Lisa Takeuch Cullen's short opinion piece, "I Confess, I Want Latin," (link) can be found on the last page of the July 30 issue of Time magazine. Her reason is simple: "I want to hear Mass in a language I don't understand because too often I don't like what I hear in English." She tells of growing up the daughter of a laicized priest and a Japanese woman, and sitting through Masses in an unknown language. Cullen enjoyed the experience, she says, because it was meditative: it compelled her to slow down and think about God.
The English Masses she would later attend stand in sharp contrast to this, because she had to sit and listen to a priest dictate the congregation's political involvement and pontificate on "controversial" and divisive issues. She grew tired of hearing sermons taken from from the priest's Netflix queue (zing!). She longs for a return to sacred space in the liturgy, and desires to hear comfortable words "in a world unmoored by violence and uncertainty." Indeed, I am sympathetic to some of her arguments, particularly when she pleads for Padre's film choices to take a backseat to Eucharistic devotion: "With your back to the congregation and speaking in a dead language, you find it difficult to tell me how to vote."
She pleads, "Allow me to experience the joy of communion without the anguish of our modern day differences. Bring back the Latin and bring back an embattled believer."
Let's take 'er down. Though I'm not a Roman Catholic, I think you'll see shortly why I bothered with this.
I think Cullen is right about one thing: there are better sources for moral avatars than inane Disney films. If somebody's going to really listen to you talk about God for 20 minutes every week (or even half-listen), surely one can do better than offer a version of the New Testament according to Eddie Izzard: "Don't do bad things, only do good things, never put a sock in a toaster, never put jam on a magnet, and never lean over on a Tuesday..."
When a priest says Mass and reads the Gospels aloud, he has already created an imaginative world in which to invite people to see themselves. What the hell does he need a film for?
Honestly, I think this woman has been to as many Latin Masses as I have: zero. But from what I've read in history and liturgical rubrics and such, I'm pretty sure that sermons are always in the vernacular, and I'm pretty sure that any bishop worth his salt would beat down a presbyter guilty of political opining or even extemporaneous speech during the consecration. Therefore, some of Cullen's cuter comments don't make any sense: one could still hear a bad sermon or a "political" sermon at a Latin Mass, and no priest is going to be sermonizing while at the altar, anyway.
It is not the purpose and end of religion for it to be a comfort to those in need of it. The Christian narrative is a story that subverts and displaces other stories. If one wishes to engage in Christian practice - particularly the liturgy, which can and should crack open imagination like a bolt of lightening - one should open oneself to the possibility that other stories will be assaulted, and make much less sense before long.
One of those stories is the separation - even the alienation - of one's "spiritual" and "political" commitments. May the Triune God save us from the schizophrenia of modernity!
Cullen's piece is ultimately a paean to consumerist religion: I want a particular good that the Church can offer me, and in exchange I'm willing to do them the favor of consuming that good. I am not willing to offer my self, my imagination, or even, in Cullen's view, my full attention.
I'm sure any Christian pastor would be pleased to help someone like Cullen enter a Christian fellowship, share life with the Body of Christ, and begin the work of being transformed by the renewing of one's mind - but not on the terms she has offered.