Camille Paglia on the Latin Mass

Speaking of Benedicamus Domino, her latest post links to a speech given by Camille Paglia at Santa Clara University in which she has some interesting things to say about the traditional Latin Mass:

“Elements of New Age sensibility seem to have entered American Catholicism, which in the 1950s was already moving away from its déclassé ethnic roots and Protestantizing itself through a startling drabness of church architecture and décor. The folk songs, Protestant hymns, affable sermons, and literal hand-holding in today’s suburban Catholic churches illustrate mellow New Age principles of inclusion and harmony and reinforce the casualness of the vernacular Mass and the slackness of unpoetic contemporary translations of Scripture. Priests, meanwhile, are now being trained to be social workers; theology and learning per se are no longer as heavily emphasized. The priest, with his public performance of the mysterious Latin Mass, was once an embodiment of learning for ordinary people. Latin, which I still believe to be the basis of most strong writing in English, was intrinsic to a priest’s official identity and gave churchgoers a moving sense of historical continuity with classical antiquity, when the Christian story began. The priest, in other words, was an educator, just as university education began in the Middle Ages as training for priests.”

On the radio this afternoon I listened to an NPR interview with a comedian by the name of Lewis Black – someone I’ve never heard of (and after Googling his name I’m glad of it) – who was lamenting the liturgical changes in the Catholic Church and saying some amazingly favorable things about the old Latin Mass, describing how the beauty and mystery of the Latin liturgy used to draw him into churches, even though he is Jewish. So it seems that non-Catholics and even anti-Catholics recognize the incredible loss of abandoning the traditional Mass and replacing it with a liturgical version of the Oprah show.

3 thoughts on “Camille Paglia on the Latin Mass

  1. Interesting quotation. Thanks for the link. I think that some of the folk in the emergent movement are in their own way “recovering” something of this though they have neither the language or the experience for it.


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