Many of you will be too young to remember the infamous events of 1962. They led to famine and public disorder; to mobs of crazed people jostling in the streets as they struggled in the queues to register for their unemployment benefit and for hand-outs of public foodstuffs. Gaunt and famished, in country after country the hungry men, driven to despair, protested in the only way they knew. The barricades ... the street massacres ...
The cruel decree Veterum Sapientia had ordered the sacking of thousands of men, and some women, from Catholic seminaries throughout the world. Papa Roncalli, "Good Pope John XXIII" as he had ironically been called, in full consciousness of His authority, Decreed and Commanded eight important rules. Rule 5 ordered that the major sacred sciences should be taught in Latin, that the professors of these sciences in universities or seminaries be required to speak Latin and to make use of textbooks written in Latin. "Those whose ignorance of Latin makes it difficult for them to obey these instructions shall be gradually replaced by professors who are suited for this task. Any difficulties which may be advanced by students or professors must be overcome ..."
Hence the world-wide sackings. The Pope had spoken. Petrus locutus est.
Fiat Latinitas, ruat caelum.
S John XXIII ended with the impressive words "In virtue of our Apostolic Authority, We will and command that all the decisions, decrees, proclamations and recommendations of this Our Constitution remain firmly established and ratified, "anything to the contrary notwithstanding, even things worthy of special note". Gosh!! Nobody would disregard something as definite as that, would they?
What a persecution was then unleashed! Spies and informers abounded; Gestapo-like bands of thugs went around seminaries collecting evidence and listing names. Unspeakable cruelties were perpetrated upon these hungry, workless, men; upon their unfed women and their emaciated catamites. Since the elimination by burning of the Cathars, nothing like it had been seen in the Catholic Church.
In Argentina, no bishop was more rigorous than Bishop Bergoglio in enforcing the decrees of S John XXIII. If ever he heard of a seminary professor giving a single lecture in Spanish rather than Latin, he was instantly on the phone demanding that the man be sacked. He had the reputation of being the strictest bishop in Latin America in implementing Veterum Sapientia.
Of course, the relentless pressure of the Bishops and of the Seminary Management Boards proved ... as they must ... successful. Vernacular teaching totally disappeared from our seminaries; and as the succeeding Popes enforced the same rules, even the memory of Vernacular Seminary Teaching has disappeared. The world feels, somehow, so much cleaner, so much safer.
And how right all this has been. Veterum Sapientia was an Apostolic Constitution, signed, for greater emphasis, on the High Altar of S Peter's. Catholic clergy and Laity know their duty of submission to the authority of the Roman Pontiff. When we hear the Pope's voice, it is S Peter that we hear. This knowledge calls us to unquestioning obedience. "Do all your seminary teaching in Latin", he cries. Our response is "Certainly, Holy Father. Pronto!!".
Our privilege today, in 2021, is that we are being given a very similar opportunity for total and unthinking obedience, Jesuit style. Pope Francis possesses precisely and exactly the same authority as S John XXIII. When he decrees the extermination of the Old Mass, that decree comes to us with precisely and exactly the same force as the requirement of S John XXIII that all Priestly Formation in seminaries should be done entirely in Latin ... er ... except that possibly a motu proprio may not have ...um ... quite the authority of an Apostolic Constitution ... er ... . I wouldn't know about that sort of thing; I'm only a 'convert'.
Just suppose that 1962 decree had been ignored! Just suppose that the Rectors and the Episcopal Boards running seminaries had taken not the slightest bit of notice of those Decrees of S John XXIII!
It just doesn't bear thinking about, does it?