We concluded our preceding article with the remark that we would comment in this article on the claim of Rome that it is truly the Catholic, universal Church of God and of Christ in the midst of the world.
In the first place, the name, “Roman Catholic Church,” is certainly a misnomer. That church calls itself the Roman Catholic Church. How can a church be catholic, universal, and at the same time Roman? Does not the name, Roman, limit that church so that it is no longer catholic or universal? O, we know that Roman Catholicism teaches that the name or word, Roman, is added because its “headquarters” are in Rome. However, why is it, if that church be truly catholic, that so many popes have been Italian? And, secondly, if the Church be catholic, why does it have an official language, the Latin language 7 Must a universal church have one language? In this connection, concerning this official language of the Roman Catholic Church, we wish to quote again from Volume I of the Radio Replies of the Fathers Rumble and Carty, questions and answers 1392-1397.
1392. Why, in all ceremonies and sermons, do Priests speak in Latin?
In the Epistle to the Hebrews, V., I., you will find these words, “Every Priest is ordained for men in the things that pertain to God, that he may offer up giftsand sacrifices for sins.” A Priest has two chief duties: to offer sacrifice to God, and to sanctify men by his teaching and instruction. Now, when a Priest is speaking, not to men, but to God in the name of men, he speaks in the language of the Church—in Latin—a language God certainly understands, as does the Priest. When on the other hand he speaks to the people he speaks in their own language; in France, in French; in England, he uses English; in Germany, German. Sermons are always give in the vernacular, and not in Latin, because they are addressed to the people. Go into any Catholic Church, and you will never hear any sermons in Latin. (In connection with this the undersigned wishes to remark the following.Heb. 5:1 reads: “For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins.” What right does Rome have to apply this text to every priest in the Roman Catholic Church? Notice that the text does not simply speak of “priest,” but of “high priest.” At the conclusion of Chapter 4 the holy writer had called attention to Jesus Christ, our High Priest, through whom we have access unto the throne of God’s grace. How arbitrary on the part of Rome to apply Heb. 5:1 to every Roman Catholic priest! It is evident, throughout this portion of the epistle to the Hebrews, that the inspired writer is calling attention to Jesus Christ, our only High Priest, mentions in chapter 5:1 the high priests of the Old Dispensation, later, as in verse 9, calls attention to the fact that our Lord Jesus Christ is become the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him.)
1393. But the Priest says the Mass in Latin.
That is a sacrificial action offered to God. Latin is the liturgical language of the Catholic Church, just as Hebrew is the official language still used in the Synagogue. (Is it any wonder that Rome is accused of reverting to the symbols and shadows of the Old Testament?—H.V.)
1394. Do the worshippers understand all that the Priest says in the Latin Mass?
Not all Catholics understand Latin, by any means. But they are all quite at home when assisting at Mass. They know what is being done, even though they cannot understand all that is being said. And it is not necessary that they should follow the sense of every word used during the sacrificial rite of the Mass. However, every Catholic can know what the Priest is saying, should he wish to do so. He has but to secure a prayer book containing the translation of the Latin to English. Most prayer books give the Latin and the English of the Mass side by side, in columns.
1395. Why does the Church cling to Latin, a dead language?
For one reason, precisely because it is dead! In modern and living languages, words are constantly changing their meaning whilst in a dead language, such as Latin, they do not. The essential doctrine and significance of Christianity must not change, and the safest way to preserve it intact is to keep it in an unchangeable language. Again, a universal Church must have at least her chief form of worship in a universal language. Christ came to save all men, and wherever a member of the true Church may be in this world he should be able to find himself at home at the central act of Christian worship. The Mass, being said in Latin, is the same in all lands. If a Frenchman, who could not understand a word of English, were to enter a Catholic Church in London, he would be at home the moment the Mass began. An English service would be a mystery to him. I myself have said Mass with as many as fifteen different nationalities present, and not all could follow my discourse when I spoke to those present, though I spoke for a few minutes in English, in French, and in Italian. There were still many who could not understand any of these languages, but being all Catholics, they were quite at home the moment I turned to the Altar and went on with the Mass in Latin. It brings out the wisdom and the universality of the’ Catholic Church. The Priest ascends the Altar to intercede with God on behalf of the people. Those present kneel, and in their hearts pour out their prayers for their own necessities. They feel no more need to know just what the Priest is saying than the Jews who knelt at the foot of the mountain felt the need of knowing just what Moses was saying to God on their behalf at the top. And here once again let me say that if anyone should complain of the use of Latin, it should be those who have to endure it. And I have never yet heard a Catholic soul complain that it caused difficulty, or that he or she would like it changed. (Just a few remarks by the undersigned in connection with this Romish answer. I trust that it would do very little good for anyone in the Romish Church to change this custom in the Romish church, namely the use of Latin as the official language. I believe it would do very little good to voice any desire for a change in something that has been officially adopted in the Romish Church. Secondly, that reference to Moses on the top of the mountain when Israel was gathered before Mount Sinai surely does not hold. The reason why the people did not understand Moses was not because he talked with God in a strange language, but was because he was so far away from them. And the reason why Moses was so far away from them, on the top of the mountain and alone with God, was because none among the children of Israel had the right to approach unto the living God. Only Moses, the Mediator of the Old Dispensation, had that right to approach into the very presence of the Lord of hosts. And to Rome we declare that this wall of partition between God and His people has now been removed, once and forever, by the Mediator of a better covenant, our Lord Jesus Christ, and we have no desire to join with Rome and to reestablish this custom which characterized the Old Dispensation. When we read in this answer of the priest as he ascends the altar and intercedes for the people who are kneeling, shall we say, below, it surely reminds us of the symbols and shadows so prevalent in the Old Testament.—H.V.)
1396. What good can result to the people if they cannot know what the Priest is asking in their name?
I have said that they know if they wish, for they will find an English translation of the Mass in their prayer books. But even if they could not know, the Latin prayers could win for them the graces requested. If a German friend prayed for you in German, would that prayer be useless because you do not understand German? (What a strange philosophy we have here. A German prays for me, in my behalf, and this prayer would not be useless? Presuppose that that German prays in my behalf, for the forgiveness of my sin, and I walk in sin and show not the least inclination to have my sins forgiven. Would that prayer be heard, because he prays for me? I think not. I must surely knock, ask and seek. Besides, these radio replies have not as yet answered the objection why there should be one official language in-a-church that is universal, has certainly not answered the objection that such a language is in conflict with the idea of catholicity.—H.V.)
1397. Is it not a short-sighted policy, since God hears hearts rather than words?
No. The Catholic Church is the greatest Church of all, and has preserved her unity despite her vast expansion. Those smaller Churches, on the other hand, which adopted national languages are divided one from the other; are national in character; and are splitting up into innumerable sects as their doctrines change with every change in the sense of modern words.
How superficial and contrary to the Word of God is the Roman Catholic view of the catholicity of the Church of God in Christ! In the second place, besides the strange fact that a universal church should have one official language, it would establish Rome’s claim that it is the true church of God because, whereas the Protestant churches are segments that have severed themselves from the Romish church, the Roman Catholic church has continued intact throughout the ages. Is this true? Is Rome’s claim true that the Roman Catholic Church has been preserved throughout the ages, wherever it has been called into existence? Of course not! What, then, must Rome’s judgment and evaluation be of all those churches that formerly existed in Asia Minor and in northern Africa and exist no longer today? The Book of Revelation speaks of the seven churches to whom the seven epistles were addressed, and recorded for us in Rev. 2, 3: the churches of Ephesus, Pergamos, Smyrna, Philadelphia, Thyatira, Sardis, Laodicea. All these churches disappeared long before the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century, in fact long before the Great Schism between the East and the West in the eleventh century. Where today are these churches that are mentioned in Rev. 2, 3? Where today are the churches in Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, and in northern Africa? And why is it that it is impossible to preach the gospel in these places with any hope of success? If the trueness of the Roman Catholic Church must be sought in its unbroken continuity, what about these former “Roman Catholic” churches in Asia Minor and northern Africa? Thirdly, Rome calls attention to its catholicity, and would maintain that this catholicity must especially be understood in that sense that the church, wherever it exists, must count a multitude of members among all the peoples of the earth which is striking to the eye. Rome, then, is the true church, if you please, because it is greater than any sect in particular, probably greater than the total membership of all “sects” combined. However, to this we will continue to call attention in our following article, when we continue to discuss Rome’s claim that it is the catholic, universal church.