The Treachery of Translators

Andy Martin writes in The New York Times:

But translation is always an interpretation. In this case, the translator had written something like this, updating New York ’50s sexist humor into ’90s Parisian political correctness: “Here is an example of a sentence that is manifestly impossible to translate: ‘A man is only as old as the woman he can feel inside of him trying to express herself.’”

And this:

In my opinion, you don’t have to be mad to translate, but it probably helps.

Read it all: “The Treachery of Translators.”

          *               *               *               *               *

But, some may be asking themselves, do I have the strength (do I have the stomach?) to take up one more time that awful issue of translation?

OK, gang, look: the Missal translation (process and result) didn’t go well, and it brought way too much ill will and division and hurt feelings to the Catholic Church.

When will come healing? When reconciliation? “God… has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation. … Behold, now is a very acceptable time” (2 Cor 5:18, 6:2)

I continue to post on translation at Pray Tell, I post suggestions that come my way for improving the infelicities in the Missal translation. I hope it is constructive to do so, and I hope it is received in a constructive spirit.

This isn’t about grinding an axe, nursing old wounds, keeping alive the heady days of the missal battle from a couple years ago. This isn’t about ridiculing the work of fellow Christians and fellow Catholics. Everyone directly involved in the translation, including those who made the strange and funny changes in the final text, did what they thought best for the Church. They made compromises – no doubt hoping that such flexibility would help the controversial text be received better – and then got attacked for being inconsistent and playing fast and loose with their own principles. That must have hurt.

The new Missal is a fact. I accept it and use it. I do my best to implement it. When presiding at or attending Mass, I do my best to think about the great mysteries being celebrated, not about what’s wrong with the text or what’s wrong with the system that created it.

As J. Peter Nixon (I believe it was) from Commonweal once said online (I’m paraphrasing now from memory), we did great creative things with a bland, crappy translation for 40 years, and we can do great creative things with this clunky and pretentious translation. (OK, those adjectives are mine and not his.)

I hope we can get as soon as possible to a place where we all respect each other, we all unite around this Missal, and we all talk calmly and respectfully about how to keep on improving our translation abilities. The next Missal may be 10 years off or 50 years off, but there will be a next Missal. The more insight and scholarship given to the translation issue between now and then, the better.

Maybe, just maybe in God’s great design (he writes straight with crooked lines, you know…), this Missal is what we need to make good progress toward better things in the future. Maybe this Missal is what we need to make the transition toward liturgical language that is serious and reverent, and when the next Missal revision also has some natural English lyricism to it, we’ll all be grateful that, back in 2011, we at least moved into the right register of language for worship.

So, in that spirit. go read the NYTimes article. Keep on thinking about how complicated translation is, about how no translation is “accurate,” about how every translation is an interpretation, about how every translation is temporary. Keep on thinking about how to improve what we have. And use what we have – use it to pray for our Church, our bishops, and each other.

Pax in Christo,

awr

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65 comments

  1. My sister emailed this article to me last night. I wondered how soon I would see it here! 🙂

    One of the comments (by Joe on Jan. 29, 2013 at 6:35 p.m., the top one as of the time I read the article) gave an excellent example of retaining specific characteristics of a text (in this case, punning) in the translation:


    Many years ago, while studying literary translation at the CUNY Grad Center, we came across two issues that stand out in my memory. The first one, regarding puns, quotes a line in “Alice in Wonderland” in which a character states that the world rotates on its axis, to which the Queen replies,”Speaking of axes, off with their heads.” In a French translation the character mentions the earth’s “revolution”, to which the Queen responds, “Speaking of revolution, off with their heads.” This brilliant rendering of the pun incfludes a cultural and historical reference in French.

  2. This post assumes an industrial world in which there is only one translation.

    However we live in a postindustrial world in which we have the capacity with our personal hand held computing devices to have available at Mass hundreds of translations which we can chose from.

    Those who want to imagine themselves as sycophants in a human imperial court can have the language they want with as many versions as the market will bear.

    Those who want to image God as woman can have all the language that they want with as many versions at the market will bear.

    Market means not only what people will pay for with money but also what people are willing to subsidize with their time and talent.

    We have a lot of possibilities, and of course this blog and Liturgical Press, perhaps through other websites and products, could bring about the end of industrial domination and the beginning of the postindustrial liturgical world.

    A model is already available in BibleWorks which has all the varied original texts and many varied translations:

    You’ll find everything you need for close exegesis of the original text in its 200+ Bible translations in 40 languages, 40+ original language texts and morphology databases, dozens of lexical-grammatical references, plus a wealth of practical reference works! Instead of providing a loose collection of books, BibleWorks tightly integrates its databases with the most powerful morphology and analysis tools.

    http://www.bibleworks.com/

    A liturgical product like this in combination with one or many websites where people can post (and debate) their translations would give a creative liturgical world to everyone who wants it.

    Of course ecclesiastical and academic bureaucracies born of the industrial age may not like the competition.

    PrayTell may be moving in this direction with some of our posts, but there is a long way to go to get out from under the industrial age mindset.

  3. The tone, maturity, and charity of Fr Ruff’s comments are outstanding, given the petulant adolcescence of the largest portion of the commentary on this subject on Pray Tell. Perhaps following his lead, we can, at last, have a debate about this well-intended-but-flawed translation, the work of persons who just weren’t the equal of their dreams. It is good, too, that along side of slaps at the new work there was mention of the genuine failings of the old. This is a perspective which has been totally absent in discussions here. Perhaps (is it possible?) we could even give some substantive discussion of and credit for the concepts which molded the new, even though the noble and lofty paradigm did not quite make it into reality. And, finally, are we or are we not, objectively (leaving aside subjective attitudes), better off than we were. In answering such a question we should note the theological and philosophical richness (or absence of such) in each. Many thanks, Fr R, for opening this up on a more adult and objective level. We should keep in mind and respect the reality that quite a few are pleased with the new and (it seems) quite a few are not. Neither group is lacking in intelligence or (necessarily) literary acumen.

  4. Fr. Ruff, you made me curious about what I actually said (memory is getting worse as I age…:-). I think this is the quote and post you are referencing:

    “As for the collects, well let’s just say that after 40 years of experiencing the problems that result when “dynamic equivalence” is taken to an extreme we’ll probably spend the next 40 years learning the same lessons with respect to “formal equivalence.”

    Here is the original post and I think you expressed my main point much more succinctly and clearly than I did!

    http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/blog/?p=16031

    Take care.

    Peter

  5. Sorry, Mr. Osborn……agree with your kudos to Fr. Ruff but beyond that, your comments ignore history and tend to subjectively judge and dismiss serious folks who have identified many issues for the good of the church.

    To wit:
    – “well-intended but flawed translation” (that is a stretch given the actual history posted at PTB)
    – you say: “This is a perspective which has been totally absent in discussions here.” sorry, that is your opinion and not supported by a review of PTB topics and comments
    – genuine failings of the old (has anyone really rejected that on PTB; rather, folks understood that the 1973 translations were immense and significant accomplishments. First vernacular translations in 500 years; managed in a very short turnaround time; transparent and open process that followed a translation method that almost all experts would agree with; use of expert consultation; followed the approval/recognition process laid out by SC)
    – your comment completely ignores the fact that the ICEL/ICET folks responsible for 1973 very quickly began a 15 year translation effort to improve ther initial work resulting in 1998
    – you say: “Perhaps we could even give some substantive discussion of and credit for the concepts which molded the new…” Can you provide those concepts and the *noble and lofty paradigm*? (between the lines you are judging that 1973/1998 were not noble or lofty?)
    – “are we better off than we were” – how? we only have the english to date; we have resistance from other language groups, we have LA/RT which is recognized failure as a translation method
    – theological and philosophical richness – by all means but let’s clarify that we start with scripture – not theology or philosphy and many might question if liturgy is really the place for theological and philosophical statements?
    – finally, saying this – “…opening this up on a more adult and objective level” again, snide comment that is negative, unhelpful, judging ….should we just copy/paste Allan’s comments here to show that adult/objective is missing on all sides of this question.

    Fr. Ruff, at times, has remarked on the negativity of the ROTR crowd compared to others.

    So, by all means let’s discuss!

  6. Fr. Ruff: I continue to post on translation at Pray Tell, I post suggestions that come my way for improving the infelicities in the Missal translation. I hope it is constructive to do so, and I hope it is received in a constructive spirit.

    I have thoroughly enjoyed the philological discussions on PTB. I also hope that my comments have been constructive. I have often thought that PTB should spin-off the liturgical philology posts into a new blog.

    ——

    I would like to think that I have changed towards a more tolerant perspective on progressive liturgy. Yet, as Andy Martin points out in his NYT article, certain semantic and syntactic concepts cannot be transported from language to language. I part with many of my more liturgically progressive brothers and sisters when I say that certain prayers simply cannot be interpreted from Latin into modern languages without suffering a significant distortion or loss in meaning. I do not consider complete vernacularization as an absolute goal of an ongoing reformation of the Roman liturgy, simply because absolute vernacularization is not linguistically possible.

    Two options remain. Either Roman Catholic interpreters and translators continue in their quest to translate highly idiomatic texts such as the Roman Canon, the sequences, the Exsultet, and even certain Mass propers, or simply realize that these texts are untranslatable. In the latter case, liturgists might have to ignore Latin prayer and supply alternate contemporary idiomatic vernacular substitutes. I see no other way around this impasse.

    The ideal of a missal translation which can be understood readily by most people is a great pastoral ideal. This ideal, however, shouid not be achieved at the cost of textual integrity.

    1. @Jordan Zarembo – comment #6:
      Well said, Jordan. May I reply to your – “part with many of my more liturgically progressive brothers and sisters when I say that certain prayers simply cannot be interpreted from Latin into modern languages without suffering a significant distortion or loss in meaning. I do not consider complete vernacularization as an absolute goal of an ongoing reformation of the Roman liturgy”

      Good points but would question your use of *significant distortion* or *loss of meaning*. Guess that is open to debate….an example: we read scripture from Paul and the homily expands on this reading. There are a couple of key words from the Greek or Aramaic which can shed light on the Pauline meaning/use. As we know, homilists may cite that or may not. Does that really impact the community’s liturgy that day?

      Here is a big picture comment from America magazine:

      “This revelation of the Holy Spirit as the church’s memory helps us to account for the church’s unique relationship with time. Recall the words of the Nicene Creed: The Lord Jesus Christ, through whom all things were made, is “born of the Father before all ages.” In other words, God in Christ is the Lord of time, the creator of time. The faith, then, is not simply a record of things past. In the Eucharist, for example, we are not re-enacting some event from long ago, akin to the way in which some people might re-enact a Civil War battle. We’re not simply remembering our history; we are making history—or rather, we are participating in history in the making. In the Eucharist, the triune God transforms the past into the present, while at the same time affording us a glimpse of the future.

      All of this is simply to say that to “think with the church” is to inhabit her memory, to live in the spirit so as “to enter into the mind of the church,” in the words of the late Avery Dulles, S.J., “and by this means to interpret the Christian faith in fullest conformity with the intentions of the Lord himself.” Our theme for this issue, therefore, is memory, the living memory of the church of Jesus Christ. That last part is important, for the memory of the church, expressed in her teachings, is not an archive of propositions, it is an ongoing encounter with the One who is “both the mediator and the sum total of revelation,” in the words of the fathers at Vatican II. When church teaching is separated from its Christocentric origins, then it usually takes the form of merely functional law, rather than personal, loving revelation. Yet as Ronald D. Witherup, S.S., reminds us in this issue, God desires more than our obedience: “He wants us to be fed, strengthened and inspired by God’s own holy word.”

      Would suggest that language in liturgy is not an archive of propositions. If taken to an extreme, then liturgy or language becomes a function of law. It is related to approaching sacramental theology as an *object* or, rather, as a *communal action*.

  7. MJO, I think it’s incorrect to say that there have been no mentions of the failings of the 1973 translation. Some of the severest critics of the 2011 translation have also remarked on the problems of the 1973, in main posts and in comments. Joe O’Leary has criticised the new translation from the start; and he has consistently referred to the preces of the 1973 as “sawdust”. There are many other examples.

    I won’t engage on the charge of “petulant adolescence”, other than to say that some of us have taken time and trouble to post here because liturgy really matters to us — and for no other reason. It would be better to assume that the critics of the new translation feel that it lacks beauty, not that they (we) are taking hours and megabytes to write “nyahh nyahh nyahh” on a blog read by relatively few.

    1. @Jonathan Day – comment #7:
      Jonathan –
      I accept your rebuke. Certainly, all objections to the new translation have not been petulantly adolescent. Many have, but not all. And, perhaps I myself am perceived at times as being less than objective in my objections to the old and a more-than-warranted approval of the new. As for your comments, they assuredly were not the ones I had in mind as adolescent. Rather, those (of which there have been quite a few) which expressed the intent to get out pen and ink to edit their missals and rebelliously to use the old prayers, and refered to the new in the most immature and trashy language while being oblivious to some of the genuine literary and scriptural richness that it exhibited. Too, those responsible for the new translation have been unreservedly vilified and excoriated in the most uncharitable language by numerous writers on this blog. And their work, while obviously not a masterpiece, shown not the least respect for its noble and lofty conception, even though we all agree that that conception was less than loftily realised. Most of the objections to it, revolving around syntax and vocabulary are, to me, not ipso facto negative and substantive problems. Goodness gracious! Why are intelligent, highly literate people screaming about complex or lengthy sentences, or interesting vocabulary? It seems to me that there was merely (as if this could be a ‘mere’ matter) a lack of Cranmerian liturgical language giftedness.

      Too, the honourable Mr de Haas has pointed out in its defence that the old translation was, after all, not meant to be permanent, but was done hurriedly with the intent of a replacement. This, in itself, does not speak well of the Church!: that for so unspeakably important a thing as the liturgy to have been a rushed job. It would have been better to retain Latin for whatever time it took to create the translation that God and his people deserved. It really doesn’t seem that the Church is ever up to the task when it comes to English liturgy, does it? (We could just use The Book of Common Prayer and doctor it up theologically in a few crucial places?!)

      (And, many thanks, Fr R, for ‘infelicities’! You’ve been reading too much of the new translation!!!?)

  8. AWR:
    “The new Missal is a fact. I accept it and use it. I do my best to implement it. When presiding at or attending Mass, I do my best to think about the great mysteries being celebrated, not about what’s wrong with the text or what’s wrong with the system that created it.”

    Brother, thank you for this blog. However, I’ll be honest. I had to look up the meaning of “infelicities” (that’s an admission that I am not in the same league as most of the PTB club).

    Nonetheless, I have learned much, and continue to learn, from the insights gleaned from this precious gem of a blog.

    How straightforward and honest: “The new missal is a fact. I accept it and use it. I do my best to implement it…” (although, my “best” does not allow me to say “chalice” instead of “cup,” or “many” instead of “all”).

    Last week, I led a day of prayer at “Jesus House,” a wonderful diocesan retreat center. Mid-day, I presided at mass for a group of 60. In response to that mass, a woman has since come to tell me that it was the most beautiful mass experience she has ever experienced. Simply in saying this, she wept in deep emotion. I told her that my spiritual mentor, Fr. Richard Rohr, ofm, has taught me that when we allow ourselves to be completely “present” to an experience of “True Presence,” our authentic response typically happens through… tears.

    What an awesome moment. And, in the back of my mind was this: a child of God, this holy woman, experienced the fullness of God’s Presence through a mass we prayed using RMIII.

    And for the first time since its implementation, I “remembered” that, indeed, God is the Guide, God who is so beyond our words, our feeble efforts, our small ability to offer what we “think” is the “best” we can do.

    And God, who is the fullness of Life and Love…. must smile…. as God understands our lacking yet loving attempts.

    peace.

    Greg Corrigan

    Greg Corrigan is an ordained disciple at the Parish of the Resurrection in Wilmington,…

  9. Back in 2010 we started a discussion of a translation wiki, where the Latin texts could be stored and analysed, and people could contribute to their translation. Kimberly Hope Belcher said that the idea was being discussed in the Pray Tell editorial board.

    Graham Wilson raised the subject again, early this year, and even offered a generous donation to get it started.

    I think we would find lots of energy here to move such a project forward, and expertise too. I am analysing all the Sunday prayers for Lent, because of the programme I am leading at the Mount Street Centre. I’m sure there are others here who would contribute.

    Jeffrey Pinyan has a marvellous database with all of the variable texts. And contributing to a wiki might channel some of the energy away from either critiquing or defending existing translations. The technology to make and operate a wiki is not daunting.

    AWR and the PTB powers that be … what say you?

  10. I welcome the sentiment in the original post. Certainly all RCs have much more in common than we have dividing us. I do find much to appreciate in the existing translation but I also would hope to see much more regular use of Latin in public liturgies following the proscription of Vatican II’s SC.
    I do have a small quibble with post #5 above. There was a vernacular translation of the Mass before 1973. The1965 RM had much in common with our current vernacular missal.

    1. @Daniel McKernan – comment #12:
      Let’s clarify again per actual facts: “…small quibble with post #5 above”

      The 1965 Roman Missal was an interim missal issued under the auspices of the US Nat’l Conference of bishops. It was *interim* – used from 1965 until 1970 when Paul VI approved the 1973 RM in 1969.

      Comments:
      – this is interim because it is not an *editio typica* – thus, not a Roman Missal (it literally translated latin to english; nothing else and nothing more)
      – it did not follow the Consilium (March, 1965) nor ICEL committee work nor Comme LePrevoit
      – It is essentially the Tridentine Latin Mass in English with minor modifications e.g. versus populum, no last gospel options.
      – the canon continued in latin until 1967
      – it followed the Tridentine Ordo
      – there were options for congregational singing

      It is helpful to get the facts straight – by 1967, Consilium had reformed the order of Mass despite Ottaviano’s personal intervention to Paul VI. A committee appointed by Paul VI studied Ottaviano’s critique and stated this:

      “…responded on 12 November 1969 that the document contained many affirmations that were “superficial, exaggerated, inexact, emotional and false”. However, some of its observations were taken into account in preparing the definitive version of the new Order of the Mass.”

  11. Not for posting — Just sharing with Fr. Ruff.

    My issue with all of the complaining about the translation, the translation process, and the approval process is that so many “American” Church issues are conflated with Latin Rite and Curial issues. I have discussed this with Bishop Trautman on several occasions. While I think he agrees with the analysis, he believes that they all part of the larger issue of independece of the national Churches.

    For me this is the crux of issue: Latin Rite American Catholic Church versus Latin Rite Roman Catholic Church. There seems to be an increasing incompatability that must be openly discussed.

    Thanks for listening.

    1. @Ken Ray – comment #14:
      American Church? Roman Church? Should we then add African Chruch, South American Church, various oriental Churches? (Of course, we wouldn’t want an European Church because that would be too Euro-centric.) And, what would hold all the ‘Catholic’ Churches together? Would it be a papacy with as much authority and integrity as the Archbishop of Canterbury? This might be apt, for what we are talking about is a sort of Roman Catholic version of the Anglican Communion. Or perhaps the model envisioned is the autonomous relationships of the various churches of the Orthodox world. (Then, the Catholic world would exhibit one of the most unfortunate characteristics of the Protestant world: that of a near constant splitting up into more and more ‘denominations’, giving us endless versions of a ‘truncated’, vestigial Catholicism, each one believing itself to be the True One.

  12. “this well-intended-but-flawed translation, the work of persons who just weren’t the equal of their dreams”

    Hard to square this with Bishop Maurice Taylor’s account of the origins of the flawed translation, posted on this website.

  13. ” It would have been better to retain Latin for whatever time it took to create the translation that God and his people deserved. It really doesn’t seem that the Church is ever up to the task when it comes to English liturgy, does it?”

    Again, history is ignored here __ the long-prepared 1998 translation and the basically rushed and sloppy character of the new translation.

    The French translation is perfectly acceptable because it was done according to a proper procedure, with input from a poet. It is not a matter of the time spent on the work. A blundering committee will never produce a good translation whereas people working with well thought out procedures and literary sensitivity can do very good work quickly.

    1. @Joe O’Leary – comment #17:
      It also happens when you have translations that valorize euphony – beauty as an attribute of God and worthy of the People of God – at least as much as comprehensibility (a value that should take into account how much or little opportunity the people have to familiarize themselves with a text; thus, texts of the Ordo can bear greater complexity and nuance than propers that are heard but once a year or three) and fidelity (a value that should take into account that relying cognate words and syntax often have an opposite result in the target language: for example, Latin words or syntax that conveys gravity in Latin often convey something very much other than gravity (such as fussiness/prissiness/preciousness) when their cognates are employed in English.

      Todd Flowerday just showed an example of a cognate misfire in MR3:

      http://catholicsensibility.wordpress.com/2013/02/01/love-litany/

      To grasp this, though, we need to get over the centuries-old magical understanding that sticking as close to Latin in form ensures we get the Providential RDA of spiritual vitamins. This fear is really ruddered by the legalist focus of the sacramental theology of Second Millennium Catholicism. Continuity should not be oversold. (To be clear, I don’t think the Pope is as guilty of that as many of his erstwhile RofR fans.)

      1. @Karl Liam Saur – comment #18:
        It would seem to me that when using “caritas” in a prayer addressing God, “(divine) love” is the simplest and most effective translation of the term. To say to God that He “created out of charity” (vs. “created out of love”) sounds to me closer to “pity” in the common sense, which is certainly not the intention of the Preface.

        Here is 1998:
        You created man and woman out of love
        and raised them to such a dignity
        that in the union of husband and wife
        you show us a true image of your love:
        love is our origin,
        love our constant calling,
        love our fulfilment in heaven.
        Thus, the sacrament of marriage,
        an abiding sign of your own love,
        consecrates the love between husband and wife.

        Here is MR3:
        For you willed that the human race,
        created by the gift of your goodness,
        should be raised to such high dignity
        that in the union of husband and wife
        you might bestow a true image of your love.
        For those you created out of charity
        you call to the law of charity without ceasing
        and grant them a share in your eternal charity.
        And so, the Sacrament of holy Matrimony,
        as the abiding sign of your own love,
        consecrates the love of man and woman,
        through Christ our Lord.

        The Latin:
        Qui hominem pietatis tuae dono creatum
        ad tantam voluisti dignitatem extolli,
        ut in viri mulierisque consortio veram
        relinqueres tui amoris imaginem;
        quem enim ex caritate creasti,
        eum ad caritatis legem vocare non desinis,
        ut aeternae tuae caritatis participem esse concedas.
        Cuius connubii sancti mysterium
        dum tuae dilectionis signum exsistit,
        amorem sacrat humanum:
        per Christum Dominum nostrum.

        The MR3 is certainly lacking in poetry.

      2. @Jeffrey Pinyan – comment #20:
        I agree. Fidelity in translation involves a lot more than formal correspondence; merely formal correspondence can be unfaithful in substance (understanding that beauty is very much part of the substance, not merely incidental to it).

        I can appreciate some of the changes made in MR3 English; I am happy to with most of the changes to the Gloria and Sanctus and even Creed, though I am not as persuaded by the weak reliance on cognates (happily, “consubstantial” and “of one substance” scan the same, for future felicity), and would revisit the syntactical mirroring in the first line of the Gloria. The biggest clunker in the Ordo is “chalice”: “cup” is just a much grave and resonant word than “chalice”; then again, ask any copy editor how English-speakers delight in three-letter monosyllabic words. Chalice/cup is like charity/love: the reach for the crutch of safe correspondence weakens rather than invigorates.

      3. @Karl Liam Saur – comment #18:

        Karl: It also happens when you have translations that valorize euphony – beauty as an attribute of God and worthy of the People of God – at least as much as comprehensibility (a value that should take into account how much or little opportunity the people have to familiarize themselves with a text; thus, texts of the Ordo can bear greater complexity and nuance than propers that are heard but once a year or three)

        Perhaps propers are not intended to be understood immediately. A person might require years to understand the nuances of a difficult collect or prayer. I am sure that I will die without understanding the true meaning of the closing of the Golden Sequence. Is there not value in the struggle to comprehend the prayers of the Missal, even if this struggle extends over many years?

        The notion that Mass propers must be immediately or nearly immediately comprehended by all who first hear the prayer negates the intellectual wonder with which all should approach the Mass. Otherwise, the Mass dessicates and shrivels into either sentimentalism or a turgid rationalism.

      4. @Jordan Zarembo – comment #21:
        Perhaps. You are putting “immediately” into my mouth, as it were, and I don’t think I need to go that far (indeed, I am among many progressives who thought that approach taken in MR1 was overdone) but instead point out the clumsy Latinity of a number of the MR3 proper orations. Yet I do think the value of the MR is not so much as a text qua text (talk about rationalism) but the verbal/gestural medium of sacramental encounter. Let’s not confuse/conflate the mystical dimension of that encounter with a quasi-mystical appreciation for words. All I am saying is that replicating single-sentence Latin structure, with Latinate cognates, ends up depriving the orations of vigor and beauty. What’s sooooooooo wrong with employing more idiomatic English that is truer to those dimensions of the Latin original. Translation is not an acrostic puzzle.

      5. @Karl Liam Saur – comment #22:

        I apologize for misrepresenting your position.

        I am increasingly convinced that no vernacular translation will uncover the vigor of the Latin text. This is not to say that vernacularism is an unworthy goal. Nevertheless, vernacular renditions of the typical Latin text cannot at once reflect literalism and idiomatic prose. I agree that the performative aspect of the liturgy can compensate for the inadequacies of a missal text, but only to a degree.

        I referred to a rationalism of a different type. The late 18th and 19th century movement in European Protestantism to remove liturgical accretions which some considered an impediment to liturgy as instruction, combined with concurrent streams of pietism, rendered a worship which not only subordinated objective doctrine to religious emotion but also starved people of liturgical performance. I realize Karl that you advocate the opposite of rationalism and pietism. However, not infrequently some Masses deemphasize the missal text in favor of a certain sentimentalism. This is not the performance which animates the missal. Quite the opposite — this sentimentalism obscures the meaning of the missal text. And yet, if the missal text cannot be readily understood by many, then pietism is a ready if inadequate substitute. I agree with you that an idiomatic translation, even if it is not “accurate”, at least places liturgical prayer in its correct place during the liturgy.

      6. @Jordan Zarembo – comment #23:
        I agree about sentimentalism as a concern (in the same spirit as Flannery O’Connor warned in her letters).

        That said, though, we need to keep in the forefront that the Eucharistic liturgy is a mystical encounter (and not merely one of presence, but very importantly of sacramental communion) for the glory of God and the sanctification of the People of God. (I am reminded how today the Eastern tradition emphasizes the Presentation principally as an encounter between Jesus and the Presence in the Temple.) The Missal is not the substance of that encounter. And Latin is not the measure of that encounter.

      7. @Jordan Zarembo – comment #23:

        If “no vernacular translation will uncover the vigor of the Latin text”, is the Latin text important? As Liam says, it is the mystical encounter that is important. All people are called to that encounter, but not all are called to “the vigor of the Latin text.” The vernacular text has to express what can lead to the mystical encounter, not accidentally obfuscate the path. If the Latin cannot be translated, it likely is not relevant.

        The example here is interesting. Love was chosen as the best translation for pietatis, amoris

      8. @Jordan Zarembo – comment #21:

        Perhaps propers are not intended to be understood immediately. A person might require years to understand the nuances of a difficult collect or prayer. I am sure that I will die without understanding the true meaning of the closing of the Golden Sequence. Is there not value in the struggle to comprehend the prayers of the Missal, even if this struggle extends over many years?

        The notion that Mass propers must be immediately or nearly immediately comprehended by all who first hear the prayer negates the intellectual wonder with which all should approach the Mass. Otherwise, the Mass dessicates and shrivels into either sentimentalism or a turgid rationalism.

        Jordan, I have a hard time reconciling your position with Sacrosanctum Concilium:

        21 (extract): In this restoration, both texts and rites should be drawn up so that they express more clearly the holy things which they signify; the Christian people, so far as possible, should be enabled to understand them with ease and to take part in them fully, actively, and as befits a community. [My emphases]

        34. The rites should be distinguished by a noble simplicity; they should be short, clear, and unencumbered by useless repetitions; they should be within the people’s powers of comprehension, and normally should not require much explanation. [My emphasis once more]

        I am convinced that the Council Fathers were not so much concerned with comprehensibility as with accessibility. Mere verbiage can block access for many of those in the pews.

        I think that a text which is simple can yet be sinuous, that an apparently bland text nevertheless has the capability of unfolding unexpected nuances as time goes by (some of this will depend on the ability of the one proclaiming it).

        What we now have is a parody of the courtly language of a bygone age. If it were genuine, rather than a parody, it would fare better. As it is, we do not take such language seriously when we encounter it in period dramas on our Saturday night TV channels, and the same is true in the pews on Sunday mornings. The notion that it is “in a higher register” or is in some way a “sacral language” is complete fiction. It engenders scepticism, mirth, frustration, and finally derision.

      9. @Paul Inwood – comment #27:

        What vexes me about SC §21 and §34 is the notion that average level of textual and spoken word comprehension exists among human beings. This notion is patently false. Some persons are well served by very simply worded prayer such as contained in the Sacramentary. Others thrive on the literary and linguistic complexity of Latin prayer. Why, then, do liturgical progressivists presume that all will be satisfied by a very simple vernacularization with the compositional complexity of a car shop manual?

        I understand that the Council bishops’ directives were likely the result of pastoral experience. Before the conciliar reforms, many people had very little knowledge of the component actions of the Mass. Yet, not a few persons understood some degree of Latin and were cognizant of the various parts of the liturgy. I am convinced that SC §21 and §34 were well meaning overreactions to the hegemony of Latin in the Tridentine era. The past fifty years have demonstrated that not a few Catholics continue to draw great inspiration and spiritual reserve from Latin liturgy. While I agree that the new translation is rife with grammatical mistakes and stylistic blemishes, at least the translation project recognizes that many Catholics are searching for a more complex register than was served in 1973. The Council bishops could not have foreseen this alienation. Some Catholics today recognize this alienation, and yet others pretend that progressive minimalism must proceed apace, regardless of casualties.

        For months, I have struggled mightily to write a post about the reconciliation I have long sought with the reformed liturgy. I now realize that I cannot write about this experience with magnanimity. My heart and mind are corroded with the false notion that the Mass exists as a means of grace above all, a means to which persons must strive to understand even if many never will. Arrogance, and not a collect or sequence, I must conquer.

      10. @Jordan Zarembo – comment #29:
        Jordan

        As I’ve mentioned before, I believe the seemingly conflicting directives of SC were not inadvertent, but a considered decision to rely on experimentation and experience to resolve over generations. SC is a first word, but not intended to be the last word.

      11. @Jordan Zarembo – comment #29:

        Jordan, the complaints voiced about the new translation are very similar to those aimed at car shop manuals. Often they use foreign syntax, incomprehensible jargon, and convoluted descriptions. These complaints reflect how difficult it is to find translators who are proficient enough in two languages AND in mechanics to communicate how to fix automobiles. It matters if syntax and vocabulary cause mistakes that disable the car.

        If it matters that our cars run properly, it matters that our hearts run properly. We should not get caught up in error because we pray “for many” or lose sight of the love God wants reflected in every marriage. The use of foreign syntax and words is unacceptable if they are incomprehensible, whether it is in a car shop manual or the new translation. It is not enough to say “maybe the mechanic will understand the instructions if he uses them for a few years.”

        While it might seem the incomprehensibility of God justifies incomprehensible language, the opposite is true. It is too easy to mistake the one for the other. Once you discern the language, you think you are done, and do not plunge into the mystery God reveals.

      12. @Jim McKay – comment #33:

        While it might seem the incomprehensibility of God justifies incomprehensible language, the opposite is true. It is too easy to mistake the one for the other. Once you discern the language, you think you are done, and do not plunge into the mystery God reveals.

        An affective understanding of religious mystery must turn in synchrony with a sober and focused study of text. Religious praxis based on “do” and not “think”, as Bill has suggested, veers close to the edge of a sentimental pietism. The mystery of the Mass cannot be merely understood through “feelings”, for cooperation in grace requires the intellect and emotion in double and equal measure. The text of prayer opens hearts not only to the hidden performative aspects of liturgy which uncover mystery, but also reveals the charity, the “heart” behind and beyond sacred utterance formed from word and Word. Liturgy is never “think”, never “do”, but “think-do” and “do-think” as if these two concepts cannot be individuated. A aural comprehension of the text, a reliance on “proclamation” alone, cannot substitute for the wellspring of knowledge drawn up from a drinking-deep of textual study.

        The Psalmist aptly characterizes my thoughts in beatus vir (Ps 1:1-3 RSV):

        Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.

        The fruit of intellectual contemplation resembles not ritual ecstasy or a superficial commonweal, but charity which requires years of careful cultivation. This cultivation incorporates not only wise discernment of virtuosity from human failing, but also due reverence for the robust leaves of the written word.

      13. @Jordan Zarembo – comment #34:

        I am not sure if I disagree with you or how much. On some things, like your use of “feelings” to describe the unconscious, I definitely diverge. An aural comprehension is sufficient and salvific for most people; the treasures from textual study are wonderful, but requiring study is nearly gnostic.

        The whole point of prayer is the encounter with the Word. That is why translation is important. Healthy reverence is not cultivated by poor translation. If the words are easily misunderstood, reverence can go awry, as with “for many” or “consubstantial.” The person who hears “for many” as meaning “for many” cannot revere the words and the Word both because he hears a contradiction. Instead of drawing people closer to the Word, it leads them away.

      14. Jim McKay : @Jordan Zarembo – comment #34: If the words are easily misunderstood, reverence can go awry, as with “for many” or “consubstantial.” The person who hears “for many” as meaning “for many” cannot revere the words and the Word both because he hears a contradiction. Instead of drawing people closer to the Word, it leads them away.

        To be fair, the plain meaning of both “for all” and “for many” can be misleading, in terms of what we are trying to communicate.

      15. @Jim McKay – comment #36:

        Jim: The person who hears “for many” as meaning “for many” cannot revere the words and the Word both because he hears a contradiction. Instead of drawing people closer to the Word, it leads them away.

        If the people do not understand difficult words, then the priests and catechists have not properly educated them. If the priests and catechists do not know the meaning of these words, then one must wonder if they are serving their parishioners well.

        I cannot believe for a second that the bishops who composed and ratified SC §34 intended that the reformed Roman Mass, or any liturgy of the Universal Church, explains itself. If a person does not understand, he or she must seek knowledge. Priests and catechists, for their part, must be receptive and able to educate. The Mass should never change because of persons’ ignorance. The Psalmist is again correct. An intent study of the Mass is akin to the planting of the tree of an inquisitive mind next to the pure running waters of orthodox doctrine. A continual inquisitiveness about the Mass is not unlike a tree pruned and ready to bear abundant fruit akin to an ever deepening appreciation for the sacraments.

        To pretend that the Mass is self-evident or can be made self-evident is thievery. Rather than intentionally hide from the faithful what is their due knowledge and birthright which is in part the theological complexity of the Mass, many have endeavored to weaken the Mass to the point of an obfuscating oversimplification. I must say that the reforms have utterly failed in this respect. All Catholics have been greatly impoverished on account of the notion that the Mass and its proclamation are the catechesis, and that no instruction or intensive study is required beyond mere attendance at Mass and perhaps limited catechetical study.

        Why have we arrived at this counterintuitive and destructive mistake? The aforementioned notion that the Mass alone is catechesis has emptied our churches.

      16. @Jordan Zarembo – comment #39:

        many have endeavored to weaken the Mass to the point of an obfuscating oversimplification

        Jordan, is this criticism or praise? Shouldn’t people respond to obfuscation by seeking to understand?

        My only point is that the obfuscation caused by a poor use of language is different from the incomprehensibility of God. The two should not be confused, as if understanding the language is a sufficient step toward understanding God. The more the liturgy expresses itself in clear English, Spanish, Latin, or other vernacular, the more time is left for catechesis on the mystery revealed.

      17. @Jim McKay – comment #50:

        i did not make my point well. In this case I referred to the excessive paraphrasing in the Sacramentary. In that case, a desire to present a colloquial and readily understood English translation actually obscured or distorted a good amount of the meaning of the typical Latin missal. I do not believe that this result was in any way intended to deceive.

        I do not agree that language is merely a vehicle to mystery. One very important way of understanding God’s grace in the sacraments is through an appreciation for and intensive study of liturgical text. Missals are not divinely inspired like the Bible, but an understanding of grace in part derives from the semantic, syntactic, and literary import of liturgical prayer. A beautifully composed liturgical prayer is a window, a written icon, onto the Christian mystery. The words of liturgy, then, is a component part of the vista through which persons realize the mystery of God.

        I have long sensed that many “progressive” Catholics wish to deny many laypersons the opportunity to learn Latin. I do not know if this fear stems from the possibility that some of the laity might possess more knowledge than other laypersons, or if perhaps lay education in Latin would stir up criticism of liturgy as it is often practiced. I do know, after years of participation and observation, that many laypersons of diverse backgrounds can learn the sacral language. I have witnessed persons who began a translation program with little Latin translate Augustine after three years. Endless debates over vernacularization might not be the best way for some to encounter the icon of Christian mystery through the text of prayer.

        I have long wanted to produce a two year series which would instruct persons on how to read the missal, the gradual, and any Latin prayer of the Church. It’s time to recognize that the study of text is an icon onto mystery, and also realize that vernacularization is no panacea. I know that I will probably receive bitter criticism for even this suggestion, but indeed it is my conviction that laypersons should be empowered with the ancient language.

      18. @Jordan Zarembo – comment #54:

        In this case I referred to the excessive paraphrasing in the Sacramentary. In that case, a desire to present a colloquial and readily understood English translation actually obscured or distorted a good amount of the meaning of the typical Latin missal. I do not believe that this result was in any way intended to deceive.

        Jordan,

        I already made this point on the Forum a good while ago. The intent was certainly not to deceive. A number of the translators were based in working-class parishes. In fact such parishes constitute perhaps 80% of the total across the world if not more. It therefore seemed reasonable to them to aim the accessibility level of the translation at that huge majority, so that is what they did. They stripped away the verbiage and the Latinate obscurities in the language (and because they were classics scholars they could do this well) in order to leave the essence as a kind of pure kernel of meaning, distilled from the convoluted rhetoric of the original.

        I say again something that I have already mentioned on this Forum. I too was scathing of this apparent blandness and dumbing-down to be found in the 1973 translation — until I encountered priests who were capable not only of preaching brilliantly on these texts but proclaiming them in a way which gave them luminosity and life in a way that I would never have believed had I not heard it for myself. They brought new meaning and new depth to what on the surface were prosaic nothing-texts. I was amazed. I am convinced that if other presiders had taken the time to pray about these texts, preach about them, and put far more effort into proclaiming them than they actually did, we would not be nearly as critical of the translators who produced the 1973 Missal.

        Those who condemn 1973 as a lame-duck translation are, in my view, guilty of superficiality. They claim that meaning is lacking, but actually it isn’t if you go to the trouble of delving deeper into the texts. I view the achievement of the 1973 translators, as I have already spelled out on this Forum, as one which maintained the clear, clean lines while eliminating all the rococo excrescences of a style which is no longer ours today.

        And they were operating under the guidance of Comme le Prévoit, a document which LA did not dare to mention, let alone attempt to derogate from. (How could the Congregation? After all, ClP was issued by a pope.)

        I do not believe that you can keep having recourse to the mystery of the texts which will gradually unfold. This is to confuse mysteriousness with mystery. The mystery itself is right there in the midst of the 1973 translation, if only we will take the time and trouble to uncover it.

        I think the 1998 translation, which Matthew Hazell and others so despise, was an attempt to build a bridge between the clarity of the 1973 and the obscurity (yes, that is what it is) of what we now have in 2011. While I understand the rationale behind it, I think it may have been misguided in the sense that it tended to betray the values of the original pure and unadorned presentation of the essence of meaning inherent in 1973. I will be honest and say that I am still debating this within myself. If only those who produced 1973 were still alive to talk themselves about this! I saw them at work, and I heard what they said, but I do not have the same authority as they did.

      19. @Paul Inwood – comment #55:
        Paul

        But the 1973 was not intended to be final, only an interim translation. Which is why, when ICEL finished with the other major ritual books, they turned to produce a “final” work. I find your substantive rationale for the 1973 to be wanting, inasmuch as I’ve known so many working class people (not just English-speaking but Spanish-speaking) who don’t have much, but have exceptionally good grammar and a sense for prosody and poetry. Your substantive rationale comes across more as condescension than true, and I wonder how many of the 1973 translators would agree with it as you put it here, because it’s coming across more ideologically than I suspect they would have understood it (that is, your rationale sounding more like an inversion of or reaction to those of folks like Fr Z, anachronistically, than true to the real history).

      20. @Karl Liam Saur – comment #57:

        Karl,

        While I agree that, intellectually, the early translators may have realized that their work would not necessarily last for ever, I don’t believe that “temporary” was in their mindset, however. By which I mean that they didn’t deliberately cut corners, knowing that someone else would come along and fix it up later.

        I don’t know of a single translator who has ever done less than his or her best. On the contrary, they did (and I saw them doing — remember I worked with some of them during this period) what at the time they thought was the best. No translator worth their salt would do less. Yes, they had a particular audience in view, but as I have explained that was not perhaps the kind of audience that most (or any) of the contributors to this blog belong to.

      21. @Paul Inwood – comment #27:
        Frustraion, and finally derision, oh, and scepticism – be careful, an Amerind wise man once said that we become what we hate. Of course hate was not amongst your list of uncharitable epithets and stones, but, methinks, it’s not far off. Though one does take heart that you do mention that the translation engenders mirth. So, perhaps all is not so bad after all.

        Perhaps (is it possible?), just maybe it is your own syntax which is a parody. At any rate, it doesn’t bring a ounce of the joy, merriment and mirth that is mine when using the New Translation. Why do you write in the, um, style in which you do? Why this parody of pedestrian, non-courtly, language?

      22. @M. Jackson Osborn – comment #32:
        I do not see any support for M. Jackson Osborn’s accusation of uncharitableness against Paul Inwood. In comment #27, Inwood expressed his opinions (1) that our current translation does not accomplish all of its proper purposes and (2) that some arguments in its favor cannot be squared with what the Second Vatican Council decreed. He did not descend to personal attack against the translators.

  14. @Jordan Zarembo – comment #23:

    If “no vernacular translation will uncover the vigor of the Latin text”, is the Latin text important? As Liam says, it is the mystical encounter that is important. All people are called to that encounter, but not all are called to “the vigor of the Latin text.” The vernacular text has to express what can lead to the mystical encounter, not accidentally obfuscate the path. If the Latin cannot be translated, it likely is not relevant.

    The example here is interesting. Love was chosen as the best translation for pietatis, amoris and dilectionis, but not caritas. English does not make the distinctions made by Latin, which calls for some other way of facilitating the mystical encounter. The “little litany” does that, by portraying God as creating, guiding and attracting in loving us. Perhaps we should work toward a language that can convey the differences in how God loves us, but that effort is likely a distraction from liturgy. The litany does not recreate the Latin, but it helps nourish an encounter with a multifaceted Lover. In some ways, it is even better than the Latin at doing that.

    Preservation of the Latin text is not, and should not be, the goal of prayer. There is much to be learned from the Roman text, but if it is too alien to be translated into English, it will be an obstacle rather than an aid. Perhaps we need to teach the differences among compassionate pietas, embracing dilectionis, and human amoris, but the liturgy is not the place to do that. Even distinguishing divine caritas risks obscuring the vibrant sign of it in human love.

  15. SC provides several directives that can help us to apply Paul’s references to #s 21 and 34 in a balanced way:

    in SC (91) the Constitution gives us some direction re. translation from Latin for liturgical purposes: “The work of revis(ion) …. Is to take into account the style of Christian Latin…”. This directive from SC would seem to find its echo in LA (2, 20, 32, 40, 59, 107).

    SC does not seem to see the regular use of liturgical Latin (36, 54, 101) as an obstacle to full and actual/active participation and accessibility suggesting that vernacular translations need not be excessively simplistic to be accessible and meet the requirements in 21 or 34. Certainly, if “verbiage” can “block access” for pew sitters so can omissions, paraphrases, and excessive options in rubrics (“73 & “98 translations).

    For these reasons any suggestion that the current translation is a “parody” of archaic “courtly language” seems overstated to me. It meets the requirements of SC and LA to an extent the former translation did not.

  16. Jordan – commend you on your honesty and self-inspection. Not to add to your personal burden but would suggest that your opinion as expressed here – “convinced that SC §21 and §34 were well meaning overreactions to the hegemony of Latin in the Tridentine era.” – is the *overreaction*.

    To borrow from John O’Malley, SJ – the council’s aim for liturgical reform can be simply expressed in this phrase…..*Do this in memory of me*…..not *think* this in memory of me. The focus was on word, eucharist, and assembly doing an action marked by participation. Most of the council fathers realized that vernacular was long overdue and that latin (like Greek, Aramaic) is merely a tool; not an end in itself. (is it alienation or reform of certain areas that create loss, anxiety, etc. for a small group….isn’t this true any time we experience reform? Isn’t that experience captured via insights of gospel stories about kenosis; pouring new wine into old wineskins, etc.? Wonder if some of the the emotion is similar to what happens when a bishop closes a parish or school?

    Here is an article from the Times Literary Supplement: http://www.the-tls.co.uk/tls/public/article1175040.ece

    Shortt ends with this statement:

    “Anyone familiar with Benedict XVI’s career will know of his many cris de coeur on behalf of traditionalists outraged by the loss of the Latin rite. He saw the move as a mark of liberal authoritarianism, and complained before his election as Pope of feeling treated like a “leper” for expressing his views. Now raised to a position of supreme authority in the Church, he could have promoted the consensual culture he judges to have been lacking during the 1960s and 70s. He failed to do so. The irony of all this hardly needs to be pointed out. Given the pastoral implications of poor liturgy – the Pope is at least right on this point – a sizeable part of the Catholic world will be living with the collateral damage caused by his and Cardinal Medina’s “Exocet” for generations to come.”

  17. In reading over the past several posts and their points of contention, I am wondering once again if the underlying issue here is that sacraments are for people and not the other way around. One implication of that principle is that it makes a huge difference as to whether translators and those authorized to promulgate translations have the service of the people uppermost in mind. They certainly claim they do, but is that evidenced in the finished product? It is clear to me that those responsible for the ’73 and ’98 translations made valiant efforts to keep the needs of the faithful uppermost in mind. The ’98 translation addressed many of the inadequacies of the previous one but without disturbing the translations of the people’s responses and the prayers of the ordinary that they already knew so well. I am speaking as an end user and not as a clerical technocrat. I pray the Mass with and for the people I serve. That prayer must unite rather than divide me from them. The missal is not a book of incantations that when chanted or “said” with a certain amount of erudition result in God being worshiped in spirit and truth. It is a collection of prayers that are historically harmonious with what the church believes and proclaims, but one which helps connect ordinary mortals like myself and my parishioners to the God who is both with us and beyond us. I think another issue here is the notion that there can only be one set of prayer formularies as in one size fits all. I believe God’s priestly people would be well served if they could choose between ’73, ’98, and ’11. Can anyone contend that those two translations do not reflect accurately the faith of the Church? Then why not authorize them?

    1. @Fr. Jack Feehily – comment #37:
      The greatest fault of the overly-vaunted ninety-eight is precisely in that feature of it which you seem to extol: namely, that it left the people’s parts virutally untouched. Or, when touched, then giving us even worse locutions that those we had: such as the clumsy and artless syntax of the opening of Gloria, an all-too-obvious sop to those who cannot abide the reality of gender, or mention of it. Otherwise, Gloria was untouched, left with the savaged first section of that glorious angelic hymn. Ditto the silly language of Sanctus. Not to mention the creed.Yes! The people’s parts were left virtually untouched because they, unlike the clerical caste, are not thought to be too bright, and, frankly, undeserving of anything better than what they had.

  18. Jordan wrote: “The aforementioned notion that the Mass alone is catechesis has emptied our churches.”

    Not so Jordan. Everyone must know that the dramatic decline in regular Mass attendance following the introduction of the all vernacular missal in 1973 was due to Pope Paul’s issuance of Humanae Vitae in 1968, not the new Sacramentary.

  19. Fr Feehily, #37: Can anyone contend that those two [1973 & 1998] translations do not reflect accurately the faith of the Church?

    As far as 1998 goes, the CDF basically said as much back in 2002. Yes, it would be nice to think that 1998 “addressed many of the inadequacies” of 1973, but it’s just not true; 1998 had numerous problems far greater than its supporters seem to see.

    The 1998 translation is now just a footnote in recent history, and I think it would be best to leave it there, rather than wishing the Holy See would make it a legitimate option for vernacular Masses.

    1. @Matthew Hazell – comment #41:
      Tired repeat comment. Have you read what PTB has been posting about the translation process?
      Read Bishop Maurice Taylor’s book about the 1998 approved translation and the shenanigans of the CDW (not CDF) – as Fr. Ruff has repeatedly posted, it had nothing to do with liturgy, translation ….. rather, it was a power move by the curia. The book is a sad story of ambition, control, and conceit.
      Will predict that 1998 may be a footnote but a footnote that will contribute to a better liturgical future.

      1. @Bill deHaas – comment #42:

        Well, blow me down! Bishop Taylor, chairman of ICEL from 1997-2002, didn’t like what the CDW (apologies for the earlier typo) had to say about the Commission’s work regarding the 1998 translation? I’m shocked. Shocked, I say! I think I need a cold beer and a sit down after that revelation.

        “[A] sad story of ambition, control, and conceit”… yes, yes, ICEL is totally blameless, and everything was going swimmingly until those horrible power-grabbing curialists got involved. Because, as we all know, the CDW couldn’t possibly be justified or correct in any of their criticism of 1998, could they? And God forbid that Rome have the final say on the matter of an English translation of the Roman Rite! Honestly, who do they think they are over there?

        Anyway, in all seriousness, thankfully 1998 has already contributed to a better liturgical future – by not being used.

    2. @Matthew Hazell – comment #41:

      The 1998 translation is now just a footnote in recent history, and I think it would be best to leave it there, rather than wishing the Holy See would make it a legitimate option for vernacular Masses.

      Matthew, you sound somewhat threatened by 1998. And it’s far from a footnote. You’d be surprised at how many people are actually using it.

      1. @Paul Inwood – comment #45:

        Do you mean at public celebrations of the liturgy, or in some other context? Because if it is the former, I hope and pray it stops as soon as possible.

        While it is perfectly acceptable to argue loudly and openly that the Church should adopt a different translation, it goes beyond the acceptable when people change things on their own authority.

  20. Let’s stick to historical facts and not rants and emotionalism masking as informed opinion.

    You state: “….God forbid that Rome have the final say on the matter of an English translation of the Roman Rite! Honestly, who do they think they are over there?”

    Per SC and the council fathers, translations were the responsibility of episcopal conferences. 1998 was 15 years in the making – open process, transparent, planful in terms of implementation, approved by all 11+ english speaking conferences. Per SC, Rome had a *recognition*. That is the process in place since 1965. Where did the CDW suddenly get the authority to contravene a council and turn the process upside down?

    You state: “….CDW couldn’t possibly be justified or correct in any of their criticism of 1998, could they?” Let me know if you can find any published notes or criticisms about the 1998 translation? (other than indirect opinions from Medina) As PTB has posted repeatedly, Medina ignored, delayed, gutted ICEL/ICET (never directly told ICEL/ICET what the issues were), and then threatened key episcopal conference leadership by withholding the recognito. Meanwhile, in secret a small, select committe developed LA and RT. LA took life via CDW at a time when JPII was physically/mentally declining. LA basically was never formally approved by JPII – it was the lowest level of papal documents that were just allowed to become effective.

    As the other current PTB post on O’Malley states and borrowing from O’Malley – one of the consistent facts of VII were the three issues below the council issues: 1) center/periphery; 2) change; 3) collegiality. Center/periphery is defined as Vatican/Papal/Curia centered (a minority of the council fathers) in opposition to the periphery (bishops/episcopal conferences not centered in Rome). He goes on to describe that this *center* (minority) emerged in the 19th century via encyclicals, infallibility, etc. and never really lost control – in fact, over-centralization has only increased. The 2011 translation is an example of this *center/minority continuity* – ignoring VII, ressourcement, and a poor example of aggiornamento/development. Collegiality – this was a contentious issue voted on in the 3rd session (basically 4/5ths approved (counting w/modifications – only 49 were negative) and yet the minority repeatedly tried to convince Paul VI to pull this section; used rumors/threats (suggested a conspiracy against papal primacy), tried to manipulate the process and vote right up to the day of the vote. And yet collegiality (yes, weakened by Paul VI subsequently) was overwhelmingly approved and it is found in a couple of key documents (so, multiple votes approving). 2011 Translation is another example of the *collegiality* failure of VII and a triumph of the *minority*. Finally,*development* – again, 2011 translation is an example; not of development but rather subverting the majority of VII.

    1. Bill deHaas, #44: Per SC, Rome had a *recognition*. That is the process in place since 1965. Where did the CDW suddenly get the authority to contravene a council and turn the process upside down?

      Per canon 838.2, it is part of the Holy See’s responsibility to review translations into the vernacular languages. LA 80 elaborates on this responsibility: “Furthermore, this recognitio is not a mere formality, but is rather an exercise of the power of governance… For this reason it is not permissible to publish, for the use of celebrants or for the general public, any liturgical texts that have been translated or recently composed, as long as the recognitio is lacking.” John Paul II’s Vicesimus quintus annus, 19-20, gave indications back in 1988 of what was to come re. mixed commissions (cf. LA 92-105).

      In any case, the Holy See’s rejection of ICEL’s work is nothing new. ICEL’s original translation of the Roman Canon back in 1967 was not approved and had to be resubmitted after changes. And there was also the 1997 ordination ritual debacle. But then I suppose you think those examples are somehow anti-conciliar as well… and you call my comments “tired”… (sigh)

      Paul Inwood, #45: The only way I’d be “threatened” by the 1998 translation is if it had actually received the recognitio. But then I’d have had to just suck it up and deal with it, just as I did with the 1973 translation, since that would have been the decision of the competent authority.

      As for the use of 1998, I hope you’ve informed Bishop Egan if/where it’s being used at public Masses in your diocese so he can do something about that.

      (Sceptically, I might suggest that it’s almost as if neither you nor Bill deHaas have paid any attention to Fr. Ruff’s original post!!)

      1. @Matthew Hazell – comment #49:
        You state: “Per canon 838.2, it is part of the Holy See’s responsibility to review translations into the vernacular languages. LA 80 elaborates on this responsibility: “Furthermore, this recognitio is not a mere formality, but is rather an exercise of the power of governance… For this reason it is not permissible to publish, for the use of celebrants or for the general public, any liturgical texts that have been translated or recently composed, as long as the recognitio is lacking.”
        Agreed – it is their responsibility to review – but Medina didn’t do that. He just *changed* the rules. You basically support your point by using LA which was invented by Medina in a secret process. Sort of weakens your point?……you and I can disagree on this point but that is more than *governance* – it usurped the process set up by VII (which I notice you never refer to?).
        You cite the ordination ritual – again, this could have been resolved within the ICEL/ICET structure….instead, it was used to start a secret process to subvert what VII had put in place.
        But, thanks, you gave one example of a criticism prior to 1998 – but the ordination ritual was not part of 1998.
        Tired – no, but you continue to pick and choose; ignore the actual facts and historical timeline of events. Still waiting for Medina examples of criticisms about the 1998?
        And how did Paul Inwood and I not pay attention to Fr. Ruff’s original post? Inquiring minds want to know?

      2. Bill deHaas, #51: You cite the ordination ritual – again, this could have been resolved within the ICEL/ICET structure…

        Yet, it was not, mainly because I think Rome had totally lost confidence in the ability of ICEL to produce faithful and Catholic translations. An illustrative extract from Cardinal Medina’s letter of 26 Oct 1999 to Bishop Taylor (my emphasis):

        In seeking to fulfill its mandate of ensuring that translations accurately and fully convey the content of the original texts, the Dicastery [CDW] for a number of years now has communicated its concerns regarding an undue autonomy that has been observed in the translations prepared by the Mixed Commission. These observations have often been countered with unfounded charges of personal grudges and hostility to the Commission. In reality, the lack of response to the Holy See’s stated concerns on the part of those who have effectively had in hand the work of the Commission has often hampered and delayed the Congregation’s work to a notable degree, also occasioning a disproportionate commitment of its resources.

        And this lack of confidence in ICEL didn’t come out of nowhere. I mentioned Vicesimus quintus annus earlier; section 20 says that “[t]he time has come to evaluate this commission [for translation; e.g. ICEL, et al], its past activity, both the positive and negative aspects, and the guidelines and the help which is has received from the bishops’ conference regarding its composition and activity.” If ICEL and certain bishops were hoping they could ignore this and that the Holy See would just leave them to it (as seems to have been largely the case in the 1970s and 80s), it is hardly the CDW’s fault if they were mistaken!

        As far as your labelling of my argument as Orwellian in comment #53… you’ll have to explain that one a bit more, I’m afraid. I confess, I don’t really see how LA is “contra-SC/VII”.

      3. @Matthew Hazell – comment #49:

        As for the use of 1998, I hope you’ve informed Bishop Egan if/where it’s being used at public Masses in your diocese so he can do something about that.

        I wasn’t referring to my diocese (though I do know of at least one priest who has used the collects, which are available in a separate book from Canterbury Press) but to numbers of priests across the world that I am aware of, some of whom use the same book and some of whom utilise the PDF files that are widely available. One or two of them have even posted here about it….

  21. The people’s parts were left virtually untouched because they, unlike the clerical caste, are not thought to be too bright, and, frankly, undeserving of anything better than what they had. (#46 M. Jackson Osborn)

    As scientist and teacher I strongly concur with this comment. The evidence is the missed opportunity (again) to teach the faithful. The dumbing of the liturgy does not increase accessibility.

  22. Mr. Hazell – your argument above using LA suggests a logical fallacy. Part of my criticism was about the LA process (secret, contra-SC/VII) and yet your argument is based upon and quotes LA. That is sort of like saying 2+2= 5 because I have changed the rules of arithmetic and if someone challenged the math, you would cite the changed, made up rules. (that is knows as a logical fallacy)

    The same phenomenon that you are using was the literary device used by George Orwell in his book, “Animal Farm”. It was to highlight the *illogic* of systems such as fascism and communism (which tended to rewrite history to justify their ends). IMO, some ROTR duplicate this approach.

  23. Karl,

    The condescension exists only in your assumption that aiming for accessibility excludes “good grammar and a sense for prosody and poetry.” Comme le Prevoit, and Paul VI (below) before that, called for both simplicity and language that could touch hearts. I assume this is what PI was referring to by testifying to instances of ’73 giving “luminosity and life.”

    Etsi sermo vulgaris, cui nunc locus est in Sacra Liturgia, omnium, etiam parvulorum et rudium, captui debet esse accommodatus, semper tamen, ut probe nostis, dignus sit oportet rebus celsissimis, quae eo significantur, diversus a cotidiana loquendi consuetudine, quae in viis et foris viget, talis, ut animi sensus tangat et corda Dei amore inflammet. Paul VI 10 Nov 1965

    1. @Jim McKay – comment #58:


      The speech of Paul VI to which Jim refers
      includes the phrase, as Jim has cited

      Etsi sermo vulgaris, cui nunc locus est in Sacra Liturgia, omnium, etiam parvulorum et rudium, captui debet esse accommodatus[…] [my ellipsis]

      “The vernacular, which now is a feature in the sacred liturgy, ought to accommodate the comprehension of all persons, including children and the intellectually challenged.” […] [my ellipsis]

      NB I translated rudium as “intellectually challenged”. Historically, the meaning is much less charitable. c.f. L&S sv. rudus.

      Compare this to Pope Paul’s audience of 26 November 1969 [L’Osservatore Romano/EWTN English trans.], where he introduces the new missal just a week before its formal introduction in Italy. In §8 — 12 (per the English trans.), Pope Paul expands upon the notion of the phrase ut animi sensus tangat et corda Dei amore inflammet with which he closed his 1965 address. In his 1969 address, Pope Paul now proclaims that the near abandonment of Latin is not simply a matter of the inflammation of spiritual ardor but rather integration of the Mass into commerce and the mundane life. Here, Pope Paul explicitly states that the Latin liturgical language must be sacrificed for “comprehension”, even though this sacrifice would constitute a grave trial for some Catholics.

      While Pope Paul never abandoned his central point that vernacularization constituted an essential part of postmodern evangelization, his 1969 audience suggests that he knew that some hearts were still set aflame by Latin. The maturation of Pope Paul’s view of the vernacular during the liturgical transition period challenges a portrayal of Pope Paul as unequivocally pro-vernacular for reasons of a liturgical mysticism. His 1969 address reveals a greater concern for the maturation of the Church within society. Perhaps comprehension and postmodern compatibility are intertwined.

      In his 26 November 1969 audience, he cites 1st Corinthians 14-19 as biblical support for significant vernacularization. However, did he forget Matthew 18:12 – 14? Save for a few parting glances behind, Pope Paul left the “one sheep” of the traditional faithful behind.

  24. @ Paul Inwood – comment #55

    I too was scathing of this apparent blandness and dumbing-down to be found in the 1973 translation — until I encountered priests who were capable not only of preaching brilliantly on these texts but proclaiming them in a way which gave them luminosity and life in a way that I would never have believed had I not heard it for myself. They brought new meaning and new depth to what on the surface were prosaic nothing-texts. I was amazed. I am convinced that if other presiders had taken the time to pray about these texts, preach about them, and put far more effort into proclaiming them than they actually did, we would not be nearly as critical of the translators who produced the 1973 Missal.

    I found this comment very interesting, and it is probably worthy of a separate discussion in itself. I agree that the Fr Z-esque dismissal of the 1973 texts doesn’t take account of how individual priests could give them life and depth of meaning. All I would say here is that this perhaps places a burden on the shoulders of the average simple priest which might better be carried by the text itself.

    I know that comparisons with Cranmer and the KJV are hackneyed, but at traditional Anglican worship the texts and the language seem almost to transcend the presider. S/he is the vessel for something that is far bigger than him or her. I rarely got that sense with ICEL 1973, either listening to it or proclaiming it. Not that this validates the new translation, of course, which is not Cranmerian by any means.

    1. @Fr. John Whelan – comment #61:
      Thanks, Fr. Whelan – admired Paul for speaking so honestly and with passion. From my own experience, was allowed to use some of the 1983-85 draft 1998 collects, etc. and found them to be more poetic, easier to proclaim, IMO easier to understand. They also, IMO, used words/phrases closer to the 3 year cycle of readings on each Sunday and supported efforts to connect, touch, and tie together readings, homily, EP, collect, prayers, etc.

      Just my opinion (and echo your thoughts in terms of the struggles in seminaries with ars celebrandi, time/effort to prepare liturgies, etc. – IMO, SC was overly optimistic in terms of seminaries being able to fully implement the principles and goals of SC but wonder also if Paul’s point about the vast majority of congregations – my experience is that you learned/sensed what your community understood, listened to, etc. and this may have impacted some presiders/pastors in terms of translations, styles, etc. Thus, if your goal was to achieve full, complete, active participation; you may have placed that goal as more important than some type of *more sacred, elevated* language.)

  25. Jordan,

    One reason I left the passage from Paul VI untranslated, beyond my clumsy skills, is to show that the choice for common language was made by people who were proficient in Latin. It was not a matter of abandoning a tradition they did not love, but of choosing something they could share with others.

    So the only traditionalists who are left behind are those for whom Latin is their first or only language. All others are invited into the Mystery of God in their own, native tongue, alongside with children and scholars.

    1. @Jim McKay – comment #63:

      Thank you for listening to me Jim. I struggle greatly to reconcile my love of the Latin language with the liturgical reality of the Church today. I have long sensed that I come across as snobbish here at PTB, but Latin has woven itself very deeply into my thoughts and my life.

      Perhaps all of us at some time must make a sacrifice for our brothers and sisters in Christ, even a very difficult sacrifice. I do believe that Pope Paul, in his 1969 audience, also felt sorrow at the passing of Latin as the primary liturgical language of the Roman rite. His praise of Latin’s beauty and literary strength suggests that he also held the language close to his heart. Yet, he sacrificed Latin as the liturgical language because the Mass is not just for a Holy Father, but especially for his flock.

      When I was an ardent traditionalist, I believed like not a few traditionalists that Pope Paul VI was a wicked character, a pope who willfully destroyed the Mass for no apparent reason other than vanity or self-aggrandizement. I know that is certain not true today. I now view Paul VI as a complex pontifex. He encouraged those who had angrily rejected the reform to trust in him and the Church, even if what many beloved would be no more in most cases.

      Charity requires actions for the good of most persons, even if these actions counter selfish desire. I have quite a distance to go in the development of liturgical charity.

      1. @Jordan Zarembo – comment #64:
        Without the slightest contest to the admirable charity of your views, one hastens to add that this same Paul VI. personally saw to the publication of Jubilate Deo, a not-too-lengthy book of Latin chants that he wished the faithful throughout the world to know. And, like the council itself and all succeeding pontiffs, he commended both Latin and chant to be part and parcel of the liturgical lives of all Catholics throughout the world. With the exception of a relative minority, these fervent desires of the council, of Paul, of John Paul, and Benedict have been most uncharitably rejected out of hand. (And, I write as one who is so, so glad to have the mass in English, and would be very unhappy were Latin the only choice.

        The way in which great numbers of Catholics repudiate Latin and chant with undisguised contempt would be surprising to Anglicans and many Protestants who are often honoured to incorporate Latin chants and anthems into their services. There are times when, in discussing music and liturgy with certain Catholics, one would think that he was talking rather to extremely anti-Catholic Protestants than to Roman Catholics. (How bizarre!) Accomodating such narrow mindedness and allowing it to shape liturgical praxis is not charity. It is being brow-beaten by an implacable and intolerant meanness of spirit.

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