Latin vs. Vernacular: May Both Sides Win

In his otherwise fine article “Rome Reaches Out to Tridentine Mass Followers” (Oct. 22-28), Register correspondent Edward Pentin fails to make an important distinction: The Mass in Latin is not synonymous with the Tridentine Mass. Similarly, Mass in the vernacular is not synonymous with the new Mass (Novus Ordo Missae) or the Mass of Vatican II, as it is sometimes called.

As its Latin title indicates, the Novus Ordo was written in Latin. Any translations of the original Latin into vernacular languages must be approved by the appropriate authorities before they can be used. The original Latin, however, can always be used by any priest without additional approvals.

Mr. Pentin raises some very good points about the intent of the Council Fathers to retain the use of Latin in the Mass. What he fails to note is the possibility, and I believe advisability, of celebrating the Novus Ordo, at least in part, in the original Latin.

More and more parishes are returning to a minor usage of Latin in the Mass by singing the Sanctus or Agnus Dei during Lent. Some even incorporate Greek (the Church’s first official language) by singing a Kyrie in the Penetential Rite. On solemn occasions, some priests will recite or even sing the Eucharistic Prayer in Latin.

While I appreciate the Tridentine form of the Mass, I find the use of the vernacular language in the Liturgy of the Word to be most appropriate. Such a Novus Ordo in Latin is celebrated on a daily basis at Thomas Aquinas College, my alma mater. I direct a choir that sings Gregorian Chant and sacred polyphony at a beautiful Latin Novus Ordo Mass on a monthly basis. In both cases, the readings are proclaimed in English.

These are just two examples of authentic interpretations of the call of the Second Vatican Council for revisions to the Mass while still preserving the use of the Latin language. I’m sure other Register readers could bring to light other fine examples of “mixed-language” Masses. There is a middle ground in this Latin vs. vernacular controversy.

Michael A. Six

Bath, Pennsylvania

Hymnal Intrigue

I became interested in Darryl Podunavac’s essay “The Making Of ‘Faith of Our Fathers’” (Commentary & Opinion, Oct. 29 - Nov. 4), on the history of Father Frederick William Faber’s hymn, as I have distinct memories of how the hymn is sung differently depending on which side of the Atlantic one is on. Mr. Podunavac doesn’t seem to treat of this, so I thought he (and your readers) might be interested in this tidbit.

Father Faber had another hymn, “Jesus My Lord, My God, My All.” In the 1950s, for some reason, this Eucharistic hymn had two melodies. One was more sedate than the other. Which melody is Father Faber’s original? I have no way of knowing. The less sedate melody was to me the more attractive since it had more of a marching-tune style (like the Church Militant marching up the aisle to receive Communion, sort of).

At that time, the only people I could find who sang “Faith of Our Fathers” were Protestants. I seem to remember that Perry Como had a version of it. I think this sedate melody is the one to which Mr. Podunavac refers. However, in 1956, I went to Ireland and the United Kingdom. I entered the seminary in Ireland and stayed two years before finishing theology at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. and being ordained for the Diocese of Albany, N.Y.

Enter melody No. 2 of “Faith of Our Fathers,” which I have since supposed to be the actual melody of Father Faber since it is the melody used in the United Kingdom. Lo! This is the same melody as the upbeat version of Father Faber’s “Jesus My Lord.”

Bottom line from my experience: Each of these two Frederick Faber hymns mysteriously have two melodies, but the more upbeat melody is shared by both. How it got this way I know not. But this I do know: If you are teaching young folk “Faith of Our Fathers,” skip the Protestant/Perry Como version and go with the marching beat of the Eucharistic version. It’s a potboiler of a melody and the lyrics trip off the tongue and stick to the ribs in a manner unknown to the more anemic (but, on this side of the puddle, better known) version.

Father Francis G. McCloskey
Albany, New York

‘Staggering Evidence’ — of Denial

Relevant to “Ads Question Democrats on Abortion” (Nov. 5-11):

It’s ironic that Respect Life Month and National Breast Cancer Awareness Month both fall in October, since some doctors and abortion-rights advocates deny any link between induced abortion and breast cancer. “There’s no credible evidence of a link,” says the Mayo Clinic’s Dr. Sandhya Pruthi. Backed by a new Oxford University study, her claim defies more than two dozen medical studies worldwide supporting a cause-and-effect relationship. Denying this fact endangers the health of thousands of women.

The Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer states there is “staggering evidence” that women who have abortions are left with cancer-vulnerable breast cells generated by estrogen, a secondary carcinogen, for the production of milk. Although the baby has been aborted, the cells remain. Of the 15 studies conducted on American women, 13 reported risk elevations, and seven found a more than twofold elevation in risk.

Dr. Joel Brind of Baruch College in New York City calls the Oxford study “seriously flawed in the direction of covering up the abortion-breast cancer link.” Brind’s analysis found that, in 1996, an excess of 5,000 cases of breast cancer was directly attributable to abortion, increasing by 500 cases each year. At this rate, there will be 25,000 cases of breast cancer directly attributable to abortion in the year 2036.

Why the cover-up? Fear of “massive lawsuits,” according to Andrew Schlafly, general counsel for the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. Yet failure to diagnose breast cancer is the No. 1 reason for malpractice lawsuits today.

Breast cancer killed 40,000 American women last year with the total number of cases exceeding a quarter million. How many more will suffer needlessly because of the medical community’s dishonesty?

National Organization of Women president Kim Gandy, speaking on an unrelated matter, said that “having a choice is meaningless if important information about health risks is withheld.”

Annemarie S. Muth

Communications Manager

Allen County Right to Life

Fort Wayne, Indiana

Shell-Shocked Catholics

In “Bias or the Beat” (Oct. 22-28), letter-writer Steve Wei presents a well-reasoned and persuasive argument to the effect that the media pick on the Church over its scandals not because it is Catholic, but because priests and bishops are to be held to a higher standard. Certainly that argument is valid.

But Mr. Wei overlooks the 500-year-old assault that Catholics have had to endure in English-speaking countries. The expulsion of Acadians and annihilation of their culture, the starvation and oppression of the Irish and the subjugation of French-Canadian Catholics are prime examples.

The United States is no exception. In June of 2005, Our Sunday Visitor newspaper devoted an entire section to anti-Catholic bias in this country. Nor do we have to go back to the distant past to see examples. In recent art exhibits, the immersion of a crucifix in urine and the heaping of dung on an image of the Blessed Mother were ruled by New York courts as worthy artistic statements. We took it lying down. I doubt that Muslims would have reacted so pusillanimously.

It is no wonder that Catholics have become thin-skinned. Mr. Wei may believe that the media attack on the Church is an example of journalistic objectivity, but many of us think differently.

William A. Stimson

Charlottesville, Virginia

Prayer Power

Thank you for the Aug. 6-12 editorial, “A Courageous No” and news item “Bush Reaffirms Stem Cell Policy with First Veto.”

Many people have been praying for President Bush for some time. While his popularity has been declining for many months, I believe God has blessed him with courage through prayer. His introduction of the “snowflake babies” was a wise positive venture that should change a few minds.

Furthermore, lately my mailbox is full of begging letters from candidates. Sometimes I respond with a small donation but always promise prayers, because God is more powerful than money.

If they haven’t gotten the message in Washington by now — that a 91-year-old widow in Iowa is telling them God is more powerful than millions of dollars — then they are not reading my responses. Prayer changes things. Try it.

Mary M. Doering

Madison, Iowa

Simply the Best

I was greatly impressed by Donald DeMarco’s column “‘Inclusive’ Is the New ‘Exclusive’” (Aug. 27 - Sept. 2). This is the best commentary I have read in a very long while.

Amedie D. LaFond

Saint Paul, Minnesota


“ACLU Continues War on Crosses” (Nov. 5-11) stated that, because the Alliance Defense Fund “agreed to back” the Village of Tijeras, N.M., the New Mexico branch of the ACLU had “backed down from its threat” to bring a lawsuit against the village over its official seal’s depiction of a rosary. In fact, the plaintiff who brought the complaint decided not to go forward with it.

The article also stated that the ACLU is suing the City of Las Cruces for the three Christian crosses in its seal. Someone is indeed suing the city over the design, but it’s not the ACLU. “We thought there was a strong historical argument to justify the depiction of crosses in the city seal, most importantly, the very name of the city,” Peter Simonson of the ACLU told the Register. Las Cruces is Spanish for “the crosses.”

Also: In “Map of Ages in the Middle East” (Travel, Oct. 29 - Nov. 4), the directions to the site are incorrect. St. George Greek Orthodox Church is, in fact, located on George Street in the heart of Madaba, Jordan. The blurb also should have noted that there’s a pilgrim’s house attached to the church; it’s available for overnight stays.