So much knowledge, yet no Faith…
Apostasy in Latin: Modernist Fr. Reginald Foster, Vatican’s Top Latin Expert, dies on Christmas Day
Fr. Reginald Foster (1939-2020) gave up wearing his collar long time ago…
Christmas Day saw the unexpected passing of Fr. Reginald Thomas Foster, O.C.D. (1939-2020), apparently from complications associated with COVID-19. The name of the discalced Carmelite friar probably does not ring a bell with most people, but for decades he was a most important individual in Vatican City. “Reggie”, as he liked to be called, was the foremost living authority on the Latin language, certainly in the Vatican II Church and probably in the entire world.
Ordained in Rome on April 17, 1966, right on the heels of the Second Vatican Council, Fr. Foster possessed valid holy orders and is therefore “a priest for ever, according to the order of Melchisedech” (Heb 5:6). What he did not possess anymore, however, was the Roman Catholic Faith, which he lost at some point during the Novus Ordo revolution begun in the 1960s.
Sadly, Fr. Reginald was the quintessential Vatican II Modernist — he dismissed the traditional and true Roman Catholic religion, which he had held before, as basically a bunch of old-time nonsense, while happily embracing the novelties of the Novus Ordo religion. More on that in a moment.
First, let’s talk about Foster’s Latin skills. He was more than an expert. Working for the Vatican’s Latin Letters department in the Secretariat of State from 1970 until 2009, he was the top Latinist in the Eternal City. He translated, proofread, and helped compose for all kinds of official Vatican documents, from simple messages to entire encyclicals to ensure the Latin was correct. He also invented new expressions as circumstances demanded. When a new diocese was created, for example, it had to receive an official Latin name, and it was Fr. Reginald’s task to come up with that. In the Vatican, Foster was indispensable:
The Vatican … found it could not do without him. When there was an encyclical to be translated; a congratulatory letter to a cardinal or bishop to be written; a contemporary term, like “microchip,” that sang out for a Latin equivalent (he chose “assula minutula electrica”: “tiny amber wood chip”); or, after John Paul II approved a no-smoking ordinance in Vatican City, a sign to be posted (proposed wording: “Vetatur Fumare”), it turned again and again to Father Foster.
(Margalit Fox, “Reginald Foster, Vatican Latinist Who Tweeted in the Language, Dies at 81”, The New York Times, Dec. 27, 2020)
The following video clips give an idea of Foster’s unmatched expertise and singular importance in Rome:
The magazine Inside the Vatican recently included an interesting article on the Latin genius:
Foster’s importance is further underscored by the fact that his death has been reported by Vatican News, and the current Antipope himself has sent his condolences:
- “Renowned Vatican Latinist Fr. Reginald Foster dies on Christmas Day”
- “Pope sends condolences for death of Fr. Reginald Foster”
- Scanned image: Francis’ Telegram to Carmelite Superior via Secretary of State
Some interesting anecdotes and other biographical tidbits on “Reggie” are found in the following article on his passing:
- Remembering Fr. Reginald Foster (1939-2020) by John Byron Kuhner
Foster used to have his own show on Vatican Radio named The Latin Lover. Recordings of the program have been archived and made available at this blog:
Foster was born and died in his native Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He was the first American to work for the Vatican’s Latin department. He taught at Rome’s Gregorian Pontifical University as well, “classes of up to 120”, as a news article commemorating him notes. His unconventional way of teaching Latin has been preserved in two tomes and also online:
- Book: Ossa Latinitatis Sola – The Mere Bones of Latin
- Book: Ossium Carnes Multae – The Bones’ Meats Abundant
- Web Site: Latinitatis Corpus, Reginaldo Procuratore – The Body of Latin, Reginald being the Manager
- Web Site: Experience Latin with Fr. Reginald Foster
Although a Carmelite, at some point Fr. Reginald gave up his habit as well as his collar. Vaticanist John Allen writes: “He looked like a plumber, not the world’s leading master of the Latin language and a Vatican potentate, sporting blue work pants and a blue worker’s jacket.” The New York Times article quoted earlier adds that he “looked like a stevedore, dressed like a janitor, swore like a sailor (usually in Latin) and spoke Latin with the riverine fluency of a Roman orator.”
Yes, he had a loose tongue. An anecdote about his “French” is related by Allen:
…I finally asked [Foster] where his picture of the pope was. Vatican offices are a bit like civil service offices in the UK, in that they all have images of the Queen, and it was striking to see one missing the pope’s image. Foster launched into an expletive-laden anecdote about how a workman had once shown up with a ladder and a portrait of the pontiff, apparently at the direction of a superior irked by Foster’s defiance.
“I told him to get that blanking thing the blanking blank out of here, and don’t blanking come back,” Foster told me, without suggesting for a moment it was the least bit remarkable.
(John L. Allen, Jr., “Death of legendary Latinist leaves the Church a grayer place”, Crux, Dec. 28, 2020)
Sacred Scripture, by contrast, exhorts us: “Let no evil speech proceed from your mouth; but that which is good, to the edification of faith, that it may administer grace to the hearers” (Eph 4:29).
But the worst is yet to come.
In 1998, an article about Foster in a Minneapolis newspaper stated:
Several American seminarians in Rome, in separate interviews, describe him as a “piece of work” (operis specimen). And they don’t know the whole of it.
For example, many mornings, alone in his room at the monastery, Foster says he celebrates mass just as God made him.
“I’m a naturalist, I’m a nudist. It like to say mass in the nude, too. If God doesn’t like that — sorry.”
(Nolan Zavoral, “Priest preserves Latin influence at Vatican”, Star Tribune, July 4, 1998, p. B10; italics given.)
According to one of his students, this “caused a small Curial kerfuffle” but “Foster claims he was misquoted” (John Byron Kuhner, “The Vatican’s Latinist”, The New Criterion, vol. 35, n. 7). Misquoted or not, the scandal is the same, and it does not look like Foster took any steps to remedy it in public.
The same article in the Star Tribune reports another instance of scandalous remarks by the Latin King:
Foster also objects to some of the church’s priorities when Latin is not among them.
“They’re so obsessed with sex around here,” he says, meaning the Vatican. “This whole abortion thing. The church is all over, screaming, ‘God does not want this! This is tragic!’
“All that energy put into that, instead of educating our own people . . . who are sorely ignorant about Latin and so many other things….”
What does one say in the face of such comments? Was he jesting? Perhaps. But whether he was or not… it is not funny.
As with any Modernist, Foster’s fundamental flaw was simply this: He did not believe. That is no exaggeration, as the following exchange with anti-religious TV personality Bill Maher, just outside the Vatican, demonstrates beyond any doubt:
There you see what Fr. Reginald thought of the true Roman Catholic religion: He publicly sneered at it, dissed it, humiliated it, and expressed disbelief in it — all under the specious cover of “humor.”
Let’s examine that disgraceful interview a little.
The Catholic-turned-Agnostic Maher begins with a trite objection that is as cheap as it is popularly appealing: Look at all those expensive Vatican palaces! Surely Christ wouldn’t want that kind of luxury! In response we will quote the famous radio priests, Fathers Leslie Rumble and Charles Carty, who addressed this in one of their many episodes in the 1930s:
[Objection] 485. Jesus had nowhere to lay his head, yet the Pope lives in a great palace, owns immense wealthy enjoying luxury and ease.
[Reply] The Pope lives in the Vatican without for a moment pretending to own it, for it is simply the headquarters of the largest single institution on earth, containing the central offices of administration of that Church which Christ said would grow from a mustard seed into a great tree. Such buildings as the Vatican are built to last for generations, and in them the Pope must live a simple and Christ-like life. It is absurd to say that the Pope owns fabulous wealth. You might as well accredit all the assets of the Bank of England to the manager of that bank. Nor does the Pope live on the fat of the land, enjoying luxury and ease. He keeps a frugal table, has few amusements, gives from twelve to sixteen hours a day to work, hard worrying work with a great responsibility, and scarcely knows the meaning of the word ease. The Pope must be able to meet kings on their own level, and the faithful insist upon providing him with quarters befitting his position and dignity. But these externals give no indication concerning the spiritual life of the Pope personally.
[Objection] 486. Palaces are not necessary to enable Popes to meet kings on their own level. All men are equal.
[Reply] All men are equal in so far as each is a human soul before God, and must meet the same judge. And God will not be more lenient with the Pope than He will be with the simple layman. But all men are not equal in other ways. Christ certainly gave the Apostles a higher office than simple Christians possess, and they and their successors were to rule the faithful. Preference on this earth follows one’s office, but the office does not necessarily make a man any better as a Christian. He may or may not be better, and he will answer for his life just as anyone else.
By agreeing with Maher, Foster cemented in the minds of countless souls the idea that the Vatican churches and palaces are really a scandal at odds with the Gospel, whereas the real scandal was his own despicable mockery of Catholicism.
When Maher teased him with the dogma of eternal punishment, Foster scornfully dismissed “that hell business” as “the old Catholic thing” and observed: “That’s all gone, that’s all finished.” If perhaps he was subconsciously describing his own loss of faith, it was quite accurate: all gone, all finished. Nothing left, move on. Think of all the martyrs Foster was implicitly scoffing at by his heretical remark. They endured the most cruel pains and deaths rather than betray even one iota of Catholic dogma — and Foster just spit on their graves. He trampled under foot their supreme acts of love for Christ, not to mention on the Crucified Himself, who had told Pontius Pilate: “For this was I born, and for this came I into the world; that I should give testimony to the truth” (Jn 18:37). One can almost hear Foster snap back in the very words of Pilate: “What is truth?” (v. 38).
St. John the Apostle warned his beloved children: “Whosoever revolteth, and continueth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that continueth in the doctrine, the same hath both the Father and the Son” (2 Jn 9). To humor Fr. Reginald, we will also quote it from the Latin Vulgate: “Omnis qui recedit, et non permanet in doctrina Christi, Deum non habet: qui permanet in doctrina, hic et Patrem et Filium habet.”
Foster’s mocking of Midnight Mass for the Birth of Christ on Dec. 25 as “all nonsense” fits right in with his contempt for the sacred. Although it is not a dogma that Christ the Lord was born at midnight on December 25, it is nevertheless the venerable tradition, and with good reason. Although we do not like to recommend material by Taylor Marshall — we have justly criticized his shoddy scholarship in the past — his video presentation on how we know Christ was born on December 25 succinctly presents the historical evidence.
Foster’s handling of Maher’s idiotic objection that the veneration of countless saints puts Catholicism’s claim to being monotheistic into doubt, was likewise utterly disgraceful. Not only did he appear to grant the validity of the objection, he followed it up with an appeal to a survey taken among Italians about what their preferred saints are that they pray to in times of crisis. Reggie complains that Our Blessed Lord only made sixth place on the list. Yet this scandal really isn’t one, for it is explained very easily: When people are asked about what Saints they pray to, they are not likely to answer “Jesus Christ” because Jesus Christ is not a mere Saint but the Son of God. No Catholic would answer the question, Who is your favorite Saint? with “Our Lord Jesus Christ”. And the question was not, Whom do you pray to? but, What saints do you pray to?. A Catholic knows the difference between God and the Saints. Apparently Fr. Reginald did not, or perhaps he thought that that too was all just nonsense.
It is obvious that by interacting with the blaspheming and irreverent Foster, Maher found himself happily confirmed in his rejection of Catholicism and his contempt for the true religion. Fr. Reginald had been successful in his role as a “false apostle” (cf. 2 Cor 11:13-14), scandalizing souls in the truest sense of the word.
The interview with Foster, by the way, is part of Maher’s blasphemous and anti-religious documentary Religulous (2008), a film so bad that even the official news organ of the Novus Ordo United States Conference of Catholic Bishops condemned it: “Among the Catholic beliefs Maher explicitly disparages are the virgin birth of Jesus, the Immaculate Conception and the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. He even questions the historical existence of Jesus”, writes movie reviewer Harry Forbes for the USCCB, which gave it its worst possible rating. And the Vatican’s top Latinist stars in it. Congratulations.
In case one wonders how Foster was able to get away with such outrageous words and impious behavior, John Allen provides what appears to be the answer: “In a word, he was living proof that being indispensable is the ultimate get-out-of-jail-free card.”
But there was also a different side to Fr. Reginald. His irascible temper was offset by his extreme affability as a person and his generosity (for example, he offered all his classes for free and generously assisted those in need). Those qualities, good in themselves, made him all the more dangerous, however, as the great anti-Modernist Fr. Felix Sarda y Salvany (1844-1916) once explained:
Heresy under a charming disguise is a thousand times more dangerous than heresy exposed in the harsh and arid garb of the scholastic syllogism — through which the death’s skull grins in unadorned hideousness. Arianism had its poets to propagate its errors in popular verse. Lutheranism had its humanists, amongst whom the elegant Erasmus shone as a brilliant writer. Arnauld, Nicole, Pascal threw the glamour of their belles lettres over the serpentine doublings [tricks, artifices] of Jansenism. Voltaire’s wretched infidelity won its frightful popularity from the grace of his style and the flash of his wit. Shall we, against whom they aimed the keenest and deadliest shafts, contribute to their name and their renown! Shall we assist them in fascinating and corrupting youth! Shall we crown these condemners of our faith with the laurels of our praises and laud them for the very qualities which alone make them dangerous! And for what purpose? That we may appear impartial? No. Impartiality is not permissible when it is distorted to the offense of truth, whose rights are imprescriptible [inalienable, absolute]. A woman of bad life is infamous, be she ever so beautiful, and the more beautiful, the more dangerous.
(Rev. Felix Sarda y Salvany, Liberalism is a Sin, trans. by Condé B. Pallen [Rockford, IL: TAN Books, 1993], pp. 90-91; italics given. The Spanish original was published in 1886, and the English translation was first published in 1899 under the title What is Liberalism?. The full English text is available online here.)
Foster’s apostasy is a tragic testimony to the fact that Catholicism is not about Latin — it’s about Faith, hope, and charity.
Out of the countless people “Reggie” trained in Latin, one of the more well-known ones is the blogging “Fr.” John Zuhlsdorf of Madison, Wisconsin. “Fr. Z”, as he likes to be called, published a tribute to his mentor on Christmas Day, wherein he notes Foster’s good and bad sides but is silent on his defection from the Faith, merely noting: “He said a lot of things that shocked people and wasn’t in the least the picture of the cleric. I think that a lot of the time, he said things to shock because he was a little bored.” Scandalizing souls out of boredom? No doubt, that must have gone over well at his Judgment.
But whereas Mr. Zuhlsdorf says nothing one way or another about Foster’s (lack of) faith, John Allen seriously claims that “Foster was also a man of deep faith, who walked the talk” (source). Deep faith — really? And what “talk” does he mean, anyway? Let’s see what evidence the Vatican journalist brings up that could “offset”, as it were, Fr. Reginald’s open contempt for the Roman Catholic religion and his public denial of divine revelation: “I lost track over the years of how many times I’d be walking across Rome and spot Foster sitting on a bench for the bus giving a sandwich to a homeless person, or chatting up a beggar outside a grocery store, or helping an old Italian lady find her way.”
But of course — Fr. Reginald fed the hungry and assisted the needy, so there. Yes, those are very noble, kind, charitable, and important things to do; but they are not per se evidence of any faith, much less a deep one. After all, any atheist, Agnostic, Hindu, Protestant, Jew, or Zoroastrian can assist people in need. It does not require faith and therefore cannot be evidence of such. Besides, even if corporal acts of mercy were indicative of the Catholic Faith per se, in Foster’s case they would have to be weighed against the copious evidence he himself had already given that he did not believe. All the selfless acts in the world will not save anyone apart from sanctifying grace, which cannot be possessed without the virtue of Faith: “But without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb 11:6; cf. Jas 2:17-18). No amount of sandwiches for the homeless can change that.
At the very end of the interview with Maher, Foster sums up his rejection of the Faith for which the martyrs died. Asked by Maher how to convince people of what is the true Faith, the Modernist Foster answers: “You don’t — forget it. You just have to live and die with their stupid ideas.” Of course that was music to Maher’s apostate ears.
But now Reggie knows better. On Christmas morning the Almighty Judge called him to “give an account of thy stewardship: for now thou canst be steward no longer” (Lk 16:2; cf. Rom 14:12). Now he knows that it was his ideas that were stupid, whether he expressed them in English or in Latin.
It’s a shame that Fr. Reginald Foster has not only lived but now also died with them.
Image source: youtube.com (screenshot)
License: fair use