Request for prayers

I am ill.  I have a lot to do in the next few days.

I ask for prayers.

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Posted in SESSIUNCULA | 4 Comments

My View For Awhile: Final Flights Edition

Two more flights to wind up this calendar year. Alas, it has to be one from Orlando. Happily it’s a short hop to the next, and last leg. I think Orlando may be the airport I hate more than all others to fly into and out of.



On the ground and dreading this leg. My ears blocked up on the last one. The last half hour would have been a worthy EIT.

Parce, Domine!

Blech. Cough.


Posted in On the road, What Fr. Z is up to | 6 Comments

WDTPRS 4th Sunday of Advent (2002MR): Seeing is believing.

This Sunday’s Collect is also the Post Communion for the Feast of the Annunciation (25 March) in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite (1962MR).

The Annunciation was the moment of the Incarnation of our Lord.  Therefore, on that feast and on Christmas, during the Creed of Holy Mass according to the Ordinary Form, we bend our knees instead of merely bowing at the words “Et incarnatus est…”.  Alas, only on those two days do we kneel during the Creed with the Ordinary Form.  If you recite the Angelus (which has an indulgence), you know today’s Collect.  It was in the 8th century Gelasian Sacramentary.

Gratiam tuam, quaesumus Domine, mentibus nostris infunde, ut qui, Angelo nuntiante, Christi Filii tui incarnationem cognovimus, per passionem eius et crucem ad resurrectionis gloriam perducamur.

The last lines have wonderful alliteration and a snappy final cadence (glóriam perducámur).  Collects are often little treasures.

Cognosco is, generally, “to become thoroughly acquainted with (by the senses or mentally), to learn by inquiring…”, but in the perfect tenses (cognovimus) it is “to know” in all periods of Latin.  Infundo basically is “to pour in, upon, or into” but in the construction (which we see today) infundere alicui aliquid) it is “to pour out for, to administer to, present to, lay before”.  It can mean, “communicate, impart”.  Perduco, “to lead or bring through”, is “guide a person or thing to a certain goal”.  It can also mean “to drink off, quaff”, a nice counterpoint to infundo.


We beg You, O Lord, pour Your grace into our minds and hearts, so that we who came to know the incarnation of Christ Your Son in the moment the Angel was heralding the news, may be guided through His Passion and Cross to the glory of the resurrection.

That angelo nuntiante is an ablative absolute. By its “present” tense it is contemporary with the time of the past tense in cognovimus.  Thus, in the very moment the Angel was heralding the good news, we (collectively in the shepherds) knew about how God the Son took our whole human nature into an indestructible bond with His divinity and was born into this world.  The shepherds then rushed to the Coming of the Lord to see the Word made flesh lying in His wooden manger, which foreshadowed His wooden Cross.


Lord, fill our hearts with your love, and as you revealed to us by an angel the coming of your Son as man, so lead us through his suffering and death to the glory of his resurrection.


Pour forth, we beseech you, O Lord, your grace into our hearts, that we, to whom the Incarnation of Christ your Son was made known by the message of an Angel, may by his Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of his Resurrection.

“Seeing is believing”, they say, but believing makes us want to see.  “Crede ut intellegas!  Believe that you may understand!” is a common theme for St. Augustine of Hippo (d 430 – e.g., s. 43,4.7; 118,1; Io. eu. tr. 29,6).

Today many people pit faith against reason, authority against intellect, as if they were mutually exclusive.  Faith and authority are indispensible for a fuller rational, intellectual apprehension of anything.  In all the deeper questions of human existence, we need the illumination from grace and revelation, we must receive and believe.  Faith is the foundation of our hope which leads to love and communion with God, as Augustine would say (trin. 8,6).

When we hear about something or learn a new thing we often rush to know more, to have personal experience, to see.  This is a paradigm for our life of faith.

There is an interlocking cycle of hearing a proclamation (such as the Gospel at Mass, a homily, or a teaching of the Church) or observing the living testimony of a holy person’s life, and, because of that experience, pondering and then coming to love the content of that which we received.  The content of the prayers Holy Church gives us is the Man God Jesus Christ.  By knowing them, we come all the better to know Him and love Him. In loving Him we desire the more to know Him.  Acceptance of the authority of the content of our orations at Mass opens previously unknown treasuries which would otherwise be locked.

Our Blessed Mother, so closely associated with today’s Collect, received the message of the Angel.

She believed.  She pondered it in her heart.  She pronounced her Magnificat.  She brought our Savior into the light of the world.

The angel heralded with authority once again.

The shepherds believed.  They pondered while rushing to Bethlehem.  They saw the Infant.  They understood the message of the Word made flesh.  They knelt.  They worshiped.

Posted in ADVENT, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000 | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Past and present Vatican, Church involvement in Cuban affairs – Status quaestionis

I am beginning to admire more and more the analysis of things Vatican by Andrea Galiarducci, who writes for CNA.

He has a status questionis post on Pope Francis and the involvement, past and present, of the Catholic Church in matters Cuban.  I found it helpful.  HERE

He sets the record straight and, at least for me, fills in some blanks and reminds me of things that had slipped my mind.

Have a look.

Posted in The Drill | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

What kind of priest thought it was good to whitewash, trash statues, tear out altars?

Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 11.08.39It was a good day for The Catholic Thing today.  Anthony Esolen again knocked one out of the park in an piece in which he talks about reverence.

Esolen starts from an interesting jumping off point: Odysseus slaying the suitors, but sparing the singer who kneels.  In this way, Esolen underscores the importance of reverence and the consequences of irreverence.  Thus, Esolen with my emphases and comments:

We cannot say, “We will emphasize the holiness of the Eucharist we are about to receive, by milling about the aisles to pass small talk with friends.[Not just during the ‘Sign of Peace’, but also before Mass begins.  And then there’s the noisy, disrespectful chaos afterwards.] Our bodies will contradict our purported intention. The “emphasis” will be at best notional. We will not feel it in our pulses.  [Bodily posture matters.  It both reflects and induces attitudes.]

In the diocese where we spend our summers, the faithful at Mass have been instructed to kneel only during the first part of the consecration. When they return from Communion, they’re to remain standing until every communicant is back in his seat. Then they invariably sit down. So there’s no kneeling in silent prayer. That standing is supposed to stress the “community” of believers. [B as in B.  S as in S.  It might reflect, in fact, the anxiety of some liturgist who thinks that uniformity must be enforced… as in row by row Communion, etc.]

I’ve been struggling to put into words an insight I’ve derived from Father Aidan Nichols’ Looking at the Liturgy. [NB…] What kind of priest or prelate thought it was good to cover paintings of the saints with whitewash? To remove great altars? To throw statues into the dump? To reduce communion rails to rubble? To swear off the cassock? To expunge hieratic language? To send ancient prayers written by Ambrose and Aquinas down the memory hole? To rip out pews decorated with flowers and birds, carved by the men who built the church? [I ask myself this all the time.  My answers do not console.]

It is all of a piece. Let’s give the wreckers the benefit of the doubt.  [welllll….] Grant that they actually believed that blank walls do not a warehouse make. Grant that the bishops of Canada believe that people, many of them aged, standing around and watching other people standing around, will think of community, and not the blessed moment when they finally get to sit down. What can I conclude, other than they have been like color-blind people before a Monet, or tone-deaf people at a Bach chorale, or boors wearing sneakers to a wedding, or klutzes in a china shop?

These are natural defects. It’s no sin to be color-blind. But is that all? [No.  They made choices.  They chose whom to listen to, whom to believe about liturgy, architecture, etc.  But watch what happens now…] Over-schooled people, long sheltered from the physical necessities of life, from plowing, sowing, digging, sawing, stitching, bleaching, ironing, mowing – they are most prone to lifeless abstractions, and most dismissive of the bodily gestures that people who work with hands and shoulders and backs understand. That whole scene in Homer’s poem, [Odysseus, returned home, slaying the suitors, sparing the singer] each action in just the right place, would be for them one arbitrary thing after another.

Well done.

One take away from Esolen’s piece is also conveyed by Advent, a penitential season, though a joyfully penitential season.

What saved Phemius, the blind singer, was that he adopted the posture of a supplicant.  He lowered himself, humbly, debased himself before Odysseus.  He became supplex, which is a common word in our liturgical prayer, often found in our collects.

Supplex is an adjective, used also as a substantive, meaning “humbly begging or entreating; humble, submissive, beseeching, suppliant, supplicant.”  This and other derivative forms are commonly used in our Latin prayers; for example, we see the adverbial form suppliciter.  I never tire of this word.  The Lewis & Short Dictionary says supplex is from sup-plico, “bending the knees, kneeling down”.  However, the article on supplex in the French etymological dictionary of Latin by Alfred Ernout and Antoine Meillet offers that supplex comes not from plico but from plecto, “to plait, braid, interweave”.  E&M offers also the possibility that it is from placo, “to reconcile; to quiet, soothe, calm, assuage, appease, pacify”.   The former describes the physical attitude of the suppliant.  The latter describes his moral attitude.  The more probable plecto gives us much the same impact as plico.  L&S also says plico and plecto are synonyms.  Thus, the imagery I have invoked in the past of the supplicant being bent over or folded in respect to his knees (i.e., kneeling or bent low toward the floor) works well.  Also, in the ancient world it was usual for the supplicant to wrap his arms around (plecto) the knees of the one from whom he was begging his petition.

Let’s stay with supplex for a moment.   In many churches these days, during Holy Mass – often called “liturgy”, thus stripping it of its sacrificial and propitiatory character, instead of abasing themselves humbly before the Real Presence of Almighty God, they instead celebrate themselves in remembrance of Jesus our non-judgmental buddy.  One reason for this is because we come to believe what we pray.  For years, we English speaker had a lousy translation that systematically expunged the concept of humility, inherent in supplex, from prayers, from contemporary music in parishes, and (in churches now lacking kneelers) architecture.

One of the most “Catholic” of prayers, nearly eliminated after Vatican II, underscores an important dimension of healthy spirituality.  In the once familiar Dies irae, the haunting sequence of the Requiem Mass by the Franciscan friar Thomas of Celano (+ c.1270).  Sung amidst the inky vestments symbolizing our death to sin and the things of this world, in the Dies irae we contemplate our inevitable judgment by the Rex tremendae maiestatis… the King of fearful majesty, who is iustus Iudex, our just Judge.  In two of the verses we pray:

“Once the accursed have been confounded,
once they have been delivered to the stinging flames,
call me with the blessed.
(Knees) bent and leaning over (supplex et acclinis),
My heart worn down like ash, I pray:
Have a care for my end.”

The use of supplex in our Catholic prayers conveys an attitude of contrition for our sins which then shapes other more joyful and confident prayers.  This lowly attitude keeps in close view the reality of our sins, God’s promises of forgiveness, the ordinary means of their cleansing (confession) and thus the joyful comfort we have when we surrender to this merciful plan.

God takes our sins away, but only when we beg Him to.

But… that’s the key.  We have to beg for mercy, as beggars who beg, begging.

God’s justice we are going to get, whether we want it or not.  His mercy we can always, confidently, ask.

During Advent, we are admonished by the voice of John the Baptist to prepare the way of the Lord, who is coming.  We are to make straight and smooth the path between us and Him.  Let’s look at it this way. When the Lord comes again (and let’s include our going to Him in our own death), He will come by the straight path, whether or not we did anything to straighten it for Him.  He will, in the twinkling of an eye, straighten every path.  His way of straightening things out won’t be gentle, but it will be complete.

Advent, in the Church’s year, is a time to prepare the way of the Lord.  Life itself is a time to prepare for what must inevitably come.

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“Would it really be totally impossible to admit her to Communion?”

Some of the mistakes we make in life can’t be fixed.

These days we expect everything to be fixable, to have a solution.  There must be some way to get around problems, some cure, some repair, some slight-of-hand.

No.  Not everything can be fixed.  Some of the mistakes we make in life can’t be fixed.  We must deal with the consequences of our choices, seeing them clearly for what they are and not living in a state of denial, or in some fantasy realm in which there are no true consequences for our actions.

Don’t get me wrong.  If there are good solutions to the problems that some couples get into that are consistent with what Christ and the Apostles taught and handed down, and which have been constantly reaffirmed in the whole course of the Church’s history, GREAT!  Let’s use them.  However, the life of grace, even in suffering, for the sake of happiness in heaven by far outweighs the short-term “fixes” of this life that could actually be spiritually dangerous.

It is not “sentimentality” to be concerned about the well-being of people who are in tough situations.  It is, however, a really bad plan to create “fixes” out of sentimentality that will, in the long run, do harm.

At The Catholic Thing my friend Fr. Gerald Murray, a canonist, has some observations:

Hard Cases Make Bad Doctrine

Cardinal Walter Kasper’s efforts to change the Church’s discipline of refusing Holy Communion to those who have contracted an invalid second marriage has been joined by another member of the Sacred College, Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.

He gave an interview after the Extraordinary Synod on the Family to Inside the Vatican magazine (November 2014) in which he argued: “Let’s take this case: A husband is abandoned by his wife. There are also three children. A woman goes to live with this man; she helps him, raises his three kids. Ten years go by, their union is solid. If this woman were to come to me for Communion, say, during her father’s funeral Mass, or the day of one of the children’s Confirmation, what should I do? Deny it to her, since she is in an illicit situation and in letting her go to Communion I would also be committing an illicit act, as I would be indirectly recognizing that that man’s marriage wasn’t indissoluble?”

This is already quite a bit, but he continued: “Or, while recognizing the non-legitimate nature of that situation, how could I ask that woman – in admitting her to Communion – to abandon the man and his three children? What would become of that man? What would become of those kids? In that case, realistically, it wouldn’t be possible to manage an (sic) non-legitimate situation without causing even more suffering and pain. So, would it really be totally impossible to admit her to Communion? In admitting her to Communion, would I be going against the doctrine of the indissolubility of marriage? I really don’t think so: in fact, this has to do with a case of exception.” [That loud sound you heard was the massive cave in.]

The cardinal’s conclusion is particularly disturbing because his job is to issue authentic and binding interpretations of the Code of Canon Law. [But Father!  But Father! This is the new era of ‘mercy’!] Here, he plainly contradicts the “Declaration Concerning the Admission to Holy Communion of Faithful who are Divorced and Remarried” of June 24, 2000 by his predecessor at the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, Cardinal Julian Herranz. [2000?!?  That’s outdated.]

That Declaration says: “Naturally, pastoral prudence would strongly suggest the avoidance of instances of public denial of Holy Communion. [Sure.  Don’t make a huge scene.  But people need to know what the Church’s teaching and discipline is.] Pastors must strive to explain to the concerned faithful the true ecclesial sense of the norm, in such a way that they would be able to understand it or at least respect it. In those situations, however, in which these precautionary measures have not had their effect or in which they were not possible, the minister of Communion must refuse to distribute it to those who are publicly unworthy. They are to do this with extreme charity, and are to look for the opportune moment to explain the reasons that require the refusal. They must, however, do this with firmness, conscious of the value that such signs of strength have for the good of the Church and of souls.” The Declaration concludes: “no ecclesiastical authority may dispense the minister of Holy Communion from this obligation in any case, nor may he emanate directives that contradict it.[“no ecclesiastical authority…”]

Cardinal Coccopalmerio’s approach displays no “firmness” and is not a “sign of strength” but rather is refusal to call the hypothetical woman to conversion. [One might say, therefore, no true ‘charity’.  Lot’s of ‘feelings’, but not much ‘charity’, which is rooted in truth.] A Catholic woman living with a Catholic man (who is in fact married to someone else) is ordinarily aware that her behavior is seriously sinful. If she is not, it is the duty of a diligent pastor of souls to inform her of why this is so.

Whatever laudable good that woman may be doing for the children of the man with whom she is cohabiting does not change the nature of her obligation to the Sixth Commandment: Thou shalt not commit adultery. A Catholic’s desire to receive Holy Communion must be guided by the doctrine of the Church. In the theoretical case posed by Cardinal Coccopalmerio, he displays a well informed knowledge of the woman’s situation, which implies that he has had and continues to have the opportunity to catechize her about the sinfulness of adultery, and about the Church’s encouragement of people in her situation of avoid sin by living as brother and sister when the good of the children is best served by not separating from each other. (Asking her to “abandon the man and his three children” is not the only alternative available).

Instead, he posits a non-existent “exception” to the moral law concerning the grave sinfulness of adultery. This amounts to an appeal to emotion, [There it is!  As I said, above.] which caricatures the call to fidelity to the Sixth Commandment and the Church’s discipline regarding the reception of Holy Communion, depicting it as uncharitable rigorism. The unstated presumption in the Cardinal’s scenario is that the woman deserves to receive Holy Communion because she is a good person, and her adulterous behavior should not be taken seriously.

The stunning conceit here is that God is not offended, so why should the Church “exclude” her. This presumption is detrimental to Catholic doctrine and life. No matter what anyone claims about “exceptions,” the truth of the Faith remains: adultery is a mortal sin, and those in the state of mortal sin must refrain from receiving Holy Communion because the sacrilegious reception of Holy Communion does offend God, and may lead others into the same sin.

What does this approach reveal? That for some Churchmen, the primary mission of the Church is to provide consolation. [Rather than help them attain heaven, the road to which is steep and rocky.] Uncomfortable doctrines and derivative Church discipline must be cast aside. But the Gospel call to conversion often involves upsetting a sinner in the hope that he will see that it is not God’s law that wounds us, but our sins. True consolation lies in rediscovering the joy of living in God’s grace by rejecting sin. Therein lies the path to both peace of soul now, and salvation[salvation] in the world to come.

Unfortunately, we’re likely to hear a great deal about “hard” cases between now and next October’s Synod, which is only going to confuse things further.

Fr. Z kudos to Fr. M.

Posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, Fr. Z KUDOS, Hard-Identity Catholicism, One Man & One Woman, Our Catholic Identity | Tagged , , , , , | 36 Comments

ADVENTCAzT 20: “Through the figure of St. Joseph….”

Here is a 5-minute, daily podcast – today for Friday of the 3rd Week of Advent – to help you prepare for the upcoming feast as well as for your personal meeting with the Lord.  We are in that final stretch of Advent when we use the O Antiphons.

These podcasts are a token of gratitude to my benefactors who donate and send items from my wishlist.  Thank you!

Have some Mystic Monk Coffee and have a listen! PS: The wavy flag is how I’m trying to get to Rome for the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy meeting in January.  This one’s on me.

I often have music from the wonderful Advent disc by the Benedictines. You will remember that Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles.  They have chart topping discs. HERE

Chime in if you listened.

PS: These podcasts should also available through my iTunes feed, though in years past I have had problems with it. Let me know how you are listening.  Through the plug in on this post? Through iTunes? Downloading?

PPS: Once again, with annual precision, the stats feature is screwed up.  I’m getting skewed numbers.

Posted in ADVENTCAzT, ADVENTCAzT, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, PODCAzT | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

As Che and Fidel gaze on the scene….

So, the Holy See, indeed Pope Francis himself, gets involved with the freeing of an American citizen held in Cuba for several years. The citizen, Alan Gross, is released.  He returns to these USA.  He goes to his attorney’s office.  They prepare remarks.  Photos are taken and issued by, inter aliiWaPo.



Note the framed photo of the Argentinian-born, Leftist-darling, murdering-thug Che Guevara on the wall.

Another picture, just above the photo of Argentinian-born, Leftist-darling, murdering-thug Guevara, which can be seen in a photo from a different angle in the same office during the same occasion.


Che and brutal dictator, Church-persecutor Fidel playing golf.  Isn’t that sweet?

Who has pictures of men like those in such a prominent place in one’s office?


According to American Thinker,  newly-freed Gross thanked some people for involvement in his release:

Among them were Jill Zuckman of leftist PR firm SKDKnickerbocker, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.).  SKDKnickerbocker also employs former resident Maoist in the Obama White House Anita Dunn and Democrat operative Hilary Rosen.

In his remarks, Gross also said:

I also feel compelled to share with you my utmost respect for and fondness of the people of Cuba.  In no way are they responsible for the ordeal to which my family and I have been subjected.  To me cubanos, or at least most of them, are incredibly kind, generous and talented.  It pains me to see them treated so unjustly as a consequence of two governments’ mutually belligerent policies.  Five and a half decades of history show us such belligerence inhibits better judgment.  Two wrongs never make a right.  I truly hope that we can now get beyond these mutually belligerent policies and I was very happy to hear what the president had to say today.  It was particularly cool to be sitting next to the secretary of state as he was hearing about his job description for the next couple of months.  In all seriousness, this is a game-changer, which I fully support.

So, instead of saying, “I’m so happy to be back in the freest country in the world!”, he called these USA “belligerent”… three times.

Part of the deal?

Certain people worked really hard to get Alan Gross out into the open and in front of microphones and cameras.

I’ll allow comments, but the moderation queue is ON.

Posted in Liberals, The Drill | 39 Comments

ASK FATHER: Received into Church after strange Presbyterian baptism

From a reader…


I was Baptized in the Presbyterian Church and converted to the Catholic faith 9 years ago at the age of 9. Becoming very interested in my own baptism I watched a video of a Presbyterian ministerconferring baptism. He traced the sign of the cross on the child’s forehead whilst using the Trinitarian formula, [I suspect that that isn’t typical.] also I believe that it is common for Presbyterians to touch water to the head of the child without pouring it. Is this type of Baptism Valid? Also would it be prudent to try to contact the minister of my baptism and ask about the manner by which he administers the sacrament, to be sure of my Baptisms validity?

When I requested to be received into the Church my Parish Priest organized for me to prepare for the sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist with my class at Catholic School with no ceremony of reception into the Church. Is this all that is necessary for reception in the Church?

It would be prudent to inquire of your church of baptism, ideally the very minister, about the method of your baptism.

Once upon a time, it could be assumed that major, mainstream denominations followed the Christian tradition and baptized validly, by pouring water with the Trinitarian formula. Now? Not so much. The Church still presumes the validity of baptisms conferred in most mainline Protestant ecclesial communities, but… many don’t even seem to follow their own rules.

When you were received into the Church, you should have been asked to make a formal profession of faith, been confirmed, and received Holy Eucharist.

Many of our own priests don’t follow our rules, either.

As I have written before, for baptism to be valid, water must be used along with the Trinitarian formula.  In baptism, conferred in the rites of the Latin Church, water must touch some part of the the head, even it it runs only on the hair.  Water touching the head for baptism is part of the most ancient of all Christian rites.  Some authors says that if, say in some emergency situation, water is poured on some other part of the body, the baptism is doubtful and, if possible, should be repeated conditionally as soon as possible.

Here is a message for priests:

If you are too thick to do immersion properly, just don’t do it.  Next time, throw yourself into the immersion pool, preferably wearing a millstone.

Here is a message for bishops:

You would do well either to quiz priests about how to baptize and to confer other sacraments or to send out occasional reminders.  Some might find this insulting, but I have heard some pretty crazy things.  It may be that men trained – this includes permanent deacons, by the way – in certain places in certain years cannot be assumed to know how to baptize properly.  Most dioceses have a letter that goes out from the chancery to priests every week, or at least regularly.  Perhaps that letter could include a brief “refresher” paragraph about important things like the matter and form of baptism, the obligation to use the proper formula of absolution and the like.  I have heard some strange things in confessionals and I have had to insist on the correct form (which is easier when you are a priest).

I’ll allow comments, but the moderation queue is ON.

Posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, ASK FATHER Question Box, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, Our Catholic Identity | Tagged , , , | 12 Comments

“lingua latina bene calleant”

Many are the times that I have lamented the nearly complete disobedience to the Code of Canon Law and the expressed will of modern Roman Pontiffs about the Latin language.  For example, the 1983 Code of Canon Law, can. 249, requires – it doesn’t suggest or recommend or propose – that seminarians be very well trained in Latin:  “lingua latina bene calleant“. Not just calleant, says can. 249, but bene calleantCalleo is “to be practised, to be wise by experience, to be skilful, versed in” or “to know by experience or practice, to know, have the knowledge of, understand”. We get the word “callused” from this verb. We develop calluses when we do something repeatedly. So, bene calleant is “let them be very well versed”.  Review also Sacrosanctum Concilium 36 and Optatam totius 13, just to point to documents of Vatican II.

Latin is necessary.  Its benefits are so numerous that they shouldn’t have to be enumerated.  And yet we are faced today with a clergy – and educated class – who are nearly totally ignorant of Latin.

The great Fr. John Hunwicke has a good entry at his blog about Latin and the ignorance of clergy and clerisy.

Here is a taste with my usual treatment (NB: he has black and red in his original):

Roman Pontiffs do not commonly sign their Magisterial documents on the High Altar of S Peter’s in the presence of the body of Cardinals. But S John XXIII thus promulgated his Apostolic Constitution Veterum sapientia, 1962, in which he insisted that the Latin language must remain central to the culture of Western Christianity. What more could the good old gentleman have done?

That Letter was praised by B Paul VI (Studia Latinitatis, 1964, ” … principem obtinere locum dicenda sane est”), who was anxious that seminarians “magna cum cura et diligentia ad antiquas et humanas litteras informentur”; and S John Paul II (Sapientia Christiana) emphasised the requirement for knowlege of Latin “for the faculties of the Sacred Sciences, so that students can understand and use the sources and documents of the Church”. More recently Benedict XVI (Latina lingua, 2012), praised Veterum sapientia as having been issued iure meritoque: it is to be taken seriously both because of its legal force and because of the intrinsic merit of its arguments; and in his Encyclical Sacramentum Caritatis wrote specifically about the need for seminarians to be taught Latin. We have, in other words, a coherent expectation in the teaching of popes S John XXIII, B Paul VI, S John Paul II, and Benedict XVI that all seminarians should become proficient in Latin, the language of the Church. And the attitude of the popes to the promotion of Latin studies in even broader contexts than that of the formation of the clergy is demonstrated in the establishment by B Paul VI of a Latin Academy; a foundation re-established and strengthened by Benedict XVI.

This papal teaching by no means relates solely to the language of worship; it desires Latin to remain a living vernacular for the clergy and not least for their formation; and it is explicitly based upon the belief that, by being latinate, a clerisy will have access to a continuity of culture. My post would have to be very long indeed if it quoted fully all the words of all four popes to this effect. Coming as I do from the Anglican Patrimony, I will instead share the witness of C S Lewis’s Devil Screwtape, who confessed, “Since we cannot deceive the whole human race all the time, it is most important thus to cut every generation off from all others; for where learning makes a free commerce between the ages there is always the danger that the characteristic errors of one may be corrected by the characteristic truths of another”. And in his Pilgrim’s Regress, Lewis suggests that the growing disuse of Classical languages is a Diabolical trick to isolate the educated classes from the wisdom of the Past. Both in secular culture and within the Church, there is a risk that the educated class will be cut off and imprisoned in the narrow confines of a particular culture – victims of its particular Zeitgeist. [This is clearly what has already happened, and we are suffering the consequences ] A literate clerisy is one that reads what other ages wrote, which means that it will at least be able to read Latin; and the sign of such a clerisy, in practical terms, will be that it can with ease read its Divine Office in Latin.

It is in this context that we must see the requirement of Vatican II (Sacrosanctum Concilium 101): “In accordance with the centuries-old tradition (saecularis traditio) of the Latin rite, the Latin language is to be retained by clerics in reciting the Divine Office“. And it is highly significant that it goes on to make any use of the vernacular an (apparently very rare) exception which bishops can grant “only on an individual basis“.


The loss of Latin in our sacred worship has been devastating for our identity as Catholics and, therefore, our influence in the world.  The loss of Latin amongst our clergy has been devastating for our Catholic identity, for our clergy promotes knock on effects through the entire people of God.

At the end of his entry, Fr. H also raises a question that I have also raised.  When men are ordained, someone involved in formation stands up to testify that the men are properly formed and trained, that they are idonei for Orders.  However, most of them now have no Latin and cannot even begin to say half of their Rite, the Extraordinary Form.  Are they properly formed?

We can’t afford to say, “It’s too haaard!” or “There’s no tiiiiime!”   Perhaps other things ought to be sacrificed for the sake of Latin.

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