Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

Latin, Metalinguistics, and the Society of St. Pius X

Latin, Metalinguistics, and the Society of St. Pius X

Gavin Swantick

In the study of religion, it is important to examine the metalinguistic significance of language and its ritual role, in that certain religious groups consider their ritual tongue to be a necessary part of their group identity. Certain sects of Western religious denominations are ripe for such a study, including the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), which split from the Roman Catholic Church after Vatican II and continues to use the Latin Mass. Is their adherence to the Latin Mass simply a form of resistance, or is it deeper than that? This analysis examines the symbolic and metalinguistic importance of Latin to the SSPX and to its members using material such as ethnographies of the SSPX, official documents, blog material, and research into the Latin language itself. The history of the SSPX is discussed, along with the roots of its conflict with the Church at large. This research details how SSPX members’ use of Latin in a religious context is reflected in their everyday lives and values. The education methods employed by the SSPX are discussed, with an emphasis on the teaching of Latin in SSPX-run schools. Finally, an analysis of the symbolic and metalinguistic importance of Latin within the SSPX is presented. Ultimately, it can be concluded that, for the SSPX, Latin is a symbolic link to the anti-Modernist traditions and lifeways of the Catholic past. Through the use of Latin, the SSPX adheres to the “old ways” of the Catholic Church, which they view as the only road to salvation, despite the fact that the Church itself has changed to reflect a changing world.

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April 11, 2016 - Posted by | abstract

1 Comment »

  1. “SSPX members’ use of Latin in a religious context is reflected in their everyday lives and values.” This is an interesting aspect of the research. How did you get to monitor the everyday lives of practioners and how did they use latin in their everyday? Did they work for the church?

    Comment by D Castagna | April 20, 2016 | Reply


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