Dead language talk

Dead language talk

Local newspapers are beginning to cover the motu proprio for the Tridentine Mass story, like this one from Framingham, Mass., with the headline “Dead language’s revival unlikely.” As you come to expect when any but the most conscientious reporters cover the Church, the author doesn’t seem to get it. For one thing, he interviews members of the parish council of the local parish as if they are experts on Catholic affairs. After all, if they’re on the parish council, they run the church, right? No.

The problem with such reporting is that is speculation based on speculation which is based on rumor. We don’t actually know what the document will say so it doesn’t make sense to make judgments on it. Here’s a comment typical of the story.

“I know there are some churches that would like to have Mass in Latin,” said Cynthia Deysher, chair of the parish council at St. Anselm Church in Sudbury. “We prefer English since not many people in our parish are fluent in Latin.”

Go back about 50 years or so, when all the Masses were in Latin. If you polled the people in the pews, you would find that the majority were not fluent in Latin then either. Sure, they probably knew more Latin than they realized from going to Mass every week, but I doubt there were Latin conversations in the nave after Mass.

This is why we have missals. Even now, when the Mass is in English, we have missals to help us follow along. A Latin-English missal would do the same thing.

Of course, we also see ignorance of the fact that this isn’t just about Latin Masses. In fact, any priest anywhere can celebrate a Latin Mass if he so chooses. But it has to be the Novus Ordo, not the Tridentine. These are two different things. And I’ve been an advocate in my own parish for using Latin NO when we have Masses intended for the whole parish, both Spanish and English speaking.

Meanwhile, I’m especially amused by this quote.

The Rev. Harvey Egan, a Jesuit professor of theology at Boston College, said he wonders if there are enough priests who can still say Mass in Latin. “Jesuits aren’t teaching Latin anymore,” said Egan, 68, who was ordained during the change from Latin to the vernacular. “I’m not certain there’s that much demand for” Latin, he said, adding that he “prefers the way it is now.”

Don’t that say it all!

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