Missal Implementation Flowchart II

(See part I here.)

The end of May I did some presenting on missal chants in St. Paul-Minneapolis at the BCDW – FDLC workshop on the new missal. It was part of a series of 22 such workshops being offered across the country through this November. I enjoyed presenting the musical gems of the new missal and helping clergy and ministers sing them well. The mood was positive overall, especially among the young priests nearest the presenter at the front of the room. But out of curiosity, later in the day I chose a seat at the back of the room. Here the mood was noticeably different – smirks and groans and derisive comments – all shared quietly among like-minded folks.

Now a young monk of our house tells me about the recent workshop of the series in Louisville. It got rather ugly. Clergy did not hold back with their anger and frustration and objections to the new missal. It’s a part of a pattern – it seems that the mood at these workshops is getting successively more aggressive and hostile.

The discussion is also heating up behind the scenes. At least two national bishops’ conferences are doing comprehensive studies of the problems in the final missal text. (To clarify: this refers to the ‘presentation text’ given to the Holy Father when the recognitio was granted. It contains the entire Order of Mass and proper texts common to all regions. The final texts with national propers have not yet been received from Rome.) And the problems in this ‘presentation text’ which have leaked out are quite unbelievable. “Freed from all inordinate desires” in a Lenten preface has been changed to “freed from disordered affections” – one wonders if they’ll footnote a Vatican instruction on sexual ethics?! Elsewhere, “do not allow those you have redeemed…” has become “do not suffer, we pray, those you have redeemed…” One prayer, after mentioning “your people” and “pathways,” now has this line: “lead it along them, we pray…” Surely everyone will track the pronouns in that?! “People” isn’t a singular noun anymore in your dialect of English, you say? And this was to be the papacy that brought back beauty and holiness and solemnity to the sacred liturgy. Good grief, some of these texts sound like they’re from a Monty Python skit. Or Norwegian put through a Google translator.

Various emergency meetings of bishops’ conference leaders are hastily being called. The machinery of one national conference (not necessarily the US) is considering which cardinalatial power to send to Rome to discuss the missal text.  At least one national conference is wondering whether the conference should not vote again on the final text, since it is so different from what they voted on and sent to Rome. Some wonder whether a conference can withdraw its submission. One conference (not necessarily the US) has placed the missal translation on the agenda for its conference meeting late this fall.

You see the timing issues raised by that last bit of information: if the missal text is still up in the air in October or November 2010, then a rollout in 2011 can’t very well happen.

The Roman officials are in an unenviable position. The more time that is taken to fix the final text, the more the planned timeline gets derailed. But the more quickly the final text is approved, more or less as is, to stick to the planned timeline, the more the text risks massive rejection. The path forward is narrowing, and the Roman officials will have to do some very tricky navigating. They have to take just enough time to get it right, but still get it done in good time if further delays are to be avoided.

I suppose some will say that it’s worth taking the time to get it right. It’s been forty five years since Vatican II closed, it’s been over nine years since Liturgiam authenticam was issued; what’s another year or two in the life of the Church? True enough – but what about all those workshops and conferences and training sessions scheduled for the rest of the summer and the coming year? What about all those ready-to-publish new Mass settings? What about all those DVDs and books and booklets and pamphlets which have already been produced…based on a perhaps obsolete text? A delay would be painful for many, many people.

Other scenarios are possible. If the whole thing is called off (yes, this could still happen), not many will be ready to show up at a meeting early on a Monday morning to start the fun all over again. After nearly two decades on the ICEL sacramentary which Rome threw in the wastebasket, after nearly a decade on this missal…if it doesn’t happen this time, it won’t happen at all for a good long time.

Pray Tell encourages everyone to start praying! As to what to pray for…well, we leave that up to you.


  1. I wonder if at some point the professionals doing their best in this mess–folks like Conception Abbey on the Grail, the publishers with their materials, and numerous liturgists in parishes and dioceses–will begin to object to the sheer lack of professional conduct on the part of Rome. A growing segment: people who would like to see LA applied, but who feel the CDWDS lacks the competence to get it done.

    Sadly, I’d comment that Pope Benedict’s legacy might be the concrete overshoes of his curia. High ideals and vision (if he indeed has them) are one thing. But more and more I get the idea this is little boys attempting the work of adults.

  2. Easy solution – the 1998 ICEL Roman Missal was voted on and approved by all english speaking conferences. Start there rather than allow the mis-steps that occurred from 1996 on by a small powerful minority that did not have liturgy as their main focus (if we are being totally direct and honest).

  3. Fr Ruff: Elsewhere, “do not allow those you have redeemed…” has become “do not suffer, we pray, those you have redeemed…”

    “Suffer”? Looks like someone on high has been taking cues from the KJV or Douay-Rheims.

    Or Norwegian put through a Google translator.

    It’s more like contemporary English has been placed through the Vaticanese English Babelfish filter. Someone who isn’t really fluent in 21st century colloquial English has decided that most people in the pews are going to understand (or should understand) the 16th and 17th century meaning of words.

    I’m pleased with the way the ordinary has developed, but the propers are heading in a scary direction. If these examples are indicative of the way the translation is going, maybe it’s time to abort mission and go back to the 1973 for a while.

    I pray that a new liturgical commission comprised solely of those fluent in contemporary spoken English could come to a consensus through a consideration of the 1973, 1998, and 2010 projects. Even this strongest lay supporter of LA is beginning to question this project. Who’s going to support the Vatican project after more propers like these reach the light of day?

  4. From the post: “Various emergency meetings of bishops’ conference leaders are hastily being called.”

    Fr. Anthony, do you see any coordinated efforts being made jointly by the English-speaking conferences, or are the conferences largely reacting separately?

    1. Jeff, I don’t know all the details; what I’ve heard so far is only about individual conferences. And I suspect there are many opinions about all this within those conferences.

  5. Or pull a Canada, like the country did with the NRSV Lectionary in 1992/4. It is easier to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission.

  6. This affair has been mishandled catastrophically all the way along. There’s a lot to be said for staying with what we have for another generation, and then starting again when the dust has settled.

  7. Jordan said I’m pleased with the way the ordinary has developed, but the propers are heading in a scary direction.

    Wait till you see some of the changes in the presentation copy of the Missal. In the Eucharistic Prayers, to be more precise. Further away from the Latin, and mistranslations of the Latin. I think you’ll be less happy with the way the ordinary has developed/is developing.

    I don’t think we wait in joyful hope, somehow.

  8. Even with the complaints I’ve seen here it seems to be a vast improvement over what we have at present.

    1. On what grounds? You have to take account of the entirely different goals of the two translations. The current translation had the goal (given by Rome in “Comme le prevoit”) of conveying the main points of the original in whatever paraphrase would be clearest to the listener in the receptor langauge. They reached this goal admirably – whether you agree with this goal or not. But the stated goal in “Liturgiam authenticam” is quite different: complete fidelity to every word in the original, and to the syntax of the original as much as possible, in elegantly beautiful English worthy of a “sacred language.” I have the impression that perhaps you’re judging everything by a common standard.

  9. “What about all those ready-to-publish new Mass settings? What about all those DVDs and books and booklets and pamphlets……..
    A delay would be painful for many, many people.”

    Perhaps…..and I feel terrible for all the folks – publishers and composers- who have been forced to worked on this Roman debacle. But I think it far worse to make the entire English speaking church suffer (in the 20th century meaning) because we have new pamphlets and Mass settings.
    As was stated earlier, lets stay with what we have and try again when the dust settles – and start with the 1998 work!

    1. How about all the financial mess for most parishes…we just bought new hymnals/mass setting books last year, as ours had physically deteriorated to the point of being unable to use them anymore.

      Now, not even being able to meet our normal financial obligations, we’re going to have to buy other books, missals, pamphlets for altar, the people in the pew and the choir? That’s a major, major expense…but Rome has not a care about that! Perhaps someone’s getting a kick-back??

      We simply can’t afford it in our parish…I’m sure this is not a rare condition.

  10. On what grounds…? A faithful translation of the Roman Mass in a manner worthy of the sacrifice.
    Interesting that other vernacular translations seem to have been affected less by CLP than the English one. I’m thinking of the Spanish, for example or the Italian. I’ve heard that Paul VI gave the Golden Rose to the Spanish because of their good translation of the Latin Mass into Spanish. Maybe that is just a pious tale. Nevertheless, we can see that CLP seems to have been applied differently in the UK & the USA. Look at the two creeds.

  11. Greg Smith :

    (that was meant for R. Dibdale…not you, good Father!)

    I just can’t believe that you actually posted such a statement.

    Only comments with a full name will be approved.

  12. Re: Robert Dibdale comments. I don’t see how how syntactical allegiance necessarily = “manner worthy of the sacrifice.” An answer to the question of WHAT constitutes “sacred language” must precede any claim that a particular translation is an improvement–the former qualifies the latter.

    It doesn’t surprise me at all that Paul VI (or anyone for that matter) would like the Italian, Spanish, or even French translations. Common denominator? Romance languages. It’s easier, much easier and I envy them for this. We’re dealing with English…Latin syntax and intelligible English frequently do not a happy marriage make! For all its sacrality this translation must be usable vis à vis idiomatic. Any academic translation work today will weightily consider the “target language”–and it seems like there has been more talk of the Latin than the English in this case.

    Even if LA isn’t concerned with current scholarly understanding of our language one can’t deny that the translation process is intrinsically more art than science. If this current translation or its purported 10,000 changes somehow makes it to pew and altar I fear that it will claim legitimacy merely by virtue of the authority of those who promulgated it (something I do not dispute) rather than by thoughtfulness or competency as well. Sadly, Maroney’s unilateralism underscores this.

    1. These purported difficulties finding a usable & idiomatic translation seem strained to me. The English language contains more Latin words than it does Aramaic yet the Maronites have seen success with their English translation of the Quorbono. A cursory look through their Quorbono finds all kinds of elevated and highly traditional vocabulary. We see similar usages in the English translations used by English speaking Byzantines. The fact that there are at least five million Eastern Catholics from 17 eparchies using these translations and that these Eastern Catholics have been in the US for generations fully integrated into the mainstream of US life (i.e. Helen Thomas) belies any suggesting that their unique cultural characteristics makes them more attached to unpronounceable English than the rest of us. If we are wondering how our people will adjust to a faithful translation of the original Latin Mass we can get a good idea by looking to our fellow Catholics of the Eastern rites.

  13. “As to what to pray for…well, we leave that up to you.”

    Let men prayeth that men unto beseech the translators, that they dost behoove to deign to prepareth a translation that maketh senseth and not be eneffable-eth.

    Let men not be thwarted-eth!

  14. Mr. Dibdale,

    Spanish and Italian are reasonably closely related to Latin in the first place, far more so than English, a fundamentally Germanic language. We should not be at all surprised that those languages can get good translations that stay close to the Latin. The Romanians will probably be still closer. All of which means exactly squat when it comes to a good English translation.

  15. Only comments with a full name will be approved.

    Lynn Thomas :
    Mr. Dibdale,
    Spanish and Italian are reasonably closely related to Latin in the first place, far more so than English, a fundamentally Germanic language. We should not be at all surprised that those languages can get good translations that stay close to the Latin. The Romanians will probably be still closer. All of which means exactly squat when it comes to a good English translation.

    Problem is, All languages must come from the LATIN language, and not a language that CLOSELY resembles Latin. So each language’s translation is based on that particular language’s translation of the Latin language. LA concerned the translation of the liturgical texts of ALL languages and the process that each language must follow when translating liturgical texts.

  16. One thing that is very obvious to me is that the new Missal is going to cause division and heartache.

    You have to wonder whether the Novus Ordo Mass in its current form is causing even a fraction of the heartache that is likely to be around the corner. Somehow, I doubt it!!

  17. #23 by Jeffrey Pinyan on July 12, 2010 – 2:47 pm

    Reply Quote

    “All languages must come from the LATIN language”

    I’m pretty sure you meant “translations” there.

    – As no scriptural or liturgical texts were ever originally in Latin, would it be better to translate from the original and not bother with Latin at all?

    1. Liturgiam authenticam says that one translates from the original Hebrew or Greek for Scriptures, but uses the Nova Vulgata (1979, revised Latin as called for by V2) as a guide as to which manuscript tradition to follow. This sounds good, but it all depends on what that means in practice. If applied rigorously, it could mean that the translation of virtually each word is guided by the Nova Vulgata, to the extent that differing manuscripts suggest one word rather than another – i.e., one ends up almost translating from the Latin. Cardinal George and Bishop Sartelli have assured us it doesn’t mean that, but I have not heard of any satisfying explanation of what it really does mean, or how it is supposed to be applied in practice.

  18. You have given us hearsay and conjecture with one brief personal observation. We need facts because, I dare say, this is an attempt at undermining all the hard work to get this liturgy out from under the blanket of modernism to a more reverential and theologically correct translation.

    1. Unfortunately, “modernism” in this context is a synonym for “something I don’t like.” When we use the language of theology for political purposes, we lose the rootedness in reverence and theology itself.

      It’s important for us all to know that the liturgy is indeed being undermined, in part by those who have been charged to lead and govern from Rome. This is a hurtful fact for some, no doubt. But that doesn’t make it less true.

  19. Robert, as I keep saying, “Pray Tell stands by its sources,” and we haven’t missed yet. I stand by all the facts and everything I wrote. I think it should be clear that I’m not attempting to undermine all the hard work on the translation – rather, I’m reporting on how all that hard work is being undermined by a small group which has wrecked the translation and made it unfaithful to the Latin all over the place, and unproclaimable and incomprehensible. If you think that’s reverent and theologically correct… OK, blessings on your work.


  20. We have had to bear with the people’s parts of the ordinary for almost 2 years now. The bishops try to continue to sell it to us, people still resent it and priests dread the day they will have to use the full texts. It is tragic that the 1998 evisions in which our late Archbishop Denis Hurley had a part have been as one writer said ‘airbrushed’ out of the picture. This work has already been done, and beautifully so. There is no need to ‘start over’. Persist in whatever you can do to un-do this imposition. It is probably only the American Church (though maybe the Brits can help!) which can save the whole English speaking church in this regard.

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