Getting it all wrong … in Latin

Getting it all wrong … in Latin

Another day, another anti-Catholic diatribe by Boston Globe columnist James Carroll. This time he’s got his boxers in a twist over the the rumors of a universal indult for the Tridentine Mass. Carroll thinks this is a monumentally bad idea. Funnily enough, Carroll praises the 16th-century Protestant heretics for first bringing the Scripture into the vernacular (which is itself an old urban legend). Maybe he’s just admitting that he’s really a Protestant anyway.

His ignorance of the Church of today and of yesterday is astounding. On the one hand he shows the typical Modernist chronological snobbery when he dismisses every Catholic prior to 1962 as “dumb spectators>” Even granting what he meant was the definition of “dumb” as “mute” it’s still fairly ignorant. So between about 100 AD and 1962, no one participated in the Mass? They were merely spectators until freed by Vatican II?

Never mind that the Second Vatican Council, most specifically in the document Sacrosanctum Concilium never ordered that Latin be discarded, only that the vernacular be allowed in addition to Latin in particular places for particular pastoral reasons. But the biggest whopper is yet to come:

The vitality and warmth of today’s typical liturgy, involving intelligible encounters with sacred texts, has Catholic parishes surprisingly full, even in a time of widespread disillusionment with clerical leadership.

That right there tells me that James Carroll hasn’t darkened a church door in years. How else to explain how ill-informed about the state of Mass attendance he is? Mass attendance in the 1960s in the Boston area was around 70 percent. Right now, the best estimates put it at about 20 percent, perhaps even less. I guess you could claim a few dozen people scattered throughout the pews as “surprisingly full” if your expectation is that no one would show up.

What English has done for American Catholicism

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  • any priest can celebrate the Novus Ordo in Latin if he so chooses

    Well, yes and no, actually.  If you’re the pastor of a parish, yes.  If you’re an associate, for all practical purposes you cannot, since the pastor has the responsibility for the Masses of that parish and almost invariably (today, in this Archdiocese, at least) will deny you that right.

  • Dom – of course, under Church law it’s “allowed,” but if your pastor forbids you to do say the 7:30 Mass in Latin, what do you do?  He’s the one who determines who says what Mass, and if he decides you’re not “helpful” he’ll have you sent packing.

    A private Mass, on the other hand, is not an issue; any priest can say a private Mass in Latin.  But with most of us celebrating more public Masses than we’re supposed to each day, very few of us say private Masses, except on our day off.

  • How odd…I blogged about the same thing today…and hit on the same points. I promise I didn’t steal from you, Dom. grin

    What got me about Mister “I’m not only a former priest but Was Also An Altar Boy” Carroll’s piece was his sly insinuation that Tyndale was executed by the Church of Rome. Not true. He was arrested and sentenced by the secular Holy Roman Empire.

    Ironically, it was the lay people—including Henry VII (and this was after the King’s break with Rome)—who were loudest in condemning Carroll’s “prophet” for his “translation.”

    Father Clark (no relation except that we’re brother and sister in Christ), I do understand what you’re saying about the pastor’s prerogative. But I don’t think the columnist had anything like that in mind. He’s confusing the Tridentine Mass with the Novus Ordo prayed in Latin, that’s all.

    Deacon: why do you think the Globe’s going out of business? grin

    A private Mass, on the other hand, is not an issue; any priest can say a private Mass in Latin.

    Darn! I wish I would’ve thought of this on my blog (and that I wasn’t too lazy to update it). Cardinal O’Malley mentioned on his blog that he celebrates private Masses in Latin. Oh, well…

  • Kelly, my sister, I was referring to Dom’s last sentence in the blog post, not to Carroll’s tripe.

  • At St. Sebastian School, in Needham, every year on Thursday before the Christmas break,(this year will be December 14,) we celebrate Mass in Latin with large participation of students and their parents. It is an annual event. In my previous parish, now suppreesed because the Church has been closed, we used to sing Missa De Angelis, once a month we had Adoration and at the end the Benediction was performed in Latin, by singing Adore Te devote, Tantum ergo, and it was heart-lifting to hear people singing. Latin is beeing missed in our Liturgy, not because of Vatican II, but because of priests and bishops who did not follow the directions of Vatican II.

  • Rick,

    Don’t make too many assumptions. I have never attended a Tridentine Mass and don’t particularly pine for it. Yet I would like to see Latin brought back as the universal language of worship. One thing that Carroll ignores is the increasing number of multilingual parishes. My own parish has large number of Spanish-speaking immigrants, as well as many native English speakers. When we have major feast day Masses we end up with a hodge podge of languages.

    If instead we used Latin, we could all learn it together and pray together in one voice.

    I have heard many stories of folks in the old days for whom Latin was a great consolation while in a foreign land. Catholics who escaped from behind the Iron Curtain were able to find comfort and a home in any Catholic church. A Englishman who was able to get help from a Croatian priest who spoke no English because he knew enough liturgical Latin.

    It’s sad when you go to something like World Youth Day and you can’t even pray together as one.

    The patchwork of languages we have in the Church throughout the world now doesn’t unite, it divides. We need one language.

  • I’ve been down this road with other people. No, I don’t feel any desire or need to go. I know what’s involved. I’ve seen it on video, I’ve read the texts, I’ve talked to others who’ve been.

    A high Mass can be beautiful and inspirational, but I’m also aware of the deficiencies. A reform was needed in 1962, but because they threw the baby out with the bathwater both sides have become intransigent making an authentic reform very difficult.

  • I should add that I have been to Latin Masses of the Pauline rite that have been beautiful and inspirational too. I also find the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom to be wonderful and beautiful. There is a rich diversity.