Fears for the Missal

As one involved in preparing the international resource for the reception of the new Missal “Become One Body, One Spirit, In Christ,” I have recently been comparing two texts. One is the text of the English translation of the Roman Missal approved by the Holy See in April, the other, the text of the order of Mass which our bishops, and other English-speaking bishops’ conferences, thought they had received as “approved” from the Vatican back in 2008. It is clear to me that the newly approved text differs markedly from that originally approved by the bishops and the Roman authorities. The differences are so extensive as to argue that the 2010 text is not that which was approved in the first place. In effect, it appears that the Vatican approved one text in 2008 and has now approved a different text.

It also now appears that the whole of the 2008 translation (as submitted and approved by bishops’ conferences) has undergone a complete revision with few texts left unchanged. This is worrying enough. But this latest revision drives a coach and horses through the guidelines contained in Liturgiam Authenticam, the 2000 document of the Holy See on how to translate liturgical prayers into the vernacular. Secondly, many of the changes are simply not correct English. Whoever did this work seems to lack a sufficient understanding of our grammar. Also, there seems to have been no communication between the reviser(s) and those in the International Commission on English in the Liturgy who have so carefully set the new texts to chant.

It seems reasonable to ask what is going on here, and to request a detailed comparison of the two sets of texts, to determine how great the difference is and gain a better perspective of the overall character of the changes. The introduction of the new texts will require hard work for many of us. It will not help if we have to champion a text which is very different from what we were expecting, of such questionable quality and which seems to have sidelined the bishops’ conference. My fear is that the whole process will be made to look ridiculous. Is this really how we want to undo the mischief of the 1973 Missal and replace it with something better?

Fr. Alan Griffiths
Alresford, Hampshire

Source: Letter to The Tablet.


    1. “if we have to champion a text which is very different from what we were expecting”

      I find it incredible that adults think that it will be very difficult to read prayers in English slightly different from what they have been doing?

      I would be embarrassed to have to admit that.

      1. Ray, with the greatest of respect, you have missed (or rather completely skewered) the point here.

        The writer, Canon Griffiths, has been doing exactly what he says – chanmpioning the text – at clergy and diocesan gatherings all around the British Isles (most recently to a group of clergy north of London just two days ago), as well as in his work on the international resource ‘Become One Body One Spirit In Christ’ and other related work over many years.

        The text IS different, not from what he has ‘been doing’ but from what he has been championing.

        So you need not be embarassed, unless of course you’re one of the people who produced the ungrammatical (to say the least) changes.

  1. I’m sort of repeating myself, but with all the apparent incompetence, bungling and secrecy in this process, the “What If We Just Said Wait” initiative ought to make more and more sense to those on either end of the spectrum of opinion.

    1. I disagree. Waiting, ie, putting this off some more, is a ridiculous option when the Church has now completed two translations (1998, 2008) that are superior to what’s in use. Our bishops should make it clear that they will not implement the 2010 revisions, and insist on the restoration of the 2008 text. In my experience one never wins the waiting game when working within the Church. Getting movement on something important requires active advocates with urgency and persistence. Hopefully enough of our English-speaking bishops realize the gravity of the situation, and make a stand for reason and due process.

      1. Jeff

        Had the ‘what if we just said wait’ people been listened toi, the ‘2010 revisions’ you’re so against would not even exist.

        You’re basing a lot of your hopes on the goodwill and common sense of the bishops . . . uhm, sorry pal, but (despite what anyone else might think or say) they’re the very people who allowed things to get to where they are.

      2. Chris, I fail to see how listening to the “what if we just said wait” crowd would have prevented these new revisions. Whether the new translation was implemented in just a few places as a pilot, or universally, you can bet that the CDW would have its say.

        I also take issue with the fact that it’s our bishops’ fault that things are in the current condition. They voted on and approved the 1998 translation. They did not author Liturgiam Authenticam. They are now being asked to implement a translation they did not vote on. How is this their fault? Other than out and out defiance of Rome, what would you have them do?

    2. I’m not sure if that petition really is looking better to those on “both sides of the spectrum.” I’d be leery to sign the “What If We Just Wait” petition since it seems to oppose not only the 2010 revisions, but also 2008 texts. After all, it was created well before the 2010 revisions came to light. Also, judging from the comments, it seems to be anti-“reform2” and anti-tridentine in spirit if not officially. While “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” can be a good rule to follow in desperate situations, it’s not a rule most people are quick to follow. If I were happily expecting the construction of a park in my neighborhood only to discover they were now creating a dump, I wouldn’t sign a petition that originally opposed the park.

      Perhaps a petition that is specifically against the odd 2010 revisions, while being neutral or supportive of the 2008, would be better.

    3. No, we’ve dealt with that text for long enough. Remember the recent post here on Pray Tell about “One In Three”?

  2. The “mischief of the 1973 missal” is needlessly pejorative and takes away from the credibility of the authors foregoing concerns.

    Being no fan of the 2008 text I must agree, from what I’ve seen on these pages, that the 2010 text is everyone’s nightmare.

    I am always for the best liturgy possible and tend to be generous in monetary calculations regarding things liturgical -art, architecture, music, etc.

    BUT, in light of these statements concerning the production of catechetical materials, not to mention the work of musicians, music publication entities and publishers of liturgical books and resources, how much has this decades long process, which has now entered the sphere of sublimely ridiculous and obscene, COST the people in the pew? When is enough, enough? Where is the accountability, transparency of process, and cost analysis of work hours and wages? Diocese and parishes are cutting staff and healthcare benefits. Catholic parishes and schools are consolidating and being shuttered. Catholic faithful are unemployed and their homes foreclosed upon. There comes a moment when it just isn’t worth it. I, for one, think we’ve reached that point. They should re-work the movie title: Insanity in the Time of Cholera.

    “He repeated until his dying day that there was no one with more common sense, no stonecutter more obstinate, no manager more lucid or dangerous, than a poet.” Sadly no poets need apply in this missal translation process – as is evident in so many ways.

  3. Hmmm, I wonder what would happen if the USCCB just plain ignored the 2010 text and implemented the 2008 text [this isn’t reality, Dear Reader, this is fantasy, remember?]. I don’t particularly like that text, but it’s WAY better, in my view, than the 2010 rubbish about to be foist upon us.

    Some of the fine Roman fellows in Italian lace would probably suffer apoplectic fits, but I suspect that the sun would in fact appear to rise in the East on Monday following. And maybe the episode of elevated blood pressure would increase the flow of oxygen to some brains.

    Just a thought…..

    1. I wonder what would happen if the USCCB just plain ignored the 2010 text and implemented the 2008 text. . . I don’t particularly like that text, but it’s WAY better, in my view, than the 2010 rubbish about to be foist upon us.

      Is it possible that the 2010 texts is simply an elaborate ruse to garner support for the 2008 text?

      1. Have also wondered and thought that same question. Hope not – that type of “conspiracy” only makes this whole episode darker and more forboding.

        J. Thomas – concer completely with your well-written comments about 1973.

        If I may add to FC’s comment – what if we revised the “let’s just wait crowd” to “let’s just go back to 1998” and see what mischief that creates.

      2. Huh? A serious proposal for what the English-speaking Catholic, with and under the Pope, should do is almost LEFEBVRIST? Is that some sort of handy label you stick on fellow Roman Catholic whose views you dislike?

  4. The “What if we just said wait” initiative proposes to have “a pilot program by which the new translations — after a careful program of catechesis — can be introduced into some carefully selected parishes and communities throughout the English-speaking world for a period of one (liturgical) year, after which they can be objectively evaluated.”

    It’s not just pointless waiting, but waiting while actively preparing the new missal. If things are not ready for everyone to start on Advent 2011, why not adopt this approach?

    1. You’d probably see a year long battle over which “carefully selected parishes” it would be. Who is going to choose?

  5. FCB – You may be on to something, but I wonder if you’re not imputing too much rational thought to the instigators.

    Bill – I’m game! Mischief is fun!

    Claire, be careful, you’re in danger of making sense. But, please, not the 2010 text. At the very least, 2008 seems less grammatically fractured.

  6. Father Alan!
    Are you the same Father Alan who helped me to convert to Catholicism? If so, I desperately need your help (spiritually, of course)
    I hope you remember me.
    Best regards
    Eric Todd
    (ex Southampton University)

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