Secular article on Latin Mass


The Mass in the vernacular was a noble experiment that didn’t quite work.

God Bless whoever wrote this article.

Interesting, indeed. Makes a whole lot of the points that many here routinely make.

It’s an editorial…it’s also entirely subjective. And that’s what this boils down to: some like the Mass in Latin, others don’t. We need to learn to get along.

Yes, it’s an editorial. No, it doesn’t all boil down to what people like and don’t like. He made some claims about the merits of Latin vs. the vernacular in liturgy which call for a better reply than “some like Mass in Latin, others don’t.”

Interesting bio on Mr. Gushee from the Palm Beach Post. Seems that Mr. Gushee is not even Catholic, rather an outsider looking in.

[FONT=times new roman][size=3]Steve Gushée[/size][/FONT] Steve Gushée has been an Episcopal clergyman for more than 35 years. He was born and raised in Detroit, served churches in Connecticut from 1966 to 1991 including ministry as the Dean of Christ Church Cathedral in Hartford.
Gushée graduated from Kent School in Connecticut, Brown University and The Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
He was the full-time religion writer for The Palm Beach Post until 1999, and his column continues to appear there weekly.
He is married and lives in West Palm Beach. He has three children and five grandchildren.


The Mass in the vernacular was a noble experiment that didn’t quite work. The Latin Mass might soon be back, and that could be a good thing for the Roman Catholic Church.
**The word “could” implies “possibility,” not “certitude.” **

Pope Benedict XVI plans to make it much easier for churches to use the 16th-century Latin Mass. That could help deepen faith and unite an American church whose members speak a veritable babel of languages. **It “could,” but it’s by no means certain that it will. **

The Catholic faith is, at its heart, a mystery. The Christian religion is best known in community. The Latin Mass enhanced mystery and created community for more than a thousand years and might again. The Mass in English has done neither. In his subjective opinion, it has done neither. I didn’t find in my attendance at the TLM that mystery was particularly enhanced. I’ve been to many, many Novus Ordo Masses where I was choking back the tears at Communion (admittedly, there have been a few where I wondered if I was too angry to go to Communion, but those have been a minority in the near 20 years that I’ve been a Catholic)

The Roman Catholic Church only began to use English in worship in the mid-1960s following the Second Vatican Council.
English might have helped the English-speaking faithful understand what worship was about, but explaining a mystery in any language is an oxymoron. The use of English in the church’s central act of worship turned a profoundly moving and, yes, mysterious experience into a dull, pedestrian meeting with little power to stir the spirit or motivate the faithful. **Here he mixes historical fact with subjective opinion. True, this WAVE of vernacular has only been since the council (the original switch from Greek to Latin was another “wave” of vernacular use, but that’s ignored by a lot of people advocating for Latin). I agree that it’s difficult to explain a mystery in any language, but it seems necessary (or Saint Patrick wouldn’t have pulled that shamrock out of the ground when he was trying to explain the All-Holy Trinity). He stated that such an effort was oxymoronic; well, it would have to be oxymoronic in Latin as well. Language (words) being symbols that vary from culture to culture, yes, they’re all going to be inadequate in the face of mystery, esp. the Mystery of Divine Grace and Redemption. But using a language you don’t understand seems illogical. **
St. Paul argued that the people should be taught in a language they understood. Sermons, instructions and teaching should be in such a language, but worship is another matter. Again, subjective opinion.

My opinion on this, of course, is that the Mass should be in the Vernacular, but should be a word-for-word, literal English translation of the Tridentine Mass, with the congregation saying everything that only the altar boys used to say.

Why the Tridentine Mass in English (and no ICEL versions)??
Simple, the prayers of the Tridentine Mass are incredibly rich, beautiful, and explicitly Catholic in doctrine, much more so than the New Rite.

The New Rite isn’t bad. But a vernacular use of the Tridentine Mass would, I believe, bear a tremendous amount of wonderful spiritual fruit.

God bless,
Jaypeeto4 (aka Jaypeeto3)


**The faithful offer worship to God who is not bound by any language. The soaring majesty of the Latin Mass served the church well long after few if any of the faithful understood the words. They knew the liturgy, the rhythm and the power of the service. *I know devout old Catholics who would disagree with this and who are thankful for the vernacular Mass. This is again subjective opinion. ***

**Latin words accompanied the action of worship but were essentially unnecessary. Everyone knew what was happening. With English, however, the words demand attention. The faithful attend the language rather than the mystery of redemption unfolding before them. Latin creates and preserves mystery. English dilutes it. ***This is very telling. He says that the words were “essentially unnecessary?” Why have them at all, then? OR, why not have them in English (or German, or Italian, or Croatian), if they are so unesscessary? He goes on with subjective opinion, that the English words demand attention, that the faithful attend to that rather than the Mystery. My experience (admittedly equally subjective) is quite the oposite. I never forget Who has been called down upon the altar or the unseen throngs surrounding me). Latin preserves mystery solely because very few people understand it, not because it’s inherently more mysterious or inherently lends itself more to mystery. ***

Latin also creates and preserves community. Any unfamiliar language will tend to bind together those who use is as a kind of tribal glue. ***This is not only subjective opinion, this is absurd. An “unfamiliar” language bind’s people together? ***
***Cultural groups are marked by language, languages that those groups understand. And in my subjective opinion, on a pragmatic, practical level, the return of any all Latin Mass, either the TLM or the Novus Ordo, is going further the gaps between people. I don’t know the people in my parish who attend the 6:30 Mass, or the 8:00, or the 11:00, or the Polish Mass or the Philipino Mass. I doubt I will know, any more or any better, the people who choose to come to some future Latin Mass. ***

One of the most important tools Charlemagne used to unite his dispirited empire in the early ninth century was the Latin Mass. Alcuin, the emperor’s liturgical genius, enforced the same worship everywhere in Charlemagne’s vast realm, imposing a religious conformity that served to hold the empire together.
(in jest, for the humor impaired) Then let’s just cut to English, which almost all the world speaks as a second language ANYWAY. That way, people would be using and hearing a tongue that they already understand.

I do not believe that Latin is more sacred than any other language. I believe that it is important, I believe that our priests should be trained in it (and any lay people that wish to be), just as I believe that they should be trained in Greek and Hebrew. If we loose it, then we loose our antecedents. I think Latin should be used in international gatherings (though if we supposedly would understand what’s going on in Latin, I supposed we’d understand what’s going on in German, or Italian, or Croatian). I think we should obey the Holy Father and learn some of the prayers in Latin (indeed, if he pitched the vernacular Mass tomorrow, I hope I’d be given the grace of an obedient will to submit). I just don’t think an all-Latin Mass is necessary or even desireable. As I’ve said before, I think the image of an English speaking priest standing before an English speaking congregation and addressing God in a language that congregation doesn’t understand while they follow along reading a translation of what he’s saying into English is a bit illogical. And God, as the author states, is not bound by any language. He understands the vernacular Mass as well as He does the Latin Mass.

I still say that we would have avoided all manner of problems (well, some of them, at least) if they had simply done as you suggest here in the first place.

Latin creates and preserves mystery. English dilutes it.

Amen! Preach it brother!:amen: Sometimes it takes someone looking in from the outside to see the obvious.

the original switch from Greek to Latin was another “wave” of vernacular use, but that’s ignored by a lot of people advocating for Latin).

Was it though? Latin was never really the “vernacular” during this time-what would have most people spoken? What was the “lingua franca”? It wasn’t ecclesiastical Latin, often pidgin forms of Latin, or local tongues were the true “vernacular”. Now, it would be true that Latin was widely known by the educated but it would not be correct to say that Latin was substituted for Greek for the same reasons as some after VII thought we needed all vernacular Mass.

*****I do not believe that Latin is more sacred than any other language. *****

I do agree that Mass should be available in the vernacular, but Blessed John XXIII himself indicated the unique position that Latin has as the Western Church’s own truly sacred language:

I don’t argue that everyone could understand classical Latin, but neither was the Church seeking another strictly sacral language. If they were, it would have been really simple to hang onto the one they had: Greek. AND more people would have come close to understanding the Latin.

At any rate, I’ll be hanging onto my vernacular mass.

This is a matter of discipline, is it not? Not something that we must accept de fide? I don’t believe that any language here on earth is inherently or ontologically sacred, Blessed John XXIII’s opinion to the contrary notwithstanding (and the irony of that is that I’m regularly accused of “papalolotry” on these very forums). I shall assume that if radical traditionalists can bust the post-concilliar popes’ chops on any number of issues, I’m free to dissent on this?

Actually, I agree with the pontiff. I just don’t agree that the vernacular Mass is bad and I hope, as Cardinal Arinze put it, “the vernacular Mass isn’t going anywhere.”

some like the Mass in Latin, others don’t. We need to learn to get along.

Yeah…but I wonder if you’d dare say that even 70 years ago. 70 years ago there was no talk of accomodating peoples’ preferences for the vernacular. It was Latin and that was it. And I would have it that way again.

Pax vobiscum!

The faithful attend the language rather than the mystery of redemption unfolding before them.

This, I have found, is quite true of many many Catholics. I know many that simply refuse to attend a Mass in Latin, TLM or NO. They only want Mass in English. “Pre-Vatican II” has become a derogatory phrase among many. Lots of Catholics will happily sing a Spanish song in Mass, but try to get them to sing a Latin song and watch out!

In Christ,

Ah, very good article. Even though the author is not Catholic, as a neutral observer he has really expressed the facts.

I doubt that it will go back to that (do you honestly, in your heart of hearts, imagine that it will? I’m not talking about what you want, I’m talking about what you objectively think). You may well, however, have the TLM in Latin very soon AND you can have the NO anytime, provided you can find a priest who’s willing to say it. I envision a few parishes with a TLM, maybe an NO in Latin as well, as a part of their weekend Mass schedules, but I believe that the vernacular mass is here to stay. OR alternately (even more divisively, but whatever), whole parishes within a diocese that are solely Latin language. But I’d bet the vernacular Mass is here to stay. Most people don’t want an abusive or innovative Mass, but I bet most people want Mass in their own language. That is, of course, my subjective opinion. I’ve no way to prove it.

A fact is proveable. Any educated (or even experienced) person knows the difference between opinion and fact.

And that’s sad, at least about the singing. However, given the choice, I wouldn’t attend a Mass in Latin if one were available in my native tongue. Why would I (for reasons I’ve listed innumberable times)? Now, if I found myself at World Youth Day or an international conference, or the Holy See, obviously, I’d go to Mass, in any other language including Latin (though I’ve noted most Masses out of the Holy See seem to be in Italian, which I actually and pleasantly am able to make out, due to the fact that I’m pretty fair in Spanish). But why would I otherwise?

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