“Latin Mass” ignorance

Aad but seriously annoying is the abysmal lack of understanding on the part of some that the language of the Mass of the Latin Church is Latin. 

On the left and on the right, many say "Latin Mass" as if to indicate some Mass of antiquity, of by gone days, yadda yadda, or , on the other hand, to designate "the most beautiful thing this side of heaven" blah blah.  GRRRRRRR

Example: A commentor on an entry over at the page of John L. Allen, Jr., the obiquitous fair-minded correspondent (with whom I frequently have friendly meals when we are both in Rome) for the lefties at the National Catholic Reporter, there is a perfect example of the ignorance I am talking about and, in this case, biased ignorance.  

In quite a lengthy article (worthy reading) on many other topics, Mr. Allen makes a spare mention that Pope Benedict signals "greater openness to use of the pre-Vatican II Latin Mass".   Here is the comment after the article… written by someone who ought to know better.

If people think that
Submitted by yngadltmnstry on November 3, 2006 – 1:05pm.

If people think that Benedict is going to restore the Latin mass they’re nuts. He might give permission for people to celebrate it more freely than in the past but I doubt that we get the order from on high that we MUST have mass in Latin.

BTW–my response to the latter if it should happen would be "Yeah, that’s why no young people are here. We’re just not speaking their language. Please."

Mike Hayes
Associate Director, Paulist Young Adult Ministries
Managing Editor, BustedHalo.com
President, National Catholic Young Adult Ministry Association

You can feel the panic streaming directly from his foam flecked keyboard onto your screen, can’t you.

Of course this fellow is talking about the freeing-up of the so-called "Tridentine" Mass, Mass celebrated according to the 1962 editio typica of the Missale Romanum, which was in Latin.  For him, clearly, "Latin" equals "bad" or "outdated" or some such other rubbish.  The funny thing about this is that the places where Mass is celebrated in Latin, either with the Novus Ordo or with the older Missale, the congregations tends to be young.  You see quite a few young families with more than 1.3 children. 

In any event, the language the Latin Rite is Latin.  The official books are in Latin.  According to Canon Law every priest can say Mass in Latin at any time.  The Second Vatican Council required that Latin be maintained and that, for some good reasons the vernacular would be permitted occasionally. 

"Latin Mass" is merely "Mass in the Latin language".  "Latin Mass" is NOT automatically the equivalent of the so-called "Tridentine" Mass. 

To be clear: Mr. Allen doesn’t make the mistake.  He is too smart and well informed. The commentor on his page does.

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  1. Mark says:


    The sad, although not surprising thing is that Mike Hayes is not an unknown quantity. As his signature shows, he is the coordinator of the “Busted Halo” Paulist young adult ministry – the most prominent YA ministry on the web – they will have a program on the new Sirius Catholic Channel, and so on. His ignorance – not only of what you speak, but thinking that “re-imposing” the “Latin Mass” on everyone is even on the agenda, is scary. Does this man know nothing?

  2. Garrett says:

    And according to Mr. Hayes’ faulty logic, apparently the Catholic faithful pre-Pauline Mass spoke Latin fluently in everyday life. What else could he mean by saying no young people will come because we’re just not speaking their language?

    That implies that the older generations’ language is Latin, somehow more than us youngsters.

    Oh, by the way, for Mr. Hayes’ information I’m 19 years old and GREATLY prefer the Traditional Mass! I also prefer the Novus Ordo in Latin…

  3. Anonymous says:


    This twenty year old agrees.


  4. Jeffrey Stuart says:

    I brought my young to an indult Mass with some concern that the language would be an issue. To my delight, they love it. Somehow I think they can sense the reverence that can be hard to find with the Novus Ordo. Furthermore, my son (and I) are studying the Latin and Rubrics in order to become Altar Boys and the whole family has begun an at home Latin course. Latin in the Mass will appeal to all ages.


  5. CPT Tom says:

    I recently brought my kids to the indult Mass (1 3/4 hours away) in Rochester. In turned out to be High Mass. Afterwards, my oldest (18) Anthony says “We’ve been robbed! This is way better!” He now attends RIT in Rochester and every Sunday he goes to Mass at the TLM at St Stanislav. I was completely smitten with the Mass, as I am just young enough (43) to be too young to remember going to the old mass. The fact that this was thrown overboard so quickly for the NO mass circus that we attend on Sunday boggles my mind.

  6. Henry Edwards says:

    Almost all the folks I see at daily Novus Ordo Mass are gray like me. No young adult sightings there.

    But just the other day a couple of us were talking about an unexpected side benefit to the weekly indult Mass we’ve attended for the past year – the chance to meet a new generation of folks half our age (or less).

    The open enthusiasm and unabashed devotion of these young people – both singles and couples with children, many of them converts – is downright refreshing to those of us who’ve wandered through the desert these past 40 years. Perhaps this is the promised “new springtime” of the Church!

  7. Brian Anderson says:

    Mr. Hayes is typical though. Deeply entrenched is the “myth” (among many) about
    Vatican II abolishing the Latin Mass. Recently I attended Mass with the FSSP. There were high school and university students present. The next morning in my high school teacher lounge,I mentioned this. I was met with stunned silence, finally broken with gasping comments such as
    “Ya..ya mean..there still is a latin mass…..didn’t we get rid of that…..?” Myths such as this abound on the rudderless ship mischristened the “Spirit of Vatican II”. Mr. Hayes is probably a first class patron of this vessel. Many “progessivists” who have turned their backs on yesterday simply don’t know any better. If the Holy Father frees our TLM, it absolutely essential that he lead the way in celebrating it. Such example, I believe, would have a
    reforming effect, on our Rite of Paul VI, similar to the reforming effect
    of Pope Pius VII’s celebrations in France, halting the Jansenist liturgical
    excesses, and thereby helping to jumpstart the 19th century liturgical renewal
    in France.


    “…She values especially the Greek and Latin languages in which wisdom itself is cloaked, as it were, in a vesture of gold…” Veterum Sapientia

  8. Father:

    This will be off-topic, feel free to delete or simply ignore, I won’t be offended…

    Do you care to comment on the frequent practice (from what I see in the blogosphere) of using the Litany of the Saints in some fashion, on All Saints?

    I’m not against it; we did it at my parish, for the entrance procession.

    However, I confess I don’t know whether that’s really proper. I.e., just because I like it, and it seems like a good idea, doesn’t make it so.

  9. Andrew says:

    This misconception about Latin is so deeply imbedded in the consciences of our contemporaries, catholic or not, that even those who dabble in Latin, or even those who might know Latin well, grammarwise that is, subscribe to the idea that the value of Latin is limited to keeping it in the background, not to actually USE it as a language equivalent to any other language. Latin, to most folks is something akin to philosophy or to being learned so as to understand better the background behind certain concepts expressed in modern languages. The idea that Latin is actually a language escapes almost everyone, universally. I am sure that I can include in that category all of the participants of this blog, sine ulla exceptione. Unfortunately! Start speakin Latin to someone and you’ll see how fast they’ll turn their back on you. It’s amazing. But some, very few, actually use it:


  10. RBrown says:

    John Allen is “a fair-minded correspondent” simply because, like yours truly, he is a grad of the University of Kansas.

    Rock Chalk Jayhawk.

  11. RBrown says:

    Like others of his ilk Mr Hayes constantly sings of pastoral this and pastoral that. But it is a mystery to me where to find the pastoral success in the past 40 years.

    Vocations to the priesthood and religious life have all but dried up, mass attendance has fallen off and the rate of Catholic divorces is little different than the national average. And there has been little success in propagating Catholic morality–a few years ago Rhode Island had the highest percentage of Catholics as well as the highest percentage of pro choice voters.

  12. fr.franklyn says:

    I think when the indult is finally issued and I celebrate the TLM for the first time I will advertise “Come aand participate in the Mass that the bishops tried to ban and the French suppress!Finally freed over the protests of thousands.The church will be filled beyond capacity.

  13. Jeff says:

    Let me play Devil’s Advocate, may I?

    Okay, no doubt the Second Vatican Council said that Mass in Latin should be retained as the norm and the vernacular used when needed.

    But let’s suppose that after an indult were given to the old Mass, mirabile dictu!, it returned to nearly universal acceptance! Would it then be sensible to complain that this “violates the terms of”
    whatever permission is granted, if that permission recognizes the Novus Ordo as a “norm”?

    I don’t think it’s illogical to reason thus: The Father’s of Vatican Two intended Latin to remain the norm for the liturgy. But the allowed the vernacular as an exception where it was helpful. Subsequent generations of bishops and popes have found it so VERY helpful that the vernacular has become standard practice, though not yet the official norm. And that’s a good thing. We don’t have to hark back to the Fathers of Vatican Two. Why should they have been expected to know just how good the vernacular would be for the Church? The whole question was new to them, they were just testing the waters, the Holy Spirit has guided the Church to vernacular celebration and that will remain the standard, even if it’s not the official “norm.”

    It will remain the standard for the same reason that the Melkites use relatively little Greek, but Arabic and English (in America, instead). It will remain the standard for the same reason that the Russians use relatively little Old Church Slavonic today, but mostly Russian. And just as rites diverged from the Roman Rite in the past, so new rites or uses are emerging/will emerge from the old Roman Rite.

    Now please bear in mind, I am all in favor of the old Mass. For myself, I would be perfectly content if it were the only Mass in the Church. And I am all in favor of the Novus Ordo in Latin. I wouldn’t shed a tear if that were suddenly mandated by Rome.

    But I have to give the old Devil his due. You know all the arguments against these positions; I needn’t recite them for you. But the other side is not without defense. I think their arguments come off relatively badly compared to ours, but that’s different from saying that no reasonable person can hold them.

  14. Brian Murphy says:

    Matt and Garrett,

    This 25 year old agrees.

    Pax tecum!

  15. Henry Edwards says:


    May I try out a tentative suggestion that your “devil’s advocacy” might be based (at least partially) on a shaky premise?

    I suspect that “the other side” to which you so gingerly refer is not really concerned all that much about semantic or linguistic issues per se. That the reason their French Excellencies are squealing like stuck pigs is not a fear that their French Catholics will start spouting Latin either in church or out.

    No, their fear is not the mere use of Latin, but what it signifies (to them, at least) – the orthodox Catholic fidelity which they (and the French church under their leadership) have abandoned for a messe de potage.

    Thursday night I attended a Novus Ordo Mass in a small parish church filled with incense and the odor of propitiatory sacrifice, palpable reverence and conscious supplication on behalf of the poor souls in purgatory. This (new) Mass of All Souls was celebrated ad orientem in black Roman fiddleback vestments. I doubt that the fact that it also was chanted in Latin is what would most have worried any unsuspecting member of the “other side” who had wandered in. No more than the fact that the new Mass is more typically celebrated in the vernacular is the greatest concern of orthodox Catholics about the normative liturgies they witness most frequently.

    No, I think it’s not the Latin in “the Latin Mass” (whether old or new Mass) that’s giving these people the willies. It might possibly be different if someone were suggesting that Latin be required of all. But obviously no one is. So I’d suggest that the menace of Latin is simply a straw man. These people are frightened out of their wits by the fact that folks attending “the Latin Mass” actually Believe. The Devil just can’t tolerate this effrontery without taking action to squelch it.

  16. fr.franklyn says:

    I have always wondered why the Eastern rites for the most part do not use their sacred languges although they do use them more than we use Latin at a normal parish mass.I have heard it said that they do not need the use of a sacred liturgical language to preserve their mystery because they have the iconostasis.Latin,for us,along this mode of thought is our ic -onostasis.I doubt that their music and chant is as intimately tied in with a language as our Gregorian chant is with Latin.I remeber when Pope JPII came to Washington and celebrated Mass for the priests of Washington,Baltimore and Arlington.The mass was in Gregorian chant and the priest next to me grumbled,”Latin was done away with by Vatican II”.How I wantedto say to him,”That is the dumbest thing I have ever heard.”

  17. Matt, Garrett, and Brian:

    This 22 year old wholeheartedly fourths the sentiment!

  18. Jeff says:

    Dear Henry Edwards!

    I am always refreshed when I read your posts. “Civilized” is one term that I always finds springs to mind when I read them.

    No, I have no doubt that you are right about most of the French bishops and many others. But I think we sometimes make the mistake of thinking that there are not or cannot be any faithful Catholics who prefer a reverent, by-the-book Novus Ordo in the vernacular to the old Mass. I think that, though they are quiet, there are many of them. And most of them are not at all hostile to the old Mass or to a certain amount of Latin in the Church. But they do think the predominance of the vernacular is a blessing. Why, even Cardinal Ratzinger said as much when Raymond Arroyo interviewed him a few years ago.

    For these devils I will condescend to advocate, though not for the more brimstoney ones you mention!

  19. Kevin says:

    I’m annoyed to discover that some Catholics still believe that Latin was the official language of the church ‘until about forty years ago’. I must admit I’d only ever heard Latin at church during Benediction while growing up.

  20. fred says:

    The Church use to teach Universal. I could go to any country and understand the Mass. I can not understand it if I went to Mexico, France, or Germany. Latin made the Church universal. It also taught us that we had to convert others because the Church was the only way to Heaven. V. C. 2 changed that aspect. Clown Masses and 70’s music turn me off. Most Catholics can’t sing worth a darn but the Church keeps trying to make like we are other religions as far as singing. I just want my time to praise God.

  21. Henry Edwards says:


    I think we sometimes make the mistake of thinking that there are not or cannot be any faithful Catholics who prefer a reverent, by-the-book Novus Ordo in the vernacular to the old Mass. I think that, though they are quiet, there are many of them. And most of them are not at all hostile to the old Mass or to a certain amount of Latin in the Church. But they do think the predominance of the vernacular is a blessing.

    Before I hurry off to a vernacular Novus Ordo that I fully expect to be “reverent and by-the-book” (though I will have to drive a bit to get to it), let me gladly agree that you are surely correct in all particulars here. Indeed, I suspect that the good folks whom you describe so well may comprise the most numerous single group of silent keepers of the Faith today. And I’m happy to join you (though hardly condescendingly) in their advocacy!

  22. Andrew says:

    “Predominance of vernacular is a blessing.” ????

    I disagree. It goes against the concept stated on various occasions by various pontiffs that Latin is a “thesaurus incomparandae praestantiae” and a “lingua regia” and a “sermo sacer”. And it goes against statements such as “any priest who does not know Latin is to be esteemed as one beset by a lamentable mental squalor” (Pius XII). The predominance of vernacular is mental and spiritual scarcity.

  23. Henry Edwards says:

    I’m annoyed to discover that some Catholics still believe that Latin was the official language of the church ‘until about forty years ago’.

    And there may be some Catholics who, even now, remain unaware that Latin remains the official language of the Mass (including the Novus Ordo) up to the present day. From the one-minute clip


    of Cardinal Arinze (Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship) speaking this past week on Vatican Radio:

    Cardinal Arinze says Latin has an important part to play in the liturgical life of the Church. ….. “[At Solesmes] it was beautiful to sing the Mass in Latin from the ‘In the name of the Father’ right up to the end. The question of Latin in the Church must be well understood. It is the official language of the Roman Church and of her prayer life. The vernacular has been admitted by Vatican II under [certain] conditions, but those who think we do not sing in Latin any more, they do not understand.”

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