Hard-headed Catholics

A convinced Catholic is easily the most hard-headed and logical person walking about the world to-day. But this old slander, of a slimy sentimentalism in all we say and do, is terribly perpetuated by this mere muddle about words. We are still supposed to have a silly sort of devotion, when we really have the most sensible sort, merely because we have taken a foreign phrase and translated it wrong; instead of either leaving it in Latin for those who can read

Latin or trusting it in English to people who can write English.

But if in this case we admit that the misunderstanding is more our fault than our opponents’ fault, the fault which we confess is the very reverse of the fault of which the opponents complain.

It has not arisen through the Catholic practice of saying prayers in Latin. On the contrary, it has arisen through the Protestant practice of always saying them in English. It has come through yielding merely weakly and mechanically to the Protestant pressure in the days when our tradition was completely out of fashion.

In other words, it has come through doing exactly what they advised us to do, and not doing it well. Of course, I do not mean that it is not a good thing to have good popular translation when it is done well.

I think it is a very good thing indeed. But while I see what there is to be said for the cult of the vernacular, the Protestant critic does not see what there is to be said for the fixed form of the classic tongue. He does not see that there is something to be said even for the general idea that Catholic poetry should be in the vernacular like the Divine Comedy and Catholic worship in the fundamental language like the Mass. —from The Thing (1929)