Are you new to the translation controversy, or new to Pray Tell? Do you need some help navigating through the mire of it all? Pray Tell is here to help.
The BCDW has a primer on the translation process. Pray Tell gives you a flow chart of the various political possibilities. For scholars: we printed the excellent masters thesis of J. Peter Nixon on the “crisis of reception” in the changing translation rules. Pray Tell’s Rita Ferrone has an excellent summary of the translation process at Commonweal.
How the systems works (or not): Here is Bishop Taylor’s disturbing account of how Rome treated ICEL during its restructuring. For historical precedent here is the amusing – but also rather disturbing – account of how Rome handled the revision and translation of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (the “owner’s manual” of the missal). Chant scholar Peter Jeffery is quoted here about how Rome and scholars need to work together – and how the Vatican’s 2001 translation guidelines don’t help. On April 28 there was a lovely luncheon of Vox Clara and CDW with the Pope to present him the “final” text of the missal – we wondered why ICEL wasn’t invited.
The South African bishops misunderstood something when the final version (later to be revised) of the Order of Mass was released in 2008, and implemented it immediately. It did not go well. Everyone wonders – is this any indication of how the implementation might go elsewhere? Rita Ferrone doubts whether Cardinal Napier’s call for obedience will settle anything.
On December 20, 2010, two New York deaneries of priests passed resolutions calling for delay of implementation. (They later revoked the resolutions.)
It is sometimes claimed that the current translation was done in a hurry. Be that as it may, this 1967 commentary suggests that it was done with a certain amount of care, with well thought-out reasons for the decisions made.
Rome gave the German-speaking church an unworkable translation (following the new translation rules) of the Order of Christian Funerals. A first since Vatican II: the German-speaking bishops withdrew the new book after only a few months of use and authorized the continued use of the previous translation from the 70s. Now the German-speaking bishops are resisting a missal translated entirely according to the new rules. Conservative Cardinal Meisner said it should be up to the bishops, not Rome, how things are expressed in German. Abbot Holzherr in Switzerland belives that the new translation process is betraying Vatican II.
Last July reports started to leak into the blogosphere that someone had made over 10,000 changes to the text of the missal submitted to Rome by bishops’ conferences. Pray Tell was the first to report on the internal report, presumably prepared by ICEL, outlining the serious problems in the revised text. The National Catholic Reporter picked up the story – see here and here. A bit earlier we had commissioned an article from Canadian bishop Brian Dunn, a skilled canonist, which suggests that Rome does not have the right to impose translations upon bishops’ conferences.
The “final” text (it was later to be changed) of the Order of Mass was unveiled back in 2008. Episcopal Bishop Jeffrey Rowthorne liked many things but thought it lacked intelligibility, euphony, and proclaimability in some places. Episcopal priest and hymn writer Carl Daw gave the proper texts a mixed review at best.
When a revised final version of the Order of Mass appeared this summer, we outlined some of its interesting changes. We expected that texts of other parts of the Missal would begin leaking out, so we advised what to look for in the new texts.
Then some of the proper prayers of the 2010 Received Text presented to Pope Benedict, the “final” version (later to be revised) began leaking out. A Pray Tell reader sent in this scathing appraisal of some samples. Then, in probably the strongest editorial we have published, moderator Anthony Ruff sounded off on Rome’s decision to overrule the national conferences and not permit little “pointing” marks which help the priest chant the orations. As more prayers began to leak out here and there, concern grew on all sides. Pray Tell published a “prayer for spiritual benefit from the new missal” – an over-the-top spoof of convoluted syntax. Some of our readers are so trusting of us…they thought it was real and asked for the Latin original! NEW: the prayer, clarified. One take on the revised “Through him and with him and in him” – thumbs down. A reader sent in this rather edgy mock FAQ on the new translation.
J. Michael Joncas has empathy for the translators – while noting the inconsistencies they’ve given us. Here is a collection of various peoples’ of opinions, pro and con, on the new translation. Anthony Ruff wondered how to translate “Gesundheit” into English.
The story took a dramatic turn when Pray Tell began running a series of articles comparing the ICEL 2008 text to the 2010 Received Text by someone named Xavier Rindfleisch (many picked up the reference to Xavier Rynne, the nom de plume of the writer for the New Yorker on the political machinations during the Second Vatican Council). Here is part one, part two, part three, and part four by Xavier.
Fr. Mike Ryan asked “What If We Just Said Wait?,” which became an online petition. Fr. Peter Stravinskas disagreed. Pray Tell talked to both Fr. Ryan and Fr. Stravinskas. Near the end of February 2011, Fr. Ryan backed off from his public resistance in late February – without backing away from his convictions.
Pray Tell reprinted this powerful open letter to Pope Benedict, written a few years earlier by Lutheran scholar Paul Westermeyer, lamenting that the Roman Catholic Church is unilaterally abandoning texts held in common by many Christian churches up until now.
Pray Tell agreed to publish this passionate piece (after the author toned it down a bit at our request) which draws parallels between the abuse crisis and translation change.
Some on-the-ground conversations last summer suggested that small town America will accept the new missal without much problem. But a priest in Ireland is prepping his people to be skeptical.
The publishers have good reason to be anxious about the timeline and about the challenges of producing such a huge book. Pray Tell talked to LitPress and WLP.
Two interviews: with new BCDW chair Archbishop Aymond and with reputed mastermind behind the 10,000+ changes, Msgr. James Moroney. Here we linked Moroney’s interview with The Wanderer.
Two letters to The Tablet are sure to make the implementation more difficult in the UK: from highly respected liturgy expert Fr. Alan Griffiths and from theologian Fr. Philip Endean, SJ. In another letter to The Tablet, Fr. Endean wonders why authorities who support the new translation – presuming that they do! – aren’t telling us more about how they came to support it.
Pray Tell asked on November 3 whether the MISSAL MESS was about to erupt. It did. The National Catholic Reporter published two stories about the Missal Mess, here and here, the first of which draws heavily on Pray Tell.
Some people started seeing the humor in the whole thing. Priests would no longer “bow,” but “bend.” The Vatican Code appeared in animation, here and here.
And then the Season of Leaks began. Earlier, when someone leaked to Pray Tell an internal 35-page report critiquing the Received Text (the botched up “final translation” presented to Pope Benedict XVI on April 28), we had reported on it. And then someone uploaded the entire report at WikiSpooks. And then someone leaked the Received Text, first in excerpts, and then in entirety. Pray Tell’s reporting dating back to July about the missal being hijacked began to be confirmed. Then someone leaked much of the 2008 Gray Book (the final version given to national conferences for them to submit to Rome), including the missal antiphons. Meanwhile, someone leaked to Pray Tell, and we reported on, the latest final version of the Order of Mass, the version Rome gave to the UK but presumably will be the same for all countries. Then the same leak went up at WikiSpooks. This showed that Rome in fact had reacted to the criticisms – but minimally. A few improvements were made, but most of the problems in the Received Text were allowed to stand. And then someone leaked the Ratio translationis, the guidebook prepared by the CDW for translating from Latin to English. Then came the ICEL Progress Reports from the 80s and 90s. Then came the really truly absolutely totally final FINAL text of the Order of Mass for the US – they changed “bend” to the more normal sounding “bow.” But the collect for Trinity Sunday is unchanged – and heretical. Whoops.
The authorities were alarmed by their secret work being made public. They wanted the leaks plugged. (America reported on this Pray Tell story.) Bishops apparently are a bit freer to speak out on the abuse of power in this translation when they’re retired or close to retirement.
The USCCB tried to calm the waters after their November 2010 meeting by issuing a statement making some quite extraordinary claims. Pray Tell didn’t respond directly to that, but did offer counsel on what to believe about the translation controversy.
Some liturgical conservatives and traditionalists continued to claim, in the face of accumulating evidence to the contrary, that the Holy See had everything under control and the leaks were fake. Some conservative and traditionalists bloggers who otherwise opined on every issue under the sun kept strangely quiet about the missal. Eventually they began to concede that Pray Tell had been right all along. Fr. Z at WDTPRS worried that the CDW would become a laughing stock. Jeffrey Tucker wrote on the mystery of the leaked missal at Inside Catholic:
Father Ruff is a Gregorian chant scholar but, surprisingly, usually stands with the “progressive” branch of American Catholicism. We are friends, though we disagree on many issues. I admit that I wondered at the time if he might be pointlessly stirring up trouble in order to discredit the forthcoming Missal. I regret the judgment.
An older lady touchingly wrote to me, and I reprinted with her permission, of her fears that the new missal was about to do great damage to the heart of the church.
Fr. Alan Griffiths wrote a letter to The Tablet, which we reprinted here, asking what would happen after the 2010 text fails. The result? He was removed as a translator from ICEL. Pray Tell had reported the day before on an unnamed translator and a musician cut by ICEL. The name of the musician is Anthony Ruff.
Early January 2011 saw the surprising news that Midwest Theological Forum, the publishing house of Opus Dei, is releasing a study edition of missal texts, published by Vox Clara. Since when does an ad hoc advisory committee publish missal texts?? Vox Clara has new members as of February 2011 – Bishops Serratelli and Olmsted.
Brigid Rauch wrote that the new missal will introduce “another fault line in the Church.” Fr. Dwight Longecker, married Roman Catholic priest from the Anglo-Catholic high church tradition, thinks the new translation “sounds like an eighth grader trying to write Shakespeare.”
Anthony Ruff wondered whether 7,000 collaborators really means the process has good of involvement and buy-in. Cardinal Pell, head of Vox Clara, is sure that it does.
On January 17, the final text of the missal was leaked at WikiSpooks.
Fr. Ed Foley, Capuchin, speaking on implementation of the missal at the January 2011 Catholic Academy for liturgy, didn’t mince words about the problems in the process. Fr. Paul Turner, speaking at the Southwest Liturgical Conference in February 2011, discussed the problematic words merit, many, and dewfall in the second Eucharistic Prayer.
Jesuit America magazine has not been shy in running strong critiques of the new translation. On February 4 they ran Fr. Anthony Ruff’s open letter to the US bishops withdrawing from all speaking engagements promoting the missal. From the reactions, he learned that many of the people involved in promoting the missal really think it’s a mistake. Fr. John Foley SJ posted in support of Anthony’s letter.
The Association of Catholic Priests in Ireland, with over 400 members, said in early February that the new translation is unacceptable – sexist and elitist. Their statement hit the MSM – the BBC ran a story on February 6 on the “missal crisis.” But the liturgy office in England thinks English priests will adapt to the new missal without problem. (Some wonder whether they’ll like the “cheap but worthy” interim missal to be used in fall 2011.) And Bishop Aymond, head of the US BCDW, thinks the new translation will lead to “a deeper appreciation of what Mass means.” US Bishop Blair also supports the new missal – and scolds its critics. From a small sample of letters to the editor, it seems that implementation of the new text in New Zealand is a bit rocky. In general, letters to the editor about the new missal are running negative. In Australia, hundreds of priests are “pretty steamed up” about the new missal, and at least a dozen have announced they will refuse to use it. Discontent is simmering. But implementation continues. In Canada, Bernadette Gasslein wonders why the Pope calls for clear, modern language in the work of evangelization – but not in the liturgy!
Fr. Pádraig McCarthy of Dublin discovered that the grade level of the current translation of the Eucharistic prayers is 9; for the coming missal it is 15. Here Fr. McCarthy writes on the challenge of translation. Fr. McCarthy gives examples of coming prefaces here and here. Meanwhile, Fr. J. Michael Joncas thinks The New Missal: Explaining the Changes from Ireland’s liturgy office is “excellent.”
Fr. Hilgartner and Msgr. Sherman, current and former head of the US liturgy office, have put up several informative videos about the new missal.
Fritz Bauerschmidt suggests -he means it seriously – that critics of the coming translation might learn from the many critics of the current text how one most helpfully deals spiritually with a liturgical text one dislikes.
Vox Clara met early February 2011. US cardinal members include George and Rigalli. New members are Bishops Serratelli and Olmsted. This is both disturbing and kind of amusing: Msgr. Bruce Harbert, former head of ICEL, has noticed that Msgr. Moroney reads the wrong text in many places in his recording of the coming Eucharistic Prayers. Recently, Anthony Ruff called out Msgr. Moroney for stretching the truth in his promotion of the new Missal: “No, Msgr. Moroney, I don’t think so.” Meanwhile, Abbot Cuthbert Johnson of Vox Clara hopes the missal will help us evangelize. Msgr. Wadsworth of ICEL has spoken publicly on the translation.
Translation scholar Anthony Pym, asked by Pray Tell whether academia supports the translation theory of Liturgiam authenticam, said this: “Huh?”
Pray Tell has several good discussions about new service music – whether dioceses should mandate common settings, which settings people will be using, what Anthony Ruff is considering at the abbey, published settings, online settings.
I wonder if you would comment (perhaps in another thread) on the history of the “missal” as a comprehensive book for the celebration of the Mass, including “Sacramentary,” the books of readings now called “Lectionary,” and “Gradual.” With the new terminology (missal=sacramentary), is the lectionary for Mass no longer seen as part of the Missal? What of the Gradual?
I know that large parts of the current sacramentary antiphons (for recitation) and those of the Roman Missal, 3rd ed., do not correspond to the Graduale Romanum. Why were the sacramentary antiphons chosen for expansion rather than a revision (and translation) of the Gradual. Is it because the Gradual is bound to the process of restoration of the authentic chant repertory and the authority of medieval oral tradition?
From my admittedly limited perspective, it appears that the disintegration of the Missal as comprised of all of these components is the result of or has contributed to the loss of a sense of music as integral to the rites.
Perhaps you and others have been around this block before, but I’d appreciate a chance to catch up.
Thanks, Fr Anthony – a good idea
Can I suggest a hierarchy of linked HTML pages rather than monolithic PDFs?
I wonder why they weren’t literal in translating “omnium circumstantium” in roman canon 1….Richard Plavo
Perhaps it is time to question a seperation from Rome. After all, those of us who have some education and knowledge in the history of OUR Church know the direct line from St. Peter was broken long ago.
If you really believe that, then in some sense you have already left. You might as well make it official and go. But I pray that you will have a change of heart.
I have to agree with Mary Lake. We are so far from the direct line of St. Peter and have been for many years. With the way Rome is and is going, we’ll be back to all Latin before long.
I am a totally discouraged American Catholic. A break from Rome could be so refreshing. It just takes the right people to lead it.
Fr. Anthony, after having read your blog, I am having a very hard time trying to figure out just who’s side you are on in this issue. With all due respect, you seem to want to see this whole thing go down in flames. What we have at the present is a very flawed translation. Even the version that you seem to pan is superior to the current version. We enter a totally different dimension during the Mass. We enter God’s realm. The language that we use should be elevated. It should be out of the ordinary. Comments like the one made by Mary Lake and others appear to me as some desire to break with Rome and establish an “American” church. It seems to me that we are letting pride get in the way.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to just go back to Justin Martyr’s model for the liturgy, start from there, build the skeleton, and permit the local bishop in each diocese to fill in the details? Rome’s incessant meddling and micro-management of the liturgy down through the centuries has created a Rube Goldberg machine with lots of moving parts, going nowhere, and satisfying nobody.
superior to the current version — alas, no.
the new trans is not “elevated” — it is clumsy, flatfooted.
Michelle, the fact that you are struggling to place this blog on one ‘side’ is, for me, evidence that Pray Tell has got something right. The participants here are ‘traditionalists’ and ‘liberals’, middle-of-the-roaders, reformers-of-the-reform, St Louis Jesuits, priests, laypeople, composers, non-Catholics… I have had productive dialogues on PTB with people like Jeffrey Pinyan and C Henry Edwards that would have been impossible on blogs on one ‘side’.
For the most part what unites the people here is a love for the Church and the Mass, for good liturgy and good music. There are different perspectives on what that means and on how to get there, but that doesn’t mean people need to take ‘sides’. The ‘sides’ on most discussion blogs impede learning and understanding, they don’t enhance it.
Thank you, Jonathan. I think you hit at what we’re striving for here.
In response to Michelle, I would suggest that every contributor here, Catholic and non-Catholic, knows that a new translation is needed. The 1973 Sacramentary is indeed flawed, and nobody wants to see its use prolonged. At the same time, the translation that has been proffered and approved is also flawed — deeply, laughably at times. While we all want an improvement over the 1973 text, what we want — I think I speak for all the contributors here — is the best possible translation: the most accurate rendering of the Latin, in the most beautiful, elevated English possible. There is some subjective judgment about all that, certainly, but most everyone is agreed that neither is the case with the approved text. Why should anyone in the Catholic church have to settle for an improvement, when something clearly better could be had?
When the 2008 translation appeared, my judgement was that, in comparison with 1973 (or is it 1974?), it was a wash: they both had problem, but different problems (1973 was theologically, and in some cases linguistically, impoverished; 2008 was stilted and ugly). So I was willing to go along and promote the new translation on the basis of its virtues, while politely overlooking its flaws. But if we are to end up with what is appearing as the 2010 translation. . . frankly, I’d rather stick with 1973. It at least has the virtue of familiarity.
The 1973 Sacramentary is indeed flawed, and nobody wants to see its use prolonged.
Some people still do. There are people from all “parties” who contribute here.
Dear Jonathan, you’ve said it so well. Thank you. It is wonderful to read the thoughts of those who, from differing perspectives, all express their passion for the Church and the Mass, good liturgy and good music. I thought of that as I saw, at First Vespers tonight, the “old Marini” sitting amongst the other Bishops/Archbishops singing the Gregorian chant with gusto, and the “new Marini” serving as the Holy Father’s MC. Ronald Knox said many decades ago, “You can have a literary translation or a literal translation; you can’t have both.” Not all on here would agree with me, but I feel that, within the limitations imposed by normative documents (LA and RT), those who produced the 2008 did their best to produce a translation that was both accurate (for even 2008 was not literal) and literary (though the “high Church language” for want of a better description, is not everyone’s preferred “style.”)
But this 2010 monstrosity is a disaster. Whoever they were, the revisers had not the skills in Latin or English to do what they were asked to do – or undertook to do on their own. We will soon know whether pride or humility reigns at CDW, when we see if the flaws pointed out in “Areas” were corrected.
I am surprised that the many music and scripture people who post here have not commented on the wholesale abandonment of the Vulgate base for the Missal antiphons (now that the Received Text is leaked online). One glaring sample: Tuesday of Holy Week’s introit speaks (in Latin) of God’s anointed “being handed over” to the will of his enemies, matching the Communion verse from Romans “handed over for the sake of us all.” This parallel is completely lost in the Received Text and was faithfully rendered in 2008. Only one of many such “antiphonal flaws.”
If in fact what we are seeing in terms of a “flawed” version of the new texts is what we are to get, then hopefully all the suggestions that are offered on this blog will be taken into account prior to any of this actually going to press. Maybe there will be divine intervention spurred on by the alarm here. On the other hand, if typographical errors are corrected, but we get what we have seen a year from now, hopefully no one will be encouraged by any “Catholic” blog to disobey what is promulgated, that just like we do with the current 1973 missal, we make the best of it. Of course, I’m praying that we get the best possible translation that doesn’t slavishly follow LA but produces good English that is easily proclaim to God and understood by all. Maybe in some cases missalette companies will have to have a paraphrase text next to the official version for those who don’t understand the literal English translation of the Latin or some of the harder words. At any rate, just as with the current 1973 version in English and the 2002 version in Latin, God understands what we are asking and offering even before it is said or offered. That’s really what is most important isn’t it? After all, doesn’t God really understand a person or collective group praying in tongues and isn’t all interpretation of glossolalia really a paraphrase when an interpretation is actually offered in a prayer group?
But if Paul is correct, interpretation is key if glossolalia is to be a true act of worship. The words of worship are always for the benefit of the worshipers, not of God, who can read our hearts and needs no words at all. So if the words fail to edify the liturgical assembly, they fail as worship.
I think I prefer valid or invalid to pass or fail. Of course the new translation even if flawed just as the 1973 one is flawed will still be valid and will pass. It won’t fail unless the celebrant and the celebrating community leave something out that is necessary for validity. Ex Opere Operato is a gift to the Church even if the necessity of relying upon it means we’ve hit rock bottom. But keep in mind, the first year of using this new translation is going to be very rough. So to judge people’s responses to the new translation based upon the first Sunday they use it, like in New Zealand, is setting up a straw man (never used that word until I saw it here). We need to see how people accept it in two or three years and five years down the road when it becomes quite familiar. We’ve used Latin response in my parish for that last year and a half. If you asked parishioners the first two Sundays we did it, they’d have a totally different response to the same question today since we have become so familiar with the Latin and sing and say it with a hurricane of gusto!
As a neophyte to the faith, I am somewhat puzzled and dismayed by what I have discovered here. I have briefly reviewed the LTP publication, Understanding the Revised Mass Texts, and, frankly, do not understand the strength of opposition to the new text, and the almost mocking tone of much of the discourse, here and elsewhere.
When the new Mass was instituted in the 1960s, was this level of preparation provided to the laity, prior to the massive changes that were instituted at that time? I can’t help but get the impression that the “progressives,” who largely drove the process here in the United States after VII, want to retain all of the changes that were made post-VII and would prefer to lock them in, so to speak. How ironic it seems that, after the complete overhaul in the 1960s, that literally disrupted the life of the Church, these relatively “minor” changes, and I believe that they are relatively minor, have caused such an uproar.
I can’t help but sense that there is a strong impulse on the progressive side to an American Catholic Church, distinct from Rome, underlying much of this. No one can deny the disunity in the Roman Catholic Church today . . . and this is a very disheartening aspect of the faith for a neophyte that is beginning to become quite apparent to me. How sad. Paul was right in 1 Corinthians 1:10-17. We need less self-centeredness and more unity through Christ, both in word and in deed. If Rome and the Magisterium is not ultimately the focal point of leadership, the Church disintegrates into localist sects.
Dear Tom Diebold,
As a neophyte, I say to you, welcome in, and you have all our support and prayers!
I’m sorry that the discussion, and some of the structures of authority, are such a mess in our Church. I can see how it would seem to a newcomer that the critics want to cut away from Rome and stay frozen in what they accomplished in the 1960s. But I’m absolutely sure that that impression is false. We have to be more clear in our writings so people don’t misunderstand this.
Everyone I know involved in Catholic liturgy wants a good relationship between the people, the bishops, and the Holy See. I honestly don’t know anyone who wants to separate from the Successor of Peter or have a Catholic Church without a Pope. The strong critics, please understand, are upset at how the authority is exercised, and long for more transparency, justice, respect for people, honesty, and good coordination of all the gifts the People of God have to offer.
Also, there has been so much evolution in liturgical theory and practice since the 1960s, and I honestly don’t know anyone who wants to go back to the 1960s, or stay in the 1980s. The critics (call them progressive, or liberal, or whatever) have very much been part of efforts to keep moving forward. To take the example of translation, lots of good people were involved in creating the high quality 1997 sacramentary, and have great memories of the openness of the process and the good working relationship with Bishops. These people, obviously, didn’t and don’t want to keep the current 1973 translation, and contributed mightily to getting rid of it to have a text more accurate, more beautiful, more elevated.
I hope my comments help you put in perspective where some of the sharp opinions are coming from. These are people who love the Church, have given their lives to it, and have seen authority in the Church act abusively and irresponsibly.
Come, Lord Jesus!
You speak of the high quality 1997 translation wouldn’t transparency require you to at least mention that there are some serious & valid criticism of it. The way they addresed the rubrics & modified familiar texts in a way removed from a true translation of the Latin- I would have been horrified to see it used in my parish.
“frankly, do not understand the strength of opposition to the new text, ”
have you read it?
you are disheartened by the criticisms, but you and many other good Catholics will be much more disheartened by the text itself.
“But if we are to end up with what is appearing as the 2010 translation. . . frankly, I’d rather stick with 1973. It at least has the virtue of familiarity.”
I would respectfully suggest otherwise. As a clergyman and theologian, you have a deep awareness of the liturgy’s essence that “offsets” in a sense the shortcomings in the text. Most Catholics don’t have that foundation upon which to rest.
“Familiarity” in this case will just breed more complacency and liturgical illiteracy as it exists for most Catholics. Poll the average parishioner today about their understanding of “sacred liturgy” and I am pretty confident you will find that only a small minority can give anything close to a Catholic answer.
We can thank the current edition of the Missal and the lack of liturgical instruction (the status quo) for this tragedy. If we keep the faithful anchored to the same “theologically impoverished” text that helped strip a sense of mystery from Holy Mass, where is the impetus for growth?
Without defending any flaws that may exist in the “2010 text,” at the very least it will disturb clergy and laity alike from their liturgical slumber; something that is long overdue.
Without defending any flaws that may exist in the “2010 text,” at the very least it will disturb clergy and laity alike from their liturgical slumber; something that is long overdue.
This seems to me a pretty weak defense of the text. There are a number of liturgies I have attended in the past that jolted me out of my liturgical slumber, but they were pretty unpleasant experiences.
Also, I’m not sure the current situation is all that different from past centuries, when people, for example, saw the liturgy as the occasion to engage in private devotions, largely ignoring what went on at the altar (and who could blame them). Were one to poll the average parishioner in those days about their understanding of “sacred liturgy” and I am pretty confident you would find that only a small minority could give anything close to a Catholic answer. Placing the blame for people’s failure to grasp the nature of the liturgy on the current translation seems a stretch to me.
the 1973 translations are prosaic but perfectly clear (for the prefaces and eucharistic prayers) and they convey a perfectly Catholic sense of the liturgy in the spirit of Vatican II.
an undue focus on “a sense of mystery” can undercut the communal, scriptural and world-open qualities of a vibrant Christian liturgy.
In his Wanderer column this week, Jeffrey Tucker compares translations of the collect for the first Monday in Advent:
Lord our God,
Help us to prepare for the coming of Christ your Son.
May he find us waiting, eager in joyful prayer.
Keep us alert, we pray, O Lord our God,
as we await the advent of Christ your son,
so that when he comes and knocks
he may find us watchful in prayer and exultant in his praise.
Whatever you have said previously, Fr. Ruff, I cannot believe you’d actually opt to stick with 1973 here. Surely, no one would.
As I have followed Father Z in comparing versions during Advent, I’ve almost always preferred 2008 over 2010, and can readily imagine someone preferring 1998 to both. Certainly 2010 (or whatever is the utterly final version) will fall short of the expectations of most of us here, and certainly of those whose opinions are colored by past battles.
But to those in the pews who actually listen when these orations are proclaimed—a minority, at first, so many having tuned out long since—I’m confident they will sound beautiful and refreshing and, above all, wonderfully different from what they heard so long that familiarity (if nothing else) has bred boredom (if not contempt).
I prefer the 1973 version.
It is more like something I might actually say, so that I can join with it and make it a part of my relationship with God. 2010 is convoluted enough that I have to think about it to make sense of it. “await the advent”? watchful and exultant? I do like the image of Jesus knocking.
(and which of my preceding paragraphs do you prefer? Which more easily offers insight, the simple insight, or the jumble of ideas going different directions? Do you prefer a simple clear prayer, or a jumble?)
You convince me, Jim. That I’d use 1973 language in addressing you, but 2010 language in addressing God.
Henry, please stop talking for others and how they’ll think or feel. It’s disrespectful to act as if your opinion belongs to everyone else and they need you to decide how they think. Could you please speak only for yourself- it’s actually more convincing when you do.
The 1973 preces are sawdust and should have been replaced by the 1998 ones 12 years ago — the Vatican’s obstructionism struck another blow at the spiritual welfare of the faithful.
So comparing the best preces in the new translation with the 1973 preces is setting the bar pretty love. Compare all the preces in the new translation with all the preces of 1998 for some insight into how awful the new compositions are.
And in the same issue of The Wanderer Father Z compares the translations of the Christmas collect in die:
We praise you for creating man,
And still more for restoring him in Christ.
Your Son shared our weakness:
may we share his glory.
O God, who wonderfully created the dignity of human nature
and still more wonderfully restored it,
grant, we pray,
that we may share in the divinity of Christ
who humbled himself to share in our humanity.
Ditto. . . . I’m beginning to feel thankful that our bishops apparently are paying little attention to discordant fulminations as they prepare for the renaissance of the liturgy that is dawning (and which a reasonably accurate translation is a part).
“This seems to me a pretty weak defense of the text.”
You misunderstand. I’m not attempting to defend the text; just welcoming the things I mentioned.
“Placing the blame for people’s failure to grasp the nature of the liturgy on the current translation seems a stretch to me.”
Really? If, as you said, the current text is “theologically impoverished,” how can this not be a contributing factor?
More than anything else I think the utter failure to answer the Council’s call to provide the necessary liturgical instruction to the faithful is the reason so few have an awareness of the liturgy’s nature. If the new text sparks it, at last, thank God.
I think we all need to stand back and ask why it is important for us to say this instead of that, to do it this way and not that way. Clearly, when so many people are walking out of Church, we are either not getting the message across, or the message we are conveying is not the right message. Ultimately, the point of the liturgy is not to preserve the way it was done in Antioch in 1217 or whatever, nor is it to illustrate our own grasp of nuance or good taste.
Instead of reading this text or that text, maybe it’s time for all of us to study 1 Corinthians 13.
“And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, ‘Which commandment is the first of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.’ And the scribe said to him, ‘You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that he is one, and there is no other but he; and to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.’ And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ And after that no one dared to ask him any question (RSV-2CE: Mk 12:28-34).”
Not to say that liturgy isn’t important, but we need to remember it’s a tool in service of a greater goal.
I agree Brigid. One way we demonstrate our love is through liturgy. In this sense, how we worship, is how we love . . . another interpretation of lex orandi, lex credendi?
I suspect that Fr Ruff knows more about this than me. But the mere fact of trying a new text may help if it makes us all think about what we are praying.
Meanwhile those who object most strongly to the proposed changes sometimes give the impression that they object to the Latin text from which the Mass is translated. This suspicion undermines their arguments.
Now when Fr Ruff and Fr Z agree that there is a problem with the management of the translation purpose I suspect that they are both right. Oh dear.
Please put me down as one of the people who doesn’t consider every word of the Latin text to be Gospel …so to speak.
Seriously – where did the Latin text come from? Are we willing to declare that all of Revelation was complete the day the last word of that text was put into place? Holy Spirit may disagree with that point of view.
It is in fact fair to question the quality of the original Latin. By this I do not mean that it’s necessarily poor, only that the question is a valid one.
Further, and for me, anyway, I would only apply it to things that were originally written in Latin. Perhaps it marks me as a hopeless case, but I am firmly of the opinion that whatever the original language, a text should be translated from that into English [or whatever the local language is] without stopping first in Latin. The more steps, the more errors and [un]intended shadings will, inevitably, creep in.
No, and Revelation wasn’t composed in Latin, anyway. Latin versions of Scripture were translated from Hebrew and Greek, mostly.
Dear Lynn and Brigid
I am trying to make a simple point that translating Credo as “We believe” is inaccurate, it is more accurately translated as “I believe”. Those who prefer the plural form here seem to be arguing that the Latin should also be in the plural. Whatever the merits of this it is not a matter of the translation from Latin to English.
I recall that Bishop Rowel (the Anglican bishop in Gibraltar) argued in The Times that “We believe” is more faithful to the Greek original. Perhaps there is a case to revist the Latin standard text and also for translation notes and explanations to be prepared for deficiencies in the Latin that might be addressed in translations where the Latin, or another language, has limitations that hinder translation. The challenge here is neither to add to meaning nor to lose some in translation.
The process of examining and explaining the texts should be instructive.
Surely though, it is not the role of a translator to add to the meaning or detract from it merely as he thinks fit. That goes beyond the role of translation.
That’s fine, and I don’t dispute that the Latin says “I believe”. But it seems pretty clear that the Greek original says “We”, and I maintain that we should be translating from the Greek, since the Creed was composed in Greek and we have that text available. Skip the Latin entirely. Official or not, it changes the meaning, and as you point out, that’s beyond the role of translation.
But the Latin Creed used in the liturgy is not JUST a translation of the Greek Creed. It is an adapted version of the Creed. Just like the Latin “Domine, non sum dignus…” (“Lord, I am not worthy…”) is not a mis-translation from the Greek of Matthew 8:8, it’s an adaptation of it.
Hello again Lynn
It would be interesting to see why the Church chose to use “I believe” then. Studying that would be instructive. If it were simply that Latin could not accurately give the meaning of the source language then it would be useful to see if the vernacular might do so.
Without taking a view on this, or other questions, it would be desirable for the Mass to be consistent (and right) in all languages. As to what is right I have to rely on the official view and hope that the scholars, guided by the Holy Spirit, get it right.
I think there is value in having Latin as a point of reference. What other language would do: French? What would they think if it was English? Meanwhile the meaning of Latin does not change. That of modern languages does change so their value, as a point of reference, is limited.
May I make the point with a secular reference?
UN Security council resolution 242 famously required Israel to withdraw “des territoires occupés”. Was that from some or all of them?
Lynn, isn’t it possible that the Greek original uses the first person plural because it is a conciliar document, not a personal confession of faith?
PS: Could Lynn or anyone else who’s interested direct me to an approved English translation of the Divine Liturgy as celebrated by any Eastern church, in which the Symbol of faith begins: “We believe”? I cannot find one. To insist on the first person plural, contrary to our own tradition, appears to place one at odds also with the liturgical practice of these venerable churches. Why would anyone wish to do that?
Robert brings up a good point.
This Greek Orthodox web site provides the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom in Greek and English.
The Greek text of the Creed in their liturgy begins “Πιστεύω εἰς ἕνα Θεόν, Πατέρα, Παντοκράτορα, ποιητὴν οὐρανοῦ καὶ γῆς, ὁρατῶν τε πάντων καὶ ἀοράτων.”
Their English translation uses “I believe…” Google translate says the same.
This is just one of many arguments in terms of:
a) formal or dynamic translation (most experts advise a middle ground between slavish literalism and the need for translation to be linguistically proclaimable;
b) at least, this does not touch on – “but scripture uses this language”
c) ecclesiology – depending upon your views, you will tend to support either “I” or “We” as a reflection of your ecclesiological outlook;
d) liturgically – this blog repeatedly shows the differences between those who see eucharist as a community worshipping and on a journey together and those who have a more individualistic viewpoint.
IMO, eucharist is the pilgrim community worshipping together and praying as that community:
– thus, WE not I.
– if you look at the history during the period of the formation of the Creed, even the church fathers used WE, not I
– on a hierarchy of values and principles….would rank the historical theological formation; ecclesiology well above secondary translation points (esp. when the church continues to clarify whether formal (literal) or dynamic or something in between is the best translation technique).
A multitude of things are possible, but the discussion often revolves around accurate, i.e. literal, translation, and rather less about intent. In this case, the Greek says “we.”
If I were picking a language of reference for the Church today, it would be either English or Spanish, I think, based on the numbers of speakers of each in the Church. Chinese is the most-spoken language on Earth, but not in the Church, and if English isn’t the most-widely taught second language on the planet, it’s sure moving in that direction. Yes, the language changes, but mostly on the colloquial level, and much less so in formal usage. I am inclined to think it would not pose a significant problem for the Church, since most of the really significant terms are fairly specialized. I doubt we’ll be having to to debate what the meaning of “is” is. I’m sorry, I don’t read French, so I can’t respond to your question about the UN, although from the context I would hazard a guess that that august body probably meant all of the territories in question. Of course, where such ambiguity is possible or likely, the situation can often be addressed with another simple sentence or two.
In this case, the Greek says “we.”
In the conciliar texts, yes. In the text of the Divine Liturgy, no: “Πιστεύω εἰς ἕνα Θεόν”.
Lynn, let me ask you something: At the Easter liturgy, when baptismal promises are renewed, do you respond for yourself only or do you take it upon yourself to confess faith, renounce satan, etc. for your neighbors as well? By what authority do you speak for them, or they for you?
Except that a historical point is being overlooked in this discussion: namely, that the translation principles in effect from 1969-2001 encouraged translators to go to ultimate source languages where Latin was an intermediary language, as it was in the case of the Creed. Hence the re-sourcing, as it were, to the conciliar version of the Creed. This was done in good faith, not a revolutionary agenda, and that good faith needs to be acknowledged as such without cavil.
As far as I’m aware, the ultimate source language of the Roman Rite is Latin. If you can direct me to a Greek ur-text I’d certainly like to see it.
The conciliar version of the Creed is just that. It is not a liturgical document.
I think Liam’s point was that the earlier translation principles encouraged recourse to the original language text, and thus the translators were acting in good faith in turning to the Greek conciliar text. They could have turned to a Greek liturgical text, but there was nothing nefarious in using the conciliar text.
there was nothing nefarious in using the conciliar text.
Let us say “fishy”, then. Or “curious”, or “odd” — or “discontinuous and inorganic”. If peanut gallery amateurs like us find it worthy of debate, I can’t make myself believe that educated eyes never even blinked when the switch happened. You think they just flipped a coin, Fritz?
Uh, no. At this point, your persistence in reading bad faith or a bad agenda in what the translators did on this point is reflecting more badly on you than them. The Symbolum’s urtext was not a Latin (or Greek) liturgical text, but the Greek conciliar text. It was really that simple. It was not a Socialist Internationale conspiracy or whatever. The translation principles have changed, so the translation is changing. That’s all.
Thank you for expressing my point better than I did.
I think this claim is overplayed because it is not just going to ultimate source languages that are the problem. Other language groupings did not go to the extreme that the former incarnation of ICEL did to avoid words like “grace” and the concept of supplication. We can look at the Spanish and Polish texts to see the difference.
When we make those responses we speak as individuals. I’ve always understood the Creed to be professed by the community speaking as such – a collective body.
Robert said At the Easter liturgy, when baptismal promises are renewed, do you respond for yourself only or do you take it upon yourself to confess faith, renounce satan, etc. for your neighbors as well? By what authority do you speak for them, or they for you?
This is, alas, a simplistic argument that has been comprehensively debunked elsewhere. You’re not speaking for any other individual. You speak out of your conviction that you are a member of the Body of Christ, the ‘we’ who all believe the same thing as a Church. If you do not believe that you’re a member of the body, by all means continue to say ‘I’.
It’s only a historical accident that we happen to say ‘I’, a result of the insertion of the Creed into the Mass around the 10th century as a ‘refugee’ from the then-defunct initiation rites — in other words, a one-off personal profession of faith was imported into a communal liturgy. With hindsight, we can see that this was not a good idea, ecclesiologically speaking. A communal profession of faith is far more powerful than an individualistic approach to liturgy; a collection of I’s who make up a We and celebrate and profess together. I certainly don’t want to speak for you, nor can I. But I do want to be part of the celebrating body or assembly and speak for it.
If you do not believe that you’re a member of the body, by all means continue to say ‘I’.
It’s only a historical accident that we happen to say ‘I’
Someone should tell the Greeks, Paul. Let me know how that goes.
Yes,Lynn but when we will respond ‘I believe in God the Father Almighty” we are also speaking as individuals.
All prayers address GOD not MAN. The Prayers of the Faithful or the General Intercessions address MAN.
? Huh ?
The General Intercessions are also addressed to God, no less than any others.
I think Tim’s point is that they are typically phrased so as to address God only indirectly — the direct addressee is the assembly, eliciting their prayers to God, which seems only appropriate, since it is “the prayer of the faithful,” not “the prayer of the person leading the prayer of the faithful.”
Well, I don’t think so. It’s really just a more elaborate “Let us pray….” The congregation is being directed to pray, but the prayer is still addressed to God. It’s just that the direction is less economical than the prayer, shall we say.
Dear Lynn and others
What a lot of chat on my observation!
I chose the reference to Credo as it was simple. A more pertinent point may be in the Orate Fratres: “May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of his name, for our good, and the good of all his [Holy] Church.” Who objects to inclusion of the word “Holy” which is clearly there in the Latin?
Now you, and others, have discussed whether it would be better for the Creed to starting with “We” or “I”. There are merits each way. Certainly the Latin is capable of “We” but the authors chose “I” and so the discussion above covers which text should have been used in Latin.
The discussion confirms to me that part of the objection to the proposed translation is based on rejection, in part, of the Latin text rather than merely the quality of the translation as a translation. Saying this does not challenge the observations that “We” might be a better way to start the creed in Latin and English.
Turning to the UN resolution the French word “des” can mean “from” / “of” [in plural] or “of the” [also in plural] so the resolution called on Israel to withdraw “from occupied territories” or “from the occupied territories”. It has withdrawn from some of them (Sinai and Gaza) but not all (the Golan and the West bank) and so the dispute as to whether it has complied turns on the translation of this text. (No doubt we all have different views on what they should do.)
Is Latin a good point of reference? From a North American, excluding Quebec, perspective English and Spanish might seem better. France and Italy would have other views.
May I offer two examples of the weakness of English?
“The Lord’s my shepherd I’ll not want” has two possible meanings that do not, I think, need explanation.
I was given a reprint of a booklet on how to serve Mass that tells the boy that if he follows the advice given he will be “a most desirable”…
“a most desirable” server. I think we would word that differently.
As for adding an extra sentence to clarify meanings I fear that the amount of duscussion about the first word of the creed shows how we would struggle with the extra sentence.
Thank you all for an enlightening discussion.
The Fathers of I Nicea and I Constantinople said ‘we believe’ in Greek because they were adhering to a ‘theological peace treaty’ — if they (or an individual Bishop or group of Bishops) did not adhere they would be ‘outside the Church’. In the liturgy we say ‘I believe’ for the same reason that when there is a group at a meeting and the person who owns the room says ‘the last one out will please turn out the lights’ — if the group responds ‘we will’ — most often the lights remain on when the group leaves because no one has taken personal responsibility for the action. ‘I believe’ at Mass is insisting on personal responsibility for one’s faith/belief in what is said in the Creed/credo. That is why in Latin and most of the Eastern Church ‘I believe’ is used in the Liturgy!
Two comments on the Credo conversation:
1. I believe it was Peter Jeffreys who explains how both forms — 1st person singular and plural — have been used in different times and places; part of his thesis that liturgical development and the adaptation of various texts had always shown a bit of elasticity, depending on context, etc.
2. I have also been given to understand that the self-conscious use of “We believe . . . ” rather than “I believe . . . ” was to stress the communal basis of the belief, not our individual appropriation of it.
I must say, in times of questioning or crisis, I have found it it reassuring to say “WE believe . . .” Something akin to ex opere operato — the faith goes on, it is much bigger than my personal “take” on it, it is solid enough to withstand all of my doubts.
The text of the petition themselves are addressed to the faithful, the community:
Per the GIRM:
“69. In the prayer of the faithful, the people respond in a certain way to the word of God which they have welcomed in faith, and, exercising the office of their baptismal priesthood,offer prayers to God for the salvation of all. It is fitting that such a prayer be included , as a rule, in Masses celebrated with a congregation, so that petitions will be offered for the holy Church, for civil authorities, and for those weighed down by various needs for all men and women, anc for the salvation of the whole world. As a rule, the petitions are to be:
a .for the needs of the Church
b. for the public authorities and the salvation of the whole world;
c. for those burdened by any kind of difficulty of difficulties and
d for the local community.
When our liturgy planning teams write petitions, we are directed not to include the phrase “may they” as that tells God how to resolve those problems or difficulties. In the Prayer of the faithful, we place the needs of the world, the Church, etc. before the Lord and we trust in the Lord’s will to solve the issues and problems the way HE wants to solve them, and…
Please! Put a hot link at the top of this page that takes us to a list of examples of the new and old translations side by side. All this talk about the controversy: how are we supposed to know what you are talking without examples?
Dear Fr. Anthony,
I saw you were mentioned in a NYT article on the new missal and its
I have just realized that the new missal will not change much for me the fact that I have to ‘feminize’ the mass as I go along, something that I have been doing for years now.
So yes the new translation of the missal is lousy, but the current missal is not particularly life-giving or empowering for women as it is.
In a strange way, you and I are moving closer (if we are not already) in the raw pain that the liturgical words create in our hearts.
I am no theologian and certainly not an expert in liturgy. But I have grave reservations about the new Roman Missal that I believe is being thrust on laity without any lay involvement in the process. I am an active Catholic on Long Island and work with the poor in Wyandanch. I have strong opinions that an imperial Rome is foisting its language changes on simple people who only want to praise God at Mass.
I have one burning question for those in the Catholic Church who approved the new Mass translation. WHY? From what I’ve read about how it came about since 2001, it boils down to bickering and infighting and just plain politicking which resulted in what we now have to accept beginning in Advent 2011.
When Our Lord was on earth with His people, they asked him to “teach us how to pray.” He gave us the ‘Our Father’, not some arcane and unintelligible prayer only the temple priests would understand. It was a simple prayer of praise, reverence, hope, petition and forgiveness of sin. It was a prayer that all the people grasped immediately. My guess is that the people will eventually reject this new attempt to control and dominate. My prayer is that our struggling church will come to its senses before more people leave en masse.
Looking for on line text of about to be superseded Order of Mass.
Hidden Objectives of the new-olde Liturgical Language
Forget all the promoted reasons
for returning the language of the liturgy
to the middle ages.
It’s all just Vatican Spin.
The true, but subliminal, reasons
for removing the Vatican II language of the people
are far more devious.
Even though it is stated nowhere
in Catholic Theology
that God is only masculine,
all of the names and pronouns
used for the Creator
To strengthen the status/power
of an all male ordained priesthood/hierarchy
the male names and pronouns
used for the Divine
in the new-olde language for the Liturgy
are significantly increased.
Not one feminine name or pronoun will be used.
To further strengthen the status/power
of the ordained priesthood/hierarchy,
the new-olde language for the Liturgy
will serve to further enhance
the unworthiness of the non-ordained.
Among other things, those in attendance at Liturgy
will even be asked to
pound their chests in unworthiness,
further enhancing our dependence for salvation
on the ordained.
If you choose to attend
one of these new-olde Liturgies,
for these hidden objectives.
I don’t know where is the best place to put this comment, so…
I just bought “A Commentary on the Order of Mass of The Roman Missal: A New English Translation” (as often advertised in the upper-right-hand corner of the blog) and have been skimming it. It looks superb! I’m a bit intimidated by its length, but for the time being, I’m interested specifically in its commentaries on the Eucharistic Prayers.
THANK YOU to all the contributors who put this terrific tome together!
Bishop Kevin Dowling who has links posted on The Southern Cross should be listened to by other bishops, priests and the laity simply because he has the benefit of hindsight to aid him when he is discussing the new translation of the missal. I Quote from his letter in the Southern Cross. …..”To me there is no cogent reason why the language which the People of God in any place use to express their faith and spirituality, and to celebrate the Eucharist, the sacraments and so on has to conform to a Latin text. People ask why — and rightly so. I am concerned that this latest decision from the Vatican may be interpreted as another example of what is perceived to be a systematic and well-managed dismantling of the vision, theology and ecclesiology of Vatican II during the past years.” end quote.
Bishop of Dunedin, Colin Campbell in New Zealand; wrote in the Tablet and with the benefit of his hindsight. I quote here Bishop Colin Cambell…”I took the opportunity to consult our faithful in the diocese for their reaction to the changes. Indeed, in the Vatican ll document Presbyterorum Ordinis, clergy are exhorted to “listen to the laity willingly, consider their wishes in a fraternal spirit and recognise their experience and competence in the different areas of human activity, so that together with them they will be able to read the signs of the times”. Here in New Zealand this first stage-much of it the people’s responses in the Mass-was introduced in Advent 2010. Of all the comments from 180 replies, 17 percent were positive and 83 percent were negative. While the minority gave reasons such as “it deepens the meaning of the Mass” and that it “is a more reverent translation”, opponents declared that it was “unnecessary”, “confusing and meaningless”, that the “rationale was unclear” and that it was a “backward step and pre-Vatican ll in language style”. end quote.