28 September 2023

The Evils of Latinisation: chaos in Kerala

Those of my generation may remember how, when we were a great deal younger, we were very indignant about the 'latinisation' of Eastern Rites. Apparently, there were were evil Latins who went around persuading 'uniates' to evict their iconostases!! You could go into a 'uniate' church and discover that a free-standing statue ... probably S Joseph or possibly even S Patrick ... had been intruded into its pure Byzantine ambience!

How truly, trruly terrrible!

We were reassured to be informed that successive popes had strictly forbidden such liturgical pollutions!

Conceivably, recent events in South India may have given us a better understanding of what 'latinisation' really means.

I suggest it be defined as the excessive influence on one ritual community of a larger, stronger, more world-wide, more culturally self-confident ritual community.

It is not now evidenced by the importation of poor-quality plaster statues of saints whose cultus was prominent in the nineteenth century; its sign now is: Liturgy Facing the People!

So, in Kerala, there is apparently violent resistence to a compromise rule that the Liturgy of the Word is to be facing the People, but that the Eucharistic parts of the Liturgy are to be facing the Altar. This is the result, not of latinising aggression ab extra, but of local clergy and laity appropriating and internalising what, for two generations, they have been (mendaciously) told "the Council" or "the Catholic Church" now required or prefers. By now, it's all most of them have ever known. For them, it is 'Catholic Worship'.

I wonder how many Western Liberals realise that the Chaos in Kerala is the result of Pope Francis insisting that Eucharistic celebrants should ... turn their backs on the People!!

I suspect that the main resistance to 'latinisation' happened in the past when American Latin-Rite bishops behaved with immense moral violence to prevent Oriental clergy from having wives ... Ruthenians ...?!?! but things are different now.

In none of this do I imply any disrespect to South Indian Christians who were heroically keeping the Faith during centuries when we brittunculi were persecuting it. After all, the Church of England went down the same misguided path as the Keralans in the very same period as they did. My recollection is that it was called "Doing Liturgy Ecumenically", or some such la-dee-dah phrase.

How we were all taken in!


  1. The chaos in Kerala appears to be a split between Ernakulam/Algamy which is the largest diocese and the metropolitan see, and all the rest which are following the decision of the Synod, the governing authority of the rite. Pope Francis is simply backing the legitimate authority.
    Of course you are correct in identifying the core of the problem as past Latinisation, overlain in this case by attempts to recover tradition lost over the centuries of colonisation giving the Keralans four different liturgical styles/rites in the 20th century!

  2. Until quite recently, the native-rite Catholic Church in India was forbidden to make converts. All converts to Catholicism had to join the Roman Rite, later the Novus Ordo Rite. What kind of harmful effect this unjust policy must have gad upon the nearly bimillenial local Indian Church and its age-old Liturgy and traditions?!

  3. The Vatican settlement seems highly reasonable and accommodating (wish it was genuinely available for Latins attending the New Mass, not just people who go to Oratory Masses, say), but enraged many locals and priests. Francis and co go on about toxic trads, but if the trad an ounce of Syro-Malabar moxie, Traditionis Custodes would be history. Sometimes pitchforks work.