Norms for the Correct Implementation of the Apostolic Constitution Veterum Sapientia

The sacred Deposit of the Latin Language is a thing which even from the first centuries of the Church’s existence, the Throne of Peter has always guarded as something holy. It considers Latin an overt and beautiful sign of unity, a mighty instrument for safeguarding and spreading Christian Truth in its fullness, and for performing sacred rites. Our most Holy Father and Lord Pope John XXIII has lifted it up from neglect and contempt and firmly asserted its official, confirmed status within the Church. In a solemn ceremony on February 22, he signed with his own hand the Apostolic Constitution “Veterum Sapientia” in the Basilica of St. Peter, laying the foundations and establishing the principles by which this language, which is proper to the Church and forever bound into Her life, shall be restored to its ancient place of glory and honor.

No one, least of all this Sacred Congregation, can be unaware what great and arduous effort this most noble and necessary task will require, on account of the unfortunate state of learning and of use of the Latin language today, and because of conditions existing in various places, times, and nations. The Sacred Congregation has already discussed this matter in a letter to the Bishops given on October 27, 1957.1

Christian life and Christian faith teach us not to be overcome by our difficulties, but rather to overcome them instead. Faith calls us to strive after that which is difficult but noble and needful. If a thing requiring constant effort is put before us as something we must accomplish, as will be the enactment of this decree, it will stimulate our efforts, so that we may bear the fruits which the Church rightfully expects. She expects it from the earnest zeal of each member of the faithful, and most especially from those who are bound by their priestly office to such endeavors. This is especially true in these very difficult times in the life of the Church, when in the Second Vatican Council She labors with all Her being to build and to strengthen the unity of the Christian people. “Now, especially, it is good to remember the importance and the excellence of this language,” said the Pope in remarks he gave when he signed his Apostolic Constitution, “since we have arrived at times when there is obvious need for unity and cooperation among peoples. But nevertheless, foolish initiatives threatening that union are anything but rare.” The Latin language, as the Latin Church uses it, even today can very effectively foster reconciliation among peoples and resolve disagreements, especially among Her sacred ministers when they come from different peoples. It can be very helpful to rising peoples who are trustfully taking their place in the society of nations, since Latin is not beholden to the particular interests of any one nationality, nor does it play favorites with any. Rather, it is available to all as a wellspring of clear and dependable doctrine. It is easy for educated people to understand. It is an instrument of mutual comprehension, and a most valuable tie that binds.

Church history clearly teaches that every difficulty has a remedy on hand, provided that everyone recognizes that it is needed and people, especially the Church’s sacred ministers, have the obedience and goodwill to make use of it. The history of the Latin language proves this abundantly. For Latin has many times been laid low, crushed by the iniquity of the times, and then has flowered again, ever renewed, because the Church has solicitously defended it and vigorously sustained it as Her universal, venerable, and sacred inheritance.

Latin was able to re-establish itself time and time again, even from a greater state of neglect than it is in our own time. After the barbarous age of the Merovingians, it rose to new heights in France under Pepin and Charlemagne at the dawn of the ninth century. It rose even higher in the twelfth century and became an extraordinary tool for philosophy and theology. It was reborn yet again in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and was lifted to the utmost heights, where it seemed that the age of Cicero and Augustus had been restored to us.

Latin can be reborn even now, if we give appropriate time and attention to learning it, and if it is not overwhelmed and smothered by the host of other academic disciplines which have multiplied in the public schools. It can be restored with teaching methods like those of former ages which give the ability to speak and write in Latin. It can be restored if well-prepared teachers — people distinguished for their knowledge of Latin, expert in its use, and gifted as educators — can be chosen for this work and called to it even from faraway lands, as everyone knows has often happened before. It can be reborn if using Latin is normal in private and in specialized schools, even in higher ecclesiastical institutions, and if the custom of using this language is conscientiously preserved, as we here direct. It can be reborn if we invest all due care, commitment, and zeal in the effort; if we apply the care we routinely invest in things of the greatest importance. Finally and most critically, it can be restored if the highest good of the Church is the objective, and if the firm and certain will of the popes is respected and carried out with ready obedience and due loyalty.

The Sacred Congregation for Seminaries and Universities has been entrusted with this task. In ready obedience to the mandate of the Apostolic Constitution “Veterum Sapientia,” we have with great care prepared a curriculum for teaching and learning this language which is ordered toward achieving its renewal fully and effectively.

The Sacred Congregation hereby conveys these Ordinances to seminaries, universities, and to institutions of ecclesiastical studies, and orders that they be scrupulously implemented.

Section One
General Directives

ARTICLE I – On adapting existing curricula in use among the nations to the norms of these Ordinances.

  1. The varying curricula for Latin in use in Catholic schools worldwide are sometimes unequal to the task of providing full knowledge and mastery of the language. They will, therefore, have to be adapted to the standards established by these Ordinances, so that they can fully accomplish the goal and offer no excuse for not achieving it. Public school curricula will have to be set aside in this area if they cannot fully meet the educational requirements of future priests and provide the due formation in Latin prescribed for all sacred ministers by the Apostolic Constitution and by these Ordinances.
  2. These Ordinances must be faithfully observed, and pre-existing school curricula worldwide must be duly adapted to them. To this end, the bishops in any given country shall delegate this task to local experts, who, adapting to the circumstances of the place, will nonetheless ensure that the curriculum given here remains the same throughout that country. All of this shall be subject to inspection by the Sacred Congregation and under its authority.
  3. Enacting this Apostolic Constitution and its Ordinances faithfully may give rise to some problems, particularly in the early stages. Accordingly, this Sacred Congregation will appoint a council of experts with whose help it will resolve such difficulties in light of the Constitution and the Ordinances. It will clear up doubts, answer questions, give advice, and oversee the implementation of this project in all other respects.

ARTICLE II – On teachers of Latin.

  1. Regarding teachers of Latin in lower and middle schools or in those schools commonly called Classical or Humanities high schools, it is first and foremost an absolute requirement that the teachers be suited to the task. They must be learned in the language, and naturally gifted as educators, since on them unquestionably depends the greater part of the good results of this instruction. This applies equally to major seminaries and postsecondary Ecclesiastical institutions, with a particular eye to teachers of Patristics, Theology, and Diplomatics. The bishops and their representatives shall take care to identify promptly those clerics who seem especially suited to this kind of work, and shall take up their thorough formation and preparation, just as they do for instructors in the other academic disciplines.
  2. At all times, in the selection of teachers, no mere smattering but rather specialized knowledge of the language and expertise in its use must be required. For this reason, before they begin to teach, they must already have earned the Laurea in Classical Letters in a university and acquired appropriate command of the Latin language and its literature. They must likewise be well trained in the practical use of Latin in speaking. If teachers’ home countries do not offer the necessary academic facilities, or if such facilities are substandard, they are to be sent to the best universities abroad.
  3. Given that most secular universities prioritize philological learning as their goal, and de-emphasize the practical use of Latin, bishops shall take care to send young faculty members to one of the institutions this Sacred Congregation has approved, or will in future establish. In particular, teachers should be sent to the ACADEMIC INSTITUTE FOR LATIN which will be founded in Rome in accordance with the Apostolic Constitution “Veterum Sapientia,” so that they can develop not only a living facility with this language in speaking and writing, but also a fuller knowledge of Christian and Medieval Latinity.2 This applies also to those faculty who hold terminal degrees with distinction from public universities, and to those that have yet to write their postdoctoral qualification exercise in textual criticism.
  4. Professors of Latin are not to be dismissed from their posts without grave cause; rather, they should enjoy security in their positions, so that by teaching they may perfect their skills and become ever more excellent with the passage of time.
  5. Professors are not to be burdened with excessive teaching loads; for this reason, they should not be few in number, nor should they be distracted with other duties of any character whatsoever.
  6. Professors who are found to be ineffective for whatever reason, and especially those who are hostile to this language, are to be removed immediately, lest corrosive indulgence or reprehensible neglect compromise their young students’ first instruction, perhaps irreparably.
  7. Whenever only a very few expert professors of Latin can be found in particular places, the bishops should ask for personnel from other dioceses and from the religious orders, until the number of instructors can be increased to meet the need. This mutual help among various dioceses, even among various nations, and between the secular and regular clergy, will be very good for restoring Latin and for strengthening the bond of charity.

ARTICLE III – Concerning examinations.

  1. Tests demonstrate students’ knowledge of the language and their teachers’ performance and expertise. They must be administered with the greatest diligence and consciousness of their importance. There must be no laxity of any kind that would admit to secondary schools, to academic degree programs, or to teaching positions, any persons who are ill-prepared or insufficiently tested. In such a matter, easygoing compromise of any kind only harms the candidates themselves, who must encounter even greater difficulties in the future. They will always limp and never run. It also harms the Church Herself, since such people have only a limited understanding of Her language and a limited love for it, or indeed they actively reject it.
  2. Examinations are to be given after each academic year, and repeated if they are not passed, before any advancement can be granted to the next class higher. In these examinations (with the exception of composition exams in the final years of study) it is always good to include translation from Latin into the students’ mother tongue, and out of the mother tongue into Latin. Translations will be literal in the first years, then progressively more elegant according to the character of each of the two languages and the type of writing.
  3. An exam is likewise to be given on completion of studies at the secondary level. It must give proof not only that the student has acquired due knowledge of the Latin language, but also that he has attained sufficient facility in its use. This is necessary so that graduates may truly go prepared into their more advanced subjects, and are able to understand and discuss them in Latin.
  4. As for those who desire to be admitted either to major seminary or to other ecclesiastical institutions of higher learning, but who have not studied the Classics in minor seminary or secular school or in any parochial school where students are educated for secular careers rather than priesthood, they should be examined with particular stringency, both in their knowledge of Latin and in their ability to use it. This is so that they may be admitted in a state of no lesser preparation than others who did complete Latin studies in minor seminary. If they do not have the necessary command of Latin language, they must do remedial work in Classics for an appropriate period of time and complete it properly.
  5. Administrators are to require a special examination for students who are admitted to interdiocesan and regional major seminaries to study the higher subjects when such students come from the outside. This examination is to be in the form of a conversation in Latin or an adequate essay exercise. Those who are found to be insufficiently prepared are not to be admitted before they have completed remedial work for an appropriate period of time.
  6. Special care and consideration must be given to teaching men who have been called to priesthood later in life and who have little or no prior knowledge of Latin. It is extraordinary what benefits these studies confer on the character and intellect of more mature individuals. The benefits are so great that such men’s priestly education would be ragged and threadbare without them. The men themselves, lacking them, might cause their superiors worry by carrying on their studies in a light and summary manner. Furthermore, as the Constitution plainly states, “No one is to be granted access to philosophical or theological studies unless he is fully and thoroughly schooled in this language and skilled in its use.” These students, therefore:
    1. are to complete the entire curriculum here prescribed in schools created especially for them. This they may do at a faster pace, but nevertheless not in any perfunctory or summary manner. They are to omit no part of the curriculum on account of their age.
    2. are to study Latin for a period of at least two years before they begin their introduction to Scholastic philosophy.
    3. are to take and pass an examination before they can be sent to Major Seminary. The point of this exam will be to test whether or not they have attained sufficiency in knowledge of Latin and in practical use.

ARTICLE IV – Concerning pronunciation.

We cast no aspersions on the “classical pronunciation,” which has in recent years been restored in many secondary schools of high reputation; it certainly ought to be learned. Nevertheless, as St. Pius X and Pius XI have already urged, for the sake of uniformity the pronunciation which is called “Roman” is to be retained in use. Roman pronunciation is not only “intimately connected with the cultivation of Gregorian chant, since the manner contemporary to it of handling stress accents and pronouncing Latin has been extremely valuable for singing it correctly.” It is likewise wholly appropriate “for the ever-increasing support of liturgical unity.” Moreover, it has been in uninterrupted use, both in the Church and in the schools of many nations, since roughly the fourth century, with the result that it has become more or less international or common to all. Roman pronunciation is, additionally, the pronunciation in which Church documents were read aloud at the time they were written, and in which they ought to be read even now.

Section Two
On a common curriculum for the study of Latin in high schools

ARTICLE I – Concerning the goal of these studies and the means of achieving it.

No one is unaware of the special power of studying Latin language and literature in forming young intellects. Through them, the most important gifts of mind and character are exercised, brought to their unfolding, and perfected. A students’ capacity for discriminating thought is sharpened, as are his powers of judgment. The mind is rendered better able to apprehend and evaluate all things. Thinking and speaking acquire a clearer order; propriety and elegance appear in the student’s choice and use of words. The mind is effectively cultivated and ordered not only toward acquiring useful skills, but also toward attaining higher culture and true humanity. The student can gain a wider and more solid knowledge not only of the Romance languages but also of other languages of culture. These good qualities of the mind in formation — which are the only things the public educational system expects Latin studies to deliver — are yet not the same as those that are expected in the education of clerics. Here, the primary goal is forming that particular kind of mind which is needed for the right exercise of future ecclesiastical duties.

Latin language studies in high schools for clerics have this principal goal: that aspirants to Holy Orders should be able to go to the sources of Sacred Tradition and understand the documents of the popes and the councils, and also the liturgy. Later on, the goal is to make them able to use this language to learn their major academic disciplines, to write Church documents and letters, and to correspond with their brother clergy of other nations. Finally, at the highest levels, the objective is to make them able to take part in the sort of ecclesiastical debates on articles of Catholic faith and discipline which occur in the councils and meetings to which the Catholic clergy of the world are occasionally called.

In order that aspirants to Holy Orders may attain appropriate mastery and facility in the use of this language, the curriculum ought to be shaped with attention to the amount of time necessary, the quantity and nature of the authors to be treated, and the method to be used in teaching and in learning.

ARTICLE II – On the period of time to be allotted to this study.

  1. Because the time allotted to this study among various peoples for many reasons varies so greatly, whether one takes into account the number of years or the number of class hours given to it each week, so great a space of time will have to be granted, in Church schools, to this discipline, as is specified in these presents as being necessary and sufficient for the accomplishment of its goal. In this matter, therefore, the following is ordered:
    1. The duration of this curriculum is to be extended through at least seven years, for young people who are beginning their Latin classes in the seminaries; no fewer than six hours (weekly) in the first five years, and no fewer than five in the remaining two.
    2. Wherever the praiseworthy custom prevails of giving eight or more years of study to Latin letters, it shall absolutely be retained. At the same time, the authors to be studied shall be chosen either in accordance with the established curriculum of the place, or according to the schema laid out below (cf. Art. III, § 3). Let no one suppose that the time here prescribed will be vainly invested; for if young people do not now dig deep roots into these disciplines, they will never draw nourishment from the harder subjects which will follow, nor will they receive in full the fruits of an ecclesiastical education.
  2. For this reason, therefore, the other academic disciplines will have to be so ordered and abridged (and one or another perhaps either cut altogether or deferred until some later time), so that this prescribed period of time which is to be given to Latin language study may be observed in every respect.
  3. Those who enter seminary or another Church school after one or more years put into this study in the public schools are to be placed at the class level which corresponds to their actual level of knowledge, not simply according to the number of years of study.
  4. Among peoples in whose lands, on account of special historical conditions, seminaries are also thought of as colleges – places where both seminarians and other students are educated under the same curriculum — the very greatest care must be taken so that the requirements of the common curriculum are properly fulfilled for those who aspire to the priesthood, in such a way as to ensure that the things which these Ordinances prescribe concerning the length of time to be invested in the study of the Latin language, and concerning the number of authors to be treated, are carried out in every particular, and that the goal to which this ecclesiastical education has been ordered, is reached.

ARTICLE III – Authors to be studied.

  1. In selecting and treating authors, care is to be taken for the following: that there should be a progression from the easier to the more difficult ones; that those should be chosen whose Latin is very widely approved, and that they, at least in the selections proposed for study, include nothing which could offend the ears or the minds of young people. Rather, they should be those who offer something which, for elegance of diction and for content, actually contributes to genuine formation of the mind and of taste (iudicii). Let them be chosen in such variety as makes it possible to gain an appropriately broad overview of the principal literary works of the Romans and in Latin literature as a whole. They should be studied in a quantity sufficient for acquiring true mastery of the Latin language; and finally, they are to be gradually united to more recent documents of the church and more recent works of authors, so that students can learn a pure Latinity which is admirably well-suited to discussing new things and events.
  2. Guided by these principles, we provide below a certain selection of authors and present them in the order, more or less, which prevails in the schools, in such a way, however, that both the choice of authors and the sequence of their presentation through the years of study, could be slightly changed for just cause (e.g. longstanding custom, or integration with public-school curriculum for these studies, etc.), provided that the quantity established here, which is a minimum sufficiency, be in no way altered.
  3. These authors, therefore, should be treated in the measure prescribed in each year:
    • First year: first, whole sentences of elegant type, selected from the (listed) authors; some proverbs and maxims which must be memorized; in the second part of the year, certain selections may be taken from the Old and New Testament (viz. the Creation, the story of the seven Maccabee brothers, the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the Parable of the Lost Sheep, etc.). At least 100 lines of poetry, of which some are to be memorized. A shorter fable of Phaedrus or a very short letter of Cicero could also be included.
    • Second year: at least ten fables of Phaedrus; one or another of the Lives of Cornelius Nepos; approximately twenty letters of Cicero; also some of the shorter Latin dialogues (from Erasmus, Vives, Jacobus Pontanus, etc).
    • Third year: at least one whole book of Caesar, certain other letters of Cicero, three hundred verses of Ovid, a certain number of hymns from the Roman Breviary, some chapters from the Catechism of Trent.
    • Fourth year: three of Vergil’s Eclogues, five Elegies of Tibullus and Propertius, at least one book of Livy, some letters of Cicero, and some chapters from the Catechism of Trent.
    • Fifth year: an oration of Cicero, thirty chapters of Sallust, one book of the Aeneid, and another of the Georgics; some chapters from the Catechism of Trent.
    • Sixth year: one of the philosophical works of Cicero (e.g. De Amicitia, De Senectute, or a selection from the Tusculan Disputations); ten poems of Horace, five of Catullus, one book of the Annals or a monograph of Tacitus, certain chapters from the Catechism for Pastors.
    • Seventh year: the Ars Poetica of Horace; a comedy of Plautus or Terence; selections (at least 300 lines) from Lucretius; a book of Cicero’s De Officiis or one rhetorical book of Cicero or Quintilian.
    • Eighth and Ninth year: in addition to any works from the foregoing plan presented here which have yet to be studied (an effort which a longer period of time promotes), and those that are required by the curriculum proper to a particular place, there should also be added selected letters of Pliny and Seneca; excerpts from Christian Latin writers and from the holy Fathers (Minucius, Lactantius, Ambrose, Augustine, etc.); likewise selections from the documents of the Roman Pontiffs and from the best modern Latin writers.

The Catechism of Trent, which has been recommended again and again by Supreme Pontiffs and by Provincial Councils, has been used in schools up until the end of the last century as a treasury of Golden Latin and as the most excellent textbook for the learning of Christian doctrine and discipline. This book students are to have always in their hands from their third year of Latin study onward; through it they will gradually learn to blend Golden Latinity with the clear language which is characteristic of the documents and disciplines of the Church.

Even if some information about the lives and the writings of each of the authors to be examined in school has been provided by the teacher before the class comes to grips with the text itself, the instructor still must teach the whole context of Latin literature starting from the fifth year. The major authors’ lives, works, topics, and significance – historical, philosophical, or literary – are to be reviewed; likewise each one’s particular style, his imitation of and borrowing from more ancient sources, and the like. All of these things, moreover, are to be presented in Latin and those who hear them are to have a textbook. If such a book in Latin is not available, the instructor will be able either to dictate something or distribute written notes. Teachers are to avoid overly-erudite digressions; rather, they are to limit themselves to presenting those facts which are truly relevant to each author’s life, art, style, and importance, and conducive to the formation of the student’s mind and taste.

ARTICLE IV – Concerning method in teaching and learning the Latin language.

  1. Because the study of Latin requires pre-existing knowledge of the parts of speech, or of what is commonly called grammatical analysis or logic, students are to be taught the rudiments – those things which are absolutely necessary – over an appropriate period of time before they begin the study of the language itself.
  2. The method of teaching the Latin language ought to be ordered toward acquiring the ability to use it. For this reason, that overflowing philological pot-au-feu which makes up nearly the entire menu in schools of literature, especially graduate schools, and yet does not provide the hoped-for benefits of such study, will have to be thrown out. A return must be made to the old system of teaching, whose major elements we will recapitulate below (§§8-10).
  3. Because in the Latin instruction of seminarians, full knowledge and mastery in use is both to be aimed at and to be attained, instruction in grammar must be provided – not in a perfunctory and light sort of way, but fully and correctly; gradually, at first, in proportion to students’ ability to take it in, and always combined with comparison and reading of texts.
  4. The theoretical part of this instruction can be divided more or less in this manner: in the first year, the pronunciation and the entire morphology of Latin is presented, even if in a summary way; in the second year, there will be a general review of morphology, duly filled out with study of irregular forms, as well as that part of syntax which pertains to agreement of cases. In the third year, study of the syntax of verb tenses and moods will be completed. In the fourth year, syntax will again be treated and its study completed with regard to more difficult constructions. In the fifth year, prosody and poetic meters are to be taught in complete overview, albeit in a summary way, while review of syntax is also not to be neglected. In the sixth and seventh years, not only the elements of style will be conveyed in brief. Grammar, syntax, and metrics (viz. [Virgilian] hexameter and the meters of Horace and those of the [Ambrosian] hymns) are to be scrutinized and discussed in the works of the great authors themselves, as students read, comment, and translate them.
  5. The precepts of grammar (all of which are to be committed to memory, with the exception of those whose treatment can be deferred in prudence) are things which the teacher is to explain in manner which is easy to apprehend and is clear, avoiding digressions about minutiae, but rather giving frequent repetitions of the essentials. The teacher is to concern himself with offering examples for his students’ instruction, namely, such as can be made to serve the goal of teaching the use of the language, both in speaking and in writing. He is not to busy himself with the indiscriminate collecting of useful and useless information from many sources. Let him rather choose with the most careful attention materials which are truly significant and useful, so that his lectures may shine with the clear light of wisdom.
  6. Great care must also be taken in the selection of grammar texts, ensuring that they offer a treatment of their content which is consistent, clear, and comprehensive. They should not be packed with excessive scholarly minutiae, nor should they be overly simplified or lightweight, since learning to use the language, in writing and in speaking, urgently requires a thorough knowledge of its structure and nature. It will be very beneficial to use a single textbook for the entire curriculum, so that students can get to know it well and, later, keep it always with them as a faithful companion whose advice they seek whenever a question comes up.
  7. In accordance with the teaching method handed down to us from antiquity, whose abandonment now nearly everywhere has caused no little damage (and yet which, in our own days, is rising higher and higher in estimation and is rightly being built up again, since it is remarkably well-aligned with the most recent findings of pedagogical science) the custom of speaking Latin in lectures, tests, and classes shall be introduced. The textbook used for teaching Latin syntax shall itself be written in Latin, or the teacher himself may convey its principles summarily in Latin, and ensure that they are memorized and recited by his students.
  8. Practice is to be given high priority; it can be carried on in a variety of ways in Latin classes, but it is always to be done step-by-step, in a manner appropriate to the level of knowledge of each class.
    1. Students are to be drilled, first of all, in declining regular forms [of verbs and nouns], and subsequently in the most commonly-seen irregular forms. All these they are to memorize; they are to keep on practicing, with the greatest possible diligence, all kinds of nouns and verbs which are given to them to decline [or conjugate].
    2. Another essential exercise is that of memory, so that not only the essential elements of grammar relating to the individual word, at the very least, are committed to memory and recited aloud (and this so that they may be clearly and solidly retained, as if they were the formulae of some [practical] art), but also selected maxims and sayings, as well as very carefully chosen excerpts of the poets and orators.
    3. Students are likewise to be put through their paces with quizzes on the elements of grammar, on the arguments of the authors, and on the meanings of words; in the earliest lessons this will be done in the vernacular language, and then, in Latin – first, on the meanings of those lexical items that have been specifically assigned and discussed, using more or less the same words, and later the students’ own.
    4. There must be very abundant practice in speaking – but speaking well and elegantly, in a situation in which the students, if they make a mistake in some part, they may be immediately corrected by their teacher. The instructor will also supply well-chosen words for everyday things.
    5. Writing practice, which is the principle means for arriving at full knowledge and use of the language, ought at some times to be given unannounced in classes and at other times as an activity for private study-time. In the higher levels of schooling, these exercises are to be given at least twice weekly, alternating between prose and poetry [oratio soluta et ligata]. The theme for the exercise may be either something already discussed in class or something merely stated. As far as concerns verse composition (a laborious process which bears proportionate fruit, albeit not for the increase of the poetic art itself, but certainly for the growth of knowledge of the language and of Latin metrics), the teacher should first give his students some verses with their individual words taken out of their order, so that the students must put them back together. Later on, students will compose their own verses by their own lights, using a meter well-known to them.
    6. Translation from the mother tongue into Latin and from Latin into the mother tongue should never be lacking. If it is done with due regard for idiom and in accordance with the manner of speaking proper to each language, it will give great benefits toward acquiring a fuller knowledge of each of the two languages and discovering each one’s true nature, all of which constitutes a genuine broadening of students’ minds.
    7. Analyzing the authors is a work to be carried out by the one instructor while the students listen, in the manner of a professor’s lecture.

    Lecturing, in which a teacher’s erudition, expertise, industry and effectiveness are most clearly visible, is the principle instrument by which the happy end of this instruction can be achieved. In the introductory classes, lecturing should be simple and done in the mother tongue only; later, Latin elements are to be sown into the mother-tongue narrative. From the fourth year onward, lecturing is to be done in Latin only, and in a full, elegant Latin at that.

    In this manner the teacher can proceed so that in the first place appears the subject matter of the book, oration or excerpt which is to be discussed or briefly summarized in a particular class. The explanation of it should follow, which, in the grammar schools, will make plain the word order and structure of [the author’s] diction, and elucidate the more obscure vocabulary. In the higher-level schools, he will do the same thing in Latin, but in a more elegant and content-rich manner. Then should come grammar; in the lower schools, this entails the analysis of individual words and each one’s gender, declension, conjugation, mood, tense, etc., or, in the upper schools, rhetoric, which is observation of the things that have a bearing on the eloquence, the artistic quality, the grammar, syntax, and structure of speech of the particular author under discussion, whether orator or poet. Thereafter, the focus should be on erudition. In the lower schools, this will take the form of a fuller exposition of elements (e.g. similes, descriptive passages) which are suggested by the author’s word choice or by stories he includes, etc. In the upper schools things will proceed in the same way, but in a fuller manner and with the inclusion of more content drawn from history, mythology, poetry, etc. Finally, there should come consideration of Latinity, which in the lower schools will teach the boys how word order is manipulated, with some elements being put before others, and why some words and not others are preferred, etc. In the upper schools, this consideration will include examination of an author’s preferred metaphors, the effects and meaning of words and how that meaning is colored by variation in word order and organization [artificio], also the properties of each language [Latin and the mother tongue] for expressing the same thing; and at last, it will include all other things that pertain to eloquence, poetic art, and the type of writing in question.

    Interpretation of the authors ought to be carried out by pupils first, at least in part, in their daily homework exercises (this ought to be required of the students in class by the teacher, who will sometimes investigate it in his own office, so that he can become better-informed of each student’s progress); later on, such interpretation will also be done by the teacher in class, where he will explain the words, the type of discourse, the more difficult constructions, the historical and geographical context in various ways, in Latin or in the students’ native language, but always using words chosen as carefully as possible and with appropriate idiom, so that the true complexion of each language may clearly appear. It is helpful also for a poet and an orator to be treated by turns in class, so that students do not get bored for lack of variety.

Section Three
On the study and use of the Latin language in Major Seminaries

ARTICLE I – On Latin study.

  1. Major Seminary students ought not to put down the study of Latin altogether, but rather, continue to progress and perfect their knowledge especially in those texts which pertain in a particular way to the Latinity of the sources of Sacred Tradition, of Church diplomatics, and of the disciplines on which they are concentrating.
  2. Seminarians are therefore to cultivate this language not only by private reading of Classical and Christian authors, but they are to exercise themselves assiduously in various ways so that it may become, as it were, vernacular to them, like their mother and native tongue. This used to be commonplace, and happens even now in the study of modern languages, which are learned through conversation itself rather than by the presentation of rules. For this reason, we will recommend Latin conversation on certain days at recreation and with professors in private tutorials; neither should Latin composition be neglected, whose fruits, especially on the most solemn feast days, can be recited or exhibited in the public universities.
  3. To ensure that students concentrating on the major disciplines of study [e.g. Theology, Philosophy] consistently pursue the study of Latin and so that they may be gradually introduced to the technical Latin of the source texts, we order the following:
    1. A special course on this particular kind of Latin is to be given to all students, in Latin, by an expert professor. This course will meet at least one hour per week throughout the entire Theology curriculum.
    2. In this course, the principle documents and source texts of the various academic disciplines – such as the writings of the Fathers and Theologians, documents of the Popes and the Councils, and the texts of the Liturgy – all these chosen with the consensus of all the instructors, are to be read and discussed.
    3. No one is to be exempted from the obligation of taking this course. On its completion, all students are to undergo an examination, and those who do not pass are to repeat the course. Thus the objective will be reached that, when students have a grasp of the particular nature of each kind of Latinity, they will not only have a solid foundation for the exegesis of doctrine, but their direct familiarity with the source texts will be increased and they will be able to interpret them truthfully. Without these capacities, no secure and genuine ecclesiastical education can be conveyed; with them comes a very valuable complement to the study of the Scholastics.

ARTICLE II – On the use of Latin.

  1. In teaching the major academic disciplines of the Church, the use of the Latin language is to be immediately and fully instituted everywhere, notwithstanding any difficulties this may present. No bishop or institutional superior may permit otherwise by making exceptions after his own judgment.
  2. The academic disciplines to be taught in Latin are Theoretical Philosophy; General, Dogmatic and Moral Theology; General and Specialized Introduction to Sacred Scripture, and Canon Law. Those disciplines pertaining strictly to pastoral practice, to Catechetics, and to Homiletics may be exempted, as may History of Philosophy, Church History, and the other disciplines.
  3. Regardless of any local custom to the contrary, it is ordered: first, textbooks for the disciplines which are to be taught in Latin (those books that are published for school use and used in school) as well as professors’ privately-produced notes which they provide as handouts for student use, in which the teachers have seen fit to explain certain essential points of the lesson, are to be written in Latin. Second, every student is to have in his possession not only a textbook written in Latin for each of his subjects which is taught in Latin, but also all of Holy Scripture in the Vulgate edition, the Code of Canon Law, and various Latin handbooks of [Church] documents. Third: a list of books used in classes is to be submitted to the Sacred Congregation for Studies, in accordance with its published decree.
  4. Students, additionally, are even within their own minds to develop the habit of mulling over, weighing, rereading and retaining, in Latin, those things which they have read or heard in Latin. They are to accustom themselves to understanding well and committing to memory the vocabulary and the idioms proper to each of their academic subjects, so that subsequently they may ever more freely and elegantly speak in their classes and in their examinations.
  5. Examinations, whether written or oral, are to be conducted in Latin for those disciplines which are taught in Latin. The same is to be observed in public presentations and in review sessions.
  6. The professors by whom the major ecclesiastical academic disciplines are to be taught in Latin must:
    1. Prepare everything carefully in Latin; the Latin must be clear and correct, as the dignity of these disciplines requires. They are not to rely on extempore speaking in the form of their discourse.
    2. Be hired with an eye not only to their expertise in their own discipline, even if that be unique, but also it must be demonstrated that they possess the requisite knowledge of Latin and ability to use it.
    3. Be informed in a timely way so that they may prepare themselves to meet this requirement; appropriate support shall be provided to them for this preparation.
    4. Be removed from their positions if they neglect and hold in contempt the requirement given here for using Latin in their teaching, lest by their instruction and example they do harm to their students.
  7. Superiors of major seminaries are to enact with care those things ordered below for the appropriate formation of the library, especially with regard to Latin and Greek. (Cap. IV, Art. II, §14).

Section Four
On the study and use of Latin in Ecclesiastical Universities and Institutes

ARTICLE I – On the study of the Latin language.

  1. Because the duty of higher education is principally “to give [students] familiarity with the sources and prepare them for research and scholarship and the exercise of the Magisterium,” it is obvious that students at this level must be equipped with specialized knowledge of Latin and experience in its use, since it is the indispensable key to knowledge of sacred things.
  2. Consequently, no one may be enrolled in a university or other institution for the pursuit of academic degrees unless he has first properly completed the secondary Classical Studies curriculum. This certainly has to be demonstrated with valid documentation, yet also reserving to the University or Institution the right to require an examination whenever the documents presented are deemed to be inadequate. A false leniency or consideration of other human excuses here cannot be anything but gravely injurious, both to scholarship itself and to the proper education of students.
  3. In order that students’ first encounters with source texts may be wider-ranging and more fruitful (and knowledge of these must be of great concern to Universities and academic institutes of the Church, in accordance with Art. 2 of the Apostolic Constitution “God, the Lord of the Sciences”) and so that students may benefit from very accurate philological exegesis of these sources, since such exegesis is the first and necessary foundation of any ulterior exegesis, and so that they may arrive at full and certain understanding of the sources, the following is ordered:
    1. First, in any Department of Philosophy and in the Departments and Institutes of higher sacred study, a special course is to be instituted, by which students may be given a thorough grounding in the language particular to the source under study, whether Greek or Latin.
    2. This course shall meet a minimum of one hour per week at least for one semester in a two-year course of study [duobus annis saltem per semestre].
    3. This course is to be considered an auxiliary course, after the sense of the Apostolic Constitution “God, the Lord of the Sciences” (Art. 33, §1,3; Art. 34). For this reason, no one is to be exempted from taking this course; on its completion, all students are to take an examination; those who do not pass are to repeat the course.
  4. Those special exercises appropriate to the doctrinal interpretation of select texts may be included in this course, as long as (according to the above order §3, #2) the number of such exercises is increased in such a way that separate philological and doctrinal analyses may be carried out, either by the same professor (if he have sufficient expertise in both areas) or by different professors.
  5. In this course of study, after the teacher has expounded on the essential grammar and vocabulary of the Latinity of the documents to be studied, certain selected passages should be explained in detail from a philological and semantic point of view – passages whose language and content may be helpful in illuminating the major disciplines. For example, in Philosophy, students could be given certain passages from the greatest ancient philosophers and also most especially from St. Thomas. In Theology, passages should be chosen, by consensus among the teachers, to complement the several theological treatises to be read; these will be from the Fathers of the Church, especially from the theologians and Doctors of the Church, from the Councils, from the Papal documents, from the dogmatic books of Holy Scripture, from Liturgy, etc. In Canon and Roman Law, students are to be brought to familiarity with the lexicon and the type of writing proper to these disciplines, by means of making plain to them the special significance of essential terms, and by putting before them selected passages from ancient and more recent authors.

ARTICLE II – On the use of Latin.

  1. The use of the Latin language in universities and academic institutions is wholly to be restored, with every obstacle thereto overcome. To no man is given power to lift this obligation according to his own judgement.
  2. The subjects to be taught in Latin are Theoretical Philosophy, all of Theology, Sacred Scripture, Canon and Roman Law.
  3. The remaining subjects may be taught in the vernacular, unless it shall have been decided otherwise, either according to laudable custom or according to necessity – since, obviously, students may come from various nations and speak various languages.
  4. Public presentations and review courses [“praelectionum repetitiones”] are to be conducted in Latin.
  5. With regard to examinations, the following are ordered:
    1. Whether oral or written, examinations for subjects taught in Latin are to be conducted in Latin.
    2. With particular emphasis, the following are to be conducted in Latin: qualifying examinations for any academic degree in the above-mentioned subjects; lectures; the thesis defense.
    3. In these examinations which are conducted in Latin, a judgment about the quality of the Latin is to be made, and that not lightly, but rather with due severity, so that it may in truth reflect not only the examinands’ level of knowledge of the subject, but also the fluency and accuracy with which they use this language. Those who are found to be insufficiently instructed or expert in this area as well are not to be moved forward.
  6. The written exercise required for the Licentiate in the above-listed (§2) subjects must be written in Latin, in accordance with the statute in Article 37 of the “Ordinationes” attached to the Apostolic Constitution God, the Lord of the Sciences (Deus Scientiarum Dominus).
  7. It is recommended with great urgency that the doctoral dissertation in the disciplines referenced in the same statute (vide §2) be written in Latin. If the statutes of the Universities or Institutes now prescribe or shall in future prescribe the use of Latin for the writing of dissertations, this practice is to be constantly retained.
  8. When a dissertation is written in one or another of the vernacular languages which is permitted by the statutes of the Universities or Institutes, an appropriate summary written in Latin is to be submitted in advance.
  9. Concerning faculty members — both with regard to their timely selection and their preparation so that they may be well-trained in the use of the Latin language, and with regard to their removal if they are incompetent or reluctant in this area — the same rules apply which have already been given for faculty members in Major Seminaries (see Section III, Article II, §6).
  10. The academic authorities of the Church’s universities and institutes, when they put forward to the Holy See the names of faculty members by whom one or another subject will be taught in Latin, are to warrant that they possess the necessary knowledge and practical facility in Latin, in addition to the other qualifications prescribed by the Apostolic Constitution God, the Lord of the Sciences (Deus Scientiarum Dominus), (Title II, Article 21).
  11. Following on what has been said in the Apostolic Constitution concerning the importance of Latin for the Catholic Church, whose own language Latin is, and quite rightly is called so, it is highly desirable that people who write scholarly articles for a clerical readership in periodicals devoted to the Sacred Disciplines should do so in Latin, which is to say in the language proper to those disciplines, that thereby may be avoided the danger inherent in each individual writer’s judgement: that of introducing unsanctioned variations in words’ meanings [profanae vocum novitates] and, through them, introducing into Church teachings [dogmata] inconsistencies and ambiguities and even perversions. The use of Latin will also bring it about that more priests of every people and language may be able to read and understand them. If this cannot be done, at least an appropriate summary in Latin ought to be added to each article.
  12. Likewise urgently recommended is the use of the Latin language for the production of critical editions of the documents of the earliest centuries of Christianity and of the Middle Ages, and for translations of the writers of the Eastern Churches. This is not only consonant with the nature of documents of this kind, but also extremely beneficial for advancing the universality of doctrine and facilitating the acquisition of knowledge.
  13. The same must be said for the use of Latin in congresses of ecclesiastics, who are summoned together out of diverse peoples and languages to consider questions of Sacred Discipline, doctrine, or the exercise of the pastoral office. For a language which is common to all confers an enormous advantage for the promotion of mutual understanding and for easier and readier communication – a thing which a great multitude of languages obstructs, and causes it to happen that the sacred ministers of the Universal Church, caught and ever more straitly trammeled, day by day, within the borders of any particular nation, are nearly ignorant of everything, or even cease trying to learn, what their fellow-priests do for the fulfillment of the selfsame ministry in other regions.
  14. Let those who govern seminaries and academic institutes and ecclesiastical schools likewise take care that their libraries be carefully equipped and enriched with everything pertaining to the Latin and to the Greek language, lest there should be lacking, especially to professors, the tools necessary for the perfection of their own knowledge and for the writing of scholarly works. For if an appropriate array of books be lacking, there will be no impetus to conduct research and to write, no eager investigation and progress, but only mental inertia and self-satisfied ignorance.

Section Five
On the study of Greek

Even if the Apostolic Constitution regards, principally, the establishment of the study and use of the Latin language, it in no way neglects to give clear and precise direction concerning the study of Greek. For it ought to be learned with the greatest care, since it is very helpful in the formation of young people’s minds, and is linked to the Latin language by an affinity whose special nature makes it a prerequisite for a full and true knowledge of [Latin], and since it has been established in virtually every secular Classical curriculum. Likewise also it is absolutely necessary, both for all students who undertake to study the primary disciplines in seminary, (especially for those who desire to be enrolled in an ecclesiastical university or institute for the earning of academic degrees) and for any man of the Church who must access the ancient source texts, both sacred and profane, to exercise the office of teaching Philosophy or the Sacred Sciences.

For this reason, therefore, it is ordered:

  1. That among those peoples also, in whose public schools, ordered principally toward scientific education, Greek is not taught, that it should be taught in the Seminaries and in other ecclesiastical schools, lest their graduates be admitted to study the higher-level disciplines inadequately prepared.
  2. Such time, reckoned both in years and in hours per week, is to be invested in the learning of this language which is required to arrive at the necessary mastery prescribed, according to the prevailing conditions of the place and to local circumstances.
  3. With regard to the reading of authors both sacred and profane, and to knowledge of Greek grammar, that minimal sufficient standard is to be maintained, proportionally, which is ordered for Latin in Section II of these Ordinances (Article III, §§ 1-3; Article IV, §§ 2-6).
  4. Any professor of Greek is to be truly expert in the subject and is to hold the doctorate in Greek literature.
  5. The manner of teaching and analyzing the Authors ought to be tailored for the acquisition of necessary practical knowledge of this language, in accordance with the precepts given in these Ordinances (Section II, Article IV). For this reason, special care must be expended to make plain the origins of words and plainly show the families of words and the things that are derived from them in the modern languages and the arts. This so that when the student has a grasp of roots and their significance, it may be possible to understand a great many words, and a true, useful tool may be acquired for use in higher studies.
  6. A Commission of experts must be constituted which will adapt the curriculum in each national setting according to the pontifical Constitution and these Ordinances. The Commission is to define the curriculum in this area as well, which will then have to be approved by this Sacred Congregation for Studies.
  7. With regard to Hellenistic/Biblical Greek, it is ordered: 1) that in Seminaries, there is to be held as part of the Theology curriculum a special course consisting of one class hour per week over the course of an academic year; this course must conclude with an exam.; 2) that in Departments of Theology there is to be conscientiously observed to all its effects the statute prescribed in the Ordinances for the Apostolic Constitution God, Lord of the Sciences (Deus Scientiarum Dominus), by which this subject [Biblical Greek] is counted among the ancillary disciplines.

Section Six
Concerning Visitators

  1. An office of Visitators is to be established. Their duty will be, at certain times, to inspect and determine whether or not, for the conscientious implementation of this Apostolic Constitution, all and sundry Ordinances are being obeyed with due and timely diligence and with the results which are rightly to be expected.
  2. According to a Visitation protocol constituted for that purpose, Visitators will especially inquire about the following: the number of instructors, their preparation and due diligence; curricula, to what extent the experts chosen to prepare curricula have done so in accordance with these Ordinances. They shall inquire into all things pertaining to the necessary time apportioned for these studies, to analysis of Authors, teaching method, student exercises, and student morale.
  3. Visitators may attend class sessions, interview students, and review homework assignments. They may give students a theme for a written composition or for a speech. They may, in sum, investigate all things by which they may come to an understanding of the true and full effectiveness of the program under review.
  4. Visitators are not to neglect Major Seminaries and Ecclesiastical academic Institutions. In these, they are to inspect whether or not students come to them from the lower schools properly prepared in the knowledge and use of Latin. They are to inquire whether or not the use of Latin is observed in the teaching of subjects where it has been mandated, and whether or not the textbooks and handbooks of Church documents are written in Latin and in the possession of every student. They are to find out whether or not a course in Christian Latin has been established, and with how abundant a result it proceeds; likewise whether or not examinations are conducted in Latin, and if the students are taught to use and cultivate Latin in some other manner.
  5. Once the Visitation has been completed, Visitators are to report to this Sacred Congregation the true state of Latin [in a given school] and are to suggest remedial action as appropriate. They are also to point out whatever things they find which are laudable and worthy of emulation.
  6. Visitators are to refer to Appendix One, attached to these Ordinances, for further information on each area of inquiry for the proper execution of their mandate.

Section Seven
On reporting to the Sacred Congregation for Seminaries and Universities

A report on the means and progress of the effort to establish Latin is to be sent:

  1. Every year for the first five years (unless, given the conditions prevailing in particular places, the Sacred Congregation shall have required reporting over a longer period of time), so that it may be made plain whether or not these Ordinances have been fully implemented, or if some foot-dragging still remains, and so that the last impediments can be definitively removed.
  2. Thereafter, reporting will be quinquennial; the report will be submitted together with the general report on the state of Seminaries.
  3. Ecclesiastical universities and academic institutes, after the first five-year period, shall continue to report every three years.

This report is to be prepared by the Dean of Studies, but signed by the Ordinary of the place; in universities and academic institutes it is to be prepared and signed by the Rector or President.

The report which is to be sent

  1. will concern itself, in Minor Seminaries and in the other schools where future priests pursue the essential, mid-level Classical Studies curriculum, principally with the amount of time allotted to this study, the number of teachers and their level of expertise, the method and teaching and learning, evaluation, and, finally, all things that are mandated for them in these Ordinances.
  2. will concern itself, in Major Seminaries, Universities, and Institutes of ecclesiastical studies, with the special course in the Latinity of essential source texts (how it is carried out and with what instructors), with the use of Latin in teaching academic subjects (showing which are taught in Latin and which in vernacular tongues), with the preparation and expertise in Latin of the students and the instructors, with various initiatives for increasing and extending students’ interest in Latin, with the textbooks used in schools, and with all other things according to these Ordinances.

Section Eight
Time-specific regulations

The instructions given in these Ordinances pursuant to the mandate of the Pope shall come into full effect from the first day of the 1963-64 academic year – or 1964, according to the reckoning of each hemisphere.

In regions where knowledge and use of Latin have grown cold to such an extent that students in the major academic subjects cannot understand Latin-speaking professors or be brought quickly to that level of competence and are unable to get into the habit of speaking Latin for themselves, in order to ensure that due instruction in these disciplines suffers no damage, care must absolutely be exercised in order that –

  1. In the interim, textbooks written in Latin are used for these subjects and professors make every effort, by increments, to deliver some of their lessons in Latin and, later on, part of a book, in a way that causes the students to acquire gradually an adequate comprehension of the language.
  2. Administrators take special and conscientious care to promote the study of this language in the upper schools in a variety of ways; designating certain times in the day, every day, in which under a teacher’s supervision, students engage in intensive exercises so that they may as quickly as possible reach the point where they can understand lessons [given in Latin] with benefit.
  3. A special propaedeutic year is instituted – which seems to be a highly appropriate and efficacious idea – in which those who have graduated from humanities-based schools still in a state of insufficient preparation, may be appropriately formed in their familiarity with and ability to use this language before they proceed in their studies to the higher disciplines.

The Ordinaries of all places, before granting to Major Seminary faculty the task of teaching any of the subjects which are to be taught in Latin (cf. Section III, Article II, §2), are to submit their names to the Sacred Congregation for Seminaries and Universities – until such time as another screening system may be set up – and they are to attest whether or not the candidates possess expertise in the use of the language, in addition to the other requisite attributes.

Our most holy lord John, by Divine Providence the Twenty-Third pope of that name, has approved, confirmed and commanded to be published these Ordinances, all things contrary notwithstanding.

Given at Rome, from the seat of this Sacred Congregation [SS. CC.], this twentieth day of April, in Eastertide, in the year nineteen-hundred and sixty-two.



Outline of the Report to be sent to the Sacred Congregation for Seminaries and Universities


  1. How many years are allotted for the study of Latin language? How many hours each week and in each year? Are they enough to handle the entire course of grammar and Authors in an appropriate manner? Which authors are treated each year? Are they the same as those named in these Ordinances, or are they others? Are they presented in the same sequence? Do all students, individually, have their own textbooks?
  2. Was it necessary to adapt a pre-existing Latin curriculum so that the requirements of these Ordinances could be met? How was it adapted?
  3. In the case of a College Seminary, what provision is made for beginners aspiring to priesthood to supply what is lacking in the public-school curriculum?
  4. Is the existing curriculum recognized by the local civil authorities?
  5. If it is not so recognized, do the students of the seminary or school take state exams, so that they can earn state diplomas? Do all students take these exams, or only the most proficient?
  6. How many faculty members are assigned to teaching Latin? How many teaching hours are given to each and which levels? Do instructors have other duties at home or elsewhere by which they may be distracted from their assigned job?
  7. What is done to prepare promising individuals?
  8. Do they have the habit of using Latin in speaking and in writing – especially those who teach in the upper schools?
  9. What are the results of their teaching? Are they endowed with the necessary pedagogical talents? Are they frequently shuffled around, or do they have stability in their positions (this especially for those who teach in upper schools)?
  10. Are examinations given at the end of each year, even if they are not state exams?
  11. If state examinations are given, are private examinations also administered in the seminary, so that an evaluation can be made for all students, determining whether or not each has made due progress in each year, and whether or not they possess the preparation proper to a student, as described in these Ordinances?
  12. How are examinations administered? Do they feature translation from each of the two languages? Do they include composition, at the higher levels?
  13. Is there a reckoning of the true state of students’ knowledge and ability to use the Latin language for those who are moving up into the higher disciplines?
  14. Are older students present, who have entered seminary in more mature years? How are they distributed among the classes? Does their presence slow down the others? Do they have classes of their own? By what means are the necessary skills taught them before they are admitted to Major Seminary? How is the whole of the Latin curriculum provided for these [late] vocations? How many years are allotted? Is the same level of knowledge and practical mastery required of them before they may progress to higher studies? How do they study Greek?
  15. What teaching methodology is in use, as the Ordinances prescribe, adapted in such a way that it is ordered not only toward erudition but also, especially, toward genuine knowledge of the Latin language and practical ability in its use? Do the teachers try, especially in the upper schools, to fulfill the plan laid out in the Ordinances?
  16. What use of spoken Latin is made in classes? What practice is given in writing Latin? Are there frequent review sessions and quizzes?
  17. What textbooks of Latin grammar are in use? What division of the grammar is made for each of the several years? Are the theoretical and reading portions assigned for each year in the Ordinances actually completed? Is an adequate grounding provided in Latin literature?
  18. What particular problems exist in this seminary? What issues exist on the part of the teachers, the students, the teaching method, the time, the slate of authors, the number of school subjects, etc?


  1. Is the firm directive to use Latin respected in classes in the major academic disciplines? Was this approach already in place? Or has it been very recently introduced? Are instructors and students aware of the Church’s firm purpose concerning the use of Latin for teaching in these areas?
  2. Are the professors able to teach in Latin? If all of them, or a few, are not able, what measures have been taken to address this? Are there present people who oppose it?
  3. Do all students individually have textbooks written in Latin and handbooks likewise written in Latin? Do they have in their possession the entire Vulgate edition of Sacred Scripture? Are they well enough prepared that they can understand someone teaching in Latin? Or do they have an aversion to Latin?
  4. What is being done in the Major Seminary for the pursuit and fulfillment of the Latin curriculum? Are special conferences [academiae] or classes or exercises provided toward this goal?
  5. With regard to the special course in Christian Latinity, have all things been put into practice which were prescribed in Section III of the Ordinances concerning time, instructors, and the manner of conducting it?
  6. Are tests conducted in Latin? And are they conducted with due stringency?
  7. Do students come out of Minor Seminary adequately prepared in knowledge and ability to use this language? Are older students admitted without due conversance with these humanistic studies?


  1. How many years are allotted to the study of Greek? How many hours? Is the complete grammar taught? Which authors are read each year? In what amounts? Is an adequate grounding in Greek literature provided? Are the students moving up to the higher academic disciplines adequately prepared in this subject?
  2. Is a special class in Biblical Greek provided within the Theology curriculum?
  3. Do the professors hold the requisite doctorate in Classical Letters?

The report is to address each individual point, and in no perfunctory way, but with due conscientiousness, so that remedial actions, if they should be necessary, may be taken in a timely and effective way.

Principal works of the Church Fathers from which suitable passages may be taken for the course in Christian Latinity

The objective of this special course is not merely to illuminate short passages and maxims of the Church Fathers, by which theological topics are presented, but also to bring students into the understanding of and familiarity with Christian Latin.

It is opportune that, in addition to short selected passages from the readers, whose full meaning the professor of Theology himself will explain, longer passages as well may be read out clearly and distinctly by the professor of Christian Latin, once their meaning has been briefly explained. This professor will make plain the congruent sense of any word or expression, elucidating the more obscure forms and constructions, and briefly give the characteristics of each author’s writing style.

In this way, students will be encouraged to love the Fathers, to go to them and read them frequently. They will come to understand them and savor them for themselves. They will not only complete their studies, but from them drink deep the love of the truth and reasons to defend the Catholic Faith against novelties and corruptions of every kind. They will learn with what zeal, what understanding, what knowledge and wisdom the way must be opened for the advancement of religion in Christ’s Church, “so that there may truly be progress in faith, not permutation.” This is to say, “so that the teaching of Religion may be made firmer through the years, expanded in time, and refined with age, and yet remain incorrupt and untouched, so that in every measure of its parts, as if in all its members and in the senses belonging to it, it may be full and it may be perfect, for it admits of no distortion and no abridgement of its characteristics, and it suffers no variation in its meaning.

Certain works of the great writers and Fathers of the Church are listed here, from which suitable excerpts may be taken for analysis and reading; the teacher of Christian Latin, however, is not forbidden to choose other texts as may seem advantageous.

I. Basic Theology

  • ATHENAGORAS, Supplicatio pro Christianis.
  • ST. JUSTIN MARTYR, Apologiæ.
  • EPISTLE TO DIOGNETUS (especially chps. 5-6).
  • TERTULLIAN, Apologeticus; De præscriptione hæreticorum; De Idololatria.
  • ST. CYPRIAN, De catholicae Ecclesiae unitate (especially chp. IV); Epistles (especially Ad Cornelium papam).
  • LACTANTIUS, Divinae Institutiones.
  • ST. AUGUSTINE, De Doctrina Christiana (Books II-III; De exegesi biblica); De vera religione; De utilitate credendi; De consensu Evangelistarum; De symbolo ad catechumenos.
  • ST. LEO THE GREAT, Epistolæ.
  • VINCENT OF LERINS, Commonitorium.

II. Dogmatic Theology

1. On the One and Triune God

  • MINUCIUS FELIX, Octavius, chp. 14-38.
  • TERTULLIAN, Adversus Praœean.
  • NOVATIAN, De Trinitate.
  • ST. HILARY OF POITIERS, De Trinitate (especially books II-III).
  • ST. BASIL, Tractatus de Spiritu Sancto.
  • ST. AMBROSE, De fide, Ad Gratianum, De Spiritu Sancto.
  • ST. AUGUSTINE, De Trinitate (especially Book V).
  • ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM, De Incomprehensibilitate Dei.
  • ST. GREGORY OF NYSSA, De Trinitate, ad Eustathium (discussion of the divinity of the Holy Spirit).

2. On God Who creates and elevates

  • ST. GREGORY OF NYSSA, Liber de hominis opificio.
  • ST. AMBROSE, Hexameron; De Paradiso.
  • ST. JEROME, Dialogus adversus Pelagianos.
  • ST. AUGUSTINE, De Genesi contra Manichaeos; De Genesi ad litteram; De gratia Christi et de peccato originali.

3. On the Incarnate Word

  • ST. IGNATIUS OF ANTIOCH, Epistles, ad Ephesios; ad Smyrnæos.
  • TERTULLIAN, De carne Christi.
  • ST. AMBROSE, De Incarnationis Dominicæ Sacramento.
  • ST. ATHANASIUS, De Incarnatione Verbi.
  • ST. GREGORY OF NYSSA, Oratio magna catechetica (chp. 10-32).
  • ST. AUGUSTINE, Contra sermonem Arianorum; In Ioannis Evangelium tractatus.
  • CASSIAN, De Incarnatione Christi contra Nestorium.
  • ST. GREGORY THE GREAT, Homeliæ in Evangelia.
  • ST. JEROME, Adversus Helvidium de perpetua virginitate B. Mariæ.
  • ST. JEROME, Epistolæ.
  • ST. LEO THE GREAT, Sermones.

4. On Grace and the Virtues

  • ST. JEROME, Epistolæ.
  • ST. AUGUSTINE, De libero arbitrio; De fide rerum quae non videntur; De natura et gratia; De gratia Christi et de peccato originali. De gratia et libero arbitrio; De dono perseverantiae; Enchiridion ad Laurentium sive de fide, spe et caritate.
  • ST. PROSPER OF AQUITAINE, De gratia Dei et libero arbitrio liber contra Collatorem.
  • ST. FULGENTIUS, De fide ad Petrum liber.

5. On the Sacraments

  • TERTULLIAN, De Baptismo; De Paenitentia.
  • ST. CYPRIAN, De lapsis.
  • ST. CYRIL OF JERUSALEM, Catecheses.
  • ST. AMBROSE, De paenitentia; De Sacramentis; De Mysteriis.
  • ST. AUGUSTINE, De Baptismo.
  • ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM, Catecheses ad illuminandos; De Sacerdotio.

6. On the End Times

  • TERTULLIAN, De carnis resurrection; De anima.
  • ST. CYPRIAN, De mortalitate.
  • LACTANTIUS, Divinæ Institutiones (liber VII).
  • ST. AMBROSE, De bono mortis; De Iacob et vita beata.
  • ST. AUGUSTINE, De cura pro mortuis gerenda; De prædestinatione sanctorum; De dono perseverantiæ, De Civitate Dei (book XXII, de caelesti beatitudine).

III. Moral and Pastoral Theology

  • ST. AMBROSE, De officiis, De Virginibus.
  • ST. AUGUSTINE, Contra mendacium; De continentia; De bono coniugali; De moribus; Enchiridion (chp. 64-70, de peccatis). De catechizandis rudibus; Sermones; Confessiones.
  • ST. GREGORY THE GREAT, Moralia in Iob; Liber Regulæ pastoralis.



1 Sacra Congregatio de Seminariis et Studiorum Universitatibus, Epistula ad excellentissimos locorum ordinarios De Latina lingua rite excolenda, “Latinam excolere linguam”, 27 October 1957, AAS 50 (1958): 292-296.

2 This institution was founded two years after the publication of the Ordinances, in 1964, by Paul VI. It is the Pontifical Institute for Higher Latin (Pontificium Institutum Altioris Latinitatis), a part of the Pontifical Salesian University of Rome and in recent years merged with the University’s Department of Christian and Classical Letters (Facoltà di Lettere Cristiane e Classiche).

English translation by Nancy E. Llewellyn of Latin original document ORDINATIONES AD CONSTITUTIONEM APOSTOLICAM “VETERUM SAPIENTIA” RITE EXSEQUENDAM (1962) by the Sacred Congregation for Seminaries and Universities. This English translation is copyright; however, the translator hereby grants permission to download, print, share, post, distribute, quote and excerpt it, provided that no changes, alterations, or edits of any kind are made to any part of the written text. ©2021 Nancy E. Llewellyn. All other rights reserved.