changes. On the other hand, the marked decline in reverence on the part of many of us at Mass is a strong indication that fewer people than ever truly understand what is happening at Mass, even though it is now seldom offered in Latin.

-- Latin Is a Mark of Unity. All Catholics could participate in a Latin Mass, even though they were from different countries and spoke different languages. Setting aside Latin as the language of the liturgy -- which was never permitted by Vatican II, let alone mandated -- has led to the balkanization of parishes. Now parishes are divided into ethnic enclaves that rarely intermingle, even for worship. Efforts to divide one Mass up into several vernacular languages serves rather to accentuate disunity than to overcome it; they can never substitute adequately for the loss of a universal language.

Besides being unlawful, the discarding of Latin, and the fostering of hostility toward Latin among the faithful, was downright foolish. Hopefully, the damage will soon be undone.


  1. Great post, I'm sure the Holy Father would love it. He's about to make your prediction come true, I hope.

  2. Dicis veritas. And I'm proud to be a member of Regina Pacis Cantorum here in Nevada.