Eleison Comments

LATIN and GREEK

By Bishop Richard Williamson in Eleison Comments on March 23, 2024

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Good education is not far to seek – 

That which is tried and tested? – Latin and Greek.

The value of the pre-Christian classics in Catholic education is a disputed question. For instance one famous anti-liberal Catholic of the 19th century, Monsignor Gaume, argued that the classic authors in Latin and Greek are too impure to be usable in Catholic schools, but that would seem to be an exaggeration. For purposes of education at the natural level there is too much real value in the Latin and Greek classics for them to be absolutely spurned. The Greek and Latin classics are the products of intelligent and serious men who have thought a good deal about life and who present, by the gift of God, much truth concerning life and human nature. True, the impurities are scattered all around but they are not the centrepiece, rather a sideshow. An outstanding example would be the Aeneid of Virgil which maintains such a high moral level, that it was consulted widely at the height of the Middle Ages for its lofty vision of life. 

In brief, the Christian society is supernaturally superior to the society of the ancient classics, but that old classic society is far superior naturally to degenerate modern society. From the standpoint of education, it is especially easy to argue for the all-round superiority of Latin and Greek, as opposed to an education in modern languages or the modern sciences. A good education will provide both discipline for the youngsters’ hearts and minds, and culture for their souls, and history for their lives. Latin and Greek alone provide all three, Latin providing the practice of the basics, and Greek their theory. 

DISCIPLINE: Latin is an extremely logical language, requiring much thought to disentangle: subject, verb, object, and so on. There is discipline also in learning Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Computing and Technology, etc., but everything there is material, determined, inhuman, precisely and proudly abstracting from anything spiritual, free or human. And what the youngsters can no longer longer learn in school, or from their grandparents or even parents, they have to pick up in the gutter, from Hollywood or the Internet or their smartphone, etc. Lucky if they have just one sports coach who is human! In the spiritual wasteland of a “scientific” education, how much influence for good such a mere coach can have. 

CULTURE: When it comes to educating and forming the hearts and souls of the youngsters (hearts and souls they do have, with imperious needs), then the “sciences” enumerated above are simply non-starters, while the modern languages are a second best, because all modernity since the “Reformation” and its culture are more or less stained with apostasy, with war on God. Of course Latin and Greek culture are not free of original sin, but they are uniquely free of the Reformation and all its consequences, presenting a simpler and purer vision of the basics of human nature and life. A great help for youngsters to know. 

HISTORY: Latin and Greek culture are embedded in the history of all Western civilisation as it is now too late for the culture of any other language to be. Latin and Greek were two of the three languages nailed to the Cross of Our Lord. Greek was the language of the New Testament. Rome was soon the centre of the Church. “History is the master of life” is a wise old proverb, and to learn Latin and Greek is necessarily to learn some Greek and Roman history. In 1984 George Orwell wrote, “Who controls the past, controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.” So whoever controls our schools today, controls our future. These people are presently hard at work, discounting Latin and Greek, making history start with World War II, which is much more easily manipulated than ancient history. What does that tell us about modern education? It is no good. It is shaping sheep for the Antichrist. 

Kyrie eleison