Are you new to the translation controversy, or new to Pray Tell? Do you need some help navigating through the mire of it all? Pray Tell is here to help.

Here are:

The Institutions,

The Documents,

The Process,

The Players.

The BCDW has a primer on the translation process. Pray Tell gives you a flow chart of the various political possibilities. For scholars: we printed the excellent masters thesis of J. Peter Nixon on the “crisis of reception” in the changing translation rules. Pray Tell’s Rita Ferrone has an excellent summary of the translation process at Commonweal.

How the systems works (or not): Here is Bishop Taylor’s disturbing account of how Rome treated ICEL during its restructuring. For historical precedent here is the amusing – but also rather disturbing – account of how Rome handled the revision and translation of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (the “owner’s manual” of the missal). Chant scholar Peter Jeffery is quoted here about how Rome and scholars need to work together – and how the Vatican’s 2001 translation guidelines don’t help. On April 28 there was a lovely luncheon of Vox Clara and CDW with the Pope to present him the “final” text of the missal – we wondered why ICEL wasn’t invited.

The South African bishops misunderstood something when the final version (later to be revised) of the Order of Mass was released in 2008, and implemented it immediately. It did not go well. Everyone wonders – is this any indication of how the implementation might go elsewhere? Rita Ferrone doubts whether Cardinal Napier’s call for obedience will settle anything.

On December 20, 2010, two New York deaneries of priests passed resolutions calling for delay of implementation. (They later revoked the resolutions.)

It is sometimes claimed that the current translation was done in a hurry. Be that as it may, this 1967 commentary suggests that it was done with a certain amount of care, with well thought-out reasons for the decisions made.

Rome gave the German-speaking church an unworkable translation (following the new translation rules) of the Order of Christian Funerals. A first since Vatican II: the German-speaking bishops withdrew the new book after only a few months of use and authorized the continued use of the previous translation from the 70s. Now the German-speaking bishops are resisting a missal translated entirely according to the new rules. Conservative Cardinal Meisner said it should be up to the bishops, not Rome, how things are expressed in German. Abbot Holzherr in Switzerland belives that the new translation process is betraying Vatican II.

Last July reports started to leak into the blogosphere that someone had made over 10,000 changes to the text of the missal submitted to Rome by bishops’ conferences. Pray Tell was the first to report on the internal report, presumably prepared by ICEL, outlining the serious problems in the revised text. The National Catholic Reporter picked up the story – see here and here. A bit earlier we had commissioned an article from Canadian bishop Brian Dunn, a skilled canonist, which suggests that Rome does not have the right to impose translations upon bishops’ conferences.

The “final” text (it was later to be changed) of the Order of Mass was unveiled back in 2008. Episcopal Bishop Jeffrey Rowthorne liked many things but thought it lacked intelligibility, euphony, and proclaimability in some places. Episcopal priest and hymn writer Carl Daw gave the proper texts a mixed review at best.

When a revised final version of the Order of Mass appeared this summer, we outlined some of its interesting changes. We expected that texts of other parts of the Missal would begin leaking out, so we advised what to look for in the new texts.

Then some of the proper prayers of the 2010 Received Text presented to Pope Benedict, the “final” version (later to be revised) began leaking out. A Pray Tell reader sent in this scathing appraisal of some samples. Then, in probably the strongest editorial we have published, moderator Anthony Ruff sounded off on Rome’s decision to overrule the national conferences and not permit little “pointing” marks which help the priest chant the orations. As more prayers began to leak out here and there, concern grew on all sides. Pray Tell published a “prayer for spiritual benefit from the new missal” – an over-the-top spoof of convoluted syntax. Some of our readers are so trusting of us…they thought it was real and asked for the Latin original! NEW: the prayer, clarified. One take on the revised “Through him and with him and in him” – thumbs down. A reader sent in this rather edgy mock FAQ on the new translation.

J. Michael Joncas has empathy for the translators – while noting the inconsistencies they’ve given us. Here is a collection of various peoples’ of opinions, pro and con, on the new translation. Anthony Ruff wondered how to translate “Gesundheit” into English.

The story took a dramatic turn when Pray Tell began running a series of articles comparing the ICEL 2008 text to the 2010 Received Text by someone named Xavier Rindfleisch (many picked up the reference to Xavier Rynne, the nom de plume of the writer for the New Yorker on the political machinations during the Second Vatican Council). Here is part one, part two, part three, and part four by Xavier.

Fr. Mike Ryan asked “What If We Just Said Wait?,” which became an online petition. Fr. Peter Stravinskas disagreed. Pray Tell talked to both Fr. Ryan and Fr. Stravinskas. Near the end of February 2011, Fr. Ryan backed off from his public resistance in late February – without backing away from his convictions.

Pray Tell reprinted this powerful open letter to Pope Benedict, written a few years earlier by Lutheran scholar Paul Westermeyer, lamenting that the Roman Catholic Church is unilaterally abandoning texts held in common by many Christian churches up until now.

Pray Tell agreed to publish this passionate piece (after the author toned it down a bit at our request) which draws parallels between the abuse crisis and translation change.

Some on-the-ground conversations last summer suggested that small town America will accept the new missal without much problem. But a priest in Ireland is prepping his people to be skeptical.

The publishers have good reason to be anxious about the timeline and about the challenges of producing such a huge book. Pray Tell talked to LitPress and WLP.

Two interviews: with new BCDW chair Archbishop Aymond and with reputed mastermind behind the 10,000+ changes, Msgr. James Moroney. Here we linked Moroney’s interview with The Wanderer.

Two letters to The Tablet are sure to make the implementation more difficult in the UK: from highly respected liturgy expert Fr. Alan Griffiths and from theologian Fr. Philip Endean, SJ. In another letter to The Tablet, Fr. Endean wonders why authorities who support the new translation – presuming that they do! – aren’t telling us more about how they came to support it.

Pray Tell asked on November 3 whether the MISSAL MESS was about to erupt. It did. The National Catholic Reporter published two stories about the Missal Mess, here and here, the first of which draws heavily on Pray Tell.

Some people started seeing the humor in the whole thing. Priests would no longer “bow,” but “bend.” The Vatican Code appeared in animation, here and here.

And then the Season of Leaks began. Earlier, when someone leaked to Pray Tell an internal 35-page report critiquing the Received Text (the botched up “final translation” presented to Pope Benedict XVI on April 28), we had reported on it. And then someone uploaded the entire report at WikiSpooks. And then someone leaked the Received Text, first in excerpts, and then in entirety. Pray Tell’s reporting dating back to July about the missal being hijacked began to be confirmed. Then someone leaked much of the 2008 Gray Book (the final version given to national conferences for them to submit to Rome), including the missal antiphons. Meanwhile, someone leaked to Pray Tell, and we reported on, the latest final version of the Order of Mass, the version Rome gave to the UK but presumably will be the same for all countries. Then the same leak went up at WikiSpooks. This showed that Rome in fact had reacted to the criticisms – but minimally. A few improvements were made, but most of the problems in the Received Text were allowed to stand. And then someone leaked the Ratio translationis, the guidebook prepared by the CDW for translating from Latin to English. Then came the ICEL Progress Reports from the 80s and 90s. Then came the really truly absolutely totally final FINAL text of the Order of Mass for the US – they changed “bend” to the more normal sounding “bow.” But the collect for Trinity Sunday is unchanged – and heretical. Whoops.

The authorities were alarmed by their secret work being made public. They wanted the leaks plugged. (America reported on this Pray Tell story.) Bishops apparently are a bit freer to speak out on the abuse of power in this translation when they’re retired or close to retirement.

The USCCB tried to calm the waters after their November 2010 meeting by issuing a statement making some quite extraordinary claims. Pray Tell didn’t respond directly to that, but did offer counsel on what to believe about the translation controversy.

Some liturgical conservatives and traditionalists continued to claim, in the face of accumulating evidence to the contrary, that the Holy See had everything under control and the leaks were fake. Some conservative and traditionalists bloggers who otherwise opined on every issue under the sun kept strangely quiet about the missal. Eventually they began to concede that Pray Tell had been right all along. Fr. Z at WDTPRS worried that the CDW would become a laughing stock. Jeffrey Tucker wrote on the mystery of the leaked missal at Inside Catholic:

Father Ruff is a Gregorian chant scholar but, surprisingly, usually stands with the “progressive” branch of American Catholicism. We are friends, though we disagree on many issues. I admit that I wondered at the time if he might be pointlessly stirring up trouble in order to discredit the forthcoming Missal. I regret the judgment.

An older lady touchingly wrote to me, and I reprinted with her permission, of her fears that the new missal was about to do great damage to the heart of the church.

Fr. Alan Griffiths wrote a letter to The Tablet, which we reprinted here, asking what would happen after the 2010 text fails. The result? He was removed as a translator from ICEL. Pray Tell had reported the day before on an unnamed translator and a musician cut by ICEL. The name of the musician is Anthony Ruff.

Early January 2011 saw the surprising news that Midwest Theological Forum, the publishing house of Opus Dei, is releasing a study edition of missal texts, published by Vox Clara. Since when does an ad hoc advisory committee publish missal texts?? Vox Clara has new members as of February 2011 – Bishops Serratelli and Olmsted.

Brigid Rauch wrote that the new missal will introduce “another fault line in the Church.” Fr. Dwight Longecker, married Roman Catholic priest from the Anglo-Catholic high church tradition, thinks the new translation “sounds like an eighth grader trying to write Shakespeare.”

Anthony Ruff wondered whether 7,000 collaborators really means the process has good of involvement and buy-in. Cardinal Pell, head of Vox Clara, is sure that it does.

On January 17, the final text of the missal was leaked at WikiSpooks.

Fr. Ed Foley, Capuchin, speaking on implementation of the missal at the January 2011 Catholic Academy for liturgy, didn’t mince words about the problems in the process. Fr. Paul Turner, speaking at the Southwest Liturgical Conference in February 2011, discussed the problematic words merit, many, and dewfall in the second Eucharistic Prayer.

Jesuit America magazine has not been shy in running strong critiques of the new translation. On February 4 they ran Fr. Anthony Ruff’s open letter to the US bishops withdrawing from all speaking engagements promoting the missal. From the reactions, he learned that many of the people involved in promoting the missal really think it’s a mistake. Fr. John Foley SJ posted in support of Anthony’s letter.

The Association of Catholic Priests in Ireland, with over 400 members, said in early February that the new translation is unacceptable – sexist and elitist. Their statement hit the MSM – the BBC ran a story on February 6 on the “missal crisis.” But the liturgy office in England thinks English priests will adapt to the new missal without problem. (Some wonder whether they’ll like the “cheap but worthy” interim missal to be used in fall 2011.) And Bishop Aymond, head of the US BCDW, thinks the new translation will lead to “a deeper appreciation of what Mass means.” US Bishop Blair also supports the new missal – and scolds its critics. From a small sample of letters to the editor, it seems that implementation of the new text in New Zealand is a bit rocky. In general, letters to the editor about the new missal are running negative. In Australia, hundreds of priests are “pretty steamed up” about the new missal, and at least a dozen have announced they will refuse to use it. Discontent is simmering. But implementation continues. In Canada, Bernadette Gasslein wonders why the Pope calls for clear, modern language in the work of evangelization – but not in the liturgy!

Fr. Pádraig McCarthy of Dublin discovered that the grade level of the current translation of the Eucharistic prayers is 9; for the coming missal it is 15. Here Fr. McCarthy writes on the challenge of translation. Fr. McCarthy gives examples of coming prefaces here and here. Meanwhile, Fr. J. Michael Joncas thinks The New Missal: Explaining the Changes from Ireland’s liturgy office is “excellent.”

Fr. Hilgartner and Msgr. Sherman, current and former head of the US liturgy office, have put up several informative videos about the new missal.

Fritz Bauerschmidt suggests -he means it seriously – that critics of the coming translation might learn from the many critics of the current text how one most helpfully deals spiritually with a liturgical text one dislikes.

Vox Clara met early February 2011. US cardinal members include George and Rigalli. New members are Bishops Serratelli and Olmsted. This is both disturbing and kind of amusing: Msgr. Bruce Harbert, former head of ICEL, has noticed that Msgr. Moroney reads the wrong text in many places in his recording of the coming Eucharistic Prayers. Recently, Anthony Ruff called out Msgr. Moroney for stretching the truth in his promotion of the new Missal: “No, Msgr. Moroney, I don’t think so.” Meanwhile, Abbot Cuthbert Johnson of Vox Clara hopes the missal will help us evangelize. Msgr. Wadsworth of ICEL has spoken publicly on the translation.

Translation scholar Anthony Pym, asked by Pray Tell whether academia supports the translation theory of Liturgiam authenticam, said this: “Huh?”

Pray Tell has several good discussions about new service music – whether dioceses should mandate common settings, which settings people will be using, what Anthony Ruff is considering at the abbey, published settings, online settings.


Send to Kindle