This week’s print edition of The Tablet has four letters about the missal translation, three of them critical of it. Here is one of the critical letters.
As a former French teacher who also studied Latin for 10 years, I would not have let a pupil get away with the obtuse “new” translation that is to be foisted on us. Translation has two distinct steps. First, you have to understand, if possible, what the original meant to the people who wrote it. Then you have to express that meaning in the structures and cadences of your own language. European Union documents are a dire warning about leaving out the second step. Although English uses thousands of words from other languages, its structure is northern European, not Latin-based, and Latinate usages do not sound natural. Flowery language to the modern English person sounds insincere and antiquated, not a short cut to solemnity. I heard one defender of the Latin Mass say that he liked not understanding it properly, “because it was more mysterious.” This is religion as mumbo-jumbo, not as a vital way of life. The German bishops have politely rejected the Vatican translation, pointing out that they as Germans best know what the German language of worship should be. Can the English bishops not find means to do the same?
Seaford, East Sussex
Pray Tell reader Chris McDonnell writes to tell us that his letter to The Tablet is available online in Letters Extra:
The continued discussion in The Tablet of the issues surrounding the new translation of the Missal is to be welcomed. Without this steady pressure and concern from various sources the laity would still be largely ignorant of the impending difficulties. Following Fr. Philip Endean’s recent Tablet article, “Worship and Power,” his letter (November 6) summarizes succinctly the confusion we now face. After detailing the significant issues, his suggestion that we remain with the 1973 text and effectively start again, drawing on the ICEL and the recent work, is a practical way to move forward. There is still a startling silence from our hierarchy who should by now be aware of the real disquiet felt by many of us, yet have so far done little to help resolve our concerns.