Monday, August 28, 2006

Ecce Fosterus Magnus

We're told the papal Latinist, Fr Reginald Foster, OCD "was himself" at his much-anticipated Notre Dame appearance last Thursday.

Deo gratias, because there are few, if any, better truth-tellers in this business than Reggiemagne.

A Big Red blogger was there and gives us these snippets of the Milwaukee-born living legend's wisdom:
Perhaps more pointedly than at other times, he spoke of the crisis in the Church - no, not the crisis in the Church about which this blog often comments - but about a crisis which Reggie thinks is here or will soon be here when men of his age and men like Grandpa Joe (which is how they refer to Benedict around the office, Reggie said) are gone and the last of those folks who took a knowledge of Latin for granted are no more. How will we study canon law, the Second Vatican Council, the Church Fathers, etc., if we no longer know Latin?...

If one studied letters from the time one was knee high to a grasshopper, by the time one was 18, Latin might be second nature. But one has to begin in elementary school, as men like Ronald Knox did, and even Reggie was hesitant, at least on Thursday, about beginning that early. Of course, he thinks that he could teach babies to speak Latin, but he wants to avoid at all cost a return to the bad old days in which Latin was jammed down childrens' throats....

Reggie related how they had been reading from Martin Luther's sermons in summer school and from some of Luther's letters to Erasmus; he confidently told the audience that Luther was no heretic and that if you but switched the names at the top of these sermons, putting Aquinas for Luther, no one would ever know the difference.
Deo gratias again, someone asked Reggie (who moonlights as Vatican Radio's "Latin Lover") about the "Liturgy Wars"... you can tell that our correspondent didn't like the answer:
[Foster defended] the older translation of the Novus Ordo Missae as, for example, on the grounds that "Et cum spiritu tuo" just means "And also with you." Which is a complete pile of garbage, and the Latin certainly doesn't mean that, and the expression is so obviously a Christian one, and so obviously a theological one - do you think that Cicero went around greeting his neighbors, "Et cum spiritu tuo!" - "And with your breath!" "And with your wind!" or some other such nonsense?

So Reggie told the audience: just leave the Latin alone, as it is, and for the rest, you write whatever you want in your English missal or Swahili or whatever, and don't even bother about whether it corresponds to the typical edition (Latin) of the current Novus Ordo Missae. Which pretty much sounds like the philosophy the ICEL employed the first time around, though it probably would have sounded more elegant in Swahili!
However, it raises an interesting question: if the Holy See sought accurate, faithful, doctrinally precise and aesthetically pleasing translations of the editio typica in the native language of the church's leading Latinist, then why on earth was said Latinist not consulted?

Ponder that one, if you dare.