Why priests oppose Latin
  • teachermom24
    Posts: 228
    I read a Holy Thursday homily by a very a very orthodox priest who said he (regrettably) knows very little Latin, that it is not taught in the seminary. This was something of a bombshell to me--I thought Latin was the language of the Church and that, of course, all Roman Catholics priests were at least somewhat familiar with Latin. Apparently not so.

    So I suppose herein lies the reason so many priests oppose church musicians (like me) who want to teach and sing Latin in the parish--they don't know Latin themselves. I did not know that, but it makes sense. How could a priest allow the church musicians to lead the parish in something they themselves do not know or understand?
  • noel jones, aagonoel jones, aago
    Posts: 6,287
    Priests who wear cassocks in public tend to understand Latin. It's a dead giveaway!

    And you have hit the nail squarely on the head, TM24! Nicely done, thank you.
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,407
    My boss wears a cassock in public but has very limited training in Latin. The two things might be slightly related but as time goes on - unless Seminaries step up their Latin training - these things will not be well related.
  • Marc Cerisier
    Posts: 297
    Most of the seminarians in our diocese are from foreign countries, so their primary work is just learning English. That said, since Spanish is the first language for many of them, at least it's not as far removed as it is from English.

    I have an uncle that was a priest pre-VII, and his class work was significantly in Latin—even the study of things like the Summa was entirely in Latin. He can still read liturgical Latin to this day.
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  • CharlesW
    Posts: 8,287
    I haven't found that priests so much oppose Latin. Rather, they just don't know it.
    Thanked by 1bhcordova
  • In my experience the priests love Latin and chant but are more afraid of the parishioners who hate it with a passion. Therefor Latin and chant is sadly/confusingly banned in the parishes.
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 946
    but are more afraid of the parishioners who hate it with a passion.

    In my experience it is a tiny number of parishioners who have large mouths...
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,202
    Whether few/largemouthed, or many, there's also the threat of money withheld. That's especially effective in parishes which over-spend on buildings, and which operate grade schools.
  • bhcordovabhcordova
    Posts: 420

    Dang it dad, now I want to go bass fishing!!!
  • JulieCollJulieColl
    Posts: 2,317
    Apropos priests opposing Latin, a local pastor recently explained in his bulletin his lifelong (mis)perception of "the Latin Mass" as "a prayer of the priest alone":

    When I was a young man in the 1950s, and came to Mass, I immersed myself in private prayer behind the priest’s back and followed his prayer in my St. Joseph’s Missal. Now we all participate, as the Council has decreed. We sing, we respond, we make the Eucharistic prayer our own prayer by singing ‘Amen’ at the end of it. The Mass, the Second Vatican Council told us 50 years ago, is not the prayer of the priest alone. The Mass is not a time for me to say my private prayers, apart from the rest of the community. I say my private prayers in private. But when I am with the believing Catholic community gathered at the high point of their faith life during Mass, we all celebrate together.

    The Mass is not my Mass. The Mass belongs to the entire church. It is our Mass. Christ himself is the president of our assembly. Christ opens the Word of God for us, and Christ breaks the bread. As a priest, I am simply an instrument.
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 3,902
    At Saturday's Great Vigil our pastor began his homily with a question: "Why do you all stand at the beginning of Mass? Surely it's not because the music director tells you to? Are you standing because of me? No again. You're standing because Christ is entering the sanctuary...." He actually went on to self-refer the in persona Christi factor.
    I bring this up because Julie's priest conveniently excuses his ordained office to bolster a populist understanding of prayer and praise in which there's no mention of sacrifice and offering. In the Mystery, the Incarnate Lord offers Himself quite publicly and in concert with all believers present or not; there's nothing private about it.
    In this regard the language is irrelevant to a degree. The priest's attitude begs for a deeper understanding of expression. IMHO.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 470
    I think, I certainly hope, that things are improving since, 20 years ago, my wife was teaching Latin to seminarians seeking a degree. The examinations were by the University of Louvain, which required passing a fairly elementary exam in Latin. It was evident that those not pursuing this degree had little grasp of Latin. Note also that the dioceses served by the seminary could not find a cleric to provide tuition.
  • JulieCollJulieColl
    Posts: 2,317
    Melo, it may be that the danger is that the liturgical paradigm (right or wrong) of "All priest, no people" will boomerang into the opposite of "All people, no priest." It's a terrible shame that priests have not been taught the correct theological understanding of the Mass so that they end up, in all good intentions, minimizing their sacramental roles as priest, prophet, and victim.
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 946
    Whether few/largemouthed, or many, there's also the threat of money withheld.

    But if those of us that know what the the Liturgy should be, threatened... We would be in a much stronger position.
  • mahrt
    Posts: 484
    What the priest reported by JulieColl said would be true—that the people are an integral part of the offering of the Mass (even a private Mass must have an acolyte, who represents the people)—would be true if what the people do is participate through the texts (and melodies) that constitute the Mass. They would be assisting in offering the same Mass in which the priest is the principal celebrant. If, however, the focus becomes the congregation itself, then an opposite distortion of the nature of the Mass occurs.

    There are many seminarians who seek to know the tradition of liturgy and who study Latin. This has not always been the case. It is true that many priests have had no instruction in Latin. My own pastor is approving of our celebration of the Latin Mass in the ordinary form (and was of the extraordinary form as well), and he likes to have the priest sing his parts. We generally have priests who come from outside the parish, mainly from religious orders, but when the pastor celebrates the Mass, he must do his parts in English, some of which he sings. Progress little by little.
  • JulieCollJulieColl
    Posts: 2,317
    Seems to me that when the Second Vatican Council said that the people should say or sing together in Latin those parts of the Mass that pertain to them it made it perfectly clear that the people have many levels of interior and active participation in the Holy Sacrifice.

    But could it be that the priest I quoted who grew up in the '50's in what I'm guessing was a new suburban preconciliar diocese where the object was to get the masses of people in and out in as timely a manner as possible, came away with the idea that the silent Low Mass in Latin was the only liturgical expression? He apparently came away believing that there was no way for the people to participate actively in the preconciliar rites through the spoken or sung Latin texts.

    If that was his experience, might it be that his current position is an expression of the fact that one extreme tends to breed an equal and opposite extreme?
  • ClergetKubiszClergetKubisz
    Posts: 1,805
    He apparently came away believing that there was no way for the people to participate actively in the preconciliar rites through the spoken or sung Latin texts.

    I think he parroted modernists like Jungmann and Beauduin.
    Thanked by 1JulieColl
  • Geremia
    Posts: 111
    St. John Vianney struggled with Latin.
    Thanked by 1ClergetKubisz
  • Geremia
    Posts: 111
    Some priests oppose Latin because they're heretics.

    From the second footnote of Fr. Nikolaus Gihr's The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, § "The Language Used in the Celebration of the Holy Mass:"
    Opponents of the Latin language of worship were, as a rule, heretics, schismatics and rationalistic Catholics; for example, the Albigensians, the so-called Reformers, the Jansenists, the Gallicans, the Josephites, the so-called German and the Old Catholics.
  • ClergetKubiszClergetKubisz
    Posts: 1,805
    From the Council of Trent:

    Session 22, Chapter VIII:
    CHAPTER VIII. On not celebrating the Mass every where in the vulgar tongue; the mysteries of the Mass to be explained to the people.
    Although the mass contains great instruction for the faithful people, nevertheless, it has not seemed expedient to the Fathers, that it should be every where celebrated in the vulgar tongue. Wherefore, the ancient usage of each church, and the rite approved of by the holy Roman Church, the mother and mistress of all churches, being in each place retained; [Page 158] and, that the sheep of Christ may not suffer hunger, nor the little ones ask for bread, and there be none to break it unto them, the holy Synod charges pastors, and all who have the cure of souls, that they frequently, during the celebration of mass, expound either by themselves, or others, some portion of those things which are read at mass, and that, amongst the rest, they explain some mystery of this most holy sacrifice, especially on the Lord's days and festivals.

    Session 22, Canon IX:
    CANON IX.--If any one saith, that the rite of the Roman Church, according to which a part of the canon and the words of consecration are pronounced in a low tone, is to be condemned; or, that the mass ought to be celebrated in the vulgar tongue only; or, that water ought not to be mixed with the wine that is to be offered in the chalice, for that it is contrary to the institution of Christ; let him be anathema.
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  • ClergetKubiszClergetKubisz
    Posts: 1,805
    St. John Vianney struggled with Latin.

    At least he tried, and kept on trying. He didn't give up.
  • CCoozeCCooze
    Posts: 493
    I had no knowledge of Abp Sample before this post, containing his presentation in Germany. But it is excellent, and well worth watching.

    This thread (and the bulletin snippet) reminded me of it. Enjoy.

    Thanked by 2JulieColl CHGiffen
  • JulieCollJulieColl
    Posts: 2,317
    Fascinating quote from Fr. Gihr's book, which is one of my favorite books, though I never came across that footnote before.

    CCooze, thanks so much for the link! Very interesting that Arbp. Sample says he is the first U.S. bishop to have been born in the 60's and had no conscious recollection of the traditional Latin Mass, and yet his later experience with the Latin Mass caused him to become very devoted to the traditional celebration of the Mass---in contrast to the pastor I quoted above whose preconciliar experience with the Latin Mass apparently produced in him such a negative opinion, an opinion shared by many of his generation it would seem.

    Clerget, I have to tell you that I find the line from Trent so poignant and apropos: "that the sheep of Christ may not suffer hunger, nor the little ones ask for bread, and there be none to break it unto them". So amazing to hear Arbp. Sample tell how he decided to learn how to celebrate the EF since laypeople in his diocese had asked for the TLM, and he believed it was his responsibility as their chief shepherd to meet their spiritual needs.
  • CCoozeCCooze
    Posts: 493
    he believed it was his responsibility

    Right? I audibly said, "good for you!" as well as crying at other points. His entire speech was spot-on - guitars, and all.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen JulieColl
  • JulieCollJulieColl
    Posts: 2,317
    I was very moved by his talk, too. He seems so earnest and kind-hearted, the perfect spokesman for the Latin Mass movement.
    Thanked by 2CCooze CHGiffen
  • ClergetKubiszClergetKubisz
    Posts: 1,805
    His Grace said all the right things in his address, however, I feel as if he was being diplomatic about something: there was no mention of "ecumenism." I think that the false "ecumenism" of V2 had a lot to do with the abandonment of traditions, and of those practices that were identifiably, and distinctly Catholic: those practices which Protestants could not identify with.
  • JulieCollJulieColl
    Posts: 2,317
    Did you see Pope Emeritus' just-published comments on the liturgy?

    "The misunderstanding of the liturgical reform that has spread widely in the Catholic Church led to putting ever more in first place the aspect of instruction and that of one's own activity and creativity. The action of men led almost to forgetting of the presence of God.

    In such a situation, it becomes ever clearer that the existence of the Church lives on the just celebration of the liturgy, and that the Church is in danger when the primacy of God does not appear anymore in the liturgy, and therefore in life. The deepest cause of the crisis that has subverted the Church is located in the effacing of the priority of God in the liturgy.

    All this led me to dedicate myself to the theme of the liturgy more widely than in the past because I knew that the true renewal of the liturgy is a fundamental condition for the renewal of the Church."

    - See more at: http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2017/04/exclusive-text-by-benedict-xvi-crisis.html#more
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Andrew Malton
    Posts: 615
    "If God is no longer important, the criteria to establish what is important are changed."

    With this simple statement, his Holiness has beautifully expressed (in a rather Ranzingerian way!) the fearful truth which Solzhenitsyn gave out as : "Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened."
  • Strange, isn't it, that Latin doesn't bother Anglicans, even some 'high church' Methodists and Lutherans. But one doesn't have to go too far to find Catholics who despise it, and priests (and even bishops!) who, countrary to Vatican II's specific authoritative command, presume (with no authority!) to forbid it.

    It's really nice if one can understand even a little Latin. More really nice if one can read it fluently. Neither is necessary, though, to be able to pronounce it appreciably correctly and 'know' what it is talking about. Is there anyone who doesn't know what the ritual texts of the mass mean? Whence the head scratcher, 'I can't understand it'? This is beyond lame. It is clinically irrational.

    What planet does one need to come from not to be able to intuit what Gloria in excelsis Deo, et in terra pax hominibus, adoramus te, benedicimus te, glorificamus te...... means??? It is self-evident that such visceral hatred arises from some other source than 'can't understand'. Our problem is preferred, cultivated, and institutionalised ignorance - AND willful (very willful!) disobedience to an oecumenical council's clear command.
  • kenstb
    Posts: 350
    In my parish, there are a lot of people who have very little education and there seems to be a fear of Latin among some of them. For some reason, they come to us believing that the language is beyond their abilities. I spend a lot of time with newer choir members to remove that fear and insecurity. I have found that if I go over the translations of the Latin texts during rehearsals, that the fear is removed once they have the experience of dissecting the text and comprehending the meaning. It helps to inform the way that they sing and it makes the next piece easier to approach. It takes time and patience, but I have found that my singers have come to enjoy the Latin very much. Perhaps one of the problems is a lack of time to teach folks what the text means.
  • docdan
    Posts: 2
    The protestant board chooses their minister. The Catholic bishop chooses the priest. You have to be satisfied with the choice of priest for at least a 6-year cycle (Archdiocese of Toronto). If the priest did not come knowing latin (or appreciating it), oh well, too bad.... need to wait another 6+ years. If you really want to go old-school, then does anyone know a good Assyrian/Chaldean Catholic Church, we should brush up on the Aramaic that Jesus spoke with our first Pope. In multi-cultural Toronto, I am happy to do any good music, in any language...
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  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 6,771
    When seminary rectors present their graduates for ordination and tell the bishop: yes, the candidate is well-prepared, those rectors are lying if the candidate has no knowledge of Latin. The US bishops' Program for Priestly Formation says (emphasis added):

    162. Besides philosophical and theological studies, the pre-theology program should strive to provide seminarians with an understanding of the historical and cultural context of their faith. Those who begin pre-theology without a solid liberal arts education should be provided a curriculum that supplies for lacunae in this area. The Catholic intellectual tradition (e.g., literature and the arts) should be a part of such a curriculum. Education in rhetoric and communications as well as language study is appropriate for a pre-theology course of studies. Latin and Greek are especially important. The study of Spanish or other languages used where one will serve in pastoral ministry should be included in the course of studies throughout the period of priestly formation, including pre-theology.

    Similarly, the Holy See's guidelines (brand new 2016 edition!) say:

    As well as Biblical Hebrew and Greek, seminarians should be introduced to the study of Latin from the start of the course of formation, since it provides an access to the sources of the Magisterium and the history of the Church.
  • Andrew Malton
    Posts: 615
    "since it provides an access to the sources of the Magisterium and the history of the Church"

    All true. Although reading those sources in the original requires more than a couple of introductory Latin courses. But what about "and is the language of the sacred liturgy."??
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  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 7,440

    You beat me to it!

    EXACTLY my thoughts.
  • Pilate wrote a title also, and he put it upon the cross. And the writing was: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. This title therefore many of the Jews did read: because the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, in Greek, and in their preferred vernacular tongue(s).

    —John 19:19–20(ish)