The Latin liturgical language also has a pedagogical effect. The Latin word symbolizes and inspires the presence of objective validity. The substance of the liturgy exists above and independently of ourselves; it has a canonic power — we serve and assimilate, but we do not command it. The introduction of the vulgar tongue transformed first of all the mentality of the clergy: from this point onward, priests began to regard liturgy as an article of consumption, as a means. If the Latin had remained, the clergy would not have succumbed to temptation and would have been incapable of “dominating” the liturgy, of sitting in judgment upon it and submitting it to their whimsical improvising during the liturgy. This psychological effect is true not only for the texts but also, by metastasis, for all the parts and indeed for the whole of the liturgy. The language, the vocabulary, the linguistic discipline of the Latin could also have helped maintain purity and accuracy of diction amongst preachers and theologians. It would be helpful if the obligation to learn Latin could preserve the intellectual capacities and the theological discipline of the clergy.

When the “Tridentine” movement adheres to the Latin Mass, it adheres to something that is more than the language of celebration. Latin should be present in the Church in its full strength, and that not only in cathedrals and at international gatherings, but also in each parish church, in the seminaries, in the communities of laymen, in the religious culture of all persons: priests, monks, ecclesiastical ministers and individual faithful. In an age of general literacy when learning languages has become universal, it is false to say (more so than any time before) that one cannot learn and keep in everyday use a modicum of ecclesiastical Latin. The use of Latin could conjoin both individuals and communities, by links visible and unseen, with orthodox Catholicism. Let us recall the example of the traditional Jewish communities: Hebrew is the symbol and the means of adherence to religion, to the Torah, and to the nation. Jewish children learn to read and cantillate the Scripture in Hebrew from an early age, and thus are introduced into the religious life of the community. 

But on the other hand, it cannot be denied that for very many today, to say or sing the entire material of the liturgy “exclusively in Latin, has become very problematic. In the last century it became even for many a priest rather a symbol of obedience and devotion, than a real source of liturgical spirituality.

Laszlo Dobszay, The Bugnini-Liturgy and the Reform of the Reform (2003)


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