The error that led to the abolition of Latin was neoscholastic and Cartesian in nature—namely, the belief that the content of the Catholic Faith is not embodied or incarnate but somehow abstracted from matter. Thus, many Catholics think that Tradition means only some conceptual content that is passed down, irrespective of the way in which it is passed down. But this is not true. Latin is itself one of the things passed down, together with the content of all that is written or chanted in Latin. Moreover, the Church herself has recognized this point on a number of occasions in singling out Latin for special praise and recognizing in it an efficacious sign of the unity, catholicity, antiquity, and permanence of the Latin Church.
Latin thus possesses a quasi-sacramental function: just as Gregorian chant is “the musical icon of Roman Catholicism” (Joseph Swain), so is Latin its “linguistic icon.”
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