French-speaking church: Translation update

Things are not moving real quickling in French-speaking lands.

The French-language translation commission thinks that they will have completed a “first pass” of the entire Missal by the end of 2011. Then there will be two rounds of comments by the French-speaking bishops (this sounds like our grey and green books), followed by votes by the episcopal conferences, followed by comments from Rome of course. The commission is working hard and seriously. At the same they recognize that there is no particular pastoral urgency, since their predecessors did a pretty good job on the current Missal translation. They do not foresee the appearance of a new French-language edition of the Roman Missal before 2015, or even later.

The French language GIRM appeared in 2008, under pressure from Rome, but it does not strictly have the force of law since no French-speaking episcopal conference has officially promulgated it.

(Pray Tell sources.)


  1. Well, duh. French is a Romance language, far more directly derived from Latin than German (who got a new translation from Rome and sent it back for a refund) or English.

    1. Unfortunately that makes no difference at all.

      The Italians are currently wrestling with what the Congregation is asking them to use — i.e. unidiomatic, unprayerlike Italian, just like the unidiomatic, unprayerlike English that is coming our way — and three years ago the French bishops were tearing their hair out at the appalling texts they were being asked to promulgate. I remember one well-placed informant telling me then that the French bishops were hoping that the US bishops would make a stand for a decent text, which would then establish a precedent enabling them to do the same. Alas, the US bishops just rolled over in the end.

      I view the creation of a new French-speaking translation commission as those countries’ way of getting Rome off their backs for a few years so that they can try to produce something better than what was being asked of them. They’re not in a tearing hurry, as the report above demonstrates, and since their language is not used as a base language for translation except in a few countries Rome is probably not pushing them too hard.

      The problem for us has precisely been Rome’s unseemly haste to get a new text into use, which has resulted in what we English call a complete cock-up, now revealed in all its sorry glory for the world to see.

  2. Mr. Burke – some day someone will write a book about George and the 1998 translation fiasco that goes well beyond what Bishop Maurice Taylor has said so diplomatically.

    Think about it – George was a religious order priest who was made a bishop of a small dioceses in the NW US. From there and after a brief period of time, he is suddenly elevated to Chicago – talk about the Peter Principle.

    Many note his brillance and writings – again, think that historians will eventually characterize his writings as mediocre at best – his condemnation of the liberal experiement as he likes to call it will be seen rather as a description of his own failed positions and his own last ditch stand against the church facing secular society and finding ways to work with a pluralistic society.

    In many ways he reminds me of the last century and the French Catholic Church and the Assumptionist Order which allied itself in the Dreyfus Affair with Pius IX, anti-modernism, rejection of the Enlightenment, anti-Semitism, anti-socialism and Republicanism with its desire to return to the ancien regime of 16th century France. It set the French Church back almost a century and laid the foundation for the embarrassment of WWII and Vichy France in collusion with many French bishops.

    1. “a religious order priest who was made a bishop of a small dioceses in the NW US. From there and after a brief period of time, he is suddenly elevated…”

      It would seem that as a bishop of a small diocese before his transfer to a larger diocese he had more diocesan executive & pastoral experience before his elevation than either Rembert Weakland or Joseph Bernadin.I wonder if you felt similarly about them during their tenure?

      1. Weakland brought a wealth of leadership experience as an Benedectine abbot who was involved in worldwide commissions, mission work, and church projects such as Vatican II. Read his autobiography – not sure that Francis George can compare.

        Bernadin also put in his time in terms of leadership in diocesan settings. He brought experience and direction that George may not have had at the time of his transition to Chicago.

        Agree that George did get pastoral and diocesan experience in Spokane but not sure this really prepared him for Chicago. His religious community experience pales in comparison to Weakland.

        Guess there are always differences in terms of criteria used to reach a judgment about who is best prepared, etc. and, yes, there were some Chicago pastors who felt that Bernadin did not have the required experience. Would suggest that the Chicago clergys’ respect for Bernadin at the end of his life will be completely different from the current George-pastor/priest divisions in Chicago.

  3. The French translation of the NO is perfect, as far as I can see — a poet was involved in its composition, and its shows — there is rhythm and dignity throughout, such as we do not find in the current English translation (not to mention the vile 2008 and 2010 texts, if they even deserve to be called texts). What the Vatican is seeking to perpetrate here is an act of savage vandalism, something much more wicked than what they are doing in the English speaking areas. I do think that what is going on is precisely wicked, not only because of the crimes of these ignoramuses against language, but also because they are seeking to poison Christian worship. In the 2010 text of the Roman Canon the faithful “offer it for themselves and all who are dear to them, for the redemption of their souls, in hope of health and well-being, and paying their homage to you, the eternal God”. What abysses of tone-deafness lie in that phrase “paying their homage”! “I’d like to pay homage to John for his great work; it befits us to pay homage also to Sallie and Mary, who gave so generously of their time; and of course let’s not forget also to pay our homage to God, eternal, living and true”. Did a Christian every pray in such glacial tones? “I pay my homage to you, O God” — grudging, sullen words.

    1. Not to mention the fact that “paying their homage” is a completely inaccurate translation of the Latin…..

  4. Father Ruff,

    Is the complaint here:

    a) we love the current ICEL translation and can’t bear any revision of it.


    b) The revision, if it were an improvement, would be welcome. ???

    I understand and basically agree with b.

    I, for one, do not understand why our current Credo just did away with the Latin phrase ‘et incarnatus est’. E.G. I have good friends from Germany and they assure me ‘hat Fleisch angenommen…’ is a good translation of the phrase. Likewise, I have seen the Spanish missals in our church which say ‘y se encarnó por obra…’ . The ICEL has us saying….???

    You know more about this than me… Are there any other translations of the Creed which just skip that phrase completely as we have been taught to do every Sunday?


    1. Geroge – it is B. And I agree that “was incarnate” should be in our Creed. But I’d like to hear the reasons why they did it as they did before I say more on it.

      1. The debate is an old one and is why the British & the Americans have two different creeds to this day.

  5. Father Ruff,

    I am a traditionalist and you know I just got here and I’m surprised we are already in agreement! ( from the tenor of some of your other posters I was afraid ‘A’ might be the answer.) Let’s have a good and beautiful translation and not something which must be revised right away. I’m starting to like this place!

    re: ‘incarnate’ . I can’t imagine that it was omitted accidentally. This is the Vatican’s fault. They approved a deficient translation and forced it on us for 40 years (and forty nights)! Someone was napping or had some kind of agenda!

    Maybe, in the mean time, you all could do what Paul VI always wanted….teach us to say the Gloria and Credo and Confiteor et. al. in Latin. He is the one who gave us the OF. If the new translation turns out to be as bad as Praytell says it is….Praytellers could just stay with the Latin as a protest.

    I am joking, but it is a thought.

    1. For me the answer to Mr Andrews’s question is certainly not A. But there is outrage at the Vatican’s flagrant discourtesy and flouting of due process in its treatment of the 1998 text–something which makes the process lose all credibility in my eyes.

      BTW: the UK at least has been saying ‘became incarnate’ for very many years. For some reason the US did not adopt a 1975 revision of the ICET text. The really obnoxious point round that part of the creed is the use of ‘man’ when the Greek and Latin are clearly not gender-marked.

      1. For some reason the US did not adopt a 1975 revision of the ICET text.

        Philip, on a point of information, actually this was not part of the 1975 revision of the ICET Creed. What happened was that Bishop William Gordon Wheeler of Leeds, who was by then chair of the England and Wales Liturgical Commission, decided that he would enforce three changes to the text, in 1974:

        (a) instead of ‘one in Being with the Father’ he substituted ‘of one Being with the Father’;

        (b) instead of ‘he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man’ he substituted ‘he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man’;

        (c) instead of ‘in fulfilment of the Scriptures’ he substituted ‘in accordance with the Scriptures’.

        Thus England and Wales have had a slightly different text from the remainder of the English-speaking world ever since. Wheeler’s changes were made without consultation and without any sense of the ecumenical dimension.

        As a side-note: the American 1973 Sacramentary erroneously omitted the comma in the 1970 ICET text of ‘of all that is, seen and unseen’ which changes the meaning of the phrase rather significantly, so they have had a comma’s-worth of difference from the remainder of the English-speaking world for many years.

        And the Orthodox pleaded with ICET and the English-speaking bishops to add square brackets to ‘who proceeds from the Father [and the Son]’, in line with the opinions of progressive Catholic theologians, but in vain.

    2. George, I think you’re the first to give us a community nickname. I rather like “Praytellers.” Welcome to the community.

      I’ll second that A is not my choice. My ideal would be a translation that was faithful to the Latin and was the most beautiful English I heard all week. For me, that would mean (1) it meant for an English speaker what the Latin prayer would mean to a native Latin speaker, back when there was such a thing; and (2) it read like true poetry, and kept recurring to explain how my everyday experience was pervaded with God’s presence.

      There are a few examples of this for me in the current translation (Easter vigil blessing of the water, “At the very dawn of creation / your Spirit breathed on the waters / making them the wellspring of all holiness,” for example). I haven’t by any means read all the 1998 translation, but it had this kind of elegance in its general character. At least it strove for this!

  6. Dear Paul and Philip and Kim,

    Paul’s info was satisfying to hear. There is a wealth of education to be had on this blog–just for the asking!
    That’s why I hope our host, Father Ruff, does tell me- if it is possible to know -if any other languages’ missals just decided to skip ‘incarnate’.

    I’d also like to know (I feel like ‘Bob’ in the Bill Murray movie) Who appointed the first line translators for the proposed German Funeral Rites/French missal translation. Their Council of Bishops? The Vatican? Who appointed ours?

    >Wheeler’s changes were made without consultation and without any sense of the ecumenical dimension.<

    Bravo Bishop Wheeler!!! there's just something about being right …..


    1. if any other languages’ missals just decided to skip ‘incarnate’.

      The current Sacramentary doesn’t skip “incarnate”; it translates it as “born.”

      Which means they might as well have skipped it.

  7. I don’t have to hand all the necessary references concerning the translation of “Et incarnatus est de Spiritu Sancto/ ex Maria Virgine, et homo factus est.”

    But I will try to clarify matters with what I have available.

    1. The US bishops were the first to adopt the ICEL translation of the Missale Romanum (1970). They did so in November 1973. At that point the text of the Nicene Creed prepared by the ecumenical body ICET (The International Consultation on English Texts), of which ICEL was a member, had prepared a DRAFT of the Nicene Creed. The US bishops decided to adopt this text rather than wait for the final version, expected in 1974 or 1975. The 1973 draft ecumenical version read: “by the power of the Holy Spirit/ he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man.”

    In 1975 ICET produced its final version: “by the power of the Holy Spirit/he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man.” This version was adopted not only by the conference of England and Wales, whose Missal was published in 1975, but by nearly all the conferences where English is spoken,the US apart.

    In 1988, The English Language Liturgical Consultation (ELLC), the successor to ICET, adopted the following wording (revision): “was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary/and became truly human.”

    The 1998 ICEL revision of the Missal (Sacramentary), as approved by all the English-speaking conferences of bishops, read: “was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin…

  8. cont. (I thought I got it all in the box!)

    1998 ICEL:”was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary/ and was made man.”

    ICEL/ICET is to be sure hard to follow. That’s why the successor body to ICET was re-named The English Language Liturgical Consultation (ELLC).

    Yes, we in the US don’t have the needed comma after “of all that is.” But in my experience it is supplied in recitation by an evident pause between “is” and “seen.” Sensus fidelium!

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