Earlier this year, “Newsweek” reported that the FBI was targeting “Latin Mass Catholics,” reasoning that this group somehow poses a threat to the nation’s security. In a document leaked by an FBI whistleblower (holding the lengthy title "Interest of Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremists in Radical-Traditionalist Catholic Ideology Almost Certainly Presents New Mitigation Opportunities") the Bureau claims that Latin Mass Catholics are "anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBT” and have a “white supremacy” ideology.
Because of this and other moves, the FBI has come under criticism for engaging in religious persecution, as well as using the political language and views of the Southern Poverty Law Center to direct and describe its agency’s goals.
“What’s all the fuss about?” I wondered upon hearing these things. What’s so worrisome to our government about worshiping in a certain language?
I soon had the chance to answer these questions. Out of town for work, I learned that there was a Latin Mass parish nearby. Since we usually find a church to attend when out of town, I asked my wife what she thought about going, and she was more than willing. So, when Sunday morning rolled around, we loaded up the family, and off we went.
I was a ball of emotions walking up to the door, feeling both anticipation and nervousness. I couldn’t stop thinking about the leaked FBI document. Although my instincts told me the accusations were unfounded, I knew that even the best judges of character could be fooled, and I’ve learned not to exempt myself from this category.
Of course, one thing I had going for me was Anglicanism. My wife and I joined this church several years ago, and in many ways, it is similar to the Catholic Church, particularly in the style of worship. These similarities were confirmed as the service proceeded with communal prayer, invocation of the Trinity, confession of sin, reciting of scripture, and other things. Still, it was in Latin, not in English, but somehow, this difference mattered, though I wasn’t sure why.
At first, I thought it was the nature of the language itself. After all, the beauty and transcendence of Latin is evident, proven not only by its resurgence as a point of study but also by the persistent popularity of such songs as Panis Angelicus, as well as Gloria in Excelsis Deo.
But it wasn’t the beauty or the transcendence that made the difference. In fact, I wasn’t sure what it was, even after we left the service, although there was no doubt I felt humbled and renewed.
We were on the way home, in the car and about to cross the Alabama state line, when I turned to my wife.
“It’s because they can’t control it,” I said.
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“They target the Latin Mass,” I went on, “because they don’t own it, at least not yet, not the way they do the English one, with all their language manipulation, propagandizing, and word games.”
“What do you mean?” she asked again.
“Oh, you know, ‘God is Love,’ ‘Love is Love,’ all that. They tell us there are many ways to God, despite what Our Lord himself said, and they’ve taken our religious language and turned it into a secular one. But the words of the Latin Mass are beyond their reach, they still mean the same as they did two thousand years ago, and the FBI can’t stand it.”
She looked out the window in silence. After a moment, she took my hand. We were almost home.
“We’re in the red zone,” one of the kids said – a phrase we must have stolen from football jargon – meaning we’re close to home (it seems even we aren’t innocent of playing a word game here and there). But we were happy to be home that day, happy, at least for a time, to be behind closed doors and in safety, sheltered from the ever-changing world outside.
Along with his father, Allen Keller runs a lumber business in Stevenson, Alabama. He has a Ph.D. in Creative Writing from Florida State University and an MBA from University of Virginia. He can be reached for comment at [email protected].
The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News.
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