Is the MISSAL MESS about to erupt?

I don’t know the answer to that, but there are some indicators that the story is about to break in several places. A Catholic weekly in the US contacted Pray Tell a couple days ago for  the story they’re about to break. An English Catholic weekly contacted us late last week for the story they’re about to run with. A bishop outside the US was alerted to Pray Tell’s reporting on the mess and wrote to a friend last week that he’s going to get to the bottom of this – he had been wondering why they didn’t get their texts from Rome by October 23 as promised. A bishop in the US called, wants to know what is going on, and he is surprised that the US bishops don’t seem to know about the pastoral disaster awaiting them. They will be finding out in coming days and weeks.

ABC – Australian Broadcasting Corporation – is also on the story. There is this at their website:

Even before this interview first went to air, liturgists had reported that, since the English-speaking bishops approved the (Gray Book) text, a substantial number of changes had been made. The figure of 10,000 had been suggested. Reliable sources told the ABC that a senior official in the translation process had acknowledged privately on at least two occasions that the figure of 10,000 changes was fairly accurate. None of these most recent changes came from the expert ICEL translation team, given its authorized work was officially completed, but rather from the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship. Effectively, this means that the decisions of the English-speaking Bishops concerning the translation have been superseded by Rome.

As one who has insider knowledge, Fr. Alan Griffiths says he has been comparing the version approved by the Holy See in April 2010 with the ‘Gray Book.’ Fr. Griffiths is concerned about the many differences between the two versions. In his letter to the Tablet published on October 30th, Fr. Griffiths adds significant impetus to rising episcopal and international concern over the new Missal translation. The Blog ‘Pray tell’ has disclosed further details of a leaked internal Report for Episcopal Conference on specific problems with the current state of the translation. With all that is going on behind the scenes, at least another year is likely to pass before the fine editing and printing process is completed and the Missal released.

This program has previously reported on this story here and here. Stephen Crittenden has previously reported on the restructure of the ICEL committee here. Influential U.S. bloggs such as Gotta Sing Gotta Pray and Pray Tell have also tried hard to keep track of what is really going on with the New English Missal Translation.

Here are some uncomfortable questions I expect reporters to pursue with all their might. Most likely the full truth won’t come out right away. It’ll seep out slowly.

What was Vox Clara’s role in this? Did its chair, Cardinal Pell, give the go-ahead for a major undoing of the text the conferences submitted? Was the revision his idea? Did he quasi-commission someone, or a group, to do the deed?

Was the whole Vox Clara committee aware that the missal was being re-written starting last September? Did all the members of Vox Clara see all the proposed revisions? Did they all agree to them?

Did Msgr. Moroney (executive secretary of Vox Clara) mastermind the revisions? Who worked with him? What was their working method? How did the result turn out so badly? Did Msgr. Moroney do the final editing?

How did the Congregation for Divine Worship come to approve the 2010 Received Text? Who at the Congregation was responsible for overseeing the approval – Fr. Anthony Ward? Who advised him? Did Archbishop Di Noia involve himself in the review and approval?

How much did Cardinal Francis George know last August when he approved the text and set Advent 2011 as the official implementation date? Had he seen the Report describing in excruciating detail all the problems with the final text? If so, why did he go ahead and announce the implementation date anyway?

How did the Congregation for Divine Worship come to agree more recently that revisions had to be made to the final version (Received Text)? Who is making these revisions? Do the revisions really address the problems in the text, or do they make a few minimal changes as a last-minute effort to prevent the worst howls of objection?

What will the bishops of the various national conferences do next?



  1. One thought following the “conspiracy theory” – did Pell let this happen or even order it because he was retaliating against those who did not allow him to get the curial promotion he has wanted for decades?

    Will we find out who actually wrote Liturgiam Authenticam and are they part of Pell’s small group of instigators? Does this include Cardinal George, Mgsr. Moroney, others?

    Will we have to go through weeks of finger pointing and blame shifting?

      1. Apart from a very brief visit in late August 1978, She hasn’t been to the Vatican since 1965.

  2. Oh good heavens. Too much drama for me. And I agree with Margaret O’Connor above…come Holy Spirit! How about a call to prayer instead of or at least in addition to the horn-tooting about which “major US Catholic weekly” contacted this blog for scoop? Blessings on us all.

    Joan Grabowski

    1. I don’t really see this as “horn-tooting” as much as a simple report about who has asked whom and what media players are likely getting ready to report to a wider audience what has been previously reported here and precious few other places. This is an extremely important issue, the matter of getting this new translation right, and it’s certainly no sin to be pleased and grateful that one’s endeavors have contributed to better disclosure on behalf of many. I’m sure we’d all agree with that. Indeed, may the Holy Spirit guide us all, especially those whose responsibility it is to shepherd the flock.

  3. I am sitting here chuckling, ( I’m too weary to cry) reading this….it is criminal that so many supposedly competent people are spending their time on this-when we have a beautiful liturgy in place, and when so many people in our world are in pain, living in dire conditions of poverty and oppression.

  4. Yes, the liturgy as we have it, even with the sawdust preces, is quite acceptable.

    Where is the Spirit? Well, students of church history know that the Spirit often erupts in the form of intense controversy, public scandals, and moments of apocalyptic truth. All involved in the Missal Mess deserve to be exposed to this action of the Spirit.

  5. Perhaps we can all relax. From Bishop Slattery’s article “New translation offers HOPE for NEW beginning” in the November 2010 issue of the Eastern Oklahoma Catholic (

    “The introduction of the new translation of the Roman Missal, now definitely set for the First Sunday of Advent of next year, gives me reason to anticipate a new beginning. Faithful to the spirit of the Latin text and with an accurate translation into a consciously sacred style of English, the new Missal points to a rediscovered seriousness in the way America celebrates her liturgy and perhaps a greater appreciation, as well, of the elements of liturgy that have been discarded these past 40 years.”

    I myself wonder (hopefully, admittedly) whether the so-called “received 2010 text” is a red herring. That when we open our nice new missals to follow Mass on the First Sunday of Advent we’ll see something quite different from the Halloween trick that XR has been scaring us with lately.

    1. CHE:

      XR did not get the Received Text from me. But I have seen every page of the Received Text, and I assure you that he is 100% accurate about its contents.

      We hear that Rome is altering the ‘final version’ which is the Received Text. That is to say, when the missal appears in print, it most assuredly will not be the Received Text. The only question now is what the Roman revision will do to the Received Text. Will it be entirely adequate, or will it be very inadequate? And in the latter case, what will the bishops do?


  6. Fr. Ruff, I didn’t mean a “red herring” with respect to its very existence, but in regard to whether we need fear sometime opening our missals and see this thing leap of the page to scare us.

    Realizing as you say that the “received text” is now being revised prior to release and actual use, the interesting questions to me are

    — why it was felt necessary to revise the bishops approved 2008 text in Rome, which I understood (without seeing it all myself) was already in conformity with Liturgicam authenticam;
    — whether the 2010 text was at some point intended for actual use, but is now being revised in response to criticisms by ICEL and/or others;
    — or was the 2010 text simply low-level staff work (like early parts of the 1973 allegedly farmed out piecemeal to seminarians) that was intended all along to be cleaned up by adults before release.

    1. “(like early parts of the 1973 allegedly farmed out piecemeal to seminarians)”

      Sir, unless you can supply evidence for this, I respectfully submit that this comment be withdrawn. I have strong reason to believe that it is a gross slander.

      Thank you.

      1. John Robert Francis, the language of your post strays farther from the norm of giving-the-other-the-benefit-of-doubt than that of CHE. He at most “alleges.” You, on the other hand, pile “gross” on top of “slander.” You demand evidence but don’t supply the “strong reason” you claim to have.

        In this forum it’s best to be a good sport; failing that, being argumentative is tolerated. I doubt being downright hostile is welcome.

      2. It may not be a slander, but it is certainly untrue. No seminarians were involved in 1973 — that’s just another urban myth, perpetuated by wishful thinking in some quarters.

      3. Rev. Peter Stravinskas

        “I was a freshman in high school when the ‘vernacularization’ of the liturgy began and a junior in college seminary when the process reached its climax. Having majored in classical languages, I naturally was quite interested in the process and flattered when I was invited by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) to participate in the translation effort. Frankly, I was also surprised that someone of my thin experience had been asked to take part in a project that would influence the spiritual lives of millions of Catholics for decades to come.”

    2. CHE, I think you miss the point. We’re not scared about the new translation. Some of us are laughing at it. And some of us are aware of the lack of competence behind it. And a few of us who have put our professional reputations on the line supporting and promoting it have real concerns about how egg will look on our faces.

      When I pick up my car from an unknown mechanic in a new town, I’m generally not scared I’m going to die in an accident five minutes later. But I do expect all the bolts to be tightened and the caps plugged and such.

      What we have received back from the CDWDS may have four tires and a steering wheel, but it’s debatable if it’s the same vehicle driven into that Roman garage.

      I for one am glad to have taken the high road in support of a good implementation. We liturgists look like professionals, and the curia is stuck with a horse-drawn cart with “Snake Oil” printed in large letters on the side.

  7. Hey CHE when you open your Missal on the First Sunday of Advent 2011 won’t it be the same as the First Sunday of Advent in 1570? I thought you ran the Knoxville Trad Latin Mass?

    1. Jeremy, although it could hardly be said that as a simple layman I “run” the Knoxville TLM, I do attend it on Sundays and support it however I can.

      However, I consider my liturgical life enriched immeasurably by equal devotion to both forms of the Roman rite. Thus I attend an OF Mass regularly on weekdays, choosing it ordinarily even though my local parish offers both EF and OF Masses back to back each morning. And to each OF Mass I carry in my missal Latin-English propers like those posted at the site which may in itself be a modest indication of my long-standing interest in OF liturgical and translation issues.

      In any event, I will certainly acquire—and undoubtedly open daily—the first newly translated Missale Romanum 3/e I can find. And, particularly if we are so fortunate that a Latin-English version is made available, I surely will in due course use every page of it, both for individual study and preparation and for “actual conscious participation” in the liturgy.

      1. Dancing?

        No, not if actuosa participatio refers primarily to interior prayerful participation, rather than jumping around and doing stuff. Or are you recommending dancing for some other purpose?

    2. Those who attend and support the Latin Mass usually also attend the OF and thus have an interest in how it is celebrated and translated into English. The EF is still rare enough that it’s rather difficult to attend exclusively, and not every EF-supporter wants to abandon the OF. Your posts implying that those who support the EF are somehow disqualified from having interest in the new missal are ridiculous.

  8. “Pope Saint Pius X’s ‘Moto Proprio’ of 1903 ‘Tra le sollecitudini’ used the term ‘partecipazione attiva’. This seems to have been Latinized into ‘actuosa’. Recent polemic has made much of the alleged opposition between the two terms, as if they meant ‘active’ on the one hand and ‘actual’ as opposed to ‘active’ on the other. Such opposition is fictional. The two words mean the same thing.” – Fr Alan Griffiths (Address to Society of St Gregory Summer School, Whitby, UK, August 2010)

    1. And Alan was quoting (without acknowledging) the work done by Andrew Cameron-Mowat on this very point, published in Pastoral Review if I remember rightly.

  9. Liturgical dancing graced St Peter’s at the Mass for Mother Teresa’s canonization. If we are now going to see dancing as a liturgical abuse we have strayed far from Vatican II, which said that all contemporary arts should flourish in the Church.

    1. Vatican II also said “There must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them.” Perhaps this statement is a little vague, but I don’t know if you can truly justify liturgical dance as being something genuinely required for the good of the church.

  10. “I myself wonder (hopefully, admittedly) whether the so-called “received 2010 text” is a red herring.”

    Oftentimes the best way to accomplish something politically unpopular is to create just such “blunders” (on purpose) and then propose the original idea as a “solution” (I.e Obamacare). I wouldn’t dismiss such a move as out of the question. It’s human nature to mistake things we don’t understand as incompetence… And those who weild actual power understand that very well and use it to their advantage. Any time you find yourself saying “these are smart people, why….”, you need to stop and consider why a “smart person” would do this. All those who thought Hillary C to be a fool for accepting SOS are now understanding that decision. I’m not saying this is some kind of conspiracy, but rather, as was noted above, things may not quite be what we think. They haven’t been from the start!

    1. Jeffrey – thanks, I rather enjoy such speculation.

      It’s possible that a complicated plot such as this was hatched, but it seems exceedingly risky, hence unlikely. Doing something this unorthodox is likely to unleash many highly unpredictable reactions and counter-reactions.

      This reminds me of the speculation that GW Bush nominated Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court full well knowing she’d sink – as part of a plot to win points for having nominated a rather moderate female before appointing the right-wing white male he really wanted. (But that seems more plausible, actually.)

      I suspect – and this too is nothing but speculation – that somebody made a bad political miscalculation that a bit of 1974 sprinkled into 2008, plus a few good corrections and even a bit or archaic language here and there, would make everyone happy.

      I think a more likely explanation ifor what happened s that LA is so poorly conceived that it could never work, and trying to make it work was bound to be a mess of some sort or other.

      1. “somebody made a bad political miscalculation that a bit of 1974 sprinkled into 2008, plus a few good corrections and even a bit or archaic language here and there, would make everyone happy.”

        This is my best guess (not actually knowing anything at all).

        Of course, I believe that LA was not only vitally needed but well conceived, and was moderately well implemented in 2008.

    2. CHE, I suspect we agree on a fair amount. I’m no big fan of 1974, and I want a text which is faithful to the meaning/message of Latin in language which is beautiful and elevated. I’m not sure the LA is the right tool. A better document would have resulted from broad consultation, more input of experts, broadening of view, taking into account all possible objections to LA. As it is, LA is too narrow, downright uninformed on some points, and it overshoots. Overreactions are never a good thing. I suspect we’ll have to live with a pretty inadequate translation for 5 or 10 years (true whether we get 2008 or 2010 or amended 2010) before a consensus emerges that we need better principles and we need to start over.

      Note that CDW has asked ICEL for input on translation principles and what, based on their experience, needs refining in LA. Even Rome seems to acknowledge that LA won’t hold up long term.


      1. Fr. Ruff, while suggesting that I thought LA to be “vitally needed [and] well conceived”, I might have said more fully that I thought something along the lines of LA was needed to require a more accurate translation in correction of 1974. However, it might well have concentrated more on beauty of sacral language in addition to preservation of literal meaning. So I think it’s wholesome that CDW has asked ICEL how this experience indicates refinement of LA in preparation for a still better English translation of MR 4 in the surely foreseeable future. Looking at this with the perspective of a historian (albeit of mathematics) it would probably be surprising if the art of vernacular translation were fully developed in much less than a century or so after the Council that introduced vernacular liturgy in the Roman rite. Of course, the Church has always looked at these things in centuries, but we who live in decades tend impatiently to want it gotten right while we’re still here.

      2. Alright. I’m going to come out and say it.

        Dynamic equivalence is not necessarily a bad thing.

        The problem is that the 1970’s translation is a particularly poor example of it.

        There! I said it. I feel better now.

  11. Is Vox Clara still active? The Vatican report of their April meeting says that thanks were expressed to Cardinal George Pell, chairman of the Committee, “for his willingness to continue as Chairman of the Committee”, but the preceding sentence reads: “Cardinal Cañizares also announced the intention of the Congregation to continue the work of the Vox Clara Committee in advising the Holy See on matters pertaining to the English language translation of liturgical books.” A take-over?

  12. I find this blog insightful into the pros and cons on the new translation. It gives perspective to both sides and how we (liturgists) teach the new translation. What I find disheartening is when people perceive this blog to “highlight dissent.” I will share an email I received about this:
    “As most of you probably know, Fr. Anthony Ruff OSB’s blog, PrayTell, has been highlighting dissent from the Missal translation, from what is called the “Received Text” of the Missal – decrying “Vatican interference”, etc. (notably articles by “Xavier Rindfleisch”, who certainly has a beef with the translation.) by the US conference in Nov 2009 — and some parts were consigned to the CDW for translation, as you may recall. Father Ruff claims today that “a major US Catholic weekly” has contacted him to get the scoop. There are problems with “Rindfleish’s” claims — in addition to his opinions of the translation. For example, he compares the “Received Text” (2010, evidently that presented by Vox Clara) negatively with what he calls the “2008 Missal” — which doesn’t exist, of course. The US Conference approved the ICEL “gray books” of the Proper of Seasons in Nov 2008 — but only after amending it. We compared it with the examples “Rindfleisch” uses. His purported “2008 Missal” is actually the text in the ICEL gray books. No recognitio was given for anything but the Order of Mass in 2008. ”
    People should think of Fox News when they see this blog: “We Report, You Decide.”

    1. The critique has some validity – it makes a difference what exactly is in the ICEL gray book, the conference-approved version, the 2010 Received Text, and the latest version now being worked on in Rome. For those who want to defend officialdom and criticize Pray Tell I say this. There’s as real easy way to debunk anything claimed by us or anyone else. Just make public every draft of the text, as other denominations do. Complete transparency would solve the whole thing.


  13. ‘Just make public every draft of the text, as other denominations do.’

    . . . and as the Roman Catholic Church did, until the time of LA and the new ICEL and Vox Clara . . . that secretive and unholy alliance!

    1. Yes, C Henry, believe it or not, there ARE other denominations, just as there are people who ‘go to Mass’ without first having studied all the Mass texts in several languiages, including every possible preface the priest might use . . .

      1. Denominations like $10s $20s and $50s that wouldn’t be going into the Peters Pence if people thought any of it was going to pay the dummies that produced this mess.

    2. CHE – I’m not sure what you’re referring to so this could be off, but is your concern that the Roman Catholic Church is a church and not a denomination? That thought crossed my mind when I posted, as it always does whenever I use the words “church” or “denomination.” But when Cardinal Kasper spoke at St. John’s last year he said that “Of course we speak of the ‘Lutheran Church’ and ‘Methodist Church’ and so forth in ordinary conversation.” Similarly, I think in ordinary conversation, and on this blog, it’s OK to refer to “other denominations” as if RCC is also a denomination.

  14. Fr. Ruff: is your concern that the Roman Catholic Church is a church and not a denomination?

    Yes. Although neither word was handed down from on high, I do see a fundamental difference between the Catholic and and Orthodox churches and the Lutheran and Methodist denominations, one that is sufficient to justify use of different words in referring to them. But I certainly agree that at this blog or anywhere else, anyone can use whichever words they wish.

    1. If I remember correctly, “denomination” was coined by the editors of a handbook that listed identifiable religious groups in the US. Originally it was a Handbook of Christian Churches, but that was problematic: some refused to recognize others as churches, some groups did not want to be labeled as a church, etc. So they decided on a “Handbook of Denominations’ to list identifiable groups that had names.

      Is denomination as rich a description as Church? No, but it does describe the Catholic Church as well as Seventh Day adventists, Buddhist communities and even some secular humanist societies. And it is certainly better than calling all these groups “churches.”

      1. How to categorize religion in America is a problem.

        Denomination became a popular way because if you asked people for “what religion are you?” they always gave a denominational answer. Rarely did people give generic answers like “Christian” or “Protestant.” That is no long true. A lot of people who attend the Evangelical mega-churches like to say they are “Christian” and dislike being
        called “Evangelical” or “Southern Baptist” (which some are).

        There were so many denominations that social scientists had to find ways of categorizing them. However a lot of people don’t like the categories such as “Evangelical” or “Mainstream” or “Black” Protestant, e.g. objecting to separating Black Protestants from other Evangelicals. But social scientists see big differences. Most Black Protestants are more conservative in their religion than Evangelicals but they vote Democratic.

        Then people across denominations self categorize in different ways. Mainstream Protestants who no longer attend church often say they are no longer members. Catholics who not longer attend Mass regularly still report they are Catholic.

        Denomination boundaries are becoming blurred in people’s self reports as s result of mixed marriages, having children who change religion, etc.

        The Religious Nones have changed things even more. They are not atheists or agnostics. Some even go to church. They function like a “denomination” that dislikes denominations.

  15. Ioannes Andreades :
    Alright. I’m going to come out and say it.
    Dynamic equivalence is not necessarily a bad thing.
    The problem is that the 1970’s translation is a particularly poor example of it.
    There! I said it. I feel better now.

    So you’re a supprter of the 1998 translation?

  16. John Drake :
    Mr Grady excels at sarcasm.

    Just one of the things I excel at (knowing where all the bodies are buried, who put them there, and why, in this ridiculous Missal translation fiasco being another), and all poor Mr Drake can do is cast accolades at me (or is it envy?), with nothing to add to the real debate.

  17. Chris Grady :Just one of the things I excel at (knowing where all the bodies are buried, who put them there, and why, in this ridiculous Missal translation fiasco being another).

    You say (and imply) this a lot, but I’m not sure you’ve given anyone a reason to believe this is actually the case. It’s sort of annoying to have someone constantly saying, “boy, if you only knew what I know (but won’t say).” The only thing I know for sure is that you have some sort of beef with Msgr. Moroney. Did he kick your dog or something?

    1. Oh, dear, Fritz, you had to ask. That may have the unintended effect of increasing the drama around it. It’s best to starve the oxygen instead.

      1. Mr Saur:

        Nothing to say about the subject? Just popping in to chat with Fritz about the oxygen?

        And no, Fritz didn’t ‘have to ask’ – like you, and Mr Drake above, he just couldn’t help himself!

    2. F C:

      It’s good you say you’re not sure, because you couldn’t be sure, because you’re wrong: I’ve given lots of ‘reason to believe this is actually the case’ in previous posts – and just to clear something else up, it’s not ME who made the Missal translation process secretive!

      I’ve actually NEVER said it before, and I’ve certainly never written it on here or anywhere else.

      I’ve never meant to imply it either, but I have no control over what you might have inferred.

      If you really find it sort of annoying, here’s some advice: don’t read my comments.

      But the facts remain the facts, no matter what you think I imply, what you infer, or how annoying it all is. Those who know, know.

      You’re pretty much wrong right through your comment: I have no beef with Monsignor Moroney. I have ‘beef’ with some things he’s done and been involved in, along with some of his associates.

      If you really want to ask me some specific questions, or discuss the substantive issues, instead of just taking shots at me, I’d be happy to answer them, on here or at

      I don’t have a dog.

  18. Sounds like the RCC translation will suffer problems similar to those of our recent translation in the (Ruthenian) Byzantine Catholic Church (Archeparchy of Pittsburgh).

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