Letters | Dead Language, Gender Handicaps

Readers Write

Bad Language

Rita Ferrone’s excellent column on “cup” vs. “chalice” (“Take This Chalice—Please,” July 11) will make little impression on the tin-eared members of the Vox Clara commission, largely responsible for the new translation of the Roman Missal. They “have been at a great feast of languages, and stolen the scraps.” The problem is Latin. Everything must sound like Latin. English must be “pinched in, and swelled out, and got up, and strapped down” like Dickens’s Mr. Turveydrop, who “had everything but any touch of nature.” The church adopted Rome’s imperialism, its legalism, and its language. Latin eventually ossified into a tradition and has now mutated into a fetish. Whether they understand it or not, some people really believe that Latin is the language of God, that it alone can express the deepest mysteries of liturgy and theology. Maybe it makes them feel more learned as well as pious. “Consubstantial” (actually a Latin word) sounds more impressive than “one in being” (mere English). Maybe it’s nostalgia, even for a past they never had. I fear it is futile to expect to break the stranglehold that Latin has on the Roman church, but stranger things have happened. I did not expect Pope Francis.

Peter Farley

Brooklyn, N.Y.

To read the rest of this article please login or become a subscriber.