Latin, can. 249, and our Catholic identity. Wherein Fr. Z rants.

How many times in these electronic pages have I lamented the blatant disobedience in regard to can. 249?

I remind the readership, especially those readers who are diocesan bishops, that the Code of Canon Law, can. 249, requires – it doesn’t suggest or recommend or propose, but requires – that seminarians be “very well skilled” in the Latin language:

Can. 249 — Institutionis sacerdotalis Ratione provideatur ut alumni non tantum accurate linguam patriam edoceantur, sed etiam linguam latinam bene calleant necnon congruam habeant cognitionem alienarum linguarum, quarum scientia ad eorum formationem aut ad ministerium pastorale exercendum necessaria vel utilis videatur.

How is this translated on the Vatican website?

Can. 249 The program of priestly formation is to provide that students not only are carefully taught their native language but also understand Latin well [FAIL!] and have a suitable understanding of those foreign languages which seem necessary or useful for their formation or for the exercise of pastoral ministry.

Calleo is “to be practiced, to be wise by experience, to be skillful, versed in” or “to know by experience or practice, to know, have the knowledge of, understand”.  Sure, “understand” can translate calleant, but in this context that is the weakest of our choices.  We get the word “callused” from calleo.  We develop calluses when we do something repeatedly.

So, calleo is already “well versed/skilled”. Then bene calleant is “let them be very well versed/skilled”.

Review also Sacrosanctum Concilium 36 and Optatam totius 13, just to point to documents of Vatican II. … unless you “HATE VATICAN II!”, as the libs throw about.

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 of the LATIN Church who are nearly totally ignorant of Latin!

I ask you, Reverend and Most Reverend gentlemen, what does it mean for our Catholic identity if our clergy don’t know the language – and therefore what goes with the language – of their Rite and Church?

Do you think that that’s a problem?

“But Father! But Father!”, some of these priests and bishops will respond, “We have so many more pressing problems to address!”

Is that so?

Our Catholic identity is THE pressing problem.   

Our identity has been severely enervated over the last half dozen decades.  Let’s do something about this, starting with elementary and high schools!  Let’s do something about this starting in homeschooling!

We have to recover these lost tools or we will, very soon, begin to pay even more massively than we do now for the wounds to our identity.  Consider how the demographics of the Church are being reported.  There are now more people who identity as former-Catholics than as Catholics, and the majority of the later barely go to church.  What will that mean for, inter alia, vocations?

Oh… and by the way… when rectors or others stand up during ordinations to attest before God that the men to be ordained for the Latin Church have been properly trained…. is that true if they have no Latin?

So what are they stating before God and the Church?

Speaking of oaths, Fr. Hunwicke has something at his place today that I found interesting – HERE:

Appeal for information

A kind friend has sent me an interesting text: the oath fidelitatis that (?) newly consecrated or translated bishops have to swear in the Latin Church (how about the sui iuris Oriental Churches?).

My first impetuous reaction was to feel that no man with any sense of his dignity would sign such a grovelling formula (vide praesertim verba atque consilia prope finem) . Then I recollected that, over the last thirty years, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of bishops may have signed this piece of paper with no intention (exempli gratia) of doing anything to implement Canon 249 (seminarians being taught to be fluent in Latin). Or of doing anything to repress liturgical abuses. So I expect this ‘oath’ is just an empty formality that one performs and then has a good laugh about. As when we Anglican clergy used to swear an oath to use only the Book of Common Prayer. Ha Ha Ha. Indeed. Ha Ha Ha.

I would be interested, nevertheless, to know the history of this formula, and to what extent its wording is recent. Quite a bit of it seems to me to be redolent of the catch-phrases of Vatican II.


Can. 249, ladies and gents.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Canon Law, Hard-Identity Catholicism, Mail from priests, Our Catholic Identity, Priests and Priesthood, Seminarians and Seminaries and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. OCDFriar says:

    It feels very much like a Catch-22, sadly. On the one hand, one cannot simply allow Canon 249 to go unobserved. Its existence must be pointed out and its observance must be defended. On the other hand, if significant pressure were brought to bear on this issue, I suspect that the “solution” would be swift motu proprio from Rome abolishing Canon 249 entirely.

  2. Benedict Joseph says:

    Am I mistaken in believing that the purpose and persistence of lax Latin instruction mirrors the inaccurate and inauthentic catechesis over the last almost sixty years? I think not. All of this is for a purpose. It is the device of those who favor the wink and the nod. It is held in esteem, it now holds pride of place and it is the preferred mode of engagement until the nefarious purpose finds its accomplishment. It is abhorrent.
    Deferential engagement with those of slack and/or duplicitous comportment only provides them ground. Authentic Christian respect is rendered with correction, and at a certain juncture – which we have long since passed – bold, bold correction.
    Persistence in casting the tragic in less than a raking light no longer serves any objective but the advancement of error. Pretending what is actually happening is not the precisely the goal of those to whom we desperately ascribe “good intent” is delusional.
    We have been abandoned and betrayed.
    Somehow the now ascribed grievously poor translation “…lead us not into temptation…” seems more accurate and meaningful than ever. We can understand as Thomas à Kempis reminds us that temptation is provided to forge our metal. The fraudulence provided by the ecclesiastical day care center seeks only to rob us of our armor.

  3. Tom says:

    One of the reasons it’s such a pity that the editio typica altera of the Liturgia Horarum is permanently out of print and unavailable.

    Thankfully, Universalis has the all-Latin version of the LOTH *for free* in MOBI (Kindle) and ePub formats:

    I installed the ePub on my Android phone and Google Play Books opens and handles it beautifully. It is quite navigable and a pleasure to use (though I’d still prefer a hard copy).

  4. Anneliese says:

    It’s funny you should discuss the importance of Latin as the Holy Father has discussed it as well.

  5. competent says:

    With the availability of free online media today, has anyone thought of making a really good, comprehensive and accessible latin learning program available free and online for seminarians and even others, like me, to learn the language? Why do we all have to reinvent the wheel? Are any one of you really conversant in latin and willing to teach the rest of us? It could be your corporal work of mercy! :-)

  6. Liaigh says:

    Dear Father,

    I have been a long time reader of your blog and would like to thank you for your great contribution to the mission of the Church. It probably won’t surprise you to learn that during my formation as a deacon, there was no instruction in Latin. I know that Can. 249 specifically refers to priests and not to clergy but I feel that I am missing something. I have some schoolboy classical Latin but that is often more of a problem than a help in church – especially in pronunciation. Do you know of any good, beginner’s resources where I can learn basic ecclesial Latin?

    Incidentally, some time ago, I assisted a priest of the Ordinariate of the Southern Cross when he supplied at out parish. He said mass facing east which meant, of course, that I faced east also. The difference was extraordinary. I found myself praying to God rather than being distracted by the antics of the congregation – sometimes amusing, in a dark sort of way, but always distracting. As in, did they really think that was appropriate to wear to mass? If it were up to me, which it’s not, mass would always be celebrated this way. Once again, thank you for your blog.

  7. Fuerza says:

    Such a program already exists. Do a search for Linney’s Latin Class. Mr Linney provides youtube/mp3 lectures to cover the contents of an old Latin text, The First Year of Latin, absolutely free. The book itself (which is different from the basic Latin text that Mr. Linney himself sells) is available for free online or can be purchased for around $16 on amazon. The course covers Classical Latin, though the minor differences in Ecclesiastical Latin grammar and pronunciation can be pretty easily learned afterwards. I think it’s designed to be done over a year, but you can go faster or slower if you need to.

  8. Pingback: MONDAY CATHOLICA EDITION – Big Pulpit

  9. competent says:

    I am surprised that this didn’t provoke any comment. Seminarians certainly need Latin and an online way to learn it makes sense to me. Also, if you want to promote Latin to the laity, an easily accessible online Latin course also makes sense to me. Someday, perhaps someone, somewhere might see the larger benefit to this. I will volunteer to be the first student!

  10. msc says:

    I wonder if Fr. might consider providing a service somewhat akin to his biretta project by helping to put willing tutors (gratis, of course) in contact with priests or seminarians wanting to improve their Latin.

  11. competent says:

    Thank you!

Comments are closed.