Latin -- the Church's Mother Tongue?
IT IS A remarkable fact that there are few problems of ecclesiastical reform which can excite such an emotional response in Catholics as that of Latin in the liturgy. All kinds of people -- both those who understand Latin and those who do not -- become quite passionate in their defence of Latin, although they always voice their arguments in their own language. The reasons put forward in favour of Latin in the liturgy are, however, generally of a cultural or aesthetic kind rather than of a pastoral nature. It is often forgotten, too, that all the arguments which a classics master may, with complete justification, put forward in support of the preservation of Latin in secondary education cannot be used to make out even an adequate case for the preservation of Latin in worship.
There seem to be a great number of emotional factors at work here, which make us view the whole question of Latin in the liturgy in the wrong proportions and in a false perspective. The arguments in favour of Latin are frequently exaggerated, and any discussion of the subject tends to be lifted up onto a quasi-dogmatic plane. Again and again one hears the same catch-phrases -- Latin is the language of the Church, Latin is the language of the mysterium tremendum, Latin is the sacred language of Catholicism, Latin is the Catholic Esperanto, and so on. What is the best way to reply to these arguments? Undoubtedly the most suitable thing to do -- and, bearing in mind the task facing the present Council, there is also an ur