The Latin Mass Two Sides of the Fence

UPDATE:  The coverage of the opinions of Bishops, Catholic writers, liturgists and the faithful has been so abundant that we believe it merits

a separate page to provide links to the stories and analyses. Coming Soon.


Two Sides

of the Fence:

One Holy




“Vatican II outlawed Latin!”

– A direct quote from a Sister of Saint Dominic who holds a Master of Theology Degree and works as a pastoral associate.

The quote above is, unfortunately, typical of many women religious who wield influence over educational institutions, parishes and ministries throughout the United States.

The almost complete disappearance of the once universal Latin from the world’s Catholic churches since the Second Vatican Council was not – as some Catholics imagine – called for by the Council. Its intention was for Latin and the vernacular to exist side by side in the liturgy of the Church.

In Catholic high schools throughout the country, Latin is still offered as a language choice. The same holds true for Catholic universities, although classes are generally quite empty. Sadly, the study of this language is not paired with religion classes that explore the history of the church by including a visit to a Latin Mass.

In parishes across the nation where bi-lingual and tri-lingual Masses in English, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese have turned into a cacophony that no one understands fully, perhaps it’s time to turn back to a little bit of Latin.

In the Papal Address for July 28, 1999, Pope John Paul II spoke on the Catholic doctrine of Hell.

The pilgrims gathered were from many nations and the Pope greeted the crowds in many languages: French, English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Czech, Hungarian, Lithuanian, and Italian. There was also a group of international students gathered for a summer Latin program present, so the Holy Father greeted them in the official language of the Church: Latin.

“We strongly encourage you all that by diligently studying and effectively teaching (Latin) you may pass on like a torch the understanding, love, and use of this same immortal language in your own countries.”

So what happened?  That’s a big question.

If you’d like to learn more, please explore our resources.

The Vatican II Popes on Latin

pope20john20xxiii20portrait-1094461“The Catholic Church has a dignity far surpassing that of every merely human society, for it was founded by Christ the Lord. It is altogether fitting, therefore, that the language it uses should be noble, majestic and non-vernacular.”

Pope John XXIII, Veterum Sapientia, 1962

pope20paul20vi20portrait-7318914“The Latin language is assuredly worthy of being defended with great care instead of being scorned; for the Latin Church it is the most abundant source of Christian civilization and the richest treasury of piety… we must not hold in low esteem these traditions of your fathers which were your glory for centuries.”

Pope Paul VI, Sacrificium Laudis, 1966

Modern Popes on Latin


To all those Catholic faithful who feel attached to some previous liturgical and disciplinary forms of the Latin tradition I wish to manifest my will to facilitate their ecclesial communion by means of the necessary measures to guarantee respect for their rightful aspirations. In this matter I ask for the support of the bishops and of all those engaged in the pastoral ministry in the Church.”

Pope John Paul II, Ecclesia Dei, 1988

pope20benedict20xvi20portrait-3652735Pope Benedict XVI has collided with novelties in the post-conciliar Church. He has had harsh words for the transformation of the mass and liturgies “into spectacles that require directors of genius and talented actors.” He has said similar things about the dismantling of sacred music. “How often we celebrate only ourselves, without even taking Him into account,” he commented in his meditations for the Stations of the Cross last Good Friday. Here, “Him” refers to Jesus Christ, the one forgotten by liturgies changed into convivial gatherings. (Chiesa, April 20, 2005)

It’s no wonder that the Sister of Saint Dominic quoted above and others of a similar mindset literally wept upon hearing that the Holy Spirit guided the election of Pope Benedict XVI.

What happens now?  The secular press usually gets is wrong, but in this case, we think U.S. News and World Report has some fairly good insights about the young, conservative priests who are beginning to populate our parishes.

Back to Exploring the Latin Mass

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Christine Hirschfeld

I never intended to run a Catholic antiquities and book business. Not in a million years. As a cradle Catholic, I grew up in a house that was filled with Catholic images and sacramentals not to mention an abundance of excellent books provided by family members who worked in publishing houses famous for their Catholic catalogues. The beautiful images and concepts presented in those books certainly had their effect in enhancing my identity as a Catholic. As the years passed, even in the midst of very un-Catholic settings, I became a repository for my friends’ Catholic “found objects.” Eventually, I had a family of my own. We’re a small family. There are just three of us. And two of us were born with the “junk collecting gene.” Garage sales attracted us like a magnet.
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