The 1962 Vatican Ordinances accompanying Veterum Sapientia.

January 6, 2021.

Enjoy this sneak preview of what we’re pretty sure is the first-ever translation — into any language, not just English — of a momentous Latin document published in 1962 and, strangely, nearly impossible to find anywhere outside the printed or online edition of the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, the official documentary records of the Holy See.

We’ll call it the Ordinances for short. Its full Latin name is Ordinationes ad Constitutionem Apostolicam “Veterum Sapientia” rite Exsequendam, which is literally, in English, Ordinances for the Correct Implementation of the Apostolic Constitution “Veterum Sapientia” — the great papal defense of Latin from which our new Institute takes its name and mission.

Pope John XXIII, in the conclusion of his seven-page Veterum Sapientia said this: We command the Sacred Council to prepare a curriculum for instruction in the Latin language which is to be followed by everyone with the greatest diligence. (1) He signed VS in a solemn ceremony on the high altar of St. Peter’s on February 22, 1962. Less than two months later, on April 20, his order was fulfilled. On that date, the Sacred Congregation for Seminaries and Universities published twenty-two pages of directions, standards and regulations for making Pope John’s vision a reality in the Catholic schools, seminaries, and universities of the world. These directives are not just specific. They’re positively granular in their level of detail and practicality, right down to teaching method, tests, and even homework assignments.

The Ordinances were to have taken effect worldwide beginning in the fall of 1963.  Had they done so, our Church today would be a very different place.  But Pope John died in June of that year, and the Ordinances, together with Veterum Sapientia itself, virtually disappeared, though no subsequent Vatican documents dealing with Latin have ever contradicted or negated them.  

The document below is still a draft. We’ll be publishing the final version on our website on February 22, 2021, in commemoration of the fifty-ninth anniversary of the signing of Veterum Sapientia. But even in draft form, it’s crystal-clear that Pope John meant business. The glittering vision he articulated in VS was no mere nostalgic ode to the Church’s past, but a bracing summons to build Her future. Here are a few essential quotes from the Ordinances:

… the goal is to make [seminarians] 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 councils and meetings… (II.i.§2)

This curriculum is to last at least seven years, for young people beginning their Latin classes in seminaries. They are to have no fewer than six hours per week in the first five years, and no fewer than five hours weekly in the remaining two. (II.ii.§1.1)

… the other academic disciplines will have to be sequenced and abridged (and some perhaps cut entirely or left for later), so that our mandate concerning the time to be given to Latin language study may be obeyed in every respect. (II.ii.§2)

Latin language teaching method ought to cause students to acquire the ability to use it. For this reason, the overflowing philological pot-au-feu which makes up nearly the entire menu in schools of the Humanities, especially graduate schools, will have to be thrown out, since it does not give the nourishment one would reasonably expect from such study. (II.iv.§2)

Any textbook used for teaching Latin syntax shall itself be written in Latin. (II.iv.§7)

Get the idea?  There’s plenty more in the document.  Read on!


Ordinances for the Correct Implementation of the Apostolic Constitution “Veterum Sapientia”

(1) Eidem praeterea Sacro Consilio mandamus, ut linguae Latinae docendae rationem, ab omnibus diligentissime servandam, paret, quam qui sequantur eiusdem sermonis iustam cognitionem et usum capiant. VS. 8. AAS. LIV (1962) p. 135.