The new translation as a betrayal of Vatican II

So argues Michael J. Cassidy at Joseph S. O’Leary’s site.


  1. “We are being lied to regarding the reason(s) this translation was undertaken and about its supposed efficacy.”

    Is it odd to accuse the Church of lying but not provide the truth? What are the real reasons the translation was undertaken?

    1. Jeff – I agree with you, and I had the same thought as I posted the link.

      I hope you and all readers know that we link to articles which we think will be of interest, but that doesn’t mean we agree with every line in the linked article.


      1. Jeffrey, many of us don’t believe in attacking the messenger. While some internet denizens may adhere to the fire, ready, aim meme, I usually wait to read from a blogger, “I’m a Faithful Catholic Blogger (TM) and I approve of this message.”

        After all, Fr Anthony lets us all comment here.

  2. Maybe we should have a day of grieving for all that we see that grieves us in our Church at this time. We could really get into this, like in antiquity, with ashes on our heads, ripping our clothes, and wailing.
    I’m not joking. I’m not sarcastic.
    So many of us feel sad. It could be good for our mental health, to get it out of our system, to show others how we feel and then return to our every day lives. Until possibly, if more is done that grieves us, we have another day of grieving. For truly, I don’t see much else to do than this.

  3. It is not at all clear to me what supposedly great strides have been made on the ecumenical front. Nearly all protestant denominations have, since Vatican II, pulled further away from the Catholic Church in such important areas as condemnation of abortion, and “ordination” of women. I certainly don’t give any weight to the author’s claim of the true “intended reason” for the improved translation – that of purposely sticking it to other denominations – but it certainly is, for me, a significant fringe benefit.

    1. There have been major strides. Consider the on-going dialog with the Orthodox Church, the doctrinal agreements on Christology with the non-Chalcedonians, the Joint Declaration on justification with the Lutherans (admittedly, not all Lutherans), etc. etc.
      Whether their effects have been felt on all levels is obviously questionable, and of course there are areas in which the separated communities have drifted further apart or adopted practices regardless of the ecumenical consequences (I would think you could appreciate that). Nevertheless, there have been major accomplishments considering prior to Vatican II such formal efforts were rarely, if ever, undertaken.

      While I find value in questioning the somewhat complacent notion that ‘we’re all magically closer together post-Vatican II’, I find no benefit whatsoever – even if only a fringe one – in ‘sticking it to other denominations’. It is hardly fitting for any Catholic to engage in such pettiness, much less those Catholics in positions of leadership.

  4. I wholeheartedly support liturgically grounded ecumenism but other ecclesial communities have altered common texts and the structure of liturgical texts at times, even before us Romans. For example, ECUSA made changes to the common lectionary for use in their own churches. In terms of liturgical theology Gordon Lathrop has suggested shared “ordo” is the issue rather than shared texts between one ecclesial community to the next. So I’m undecided if varying texts are a real sign of anti-ecumenism…

  5. Yes, there have been minor changes made to ICET texts by some Protestants. But they are nowhere on the scale of the RC withdrawal from the ecumenical enterprise in entirety. On the Revised Common Lectionary, I think those involved would have been happy to have Roman Catholics be part of the revision, but we were not open to any changes (improvements) to our lectionary, or to being part of a revision process with Protestants.

    Let’s be honest: lots and lots of common English liturgical texts (Gloria, Sanctus, Et cum spiritu tuo, etc.) which we all had in common will soon be used by lots of other Christians but no longer by us. This is really a tragedy, I believe.


    1. +JMJ+

      But discipleship and charity and service are far more important than the translation, so unless this difference in words leads to a breakdown in ecumenical discipleship, charity, and service, I think calling the difference in language a “tragedy” is a bit much.

      1. Jeffrey – yes I agree, those things are far more important. But it’s not a choice between them and common liturgical words. I vote for having both.

      2. +JMJ+

        So is the ecumenical movement going to hold the Catholic Church hostage? If Protestant communities don’t like a proposed clearer translation (based on doctrinal grounds, perhaps?), are Catholics to be deprived of it? Is that really for the good of souls?

      3. Jeffrey – I think there are better options than fearing being held hostage by other Christians. I propose this: respectful dialogue with a view toward greater unity wherever possible. I suspect that a lot of unity in our liturgical texts – including, perhaps, “And with your spirit” – would have been possible if we Catholics had had a better attitude.

  6. Whatever the merits of the rest of his piece, Cassidy brings out a point (his fifth), which I have not seen discussed very much on PrayTell: how will the new translation play out to people who are not regular Church goers? For that matter, how does the current one do on this point? Are we settling old scores rather than thinking about our missionary duties?

    On this topic, I was struck by this guest post on “Faith and Theology”: Read it all (it is not very long and well written), but the most relevant part is:

    I said to my wife, maybe Catholicism is for us? She laughed. ‘The kids would be bored stiff,’ she noted, ‘it would be like taking them to a museum every week.’

  7. Pope John Paul II said this in “Ut unum sint” 22-23:

    “Along the ecumenical path to unity, pride of place certainly belongs to common prayer, the prayerful union of those who gather together around Christ himself. If Christians, despite their divisions, can grow ever more united in common prayer around Christ, they will grow in the awareness of how little divides them in comparison to what unites them. If they meet more often and more regularly before Christ in prayer, they will be able to gain the courage to face all the painful human reality of their divisions, and they will find themselves together once more in that community of the Church which Christ constantly builds up in the Holy Spirit, in spite of all weaknesses and human limitations.
    Finally, fellowship in prayer leads people to look at the Church and Christianity in a new way.”

    This isn’t quite a proof text, but it certainly suggests pretty strongly that we should work for greater commonality with other Christian bodies in our prayer texts, not less.


    1. Anthony, you know very well that your quote is just one example from that document where “do as I say, not as I do” applies (in fact, maybe “don’t even do as I say” is more accurate). There was also a bunch of stuff, for instance, about the reform of the Petrine office . . . . don’t hold your breath, unless by “reform” we now mean going back to the days of Leo X!

  8. Greetings,

    In recent discourse rather than dealing with issues people are accuse of lying and moral dishonesty. Disagree if you must but everyone should assume that they all love the liturgy and want to worship God with heart and soul.


  9. Greetings,

    Betrayal of Vatican II??? Vatican II envisioned keeping things in Latin with an openness to vernacular. I think vernacular is VERY important, but I think the church will do just fine with the new translation just as with the Old translation. However, I do really like the new translation.

  10. I could not agree with Fr. Anthony more.. regardless of all of the other problems with the process and final product of the new missal… ecumenically, this is disaster of gigantic proportions. All of these other Christian traditions basically merged with us with the texts, and we have left them in the dust – and regardless of our words or intentions, the result of this basically says to them all that we do not care. With this, the giant leaps forward that the council brought to birth have taken one of its biggest stabs… it is very sad, indeed.

  11. It seems to me that Benedict XVI–not for nothing already referred to by many as “The Pope of Christian Unity”–has done more in 5 years than seen in a long time for true ecumenism, that is, to bring separated brethren back into communion, e.g., his Anglican initiative and a new opening to the East with exciting prospects (including the Russian Orthodox), not to speak of the many Catholics (and youth turned off by a 1970s ethos) who may be brought back to regular Catholic practice by a more reverent and sacral liturgy, of which a more authentic English translation in use throughout the world is one part, with surely more to come.

    Undoubtedly this new translation is far from perfect, and many will find individual prayers and collects that could be translated more aptly. However, objections regard linguistic niceties ring at least a bit hollow on the part of folks who over the decades have not seemed as loud with similar objections to a translation that arguably was grossly deficient at almost every level and in almost every part.

    1. CHE,

      I don’t see it this way. Many Protestants don’t either.

      See this letter from a Lutheran which we ran ealier:

      When Presbyterian liturgist and ecumenist Horace Allen heard of Liturgiam Authenticam, he slumped in his chair and wept.

      The goal of ecumenism is that large bodies, such as Anglicanism as a whole and Catholicism as a whole, move closer toward union. The Pope’s Anglican initiative is essentially a snub to the larger Anglican church (he didn’t even inform them of his plans until 2 weeks before he issued AC) and an old-fashioned plea for a few Anglicans to Come Home to Rome. I will welcome them warmly, of course. But this isn’t ecumenism, it’s triumphalistic proselytism.

      Contra your last paragraph, here’s one way the current translation isn’t at all deficient: it gives Catholics texts held in common with Protestants.


      1. The pope’s Anglican initiative went straight to the people. It is a pastoral initiative that avoided the obstructionism present in the governing body of the referenced denomination.

        Catholics addressing their translation concerns for their own usage is an internal matter, the pope’s initiative is far less troubling than a decision to ordain women or sanction homosexual clerics.

        The Book of Worship of the Catholic Anglican usage certainly has texts in common with non-Catholic Anglicans.

      2. Tom, I think you’re confirming my point: the Pope has snubbed the governing body of Anglicanism.

        To say that our Catholic translation is an “internal matter” is to say that we don’t have, nor do we wish to have, a connection to Protestants in our worship. Never was it thought in our adoption of the common ICET texts for the current sacramentary/missal that the translation we Catholics use is an “internal matter.”

        So I think we’re in agreement that the Roman Catholic Church is now pulling back from its previous ecumenical commitments. The different is that you seem to think this is a good thing.


      3. AC only appears to be triumphant proselytism, because it’s not what it appears to be: it’s a cynical smokescreen.

        And it’s the simplest thing ever.

        Now that ‘Anglican patrimony’ is an established fact (though no one can tell you exactly what it is and no two people, even those most involved, agree on what it is) it will be easy as pie for the Holy See to introduce ‘Lefebvrist patrimony’ and allow those people to come back, unquestioned, believing as much as they like of Vatican II (such dissent from its teaching could well be their legitimate patrimony!) and no one who welcomed such arrangements for Anglicans could ever withold a similar welcome from the Lefebvrists!

      4. a malicious rumour circulates here in Britain that the provision for Anglican ordinariates had relatively little to do with the Anglicans as such (after all, in the UK at least, few if any whole parishes will come over, as opposed to individuals). It is said that the whole point of the exercise was to send a signal to the Lefebvrists to the effect that Rome could be accommodating. I’m not sure I don’t believe this.

  12. Can you imagine what it has been like for Cardinal Kasper who dedicated his life work to ecumenism and yet had to serve under both JPII and B16 and watch a roll back.

    Can only imagine the conversations he had with trusted friends and colleagues across the various bodies.

  13. Fr. Ruff: The different is that you seem to think this is a good thing.

    Perhaps our “difference” is even broader than you suggest. As I understand it, the central goal of Benedict’s papacy is the reestablishment of the sense of Catholic identity that has been lost in recent decades. The revitalization of Catholic liturgy being a vital part of this wider effort.

    So I suspect our difference really is that you disagree and I agree with this emphasis on Catholic identity. A corollary of which might be that meaningful ecumenism would consist in encouraging Protestants who have gone down the wrong road to retrace their steps back towards us. Rather than the Church following them some distance down that same road. In addition, of course to seeking genuine union with those like the Orthodox who have kept right faith and liturgy.

    1. CHE – that sounds about right. And your plan holds up quite well as long as we assume that Catholics are right and Protestants are wrong, and that ever more traditional Catholic identity is a good thing because there is nothing in that identity which needs reform or conversion.

    2. “… meaningful ecumenism would consist in encouraging Protestants who have gone down the wrong road to retrace their steps back towards us.”

      It might be that this image fits for people who were once Catholic early in life, but are no longer.

      Most Protestants I know were born, baptized, and matured in the faith of Christ on a certain road. Catholic identity is not part of the picture. You may ask why they aren’t Roman Catholic, and another person might ask why the Catholic witness in the world wasn’t heroic enough for them to consider wandering off-road to another path.

      Some Catholics, it seems, fail to take into account the work involved with unity. I’m part of a Domestic Church; even with an all-Catholic household, we still have to work at it.

      The difference, as I see it, is that resistance to ecumenism may well be an indulgence of laziness and narcissism. “Why work for unity when nobody sees it my way?” they ask.

      As for Catholic identity, sure: let’s strengthen it. Let’s hope it means a lot more than red-hatted old men pushing pencils and circling wagons. We Catholics have thousands of saints. If only more of our leaders emulated sacrifice, hard work, and love in a way that saw so many people come to Christ. Peter Claver, Mary McKillop, Francis de Sales, Teresa of Kolkata: more like these, please.

  14. Or one could take the position, which I understand to be Pope Benedict’s, that reform was needed, that Vatican II occurred and set forth the needed renewal, and now at long last it’s time for the Council to be implemented faithfully in continuity with tradition.

    1. Rule of thumb (AKA experience) says it takes approximately 300 years for a Council to be implemented…3 steps forward, 2 steps back…not even our grandchildren will be around to see it.

      Sad…we had such hope there for about 40 years…

      1. +JMJ+

        That number changes EVERY time I hear someone mention it.

        “It takes about 40 years…”

        “It takes about 50 years…”

        “It takes about 75 years…”

        “It takes about 300 years…”

        I’m thinking this is wishful thinking, that somehow every council sets in motion an N-year process of contemplation, reception, and application. That way, you can pretend to know when it will all be over.

        I don’t think it works that way.

  15. I find the point that the Catholic Church changing some things in the translation of the Catholic Mass as being unecumenical rather absurd. I have a copy of the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer. In rite I and rite II there is “The Lord be with you and with thy spirit or And also with you.
    Are they unecumenical within their own denomination?

    Instead of “the word of the Lord” after a reading, one may say, Here endeth the Reading (Epistle). Does that put them further away from Catholics and others who don’t do this?

    Rite One has all the thees and thous possible. I know of few or any Catholic or Protestant liturgies that have this archaic form of speaking.

    I think we need to get a grip on our translation. It’s not the end of ecumenism or the end of the world and there are far greater tragedies out there, like 9/11 and those who grieve over the death of a loved one.

  16. Allan, you are missing the point by picking and choosing phrases, etc.

    Find it interesing in this thread that no one has connected this published papal mass schedule and why he is coming to the UK Isles to begin with? What would Cardinal Newman say about many of the comments on this thread. From an anonymous UK or Irish Isles cleric:

    “Since his death in 1890, his following has consisted mostly of university educated Catholics in Britain. He also has a sizeable circuit of devotees among the 65-million-strong faithful in the US, while educated Catholics venerate him in large numbers throughout Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and especially in the Irish Republic, where he is remembered as founder of the country’s first Catholic university.

    (Benedict will also be addressing millions of Anglicans and Episcopalians, in the hope of wooing them over to Catholicism. In autumn 2009, he made it easier for entire wavering Anglican parishes in England to come over to Rome.)

    Crucially, Benedict will wish to deliver a strong take-home message to the vocal liberal wing of the English-speaking Catholic Church, which tends to be critical of papal teaching on issues such as homosexuality and contraception.

    Liberalism in religion, Benedict believes, is a besetting vice of Anglophone Catholics and a prelude to every kind of corruption.

    Paradoxically, in view of his imminent beatification, John Henry Newman has always been a source of inspiration to Catholic liberals for his tendency to see both sides of every question and to follow conscience wherever it may lead. Such views are to be found in English language Catholic journals with international reach.

    John Henry Newman is simply the most electrifying religious thinker and writer in English of the past 200 years – subtle, imaginative, deeply learned, at times maddeningly paradoxical and dialectical. James Joyce and Gerard Manley Hopkins claimed that he was the finest English prose stylist of the 19th century.”

  17. cont……..

    A literary workaholic, he prayed with a pen in his hand. Believing in Christianity, he thought, was like falling in love. His motto was “Heart speaks unto Heart”; bullying and clever arguments, he said, do not bring us to God.

    Newman spent the first half of his adult life as a scholar and preacher in Oxford, where he led a movement to renew the Anglican Church. He spent the second half working as a Catholic priest in industrial Birmingham, head of his community of Oratorians.

    As a Catholic, he continued to write prolifically; but the Vatican was suspicious of his writings: they were too independent, too English. A Vatican monsignor said he was “the most dangerous man in England” and should be “crushed”.

    Newman complained: “If I put anything into print, Propaganda [the Vatican] answers me at once. How can I fight with a chain on my arm? It is like the Persians driven to fight under the lash.”

    Despite the suspicions and the oppression, Newman was made a Cardinal as he approached 80. A remarkable new Pope, Leo XIII, recognised his value for defending Christianity in a secular age.

    But there was opposition. Pope Leo spoke of prelates accusing Newman of being “liberal”, the dirtiest word in the Vatican’s vocabulary. John Everett Millais painted him in his Cardinal’s scarlet silks; like the drowning Ophelia in Millais’ famous depiction, Newman’s robes appear to be dragging him under.

    But Newman’s surreal cardinal status gave him immunity from censure

  18. cont. “in old age, and grudging toleration from the Vatican after his death.

    Pope Benedict and Catholic officialdom are presenting Newman as an exemplar of unquestioning papal allegiance.

    The Cardinal has been pontifically hijacked. The contrast between Newman and the official version of his life was illustrated by the Pope’s opening statement on his proposed visit to Britain.

    Addressing the bishops of England and Wales in Rome this February, he declared that Newman was an example to the world of opposition to “dissent”. It was like saying that Churchill had been a Trotskyite all along.

    “In a social milieu that encourages the expression of a variety of opinions on every question that arises,” said Benedict, in an extraordinary disavowal of the essence of free speech, “it is important to recognise dissent for what it is, and not to mistake it for a mature contribution to a balanced and wide-ranging debate.” Loyal Catholics, in other words, keep their mouths shut.

    Religious truth is “articulated”, he went on, by “the Church’s Magisterium”, which, in papal speak, means the teaching of the popes. “Cardinal Newman realised this and he left us an outstanding example of faithfulness to revealed truth by following that ‘kindly light’ wherever it led him, even at considerable personal cost.”

    Even Newman’s image of the “kindly light”, is cited to mean not the light of Christ, but the light of papal magisterium.” What would Newman say/do?

  19. Pontifically hijacked!

    Well, he stopped them playing with his bones, and his ideas may have resilience too. I don’t think we’ve seen the end of the great, liberal, mischievous, subtle, profoundly biblical Newman.

  20. in case my last comment didn’t post, I stated earlier that the new translation is not a ‘betrayal of Vatican II” since Vatican I and Vatican II are not two separate periods of church history , but rather the two councils are indicative of an unbroken Tradition of the Church. Vatican II was no more than a continuation and a clarification of Vatican I. The problem was that there was such poor catechesis on what Vatican II was about when it happened. The Documents of the Second Vatican Council were never studied by lay people in theology classes at either the high school or college levels. The only people who read those documents were the bishops at that time,and very few priests even bothered to read them. So people made large guesses or leaps on what the Second Vatican Council actually taught, and were for the most part misinformed or mistaken.

  21. Tim – what you’re writing is rather misinformed. You have an absurdly one-sided view of things which is not faithful to what the Council actually said or what any responsible commentary on it states. Please, study some more theology and learn to look at complex issues with some nuance and balance.

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