Is Latin superior to the venacular?


Does anyone here know of any papal documents (or whatever else) which hold Latin in a higher esteem than the venacular? I’ve heard arguments for and against this but I’m curious to know what the church hierarchy have to say about it. A friend of mine said to me that Latin is no longer necessary in the modern church, and that, intrinsicly, it isn’t any more holy or superior than the vencular. Any thoughts?

Pax Tecum,

The Holy Council of Trent said:

If anyone says that …the mass ought to be celebrated in the vernacular tongue only…let him be anathema.

Amen! Alleluia! This is the most solemn and irrevocable statement of the church. If anyone says that we should only say Mass in English and never Latin, that person is anathemised - in simple terms, they’re not Catholic.

It is a matter of considerable debate at the moment as to the exact importance of Latin and when it should be used. But nobody of orthodox belief can say that it is irrelevant, should be brushed aside or forgotten.

Latin is the language of the Western Church, the Mass for centuries has been said in Latin and all official documents are in Latin. So yes, in a sense it is a ‘holy’ language and superior to the vernacular.

oi vey, you’ve been here long enough to make 26 posts and you haven’t noticed what a hot-button topic Latin Mass v Mass in Vernacular is around here?

Having said that, most if not all Popes have spoken out on the need to retain at least some Latin in the Mass, and I certainly see their point. Not because I think Latin is inherently more sacred :nope: simply because it’s inherently more Catholic :yup:

And stable…

**Veterum Sapientia (****On the Promotion of the Study of Latin): **

Pope John XXIII’s Veterum Sapientia.

no longer necessary in the modern church

Haha! What ideas people today have :smiley: :wink:

Certainly all Church official documents are in Latin. But, the difference is nowadays the documents are translated INTO Latin from another language. The current catechism, for example, was written in French first.

In answer to the thread’s question, I reply “Of course not.”

If everything a 450 year old ecumenical council did was irrevocable, why have any more?

God bless you Tridentine junkies!


But when it was translated into latin, the french verson was re-edited to concur with the latin text.

It is, however, quite safe to say that the Mass CAN be in the vernacular or it’s good thing some are or that it is “helpful” (Cardinal Ratzinger’s words before he got a promotion) to have the vernacular Mass.

To the OP: Latin is not inherently or ontologically more sacred. It is, however, important and many sacred things are written about or described in Latin, from the history of the Church.

Latin was actually the vernacular of that time used throughout the Roman empire and was adopted by the Church with some variations later into what we call ecclesiastical Latin. However, Latin was in essence vernacular.

The problem is that certain parts of the Roman Rite…actually, virtually ALL parts of the Roman Rite…said goodbye to Latin after Vatican II and plenty of people were freely told by prelates, priests, nuns, CCD classes, grammar school religion, whatever, that “Latin is pre-Vatican II”.

In a dramatic repudiation of their own history and culture, Catholic leaders and rank and file by the bushel bought the whole lie.

So don’t cry me a river about the vernacular. The vernacular hasn’t been and isn’t the endangered species. Latin has been another story.

Latin IS superior for expressing doctrinal, theological complexities. That’s something any linguist will tell you. Latin doesn’t change, so we don’t have to have tedious “for all/for many” debates all the time. Latin avoids the bloody strife language can cause in some countries (in Belgium, it famously united Catholics of both Dutch and French persuasions).

Finally, Latin…along with the 2 other languages of the Rite (Hebrew, Greek) was a language pinned to the Cross. Because of the Cross, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew ARE inherently more sacred languages, and the Church has always esteemed them as such…until She learned better about everything in c. 1965.

Hence, a sacral language. The traditional Roman Rite has daily words from Latin, Greek (Kyrie, eleison), Hebrew (Alleluia, Amen, Sabaoth).

Sacral because of accumulated use and application, but not ontologically, not inherently, as some would have us believe. One can still recognize the importance of Latin in the life of the Church, but prefer that the Mass be in the vernacular. And the Church doesn’t exist to maintain and nurture Latin, but to lift up the Crucified Christ.

The bit about Latin being pinned to the Cross and thus sacred (a trendy little thought currently making the rounds on these forums)is LAUGHABLE! If it is sacred, it’s sacred for other reasons than that!!! Pilate wrote the sign board so that any literate person that came by would be able to read Who That Person was and why He was executed. It was a warning against sedition, and it didn’t go far enough for the Jewish leaders, if you consult the context of the story.

Latin is important, but the Church doesn’t exist to maintain and nurture Latin.

This is what VII actually says about it:

    1. Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.
  1. But since the use of the mother tongue, whether in the Mass, the administration of the sacraments, or other parts of the liturgy, frequently may be of great advantage to the people, the limits of its employment may be extended. This will apply in the first place to the readings and directives, and to some of the prayers and chants, according to the regulations on this matter to be laid down separately in subsequent chapters.

So VII says it is to be “preserved.” VII also notes the advantages of the “mother tongue.” I suggest that preservation implies that it serves a purpose that is not served by the “mother tongue.” For that reason alone it is importanmt to the modern church.

But how can people recognize Latin’s importance to the life of the Church if most of the people who go to mass never hear Latin? I’ve never heard Latin at mass, save for “Ave Maria” at a wedding and as an unscheduled communion hymn. So for me and a lot of people, Latin has no obvious place in the day-to-day life of the Church, aside for being a language church documents are written in.

The fact that those 3 languages were affixed to the very instrument of our redemption does indeed make them sacred. They are known, and have been known, as sacral languages down through the centuries.

You prefer the vernacular? Good. Go tell your bishops to translate that Breviary that’s now 20+ years out of date, or the 1974 Missal texts that are still used 30+ years later…go fix your vernacular mess, in other words.

You do go on about the Breviary, Alex.

The fact that those three langauge were affixed to the very instrument of our redemption does NOT make them sacred, any more than writing the Holy Name of Jesus in Sanskrit renders Sanskrit a sacred language.

Latin is sacred because we imbue it with sacredness and because it’s been used to write and talk about sacred things. God hasn’t imbued it with sacredness. It was simply the language of the Empire into which Christ was born, died, rose again, and ascended back to the father.

Sanskrit wasn’t affixed to the very instrument of our salvation.

Latin is a sacral language, as is Greek and Hebrew, because they were on the cross, and in the ORGANIC development of the liturgy, those 3 tongues became the 3 languages of the Roman Rite.

I do go “on and on” about the Breviary, because I think it’s hilarious that the great progressive tradition of the vernacular has resulted in 20-30 years of UNTRANSLATED liturgical texts. Those using the Indult Vernacular today in the US are using an outdated breviary, 20+ years after the new one was issued, and a Missal that was done in 1974, briefly supplemented in 1985 and 1996, and otherwise untouched.

So much for progress…so much for the vernacular liturgy. Out of date!

Pope Benedict then Cardinal did say the following. In light of his words—If the average person would find it difficult to distinguish between the new Mass according to the missal and the TLM —how much vernacular is he indicating.

The Council did not itself reform the liturgical books, but it ordered their revision, and to this end, it established certain fundamental rules. Before anything else, the Council gave a definition of what liturgy is, and this definition gives a valuable yardstick for every liturgical celebration. Were one to shun these essential rules and put to one side the normae generales which one finds in numbers 34 - 36 of the Constitution De Sacra Liturgia (SL), in that case one would indeed be guilty of disobedience to the Council!

An average Christian without specialist liturgical formation would find it difficult to distinguish between a Mass sung in Latin according to the old Missal and a sung Latin Mass according to the new Missal. However, the difference between a liturgy celebrated faithfully according to the Missal of Paul VI and the reality of a vernacular liturgy celebrated with all the freedom and creativity that are possible - that difference can be enormous

You’d have to watch the video with Raymond Arroyo. I know the Holy Father wants more Latin. I simply believe that there is a place for the vernacular Mass (and by that I mean a Mass where the bulk of it is in the vernacular) and I simply meant that it is not a incurring of the anathema of Trent to suggest that the Mass CAN be in the vernacular (Trent said that it did not seem prudential at that time to switch to the vernacular, but Trent did not preclude the Church from allowing the Mass in the vernacular in the future).

And PS: did you read the entire speech? “Traditionalists” aren’t spared either. Thank you, you’ve given me something I can use to argue that it is appropriate that the people make the responses at Mass.

The Vatican II Council required that the faithful be able to either sing or recite the parts of the Mass IN LATIN.

So, unless Vatican II has now been revoked, basic Latin prayers and responses are something that ALL Latin Rite Catholics should already know.

Sacrosanctum Concilium
Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy

  1. In Masses which are celebrated with the people, a suitable place may be allotted to their mother tongue. This is to apply in the first place to the readings and “the common prayer,” but also, as local conditions may warrant, to those parts which pertain to the people, according to the norm laid down in Art. 36 of this Constitution.

Nevertheless steps should be taken so that the faithful are able to say or to sing together, in Latin, those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.

And wherever a more extended use of the mother tongue within the Mass appears desirable, the regulation laid down in Art. 40 of this Constitution is to be observed.

Note that this requirement is in the very same paragraph that authorizes the use of vernacular in the first place.

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