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The Catholic Church, the Pope, and the Language of the Church

Pope Francis | File Image

By Valentine Obienyem

When I hear about the united war against Christianity and, by extension, the Catholic Church, it defies full understanding. The present case has brought this issue fully into the spotlight.

People like me have refrained from making comments until I have read the full document – “Fiducia Supplicans.” The Pope did not say anything new or introduce any novelty. The emphasis on blessing gays is the ‘casus belli.’

However, what is discernible is the fact that many people are not happy that the Catholic Church remains the sole conscience of the world and are praying for her downfall. The people of the world are against her because they are against Christ (“Sola contra mundi”). Didn’t we see this in the intensity of the recent attack based on a document they are yet to read?

Let us reiterate here that the Pope has no right to change the fundamental teachings of Christ and, by extension, the Church. The moment he does this, the torrent of revolt will overwhelm him. In fact, the Cardinals would convene a General Council and depose him! There would be a recreation of Avignon and the detestable period of Anti-Popes. But he will not do so, and nobody prays for such confusion, amidst some distressing prophecies.

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The statement on blessing is part of the work of the “magisterium” of the Church, expanding the teaching of the Church to accommodate modern development without injuring the fundamental teaching. An example is the use of contraceptives. At the time of Onan (Gen. 38:8-10), we did not have the modern contraceptives as they exist today. The Church continues to expand its teachings by conveying to the world that the use of condoms and similar devices also hampers the spirit of allowing a procreative act that has just begun. This parallels the intention behind the teaching on blessing people in same-sex marriage (not the marriage per se). However, we have witnessed the consequences of this emphasis, which should have been foreseen. 

The present Pope has raised a lot of controversy from people seeking controversy in whatever he does. He is the Pope at a time when the world is undergoing a lot of changes, and many are even questioning the tenets of Christianity. It is simple: in the war against Christianity, the Pope is the first and primary visible target as the representative of Christ.

Now that the full document is all over the place and the mind of the Pope clearer, the controversy should simply die. Historically, priests bless everyone, even in gatherings at town hall meetings where the attendees are usually a mix of good, bad, and ugly. A priest friend and classmate, Fr. Jude OKOYE, summarized it beautifully: ‘The natural default mode of priests is to bless.’

But the controversy has its own lessons. The Church should try to avoid controversies by not placing unusual emphasis on blessing same-sex marriages, as if priests were prevented from doing so. This leads us to a sub-topic, the Language of the Church.

The language of the Church

The language of the Church is known to those enamored with languages as one of the most profound. When reading the Church’s documents, it becomes evident that they are meticulously crafted by experts, leaving no room for doubt but instead consistently imparting a sense of divine inspiration and guidance. They don’t allow for further interpretative guesswork as all potential sources of controversy are fortified.

The Church upholds Latin with utmost seriousness because it regards language with great reverence. The Dicastery of Latin Letters, once a standalone department of the Roman Curia, was merged with the Pontifical Council for Culture in 2022. Its primary function is to translate all significant papal or Church pronouncements into Latin, preserving their purity. This practice explains why Papal Encyclicals are initially written in Latin before translation into other languages. While other languages might evolve, Latin remains immutable.

One of the reasons most Popes tend to read pre-written speeches and exhortations is to avoid any inadvertent errors. Any misstep or slip by a Pope in their delivery would have profound consequences.

Given these considerations, does the language of the Church still retain its profundity?

.Obienyem is a lawyer and public affairs analyst based in Awka.

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