Revising the translation, renewing the Mass

Here is the address recently delivered by Fr. Paul Turner, “Revising the Translation, Renewing the Mass,” from Fr. Turner’s excellent website. In this address he speaks honestly to 12 objections raised against the new Mass translation.


  1. Fr. Paul Turner’s article is must reading and excellent as are his resources from LTP to help parishes implement the new translation. I like in particular his conciliatory tone, his acknowledgment of the difficult areas and his pastoral skill at trying to bring everyone along. This is very helpful indeed. At the same time, I hope all priests will realize that they can’t just come in on Sunday and wing it through these new prayers, especially the orations. Serious study of these will be necessary as well as praying them out loud to hear how these sound and how to read the longer sentences properly. Now how do we get the majority of priests to practice ahead of time? That’s the real conundrum.

    1. Fr. McDonald, as a layman, I study the prayers of the Mass–especially the orations and the preface(s) I anticipate, and usually also the readings–before going to Sunday Mass. I frequently lead the daily morning prayer group in my parish, and never do so without reviewing the hymn, psalms and canticle, antiphons, etc. in advance. It seems incomprehensible to me that a priest would not prepare as least as much for his celebration of Holy Mass. If they don’t do so now, then a new translation that forces them to might be a much needed benefit in itself.

      1. The majority of priests do not have as much time as you seem to presuppose given their workload. How about 2 weddings on a Saturday, then a Saturday vigil Mass, then 3 Sunday masses, then daily masses, then two or three funerals. Oh, and if your in a cluster of five parished, good luck. And these are just the masses, without considering homilies, and the rest of their lives both pastoral and personal.

        Obviously, a convoluted english translation as a way of “forcing” preparation is just ri·dic·u·lous!

        Let the presbyterate come down off their crosses.

      2. Most priests, C H E, thankfully, are more like publicans (cf Luke 18:9-14) but if it wasn’t for people like you, poor Jesus would’ve had no one to teach about.

      3. J. Thomas,

        If the priest you described only offered three Masses
        on a Sat. then that is less than a four hour day. If he still offered the Sat. daily Mass & a Requiem that is a six hour day including time to hear confessions. He would still have plenty of time for a pastoral visit or two before reaching the typical work day of a layman who works on a Saturday. Ditto for Sunday if he only offers three Masses there. Weekdays as you’ve described them seem lighter than Sunday. I think C. Henry’s point is a valid one.

      4. Jack Nolan,

        If presiding at Mass is like teaching a graduate class then it is draining and requires both intensive preparation beforehand and recuperation afterwards. Some activities are just like that. Going to the extreme, you wouldn’t say that the athlete competing for the 100 meter race at the Olympics only works for 10 seconds, would you?

        Thinking of the sacrifical aspect of Mass: how many times in one day can you offer yourself body and soul? If the priest gives it his all, and does it from the bottom of his heart, won’t he be exhausted afterwards? Sure, if he’s just mouthing the words without internalizing the meaning, reading the homily wihtout connecting to the people, and occasionally bending his body without the internal disposition of respect that goes with bowing, then it’s all external and he could do that many times over. But that would not be the Mass we want.

      5. One of the popes, I think Pius XII but I’m not sure, said that a priest should not celebrate Mass more than twice a day because it is not good for his spiritual life. The current legislation is that only one Mass per day is permitted, but the Ordinary may grant permission for two Masses. I believe only the Holy See can grant permission for three Masses a day. The Church cares deeply about the Eucharist and the integrity of the celebration of the Sacrifice of the Mass, obviously, in these norms.

      6. Our previous bishop, Raymond Lessard always told his priests that two Masses should be the limit on any given day, including Sunday, but by way of exception three would be permitted by a priest, but he absolutely forbade four and said that a deacon or lay person should offer a substitute liturgy, either Communion outside of Mass or Evening/Morning Prayer or even Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament if a deacon was available, using of course the Scriptures for that given Sunday.

      7. Just the Mass schedule on a weekend at my parish exceeds even what J. Thomas mentions – we have 2 on Saturday and 5 on Sunday, with two priests. In two languages. On rather rare occasion we have a visiting priest from the local hospital or private Catholic high school [the diocesan high school chaplains are already assigned parishes]. Weddings, funerals, and confession all go on top of that. They take turns with the homily, which at least gives them something of a break every other week.

        I don’t know how high up they have to go to get permission for all of that, but it’s been that way for years.

  2. This is high-class, elegant, sincere, well-crafted spin. It admits some of the problems. On some conceptions of the pastoral task it is honest–after all, you may think that the role of the pastor is to present authoritative teaching in the best possible light. But it will not do when authority has behaved ignorantly and high-handedly, and when the problems are so severe as to discredit the whole project. At the very least, we need the author to tell us why the problems he admits are outstanding should not at least make us say ”wait”. We need pastors to be honest in the sense of expressing what they really think. So much of our malaise as Church comes from people saying what they think they ought, rather than their reasoned and conscientious convictions.

  3. My comments [in brackets].

    “Those who labored hard on the translation find that many words and phrases are being altered [MUTILATED], and they will wonder how much the authorities in Rome truly value the expertise they brought to the project over many years, offering the sacrifice of their considerable gifts and faith” [as those who labored before them discovered: NOT MUCH. Or at least NOT MORE than exercising their own power and advancing their own careers].

    “I want to believe that everyone has the best interests of the Church at heart, [see brackets above; I must get my letter to Santa written today] but the process did not allow good [ANY] communication among the various bodies [until it was too late: cf. “Areas of Difficulty”]. For example, no one on ICEL attends the meetings of Vox Clara, and no one on Vox Clara attends the meetings of ICEL. Some of the best minds of the Church were not speaking to each other in person as the translation progressed, and a project that could have been enriched by better communication and trust stands to be [IS OBVIOUSLY] diminished” [Breaking News: “some of the best minds of the Church” were on neither ICEL nor Vox Clara].

    If the information Bishop Serratelli shared in the statement he issued (anyone care to guess WHO wrote that and WHERE?) is accurate: i.e., the text already has the recognitio, my guess is that almost everything in “Areas of Difficulty” was ignored. Since the Internet will permit comparison of 2008, “Areas”, the leaked 2010, and the final Missal, criticism will be deflected by blaming “the many amendments proposed by the conferences”.

    Clearly, Father Turner is not going too far out on the limb for what’s about to be delivered. But the gushing enthusiasm in some quarters for this badly-flawed product pretty much settles for many of us the identity of “the lesser-skilled, anonymous, and well-positioned laborers.”

  4. First, it is well written and well thought out. But, like Fr. Endean, it is an “apologia” and well-crafted “spin”. His own 12 points highlight how this project has been way laid:
    a) would suggest that you could approach John Page and others involved for 15+ years on the 1998 version approved by all english speaking conferences. You could come up with the same type of “introduction” but it would have far fewer points in terms of those concerned about the upcoming translation;
    b) good point – those captivated by the pre-VII missal seem to also oppose VII directions. So, why are we spending so much time on such a small contingent when there are significant issues facing the church – he does talk about permission to celebrate LTM but skips over how this is a “radical” departure from tradition; no mention that the church has usually suppressed older missals, etc. How convenient.
    c) his point on our fellow churches and how they participated in every liturgical translation project since VII is dismissed with – “we will have to find some other way to reach out to them”…weak, dismisses ecclesiology, and corrupts the very nature of liturgy and how it impacts folks;
    d) his point on latin is also weak – he actually shows the two faced aspect when he discusses the fact that since VII some EPs were written in vernaculars and translated back to latin – some how he does not seem to emphasize what this means? His focus is on latin;
    e) music – again, he confronts this complaint but his response skips over the actual impact and for what reason?
    f) not sure I agree with his skipping over early church liturgies which may not have been in latin – again, how convenient
    g) expense – he names it and gives a limp reply
    h) collegiality – again, a limp reply – basically, yes but
    i) CLP vs. LA – nothing about the genesis of LA; how many experts feel it is bad law; poor liturgical/translation principles, and how it is from a church authority viewpoint, a very weak…

  5. Philip;

    I was once told “it’s not really obedience if you are in total agreement” I would say that the last thing we need is Pastors “voicing what they think”. Perhaps this would be a good time to contemplate that pastoral approach that has been so widely exercised in past years

    1. Obedience to human authority is not a virtue, but a conditional means to an end: obedience to God and to the truth. And I advocated that people should speak out of their reasoned, conscientious convictions, not just spout out what they happen to be thinking on a wet Wednesday afternoon. The point is: honesty about our own convictions is the first, and an indispensable, step in finding good practical decisions under God.

      1. Just as Blessed John Henry Newman argued; more people need to read his work to have a better understanding of using one’s conscience v obedience.

      2. I’m just not seeing Fr. Philip’s conditional means to an end in LG (25) “religious submission of mind and will”(Vatican 2).

  6. Avery Dulles who put forward the theology of the five models of the Church in post-Vatican II ecclesiology says the following:
    “In the end, none of the (5) models is sufficient to address the fullness of God’s call to the church. Each model truly highlights and underscores a vital aspect of the church. By its very constitution, the Church is a communion of grace (mystical communion) structured as a human society (Institution). While sanctifying its own members, it offers praise and worship to God (sacrament). It is permanently charged with the responsibility of spreading the good news of the gospel (herald) and of healing and consolidating the human community (servant).
    The church is both a great mystery and a divine gift. As a mystery, we can only begin to understand it through analogy – through models. However, all models fall woefully short of the reality they represent. No matter what model – or combination of models – we choose, our models will fall short. Furthermore, the church is always incomplete and unfinished until the eschaton – a blemished bride until the fullness of God’s redemptive purpose is complete. As such, the church will never fully live up to any model, no matter how valid or comprehensive it is.”

    In other words, none of the models will be perfect or lead to a perfect Church or perfect vernacular translation or method of translating on this side of the Second Coming. I am surprised at how many in academia and elsewhere think that various post Vatican II models will create a perfect Church on this side of the eschaton and how negative they are about imperfection. They must really hate themselves.

    1. For what it’s worth, I think that the trope of ‘models’ in ecclesiology, popularized by Dulles, is of limited value–even in his own rather careful version, let alone in the form in which theological journalism took it up. My objections to the outrage of the new translation emerge not from a preference of one model of church over the other, but from an insistence that something important happened at Vatican II: that the official Church acknowledged that it was neither simply monarchic nor simply Roman. The Curia hated it at the time; the Curia have hated it ever since; and it’s they who have stayed in Rome and done their best to minimise the effects of this acknowledgment. What worries me about the new translation is that symbolically it expresses an anti-Conciliar reaction.

      1. If what you say is true, and I think there is some flexibility in debating the point about an anti-conciliar reaction, then you demonstrate the point that Dulles makes even if you choose rather to focus on monarchy (which is really the institutional dimension of his model) or Roman which is in fact what we are in the Church of the Latin Rite. Now I don’t see Sacrosantum Concilium or LA effecting the other parts of the Roman Church of the East, since these are not Latin Rite Catholics but Eastern Rite. So there is diversity and a non “Roman” approach with them and their liturgies are there not? In terms of the curia, we have a new bunch there who were not there right after the Council, so to speak of them in a rather “collective, non changing, pre-Vatican II way” seems a bit of hyperbole, but of course the Gospels and preachers love hyperbole. It can be very powerful to make a point for good or ill. But the hermeneutic of reform within continuity rather than rupture does change the game.

      2. The problem might actually be that what happened at Vatican II was not what some people wish had happened at
        Vatican II. It also might be the typical problem that retired people face when their projects are renewed or rejected by their successors who do not see the same value in them that their predecessors saw.
        We have to read the “signs of the times” and move forward with the whole Church of today and of history.

  7. Perhaps not all divisions here can be bridged, but I felt more optimistic when reminded what we are really about by Cardinal Burke’s words in a recent sermon at the North American College in Rome:

    “I think also of the tireless work of our Holy Father to carry out a reform of the post-Conciliar liturgical reform, conforming the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy to the perennial teaching of the Church as it was presented anew at the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, so that in every liturgical action we may see more clearly the action of Christ Himself who unites heaven and earth, even now, in preparation for His Final Coming, when He will inaugurate ‘new heaven and a new earth,’ when we will all celebrate the fullness of life and love in the liturgy in the heavenly Jerusalem. The Cardinal today is called, in a special way, to assist the Successor of Saint Peter, in handing on, in an unbroken organic line, what Christ Himself has given us in the Church, His Eucharistic Sacrifice, ‘the font and highest expression of the whole Christian life.’ The right order of Sacred Worship in the Church is the condition of the possibility of the right order of her teaching and the right order of her conduct.”

    It’s too bad that these translation squabbles probably don’t rise to the level of decision by the Apostolic Signatura.

  8. “He [the bishop] holds an especially competent position to feel the pulse of the people at prayer.”

    I’d like to believe this, but I doubt this is generally true. I think to “feel the pulse”, you have to be living among the people, not dropping in for a visit. I’d say the parish priest, and collectively priests, have a much better sense of the “pulse of the people at prayer” than does the bishop, for whom on any visit, special preparations are made that result in something at variance with the common practice of the community. Nor are there usually the kinds of opportunities for listening and dialog that would be necessary to “feel the pulse”.

  9. If every pastor and pastoral musician were of Fr Turner’s character, this implementation would go smoothly indeed. On the other hand if every liturgical bureaucrat and liturgist-wannabe in Rome were, we wouldn’t be in this pickle to begin with.

    Spinmaster or not, it would seem Fr Turner has the ear of these people. One would hope that off the record, he’s trying to communicate how difficult they are making his/our task.

    I wonder why we need the occasion of a translation (horrid at worst; controversial at best) to renew the Mass. If we were serious about the presence of Christ, it would be an occasion of renewal every time we celebrate.

    1. “If every pastor and pastoral musician were of Fr Turner’s character, this implementation would go smoothly indeed.

      Perhaps it will, because most I see in real life are positive and well-intentioned. Even though incessant negativism is so conspicuous in blogs (at both extremes).

  10. I really don’t care about the reasons and processes of the translation. I care that the result IS ugly language, that for many it WILL hinder their prayer and celebration of the mass, that familiarity of texts and music is crucial to people’s participation of the mass and that as result of these changes (no matter what the explanation) we will lose people and we will damage our relationship with other Christian Churches.

  11. Although Fr. Turner was tasked with dealing with objections to the new translation, he did so in a pretty balanced manner – in my view at least.
    He wasn’t condescending , he didn’t minimize the difficulties ahead and it certainly was not a rendition of “Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows” or “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”
    I would certainly welcome that sort of approach in my own parish.

  12. Paul Turner two to three years ago gave every appearance of having sold his soul to the devil, and I for one was astonished and could not believe that he himself actually believed what he was saying, knowing his writings and reputation up to that time. It seemed like a complete U-turn.

    I have seen him progressively modify his position and his writings and talks since then, to the point where, in lectures, he is prepared to criticise both the text and the process, while defending other aspects of what the text is designed to achieve (though he is quite open to admitting that it is certainly not entirely successful in its aspirations).

    I view him now as a bridge between the hidebound ideologists who are pushing the new translation as a cynical political manoeuvre and those who have the pastoral good of the Church at heart. He has a foot in both camps, and I believe that he is one of the few who can keep the dialogue going so that, somehow, we can find a way out of this God-awful mess.

    This particular paper is only one of a number that I have heard him give, and I would say that it is probably unfair to judge him on the basis of this one alone. I also think that he feels free to say in public things that he would probably not commit to writing, in order to retain that ‘bridge’ status with the parties concerned.

    He has found himself in a difficult position and I believe that he is doing his best both to maintain conversations between all parties and still be true to himself. Whether he has yet succeeded is of course a matter of opinion, but I would be inclined to view him as a ‘work in progress’.

    1. Paul,

      I’m skeptical about this “bridge” idea. The reason being that the traffic on this bridge seems only to be going in one direction. That is to say, the entire effort is to convince the skeptical (read progressives) of the value and persuasiveness of the translation program, and to assure them that by buying into it, they will be doing the right thing.

      The bridge is working in that direction. He is “bringing them around” in a way that Bishop Serratelli or Cardinal George or the authors of LA could never do. With a combination of talent, persuasive talk, and sincere warmth, “bridge” figures are succeeding in helping many people to swallow something they otherwise find unpalatable, and accept something which their conscience is uneasy about.

      But what about the other direction? Are the members of Vox Clara more convinced of the validity of the objections and the point of view represented by the Catholic progressives because of nice guys like Fr. Turner shoveling their driveway for them? Do you have any evidence to suggest that Fr. Turner, or any other “bridge” figure who might be active in this ICEL effort, is actually bringing any traffic in the other direction?

      Because if they are not, then this one-way bridge is useful for Vox Clara, but maybe not for the rest of us.

  13. Thanks, Paul. I stand by my earlier analysis but your helpful and wise re-framing does put a different perspective on this. For the pastoral good of the church, I hope you are correct and I hope that Fr. Turner is able to be an effective “bridge”.

  14. I could not agree with Paul Inwood more here. I know Fr. Turner personally, and there is much integrity in what he is saying, and I believe also that his role as the implementation becomes more engaged, will be a most welcome one.

    The pastoral materials (including his new book – OUSTANDING!) that he is writing for LTP and WLP are tremendous, and to me among the best resources we have to head into the implementation. His materials and teaching is, as Paul Inwood is saying, having to find a way to keep the dialogue and process as positive as possible – keeping the praying church at heart.

    However, I do not share his optimism that the best of intentions were always at the heart of this process. I also want to raise what is perhaps an unpopular issue… while I can embrace latin as a source text – language, its meaning, intentions and perceptions change with time… the principle of dynamic equivalence attempts to bridge this tension with our “tradition” and our also being a “pilgrim” church. LA in my view does not honor our being a pilgrim church – it seems to honor only that we remain in a museum, and disrespects a reality that language is not static, and the “language theory” that Fr. Turner speaks about seems flawed. From this point of view, I am not sure that the new translation truly honors V2… I am not a scholar or a language or linguistic expert at all, but it seems to me that our language can hold true to our tradition and still recognize its dynamic and progressive nature – that times change, the church changes (it sure did with V2), and its language needs to embody these truths.

    Regardless – this is a most welcome paper that he has written… it is already helping me to shape my presentations and teaching on this issue… and I do believe that we need more like him to keep this conversation SANE, intelligent, thoughtful and pastoral. Much of the “blabbing” back and forth on this stuff is not addressing the pastoral concerns that…

    1. “that times change, the church changes (it sure did with V2)…”

      The crux of the problem may be that the Church did not change as much as some seem to imagine she did at Vatican II (see Fr. Philips post above). Some of the work done in liturgy clearly misinterpreted these things. LA honors our tradition and works to preserve our identity as Latin Catholics. This is the pastoral benefit of LA and why many Catholics rejoice in it.

      One thing that has changed is the Church’s translation rule & the status quo re. liturgy in the western rite. We should work to recognize the benefit these more contemporary norms bring (LA and SP).

  15. is welcome in this piece and the work that he is doing.

    I would not go as far as calling it “spin,” although I can understand why some think so. I think Fr. Turner recognizes the peril that we are in, and is trying to find ways for us to honestly move forward in a spirit of ministry and to the most important cause of the centrality of the Eucharist and the quality of liturgical celebration in our lives.

    1. David, just a thought about your remarks about “pilgrim church” — this stems from my work with Eucharistic Prayer IV, which exists in Latin and in a number of different English translations, shared by a variety of churches. My point in that work is that the English translations are no less wholesale instantiations than is the Latin on which they’re based; in other words, in themselves, they’re the real thing, not some concession or pale imitation of a superior original. I fear that such a negative attitude is behind LA, a sort of “well, if you must, then here’s how, but we’d rather you not.”

      In all this, I sometimes wonder if the pilgrim nature of the church is taken seriously by those in power — or if they view locally instantiated, locally inculturated liturgy as a concession, a pale imitation. It’s the ecclesiological dichotomy between the universal church versus the catholic church as realized fully in the local church. Regardless of what Vatican II says, or seems to say, or is interpreted (rightly or wrongly) to say, it’s clear that the present Roman Pontiff’s ecclesiology is toward the universal, a sum greater than the parts. That, I believe (fear, regret?) is what’s behind LA.

      Thanks, as always, for sharing your thoughts.

      1. Cody,

        In the Roman Church vernacular translations of the official Latin prayers used at Mass are by concession. Paul VI conceded the vernacular EP’s in 1967. This means that your concern about LA “attitude” is nothing more than what always already was.

  16. The other problem with this more purist understanding of the original Latin, is that when we embrace this school of thought, our language then enters into direct conflict with our theology.

    Example: I do believe that our church teaching proclaims that Christ’s salvation is for ALL… but in the institution narrative in the new translation says it is for “the many.” Why? Because it is being true to the Latin. But is it true to who we are and what we believe? Again, I am not a theologian, but I know enough about it to say that our prayer life should reflect a bit more authentically what we believe. All of the catechesis in the world will not explain away how such language will undoubtedly be received, from where I sit.

    1. We should pray what we believe.

      Otherwise what’s the point?

      We don’t believe Jesus died only for some, who are many, not all.

    2. David Haas, you asked “Why?”

      The story goes something like this.

      All the English-speaking conferences of bishops agreed that we would continue to translate “pro multis” as “for all” (in both the 1998 and 2008 translations) and (with echoes of both the new ICEL and Vox Clara) the rump who wanted “many” got on their tom-toms to Cardinal Arinze, who, in an audience of the Pope, asked the question “What do you want it to be?” and you know the Pope’s answer.

    3. David, I would guess the choice to go with “for many” rather than “for all” stems from a desire to strengthen biblical allusions where possible. The phrase “for many” appears in two of the institution narratives, Mark 14:24 (“This is the blood of the covenant which is poured out for many”) and Matthew 26:28 (“… poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins”). Jesus also uses the phrase earlier in Mark, in his description of the cost of discipleship: “For the Son of Man himself came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (10:45). The phrase is itself a Semitic idiom. Here’s Prof. Morna Hooker on the interpretive issues: “His death is said to benefit ‘many’. To us, this word suggests exclusion: ‘many but not all’. In Semitic thought, the emphasis is more likely to be inclusive: the contrast is not between the many who are saved and others who are not, but between the many and the one who acts on their behalf. It is this contrast that we find in Isaiah 53:11ff. [‘The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities…’] … If Jesus’ life is given for many, therefore, this may well be understood to mean he dies on behalf of all God’s people.” In terms of translating “pro multis” for the liturgy, I understand why some translators have chosen “for all” to erase any theological confusion, but what gets suppressed is a key instance of Jesus’ Semitic diction. Why not use it as a teaching opportunity? American Catholics know from idiomatic expressions, after all.

    4. This shows the problem when the Latin is not translated accurately. The rule of prayers is the rule of belief. You have it reversed here, instead of our prayer life reflecting what any one person happens to believe at the moment, our belief should be formed by our prayer. The liturgy is to form us, we don’t shape the liturgy. This goes to what this whole debate is really all about.

      1. So, Jack, if it says “for many” and not “for all” then Christ didn’t die for all?

      2. Chris,

        Do you really presume Catholics both in the Latin Church and in the Eastern rites where “many” is also used don’t possess a Catholic understanding of the redemption? Where do you think we got it? Do you think we had to wait until 1970 to suddenly accept the doctrine of the redemption?

      3. “The liturgy is to form us, we don’t shape the liturgy” – ?? I’m sorry, but anyone who has read five pages of liturgical history or inculturation theory knows that the relationship has gone in both directions for 2,000 years now. How one earth do you think we ever got to the Tridentine liturgy if we never shaped liturgy the previous 1,500 years?

      4. It is difficult for me to believe that you thought I
        imagined a Sinai experience with the text of the liturgy in the manner of Moses & the 10 Commandments.
        I refer to the discussion at hand, someone said “we should
        pray what we believe” that removes the possibility that we would accept what Benedict XVI rightly calls the
        “givenness” of the liturgy. Texts would be redrafted by each bishop (meaning a committee) or by majority vote to reflect whatever doctrine a local community chooses to accept. It also demolishes the concept of liturgical rite.
        No thanks. That is why we are privileged, indeed blessed to have the Holy See retain, as Vatican II said, the authority to regulate the liturgy (SC 22).

  17. While I appreciated Fr. Turner’s valiant efforts, I do think he minimizes much of the difficulty. From what I’ve seen especially in the Prefaces and Eucharistic Prayers the translators have a minimal grasp of English syntax. Proclaimability now seems a colossal feat for a presider. The sense of a sentence should be immediately discernible. But these require careful study which says to me that although English words are used the language is other than English. I’m not a Latin scholar, but I did teach Latin, and I can say that some ablative absolutes are translated in ways that sound a bit silly. I can’t see how this contributes to prayerful proclamation.

  18. Fr Turner doesn’t really analyse the rules of translation commanded by Liturgiam Authenticam, which is the fatal flaw in this whole sorry saga and cause of the prevaling translation stupidity. He only analyses the symptoms that LA produces, which is not all that helpful for someone wanting a deeper understanding.

    But can he attack LA without undermining his own position completely and compromising any financial benefits he will receive? At the risk of being mean: is there not a conflict of interest? Is Fr Turner benefitting financially from the decisions he helped make as a member of ICEL and through the books he now sells to explain and justify his decisions? Does that harm his credibility and ability to be open-minded?

    1. A “conflict of interest” indeed, Graham, and not for the first time

      In February 2010 Paul Turner wrote a piece of pure spin for The Tablet, saying how well and wonderfully his parishioners across many age groups had received (what he then thought was) the new translation when he’d “road tested” it with them in small groups.

      Trouble was, he didn’t tell the WHOLE story.

      The following week, The Tablet carried this clarification:


      Last week’s Parish Practice article on the new English translation of the Mass was written by Fr Paul Turner who described himself as a parish priest in Missouri, USA, and a team member for the North American Forum on the Catechumenate. Fr Turner also has another role, which he clarified to The Tablet this week, as a facilitator for the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (Icel).

  19. Fr Paul Turner has obviously never read any of the fine dissertations on the flawed Missal grammar by Bishop Donald Trautman.

    1. The problem is that Bishop Trautman’s sentiments were not shared by the general body of Bishops of the USCCB as well as his committee, the CDW. He tried every stall tactic and acted as a sour loser when his proposals were voted down.

  20. Jack Nolan :
    Do you really presume Catholics both in the Latin Church and in the Eastern rites where “many” is also used don’t possess a Catholic understanding of the redemption? Where do you think we got it? Do you think we had to wait until 1970 to suddenly accept the doctrine of the redemption?


    Do you always answer a question with a question?

    1. +JMJ+

      So … if it says “for many” and not “for all” then Christ didn’t die for all?

      Christ died for all, but not all have their sins remitted. It’s the effect — the forgiving/remission of their sins — that is limited to “the many”, not the pouring out of the blood, the dying.

  21. From Jack: “In the Roman Church vernacular translations of the official Latin prayers used at Mass are by concession. Paul VI conceded the vernacular EP’s in 1967. This means that your concern about LA “attitude” is nothing more than what always already was.”

    Jack – again you confuse the various levels of authority given to documents. Paul VI (conceded is your word) approved the request from all english speaking and other conferences to use the vernacular in more than just EPs….this happened as a result of VII SC’s liturgical principles (you appear to give much more weight to minor SC sections than to the actual key principles). It was a logical evolution from an almost total approval vote on SC by the 1,400+ bishops at VII.

    LA is a minor document composed by a couple of folks; given a pass by JPII and then acted on by a small group now going by the name Vox Clara.

    There is no comparison between the two. LA (as stated by most experts) is poorly written and based on a very contorted view of linguistics, liturgy, translation, etc.

    LA is an “attitude” – SC was a organic development that led to vernacular translations. LA is a “rupture” to use Fr. MacDonald’s phrase.

    Some day in the future historians will show that the current hermeneutic of continuity within the reform is exactly what it states – someone’s interpretation. And like all interpretation, will predict that it will not hold up to time….it will prove to be a “passing” phenomenon that retarded the organic growth of the church since VII. Thus, a sad and fearful reaction by a minority.

    1. Bill writes that “the current hermeneutic of continuity within the reform is exactly what it states – someone’s interpretation.” I agree. In fact, I think “hermeneutic of continuity” is basically a “spirit of the council” which bears all the marks of the era in which it was invented – namely, our era and not 1963 when Sacrosanctum concilium was approved.

      1. We can see the hermeneutic you mention (continuity) in the 1965 Roman Missal and in the translations conceded through 1967. The hermeneutic of rupture, as I see it, came later.
        And Bill, conceded is not just my word. It is the word used when granting permission to use vernacular texts liturgically over and over again.

      2. I agree with Bill and Fr Anthony on this.

        To pile one (modern!) shibboleth on another: the “hermeneutic of continuity” seems to lead us straight to a “dictatorship of relativism”.

    2. What baffles me is the hermeneutic of “the hermeneutic of continuity.” Is there a way to get “the post VII reform was a rupture” out of the following passage from Sacramentum Caritatis:

      The difficulties and even the occasional abuses which were noted, it was affirmed, cannot overshadow the benefits and the validity of the liturgical renewal, whose riches are yet to be fully explored. Concretely, the changes which the Council called for need to be understood within the overall unity of the historical development of the rite itself, without the introduction of artificial discontinuities.(6)

      The footnote here clarifies: (6) I am referring here to the need for a hermeneutic of continuity also with regard to the correct interpretation of the liturgical development which followed the Second Vatican Council

      1. +JMJ+

        He mentions “the liturgical renewal” broadly, and says its riches are yet to be fully explored. He writes of “the changes which the Council called for”, not “the changes which were made.”

    3. If LA is a minor document, it is major enough to give us a new translation of the Mass. It is strikingly similar to the earliest translation of the vernacular Mass that followed the council and is organic, evidently, since its principles are seen in the translations used by other Latin rite vernacular missals and in the vernacular translations used by the Eastern rites. Contemporary events show us that CLP was the rupture.

      1. Contemporary events show us that “the benefits and the validity of the liturgical renewal” are not overshadowed by its problems. CLP is not a rupture, nor is LA. Each is a part of the historical development of the liturgy.

        The preceding paragraph is my understanding of the “hermeneutic of continuity” as B16 uses it here. I cannot follow when people cite the hermeneutic of continuity to justify calling something a rupture. We have a need for a hermeneutic of continuity also with regard to the correct interpretation of the liturgical development which followed the Second Vatican Council.

  22. I will comment on Paul Turner’s remarks later, but as music ministers,we are constantly told that the liturgy is not shaped by the music, but the music is shaped by the liturgy. Meaning, by the prayers, the general themes and ideas of the Scripture readings, as well as by the Responsorial Psalm. But, we do shape the liturgy, and the liturgy also shapes us. It is both. When I plan liturgies, I always pay attention to whether or not something will confuse the congregation or not. I am always reminding my partner that we need to look out for “Joe Pew” the average Catholic in the pew and keep things simple so the congregation can understand it.
    Sometimes I think she forgets this. A month and half ago,she drafted these prayers of the faithful with another one of her liturgy planning partners where she started the petitions “We pray for……” and she ended the petiton, “We pray with hopeful hearts, grateful hearts, etc.” And I sang a for a few of the Masses that weekend, and I looked around and I saw that people were thrown and they didn’t quite know how to respond. Even though the people’s response was still Lord hear our prayer, people didn’t know that.
    My point for giving that vignette is because it shows what happens when people are not catechised properly on why we ended the petitions differently than what the congregation is used to.

  23. My comments on Revising the Translation, renewing the Mass are as follows :
    In the 6th concern, “Latin is dead’, Fr. Turner raises some excellent points. Maybe the adult faith formation of the faithful needs to include a course in basic church Latin as those who were born after Vatican II such as myself have no background in it, but through my music ministry experience, I have sung things in Latin, but with much disagreement on how something is pronounced in Latin.
    7) As far as losing common Christian texts, I thought we were the first and original Christian Church with all others being formed after the Protestant Reformation and the Crusades. So I didn’t think there was a requirement that our prayers had to have similiar words with our other Protestant Christian brethren. So this doesn’t bother me.
    8) The prayers include gender exclusive vocabulary. Since there cannot be agreement on whether or not it should occur in prayers, perhaps a gender neutral approach like “It is right and just” makes sense. But, the Vatican, in 1997 did issue its norms on inclusive language. They were, almost a point by point negation of the 1990 of the US bishops “Criteria For the Evaluation of inclusive Language of Scriptural Texts Proposal for Liturgical Use. ”
    This can be found at
    Personally, when some people in church say, “It is right to give HIM thanks and praise” and others say “It is right to give GOD thanks and praise” drives me nuts. ” When did the Mass become an individual action, instead of a communal one??? The approved words are ‘It is right to give HIM thanks and praise.” Those are the words EVERYONE should say, regardless of how they feel about them. It’s the same in Marty Haugen’s Come All Ye Faithful Gathering Rite. In the Gloria, Marty gave a choice of either “peace to GOD’S people on Earth” versus”Peace to HIS people on Earth” Since that is what is in the Sacramentary. that’s what we sing.

  24. My final comments dealing with the Gloria also have to do with a setting from a neighboring local parish’s setting we use where it says, “peace to ALL people on Earth” instead of the prescribed “peace to HIS people on Earth.” Since when does a local music director get to change the words of the Gloria to fit her needs???? I hope she got permission from our local bishop at the time it was written, Anthony Pilla, to be able to do so. Otherwise, that is unapproved text we are singing. I refuse to sing this, and when I cantor it, I sing “peace to HIS people on Earth,” since that is the current approved liturgical text by the Vatican. When I sing it in the choir, I also only sing the currently approved liturgical texts. Since when does parishes get to compose their own Mass settings that differ from that of the approved texts??? And when they do, I hope they get their local bishop’s permission to do so.

    Before we criticize the grammar, if you read Fr. Turner’s lecture, the rules for capitalization were established NOT by ICEL, but by the Vatican. Why? The Vatican wanted the capitalization and pronunciation to reflect the centuries old custom in Latin. Fr. Turner assured his audience that ICEL has been meticulous in applying rules of grammar, and if there are any errors in the final product, they probably happened AFTER the text left ICEL.
    On the concern that the language is strange- Fr. Turner points out that the language is more broad and and will introduce some words we have not heard in the Sacramentary. And the example he gives is the word “oblation.” He said let’s not forget that for decades in the hymn To Jesus Christ Our Sovereign King, “To you and to your Church great king, we pledge our heart’s OBLATION. It is a word in our vocabulary.

  25. The trouble with “it is right and just” is that is it a mistranslation, as a foremost Latin scholar assured me.

  26. “The problem is that Bishop Trautman’s sentiments were not shared by the general body of Bishops of the USCCB as well as his committee, the CDW. He tried every stall tactic and acted as a sour loser when his proposals were voted down.”

    Really? He raised very good questions at the last USCCB meeting to discuss the texts: (1) How come that only 5 bishops had sent in comments on the texts, which they had in their hands for 7 months? (2) How come the Antiphons were composed by Rome without any consultation with the US Bishops? Remember Cardinal George’s embarrassing reply?

    The bishops seemed to be jeering at Trautman, because they didn’t want to be bothered with taking with due seriousness these or any other of the issues he had previously raised. The prophet was dishonored. And the result is that the bishops are now being exposed as irresponsible pastors who are not doing their jobs.

    1. Mr. O’Leary,

      “…the result is that the bishops are now being exposed as irresponsible pastors who are not doing their jobs.”

      Not for the first time. And, not for the first time on a profound issue. Actually, now that I reflect on it, this seems to be a habit of theirs. It doesn’t reflect well upon them, though they seem not to notice this.

  27. “Pro multis” has not the excluding overtone in Latin that “for many” has in English; “for the many” would be a better translation.

    1. Fr. Turner also talked about this. His point is that we need to understand that what are getting does not derive from perfect American English and what we are getting is an English setting that will be used in other English speaking territories and countries,not just the United States..

      So if the vocabulary is not we are accostomed to, or the sentences are incomplete, and they do not reflect the rules of American English grammar, get over it!

  28. “Also, only 5 bishops sent in comments in 7 months because a majority liked the texts as is and had no problems with it.”

    Some of them whined that they had not sufficient time to read the texts.

    And if they had no problem with the texts, they must be accused of incompetence instead of irresponsibility, but I believer the latter charge is more plausible. Bishops worldwide dread the Roman Curia, which they see as a time-wasting “bureaucracy of nothing”, so they may have decided to sit back and let Rome handle its own mess (in view of the way they were rewarded for their work on the excellent 1998 translations). Unfortunately, the bishops will be blamed for the mess, as happened in South Africa.

  29. “So if the vocabulary is not we are accostomed to, or the sentences are incomplete, and they do not reflect the rules of American English grammar, get over it!”

    The problems with the grammar in the 2010 texts is not a matter of American English but of any English. We could write the texts in Singlish or Japlish or some pigeon English, but if they are a text for the whole world they should be in a standard grammatical English.

      1. Because it is used by real people praying in a real language, their own. Liturgy is not pretending or escaping, it is being oneself, honestly and humbly, before God. At stake here are fundamental questions of sacramental theology, and also doctrinal questions such as how God relates to humanity and what the effects of his grace are upon us. Also questions of inculturation for the sake of the Gospel.

      2. They are praying in their own language when they use a translation that sounds like a translation, imho. I don’t think we were pretending or escaping in 1965 nor do I think the Byzantines are pretending when they use their obvious translation nor are the Maronites. I think those questions of sacramental theology and doctrine are answered more fully when our identity as a rite is preserved via a honest, meaning accurate translation that preserves the wealth and identity found in the Latin original. To me a translation can sound like a
        translation. Can we be too zealous in our pursuit of the vernacular?

      3. +JMJ+

        I do believe that the vernacular of the Roman Missal should still sound Roman. (If “sounding Roman” and “sounding like a translation” are the same thing, then I’m okay with the translation sounding like a translation.) But I don’t think (and LA doesn’t require) that the translation must follow word order, one of the elements which really makes a text sound like a translation.

        We’re not praying an American Rite or an English Rite. We are praying the Roman Rite in an English-speaking land.

  30. oops, I mean pidgin English.

    “quote your source” — I should ask his permission first.

    In any case, people with a feel for language know quite well that iustum, like French juste, in “cela est juste et bon,” carries the associations of “meet and fitting,” and that these associations are not present in modern English use of “just.”

  31. The “Roman Missal should still sound Roman.” What does that mean? Like Fr. Anthony has said – it is a language or prayer, prayed honestly and humbly… to my mind, and looking at this through the lens of liturgical prayer – it is not an academic exercise or conjugation of another language. And as Rita has mentioned (critically, might I add and I totally agree)… it is a language of prayer that is to be prayed ALOUD, and HEARD…. a translation may very well be “correct” – but does it lend itself to a communal ritual experience, where it both offers praise but also forms? These are the pastoral issues, that once again, I have to say, do not seem to be at the forefront of many of these discussions. Not that I have a corner on what is the “typical parishoner” – but I am willing to place a bet on my collection of hymnals (which are many I might add) that the average worshipper does not CARE about how academically correct the translation is. Sorry to disappoint. I do wager however, that they do care (perhaps to various degrees) that the text that they have proclaimed to them, and the prayer that they share in, has some sense of intelligibility, imagery and common sense that they can share and offer their hearts in prayer.

  32. Thanks David. I am not sure exactly what Jeffrey means by “sound Roman,” but perhaps the following might be an example of something legitimate in this vein.

    A very fine study by Noele Maurice Denis Boulet (The Eucharist; ed. AG Martimort,1969, English edition 1973, Irish University Press) when discussing the preface dialogue points to the Jewish antecedents of much of it, and the uniquely Christian parts of it, as well as the variations East and West.

    She observes that Dignum et justum est is not derived from Jewish tradition. In a footnote she says that the response “Dignum et justum est” “…was the response of Roman people in gathers of a political nature, really an acclamation. When St Augustine designates his successor: Acclamatum est: fiat, fiat, dictum vicies quinquies. Dignum est, justum est, dictum vicies octies. The same applied to the election of the emperor Gordian (237-238).”

    If one knows all this, “Right and just” sounds Roman. Because it is Roman. I like it, actually, because it savors of the public assembly for decisive business rather than a gathering for private or household prayer.

    What I absolutely will not buy is that convoluted prose, per se, sounds Roman. Quite a lot of the Mass texts go back to other sources. They’re just not Roman in origin, so why they need to sound Roman now is… a mystery. Or a power play for centralized authority.

    1. I think I share both the sentiments of Rita, and of David, above. Prayer should sound like prayer, in the voice of the language of the people. Accuracy in translation is important — absolutely! But it is above all prayer.

      These concerns are not at stake in the Eastern Rites, which are maintained in various vernaculars. There is concern for accuracy, but also euphony in the translations. Why must the Roman Rite become a “Museum Rite”?

    2. It should sound Roman because it is Roman. It goes back to the concept of rite and the “givenness” of the liturgy. Our missal is a translation of the existing Latin MR not fragments of a Jewish predecessor. I don’t know where the “power-play” comment comes from or how it relates to this.
      Euphony in translation is not more important than accuracy if the concept of rite is taken seriously. The Latin missal is not a museum piece now, I don’t understand how a translation that sounds like a translation becomes a museum piece. The Eastern liturgies & the Latin are all maintained in the vernacular today but they are still translations of the original be they Old Church Slavonic, Greek, or Aramaic. I don’t understand how these discussions about language and translation would not also apply to the Eastern rites. In fact, to the contrary, they are living proof that many of the concerns broached here about the negative effects of a dignified, sacred-sounding vernacular missal are probably unfounded.

      1. “I don’t know where the “power-play” comment comes from or how it relates to this.”

        We need, for clarity’s sake, examples of this elusive “Roman English” and in the absence of any having been provided by its supporters, I’ll venture providing a few here.

        “Tight” instead of “secure” … “bend” instead of “bow” … a postcommunion prayer that begins “With lips enpurpled at the intoxicating chalice, O Lord” … and in the long run, everything becomes “throw me down the stairs my hat.”

        Surely the supporters of “Roman English” can provide more such examples? They’ll all, I’m sure, delight and edify all the English-speakers living in Rome, the true “Roman English” – our own dear Professor Rindfleisch among them.

        And they’d more than surprise the late Monsignor Ronald Knox, at once the most Roman and the most English of men and of translators, who would heartily disagree with the flawed concept of “Roman English” – he said back in the 1940s: “You can have a literal or a literate translation – you can’t have both.”

        The “power-play” thing is quite simple.

        Let’s say you’re a monk, unwelcome in your own monastery, having had your translation work rejected as being too literal … so the only place they can send you is Rome, to teach liturgy and keep out of the way, and there you meet …

        Let’s say you’re a cardinal from a South American country – let’s call it Chile – and you want to teach the English-speaking world who’s boss, and you get sent to Rome, to run liturgy and keep out of the way, and there you meet …

        Let’s say you’re a cardinal from, say, Nigeria – with not a lot going on upstairs, and you decide that while of course Christ died “for all” it would keep the right wing (who pay for your upgrades from coach to first class) happy if you could make the Pope agree that “for many” be used, despite the world’s English-speaking bishops, when asked, having agreed on “for all” …

      2. Chris has grasped the situation perfectly.

        Jack hasn’t yet grasped the meaning of rite and so remains on the surface: if it says Roman Missal on the cover, it’s Roman. Such a simplistic view doesn’t lend itself to profitable discussion, nor to living the rich tradition embodied in our rites.

  33. Interesting insight into the origin of dignum et iustum est, but it still does not mean “right and just” in the English sense of “just” but rather “worthy and right”.

  34. Joe, I sense the force of your comment about dignum, but perhaps there is merit in using the word “just” for justum. Consider this comment from Louis Soubigou in A Commentary on the Prefaces and the Eucharistic Prayers of the Roman Missal (English ed., Lit Press, 1971):

    “It was a formula, an acclamation, by which the populace registered its approval of something put before them, and it implied both a moral and a juridical judgment.”

    He then adds this very interesting footnote about aequum et salutare, that further explores the terrain, and which I will quote in part. “Msgr. Jacquin, former professor at the Institut Catholique, has furnished the author with the following comments on the meaning of the word aequum ‘… It is rather clear to me that the Preface here looks in two directions: 1) toward God: dignum et justum (which are almost synonymous, there being only a shade of difference; 2) toward us: aequum et salutare (which again are practically synonymous). We have to remember that aequus (equal, level) refers to smooth, level ground, which by that very fact is promising, or propitious. From place the notion is extended to time and, more generally, to things that were advantageous, and to persons favorably inclined or benevolent. The latter usage is very frequent in classical Latin, and it should not strike us as unusual to find it in the Christian language of the Mass. In the Preface then, having acknowledged that to give glory to God is a duty for us (dignum et justum) resulting from his rights, we also declare the usefulenss of it (aequum et salutare), viz., that it is in our best interest, timely and fitting, and to our benefit.'”

    The word “just” seems apt to me in this context, not so much in isolation as against the backdrop of the idea of justice in giving to God what is owed to him simply because he is God.

    1. Rita,

      Thanks for posting this! I remembered reading it when I first read the debate about translating iustum as “just.” I just never go around to posting the relevant excerpt.

  35. Thanks for that, Rita — I see that the Roman Canon lends itself to exegesis that brings out its richness — because it has literary quality — something elsewhere direly missing.

  36. Jack Nolan :
    Rita, a near perfect example of the straw man fallacy.

    Rita might have been wrong about Jack not grasping things … Jack obviously has, for starters, a firm grasp of Fr Z’s favourite English pudding!

  37. From Chris: “Rita, a near perfect example of the straw man fallacy.”

    Had been waiting for someone to follow up on the over-emphasis on “Roman” rite or “Roman” Catholic Church.

    Would suggest that we are Catholic…..historians, etc. have adopted the use of “Roman” for a variety of reasons. We are also the “Latin” Rite. It would appear that these terms modify and explain catholic but not sure that Roman or even Latin is the “essence” of our being catholic. We are also “western” vs. “Eastern”….so, what does that say?

    If we (over the centuries) become less western – does that make us less catholic? if we (over the centuries) become less Latin – does that make us less catholic? If we (over the centuries) become less Roman – does that make us less catholic?

    Would again suggest that these historical terms are just that – TERMS -they are not the substance nor the essence of who we are.

    We once were the Jerusalem church or the church of Antioch….have our core beliefs changed because the center of the church transitioned from Jersualem to Rome? What would happen if we left Rome?

    1. Bill,

      You have not displayed here any concept of what a liturgical rite means to Catholics and the way it forms us in the faith. Vatican II does not agree with you. As an exercise, apply your logic to the Byzantines or Maronites. It might be easier for you to see where your approach takes us when you apply your logic outside the Latin Church.

  38. I see that Heidegger connects iustum with iussum (past participle of iubere to command). The kind of justice that follows divine commands may be what is meant.

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