Squabbles over the French-Language Missal Translation

It seems there is a fight about liturgical translations in French-speaking countries, according to La Croix.

The newly translated French language Missal was scheduled for Lent 2017, but could be delayed until Advent 2017. This is because of a fight between the Francophone bishops and the Congregation for Divine Worship, which for now is refusing to approve the French text. Rome refused a first re-translation in 2007.

The bishops of France approved another text this past March, allowing for adjustments to be made by a mixed commission involving other Francophone countries. Opposition to the endeavor is said to be stronger in French-speaking Switzerland, Canada, and Belgium. An example of a contested point is the opposition in Canda to a change in the Eucharistic Prayer from “coupe” to “calice.”

The outgoing president of the bishops’ conference in France, Archbishop Bernard-Nicolas Aubertin of Tours, did not want to leave unfinished business to his successor, and he has strived for agreement with Rome. On April 7, Aubertin was to take up the matter with the pope. But CDW prefect Cardinal Sara is entrenched in his position, and he told the weekly Famille chrétienne, “In the audience he granted me on Saturday, April 2, the pope confirmed to me that new translations of the Roman Missal must respect the Latin text.”

La Croix notes that in Germany the bishops opposed “a liturgical language which is not the language of the people” and in 2013 rejected the work of a commission imposed by Benedict XVI. The Spanish translation is stalled, and the Italian bishops are dragging their feet.

La Croix also notes that since the beginning of the year, Il Sismografo, which is close to Vatican Radio, has published long articles by Andrea Grillo, liturgy professor at Sant’ Anselmo, which are highly critical of the 2001 Roman translation document Liturgiam authenticam.

One French bishop had this comment: “It is most surprising that, at a time when the pope insists on inculturation and synodality, a text voted on by 120 French bishops is blocked by one lone cardinal.”

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24 comments

  1. This begs the question of why Cardinal Sarah holds this office. His approach seems incongruous with that of Pope Francis, no?

    1. @Scott Pluff:
      After the mess, otherwise the “unidiomatic translation” forced upon English-speaking congregations, I am so glad to see the bishops in other parts of the world standing up to the CDW and the Vatican.I suspect that this is just an exercise in power play by Sarah & Co … they deserve to be treated with contempt!

  2. This is an important report, which underscores the fact that not all language groups are as supine as the English-speakers when it comes to defending their bishops’ right to determine liturgical translations in their own territories.

    I would see it as more than a squabble, however. It’s the opening shots of a conflict that is going to continue and increase, because Liturgiam authenticam is unsustainable. As Scott says, it contrasts with the whole approach of Pope Francis to collegiality and inculturation.

    FWIW I no more consider Cardinal Sarah’s account of what Pope Francis “wants” in translation as an accurate and reliable account than I would consider his recent comments about ad orientem to be definitive and binding. Who knows what was left out of his recounting? I can imagine Francis being asked “Do you want translations to follow the Latin?” and he would say yes. The whole thing depends on context. Francis has not backed Cardinal Sarah’s judgment on other contested liturgical questions. I would not assume he backs this one.

    1. “In the audience he granted me on Saturday, April 2, the pope confirmed to me that new translations of the Roman Missal must respect the Latin text.”

      Yeah, this sounds about as clear-cut as that time when the Pope reportedly told Cardinal Sarah to “continue the good work in the liturgy begun by Pope Benedict XVI.”

      Plus, this:

      On April 7, Aubertin was to take up the matter with the pope.

      Do we know what Pope Francis told Abp. Aubertin? With him, Francis could very well have affirmed the importance of collegiality in church governance, and inculturation in liturgical matters. It’s also not hard to imagine Francis then asking Aubertin to work with Sarah, to keep working things out.

      Regardless, I would be very surprised if this “squabble” ended up the same way it did with the English language missal translation.

  3. La Croix notes that in Germany the bishops opposed “a liturgical language which is not the language of the people”
    En Allemagne, les évêques, s’opposant « à un langage liturgique qui ne serait pas le langage du peuple »,
    Well we use different forms in different circumstances: talking to 5 year old children, talking in a business meeting and cheering on our local sports team. The form of words in Church is likely to be formal and educated language. Given that it expresses our belief (lex orandi) it ought to be precise.
    One interesting change is this:
    « Notre Père ». « Ne nous laisse pas entrer en tentation » au lieu de « Ne nous soumet pas ».
    I wonder if Protestants will follow suit on this one. I suspect that our local Anglicans will remain in blissful ignorance of this. Just a note here: proceedings in the States, our parliament, begin with prayers in French by the Anglican Dean. I understand that he is not a linguist!

  4. It’s interesting the article says too that the Spanish translation is stalled, and the Italian bishops are balking.

    Add to that the Germans and the Dutch… The Liturgiam authenticam ship is leaking badly.

  5. Cardinal Sarah. The same guy that Pope Francis told to change the rubrics to enable women to participate in the washing of the feet on Maundy Thursday and took a year to make the Pope’s instructions on this to happen.

  6. If the Pope asks for a replacement of Liturgiam authenticam (and there is no evidence that he will), leaving Cardinal Sarah and Archbishop Roche in place to undertake the project will make the time taken to issue the decree on the washing of feet look like the fifty-yard dash.

  7. I find it amazing that a Cardinal in charge of the whole Church’s liturgy, an official who ought to know something about Latin, can assert that any translation rendered according to the rules of Liturgiam Authenticam could “respect the Latin text.” These translations caricature a noble language. They don’t show it any respect.

    But then I find it equally surprising that professors of language and literature at university level could commend the gabble of the new English translation as in any sense “elevated” or worthy of liturgical use.

    We live in a world of wonders.

  8. Weren’t the Italians told by Ratzinger amongst others that the pope had not approved of their Messale because of additional collects not found in the Latin? So they went to Pope John Paul II and showed him the collects which he found consonant with the scripture lections;which Messale he immediately approved.

    I suspect that it would be a good idea for the French to have a chat with His Holiness.

    Things never change!

  9. “It’s interesting the article says too that the Spanish translation is stalled, and the Italian bishops are balking.
    Add to that the Germans and the Dutch… The Liturgiam authenticam ship is leaking badly.”

    Would that similar backbone had been demonstrated with regard to the English “translation.”

  10. Who was it published that devastating critique of LA in Worship Magazine years ago ? It is well worth reading.

    AG.

    1. @Robert Addington:

      Tarbanak, cibore, sacrament … I often wonder if the Quebecois swear words are religiously themed because of the suffocating grip the Church had on French-Canadian life during the British occupation. The “French Church” considered itself the protector of the French language, culture, and Catholic religion under alien (English Protestant) influence. This resulted, however, in a clerical state and deep repression.

      Stupid question: Are the European francophone missal translations identical to the translation for Quebec? I only have experience attending Mass in Quebec, so I would not know any differences in the continental French version.

      1. @Jordan Zarembo:

        The committee that produced the revised French Missal translation included members from France, French-speaking Belgium, French-speaking Switzerland and French-speaking Canada. As with ICEL for English-speaking countries, the French-speaking countries and areas have their own international commission.

        Interestingly, it would not be possible to do the same for the Spanish-speaking countries, since the linguistic variations and dialects are too disparate (which has not prevented Rome from trying to impose a Castilian Spanish version on all of them…). Even within Mexico, the dialects are such that people from different parts of the country cannot always understand each other.

  11. Hmm… and in the meantime we English speakers are stuck with a translation that is not vernacular English, rather a kind of camp Ecclesiastical Babu English.

    I so, so wish our present generation of English-speaking bishops had members as insightful as the bishops who were at Vatican II and were founders or early members of ICEL, such as Denis Hurley, Gordon Gray, George Dwyer, and Paul John Hallinan. Where are their likes now?

  12. The alas late Bishop Michael Evans (East Anglia) was no fan of the translation. He was, however, only one voice among many and his health was failing him in 2010/11. There was little he could do to stop the trainwreck that is the new translation, although my correspondence with him on the matter suggests that he would have liked to.

  13. The good and earnest Bishop Trautman tried to persuasively voice his many concerns as well, and was largely disregarded by his brother bishops and was further mocked by online fools pretending to be wise (including one who fancied himself clever by “neutering” His Grace’s name = Trautperson, I believe was the result).

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