Sunday, July 06, 2008


Speaking Up on Dumbing Down.

Disclaimer: The following comments are not intended to belittle the piety, favored devotional practices, personal worship experiences, educational attainments, or vocabulary level of any reader and/or anybody he or she happens to know. Nor am I attacking a bishop uncharitably; I'm just disagreeing with him. He did invite us to "Speak up!" you know. Twice.

Bishop Trautman, Chair of the USCCB's Liturgy Committee, has this to say to you, John and Mary Catholic (you remember who you are from last time, don't you?).

Hard to add much to Amy Welborn's comments (latest here; previous here--do go and read both) except to say that, if you've managed to offend the equanimous (what? where's my dictionary?) Mrs. Welborn, you've certainly offended both John and Mary Catholic. Go and read.

Meanwhile, if you want the cut-to-the-chase summary, here are the abstruse (oops) words and phrases that His Eminence believes will prevent you, John and Mary, who clearly struggled mightily on the SAT Verbal section, from being able to participate fruitfully in the liturgy:
ineffable
prefiguring sacrifices
inviolate virgin
suffused
unvanquished champion
consubstantial
incarnate
sullied
unfeigned
taste sweet to the heart
gibbet
wrought
thwart
dew
we pray you
bid
Remember also that you cannot be expected to comprehend (oh, sorry) sentences with more than fifty words or ornate syntax (sorry sorry).

Now please read the disclaimer at the beginning again. Okay. Rant begins.

Are you kidding me? My five-year-old knows what "dew," "bid," "we pray you," "wrought," "thwart," "unvanquished champion," "unfeigned," and "gibbet" mean. Because we read to her lots of books, chiefly hero stories and fairy tales, full of unvanquished champions, inviolate virgins, and malfeasors (oops again) who are often enough by story's end hung on gibbets for the birds of the air to peck their flesh. And I tell her what the words mean, when she can't derive them from context. My twelve-year-old knew all of the words except "ineffable," which she proceeded to deduce correctly from the Latin effari.

"But Opinionated Homeschooler! Most children don't have that kind of book read to them! Most adolescents haven't been taught Latin verbs! What about all those other Catholics, who may be getting their vocabulary from Wheel of Fortune and USA Today? " Well yes, that's exactly the point. You learn, you become educated, from being spoken to, read to, and taught as a person capable of instruction. Not by being protected from difficult but precise and beautiful language, lest you should run into "consubstantial" smack in the middle of the Creed and run off, trembling, to the Baptists.

Bishop Trautman, who, by virtue of his consecration, has the right and obligation of instructing the Catholic faithful incumbent (sorry, my bad) upon him, instead of welcoming the opportunity to bring Catholic discourse up to the level Pope Pius IX presumed in 1854 when he released Ineffabilis Deus for the promulgation (dang) of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception (I mean, the Not Sinful Start), is fighting tooth and nail to keep Big Words out of the Mass. This is what the phrase "soft bigotry of lowered expectations" was invented for.

Did that penultimate (whoops) sentence have too many words? Anyhow. Maybe the benighted John or Mary will even be moved to learn a little Latin.

2 Comments:

Blogger Almamater said...

Thank you for a good laugh, O.H.!

7:42 PM  
Blogger Darwin said...

His emminance may be assuming we don't know the meaning of the word "condescension" as well...

1:27 PM  

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