Prominent Australian Jesuit Gerald O’Collins has spoken up about the liturgical translation controversy as he calls on the English-speaking bishops to

pass on now to English-speaking Catholics the 1998 translation that you or your predecessors originally voted for only a few years ago.

In an open letter to the bishops O’Collins writes,

I yearn for a final blessing, a quick solution to our liturgical woes. The 1998 translation is there, waiting in the wings.

The “liturgical woes” are a reference to the 2010 English translation of the missal (previously called a sacramentary in the U.S.) that came into use in late 2011. This new translation has been heavily criticized by many liturgists, and has proven to be unpopular with priests.

O’Collins writes that the 2010 translation

regularly sounds like Latin texts transposed into English words rather than genuine English. Msgr. Ronald Knox, like many others before and after him, wanted translations that ‘read like a first-rate native thing.’ Who could say that of our present Missal?

O’Collins rhetorically asks,

What would Jesus say about the 2010 Missal? Would he approve of its clunky, Latinized English that aspires to a ‘sacral’ style which allegedly will ‘inspire’ worshippers?

Comparing the rejected 1998 translation to the one currently in use, O’Collins says of 1998:

Set it alongside the 2010 Missal and there should be no debate about the version to choose. …As an example of genuine English, it is incomparably better than that imposed on English-speaking Catholics in November 2011.

Work began on the earlier translation in 1981, and by 1998 it had been approved by all the English-speaking bishops’ conferences by wide margins, unanimously in many cases. It was widely praised by liturgists for its accuracy and beauty, and many looked forward to its implementation after approval by the Vatican.

But instead the Vatican issued the instruction Liturgiam authenticam [LA] in 2001 with entirely new translation guidelines and then rejected the 1998 translation. The Vatican micromanaged the creation of a new English translation done in a rather strict reading of LA. But when the English-speaking conferences approved this new translation, the Vatican bizarrely made over 10,000 changes to the translation it had overseen before giving it final approval. The result was Latinate English which is awkward and sometimes downright ugly. O’Collins says of it that it is

often unclear and sometimes verging on the unintelligible.

O’Collins taught at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome for three decades. In his open letter to the bishops he notes that he taught many of the bishops in Rome as seminarians or young priests, heard their confessions, and lectured and led retreats in their dioceses at their invitation.

O’Collins writes to the bishops,

Remembering the blessing of your long-standing presence in my life, I yearn for a final blessing, a quick solution to our liturgical woes.

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