Papal bull

You might think the Catholic Church had enough to worry about with the laughably huge sums its having to drag from the contributions of the faithful to pay out to kids abused by its minions, but the Pope seems to be going for “the best defence is offence” strategy.

The Pope has been spraying papal bull^^^ in all directions, making some mockery of the concepts of ecumenical fellowship.


In Sunday’s Observer, Will Hutton compared the Pope’s recent pronouncement on Protestants to the tribally offensive behaviour of drunken Orange marchers, pissing on the Wigan train while shouting anti-Catholic rants. He referred to the Pope’s

.. judgment that Protestantism could never create churches. It might create Christian ‘communities’, but because it could not trace its lineage back to the first Christian divines, it could never claim the status of being a full church. Nor did Protestant ‘communities’ have a sacramental priesthood or a communion based on liturgical mystery, although of course the Holy Spirit might still reveal itself to them.
… The Pope’s pronouncement was a piece of fundamentalist partisanship that deserves every bit of anti-papist sentiment……. with one pronouncement the Pope has reopened the arguments of the 16th century…. in 2007 the Pope feels it necessary to assert Catholic identity, just as fundamentalist Muslims, American Christian evangelicals, and even Ulster Protestants do theirs.

Yes, it’s idleness to just quote from the Observer. Sorry. I’m keeping some paraphrasing energy for the next bit.

Latin Mass
The pope is bringing back the Latin Mass. This blog loves Latin in principle. I can’t even really see why mouthing ritual phrases isn’t actually less mind-damaging when the person who says them has no idea what they mean. So, I can’t see much of a downside to this in principle. I even like the irony that Latin was basically a language of pagans when it was everyday speech.

Except, the Telegraph religion blog points out that this will have great appeal in tempting even more conservatives from the Church of England. (Illustrated by a picture of Blair and the Hammer-horror-esque current Pope gurning happily together. oh right, so that’s who they mean.)

I have to say that I am with Hutton on this. It looks another nail in the coffin of the wishy-washy liberal humanism of the Church of England – which has the unique advantage of providing a unifying state religion that doesn’t normally require much in the way of belief (surely more truly “Roman”) – as we become more and more bent on turning our backs on the non-absolute values of the enlightenment. (Though the CofE isn’t exactly doing much for its liberal reputation as it goes down the anti-gay route, to pacify other members of the Anglican coommunity)

The pope is also annoying Jews. There was concern that the revived Latin mass would bring back prayers for the conversion of the Jews but the Church promised to drop these.
More disturbingly, there was a refusal to take part in the Holocaust Memorial Day

“in protest at a description of the wartime role of Pope Pius XII.”

That is, the Catholic Church is less than keen to have its World War II guilts dragged up. I guess there are limits to how good confession is for the soul… Maybe there just aren’t enough Hail Marys to get the man upstairs to give the Catholic Church absolution for its role in the Holocaust.

Wow, the Pope even seems to have a blog. Well I think it’s the Pope’s. Don’t be misled by my saying Latin is good (above) into thinking that I know enough of it to translate the specialist Latin on the rorate caeli page. Oh bugger, that’s my bluff called then. Well OK, caeli means heavens. Rorate?. Hm. No idea. Beguilingly like orate, which anyone could translate, but it’s not that.

I put the effort in to babelfish it but they don’t do Latin (In any case, there are small swathes of Latin across the top of the page which won’t bear copying and pasting.)

Ah ha. I may be developing disturbing signs of OCD but I found a translator:
It made me break the word up into root and ending and gave me this:

rorarii -orum m. pl. [light-armed troops , skirmishers].
roridus -a -um [bedewed].
rorifer -fera -ferum [dew-bringing].
roro -are intransit. [to drop dew , drip, be moist]; transit. [to bedew, moisten, water; to drip, let fall in drops]

Yeah, I have no idea what it means either. But, I am going to go with the Let water fall on the Heavens (which I substituted for a coarser phrase. I can now sort of understand why Hutton likened the document to Orange Lodge thugs pissing on a train) or Have a light skirmish with Heaven.

I am also sort of impressed that the Pope may be almost as vain as I am. The blog header has a picture of him – a profile, embossed grey on grey – that exudes kindly grandfather, quite unlike the Boris Karloff-alike imagethat I’ve seen in most photographs.

5 thoughts on “Papal bull

  1. I’m almost with the Vatican on this one. It’s ridiculous to repeatedly bring up the wartime role of Pius XII without rest. Surely there’s room to discuss regarding the current Pope’s wartime role too? Yet somehow I get the feeling that’s not the intention.

    Rorate, I think, is the imperative of rorare, so Rorate Caeli is a command for the heavens to drop dew or moisten.

  2. Rasputin It must be working here then. There’s barely been more than a couple of hours that it hasn’t rained for months.
    Alun: Yes, very good point.

    And mea culpa, I recognised the imperative case bit, but I failed to notice that caeli was subject case.

  3. Caeli is the vocative (plural) of caelus (a masculine noun;”heaven”); caelum (a neuter noun) means the same thing, but caeli would be the genitive singular of that word – makes no sense.

    This only completes the details of the correct answers of Alun and Rasputin:

    “Drop rain/dew on us, O heavens” more or less.


  4. Thanks.
    I am more than a bit impressed by the level of Latin knowledge here. I am genuinely outclassed.
    (Some half remembered bits of the Iliad and how to decline a few regular verbs are about it, except for recognising what a fair number of English and Romance language words mean from the Latin root.)

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