Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Pope John Gave us the Blessed Gift of Vernacular

No, he didn’t. This one is my personal favorite. Of all the false progressive ideas attributed to John XXIII, this one is truly the most asinine and utterly refuted by the Pope’s own words.

The story goes that Pope John looked out upon the Church and heard the oppressed rabble crying out to be liberated from the fetters of the Latin language and the terrors of the Traditional Mass. Valiant Pope John then convened the company of heroes known as Vatican II with the express purpose of annihilating these horrific shackles and the archaic ideas that held them in place.

It makes for a good bedtime story for the progressives. Maybe it helps them sleep at night now that the Traditional Mass is making such a comeback. What they either don’t know or ignore, sucking their thumbs and clinging to their Hans Kung dolls, is that Pope John condemned this whole line of thinking. Allow me to introduce possibly the most ignored papal document of the last half-century (yes, even more ignored than Humanae Vitae). Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you Veterum Sapientia, the whole of which is devoted to why Latin rules and the vernacular sucks. It's also an Apostolic Constitution, which means that it carries the highest level of papal authority (e.g. it's the same thing that Pius XII issued when defining the dogma of the Assumption). How many Pope John devotees would be caught dead saying things like:

For these reasons the Apostolic See has always been at pains to preserve Latin, deeming it worthy of being used in the exercise of her teaching authority "as the splendid vesture of her heavenly doctrine and sacred laws." She further requires her sacred ministers to use it, for by so doing they are the better able, wherever they may be, to acquaint themselves with the mind of the Holy See on any matter, and communicate the more easily with Rome and with one another.

Thus the "knowledge and use of this language," so intimately bound up with the Church's life, "is important not so much on cultural or literary grounds, as for religious reasons." These are the words of Our Predecessor Pius XI, who conducted a scientific inquiry into this whole subject, and indicated three qualities of the Latin language which harmonize to a remarkable degree with the Church's nature. "For the Church, precisely because it embraces all nations and is destined to endure to the end of time ... of its very nature requires a language which is universal, immutable, and non-vernacular."

Since "every Church must assemble round the Roman Church," and since the Supreme Pontiffs have "true episcopal power, ordinary and immediate, over each and every Church and each and every Pastor, as well as over the faithful"of every rite and language, it seems particularly desirable that the instrument of mutual communication be uniform and universal, especially between the Apostolic See and the Churches which use the same Latin rite.

When, therefore, the Roman Pontiffs wish to instruct the Catholic world, or when the Congregations of the Roman Curia handle matters or draw up decrees which concern the whole body of the faithful, they invariably make use of Latin, for this is a maternal voice acceptable to countless nations.

Furthermore, the Church's language must be not only universal but also immutable. Modern languages are liable to change, and no single one of them is superior to the others in authority. Thus if the truths of the Catholic Church were entrusted to an unspecified number of them, the meaning of these truths, varied as they are, would not be manifested to everyone with sufficient clarity and precision. There would, moreover, be no language which could serve as a common and constant norm by which to gauge the exact meaning of other renderings.

But Latin is indeed such a language. It is set and unchanging. it has long since ceased to be affected by those alterations in the meaning of words which are the normal result of daily, popular use. Certain Latin words, it is true, acquired new meanings as Christian teaching developed and needed to be explained and defended, but these new meanings have long since become accepted and firmly established.

Finally, the Catholic Church has a dignity far surpassing that of every merely human society, for it was founded by Christ the Lord. It is altogether fitting, therefore, that the language it uses should be noble, majestic, and non-vernacular.

In addition, the Latin language "can be called truly catholic." It has been consecrated through constant use by the Apostolic See, the mother and teacher of all Churches, and must be esteemed "a treasure ... of incomparable worth." It is a general passport to the proper understanding of the Christian writers of antiquity and the documents of the Church's teaching.It is also a most effective bond, binding the Church of today with that of the past and of the future in wonderful continuity.

Bishops and superiors-general of religious orders shall take pains to ensure that in their seminaries and in their schools where adolescents are trained for the priesthood, all shall studiously observe the Apostolic See's decision in this matter and obey these Our prescriptions most carefully.

In the exercise of their paternal care they shall be on their guard lest anyone under their jurisdiction, eager for revolutionary changes, writes against the use of Latin in the teaching of the higher sacred studies or in the Liturgy, or through prejudice makes light of the Holy See's will in this regard or interprets it falsely.

Folks who espouse ideas like this in our day are considered lunatics or extremists. This was another example of Pope John’s “reactionism” for Blanshard. The best part is when you run into progressives who actually do know about this document. They start making all kinds of excuses, usually that Il Papa Buono was “strong-armed into writing it” by the Curia. So he was gutless, then? If the Curia really had that kind of stroke, then VII would never have gone down the way it did because Pope John would never have scrapped the original prep work.

Or was it that “he didn’t really mean it”? Yeah, because popes are always devoting entire encyclicals to things they don’t really mean. Or maybe he changed his mind. Really? Is that why VII says that Latin is to be preserved as the language of the liturgy?

Or maybe it’s that people who buy into this legend are full of crap and should accept the fact that they hate a lot of what Blessed John really stood for.

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