16 July 2007

Te igitur, clementissime Pater

This is pathetic. When I read this article this morning all I could do was give a long sigh. Have a look and see what you think.

Latin leaves priests at a loss
John Hooper in Rome
Monday July 16, 2007
The Guardian

In nomine Patris, et, er, ... thingummy.
Pope Benedict may want more of his flock to have the chance to hear mass in Latin. But there is a snag. Not many of his priests know enough of the language to hold a service in it. Even in Italy.

Yesterday the newspaper La Stampa reported on priests' reactions to the Pope's decision this month to extend the use of the old Latin-only rite. Their views ranged from embarrassment to downright anger.

"I wouldn't know how to say mass from memory in Latin," said a 60-year-old priest from Le Marche region. "No priest should be obliged to go back to school to brush up his Latin. If some dioceses want to hold courses, well, fine."

Father Maurizio Fileni, 57, from near Ancona, went further. "I am absolutely incapable of saying mass in Latin," he told the paper. "And I would actually be ashamed to do so".

During Pope John Paul II's 26-year papacy, the top hierarchy of the Catholic church became far more conservative than before. But many of its rank-and-file priests remain firmly wedded to the ideals of the reforming Second Vatican Council.

Pope Benedict's decree allows Roman Catholics to obtain a dispensation from their priest for mass to be said in the Latin-only form, which was sidelined in 1970. Followers of the late archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who broke with the church over its liturgical reform, have made a 90-minute video showing priests how to celebrate mass in the old way.

But Father Fileni, for one, is unlikely to be acquiring it. "I am certainly not going back to being a student," he said. "The faithful can't any longer understand us in Italian, let alone Latin."

I’m far from a great linguist, but I can attest that it’s not hard to learn enough Latin to be able to celebrate Mass in a clear and perfectly acceptable way. I had the usual two years of high school Latin, which didn’t do much more than teach me that “Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres.” That wasn’t much of a preparation for saying Mass. But any priest with an average intelligence and a willingness to listen to any one of a number of recordings of the Mass in Latin can certainly work his way through the pronunciation. I was able to do it, and believe me – if I can, anybody can.

I’m assuming most priests aren’t born knowing how to play golf any more than they’re born knowing how to speak Latin. But if their presence on the golf courses is any indication, most priests are willing to put hours of practice into something they love to do. Surely, every priest loves the Mass, and if the Church asks that we develop the ability to celebrate the Mass (whether Extraordinary or Ordinary) in the official language of the institution to which we presumably have devoted our lives, I think that shouldn’t be a big problem.

The motu proprio hasn’t all of a sudden thrust Latin upon us. The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council assumed that Latin would continue to be an integral part of our way of worship. The Council’s “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy,” Sacrosanctum Concilium, states that "the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites." I would imagine these priests who plead ignorance of Latin probably pride themselves on being “Vatican II priests.” If that’s the case, they’ve got some work to do.