NCR: Scathing report on missal translations sent to bishops

See the story here.


  1. Many, many thanks to the person who finely combed through the missal translation & found so many errors in translation…we are all in your debt.

  2. The irony, of course, will be if Rome actually listened to the individual critiques coming from the various bishops, each with his own agenda, and conferences, to the detriment of the integrity of the translation as a whole, which, I suspect (pace, Fr. Anthony), is exactly what happened.

    Confucius knew better: “He who works upon a different strand destroys the whole fabric.” As did Shakespeare and Dickens and Saint Paul and Jesus Christ.

    1. Christopher,

      I think you have the whole thing upside down. The problem isn’t that Rome listened to bishops’ conferences. The problem is that Rome mismanaged how the various levels should work together.

      Apparently one person, or a small group, brought in all sorts of amendments from individual bishops (perhaps to curry favor and win a promotion?), amendments which rightly had been rejected long before through the proper channels of the process.

      This doesn’t show that bishops’ conferences are the problem and Rome should do everything itself. It shows that Rome should stick to its own rules and learn how to manage a process.

      Let’s be honest: the system is broke. It’s not working. There will need to be systemic reforms. How broke does it have to get before the reforms come?


      1. Well, I certainly agree with you that this process has turned out to be one huge convoluted mess. “. . . and learn how to manage a process.” Amen. I couldn’t agree more.

  3. Yes, Mr. Douglas, it certainly could have been simply a too lax approach by CDWDS/Vox Clara to numerous changes requested by various bishops’ conferences without adequate vetting, rather than a single person running amok and making thousands of haphazard changes on their own initiative, although perhaps the latter possibility can’t be ruled out either. Perhaps it was a combination of the two scenarios.

    The whole thing seems a reversal of what one might have thought the respective roles of the bishops and the Holy See would be in the translation process. One would have thought a priori that the bishops would be all for loose translation and the Holy See would be the sticklers for a strict implementation of Liturgiam Authenticam. Here, however, it is the bishops and ICEL (it would appear the writer of the report might be from ICEL or at least closely connected with its work) who are pointing out the problems of the Holy See’s numerous changes and trying to uphold the principles of Liturgiam Authenticam in order to have a solid, accurate and worthy text. I am heartened to see in the article that authorities at the highest level (hopefully including in CDWDS) are aware of the issues and are looking at them.

  4. As someone who believes that the Vatican II Council intended for the bishops and the Holy See both to be involved in liturgical translations, it seems that this experience would argue that the ideal process would involve the following steps: (a) laying down of general principles of translation by the Holy See, as in Liturgiam Authenticam, (b) the bishops taking the lead in producing translations, using experts in an ICEL type commission, (c) the Holy See reviewing for doctrinal issues, general adherence to Liturgiam Authenticam, and dealing with any major proclaimability issues, but always dialoguing with the responsible ICEL experts before the recognitio to get their input on any proposed changes that the Holy See plans to make. While the whole process is shrouded in secret, it would appear that this was not the procedure followed by the Holy See here.

  5. Lit. Auth. is part of the problem, or even the chief part of the problem. The 2008 vs. 2010 skirmish is only a sideshow in a multi-faceted farce.

  6. I agree with Joe. Whether the curia or the bishops are making the final decision, the foundation on which they build needs to be sound, and Liturgiam Authenticam is fatally flawed.

    It is sad that it has taken so long to work this out. Peter Jeffery (no “librul” in liturgical matters) identified the problems with Lit Auth in 2006. St Jerome (he was no librul neither) said, somewhere around AD 400, that word-for-word translations sound absurd and that we need to translate sense rather than structure.

    Yet here we are, heading toward Advent 2011 with an uncertain text, with many people having spent a lot of time and money on the new translations, and with no attractive outcome likely.

  7. Liturgiam Authenticam was absolutely necessary to replace the extremely flawed dynamic equivalence theory of translation in Comme le prevoit and ensure that the Roman Rite in the vernacular expresses the richness of what the Roman liturgical tradition actually says rather than expressing a paraphrase filtered through the ideological blinders of 1970s liturgists who hate that tradition and want to develop a new religion in place of Roman Catholicism. Actually, the process apparently has worked rather well as regards ICEL and the bishops. It appears to have gotten messed up in the final stage. The only reform that would appear necessary is that the CDW be a little more careful and work cooperatively with those who prepared the translation before it makes changes, particularly if, as here, a good faith effort to comply with Liturgiam Authenticam was carried out.

    1. a LITTLE more careful? That wasn’t a LITTLE report on the Difficulties. Time to send the Vox Clara crowd to wherever they sent the 1970s ICEL people and hire some new experts who know Latin and English.

    2. The “extremely flawed dynamic equivalence theory” has been in use for centuries. St Jerome used it for the Vulgate; he describes his approach in his letters to Pammachius. The great English bible translations, Protestant and Catholic, used it. Lit Auth is in fact the innvoation, and a bad one at that.

      The business about the 1970s liturgists (in fact they did their work in the 1960s, but let that pass) who hated tradition and wanted to develop a new religion, blah blah blah, scarecely deserves comment. Even the silliest of the trad blogs wouldn’t assert such rubbish.

      1. I bet they would!

        You’ve obviously not been to the ‘New Liturgical B Movement’ and ‘What Does The formerly-Lutheran Priest Really Cook and Eat All Day’ blogs lately!

      2. I daresay that the Vulgate, the KJV and the DR are far closer to the meaning of the originals they translate than the 1973 ICEL English missal is. And Liturgiam Authenticam requires accuracy AND conformity to English syntax. The latter is often forgotten by LA’s critics.

    3. Who are the 1970’s liturgists that hate “Roman liturgical tradition” and want to replace Roman Catholicism with a new religion?

      1. Who are the 1970’s liturgists that hate “Roman liturgical tradition” and want to replace Roman Catholicism with a new religion? For starters, they would be those that saddled us with the 1973 travesty of a translation, that bears at most a passing resemblance to “what the prayer really says,” to coin a phrase, that systematically eliminates concepts such as spirit, soul, holiness, sin and angels, and that replaces a tone of reverential humilty toward the Almighty with one of peremptory demand and self-regard. They would be those who, despite Vatican II’s instruction that Latin was to be retained in the Latin rite and that Gregorian Chant should have pride of place, summarily tossed both those items in the dumpster. They would be those who tore out beautiful and reverential reredos and high altars by the score and replaced them with a table behind which the priest faces the congretation in order for everyone to celebrate themselves in a closed community rather than engage in the worship of God. They would be those who set at nought the admonition of Vatican II that innovation should only be made in the liturgy if the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires it, and that new forms should grow organically out of old forms.

      2. Charles, with all due respect, I think you’re overshooting a bit, and throwing too many things together into one basket. On your list are abuses, things contrary to V2, and others things called for by church authorities and recommended in the documents. The “travesty” of 1973 was, keep in mind, approved by bishops and pope because they thought (rightly) that it was faithful to the instruction in force, CLP. And, as has been said many times before, V2 said a lot of things – you can’t keep quoting the “grow organically” line as if it nullifies the dozens of places where V2 strongly suggested pretty thorough-going and radical revisions. This is proof-texting.

      3. I guess the charge of “proof texting” means that one can ignore the express words of the Vatican II Council? I reject the notion that the specific reforms called for by Sacrosanctum Concilium nullify the general proposition that innovations should in some way grow organically from existing forms. Specific reforms called for include some simplification to make the structure of the rite clearer, elimination of useless repetitions, more Scriptural readings, some use of the vernacular, responses made by the people to help promote actual participation, restoration of prayers of the faithful, etc. All of this could have been done in a measured and “organic” way, but that is not what Bugnini and the Consilium, and ultimately Pope Paul VI did (although Paul VI did act as a brake on some of the worst excesses proposed in the reform). Many commentators, including the current Pope, have expressed the opinion that the post-Conciliar reformers exceeded the mandate of the Council. I do not dispute that the 1973 translation was duly approved by bishops and the Holy See, but that does not mean that the translation methodology was not flawed. Comme le prevoit was a curial document, but it was not an irreformable, infallible papal dogmatic definition. Fortunately, it has been replaced by a new instruction that places greater value on conveying the riches of the Latin liturgical tradition in the vernacular.

  8. Mr Grady,
    Please leave poor Fr Z alone. He so far away from his diocese in Italy and probably very much in stress because of having no faculties to celebrate Mass in the Minnesota diocese where he was born… the diocese that does not want him.

    1. Actually, I hear he’s currently in London . . . which would be wonderful for him, as he professes to be a great fan of the local traditional dessert known as ‘Spotted Dick’

      1. Such snarky cattiness… Father “Zed” has done the Church a great service by showing, collect by collect, just how far from the original the 1973 ICEL translation of the mass was.

  9. Charles – comments on #12 – incorrect, confused, and not relevant.

    Again, you condemn a very dedicated group of hundreds, if not thousands, who gave from the heart hours and years of service. They were not ideological or polarizing. That came years later with folks such as you and Fr. Z (who was never even around for 1973). It is so easy to monday morning quarterback.

    LA is an anamoly and bad liturgical law for any number of reasons. It also skews two thousand years of liturgical evolution of the church; how scripture has been translated/studied, etc.

    1. As for incorrect, I have not done a specific study of the matter, but I would still be willing to bet money that the Vulgate, the KJV and the DR are far closer to the meaning of the originals they translate than the 1973 ICEL English missal is. The translators may have worked hard and have felt that they were doing the right thing, but it just seems to me that the systematic elimination of concepts such as spirit, soul, holiness, sin and angels, and the replacing of a tone of reverential humilty toward the Almighty with one of self regarding demand is indication of an ideological tendency. As for polarization, I believe it unhistorical to think that there was no polarization and reaction to the introduction of the reformed mass, e.g., from followers of Archbishop Lefebvre as well as from an incalculable number of pewsitters suffering in silence when the radical reforms were introduced. As for confused, I don’t know in what respect my statement was supposed to be confused. As for irrelevant, the previous commentator had said that St. Jerome and the editors of the KJV and DR were practitioners of dynamic equivalence, and therefore justifying CLP. It’s not irrelevant to point out that I believe the 1973 translation goes much further afield from the original text than those other translations. Obviously, any translation is a balancing act between trying to literally convey what is said in the other language while making it understandable in the target language…

    2. 1973 English ICEL text simply strayed much too far from the meaning of the original text, much more than Jerome or the Jacobite Bible editors did, and Liturgiam Authenticam was a needed corrective to reemphasize the accuracy of the translation from the original text.

  10. Father Z has been mighty quiet lately. All these big shot bloggers wait to see which way the winds blowing before they stand up to be counted except for here. Kinda cowardly I think. Especially since what’s going on with 2010 is exactly what Father Z always complained about with 1973 ICEL. Except at least they got the English right.

  11. Charles Goldsmith :
    Such snarky cattiness… Father “Zed” has done the Church a great service by showing, collect by collect, just how far from the original the 1973 ICEL translation of the mass was.

    You say ‘snarky cattiness’, I say ‘accuracy’ . . . no one ever said the 1973 was a literal translation of the Latin: quite the contrary: it was translated under ‘dynamic equivalence’ rules: ‘Father Zed’ created a niche for himself – which was not needed, and still isn’t – for God’s sake he’s a priest of the Diocese of Velletri-Segni and NEVER GOES THERE!

    1. “…no one ever said the 1973 was a literal translation of the Latin: quite the contrary: it was translated under ‘dynamic equivalence’ rules”

      And no one is saying that 1973 was an attempt at a literal translation. That is precisely Father Z’s point, i.e., that the 1973 translations do not tell us what the Latin really says and do not even attempt to. The faithful are missing out on the riches of the Roman liturgical tradition.

      1. Fr Z is still busy having dinners in England and getting readers to spike his buddys blog: “Fr. Finigan dissects the whole thing.
        He has set his scalpel to something that remains a problem in the Church, particularly among the dumb… and liberal nuns.”

        Not a word about the mistakes of 2010. Bet these guys are all waiting to make sure they don’t upset any of the bigshots here or in Rome. OK to go after the long gone old ICEL but when Vox Clara messes up 36 pages of listed mistakes not a word. Except for Pray Tell we wouldn’t know anything till the books were all bought and it was too late.

  12. Fr. Z has no liturgical, linguistic, or translation expertise, background, or training. He is the equivalent of a “free agent” – a clerical Glenn Beck.

    Charles – you need to review the hierarchy of papal/concilar documents. Even CLP had more church authority as a document than does LA. LA is the weakest document per church authority that you can have.

    Telling us “what the Latin really says” is not the point of liturgy; most experts would tell you that you can’t even reach that degree of certitude. It is the whole “original latin” argument – there is no original latin just as when you look at various parts of the liturgy, sacramental rites/prayers, musical settings, etc. you find that the “original” (guessing the 1950’s) came from all kinds of sources – translations from Hebrew, Greek, different latin foundational texts. Not even St. Jerome (Father of the Church) advocated, used, or implemented his translations using “formal” equivalence. No linguists, no liturgists, no scripture scholar would advocate for that.

    1. Glenn Beck has no amazon wish list and works pretty hard at what he does both a daily radio show and a daily TV show and it’s market based. Ratings down, job gone. Fr Z can’t be fired and income isn’t based on output. Totally different situation.

      But he’s looking for more work. still nothing on Vox Clara creating a new missal mess like 1973. today he volunteers to work for the pope.

      “I think I would have given my right arm had the Holy Father written:

      Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, exercise your oversight and energy in correcting liturgical abuses.  For those of you in the Latin Church, you have the additional treasure which is the Extraordinary Form.  Be generous in your participation in worship with the traditional rites of our Holy Church, for what was sacred then is still sacred now.

      If the Holy Father needs a speech writer, I am available.”


  13. I have no problem at all with the idea of ‘what the prayer really says’. There are great riches in the Latin Mass texts, and I readily acknowledge that the 1973 translation didn’t convey them all. I believe that, in general, there were good reasons for the choices the 1973 translators made – see a recent article by Raymond Helmick SJ, one of the original translators, which explains some of the rationale for leaving out pleonastic and over-the-top language. As far as I can see the choices the translators made had nothing whatsoever to do with ‘dumbing down’, or ‘inventing a new religion’, or any of the tripe spouted by some popular bloggers.

    Those choices had consequences, though, and today I can see the value both of studying the Latin texts and of a translation that opens them more fully. On studying the texts, The Tablet has for years run a very fine column called ‘Listen to the Word’ by Daniel McCarthy OSB, with the collaboration of Fr Reginald Foster, the Pope’s Latinist. It provides a close analysis of the Latin prayers, free of polemic and self-serving comments.

    Translating according to the precepts of Lit Auth neither opens up the Latin nor gives us a singable, prayable text. Neither objective is accomplished. Hence the mess we’re in today.

  14. “Father “Zed” has done the Church a great service by showing, collect by collect, just how far from the original the 1973 ICEL translation of the mass was.”

    But the 1973 collects have no defenders, and they should have been replaced by the excellent translations finalized in 1998. Fr Z is barging through an open door.

    On Jerome, though he did urge dynamic equivalence as the correct method of translation, I understand that he intended to stick more to something like literal equivalence in the particular case of scriptural texts.

      1. Because they were never intended as a permanent translation; they were the last part of a temporary stop gap. What led up to the 1998 version was intended to be the permanent version.

  15. Returning to the subject of this post, the analysis of the Received Text to which the NR article draws attention, am I alone in being perturbed by the use (not picked up by the analysis) of we acclaim as a verbum dicendi translating the concluding phrases of the prefaces sine fine dicentes, dicentes clamantes, confitentes, clamantes atque dicentes, una voce dicentes, te laudamus in gaudio confitentes,laudis voce clamantes, supplici confessione dicentes, iucunda celebrations clamantes &c.
    Not only does this remove the perfectly acceptable participle – “evermore praising you and saying:”, “praising you without end saying:” and so on,
    not only does it usually fail to distinguish between
    dicentes = saying (in liturgical use normally encompassing “singing”)
    clamantes = crying/crying out/crying aloud
    confitentes = confessing/acknowledging

    But, but, I have never, in British English, encountered acclaim as a verbum dicendi. One can acclaim someone as something, e.g. “We acclaim you as Lord and King”, but I cannot think of an example of acclaim as an introduction to Direct Speech.
    Proclaim, yes, declaim, possibly, but not acclaim!
    For confitentes confessing is possible, acknowledging just makes sense in the contect of what follows, though would normally expect to acknowledge someone/thing as something.

    Is acclaim commonly used as a verbum dicendi in American English?


    1. +JMJ+

      I find the consistent translation of “acclaim” to be undesirable, and you show it to be awkward as well.

      I think the word was chosen to be a neutral term, allowing for either the speaking or singing of the Sanctus.

    2. Mr. Henley,
      I checked both the Oxford English Dictionary and the unabridged American Heritage Dictionary, and your suspicions are correct.

  16. John and Jeffrey: As you can tell from reading the actual full-length report, there was so much to cover and so little space! You’re both quite right, in my opinion, i.e. it was chosen as a neutral word; and it should not have been. You see, once they began to paraphrase (in direct contravention of Liturgiam authenticam and the Ratio translationis), 2010 got themselves into trouble, or in the fewer instances when 2008 tried it, they paved the way for the 2010 trouble.

    There were so many other points to cover: for instance, the introduction of THREE extra “I believes” into the Creed! The 2008 translators patiently explained to bishops’ conferences (back in 2006!) that the ONE “Credo” governs the whole document in Latin. When pressed (apparently) to make some change, those anonymous revisers added not TWO (at least that would have equalled the Persons in the Trinity) but THREE, placing one before the Church – for a total of FOUR! Compare that decision with Saint Thomas Aquinas (amongst many others): “If we say: ‘In’ the holy Catholic Church,’ this must be taken as verified in so far as our faith is directed to the Holy Spirit, Who sanctifies the Church; so that the sense is: ‘I believe in the Holy Spirit sanctifying the Church.’ But it is better and more in keeping with the common use, to omit the ‘in,’ and say simply, ‘the holy Catholic Church,’ as Pope Leo [Rufinus, Comm. in Sym. Apost.] observes.” Summa Theologica, Part 2b, Question 1, Article 9.

    1. +JMJ+

      Xavier, thank you for the reply.

      I found the re-introduction of “in” to the final “paragraph” of the Creed (“I believe in one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church”) to be a mis-step as well, seeing as how the Catechism of Trent makes it very clear why the Latin word “in” is omitted there. I was not aware St. Thomas (and Rufinus) had addressed the matter long before.

  17. Xavier,
    Thank you for your reply: I assume you are [or in contact with those] behind the report.
    I can see why a word might be thought necessary to cover both speaking & singing, as Jeffrey puts it, though one only has to to turn the Anglican Use book, The Book of Divine Worship -“evermore praising thee and saying” to realise that saying has covered speaking and singing since dicentes was first Englished some 480 years ago, and that dicentes itself was inclusive of singing since its first use a 1000 or more years before that!

    But my main grouse is that a verb, acclaim, is employed in a manner which is unprecedented in British English, and, as neither Jeffrey nor yourself have mentioned it, is not known in American English, either.

    Would I be right in assuming, Xavier, that :-
    1] This analysis has been submitted to the relevant people in Rome?
    2] That the Received Text is still not “set in stone” despite New Zealand employing parts of it from the end of this month?
    Is their any possibility of acclaim getting jettisoned, even at this late hour? After all, Solesmes did get permission to make small alterations to the revised Latin text when it first appeared, to better accomodate the plainchant!


  18. John: I concur with your observations regarding “acclaim” and “dicentes. As I’ve already “acclaimed” too often in the articles: “Just translate the Latin!”

    Regarding your questions:

    1) Those familiar with the situation say the report was submitted to the Congregation for Divine Worship some time ago.

    2) At least one American-based publisher’s blog says the US Secretariat for Divine Worship has given them the OK to begin printing the musical scores for the Order of Mass (e.g., the FOUR “I believes” Credo), so if it’s not “set in stone,” it’s at least typeset!

    I mentioned the rubrical change “bow” to “bend.” Other rubrical retranslations will interest those who know British English. 2008’s rubric at the beginning Lent urging that the “Stational Churches” practice be “preserved and fostered” becomes 2010’s “kept and promoted,” like an American ad campaign. 2008’s “outside the church to which the procession will go” becomes “will head” in 2010. And “the Procession takes place” in 2008 becomes 2010’s “the Procession sets off”. Sets off what, the fire alarms? And why? What but gratuitous whimsy or “look at what I can do” authoritarianism could prompt such ridiculous and ill-chosen changes to a perfectly fine text (2008)?

  19. Fr. Anthony, do you (or Xavier R.) have any insight into why the 2010 received doxology text was not included in the “Areas of Difficulty” report? In light of your critique of August 22, it seems that this prominent text would have been a likely candidate to target. Did the report’s drafters not find issue with it, as you did, or are the powers that be simply resigned to accept this received text “as is”?

    1. Peter – dunno. I have this vague memory that the Doxology got botched up later – maybe it wasn’t yet wrecked when the internal report was written?

      One problem in all this – we see it in the otherwise excellent “OBOSIC” DVD – is that it’s notoriously difficult to get all the texts to match up accurately when the “latest final version” of the text keeps changing.


  20. Father Anthony,
    Thank you for your response. There seems to be only one question left for me, “Who in Rome is in the right position to have their attention drawn to these pressing concerns?” In other words, is there anyone who has the clout to listen and do something about it, or are we left to sing “Without end we proclaim” …. throughout all ages, world without end!

    1. John: They’re still revising the final text – maybe they’ve completed it by now. The final line of the prefaces will be fixed, I’m told, so I’m hoping for the best when it is released.

  21. I have a question that just struck me. How can one demand absolute obedience to the magisterium and at the same time refuse to accept the teachings of the Constitutions that were promulgated by the ecumenical council known as Vatican 2? If the Holy Spirit was in play through that Council, and even if it wasn’t, doesn’t Christ always protect his bride? Those on either side of the argument accuse each other of being revisionist and evil and destructive forces. I think we all need to follow the Gospel and “take the log out of our own eye before we remove the speck in our neighbor’s eye.” (loose paraphrase, in direct conflict with LA). I for one am weary of this whole bickering. Why don’t we work at finding the strengths in our neighbors instead of tearing them down? It is Advent after all, let’s prepare for the coming of the Lord. Who knows, if we’re lucky the Messiah will return before Advent 2011 and this will all be wasted energy that should of been spent on preparing ourselves for the Kingdom.

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