Modernists hold the Vat. II to be a farewell to the culture heritage and the venerable tradition of the Church, and they depict Pope John XXIII, the Council’s Pope, as their champion in abolishing what our ancestors held to be good and dear. What an abominable distortion of history! The Vat. II document, Sacrosanctum Concilium, stresses the importance of Latin as a Liturgical language, and Pope John XXIII issued on 22th. Feb. 1962 the Apostolic Constitution Veterum Sapientia, in which the eminent role of Latin for the formation of priests is emphasised. Here is a report appeared in L’Osservatore Romano on 25th. Feb. 2012 which reminds us of the message in Veterum Sapientia:
Why Priests should study Latin
Below are excerpts from one of the talks given at the conference dedicated to the 50 th anniversary of the Apostolic Constitution “Veterum sapientia”. The conference was organized by the Pontificium Istitutum Altioris Latinitatis of the Pontifical Salesian University.
The second half of the 20th century is marked — and not only on an ecclesial level — by a divide in the history of the use of Latin. Fading for centuries as an instrument of erudite communication, the language has endured as a subject of educational programmes in secondary schools and, in general, in the Catholic Church as a means of expressing the Liturgy and through the transmission of the faith and of the great literary patrimony which ranges from the theo-philosophical speculation to law, from mystique and hagiography to the art of writing treaties to music and even to the precise nature of the sciences, including the natural sciences.
With time, however, at least in terms of propaganda, Latin became, in large part, the prerogative of the clerical formation in the Catholic Church to the point of causing a spontaneous, perhaps inappropriate, identification between the Roman Church and the linguistic entity of Latin, which in this critical phase found apparent strength.
“Apparent”, because if we review those circumstances today, everything seems to point to the address given by Blessed John XXIII on 7 September 1959 to a conference of Latin scholars.
His words went unheard and the issue of the use and even the teaching of Latin, also in an ecclesial context, most likely took a path of radical reorganization. “Unfortunately there are many who, overly seduced by the extraordinary progress of science, have presumed to reject or restrict the study of Latin and other subjects of this kind”.
However, despite the great difficulties, today priests are convinced that the goal of studying Latin is to align a civilization with its values, interests and meanings, assessing its teachings and theoretical foundations through a critical understanding of the present. It is a decisively encouraging sign for the world and the modern Church, able to look at the study of the past not as superfluous or retrograde, needlessly focused on recuperating something which has faded, but as a return, direct and without intermediation, to a message of extraordinary doctrinal, cultural and pedagogical wealth. A signal of an intellectual heritage too vast, fruitful and rooted to let it be imagined any caesura of its roots.
Currently it seems improbable that one could make a priest appreciate, and even less in the beginning of his formation, the value of Latin as a language endowed with nobility of structure and with words, able to foster a concise, rich, harmonious style, full of majesty and of dignity, which allows for clarity and gravity, created to advance every form of culture, the humanitatis cultus, between peoples.
It is in through this recovery of one’s own cultural identity, this profound revival of the motivations of the presence of the Church in society which leads to the importance of Latin in the academic studies of those aspiring to the priesthood, freeing the language from any doubt concerning its practical function, which is both incorrect and reductive, and re-establishing its place as a very useful material in formation.
It is in this prospective that Paul VI, in the beginning of his Motu Proprio Studia latinitatis — with which he instituted the Salesian University the Pontifical Institute for the Advanced Study of Latin — firmly asserted the close tie between the study of Latin and priestly formation, reaffirming the unavoidability of the non exigua scientia of Latin.