Friday, January 16, 2009

What Do They Mean, Primary?

The Vatican has just completed its report on the health of U.S. seminaries, which resulted from questions about the formation of priests brought on by the sexual abuse crisis. The report finds that most American seminaries are healthy and that seminarian morality has improved, particularly in regard to homosexual behavior.

- Catholic News Agency, Jan 15, 2009

Roman Catholic bloggers and friends alike wonder if journalists actually read the document in question past the first three lines.

How US Roman Catholic seminaries really fare, however, is none of my concern. What I am particularly perplexed by is this line from the report:

"It is, unfortunately, rare for American seminarians to have a proper grounding in Latin, which, as well as being of use for the liturgy, is indispensable if students are to have the ability to consult primary theological sources."

...Latin? Primary theological sources?




Blogger Josephus Flavius said...

While Greek, Syriac, etc. are of course exceptionally necessary for a reading of Church Fathers I venture to guess that they are not saying that Latin is a replacement for an understanding of those other languages and are in fact talking about those documents written by the Latin Church in Latin for the benefit of Latins.

So if we take the Russian writers who wrote in... Russian... I doubt anyone would argue about the importance of being able to read the works of those men in Russian to better understand the nuances that are not immediately available in translation.

An example of this is the USCCB's discussion of prayers translated from Latin into English. Much discussion has been made about whether one should try and conform to the syntax in Latin prayers or revise them so that they take on a new beauty based on English poetic possibilities. In attempting to convey the Latin without a firm hold of what they were doing, some bishops tried to simply drop in more "familiar" words in lieu of the best translations. Case in point: Ineffabilis.

Anyway, that is my take on what primary means. I don't think they were making a silly argument that fails to acknowledge the catholicity of Greek in the Church through the ages.

Thu Jan 22, 01:15:00 am 2009  
Blogger Rita said...

The language of the Roman Catholic Church is Latin. Over 1000 years of writings and all of the pontifical statements have been written in that Latin. That does not discount the Original Greek or early writings in other languages. Just because it is not a source for the Orthodox Churches, does not mean it is not a primary source for Roman Catholics. Primary means written in its original, untranslated form.

Thu Jan 22, 01:38:00 am 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Latin is another language of patristic sources, mandatory in patristic studies. Latin was the langauge of Tertullian (who, unfortunately, later in life converted to Montanism), Cyprian of Carthage, Gregory the Great, Augustine of Hippo, Ambrose of Milan, and Jerome. Latin was also lingua franca of the orthodox monastic scholars on the British Islands, where orthodox faith and learning flourished very early.

Thu Jan 22, 05:23:00 am 2009  
Blogger T. Ambrose Nazianzus said...

I'm always somewhat disappointed with the Church, for disregarding Greek and Hebrew in favor of Latin. Latin is crucial for an understanding of theology in the West (from Augustine on up), but the basics of our faith were hammered out by the East, including the Church creeds, which would make Greek, Syriac, and Coptic also useful languages to know.

Sadly, most parish priests have little time to consult Greek or Hebrew sources in the composition of their homilies (let alone Latin), which is disappointing (almost equally disappointing as their preaching skills).

Tue Mar 10, 08:27:00 am 2009  
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