Pope's Latinist pronounces death of a language

I came across this article today in a British newspaper:

Pope’s Latinist pronounces death of a language

On one hand, I have to like the priest for his dedication to teaching Latin. However, here is a pertinent quote:

"He said reports that Pope Benedict will reintroduce the Tridentine Mass, which dates from 1570 and is largely conducted in Latin, were wrong – not least because of the Pope’s desire to avoid more controversies. A speech last year offended Muslims and more recently he gave initial support to a Polish archbishop who was eventually forced to resign, after admitting that he had collaborated with the communist-era secret police.

“He is not going to do it,” Fr Foster said. “He had trouble with Regensberg, and then trouble in Warsaw, and if he does this, all hell will break loose.” In any case, he added: “It is a useless mass and the whole mentality is stupid. The idea of it is that things were better in the old days. It makes the Vatican look medieval.”


My question, setting aside for the moment my utter disagreement with his comments on the Tridentine Mass and my hope that the Pope will loosen restrictions on it, is this: How do you keep Latin alive without the traditional Latin Mass? If Bishops and Priests do not have to use Latin in the liturgy, then what will prompt them to study it? I suppose that is one of the aspects of this Priest’s comments I don’t understand. On one hand, he stresses the importance of keeping Latin alive, and then turns around and bashes the one liturgy that might help do that (I don’t think we’re going to get a lot of priests celebrating the Novus Ordo in Latin).

Isnt this the same priest who said that, even though he has been the Pope’s Latinist for years, he only met John Paul II once in his 25 year reign, and who admitted to celebrating Mass naked?

He sounds like a comlete wacko to me :wink:

Well if these are truly his words I’m really not surprised. That particular mindset is what resulted in the near annihilation of the Traditional Mass forty years ago. I

First, you have to recognize that Vatican II asked that Catholics learn their parts of the Mass in Latin. In other words, you have to internalize the fact that every Latin Rite Catholic has an obligation to learn enough Latin to say his parts of the Mass. And then, you have to spread the word to the other Catholics. (It’s one of the closest kept secrets of Vatican II.)

Second, you have to look at the experience of the Irish and the Jews. The Irish tried to reintroduce Gaelic to preserve their separate identity to mixed results. The Jews who settled in Israel resurrected Hebrew, which was a dead language at that point, and turned it into the official language of Israel today.

If we are to preserve our Latin Rite identity, it is imperative that we resurrect Latin as a language. We must teach ourselves Latin and teach it to our children. I highly recommend Jenney’s First Year Latin textbook. It’s a high school textbook. You can get a used one for a couple of dollars on Amazon. The lessens are very short and you can complete the entire book within a year (plan on twenty minutes a day). After you complete Jenney’s First Year Latin, you should be able to follow along with the Mass in Latin, read the Nova Vulgata, and read some of the great Latin writers like Vergil and Cicero.

At one point, Latinisms like “mea culpa” and “sanctum sanctorum” were as common as Yiddish phrases, which are very common in the New York City area. We must learn to take pride in our Latin heritage just like other religious groups take pride in their unique heritages. And we must instill that pride in our children. Latin is the language of Vergil, Cicero, the Caesars, Augustine, Jerome, Gregory the Great, Thomas Aquinas, etc. It is a magnificent heritage – our heritage. One we should rightly be proud of.

Third, we should recognize that more of the Mass was left unchanged after Vatican II than was changed. (Do a word comparison of the missals in Latin if you don’t believe me.) And we should recognize that the Nova Vulgata is a great improvement over the Vulgate in many areas. So we should be comfortable defending the Tridentine, Novus Ordo, Vulgate, and Nova Vulgata against attacks from the left and right. They are all fantastic.

And finally, we should insist that our priests and bishops be tolerant with Catholics who desire to worship according to the Tridentine Mass and stop the snide remarks and catty sneers. There is nothing medieval about wanting to hear the Mass in Latin. What is positively medieval, however, is the intolerance shown by many bishops and priests to Catholic laity who want to worship in a different manner (i.e., in Latin).

So the next time someone makes a comment about how we don’t want to go back to Latin Masses, you say, “Oh, that’s positively medieval. We’re much more tolerant now. We celebrate diversity and we encourage people to get in touch with their roots. That whole thing about no Latin in the Mass went out with hippie communes and bell-bottoms back in the 70’s. Come on folks, let’s get with the times. We’re not in the twentieth century anymore!”


does the pope actually approve of what he said? i will believe it when the pope makes a statement to that effect, that the motu proprio is not coming out after all. i will also believe the motu proprio when it comes out. as for the Tridentine Mass being “useless” that is a totally crass statement to make!:mad:

does he think i wonder, that all the traditional priests are also “useless”??? what a crass attitude.:mad:

Typical Modernist-speak.

Perhaps Fr Z of WDTPRS can tame all your *ad hominem *fears of the “wacky” “modernist” Fr Foster?

I have great respect for Fr. Foster, whom I studied with for many years. My Latin experiences with him changed my life. I know him to be a very kind and generous soul. I consider him a friend.


That said… I think Fr. Foster is wrong about this. But may be right in one respect.

I think the indult is going to happen. However, recent controversies may have made the Holy Father decide to wait for a good moment.

Right now in Rome (with the exception Foster, obviously) there is sepulchral silence about this document. Fr. Foster, though in the Secretariate of State, may not be in the best position to know the status of the Motu Proprio. He is a translator, not a policy maker. It may be that he will be the one to make sure the Latin text of the document is clean. Perhaps he hasn’t seen it, and so he thinks it won’t happen. Maybe his statement is motivated by wishful thinking.


Pope’s Latinist pronounces death of a language

Isn’t this like an oxymoron? He a Latinist saying his job is extinct. :hmmm:

I’ve heard Fr. Foster speak about preserving Latin, and I think his main focus is that if we lose Latin we lose access to a cultural patrimony. We wouldn’t be able to read Augustine or Aquinas in the original, meaning we would be stuck with translations that can’t equal the beauty of their real words. From this same dedication to the original text he said he hates our whole translation fights and wishes we would leave the Latin text alone and just compose vernacular missals. So I don’t think he sees a connection between the language of the Mass and the rest of the cultural patrimony he’s trying to preserve. His Latin Church would still have the language, but I think it would be impoverished without the liturgy, too.

That said, my main beef with Fr. Foster is that he seemed so single-minded, being totally devoted to his language while caring little to none about theological concerns that might surround Latin issues. Going back to the example above, he didn’t seem to have thought through what the composition of different missals for every language might entail, he just didn’t want people garbling his beloved Latin during translation. The attitude he conveyed in his talk, which I have no way of knowing whether it is his general opinion or not, was that the Church can do whatever she wants as long as Latin survives as a force in our wider culture.

Hope for Latin yet. :thumbsup:

Booming sales for Pope Benedict’s encyclical

For the first time in modern history, the Latin version of a papal document had to go back to press, after the first print run was sold out. Originally 1,000 copies had been printed in Latin.

Full story


I was always taught (well being a post Vatican II child, I taught myself :frowning: ) that we should know the Latin because, unlike a common language, you do not get slang meanings. Therefor, what was meant two thousand years ago, means the same today.

:slight_smile: Yo! especially for Tee!


How many of us remember either reading – or better yet teaching – Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Black Arrow?

Now, correct me if I’m wrong:

In an opening scene one “Johnny Appleyard” – or some such a name – gets zapped by an arrow.

Some priest arranges a Mass for Johnny’s soul.

Some other fellows assist at this Mass “each one following along as he could, and repeating after the priest that which he knew.”

Of course!

Maybe I’m all wrong, and this scene is **really **in Gilbert’s version of Robin Hood.:smiley:

In either case it’s the same:

We can be sure that few were the people who “spoke Latin” the way we’re told is expected of us by the so-called “Papal Latinist.”

Yet, we can also be sure that by the countless millions they assisted at any number of Masses in 100% Latin (except for the homilies) received the sacraments – at least at the prescribed times – and saved their souls as well if not better than “we” do today.

Think about it!

The thrust off that Telegraph article is both malicious and cruel.


It has no other earthly validity…



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