26 June 2010

Pastor in valle ... again ...

... and, this time, I am going to be a mite critical. In the very impressive list that Pastor gives of topics which RC priests have to cover at seminary, I notice that Sacred Languages are not included. Among Anglicans, Greek at least is considered essential among those receiving a seminary formation. I rather thought that, last time I looked at the current CIC (not that we Anglicans, as everybody knows, know anything about Canon Law) it was prescribed that all ordinandi bene calleant in Latin. And in some dusty old box I have a CTS leaflet called Veterum Sapientia by one Roncalli on the importance of Sacred Languages ... especially Latin.

Yet, when our beloved Holy Father issued Summorum Pontificum, there were papish bishops all over the world who came up with bright little schemes whereby, despite the motu proprio, priests wishing to say the Mass of The Ages would have to pass some seedy little examination in Latin; bishops who are not known to be have been to the forefront hitherto in insisting that Canon Law requirements about the formation of clergy should be obeyed to the Latin and Greek letter. Shomething wrong here, shurely?

A couple of years ago Pam and I were being shown round the sacristy of a French Cathedral, in company with a couple of young French priests. That they were Traditionalist is suggested by the fact that, although they were on holiday, they were both going around in soutanes. Since my Latin is distinctly faster than my French, I enquired whether they could talk in Latin. They recoiled in embarrassment muttering some Froggy phrase that sounded like 'un peu'.

And, in Ireland, I have not always been impressed by the erudition of all the clergy. Some of the most abysmally dreadful sermons I have ever heard, infinitely worse than an Anglican NSM or Reader would preach, devoid of content, ill-informed, clearly unprepared, were delivered by a Canon who also rejoiced in the title of Vicar Forane ... which, since I am an Anglican ignorant of Canon Law, is a phrase I do not know the meaning of.

Is Pastor really sure that things are so hunkey dorey across the Tiber?

16 comments:

Christian said...

Well, in our defence, we do actually learn Latin as a standard part of the course but we do not learn it up to a level which would allow us to actually speak it. Just enough to make it though the fathers with a dictionary for the more difficult words is usually considered enough. In fact, I think that that is the traditional Canon Law definition of what "a knowledge of Latin" is.

Regarding the sermons: however well trained a person is, laziness and incompetence always shine though to one degree or another!

Joshua said...

This is indeed the Catholic Church's dirty little secret - that the sacred languages are shamefully neglected.

It is an open secret that the canonical requirements for Latin are... a dead letter!

Recall how the Catechism of the Catholic Church was drafted in French and only later done into Latin - there are no great stylists now like those who were employed after Trent to polish and repolish the Latin of the Roman Catechism.

I recall a priest telling me how, when Veterum Sapientia was published, he was a seminarian - and how upsetting it was when their lecturer suddenly started lecturing to them in Latin! For the knowledge of the Latin tongue had shamefully slid.

(On the other hand, I do recall an old priest reminiscing about the old Irish priest to whom he was curate - that priest was quite learned in Latin, and used to leave a quotation from Horace on the mantelpiece each morning, which the unhappy curate was expected to have construed by evening!)

To be blunt, it was said that priests just before the liturgical reforms often read the Mass and Office in some ignorance of what they were reading... hence the almost staggering burst of anti-Latin sentiment that involved such actual cases as religious dancing round bonfires of Latin liturgical books!

Since the liturgy was no longer in Latin, any pressing need to have any mastery of it was frankly lost, only too happily in the minds of most.

As for Greek, well, it would be nice if that had been a priority.

From what I know, seminarians now do some Latin, but Greek is optional.

******

As for preaching, well! With honourable exceptions, most Catholic priests I know are terrible preachers (the bad doctrine being as offensive as the sermons are boring). I have been privileged to know good, orthodox priests who are good, orthodox preachers, but they are the minority.

If the issue of bad preaching is raised, it is always said that "Of course the Protestants only have preaching; we have much more..."

Joshua said...

To be fair, the school system these days just doesn't train pupils up in Latin and Greek the way it happened in past ages...

I often wish now that I'd had the chance to do such studies; Australians, alas, even more so than Englishmen, are notoriously bad at bothering to learn any foreign languages; compare that to European schools where it is the norm for students to do three modern languages.

O tempora, O mores.

Fr Paul Spilsbury SSC said...

Vicar Forane = Rural Dean

motuproprio said...

Father, I think you overstate the knowledge of the Greek tongue now required of ordinands in the Church of England, certainly over the age of 30 it appears to be common to be 'excused Greek', and many candidates simply attend short unexamined courses on 'key words'.
Conversely, languages are only now starting to regain any prominence in Catholic seminaries, and homiletics is still woefully neglected. The greatest lacuna in Anglican formation has always been philosophy - but that is true of English education in general.

Christian said...

From what I have heard, motuproprio is quite right about philosophy. I did, however, read that there is a very specific reason for this omission. Apparently the "reformers" (being very anti-scholastic) hated the Roman view that theology should always be taught after a person had gained a good grounding in philosophy. I cannot remember exactly why they thought this but I think it was related to sola Scriptura. Incidentally, the theology section of Roman training is only three years long too. It is the philosophy and pastoral training which make up the other 3 years.

Pastor in Valle said...

Father, I am not going to dispute the points you and some commenters make, and thank you for stating them. I too think that the neglect of the great languages is dreadful, and ultimately self-defeating. I had to study Latin on my own (with all the attendant dangers), and was privately taught Greek and Hebrew at the seminary. At the time, merely to be suspected of knowing Latin was to court disapproval ('why do you think this is necessary in today's Church?'.
On homiletics, we had a great deal of preparation, but it was mostly practice. The idea was to develop the style of a fervorino, not using notes, always beginning with a story— the trouble with this is that it encourages laziness. If one does not need to write out a homily, then one is tempted to skimp preparation, and far too many do that.
Motuproprio is right that things are getting better in the seminaries now, but there is still a way to go. The other subjects are generally taught well now (I can speak really only about Wonersh) and the students get a good grasp of all the important things over their six years.

carl said...

FWIW: I am a RC seminarian in the United States. At my seminary, we're required to have 3 semesters of Latin, 3 of Greek, and 1 of Hebrew. From what I understand, after that most guys are able to read Latin and Greek well, and can recognize Hebrew letters.

Fr LR said...

Veritas vos liberabit. So let's get down to some serious ora et labora. Deo gratis, it is a problem that is rather painless to correct.

Patricius said...

Non tam praeclarum est scire Latine quam turpe est nescire...

Mgr Andrew Wadsworth said...

It is clear that throughout the eighties the teaching of Latin and Greek in British seminaries was patchy. I taught both languages at a British seminary more recently and I can assure you that the course went beyond the requirements of any theology degree at a British university and no student was excused from this requirement. Many Roman Catholic priests have a good reading knowledge of Latin although this is by no means to be taken for granted. Very few Catholics or Anglicans are able to converse in Latin. That said, I was recently at a meeting in Rome where there was no common language among the twenty priests present. We were addressed in Latin by a senior Curial Archbishop. He spoke without notes for about 15 minutes and was understood by all present.

Sir Watkin said...

I did, however, read that there is a very specific reason for this omission. Apparently the "reformers" (being very anti-scholastic) hated the Roman view that theology should always be taught after a person had gained a good grounding in philosophy. I cannot remember exactly why they thought this but I think it was related to sola Scriptura.

This doesn't seem quite right, at least as far as England is concerned (it may have been true on the Continent).

The English Classics-based curriculum inevitably involved exposure to a fair amount of philosophy, and "classical" Anglican theology from Hooker onwards has a strong Scholastic element (as indeed does Calvin's, but that's another matter ...).

motuproprio said...

So, another victim of the death of classical education. Don't forget a 'Grammar School' meant a school that taught Latin grammar.

GOR said...

Indeed Father, times have changed. In Minor Seminary in 1950s Ireland we had five years of Latin and Greek. Which was a good thing, as later in the 1960s in Rome all lectures and exams – oral and written - at the Angelicum and Gregorian universities, were in Latin. That has probably changed now and I suspect most lectures in Rome are now in Italian.

Here in the US, Latin was summarily dropped in seminaries decades ago, despite Papal and Conciliar admonitions to the contrary. This may account for some of the episcopal ‘roadblocks’ placed before use of the TLM by priests, not to mention the reluctance of some notable bishops to celebrate it themselves. Nemo dat quod non habet.

Sir Watkin said...

Don't forget a 'Grammar School' meant a school that taught Latin grammar.

And Greek.

motuproprio said...

Indeed!