Apologetics for the Masses - Issue #179

Bible Christian Society

General Comments

Hey folks, two things:

1) I really want to thank everyone who responded to my semi-annual appeal a few weeks ago. That was the best response I think we’ve had in the last few years and it has really made a difference. We’re not out of the hole yet, but your generosity has helped us get several steps up the ladder. My heartfelt thanks to each and every one of you. Please continue to keep the Bible Christ Society in your prayers, and please be assured of ours for you.

2) I want to tell you about an organization that I believe is going to help change this world we live in. It’s the Men of St. Joseph. They started in Mobile, Alabama, and have been growing like wildfire. As Director of Evangelization for the Diocese of Birmingham, I’ve been working with them to try and start some chapters here – first one should be up and running in the not-too-distant future.

I’ve met the guys who are running this outfit and they are spot on in their faith and in their commitment to bringing men, and through the men their families, closer to Jesus Christ. They are dedicated to giving Catholic men the spiritual tools and structure they need to make real changes in their lives and in the lives of those around them. They are dedicated to the mission, as they say it, of “putting the family in the hands of the Father.”

They have a simple model that any of you guys, or any of the husbands of you ladies, could start at your own parish without any trouble. I strongly encourage you to check out their website: www.menofstjoseph.com.

The website provides information for how to get a chapter started at your parish, what the format is, and so on. They have a FAQs page that gives you a lot of information and a Contact page you can use to shoot them an email for even more information – please email them and let them know I sent you. Also, check out the “Blog” page…among other things, they carry my weekly articles that I write for my diocesan newspaper.

No fees, no costs. I’ve already seen some men catch on fire with the Holy Spirit because of this group…you need to check them out and start a chapter in your parish. I want to see this group spread all over the world.


Okay, above I mentioned the weekly column I write for my diocesan newspaper, the One Voice. In the past few weeks, I’ve been responding to a question that a woman sent in regarding the increased use of Latin in the Novus Ordo Mass, and the “resurrection” of the Traditional Latin Mass. While I ponder who my next “target” will be for the newsletter, I thought I would share this series of articles with you. I hope you enjoy them.


Q:     I have been attending a Catholic Church in the diocese in which the priest and congregation sing some of the parts in Latin.  I am curious as to why the Catholic Church is bringing this back and in some parishes even saying the mass entirely in Latin.  It appears that the Church is going back to traditionalism.  How does this (Latin) entice new people to the Catholic faith?  If I were looking for a Christian faith to join and visited a parish with Latin, I would take Catholicism off my list.  I, myself, have considered looking elsewhere for a new faith because of this.  Shouldn’t the church be looking forward and seeking out modern ways to entice newcomers?  To many outsiders, the Catholic Mass is already very dry and boring with all of its prayers through Mass, let alone adding in Latin.  Please advise and help me understand the Latin importance in this modern age.   


There are a number of things here that I would like to address, so it seems that this will undoubtedly be a two or three part response.  First of all, I am very concerned that you would look elsewhere for “a new faith,” because Latin is being used more often in the liturgy.  The question I would ask you is this: On what do you base your faith?  Either you believe that the Catholic Church has the fullness of the truth, or you don’t.  I believe the Catholic Church does indeed have the fullness of the truth, as given to us by Jesus Christ through His Apostles, so if the Church started using Tuareg, Aramaic, ancient Greek, Taushiro, Kaixana, or even Klingon, in the liturgy, I would still be Catholic, because my faith is not based on the language or languages used by the Church in its liturgy.  It is based upon Jesus Christ and His truth.

So, if you believe the Catholic Church has the fullness of the faith as given by Jesus Christ to His Apostles, and as transmitted by those same Apostles to their successors, the Bishops, and to us by the Bishops, guided by the Holy Spirit, down through the centuries, then could singing a few prayers in Latin really cause you to walk away from the truth of Jesus Christ?  Conversely, if you do not believe the Catholic Church has the fullness of the truth as given to us by Jesus, then you need to either examine more closely the claims of the Church, or you need to go in search of that church that does indeed have the fullness of the truth of Jesus Christ.  You see, Jesus founded a church, and the church Jesus founded does not have partial truth or half truth, it has the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  And, if the Catholic Church doesn’t have the fullness of the truth, then it is not the Church founded by Jesus, and you need to be out there looking for the church that was.  So, you really need to think about and pray about, what exactly it is you base your faith on.

Now, regarding the Latin.  I’ll be honest and say that I am not necessarily a big fan of the Latin language, either.  Yet, even though it is being used more in the liturgy, I am still Catholic.  I’m also not a big fan of bad singing, bad homilies, bad theology, or bad liturgy, and I have experienced plenty of all of those things at one or more of the parishes I’ve been in during the 22 years since I’ve come back into the Church.  Yet, I am still Catholic.  I am also not a big fan of the oftentimes unnecessary use of extraordinary ministers at Communion, the general lack of reverence at Mass, the lack of modesty in dress at Mass, and don’t even get me started on the state of catechetics and evangelization in the Church.  Yet, I am still Catholic.  And, you know what, I have never ever liked the whole sign of peace thing.  Yet, I am still Catholic. 

In other words, things are not the way that I necessarily would like them to be in the Church, either.  Well, too bad for me.  So, am I going to leave the Eucharist, the Sacraments, the true priesthood, the Communion of Saints, the Vicar of Christ, and possibly jeopardize my eternal salvation because of all of these things that I don’t like?  I don’t think so.  The truth is the truth, and to stick with the truth oftentimes requires sacrifices – sometimes big sacrifices, and sometimes small sacrifices. 

Whenever something goes on in the Church that I don’t like, all I have to do is look at the Crucifix and I think to myself, “I guess He didn’t much like being nailed to a cross, either, did He?”  And my problems get put in their proper perspective.

Part II

Having discussed last week why being upset over an increased use of Latin in the liturgy is not a good reason to look “elsewhere for a new faith,” I want to now turn my attention to the use of Latin in the liturgy.  There are two distinct, yet related, issues here: first, the use of Latin in the Novus Ordo (the new Mass), which is the Mass we are all familiar with; second, the more frequent use of the Latin Mass itself, also known as the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, and all of the recent commotion around it.

Okay, so why Latin?  Why are we seeing more parishes use Latin in parts of the Mass, the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God), for example?  Well, the biggest reason I can think of is: because the Church tells us to.  At the Second Vatican Council, the Church said, “The use of the Latin language…is to be preserved in the Latin rites,” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, #36).  Yet, contrary to the very clear words and intent of the Council Fathers, the Latin language was quite often abandoned wholesale in the years immediately following Vatican II. 

Commenting on that situation, Bishop Slattery of Tulsa had this to say,  “…it was not a wise decision to do away with Latin in the Mass.  How that happened, I don’t know; but the fathers of the Council never intended us to drop Latin. They wanted us to hold on to it and, at the same time, to make room for the vernacular…”

But, why does the Church tell us to hang on to Latin in the liturgy?  Well, one reason is because Latin is the official language of the Church.  All Church documents are promulgated first and foremost in Latin.  The papal encyclicals – first done in Latin.  The Catechism – first done in Latin.  All documents, liturgical or otherwise – first done in Latin.  Truth be told, it is a bit of a misnomer to call the old Mass the “Latin” Mass, because the Novus Ordo, the new Mass, was first promulgated in Latin.  Which is why we are soon to get a new Mass translation, because the current English translation was not as faithful to the Latin as it could have been.  So, both the old and the new Mass can rightly be called “Latin” masses.

Another reason the Church tells us to hang on to Latin in the liturgy, is because it connects us to the past, to our traditions.  For over a thousand years our forefathers in the faith worshipped in Latin.  To banish Latin to the outer darkness is like banishing grandpa to the outer darkness because he only speaks Italian, or Polish, or whatever. The Latin language is a part of our story, a part of who we are, a part of our heritage, as Catholics. 

I mentioned last week that I am not a “big fan” of the Latin language.  That does not mean, however, that I do not respect the language.  I simply prefer English to Latin.  That is the result of an American nativistic bias more than anything else, though.  I suppose if Latin were used in some prayers on a regular basis, not just once in a blue moon, and if our missalettes had the Latin version of some of the prayers, I could grow more accustomed to the language.  You know, as Christians, I think to harbor bias that is based more on a lack of familiarity with someone or something, rather than anything else, is not really becoming of us.  I think we should try to be more tolerant and open-minded with regard to such things.

Part III
Having discussed in my last article the reason for the increased use of Latin in the Novus Ordo (the new Mass), I want to now address the question of the resurrection of the “traditional Latin Mass” (TLM), also known as the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.  Why is the Church bringing back the TLM, or “going back to traditionalism” as you put it?

The very question itself displays the reason why.  Blessed John Paul II, along with Pope Benedict, both of whom were participants in Vatican Council II, recognized that the changes in the Mass, in the liturgy, that occurred after Vatican II, went beyond what the Fathers of that Council intended.  The Council Fathers wanted a reform of the liturgy or, I think it is more proper to say, they wanted an authentic renewal of the liturgy, but somehow things went a bit too far.  It is apparent from reading the documents of Vatican II, that the Council Fathers wanted a renewal of the liturgy that built upon the old and which reflected continuity between the old and the new.  Instead, the baby was tossed out with the bath water, so to speak.

The fact that you, as well as many others, are asking questions like this, speaks to the point – we Catholics are generally ignorant of our liturgical patrimony, our liturgical heritage.  This is because the liturgical reforms of the 60’s and 70’s, which were supposed to make Catholics more aware of what is going on at the Mass, to draw Catholics into a deeper participation in the Mass and a deeper understanding of the Mass have, for the most part, failed in their purpose and intent.  Ignorance of our liturgical heritage, of which the TLM is a significant part, has led to us being generally even more ignorant of the liturgy than we were before.  Why do we do what we do at Mass?  What is the meaning of the Mass?  What are the meanings of the words, the prayers, the actions of the priest and the congregation?  What is the purpose of the Mass?  In large measure, Catholics generally have little to no understanding of the underlying purpose and meaning of the Mass, nor of its connection to the Old and New Testaments and to the Sacred Tradition of the Church. 

I would argue that a liturgical rupture of sorts, occurred between the Traditional Latin Mass and the Novus Ordo, and that rupture has led to Catholics being less knowledgeable about the Mass and less engaged in the Mass than would have been the case if there had been greater continuity between the old and the new.  If the actual words of Vatican II had been followed, I believe we would have seen a much smoother transition between the two forms of the Mass. 

As I mentioned in my last article, if one actually reads the documents of Vatican II, they would see that nowhere does the Council call for the wholesale abandonment of Latin in the liturgy.  In fact, it is just the opposite (Sacrosanctum Concilium, #36).  Nowhere does the Council call for Gregorian chant to be abandoned.  In fact, it is just the opposite: “Gregorian chant, as proper to the Roman liturgy, should be given pride of place,” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, #50).  Nowhere does the Council call for individual “tinkering” with the Mass.  In fact, it is just the opposite: “Therefore no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority,” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, #22). Nowhere does the Council call for, and I know this is a hot button issue with a lot of folks, but nowhere does the Council call for the priest to turn around and face the people rather than face God.  To quote then Cardinal Ratzinger on this, “To the ordinary churchgoer, the two most obvious effects of the liturgical reform of the Second Vatican Council seem to be the disappearance of Latin and the turning of the altars towards the people. Those who read the relevant texts will be astonished to learn that neither is in fact found in the decrees of the Council.” 

Abandoning, almost overnight, the more than thousand year heritage of the Traditional Latin Mass has led to an even greater liturgical ignorance among Catholics than otherwise would have been the case and has resulted in many, such as yourself, having what seems to be a visceral reaction to that heritage and anything associated with it, and it has also left some open wounds – wounds that need to be healed.  And, it has led to some liturgical “creativity” which I’m sure the Council Fathers never intended.

Part IV

You are not the only person that I have seen or heard getting angry when it comes to Latin and to the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM).  But, what you need to understand, is that when the Novus Ordo Mass was introduced, and the TLM was abandoned virtually overnight, it created some deep wounds…wounds within the Body of Christ…that needed to be healed.  A lot of people felt like they had had their heart ripped out.  Many tried to adapt and adjust, but then they were almost immediately faced with a certain amount of "creativity" in the liturgy that only wounded them more deeply.

In spite of the words of Vatican II, individual priests began to tinker with the liturgy to make it more in line with their own personal opinions of what the Mass should be and with their own private vision of the "spirit of Vatican II."  Some priests would often change the wording of prayers – adding words here, taking them out there – or they would ignore the rubrics and other such liturgical abuses. Such abuses, among other things, led to a schism here and a schism there and to many people simply leaving the Church altogether.  The Body of Christ was wounded.  There were also many who did not go into schism, but were deeply wounded by these abuses, nonetheless.  And, as Scripture tells us, what affects one part of the Body affects all parts of the Body. 

The liturgy of the Church – any authentic liturgy of the Church – whether in English or in Latin, should not be a source of pain, nor a source of anger and bitterness, for anyone who calls themself a Catholic.  That is why Pope Benedict has taken steps to, in essence, reevaluate the liturgical reforms of the 60’s and 70’s in light of the Church’s ancient liturgical tradition.  And the first step in this reevaluation is to go back – back to the point where the wounds were inflicted, back to the point of rupture between the old and the new – and try to restore the connection between the two forms of liturgy.  This, he hopes, will heal wounds, promote harmony, and create an atmosphere where an authentic renewal of the liturgy may flourish.  
In a letter to the Bishops that accompanied his Motu Proprio, “Summorum Pontificum” (a document from the Pope making the Traditional Latin Mass more available to all), Pope Benedict said, “I now come to the positive reason which motivated my decision to issue this Motu Proprio…It is a matter of coming to an interior reconciliation in the heart of the Church.” In making the TLM more available, the Pope is helping this reconciliation to occur by allowing each of us to rediscover our liturgical heritage and to participate in this liturgical “treasure,” as he has called it.  And it seems our Pope knows his business, because his actions have already led to some healing in the Body of Christ, as we have seen right here in our own diocese.  And they have led to discussions that may result in even greater healing in the Body in the future.

As I have stated previously, Latin is not necessarily my cup of tea, so I can somewhat understand where you’re coming from.  But, instead of reacting with anger and bitterness, we need to be a bit more open-minded and try to understand what the Church is doing and why.  And, we need to do our part to help promote the healing, the reconciliation, and the authentic liturgical renewal that our Pope is trying to engender.  If that means that we have to come out of our comfort zones a bit, well then, so be it.  Just look at the Cross and ask yourself if He would do any less for you.  As Archbishop Fulton Sheen used to say, “Jesus came to comfort the afflicted, and to afflict the comfortable.” 

In Conclusion

I hope all of you have a happy, and holy, Thanksgiving holiday. My family and I will be giving thanks for all of the treasures that we have been blessed with, and that includes each and every one of you. Godspeed.

Nunc est tempus, hic que locus!

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Apologetics for the Masses