What does the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” do?

Does the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” do anything?

I received a note from a reader together with an image of a letter he received back from the PCED concerning the fact that, on the Vatican’s website, the text of Summorum Pontificum is still available only in Latin and Hungarian.

What did the PCED respond?  It is the Secretariat of State’s sphere of concern.

Secretary of State

You can click for a larger version.

Notice that this is just a form letter, probably not written by an English speaker, signed by nobody, given no protocol number, but at least with the stamp of the Commission.


Msgr. Guido Pozzo
Secretary of the
Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei
Palazzo del Sant’Uffizio
00120 Vatican City

Reverend and Dear Monsignor,

The Instruction Universae Ecclesiae states in par. 8 that “the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum constitutes an important expression of the Magisterium of the Roman Pontiff and of his munus of regulating and ordering the Church’s Sacred Liturgy.”

Why, in this digital age, is Summorum Pontificum, released in 2007, available only in Latin and Hungarian on the Holy See’s website?

Please, Monsignor, urge that translations of Summorum Pontificum be made available on the Holy See’s website in the major modern languages generally recognized and used in the Roman Curia when important documents of the Holy Father’s Magisterium are released.

With gratitude for the work of the Pontifical Commission and with a promise of prayers for you and your collaborators, I am

Sincerely yours in Christ.

Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Inigo says:

    I don’t know if it matters, but even though it’s available in hungarian, very few priests in Hungary know about the document, and even less have actually read the whole thing.
    It must be noted though that the wast majority of clergy who have read it, either started to learn how to celebrate the EF, started to celebrate the OF with an “ars celebrandi” taken from the EF (sometimes even ad orientem), or just simply started to “say the black and do the red”. The remaining minority simply uses it to attack priests and faithful who prefer the EF (this minority sadly includes most of our bishops). Interesting to note, that a small number of permanent deacons are interested in the old liturgical forms too, and are exploring the possibilities to eliminate the “Liturgy of the Word presided by Father Deacon” phenomenon with traditional liturgical forms, and to get rid of the “priest-substitute” role they are forced into. Really interesting how the old liturgical forms and rubrics provide an excellent way to clearly distinguish between the role of priest and deacon, and how the new forms try ever so hard to blend the two together.

  2. Benjamin says:

    The solution is clear and bright as the daylight & obvious even for infants: if your Latin is admittedly (and shamefully) poor, you must then learn Hungarian. ;) The PCED seems to be on my side at this point.

  3. Robert of Rome says:

    It is somewhat consoling to know that even Pope Benedict cannot get his subordinates and collaborators to carry out his wishes.

  4. Sorbonnetoga says:

    I’ve just completed grading assignments from a visiting student who is Hungarian; let’s say that Google translate has its limits… so that’s another possible translation ruled out :-)

  5. jcr says:

    Ecclesia Dei simply does not have control of http://www.vatican.va. They can ask the informatics office to put something on the site, but they don’t make the final decision. The form letter means “look, we can’t do anything about it, ask those who can.” Repeating the question won’t get you anywhere.

  6. Maltese says:

    Well at least L’Osservatore Romano can be found in English. We can at least rely on this important Vatican news source for breaking stories on the Rolling Stones and the hippie classic Easy Rider.

    To read less consequential documents, such as Summorum Pontificum, however, we must rely on a lay blog.

  7. Andrew says:

    Why don’t Catholics just learn the Church’s language as they did for centuries? No one would complain if the document came out in English only. What makes a language a “major” language anyway? Is there some sort of a linguistic superiority? Latin guarantees protection for all those who would be considered members of a “minor” linguistic group: too many to list here. Does anyone think that we could take care of everyone by printing somethings in English, German, French and Spanish? Phlease! A better question is: why is the Vatican website not in Latin?

  8. Denis Crnkovic says:

    I have a humble kowledge of Latin and less Hungarian. I like both languages and it is super cool being able to read stuff in the original. But I have to admit to having a practical streak, too. It seems a bit ironic that the Vatican web site took so many years to put up its very modest Latin pages, but that the most important recent document that supports the Church’s official language is availabe only in Latin and one rather smallish language. Let’s face it. This is not an accident. There are people out there who hate Latin. And given that they have some control over things, given that the seminaries in general have neglected to teach their students Latin, given that nearly an entire generation of priests has (had?) been indoctrinated to despise Latin, etc., etc. we must insist that teaching Latin and using Latin be made immediate priorities. The problem is you can not get the right people interested in Latin by wishing that they already knew Latin. While it would be really neat if all the young seminarians and priests could pick up or down load the S.P. and read it right off the page, that just isn’t the reality. So we absolutely must make it available to the widest possible audience in the greatest number of languages so they learn its contents. In this case the message is as important as the medium.

  9. digdigby says:

    It says something for the purity of the language and its precision and structure that even if you use an automatic translator on the Hungarian you still get the meaning and none of the hilarious gaffes that makes automatic translation such a delight to me. I was thinking of David Niven’s anecdote about the Hungarian film director Michael Curtiz requesting riderless horses enter a scene – .”Bring on the empty horses!” .

  10. Andy Milam says:

    I say this tongue-in-cheek, but there is an air of truth that rings in this.

    It is in Latin. Shouldn’t all priests and seminarians be able to at least read Latin? Isn’t that the mandate the Church has always promoted and supported? Didn’t that great Council, the definer of our times, Vatican Council II demand that priests know and be able to communicate to the faithful the Latin Language?

    Where is the problem? For THOUSANDS of years, the Church proclaimed any document ONLY in Latin. To be honest, I find no problem with it being only in Latin. Those of us who took the time and made the effort whilst in seminary (I am not a priest, I didn’t make it through, but I digress) can understand the majority of the Latin prose which makes up the document.

    As it is, priests and seminarians don’t know Latin. Why? Well, we can thank Monsignor Bugnini, Pope Paul VI and their successors for not following through on what the authentic Magisterium wanted. Many people today will say, “Get over it and live in the world you’re in.”

    I say to them, “YOU get over it. The disobedience and severe limiting of the Church’s universal message isn’t on MY soul.”

    I have enough to worry about with my soul, this issue is one that I’m not going to fight. In being faithful to Vatican Council II, I took Latin. I took enough Latin that I am conversational. I am not as fluent as our esteemed host, but I can hold my own.

    Si quid fecerim modo volui sanctae Matris Ecclesiae, hoc non omnes proventus. … Paucissimi et quid sit loquor sit sacerdotes saeculares. Quod facit me tristis.

  11. DavidJ says:

    As a member of the laity, I would appreciate access to important publications in my native tongue with an approved translation.

  12. The Astronomer says:

    Look at practical reality….you can’t teach, distribute, advocate or implement what you can’t read and comprehend. Most priests in the Western world Latin Rite can’t comprehend Latin. So, in advocating for the EF, you can’t point them to SP on the Holy See’s OFFICIAL website….it will be ignored by your pastor or his associates because once they see its Latin, they close the website window and move on.

    As a former long-time intelligence ops officer, I don’t believe things like this can always be chalked up to ‘bureaucratic ineptitude’ or ‘the antique ways of the Vatican.’ Sometimes friends of the Adversary need do nothing more to obstruct the Will of Peter than to sit back and do nothing. In this case, its a not-quite-smirking “oops, we overlooked English?!?!?! Awwwwwwww…….”

    St. Padre Pio, pray for us.

  13. TNCath says:

    I was under the impression that the PCED was under the aegis of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (Cardinal Levada) rather than the Secretariat of State (Cardinal Bertone). Was there a recent change here? I’m beginning to wonder if ANYONE is minding the store in the Holy See.

  14. Some folks here have got it all wrong. Evidently, in the Vatican it is assumed that John XXIII’s Apostolic Constitution Veterum Sapientia (On the Promotion of the Study of Latin), issued on 2/22/1962 on the eve of Vatican II, has been obeyed, with the result that all priests can read Summorum Pontificum in Latin without difficulty, so vernacular translations are quite unnecessary.

    “With the foregoing considerations in mind, to which We have given careful thought, We now, in the full consciousness of Our Office and in virtue of Our authority, decree and command the following:

    “1. Bishops and superiors-general of religious orders shall take pains to ensure that in their seminaries and in their schools where adolescents are trained for the priesthood, all shall studiously observe the Apostolic See’s decision in this matter and obey these Our prescriptions most carefully. . . . . .

    “3. As is laid down in Canon Law (can. 1364) or commanded by Our Predecessors, before Church students begin their ecclesiastical studies proper they shall be given a sufficiently lengthy course of instruction in Latin by highly competent masters, following a method designed to teach them the language with the utmost accuracy.

    “4. Wherever the study of Latin has suffered partial eclipse through the assimilation of the academic program to that which obtains in State public schools, with the result that the instruction given is no longer so thorough and well-grounded as formerly, there the traditional method of teaching this language shall be completely restored. . . . . .

    “5. In accordance with numerous previous instructions, the major sacred sciences shall be taught in Latin, . . . . . .

    “Hence professors of these sciences in universities or seminaries are required to speak Latin and to make use of textbooks written in Latin. If ignorance of Latin makes it difficult for some to obey these instructions, they shall gradually be replaced by professors who are suited to this task.”

  15. Amerikaner says:

    Hungarian is the new Esperanto!

  16. I noticed that as well, in the several times I’ve been browsing Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclicals and other documents. It seems really odd, and honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was intentional in some way, given the somewhat controversial nature of that document.

    Here is (I’m assuming an accurate) English translation of the Motu Proprio for those interested :)


    Sanctamissa.org is run by the Canons Regular of Saint John Cantius, a religious community for the restoration and preservation of Sacred Tradition.

  17. digdigby says:

    Most Catholic priests don’t know Latin? In the Latin Church? This is not only a scandal but a disgrace. In the film, The Browning Version English boys of 14 know Latin AND Greek and are given an assignment to translate a page of English poetry (I believe it is Keats) into Latin! There are priests today who couldn’t translate the Latin on a U.S. penny. As the aphorism says (my own): “Knowledge includes and excludes, ignorance precludes.”

  18. This just goes to show you that they’re being their usual burecratic selves and are giving you the heave ho, Fr. Z. The only way to get things done is to go to Benedict himself. Else the institutional Church is against you unless you like um … certain …. liberal things.

  19. oldcanon2257 says:

    @ Young Canadian RC Male

    If it’s truly the Secretariat of State’s doing, those responsible need new assignments. The apostolic nunciature in Iran probably are severely short-staffed. Perhaps the Holy Father could transfer them there to help with the staff shortage. There had been a precedence for doing so. ;)

    If at some point the staff of the nunciature in Iran grows too large and there are no space to accommodate additional staff, perhaps the Holy Father could also create the new Archdiocese of Antarctica and assign them there and put them in charge of implementing his Summorum Pontificum motu proprio in that territory. That would lighten the load for the Diocese of Christchurch, New Zealand currently responsible for that area. :)

    Back to being serious, in the grand scheme of things God work in mysterious ways. Perhaps the text of SP being available in Latin only (well, besides Hungarian) is a sign from the Holy Spirit that the Latin Rite priests of the Western Church need to be reminded of their root/origin (the first step in restoring our Catholic identity)?

  20. Centristian says:

    What I find most telling is that, instead of interofficing your letter to the appropriate desk of whomever is responsible for website content at the Secretariat of State, they found the appropriate form letter response, printed it, stamped it, and mailed it to you. It has “lazy, wasteful bureaucrat” written all over it. It’s as if they just didn’t want to bother looking up the correct official’s name and address. “Eh…just send the guy a form telling him to call the Secretary of State; it ain’t our problem.”

  21. samgr says:

    Hungarian is a beautiful language, but if you’ve ever assisted at a Mass in Hungary, your most fervent prayer might be for the universal return of the Mass in Latin.

  22. uptoncp says:

    It would seem to make sense to take the PCED at their word, and start badgering the Secretariate instead.

  23. Andy Milam says:

    Henry, Henry, Henry….

    Don’t you know that Veterum Sapientia is pre-Vatican II, therefore it is anathema sit? It doesn’t matter if it were promulgated on the eve of or ten minutes prior…if it is before the Council, it is not part of the aggiornamento.

    The sad reality is that TPTB don’t even support Vatican Council II, which commanded (in the true magisterial sense) that seminarians and priests AND laity know Latin.

    It’s sad. Sad I say!

  24. WesleyD says:

    This is a problem, but a bigger problem is the existence of incorrect translations on the Vatican website.

    For example, the Latin text of Sollicitudo rei socialis 42 refers to the “optionem pauperum et amorem potiorem erga eos”. The English translation mangles this into “the option or love of preference for the poor”. This nonsensical translation is then duplicated word-for-word when this encyclical is quoted in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church 182.

  25. Joseph says:

    I am sure the Hungarian people do appreciate the extra care given here. Maybe this is why the Hungarian country lately instated the only truly Christian constitution to be found in Europe.
    Just a thought.

  26. Inigo says:


    Since you mentioned the constitution: Hungary was founded by the first ever Confessor King in the row of Saints: Saint Stephen of Hungary. He converted a barbarian, pagan mob into Catholic Christians. Pope Benedict wants the same thing: to convert a pagan barbarian mob into Catholic Christians, and one of the pillars to his “Marshal Plan” is only available in Hungarian and Latin. . .

    Once the Hungarian pagan mob had to learn Latin from Catholic Europe, to get into the Church. Now it seems, pagan Europe has to learn Hungarian. . .

  27. BobP says:

    That’s okay. We have Fr. Z to translate anything that’s important for us. :)

  28. Mitchell NY says:

    If more Bishops got on board and followed Canon Law, which states a Priest must know Latin by Ordination then the laity, at least a portion of them would learn. As a lay person, why would one study Latin or at least learn the Prayers and Ordinary in Latin when their Parish Priest does not know it or will not allow it during Mass? To learn these things on your own time with busy schedules, work responsibilties, etc., it only seems fitting that one would be able to put it to use on Sunday during Mass. Veterum Sapientia is an Apostolic Constitution of the highest degree. Signed with all the solemnity possible for a document that is supposed to restore and promote the language of the Church. It is now linked to Summorum Pontificum, Universae Ecclesiae, and is supported by Canon Law which states Priests must know Latin. In this era with available technologies, internet and media groups all in support of fostering the Church’s Mother Tongue it is no longer easily excused as being “difficult” to learn . There will come a day when VS is taken for what it is and implemented as a necessary tool for the complete implementation of SP and UE. Then the Vat II instruction for the laity to learn the parts of the Ordinary of Mass in Latin with the help of the Priests can take place in the form of Latin workshops at a Parish level. Veterum Sapientia is actually more relevant today than when it was written for the simple fact that Vatican II decreed the retention of Latin and subsequent documents (SP and UE) are also promulgating laws that require a Priests knowledge of Latin for pastoral practices to be implemented and widened. The Moto Proprio being in Latin on the Vatican’s website does seem appropriate although the other major languages of the world are necessary as well. If anyone could explain why it is available in Hungarian or how that got to be so it would be interesting. I don’t note so much the absence of English, though it appears deliberate, but was more curious to the appearance of a far lesser known Hungarian language translation. But since it has to start somewhere I am happy for those people who have been schooled in the language and happy for the laity and Priests of Hungary.

  29. Blaise says:

    Perhaps Fr Z should have sent them his translation, or even the USCCB one, both elsewhere on this site and linked from more or less every page. That way they would not have the option of saying “we have not got round to tranlsating it.”
    Thank you Fr Z for the tranlsation.

  30. Cephas218 says:

    This is about having the Mass in Latin. If you can say the Mass in Latin, you can probably understand the document in Latin. If you want the Mass in Latin, you should be able to at least partially understand this document. The irony borders on hilarious that there would be a complaint it’s not in English.

  31. Supertradmum says:

    Wasn’t there a famous quotation from Pope John XXIII which went something like this? Question–“How many people work at the Vatican?” Answer–“About two, as far as I can tell.”

    Maybe there needs to be a shake-up in these offices.

  32. Supertradmum says:

    Andy Milam, in most American seminaries, including some in the Midwest, a sem has a choice between Latin and Spanish. In addition, Latinos can test out of the Spanish.

  33. Andy Milam says:


    If those same seminaries are still operating the same way they were whilst I was part of the program, then I can tell you from experience….

    One will not be looked upon favorably if he takes Latin as opposed to Spanish. In the diocese in which I studied, I was told, behind closed doors that because I was studying Latin rather than Spanish, I was severely compromising the understood diocesan pastoral formation program. However, they let me take Latin, begrudgingly, because I did have three years of Spanish in high school. Not that I can speak a lick of it now. Latin on the other hand, well….let’s just say I wouldn’t have any trouble linguistically at say, “Our Lady of Guadalupe” or “St. Thomas Aquinas” seminaries…

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