Hitchcock’s “History of the Catholic Church”

I’ve just been reading James Hitchcock’s History of the Catholic Church, and he’s made me reflect on a few historical developments that might offer us some food for thought today, particularly in the three following areas: 

1. Liturgical Developments

As regards the Mass, Latin became the liturgical language rather than Greek in the third century, because Latin was the vernacular. The “kiss of peace” was a pagan custom, which was gradually incorporated into the liturgy. “Communion in the hands” prevailed until the ninth century, the time in which the doctrine of the Real Presence was formulated, and Communion on the tongue became the liturgical affirmation of the doctrine of the Real Presence. (Heretics like Ratramnus attacked it.) During the Dark Ages, under the influence of the Frankish clergy, genuflections, the sign of the cross, and other gestures became liturgical commonplaces. Communion was relatively infrequent.  The Council of Trent would encourage frequent Communion; but by this the Tridentine Fathers meant something like weekly Communion by seminarians, and monthly Communion by nuns. It was Pius X in the twentieth century who opened the door to what we now understand as “frequent communion.”

As a classics scholar who studied Latin and Greek in high school, college, and graduate school, taught Latin in Africa and California, and memorized much of the Latin Mass, I was crestfallen when the Novus Ordo Mass began to be celebrated in English. Thanks to the wonders of android technology, I can now read parts of the Divine Office in Latin on my Smartphone. But I still haven’t memorized the Gloria and Credo in English. And in any case, the Mass is not about me! There is no turning back: our Church is a church of numerous rites – Roman, Byzantine, Alexandrian, Syriac, Armenian, Maronite, and Chaldean – with numerous languages – Greek, Syrian, Arabic, Russian, Slovak, etc. The Mass in English-speaking countries will remain in English, with little pockets here and there (one church in Milwaukee) for lovers of the “Extraordinary” form. Are any priests proficient in Latin anymore? If not, do they have the leisure to be taking lessons?

The practice of saying the English Mass versus populum, however, facing the congregation, rather than ad orientem, facing the altar, is problematic. If ecumenical overtures for reunion with Orthodox churches are ever to succeed, this practice, along with papal primacy, is a glaring obstacle. The architecture of Roman Catholic churches has changed significantly since Vatican II, featuring a table near the congregation, similar to Protestant arrangements, rather than emphasizing the altar in front, where the priest continues to renew the mystery of the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross.

We’re going to have to ask: where are our ecumenical priorities? Do we really want to concentrate on reunion with Protestants who will feel comfortable in a church with a table for “The Lord’s Supper”? Certainly, even common sense leads us to prioritize the Orthodox, who have valid Apostolic succession in “sister churches,” and reverently perpetuate the sacrifice of the Mass.

In the meantime, still attending local churches with the Novus Ordo, I would be reasonably happy if the priest celebrants clearly by their demeanor presented the Mass as a sacrifice rather than a communal supper, stopped using distracting gender substitutions for every mention of “he” or “him” or “man” in the Gospel and the Ordinary of the Mass, and refrained from going through the whole church to socialize at Communion time. And also, could the liturgists in power just get rid of some of those awful social-networking hymns like “God has chosen me,” “All are welcome,” ‘Gather us in,” etc.? 

2. Scandals in the Church

Jesus forewarned his disciples, “Woe to the world because of scandals. For it must needs be that scandals come: but nevertheless woe to that man by whom the scandal comes” (Mt. 18:7). The ninth and tenth centuries were heydays for scandals, both in the Church and in politics. Charlemagne was married five times, had six concubines, and forced his daughters to have children out of wedlock, in order to avoid problems with power-seeking sons-in-law. Pope Stephen VI exhumed the body of his predecessor, Pope Formosus, to publicly desecrate it because of disagreements about church law, but was himself imprisoned and strangled to death.

In the eleventh century, Benedict IX became pope through bribery, but eventually resigned, on condition that he receive his money back. In the fifteenth century, Pope Sixtus arranged for two priests to assassinate some Medicis who were obstacles to the strategic alliances he had in mind; and Pope Alexander VI after a fierce campaign for the papacy became one of the most notorious pontiffs. Pope Pius II, the only pope to write his own autobiography, is also noted for writing pornographic works before wheedling his way into the papacy by ambitious power plays.

Reforms proliferated along with the scandals, however. In the twelfth century, Peter Abelard, famous for the “Abelard and Heloise” trysts, ended up as a monastic spiritual director and reforming abbot, whose monks tried to poison him, while Heloise became the Abbess of a community of nuns. In the fourteenth century, St. Catherine of Sienna, a gadfly at the side of misdirected popes, devotes Chapter 124 in her famous Dialogues to the necessity of obliterating the scandal of sodomite priests for the reform of the Church. In the sixteenth century, Pope Paul III, whose career was enhanced by the fact that his sister had been a mistress of Pope Alexander VI, left behind his scandalous life to become a reforming pope. And in the seventeenth century, the great Trappist reform of the Cistercian order was accomplished by Armand-Jean de Rancé, after the death of his mistress.

In the twentieth century, in addition to the scandal of priests self-defrocking and nuns self-laicizing themselves, the most egregious scandal has been the sexual abuse scandal, including pederasty, by priests in good standing, and the coverups and “reassignments.” But as this nightmare has subsided, we have had two great and saintly popes, along with gradual and successful reform in an area that used to be reserved for internal Church discipline, but now by force has ended in the public arena.

And now we are facing the possibility that, in response to blatant governmental challenges to religious freedom, bishops and other Church leaders will rise to the occasion – closing adoption centers rather than caving in to gay “married” couples, closing hospitals rather than agreeing to provide sterilizations and abortifacients, maybe even closing schools and colleges rather than succumbing to demands for contraceptive insurance coverage. The “reform” required in such cases may require outright heroism.

3. Church Councils

There has been unending criticism of Vatican II for failing to clarify and strengthen the place of the Catholic Church in the world, and, in fact, causing massive losses and fallings-away among churchgoers. But as Hitchcock brings out, Church Councils historically did not solve problems prevailing when they were called, and in fact often contributed to the intensification of the problems. The Council of Nicea (325 AD), which was supposed to clarify questions about Christ’s divinity, ended up with ambiguities regarding Christ’s “consubstantiality” with the Father. The Council of Chalcedon (451) failed to solve the problem of the relative status of the sees of Rome and Constantinople.

The Council of Trent (1545-63) was fraught with political divisions. Boycotted by French bishops, opposed by Pope Paul IV, resumed under Pope Pius IV, but subject to acrimonious national and doctrinal factions, Trent’s counter-reformation objectives of solving questions about justification and the relation between grace and free will were largely unattained, and Mass in the vernacular was prohibited – even though the Latin Mass had originally achieved priority status precisely because it had been in the vernacular.

Likewise, Vatican I (1869-70) faced considerable episcopal opposition to the declaration of papal infallibility. One problem was that, historically, two previous popes had dabbled in heresy – Pope Honorius in the seventh century accepting monothelitism, and Pope John XXII in the fourteenth century favoring, for a time, the doctrine of “soul sleep” after death before the Last Judgment. Thus the condition of “speaking ex cathedra” was incorporated into the declaration, to lessen the possibility of unorthodox pronouncements.

Vatican II, then, for all its fallout, was not unique. Political divisions were rampant. The movers and shakers at the Council were primarily theologians, many of the “progressive” strain, and the bishops and Cardinals tended to defer to these “experts.” Hitchcock writes: 

Along with Schillebeeckx, Haering, and to a lesser extent Rahner, the German-Swiss priest-theologian Hans Küng was the increasingly bold and abrasive chief spokesman for aggiornamento, demanding that the Church accommodate herself to a changing culture, while de Lubac, Danielou, Maritain, Balthasar, Bouyer, Ratzinger, and others protested what they considered distortions of the Council.

A major turning point of Vatican II took place when the Theological Commission, presided over by Cardinal Ottaviani, was upstaged after considerable maneuvering by the newly created Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, presided over by Cardinal Bea. This Secretariat was idealistic about restoring unity, and pragmatic about ways of attaining it – including diplomatic overtures to the Soviets and Orthodox representatives sympathetic to the Soviets.

Various “schemata” were subjected to ecumenical criteria. Thus, progressives were successful in defeating efforts to emphasize the Virgin Mary as Mediatrix of all Graces and Co-Redemptrix, since such doctrinal definitions might prove to be an obstacle to reunion with Protestants. And their outreach even extended well beyond Christianity to Islam as an “Abrahamic” religion adoring “the one merciful God.” (I am not aware that any of the Council experts who drew up the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium was a serious student of Islamic doctrine, practices, and history.)

Aside from such overreach, however, and some possible ambiguities in other documents (the Council did not issue laws or definitive declarations on faith or morals), nothing clearly heretical issued from the Council. Progressives mobilized with initiatives smacking of heresy – conciliarism, modernism, the primacy of episcopal collegiality, compromises of Catholic religious liberty, etc. But the belated organization of “conservatives” such as Cardinals Ottoviani, Siri, and Ruffini,  Archbishop Lefebvre, and others, and their “interventions” in conference helped to modify these initiatives and bring the debates roughly into line with previous Councils and tradition.

Those who point to Vatican II as the beginning of the downward slide of Catholicism are not taking into account that Vatican II took place in the very atmosphere of the sexual revolution of the 1960s. As the second Vatican Council began in 1962, the contraceptive pill had been in use for a couple years, and widespread expectations were that one of the results of this “pastorally oriented” Council would be the approval of at least this form of contraception. When this did not happen, and when Pope Paul’s belated encyclical, Humanae vitae (1968) met with overwhelming rejection or indifference on the part of many bishops as well as theologians, a crisis of authority ensued – and continues. Militant feminism and the onslaught against all semblance of “patriarchy” also functioned as a “game-changer.”

Was Vatican II successful in “opening the windows and letting in the fresh air,” as Pope John XXIII fondly hoped? In certain respects, yes. In Vatican I, for example, there were no cardinals from Asia or Africa. At Vatican II, cardinals from Africa, Asia and Latin America were well represented. It was clearly more visibly “ecumenical” in the sense of opening up the Church to the world. And Hitchcock brings out the interesting statistic that by 2010, the Church had indeed doubled in size since the end of the Vatican Council.

It goes without saying (almost) that Catholics in the United States, constituting only 7 percent of the world population of Catholics and despite our many problems, need to look beyond these shores to get a non-myopic and balanced picture of the present status and growth of the Church.

Howard Kainz

Howard Kainz

Howard Kainz, Emeritus Professor at Marquette University, is the author of twenty-five books on German philosophy, ethics, political philosophy, and religion, and over a hundred articles in scholarly journals, print magazines, online magazines, and op-eds. He was a recipient of an NEH fellowship for 1977-8, and Fulbright fellowships in Germany for 1980-1 and 1987-8. His website is at Marquette University.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    We often forget the liturgical diversity of the Latin Church. In addition to the Mozarabic and Ambrosian rites, there were a great many “uses” throughout the West. In England alone, besides the Use of Sarum, there was the Use of Lincoln (the two Universities of Oxford and Cambridge were both in that diocese), as well as the Uses of York, Hereford and Bangor in Wales. Most of the religious orders, too, had their own uses.
    Of the 120 French dioceses, only 56 adopted the Tridentine rite, the rest taking advantage of the 200 year prescription period in Quo Primum. Of these, eight reverted to their own uses, when their service books had been edited and printed. They only disappeared with the reorganisation of the French dioceses under the 1801 Concordat, when many Cathedral chapters (the most zealous defenders of the old uses) were suppressed. Sequences were much more numerous in the Gallican rites and some of these have been revived, particularly those that have 14th century polyphonic settings .

  • Bangwell Putt

    The Church in its human aspect seems a human person, writ large.

    As Dr. John Haas once noted, a man does not become an angel upon ordination; he will rather become a most desirable target for Satan.

    The seven deadly sins are not necessarily blatant; not often easily recognizable. There are variations, suited to each person’s particular vulnerability. Pride distorts; other sins follow. Popes, ordained clergy and religious, are no exception.

    The grace of God comes to us through the power of the Holy Spirit in the sacraments of the Church. No human power could bring us divine grace. It is God and God alone, working through the Son, in the Spirit, who blesses those who believe and love Him. We are his instruments when, as did Mary and others, we make ourselves available through obedience.

    At least that is how it has always seemed to me.

  • Mack Hall

    Thank you, Professor Kainz, for your very good essay.

  • Jon S.

    Regarding “ad orientem” and “versus populum,” why aren’t both used in the same Mass? Why shouldn’t the priest face “versus populum” and thus have the altar between him and the people at appropriate times, e.g., from the Greeting through the Gloria, and also face “ad orientem” coming around the altar and facing the altar as the people are (and so has his back to the people but is on the same side of the altar as the people) during the Eucharistic Prayer? If the tabernacle were on an altar of repose against the wall in the center of the sanctuary directly behind the altar used for Mass, and if there were a huge crucifix above the altar of repose so that the people would easily see that crucifix when they see the elevated Host and Chalice at the Consecration, along with an updated sound system so that the people can hear the words of the priest, wouldn’t we have a more powerful experience of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass?

  • Sue

    “…bishops and other Church leaders will rise to the occasion – closing adoption centers rather than caving in to gay “married” couples, closing hospitals rather than agreeing to provide sterilizations and abortifacients”

    Why, pray tell, did the adoption centers, pivot of both the prolife and natural family teaching treasures of the Catholic Church have to be closed???? Yes, stop taking the Statist mammon to run them, but keep them chugging with patronage from the pew. With catholic charities falling into government zombiehood left and right, I need a faithful place to donate money as do most other Catholics.

  • Manfred

    “The Council did not issue laws or definitive declarations on faith or morals.” Thank you for this and a fine book review, Professor Kainz. Let us hope the writers and commenters at TCT remember this statement in the future.

  • Eriugena

    What Dark Ages?

  • Dan

    Insofar as Church history is concerned, what I wonder is whether the laity’s ignorance about Catholic teaching has ever been has profound as it now is.

  • ron a.

    Thanks for this post Howard. From your summary, the book seems well worth buying.

    Heresy in Vatican II?: It seems to me that the description of “the first and greatest” commandment of God related in paragraph 24 of “Guadium et Spes”, if not heretical, is, at best, very problematic for three reasons:
    1.It distorts his most basic responsibility: man’s relationship to God (unless one were to believe in Pantheism, which I suspect, violates the Faith).
    2. It directly contradicts Sacred Scripture, e.g., Luke 12:29-31.
    3. What confusion! Many, if not most, of the difficulties post-Vatican II flow from this conflation of God and man. Here I am reminded of Kierkegaard’s assertion that “there is an endless yawning difference between God and man”.

  • Dave

    The loss of Latin in the liturgy has also been accompanied by a loss of theological and cultural unity in the Church, and a loss of the ability to penetrate deeply the great writings of those Fathers and Doctors who wrote in Latin. There were, it is true, a great multiplicity of rites in the Latin Church, and there still is some, even after the Novus Ordo. But all those late-antiquity and medieval rites were celebrated in Latin. I can’t help but think that the loss of Latin in the liturgy has been a real net loss for the Church.

    It’s true that the Church has always had scandals, and that they’ve come in waves. The difference this time, in America, Europe, and countries whose cultures are based in European cultures, is the scandals further rocked the faithful and has led to the virtual collapse of the Faith. Before the Council, 78% of Catholics went to Mass on Sunday. After the Council, 22% is a pretty good figure. And we know that of that 22%, it’s not a majority, or even a plurality, that professes everything that the Church teaches. The gates of hell will not prevail against the Church, though they will try; but there’s no denying that things are uniquely bad in the Occident right now.

    Hitchcock’s observation on the growth of the Church after the Council, especially outside of Europe and European-based cultures is important. This growth owes much to the tireless evangelism of Pope St. John Paul the Great, and to the fact that the presentation of the Gospel offers a real alternative to the lives and cultures in which its presentation results in spectacular growth. Put another way, unless the Church is willing to be counter-cultural in the culture of death, it will wither; and when is counter-cultural, it flourishes. Those Cardinals from Africa and Asia are a lot less wishy-washy about the Gospel and its moral demands than are the bishops of the West. The results speak for themselves.

  • Howard Kainz

    @Sue: I agree, but recent history indicates that, even if Catholic adoption agencies have no government funding, they will be subjected to lawsuits from gay activists for discrimination.

  • Chris in Maryland

    Jon S:

    I second the motion re: Ad Orientum.

    In Christus Veritas

  • John A. Dempsey

    Peter Abelard was not a monastic reformer. There were lots of folks in and outside of monasteries who wanted to poison him!!

  • ColdStanding

    “…nothing clearly heretical…”

    And there, my friends, is the council in question and the reaction to it in a nutshell. It is the very nature of heresy to obscure.

  • Manfred

    @Jon S. “…from the Greetings to the Gloria..” Thank you for your thoughts, There are no greetings in the Traditional Mass. It begins with prayers at the foot of the altar so the celebrant priest and acolyte(s)and the congregants can prepare themselves spiritually through prayer in order to be able to advance to the altar. All the attention in the Mass is focused in Christ in the tabernacle.

    tradiutrional Mass.

  • Rose

    Forget about “government challenges,” gays, Nazis, Communists, Fascists. The catholic church is done, put a fork in it. “Universal church” is an oxymoron. What the above could not do, the so-called “brotherhood of man” will do. I.e., racial differences!!! Francis is in Asia, Korea to be exact. No European/Caucasian will accept black or Asian priests. “Personae Christi,” I think not. The “catholic” illegals coming over the border have done so much to destroy the church, I’m surprised no one thought of this earlier. But then again, universal brotherhood has been preached by both the right and left. This incredibly stupid idea is now being destroyed. Bill Donahue from the Catholic League has advanced this destruction by defending that black Jesus program. WOW!!!

  • Sue

    “I agree, but recent history indicates that, even if Catholic adoption agencies have no government funding, they will be subjected to lawsuits from gay activists for discrimination.”
    So perhaps that’s where the bishop should stand and fight…that indeed would be a very fine test case of the principle that everyone deserves a mother and a father…but don’t call bishops brave and “rising to the occasion” for doing the easy thing to do which is shutting them down.

  • Howard Kainz

    @Rose: “No European/Caucasian will accept black or Asian priests.” Not quite sure what you’re talking about. In my experience, in the U.S.A. they’re widely accepted without any hesitation; Mexican priests also. The brotherhood of man and the Fatherhood of God are pretty closely related in Catholicism, don’t you think?

  • Howard Kainz

    @Sue: You seem to be presuming that a bishop could just courageously continue operating an agency in defiance of state laws regarding gay rights to adoption — which would be legally impossible. A bishop closing down would simply be obeying the 2003 Vatican directive: “Allowing children to be adopted by persons living in such unions would actually mean doing violence to these children, in the sense that their condition of dependency would be used to place them in an environment that is not conducive to their full development,” said the document.”

  • Deacon Ed Peitler

    Where given the choice when it comes to liturgy, Catholics will vote with their feet. That is why some bishops will not allow the Latin Mass or subtly discourage it. They realize that people need to be fed liturgically and Novus Ordo often doesn’t do the trick with clapping, endless thanking everyone for showing up, uninspiring hymns, cacophonous music, out of control ‘kiss’ of peace gestures, multiple mini-homilies interspersed in the Canon, hand-holding for the Our Father, Father as performer, endless chatter before and after Mass, announcements that only repeat what is already printed in the bulletin, hiring organists rather than liturgists, ad libbing the words of the Missal, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion who are anything but extraordinary, altar servers who wear sneakers along with their cassocks and surplices, poorly trained servers under the tutelage of no one, and on and on and on. Yes, when given the option of the Extraordinary Form, many will opt for it. Oh, and by the way, it’s really not too much to expect Father to learn it in his “leisure time” since offering the sacraments if why Father is called Father in the first place.

  • Rose

    @Howard Kainz: I live in a large US city (one of three largest) in the country. Over the past 20 years I have seen whites leave the catholic church en masse as illegals and non white priests have been introduced into their parishes. They would never admit this publicly, but I look at how people vote with their feet. They’ve mostly become Protestants (thus having control over the preacher) or Orthodox (Orthodoxy has an essential racial aspect). You are in Milwaukee, a majority non-white city. Of course, catholics there would accept non-white priests. I saw the website page for Marquette University. It has a picture of a priest speaking to two women, one a Muslim with a headscarf, the other a Western woman. What is this priest doing to convert the infidel Muslim to the RCC. I remember a quaint belief taught by the church that there is no salvation outside the church. That picture sums up the state of the church today.

  • Sue

    ” A bishop closing down would simply be obeying the 2003 Vatican directive: “Allowing children to be adopted by persons living in such unions would actually mean doing violence to these children,… ”

    No, closing down a clinic would actually be DISobeying the directive – closing down DENIES children the ability to be directed into mother-father dyads. The directive seems to be clearly telling the shepherd to stay in the game. Martin Luther King didn’t walk away because the lunch counter “legally” turned him away. He went to jail over it.

  • Howard Kainz

    @Sue: How can a Catholic adoption agency facilitate legal adoption without being licensed by the state? In Massachusetts, for example, the license required allowing gays to adopt. Catholic bishops appealed for a religious exemption and the legislature refused. That’s why the Vatican told them they could not continue. Martin Luther King could walk into a lunch counter without a license, but a Catholic adoption agency cannot carry out a valid adoption without a license.

  • Sue

    Massachusetts is an extreme example, but there are other states in which bishops folded before any statutory tyranny existed. Why prop up that cowardice?

    But even in Massachusetts, where is the courage to challenge the unleashing of the artificial family? If the State is denying the Church the ability to manage adoptions even if only amongst its own members, that would seem to be an opportunity for resistance rather than capitulation.

  • Richard A

    @Howard Kainz: Easy, you have a bishop who declares that his diocese has an agency to facilitate adoption according to Christian principles and is not licensed by the state. Anyone who wants to adopt on those terms may do so. Force the state government to send in the police and cart him and his employees to jail.

  • Raymond Nicholas

    I’m not sure if the doubling of the world Catholic population is significant since the mid-sixties, because the world’s population has also doubled, leaving Catholics in roughly the same proportion. What is more important is a better understanding of the demographic shifts, which have not been reported very well. What is also not reported very well is the much smaller and downward percentage of practicing Catholics. In my mind the ultimate test of the modern C.C. is, is it growing around the world at a faster rate then the population, and is it growing in the number of practicing Catholics? I wonder if these ideas are in the book.

  • George Sim Johnston

    Pope Honorius’s supposed endorsement of monothelitism is one of the stock arguments against papal infallibility. But
    according to reliable historians like Father Philip Hughes, Honorius never endorsed this heresy, which held that Christ had only a divine, and not a human, will. The heresy–which, like most heresies, came from the East–was misrepresented to him as something quite different–the idea that Christ’s human will was always in accord with His divine will. Honorius had no problem with this and did not realize that the theologians back in Constantinople were making an altogether different claim.

    As for Pope John XXII: whenever he broached the heretical idea that the dead are “asleep” until the final Resurrection, when they would finally enter heaven, he made it clear that he was voicing a private theological opinion and not speaking as Supreme Pontiff.

  • Howard Kainz

    @Raymond Nicholas: Yes, he considers both growth and decline in various regions. He mentioned that the greatest growth has been in Africa, where the number of Catholics grew by 1500 percent during that time period.

  • frkloster

    I’ve tried to keep up with the numbers and I would not be so generous as saying we have 22% of Catholics attending Mass on Sundays. We might have 22% of registered Catholics attending, but not baptized. Trying to be as fair as possible, I would put the number in the USA in the high teens, perhaps 15-18% at most. Worst case scenario, we are down around 10%-12%.

    I would agree with the pre-Conciliar number of 78-80%.

    The question again being begged is “what in the world did Vatican II improve?” Every other Council was called to address a serious heresy. Every other Council drew lines of demarkation. Every other Council began to see visible fruit within the first two generations after the Council ended. We have had almost 50 years (2015 will be 50) since the end of Vatican Council II. What has quantifiably improved? No other Council dropped from 78% to 18% participation at Sunday Mass you can be sure of that!

  • Manfred

    The growth is in Africa? My wife and I attended an African Mass (in English) at St Mary’s in Newaark, N.J. a few years ago with Nigerian Catholic friends. We were treated to drums, dancing in the aisles, swaying bodies and hand clapping. The celebrant, an African priest, kept shouting during the homily: “Give me an AMEN!!!”
    After two hours had passed and we had not reached the Offertory, I feigned illness and my wife and I exited as graciously as we were able.

    I am not questioning the orthodoxy or piety of these people-it is simkply not Western Roman Catholic culture.

  • Howard Kainz

    @Manfred: That sounds more African-American than African. I taught at a Catholic African boys college for two years, 50 years ago. I attended Mass with the boys (mostly in late teens) and found their renditions quite beautiful and reverent. There were drums and chants at the Latin Mass, but no swaying of bodies and hand-clapping. There was one recording of the Latin “Missa Luba” by an African choir that I found particularly enchanting, but I haven’t been able to retrace it.

  • John Fisher

    As regards the Mass, Latin became the liturgical language rather than Greek in the third century, because Latin was the vernacular.? Greek and Latin languages have many words in common because Latin was influenced by Greek. The Latin used in the Liturgy is not everyday Latin but hierarchic formal Latin. The “kiss of peace” was a pagan custom, which was gradually incorporated into the liturgy. This is normal way of greeting in the Mediterranean and if I recall Judas greeted Jesus Christ in this manner. “Communion in the hands” prevailed until the ninth century, the time in which the doctrine of the Real Presence was formulated, and Communion on the tongue became the liturgical affirmation of the doctrine of the Real Presence. (Heretics like Ratramnus attacked it.) False Communion on Hand was a very short lived custom which it was realised led to abuses. There was no Dark Age. It is misleading to say Frankish clergy elaborated with genuflections, the sign of the cross, and other gestures when these already existed in the Roman Liturgy. Communion was relatively infrequent from the Early Church onwards as penitential customs and fasting was long.

  • Gabriel

    I have to congratulate you for presenting your ideas as a book review when in fact you are luring unsuspecting readers into a long exposition of your own at times controversial opinions, speaking, for example, in the terms of the “Dark Ages” to give just one glaring example of a lack of true scholarship.