So here's another tidbit for the Catholic-bashers out there. A law student at Liberty University, discussing my post Fixing the Mass, introduces his discussion of my position by saying:
Scott Carson is Roman Catholic. Now, don't discount his views immediately, I agree with Carson on a number of levels and I find it difficult to argue with him on levels in which I desire to disagree.Gee, uh, thanks, I guess. The writer goes on to disagree with me anyway, though he does say that it is only "an attempt".
If I could make any sense out of the writer's objection to my position, I would try to muster up a defense of myself, but I can't, so I won't. Instead, I will merely point out that my recommendation was restricted to a particular domain of discourse, namely, liturgy. I'm not recommending that everyone do all of their theological study, or even private prayer, in Latin, Greek, Aramaic, or Esperanto. I suppose it's possible that for some Protestants church is about the only time and place they think about God, so I could see why, for such people, having your church service conducted in Latin would constitute something of a stumbling block to gettin' right with the Lord. But even when I was an Episcopalian I had the impression that many Christian communities, including Protestant ones, were rather widely read in the subject of their religion, and many of them were also quite familiar with English translations of the Bible and did not need to find out everything from their pastor on Sunday morning, so I confess that I'm mystified by the idea that spending roughly an hour a week listening to the Language of the Martyrs praising God for his great mercy and compassion could be somehow detracting from my religious experience.
It is, in my view, rather ironic that certain sorts of Protestants would object to the use of Latin in a liturgical setting, because at least some of them go so far as to insist that church services, and even the Bible, itself ought (and here the "ought" has more than the usual normative force) to be available only in "King James' English", that is, that weird hybrid of Elizabethan popular and scholarly diction employed in the so-called "Authorized Version" of the Bible. Granted, that form of English (which, like Homeric Greek, represents a dialect that no real person ever spoke) is not as foreign to most people as Latin is, but it is still quite clearly "artificial" in some sense to read one's Bible in that language and to hear one's church services conducted in that language. Which is not to say that said language is not aesthetically pleasing. In a post from February of last year, in fact, I endorsed the Authorized Version (with Apocrypha, of course) as my own favorite for reading purposes. But aesthetics, while important, do not convey meaning all by themselves. Indeed, consider the word "Thou". This is a word that many people use in their "prayer language", if you will, when they converse with their Maker, precisely because they think it more "polite", somehow, than the more conventional "you". And yet "thou" is itself the familiar form, "you" the polite form; indeed, it's because "thou" is the familiar form that the English Divines elected to use it in discourse with God: God has declared himself our friend in His Son, and we are to address him as a friend. But for many people these days, this meaning of the word "thou" is not merely lost, it is outright reversed.
Misunderstanding a language that one ordinarily understands is, of course, quite different from not understanding a language at all, which is going to be the case for most folks when it comes to Latin. But I don't think it will kill people to learn to follow the Mass in Latin, nor do I think it will be damaging to anyone if they have to learn how to do that independently of understanding the Latin language. Some parts of the Mass are still said silently by the priest, and in the older form of the Mass many parts were; this is evidence enough that the Church herself does not require every lay person in the pew to follow every word said at a Mass in order for the Mass to be both meaningful and fully orthodox. Of course, whether the priest himself understand Latin is, sadly, not itself a settled question. But I'll leave that rant for another day.