The Exorcistic Power of Latin in the Latin Church

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A thousand causative factors have led to the present clerical abuse crisis in the Church. But I believe there is one contributing spiritual factor that holds a critical place in the rise of the clerical problem: the absence of Latin in the Latin Church.

This spiritual factor is causative in a way that all spiritual causes operate: as a hidden and remote influence, noticed mostly by its absence. The snow that melts on top of a mountain, for example, makes its long journey downward to water the plains at the mountain’s base. The moisture and irrigation in turn bring forth fruit and life in the surrounding fields. The snow is a distant, but very real, cause of the life that flourishes in the terrain below, but it is a hidden cause. If its waters were absent, however, the entire ecosystem would be desolate.

The loss of the exorcistic power of Latin has created a spiritual vacuum in the liturgy and the overall life of the Church that has been filled by many of the worldly desolations of the Church’s current crisis. This is not to deny the essential holiness of Christ’s Church and the promise of the Holy Spirit’s guidance through history. It is simply to recognize that the Church’s mission fields can be rendered parched and lifeless when certain elements of her life are lacking. Latin is one of those essential life-giving elements.

Spiritual Power

When we speak about spiritual power we must take into account that language always matters in this regard. God could have communicated His truth to us in any form, but He chose to do so through His Word. The living Word, Jesus Christ, has been offered to billions of souls in human words – human languages – that have spiritual and moral power to the extent that they faithfully communicate the divine Word. St. Paul says that “faith comes through hearing” (Romans 10:17), which presumes that the Church’s evangelization is carried out through a proclamation of words in various human languages.

Holiness is not an inherent quality of any language, including Latin. Rather, a language’s sacred character derives from its constant use as a language of worship and, usually, of scripture. Hence, ancient Hebrew and Koiné Greek (used in the Old and New Testaments) are sacred languages, as well as Syriac, Old Slavonic, Aramaic, and other ancient languages that have pedigrees in liturgical traditions that date back centuries.

Christ’s Church, His Bride, is a living reality and also speaks a language. That language is Latin, the official language of the Western Church. Her ability to communicate verbally could have been in any language God wanted it to be, but that unique relationship between Bride and Bridegroom developed and has been carried out in the Roman Catholic Church by means of the Latin language literally for twenty centuries.

As a side note, a perceptive viewer of Mel Gibson’s Passion movie would have noticed that the scene in which Jesus spoke to Pilate was conducted entirely in Latin. Though it is not noted in the historical record, it is an intriguing possibility that Jesus spoke to Pilate in the Procurator’s own native language! The Lord wanted to make sure that Pilate got the point.

Two Critical Moments

To illustrate the dynamic power of Latin better, let us compare two critical moments of modern Church history that should be familiar to most readers. In the year 1884, certain individuals in the Vatican witnessed the frightening scene of Pope Leo XIII collapsing at Mass after seeing a vision of the devil challenging Christ for dominance of the Church in the 20th Century. Pope Leo, who certainly lived up to his name (“Lion”), responded to the  alarming vision by composing the famous Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel and mandating that it be prayed by all the faithful at the end of every low Mass thereafter. It is true that most of the faithful prayed the St. Michael Prayer in the vernacular, but its original language is Latin, and its very purpose is exorcistic. The prayer was added to the Church’s official exorcism ritual by one of his successors. The common factor of the Mass, the St. Michael Prayer, and the exorcism ritual was Latin, the official language of the Church’s prayer.

Fast forward through the terrible 20th Century to the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul (June 29) at St. Peter’s Basilica in 1972, a mere seven years after the close of the Second Vatican Council. By that date, the liturgy had been gutted, and the Latin language – together with a good number of the Latin-based traditions and feasts, devotions and customs – had been jettisoned without remorse by the modernizing clerics of the Council. In his sermon for the feast, the reigning Pontiff, Paul VI, pronounced a frightening indictment on the Council’s aftermath: “From some fissure the smoke of Satan has entered into the temple of God,” he grieved. (Donald McClarey provided CS readers with a good commentary on Pope Paul’s sermon here.)

Then and Now

A then-and-now comparison reveals the stark contrasts between these two eras of the Church. In one era, Latin was the central language of prayer and doctrine; in the other, it was replaced by the vernacular. In one era, Satan was attacking a spiritual citadel from the outside; in the other, Satan had gotten inside the citadel.

Latin as a so-called dead language was the Church’s immovable standard by which ideas could be judged against any Protestantizing tendencies in teaching or worship. Latin was also a unifying force against the myriad cultural differences in a Church that was present in every part of the globe. Latin brought the light of truth from the heart of the Church to the world. Fifty years ago every Roman Catholic priest of the Latin Rite studied Latin, and most priests took their theological courses in Latin. Suffice it to say that, today, the vast majority of clerics cannot read or speak the Church’s sacred mother tongue let alone read her precious historical documents in their original language.

Exorcisms in Latin

The spiritual power of Latin is most evident in the Church’s exorcism ritual. It is important to note that most exorcists favor the use of the traditional Latin ritual (as opposed to the more recent vernacular translations) because Latin seems to have a greater power over demons. These priests are always careful to say that the language of the ritual is less important than the authority of the Church that sanctions the action. That is entirely true. Christ’s grace flowing through the spiritual authority of His Church is the power that casts demons out, and any priest who attempts an exorcism outside that authority is deprived of the spiritual strength needed to come against the principalities and powers of Hell. Not a good idea.

Yet, it is also true that exorcism is essentially a prayer, and Latin has a potency that gives the exorcism ritual an extra degree of power in the spiritual realm. Fr. Gabriel Amorth, the former Chief Exorcist of Rome, was exasperated when the centuries-old Rite of Exorcism was revised and allowed to be prayed in languages other than Latin. To him, it was a weakening of the spiritual power of the prayer.

Exorcist priests have told me that the Latin language literally torments demons during the ritual. It may be compared to the difference between feeling heat and feeling fire on one’s skin. One exorcist said that he was once conducting an exorcism when the demon tried to get him to change languages by criticizing his Latin pronunciation! In these priests’ estimation, demons will do anything to make the Latin stop.

Anecdotes aside, what is increasingly evident is that exorcisms are on the rise. The Vatican now has an established course at one of its universities in Rome to train exorcists, and the episcopal conferences of several countries (including the US) have instituted similar courses due to the local need for exorcism and deliverance prayers. Even the secular media is reporting on this trend.

Latin in the Mass

And here we come to the Mass. What are we to say about the removal of Latin as the standard and exclusive language of the Mass, a change that also relegated the St. Michael Prayer to the realm of private devotion? According to our thesis, when the exorcistic power of Latin was removed from the Church’s greatest prayer, she was terribly weakened and became vulnerable to any other spiritual influence. Hence, Pope Paul would lament the smoke of Satan entering the “temple” soon after Latin went away, and forty years after that (2002) the Boston Globe would win a raft of Pulitzer Prizes for reporting on the epidemic of clerical sex abuse in the Church (most of which, we are told, happened in the ‘80s and ‘90s.)

Many prelates, clerics and theologians since the seventies have criticized Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) because they adamantly refused to accept the legitimacy of the changes in the Mass. They have been reviled as schismatics by modernist clerics because they hold the line on the Latin Mass and the entire Tradition of the Latin Rite. For the record, the SSPX members are neither in heresy nor in schism and are only considered as being in an “irregular” status with regard to Rome.

Which leads to a logical question: If “regular” is defined by the enablers of the current abuse crisis – prelates such as McCarrick, Wuerl, Cupich and company – should we not then consider “irregular” a badge of honor? For fifty years the heroic men and women of the SSPX have been keeping Latin alive in the heart of the Church, despite the greatest calumnies to their reputations and efforts. We owe them the deepest gratitude for seeing with absolute clarity what has been obscured by the smoke of Satan for so long.

Latin Re-Authorized

In 1999, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, gave every exorcist permission to use the traditional exorcism ritual in Latin instead of the revised vernacular version. In 2007, as Pope Benedict XVI, he then issued the marvelous document, Summorum Pontificum, recognizing the inherent right of every Catholic priest to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass. (Incidentally, the date of the document’s issue was 07/07/07.) Since that time a whole new generation of priests has been re-introduced to the glories of the Latin Mass and many of them have embraced it with a passion. A number of religious orders that exclusively celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass have also been established and are flourishing, while virtually everywhere else in the Church priestly vocations are on the wane.

In sum, there is a renewed spiritual wellspring flowing down once again from the heights of Heaven, which is having an enormous purifying effect on the Church. I believe that the number of Latin Masses now being offered, with the prayer of St. Michael, as well as a significant increase in the number of exorcisms is purging the Church in a baptismal sense, or at least the priesthood, which needs it the most. It is a painful process, yes, but it is also a very good thing.

A little over a decade after Summorum Pontificum was issued, we are witnessing the dissipation of the smoke of Satan, and some of the most pernicious demons that have gained entry into the sanctuary are now being driven out of the temple. As I said, Latin has exorcistic power.

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18 thoughts on “The Exorcistic Power of Latin in the Latin Church”

  1. Yes, Latin should be restored, just considering it inseparable from the glories of the Church until 1964 when Vatican II’s Document, Lumen Gentium, became the ”Constitution” of the Roman Catholic Church, thereby scrapping altogether its institutional founding by the Holy Ghost on Pentecost.

    Such an emphasis on exorcisms! What gives demons so much sway? The absence of the True Mass and the lack of authentic priestly ordinations, of course. The Novus Ordo Church is bankrupt of grace. There is something else at work: The systematic scandalization of children and that is pornography re-packaged as mandatory sex education in Catholic school classrooms. Nothing grieves the Holy Ghost more than sealing the mind, memory, and imagination of children to Satan through forced viewing of graphic sexual material. Catholic sex-ed, with its explicit obscenities, is the prime source of diabolical influence over children. Every Catholic school child, with even an inkling left of Baptismal grace, painfully realizes the loss of his or her modesty, chastity and spiritual purity as they are compelled to learn how to commit yet another sin of the flesh, from start to finish. In this depressed condition, a Catholic child is readily susceptible to demonic stratagems and assaults.

    I know many “conservative” Novus Ordo Catholics, outraged by priest-pedophile crimes, and deeply concerned by the growing need for exorcisms, are, nevertheless, quite ”cool” with sex-ed for children in parochial schools. It makes me wonder if there is such a thing as ”passive possession”. For the first 1960 years of Church history, it would have been deemed diabolical and insane for any Catholic to call for school children in class to be shown naked bodies, all the sexual organs divulged to view, and even going so far as to display masturbation, condom use, full-on sexual intercourse, as well as anal and oral sodomy. Such a Catholic would have been severely reprimanded by his bishop and probably excommunicated, with nearly every member of the Church strongly supportive of his punishment. You can’t find a single saint or respected Catholic writer of that nearly 2,000 year era who even slightly suggested sexual education for children in schools. Christendom was opposed to sex-ed for children in schools, until 1921 when Socialists in Sweden, started sex-ed in schools. Then Socialists in Weimar Germany and Margaret Sanger in America tried to introduce sex-ed in schools. All of these pro-sex education advocates were sworn enemies of Christianity in general, and the Roman Catholic Church in particular. These enemies of the Church firmly believed the best way to ruin any chance for children to become Catholic adults was to impose a raw, sexually-charged curriculum on students that would deprive them of any traditional sense of decency. Children were to look upon themselves as animals, defined by the activity of their genitalia, and not as humans with immortal souls. Why would Catholic conservatives support school sex-ed which the enemies of the Church devised in their hatred of Christ? It is the dialectical magic of Satan which intruded sex-ed into our schools and leads conservative Catholics to inflict it on their children. Exorcise sex-ed from the Catholic school system, if you would break the Devil’s bewitching hold on the Church.

  2. Sorry, but I grew up wth the latin mass.
    Changing the language has nothing to with morality, holiness or purity. The romans spoke in latin. The apostles spoke in Hebrew or Aramaic. Latin became part of
    the Mass in the third or fourth century. Changing back to Latin will just keep the majority of the different cultures of people in in ignorance. For centuries the average person knew very little about the Catholic religion. There was alot of ignorance. Very few of rhe laity knew scripture or how to defend the faith. When Librarian Theology
    and social justice propaganda surfaced catholics were unprepared. Scriptures were read on the podium but rarely explained. Many Catholics just prayed the rosary during the latin mass.

    1. I also grew up with the Latin Mass. Everyone at Mass had a missal that had the Latin on one side, and the English on the other and I’m not the only one who from the age of 6 picked up a lot of Latin just from daily Mass at our parochial school, and the missals. When I got to high school I made good grades in Latin without trying too hard because I had already “picked it up” though of course learning the conjugations and declensions was a drag, so I didn’t make A’s in it. All our parish priests (3 and sometimes a visiting priest) in their sermons did a good job of explaining the Gospels and relating them to daily life. As a child I was fascinated by the Catechism, and the Dominican sisters were good at explaining anything I asked; there were many like me who though not “saintly” kids, thought God and the Church were pretty cool. That’s what good catechisis looked like in the 1950’s. My father (a convert) fought in WW II (Navy) and he said after the war when he got time to go to mass in the post-war occupation of Japan that whenever he went to Mass, the Latin made him feel “At home” even though the congregation knelt on rice tatami mats. All over the world, the Latin Mass was the same, and he thought it was great.

    2. Your response spoke great wisdom as to what has happened to our decline of Faith in modern America — for Sure! Having grown up with the Latin Mass — NO ALTAT GIRLS! — Male Clergy, and having studied Latin in High School — then Nursing where our medical terminology came from Latin roots, I have become endeared to the language — especially the way good Music enhances our liturgy (The AVE MARIA)!! Was an Army Nurse and attended afternoon Mass at the base and when women were not allowed on the altar, I answered responses from the front pew (when there was no altar boy — even shamed a colonel into going up to altar and serving Mass. This scenario was in 1959, We need to focus on what happened in the Church. and how this era brought a decline in our faith. Most of our faith community rejected humanae Vitae, and have never even read the encyclical. We are now at the Bottom of the Slippery Slope, and need to call on St Michael, all the Saints, and recite the DIVINE MERCY chaplet. Satan is REAL, and our Blessed Mother stated that her IMMACULATE HERT would TRIMPH. We need to CONVERT (Turn back to the FAITH that our forefathers instilled in our Constitution) My Mother was a teacher in a rural one room school — She memorized the preamble to the Constitution. She voted democratic at that time and took her friends to the poll. She had a brother who came back from the war beyond repair from this insane war– General Eisenhauer was on the Republican Ticket (a man who was a professor and understood communism) My mother voted fro Eisenhaur! — Praying for our children –“WEEP NOT FOR ME, BUT WEEP FOR YOUR CHILDREN”

  3. Unlike Pope Benedict XVI, the present Bishop of Rome as he prefers to be styled, very rarely uses liturgical Latin for his Masses. In fact, in a German magazine interview several years ago, Bergoglio publicly criticized young people for their attachment to the Latin language and the so called “extraordinary form ” of the Roman Rite. He stated that these young people may very well have “psychological and emotional problems” for their attachment to the Latin Language and the traditional Liturgy. Obviously, not a very strong endorsement of the Latin language. I could never understand why so many clerics dislike the Latin Language. I guess the Devil, as the article states, may indeed hate Latin.

  4. What about ancient Hebrew ,or even Aramaic?. Would that language not have more power? After all Aramaic was the language of Jesus..And yes, Acts 2:11 by another reviewer says it perfectly and because it was of the Spirit was powerful…I do believe the use of Latin preserved the universality of the Roman Catholic Church , so in and of itself is a powerful tool..Tampering with the original does dilute its power and meaning…Man’s translation from Latin to the secular Novus ordo Mass left the mystery and power of the Church “hanging by a thread”

    1. No it would not. Because Latin is the official language of the Roman Catholic Church, which is the New Israel, the only authoritative representative of Christ on Earth, Her language would be more powerful than other languages. And also, because of all that has been done to the devil and the daemonic legion by that tongue, it carries with it the scourge of authoritative rebuke. It is also extremely precise. It has been said by a certain Catholic exorcist that when he questions the demons in Latin, sometimes they will try to respond in Italian, so they have some “wiggle room.” Such is not the case in Latin. Lingua Latina est pulchra. It is not the language itself, however, that it is so significant, it is the authority of the Church which used and should be using it.

  5. Why do you think Latin was done away with? Because the evil people in the church knew all this before today. It was planned. Why is it few priest know Latin today? The ones that know it are either all retired or dead already. How many priest know the Rite of Exorcism? Very few, and even less know there is a longer version that is not allowed to be used in favor of the new short version preferred by ……you guessed it-Our Bishops. And No priest today even knows the last rite of extreme unction. Now you get a half-hearted send off with a blessing. That is if you can even get a priest at your bedside before you die. Great church huh? I just wonder what they are up to when they are not molesting our youth.

    1. Several years ago the home-schooled Catholic kids in a roughly 50-mile radius around the Ordinariate parish (Cathedral) in Houston found one parent who was teaching her children Latin, and they asked her to share with the other parents a good home-school course and the kids (about 15 of them) got together at the church once a week and played word games in Latin. Then a retired classics teacher got interested and gave them a group lesson once a month (with home study) and 3-4 years later they all took an official Latin exam just to see how good they were, and most of them aced it and they were all under high-school age. . . . a couple went on to study classics in college and I heard both were asked to become classics teachers now because there’s a shortage. One of the boys is now a priest, and he has been tapped by the bishop (Cardinal) to teach Latin in the diocesan Seminary.

    2. That is wonderful, but it is like one in a trillion. AND i bet it is not the Diocese of San Francisco or New Orleans, just to name two evil cities. All in all, it is a tiny seed planted that can change a multitude and give reparation to heaven. You are blessed for sure.

    3. It is significant that this was a Lay intuitive — a homeschoolers to homeschoolers Catholic cultural outreach — “Children of the Holy House” encouraged at an Ordinariate parish in Texas.

      Homeschooling Catholics surprisingly often teach Latin, perhaps under the influence of the Holy Spirit; so that we will have some decent Latin teachers when these boys become priests. . . when the Church is cleansed and renewed, by an act of God. The internet is great at letting homeschool parents support and encourage others to teach Latin when they don’t know it themselves. . . there are good age-appropriate texts out there.

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