Latin nouns, missed opportunities

Did you read Michael Peppard’s latest contribution at DotCommonweal?

I begin to think our people, pastors, poets, and theologians should humbly collaborate on a new missal, not only a better translation of the Missale Romanum but also on an inculturated sacramentary. Shall we at least pray about this?

Do you think the nuns of Stanbrook would offer Dame Maria Boulding’s translations and the monks of New Camaldoli offer Dom Aelred Squire’s?

Is this something anonymous Benedictines (monks, nuns, and oblates) could offer the Church, at least the English-speaking/singing Church?

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29 comments

  1. Thanks for pointing us toward Michael Peppard’s excellent article. And from now on, let everyone in the congregation proceed to the church’s Men’s Room after each Mass.

  2. I think that’s a horrifying idea, and it seems like a big step towards a formal rupture with Rome. It would also announce a decisive break with Vatican II, which would seem, to the unfamiliar eye, an extraordinary position for a group that has loudly proclaimed itself the stewards of the council (over and above the Church, even).

  3. Goodness gracious, Simon, you are too ready to decry.

    I am your fellow Roman Catholic, having sworn the Oath of Fidelity and taken the Profession of Faith, teaching with a canonical mandate, indeed teaching that very Profession annually to future priests.

    I am not speaking for any “group.” I am speaking to people of good will and generous, not suspicious, disposition, suggesting a conversation among those who most deeply love the Roman Catholic Church about a more felicitous but always faithful translation of the Roman MIssal and about an authentic inculturation that speaks the Gospel to our times and allows us to find words that help our hearts speak to the God who made our hearts.

  4. Paul, I cannot comprehend how anyone who deeply loves the Roman Catholic Church can propose subdividing her liturgy. Only yesterday, there was a disagreement as to whether and to what extent the criticisms of the new translation are really motivated by hostility to the underlying text of the ordinary form of the Roman Rite. And today we read: “I begin to think our people, pastors, poets, and theologians should humbly collaborate on a new missal, not only a better translation of the Missale Romanum but also on an inculturated sacramentary.” How can that do anything but confirm the afore-mentioned suspicions? How can it do anything but give evidence to those who fear that the introduction of the vernacular began a decay that is now threatening to lead to the catastrophic structural failure of the unity of the Roman rite? I have to be totally candid with you, Paul: Your proposal absolutely terrifies me.

    1. Be not afraid, dear Simon. The gates of hell shall not prevail . . . how much less that obviously dangerous Professor Ford? 🙂

    2. Simon:

      I cannot comprehend how anyone who deeply loves the Roman Catholic Church can propose subdividing her liturgy.

      In that case, you must hate Benedict XVI, who has done precisely that with Summorum Pontificum.

      1. Paul, that’s a great argument—kudos, that floored me for a minute. I don’t think that it quite sticks, though. Summorum Pontificum doesn’t divide the Roman Rite, it simply notes that the usus antiquior was never abrogated and may therefore be used. Thus, if the coexistence of MR1962 and MR1969 subdivided the Roman liturgy, it would be Paul VI who did precisely that with Missale Romanum. But in any event, I don’t think that’s quite the same thing; I can’t quite articulate why, but I don’t think that’s a good comparison.

      2. I think there’s another relevant point about the situation with SP: It’s temporary. Paul’s talking about creating a permanent sub-rite, but my understanding is that the coexistence of the two forms of the Roman Rite is a temporary situation presaging an eventual do-over (do-for-the-first-time if you ask some of us) of the Vatican II reforms: The idea is to get the usus antiquior healthy enough to do the transplant, as it were. That’s been raised by a Vatican Conference on SP in the last year, and Card. Burke has raised it, too, so it’s not a totally idiosyncratic idea of mine. A few pontificates down the road (see my comment here), I expect reunification. So to the extent that the current situation is divisive, which I doubt, it is a temporary and necessary division.

    3. Unity does not have to mean uniformity! What we really need is to better understand what is essential to the Mass and what can be changed to reflect local cultures (including that oft ignored sub-culture – the American suburb!)

      What are you so scared of, anyways? Seriously, what is the disaster you foresee?

      1. Unity doesn’t necessarily mean uniformity, but that observation isn’t helpful because it simply transfers the debate to the level of generality at which “uniformity” is understood, without resolving or clarifying any useful point.

        What do I fear? The disintegration of the Roman Rite into a collection of disparate liturgies and the effect that will have on the unity of the Church. That people will be spurred by a fabricated liturgy based on their preferences to fabricate a faith based on their preferences. This is why, in the last analysis, Klaus Gamber was prescient: The novus ordo, regardless of what is in it, created the notion that liturgy is something that can be created rather than something that is received and burnished. And what is the result? Armies of liturgists who, so far as I can see, exist solely to usurp functions that used to be supplied by tradition, and a whole generation or three who blithely propose to write a new sacramentary. And why not? They have been led to believe that authentic liturgy can be created ex nihilo (again, setting aside the question of whether the novus ordo actually does that), and because one assumes that they are intelligent, faithful people, why can’t they create it?

      2. Well, the Ambrosian Rite has happily co-existed alongside the Roman Rite without any disasters occurring. And indeed it has undergone a similar process to that which produced the 1969 Missale Romanum, without anyone throwing a tantrum as happened after Paul VI’s Missal appeared.

        I think, Simon, you are quite inaccurate in trying to cast the blame onto Paul VI. He abrogated (yes, he did — read up about it, in Worship and elsewhere) the Missal of Pius V, and left us with a different but still unified Roman Rite. The only problem was that a tiny splinter group wanted to keep what they had before — hence all the indults, not to mention the schism with the SSPX folks and others. They are the folk who subdivided, and Summorum Pontificum later came along and made that subdivision official. But it wasn’t what Paul VI envisaged at all.

        And those schismatic wounds have not been healed by Benedict XVI’s action, even if some others have rejoiced. There’s even a case for saying that we now have three subdivisions: OF, EF and the schismatics.

  5. What do I fear? The disintegration of the Roman Rite into a collection of disparate liturgies and the effect that will have on the unity of the Church.

    Again, if we identify what is essential and what is cultural accretion, disparate liturgies should enhance unity rather than harm it. They say, these people are different, yet all one in the Eucharist. They say, all Creation belongs to God and is holy, not just certain aspects of Western European culture. For example, one parish in the United States with many Native American members uses a white buffalo skin as an altar cloth. Some would say that this practice automatically excludes European-Americans. My response is to ask who is being excluded by our current liturgical practices?

    The real damage to unity comes when we set ourselves up as judges of each other and/or use liturgy to demonstrate authority over others.

    I would also ask, what is the definition of authentic liturgy? Not to mention, where did the traditional liturgy come from? It was not handed down from angels but devised by men at a certain time and place. Why can’t intelligent, faithful people bring their own gifts to the liturgy today?

  6. The following phrase from the Creed,

    qui propter nos homines et propter nostram salutem descendit de caelis

    has caused much heartache and heartburn. I agree with Mr. Peppard that the phrase is often problematic for translators. This is a problem that cannot be readily solved in English translation.

    If homines refers to individuals, then “persons” might be appropriate. If homines refers to an aggregate of persons, then “people” might be appropriate. Given that Latin had other words for aggregates of persons such as turba, I am inclined to think that homines refers to a number of persons individually.

    The difficulty with propter nos homines is that the nos and homines are integral. It is not enough to say “for us” only, since doing so ignores the fact that God the Son is incarnate through the Virgin Mary for persons individually and humankind as a whole. “for us persons” might sound awkward in English, but is perhaps the most accurate translation.

    Here is yet another juncture where the superimposition of English over the Latin creates intractable questions. Better, then, to recite the Creed in Latin at least occasionally. The only other choices are a theologically ambiguous paraphrase or a literal translation which sounds “off” even though it is arguably the best way to convey the theological message. Not one of these three options satisfies the majority of Catholics.

    1. The difficulty with propter nos homines is that the nos and homines are integral. It is not enough to say “for us” only, since doing so ignores the fact that God the Son is incarnate through the Virgin Mary for persons individually and humankind as a whole. “for us persons” might sound awkward in English, but is perhaps the most accurate translation.

      Wouldn’t we simply say, “for each and for all” (for one and all) to make that point? “For us, humans; persons; people; generic man; mankind” doesn’t. It implies the “us”, we are talking about, are human. (Well, what else would they be?) And in greater context, “for us, men, and for our salvation”, then, would mean “for individual and universal salvation you came down from heaven”. So, why don’t we say that? Of course, as you suggest, you could say it in Latin (or Greek, Brigid), but then even fewer of “us” would understand what “we” are praying because only “you” (in the individual and aggregate) know the hidden meaning of the words. I still wouldn’t get it.

      Jordan, a sincere inquiry. I was truly drawn to the distinction you were making.

      1. Did Jesus die only for us humans? What of other sentient species scattered throughout the universe?

      2. re:Brigid Rauch on December 8, 2011 – 3:48 pm

        Sure, a congregation at Mass could say the Creed in Greek. I will say though that Latin is at least easier to pronounce. Many Greek participles don’t exactly roll of the tongue. This is why I hid my face in the text during Greek class in vain hope that the prof wouldn’t call on me to read aloud 😉

        re: Eileen Russell on December 8, 2011 – 4:54 pm

        Eileen, your point is well taken. I am not a theologian, so I will leave all of the possible translation permutations to others more qualified. I think though, that a well-rounded translation would make clear that God the Son is salvation is for all and for each one, as you say. That would be a paraphrase, but a meaningful paraphrase which makes clear the underlying concept.

        Thankfully, the masculine as the generic pronoun is dropping out of use in American English. “They”, for the moment, has become the de facto fourth “common” pronoun. Regardless, the deeply conservative part of me requires an uncompromisingly clear correspondence between the Latin, a translation, and the underlying theological belief we confess in liturgy. A relentless desire for orthodox precision pulls me towards an aversion to all modern language translations. I will concede, despite my past illogical and perhaps uncharitable posts on the Canon, that non-translation is not reality today (unless one voluntarily worships in Latin).

  7. Very different point, but I would say universal is universal – parallel or otherwise! I’ve had quite a few beloved canines and, presently, a golden retriever, I would say come far closer to deserving redemption than I. I’ll admit to you (don’t tell anyone else here – they get so upset!) that has crossed my mind while hearing “for us, men…”

    1. In Ireland when I was growing up we had a solution to that dilemma , Eileen. When I was five or six my grand-aunt’s cat died. I asked her whether Micky went to heaven. She said “Yes. To Saint Anthony’s Heaven.”
      🙂

  8. Ah, for sure. It’s that kind of wisdom that kept women out of university for centuries.

    Not to go all serious on you but any reason why St. Anthony? In my family, it was always St. Francis who looked out for the critters.

    1. I’m not sure why. I suppose the fact that Saint Anthony was a Franciscan might explain the overlap and we lived in a town with a friary.
      I do remember that her answer reassured me lots at the time. She was wise.

  9. Xavier Rindfleisch :
    Be not afraid, dear Simon. The gates of hell shall not prevail . . . how much less that obviously dangerous Professor Ford?

    “Be Not Afraid”, that was what the homily was about at the EF Mass tonight for the Immaculate Conception. I was pondering the message deeply about 3 hours ago and here it is again.

  10. Those who appear terrified by Paul Ford’s proposal might care to remember that this is precisely the direction we were headed in during the 1970s and 80s, before Cardinal Medina decided to reverse direction in the late 90s. It was not terrifying or disastrous then, and it is not now. I suspect that some of those commenting were not around in those days, so they have no knowledge of the sense of progression that we experienced at the time.

    You have only to look at the ICEL alternative opening prayers in the 1973 Missal to see the benefits of this approach.

    One of the tragedies of the latest English translation is that the ICEL 1998 collects, which followed the 3-year Lectionary cycle, are now only available in a separate book — and even that now appears to be out of print.

  11. Two related points:

    1. I perceive, among some, an anxiety for a rigid uniformity in the Roman (Western?, Latin?) Rite that has no historical or ecclesial basis. This anxiety is fetish-like in its self-absorption and idolatrous in its attitude toward the man-made elements of the liturgy. Further, the manner in which liturgical uniformity is advocated appears less than kind to, not to say unaware of, our Byzantine, Coptic, Armenian, Chaldean etc. sisters and brothers.

    2. Think of all the non-Christians in your parish’s bounderies, ALL of them, (never mind the Protestants and the non-attending Catholics). Now try to consider how our, how your, Sunday liturgy invites them to a place at the table of the Lord. Both Pauls are right, and we need a liturgy that opens the Gospel to our world rather than closes it off.

  12. re#17 by Jordan Zarembo on December 8, 2011 – 6:16

    Regardless, the deeply conservative part of me requires an uncompromisingly clear correspondence between the Latin, a translation, and the underlying theological belief we confess in liturgy. A relentless desire for orthodox precision pulls me towards an aversion to all modern language translations. I will concede, despite my past illogical and perhaps uncharitable posts on the Canon, that non-translation is not reality today (unless one voluntarily worships in Latin.

    Jordan, it is your zeal that brought the conversation for me from the obvious modern concern about inclusive language to the need to express, and preserve belief in, the individual and universal meaning of redemption. That’s why I took note. I am grateful for the insight.

    Still, Latin won’t do that for me. It is a language of academics, not worship. I survived years of “real Catholics know Latin” without having learned a word. I didn’t need to. Gifted, equally driven as yourself, scholars expressed the ancient beliefs of the Church in the language I could understand. I met deeply holy people who discussed and shared their insights with me, all in my mother tongue. They kept at it, they still do. Knowledge is addictive. When the “light bulb” goes off, all sorts of concepts become illuminated.

    That’s what makes this translation so sad. Instead of maintaining the ancient tradition of passing on (to anyone who will listen to us) what has been handed on to us, it is being shrouded in a translation that is, clearly, confusing even the most educated, committed Catholics. We seem locked in a foolish debate. Continue to express God’s interaction with humanity in a way codified at a time in human history out of fear that the mystery of such an outrageous divine activity will be lost or continue to trust that God’s Holy Spirit will help us to understand and participate in that ever deeping mystery. Do we really have a choice?

  13. I’d also like to throw Joseph Gelineau into the mix here. He famously opined back in 1973 that “We are united in what we believe, but not necessarily in the way in which we express that belief”. He then went on to point out that a liturgy which had grown up in the Mediterranean basin at a particular period in history might be quite inappropriate for a culture elsewhere on the planet in a quite different age.

    True inculturation is the name of the game, and those who want to control everything and/or who cannot cope with change are the ones most frightened by that. I cannot imagine that the Zaire entrance rite would be approved by the Vatican in the present climate, and yet it was then. Perhaps we need to return to the precedents already set by Rome itself and use them as a lever to demonstrate how today’s retrenchment is in itself a hermeneutic of discontinuity.

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