Letters to The Tablet on the new missal – mostly negative

The substitution of the word “chalice” for “cup”
in the Eucharistic Prayer has already been
noted. The unconscious vulgarity of this
change, at the most dramatic moment in the
whole liturgy, is horrifying, as though the dignity
of the word “cup” were not upheld by the
hands that held it and passed it round, and
to “improve” on this is to make of another good
word a genteelism which betrays the mentality
of the translator – and three times! It confirms
all that we now know, thanks to The Tablet’s
preparatory articles, about the process whereby
this translation was arrived at.

Today’s online Tablet has letters to the editor (click under “Current Issue”) and “Letters Extra” on the new missal – all of them negative. They haven’t “gotten used to it” in New Zealand, for example. And this from Fr. Sebastian Moore, OSB:

The substitution of the word “chalice” for “cup” in the Eucharistic Prayer has already been noted. The unconscious vulgarity of this change, at the most dramatic moment in the whole liturgy, is horrifying, as though the dignity of the word “cup” were not upheld by the hands that held it and passed it round…

Why so many negative reactions? Why now?? Is the implementation of the missal stirring up people’s displeasure again? Are these letters representative of very many people?




    1. It’s unfortunate that he refers to “the taking of Communion”.

      I hate to say this, but non-catholics take Communion, Catholics receive it. Many ex-non-catholics have not yet grasped the difference alas.

      1. What? “Take this all of you…” This is silly sniping.

        “take Communion” is attested to in English in 1483 in Caxton’s translation of J. de Voragine’s Golden Legende “Whan the solempnytees of the masses were done, & the peple had taken hooly communyon, al retvrned to their propre places.” (Actually from the portion for today’s feast, the Feast of St. Michael). When Caxton wrote that, there was no non-Catholic church in England.

      2. Silly sniping, perhaps, but it is an interesting observation about the habitual Catholic way of speaking. I don’t know of any cradle Catholics or even long-time converts (like me) who speak of “taking” communion.

        Maybe this is a “tell” that reveals the recent convert.

      3. There may not be any actual difference, but I always receive Communion, I never take it. And priests don’t recite Mass, either. Then again, since I live and grew up in the Atlanta area, any sweetened carbonated drink is a ‘Coke’, regardless of flavor or actual brand. 🙂

  1. Rather than draw conclusions from the number of published letters in the Tablet, and on the website Letters Extra, I would be most interested in the Editor of the Tablet declaring the total number of letters received on this issue and the percentage in favour or critical of this new translation. We have only just begun to face the problems. They will not go away with time and the expected docile acceptance of this misuse of the English language.

    The silent prayer of the people may return as the only way of coming to terms with real difficulties. Remember pre-Vatican II when the priest “read” mass and we listened?

    How sad that we have introduced a note of discord at a time when the Church needs to come together round the table of the Lord. There are so many other problems to face that demand out attention.
    Chris McDonnell UK

    1. I would be most interested in the Editor of the Tablet declaring the total number of letters received on this issue and the percentage in favour or critical of this new translation.

      That wouldn’t really tell us much either, since those dissatisfied with the translation are much more likely to write letters. Also those who write letters to the Tablet are much more likely to be dissatisfied, etc. It’s like reading the Wanderer and concluding that there’s broad support for the Latin Mass.

  2. I can’t imagine we’ve begun to hear the complaints even yet. Most of the (US, at least) Catholic community have no idea this is in store for them. I, for one, am deeply disturbed by the changes, but have yet to “complain” anywhere or write a letter. I have yet to even hear the new language “in the wild” in liturgy, and I’ll wait until at least then to render a final judgement or get loud about it.

    1. You had better believe it. Some parishes are only just now starting to talk about the changes that are taking place. At least 75% of American Catholics still have no idea that the change is coming, or if they do, they don’t know to what extent the change will be. Once these changes go through in the US, watch the number of letters against the new missal explode.

      The only way that we will force the church to listen is if we hit them in the pocketbook. If you are against the change, withhold your weekly parish contributions until they get the message and start to listen.

      And by listen, it means that they are willing to consider change. Many dioceses say that they are there to “listen”, but they are not able to act.

  3. This does raise an interesting question. If the purpose of the new translation is to help the Faithful enter into the liturgy more deeply and strengthen their faith, what survey and metrics will be used to assess whether it meets this objective? I raised this question at a vicariate meeting I attended recently on the new translation, and received a quizzical look from the presenter in response, along with the comment that I should feel free to write to the CDW and our bishop myself (!)

    There should be a plan, in six months or a year, to assess with some objectivity whether the new translation has met or not met the objectives that have been set for it. If we could agree on what those objectives are and how to measure them now, however we happen to feel about the translation, we might gather and review data and learn something from that exercise, rather than projecting our feelings on the rest of the English-speaking world (which I’m as guilty of doing as any).

    1. what survey and metrics will be used to assess whether it meets this objective?

      The metric will be whether the bishop declares that the objective has been met. To judge that, the bishop
      will survey a carefully selected set of pastors and
      discuss it with them. To help make that assessment,
      those pastors will meet with a carefully selected set of
      parishioners and discuss it with them. Altogether lots
      of people will have been surveyed, so the bishop will
      be able to declare with full confidence that the objective
      has been met.

    2. Jay,
      It took 40 years or so to experience and conclude that our current translation is flawed; so, I think it’s fair to give it about another 40 for this one.

  4. I am not surprised that the letters to The Tablet about the new translation are negative. During the four weeks that we have had the new translation I have asked many friends what they think about it and the majority of the replies have been very negative. Most of us agreed that we do not like the new translation. The language is clumsy and does not flow. We are very sad.

  5. Like Moya Tully, I too am not surprised that readers of the Tablet are not real excited by the changes. But I would also not be surprised if the same sorts of letters, written to the National Catholic Register, or emails written to WDTPRS, would be overwhelmingly positive regarding the new translation.

    My point is that the source of the survey matters.
    I’d be VERY interested in a CARA study of the reaction of the people in the pews, mid 2012. That would, it seems to me, be a more objective way of measuring the national reaction.

    1. I agree with Fr. Erickson – NCReg compared to Tablet, etc. I too would very like like to have a CARA study done. Not right away, or if so, then more importantly, after a year or so.

    2. Do you have any positive letters to the NCReg or Fr Zuhlsdort that you can quote?

      All lovers of English, Latin and Liturgy have been raging against the disgusting new translations for a long time. But it is only now that the real controversy will begin, as millions of Catholics worldwide are forced to mouth the gobbledygook produced by a cabal of philistines.

  6. Unfortunately a good study may be hard to do.

    The changes in the text are also going to be accompanied by changes in music. My hunch would be that for those who sing at Mass that the positives or negatives of the music changes will outweigh the positive or negatives of the textual changes. And, of course, music changes may play out very differently in different parishes and even dioceses.

    Since familiarity leads to liking, my prediction is that if the Current texts were compared to the New Missal, and even to the 1998 Proposed Missal that the Current texts would win hands down at the present time because they are familiar. What the situation will be one year from now, or five years from now, I don’t know. The familiarity of the New Missal might or might not win out by that time. However the Current Missal for many people will be a familiar text for a long while. It could take the familiarity of the New Missal text a long time to catch up and surpass it.

    The familiarity issue and general difficulty of doing good studies in this area is one of the reasons that I think we should continue to authorize both the Current and New Missal and see how their parallel use works out over the coming years.

    Missals should be issued in a Provisional Form. For example if the 1998 Missal is preferred to the both the Current and New Texts, then it will be liked even more in the future. So the ideal would be to tinker with a Provisional Missal until it clearly out performed any familiar Missal as first hearing in all particulars.

    1. Of course, there is always a resistance to change. Many people do not like the new missal translation simply because it’s different. They’re being taken out of their comfort zone, the prayers and responses that they know by rote, or that they, unfortunately, may be saying on “autopilot” are going away.

      Maybe the church feels that if they dig in their heels hard enough that eventually the new missal will become the familiar words that people will not want to change away from. That will take a long time.

      The bigger problem is that the new translation suffers from language related issues:

      The syntax and vocabulary of Latin and English differ greatly, and it leads to poorly flowing sentences with words that people aren’t used to hearing or which sound overly formal or artificial. The church worked for many years in taking the formality of the liturgy away to bring the people and clergy closer, and now they’re pushing the people away with this translation.

      They’re adding words which sound contrary to what people have been taught – for example I grew up being told that Jesus died for “all”, only to be told that now He died for “many”. The church will explain that “many” means that Jesus died for more than Himself. But in English, changing the word from “all” to “many” gives the implication that there are some that Jesus did not die for, especially when the word used to be “all”.

      Even changing “We believe” to “I believe” has subtle changes. Simply making that change because the Latin word “Credo” is the 1st person singular version of the verb, removes the community aspect of the mass. If “you” believe something, and “I” believe something, then “we” believe it. I can tell God that I believe something without gathering with others. Saying “we believe” emphasizes that we come together as a group to worship and celebrate the mass.

      That’s just a few of many examples of where the new words say one thing, but the church has to say that they mean something else.

  7. Calling Liturgy “disgusting” is really unnecessary. There are many of us who love it…Surf around the internet and you can find just as many success stories and parishes that have embraced it.
    And if Rome were to listen to a few, who hate the new translations and shelve it, I hope the response would be “OK, this translation is no good, neither was the previous one.It was rendered defective and its’ continued use revoked. So we will immdediately begin a new round of translation hearings, which may take another 20 years, and in the interim we will all use Latin until a good translation acceptable to ALL, not MANY can be found. Thank you for your concern and we are offering some discounts and publishing houses for all the Latin Missals your parish will need for the next few decades.”

    1. Maybe Rome should ask the majority of English speaking Catholics whether we believe that the current translation is no good.

      Given the reactions by many (which I agree are also driven by a resistance to change), the current translation is fine.

      1. Every so often, some regular commenter here mentions his or her (or someone else’s) opinion about the quality of the current translation:

        “The current ICEL translation got panned by our Worship magazine the day it appeared.” & “I’m no fan of the current translation. It is too pedestrian and fails to convey the riches of the Latin.” & “I don’t know anyone who would go to the mat defending the current translation in every aspect.” – AWR

        “I don’t think the current translation is wonderful” – KLS

        “The current translation taste bland to me” – MF

        “anything will be an improvement over the current translation” – CCU

        “Progressive liturgists have been urging and waiting for [the current translation’s] retirement for decades” – TF

        “I can’t abide the current translation any longer” – JBB

        “Does our current translation need some work? Yes” – LG

        “Few would convincingly defend just keeping the current translation for long.” – KLS

        “The current translation and the 2010 translations are poor vessels for worship.” – KR

        “some of the current translation is awful” – RM

        “I actually share Fr Z’s views of the preces in the current translation. I have to disengage my brain when reading them” & “I think EVERYBODY agrees that the 1973 propers are sawdust” – JOL

        “the faults of the current translation are so immense” – GF

        “I think you’ll find that there are few enthusiasts for the current translation” – FB

        But there are some commenters (who usually drop in to leave one or two comments) who do like it a great deal:

        “The current translation is simple, clear and incredibly beautiful.” – IG

  8. I think some of it depends on how it is done.

    I have heard some of the present “bland” postcommunion prayers dashed off as if they meant nothing, but I have also heard brilliant presiders not only turning them into real prayer by the way they proclaimed them but preaching on them in a way that brings them startlingly to life. You would be amazed.

    Likewise I have heard Monsignor Autopilot and his brethren churning through one or other of the newly-revised Eucharistic Prayer translations, while Frs X and Y have taken the time and trouble to make them intelligible and prayerful, often an uphill task.

    The real problem is going to arise when presiders are faced with the new versions of the collect prayers, prayers over the gifts, and postcommunion prayers. These, I think, are in a different league, particularly the collects. My conviction is that it won’t matter how much they try, these prayers are going to remain at best awkward, klunky, lacking in flow and grace, flowery and insincere, irrelevant, and at worst completely unintelligible for the presider as well as for the listening assembly.

    The coming Advent will no longer be a time of joyful expectation, particularly not for those who attend daily Mass. The revised translation of the Order of Mass is one thing, but the remainder of the Missal is something else altogether.

    We will all be lamenting the demise of the 1998 translation, and the ICEL Alternative Opening Prayers.

  9. Thank goodness for the Internet. I will be listening with missal in hand to make sure the priest is NOT using the prayer from the failed version of 1998, which was never given approval from Rome. Thanks for the tip.

  10. This term “presider” is incorrect. The correct term is “priest” – too much has been done since the Second Vatican Council to reduce the Mass to the ordinary and banal. It is the greatest sacrament we have, and the priest (not a presider) acts in persona Christi (in the person of Christ) at each Mass when the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ. The changes to the wording of the Mass is an attempt to bring back the sacredness that has been lost. How many sit in the pews these days cross legged, some even chewing gum, talking all through Mass and many dressed in beach attire quite often, forgetting He whom they have come to worship. Who would attend a banquet for the President or the Queen of England in such a manner? Would they be allowed in? There is no need to do a survey to see if there is an improvement with the new language. We have evidence enough of the falling away of the Faith since the change from Latin into the vernacular – all problems would be over if Mass was again said in Latin – no quibbles over small changes in the wording that we have waited long enough for.

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