Since I posted on the issue of the Latin text of Benedict’s resignation and brought up, again, the issue of poor to zero Latin preparation of seminarians and priests, I have to make a few observations.
Fathers. If you belong to the Latin Church, if you are priests of the Latin Rite, there is no excuse for you not to know – and to able to pronounce properly – at least sacramental forms in Latin, together with some other basics that belong in our priestly toolbox. Some of you might say, “But we were never taught!”
Fine. The burden is now on you.
Today I had a note from someone who observed that, during a baptism in Latin the priest mispronounced the Latin to the point that the writer didn’t know if the form was valid or not. As it turns out, if I understood correctly, it wasn’t so bad that it invalidated the sacrament.
However, there should never be a question in people’s minds about the validly of sacraments! This is not rocket science, friends. Sacraments have matter and form. It is necessary that the priest be sure that both are in order. The last thing there should ever be is a doubt about whether or not a sacrament was administered.
If we were to look into the basics of other professions and found that their practitioners didn’t know or couldn’t even pronounce the fundamental terms of formulae of their field, we would hold them in contempt.
Imagine someone teaching French lit who couldn’t even pronounce French names or terms. How about a pharmacist who has no idea how drugs interact (or who can’t pronounce their names)?
Let’s get serious.
Our Catholic identity has undergone a series of devastating blows from the 60’s onward. One of them was the systematic and purposeful elimination of Latin from curricula and its denial to seminarians and priests. With the elimination of Latin, priestly identity was horribly affected. That, in turn, had its own knock on effect among the people of God. The same goes for the systematic destruction of Latin liturgy, with the subsequent slamming and locking of the treasury of the Church’s music, so important in worship.
There is something seriously wrong in the identity of the Church if its priests have no idea of the language of their Rite.
And consider that the Code of Canon Law requires that seminarians be “very well trained” in Latin before ordination. At ordinations, some official has to stand up and attest before the Church and God that the ordinands were properly formed. But if they were not given Latin, were they?!? Deacons and priests of the Latin Church who can’t even pronounce three words together without making a hash of it?
Look. Some people have better language acquisition aptitudes than others. And we know that with age, language learning abilities don’t usually improve. But, I still hold that that those are not adequate excuses not to try, to try really hard, if necessary.
Fathers, for the love of God, learn at least how to pronounce Latin.
You can do it. Get those ears and pathways open.
I’ll do what I can to help. I had already started, long ago, on series of podcasts called “What Does The Prayer Really Sound Like” or “PRAYERCAzTs”. They are still available on this blog, just search at the bottom menus. I can do more if they would be helpful.