Catholic Gambling

We faculty and students had a great lunch discussion with Msgr. Bruce Harbert when he was on campus. I asked him how long he thought the new translation, the first effort to implement Liturgiam authenticam, might last. A generation or two? Longer? “Four hundred years,” he said, “was the general figure I’ve had in mind through all this.” I think a few gasps were suppressed. Now with Bruce you’re never sure whether he’s just stirring the pot, so I won’t hold him to his prediction. (I did quote John Maynard Keynes to him, “In the long run we’re all dead.”)

But it’s an interesting question. I have this idea to run a lottery on it through PrayTell, if the abbot approves. You could each send me $100 with your guess, I’d invest it in Greece or somewhere, and when the next translation comes out the winner would get the kitty.

The abbot nixed the idea. (OK, I didn’t even ask.)

My prediction? 42 years, 2 months, 1 week. Just a hunch. Don’t hold me to it.



  1. I am going to labor mightily to take this opportunity to help priests and people to learn how to pray the Mass. But I think that the new books will last the life of the books themselves, say ten years. We will be revsiting this matter in a decade.

  2. I would guess a few decades. I would expect another English translation would only tweak a few things here and there, rather than be an overhaul with yet another hermeneutic of translation.

    I long for the day when the Missal is once again printed in Latin and the vernacular, as it was ever-so-briefly in the 60’s. (cf. Inter Oecumenici 57)

    1. Very good point about bilingualism, Jeff. There should also be a proper Canon illumination for those priests who celebrate ad orientem.

      I also think it would be very helpful if the eucharistic prayers were included in Latin and English but in separate sections. Side by side would be a bit distracting.

      On topic now — I agree with Fr. Costigan at #8 that a future missal should incorporate certain parts of the 1962 Mass. The inclusion of optional prayers at the foot of the altar and optional use of the Tridentine offertory would be appreciated by some. At the very least the new translation ethic befits many of the older prayers.

      This new translation will have a very long life in high church parishes. Low church parishes might avoid it altogether or only use it at specific times. Many bishops will probably not punish those who use the Sacramentary. Who knows — perhaps some bishops will continue to use it themselves!

  3. I really don’t think it will get off the ground in the first place.

    Priests will probably just continue to use the Missal we have.

    On a practical level, if it is published, the books will be around for 30 – 40 years, but I think they will be like bad hymn books – very few of the texts will actually be used.

  4. What a waste paper if the Missal was printed in a language few people understand, with a translation that does not make sense!

    If we are going to use a new translation, why not use the 1998 Missal?

    1. Because this is a translation of a Missal promulgated 2 years after 1998. My guess would be that the next English version won’t be a translation but an entirely new Missal that would look like a hybrid between 1962 and 1970.

  5. Do I assume correctly that a future pope could change directions again? John Paul II, under his own authority, confirmed Liturgiam Authenticam which made formal correspondence the approved translation principle and set aside the methods of dynamic equivalence. In theory, could the next pope change directions again? The chances of that happening are slim for several reasons, but we’ve been surprised before. No one ever imagined that John XXIII would call a council.

    1. One thing that Liturgiam Authenticam did, however unintentionally,. was to confirm that translation principles can be changed. So I would very much not regard LA as the last word in saecula saeculorum.

      This kind of unintended thing is often the most lasting fruit of legislation….

      1. And another interesting thing is that, while it said “this is how it now must be”, it never specifically abrogated Comme le Prévoit, so anxious was LA’s author not even to mention that document.

        Some would say, therefore, that dynamic equivalence is actually not dead at all. Its principles are those that all professional translators in the secular world adhere to. If they didn’t, they would be out of a job overnight.

      2. A side-note. I find it pretty comical that the initials LA now stand fo liturgical rigidity!

  6. It will last as long as the structure remains in place that brought it about and nullified the prerogative of national bishops’ conferences in this area. And that structure will last as long as the faithful let it last, or as long as the current crop of bishops and the next crop after them complete their ministries. They applauded Card. George when he announced that he had ceded to Rome the bishops’ prerogatives. That sounds like Father Ruff’s 42+ years.

    But by that time the majority of Catholics will have been born in this century, and the language they will prefer may be what they have always used. An unknown number of them may consider these language changes irrelevant, demanding a revision in the rite that goes beyond just tinkering with translations; a much larger revision than took place in the wake of SC. In either case the time frame lengthens to a century or more.

  7. The World Church faces very different situations on the different continents. One size fits all policies will not work. Rome holding the reins either too tightly or too loosely could create the conditions for schism. A key deciding factor in future papal elections may be whether or not the cardinals think the reins should be held tighter or looser. Tighter reins will favor liturgical initiatives from Rome; looser reins will favor liturgical initiatives from national, regional or language groups. Some events will be unpredicted, like the Anglican Initiative, and have World rather than just local implications. My prediction is that liturgical changes will be frequent but unpredictable, and will come more from external events and conditions than internal liturgical theory and debates.

  8. Language is not timeless, even though the language used in the liturgy evolves at a slower pace than in everyday speech. It would be incumbent upon the Church to examine the forthcoming translation in approximately 40 years, as well as the philosophy behind the translation. This is the same thing as is happening now with the new translation and translation philosophy.

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