The ICEL Progress Reports – leaked

Here are the ICEL progress reports – three of them from 1988, 1990, 1992 – giving updates on the project which led to the 1997 ICEL Sacramentary rejected by Rome. Uploaded by a certain Jat. You’ll have to guess who Jat is.

On another topic, I was talking about chant in a café the other day with my brother – one of my brothers is a farmer named “Jeff” – and he recalled how Mom would tuck us in and put us to bed. Nice childhood memory, that.

And here someone – I won’t say who – has emailed this to me:

I’ve uploaded and shared ICEL’s progress reports from 1988 and 1992. I’m doing this openly because it is a credit to ICEL to see all the work they’ve done and also because openness is critical to the understanding of this crucial chapter in modern liturgical history. These are not private documents but they are pointlessly difficult to obtain.

I’m sure many of you will have comments about the work of the “Old ICEL.”


  1. How welcome it is to see these! They show the lengths to which the “old” ICEL went to ensure a balance between fidelity to the Latin and intelligibility in English. Also, it showed how the “old” ICEL tried to maintain a degree of transparency in the translation process.

  2. The contorted efforts to avoid the male pronoun when referring to God jump off the page right away – and I wasn’t even looking for them.

    Deo gratias that this disaster was avoided.

    1. “contorted efforts”: an excellent expression!

      As an example of “contorted efforts,” one would be hard-pressed to surpass yesterday’s gem from the 2010 (and there will be no Deo Gratias for the avoidance of THIS disaster; but maybe a Te Deum once all of its errors are documented and the inevitable revision issued – after the “revisers” are duly rewarded with their “promotions”):

      O God, who by the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin
      prepared a worthy dwelling for your Son,
      grant, we pray,
      that, as you preserved her from every stain
      by virtue of the Death of your Son, which you foresaw,
      so, through her intercession,
      we, too, may be cleansed and admitted to your presence.

      Missale Romanum
      Deus, qui per immaculátam Vírginis Conceptiónem
      dignum Fílio tuo habitáculum praeparásti,
      ut, qui ex morte eiúsdem Fílii tui praevísa,
      eam ab omni labe praeservásti,
      nos quoque mundos, eius intercessióne, ad te perveníre concédas.

      O God, who by the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin
      prepared a worthy dwelling for your Son,
      we pray that, as you preserved her from every stain
      by the Death of your Son, which you foresaw,
      so you will grant that, through her intercession,
      we also may be clean and come into your presence.

      Lord our God,
      through the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary
      you prepared a worthy dwelling for your Son.
      As you preserved her from all taint of sin
      by the salvation his death would bring,
      so, through her intercession, cleanse us from our faults
      and lead us safely into your presence.

      1. Neither 2008 or 2010 really works, in my view. 2008 is slightly better, and at least it’s faithful to the Latin more rigorously, but it’s still contorted.

        1998 is quite an accomplishment, really – good English and remarkably faithful to the Latin.

        I’d rather have 1998 where nearly all of the Latin is conveyed to the faithful in a way they can received – than 2008 (or less so, 2010) where every word of the Latin is acounted for, but it’s not conveyed to the faithful such that they’ll catch even half of it.

        I thought the goal was to bring the riches of Latin to the faithful…


  3. Fr. Ruff: “I thought the goal was to bring the riches of Latin to the faithful…”

    I have never studied 1998 systematically, but I must admit that the tidbits I’ve seen here seem both graceful and reasonably faithful to the Latin originals.

    If these are representative, it may be unfortunate that 1998 was torpedoed by — as I understand it — (1) excessive gender neutrality and (2) insertion of prayers not included in the Latin original but composed by ICEL.

    Or were there other alleged issues?

    1. The progress reports note that several conferences of bishops made suggestions for additional “Ad diversa” prayers, for special needs not addressed by the Latin Missale Romanum. ICEL narrowed these down based on the number of request and composed Collects in English for which there was no Latin base text. I’ve just looked at a few of them. Nothing too “disastrous” (my opinion, of course). Some actually quite nice.

      O God,
      you give wisdom to all who attend to your word.
      Keep us aware of our civic responsibility,
      that we may elect
      trustworthy and compassionate leaders
      who will pursue justice,
      seek peace,
      and work for the common good.
      We ask this . . .

      O God,
      you render judgement
      with perfect mercy and justice.
      Bestow integrity upon those whose work it is
      to judge the right and expose the wrong,
      that they may set their hearts on what is just,
      discern what is fair,
      and be persuaded by truth alone.
      We ask this . . .

      God ever just,
      you hear the cry of the poor;
      you break the power of oppression
      and set the downtrodden free.
      Change indifference to compassion,
      and let the desires of those with abundance
      make place for the needs of those who are poor.
      Turn our hearts to the way of the gospel,
      that peace may triumph over discord
      and our justice mirror your own.
      We ask this . . .

      God of justice,
      you adorned the human race
      with a marvelous diversity,
      and you clothed each of its members
      with a dignity
      that may never be diminished.
      Instill in us respect for that dignity,
      that we may always champion for others
      the justice we seek for ourselves.
      We ask this . . .

      By your word,
      Lord God,
      we and all creatures
      are formed, sustained, and fed.
      Teach us to live in peace
      with the world your hands have made,
      that, as faithful stewards of your good earth,
      we may reverence you in the works of your creation.
      We ask this . . .


      For victims of abuse

      O God,
      in whose enduring love we trust,
      bind up the wounds of those betrayed
      by abuse at the hands of others.
      Heal them and make them whole,
      that they may once more receive and give love
      with confidence in their dignity as your sons and daughters.
      We ask this . . .

      For victims of genocide

      O God,
      in your silence every anguished cry is heard;
      each person is created in your image,
      all peoples are precious in your sight.
      Receive into your peace the victims of persecution
      and hear the lament of those who mourn their killing.
      Keep their memory always before us
      and rid every heart of violence and vengeance,
      that hatred may be banished from the face of the earth
      and the family of nations brought together in peace.
      We ask this . . .

    3. Interesting comments….yet, if you have not studied nor knew about the 1986-1998 ICEL MR2; the careful and precise and open process planned since 1969….well, it makes me pause when folks are so strong about certain things but seem unaware of the history, the first ICEL and the dedicated experts who gave their lives to improve our liturgy, the reasons for why they made choices, the experts involved vs. the tiny group that controls things now.

      Other suggestions – find it interesting that B16 holds a discussion group every August with his former students – this year it was on the “reform of the reform”. Every year by now we have seen the results of these study groups. Nothing to date….is there a reason?

      Would also suggest that you need to carefully look at some of the statements, etc. since Estevez started this fiasco by stopping 1998. Why? Folks say inclusive language (study 1998 and you can make your own judgment….appears to be a smokescreen excuse); folks say that there were new alternative prayers. Yet, the Italian conference has many alternative prayers and their MR was approved in 1983? Others – Germany, France – were approved. Why was english held up?

      Even the over used quote from B16 that the EF and OF can exist so that they can influence each other. Is this really what he meant – do we really know what he intends? Or, is this another brief statement taken out of context and the Fr. Z’s of this world run with it? Again, look at B16’s recent statements about condoms/AIDS….wonder if the same thing could happen around the EF?

      1. +JMJ+

        Why was english held up?

        Perhaps due to the reconstruction of the Order of Mass? Will there be a Penitential Act this Sunday or not? Will there be a Gloria this Sunday or not?

        As for the “over used quote”, you can see it in its context yourself. Here’s the paragraph in question:

        It is true that there have been exaggerations and at times social aspects unduly linked to the attitude of the faithful attached to the ancient Latin liturgical tradition. Your charity and pastoral prudence will be an incentive and guide for improving these. For that matter, the two Forms of the usage of the Roman Rite can be mutually enriching: new Saints and some of the new Prefaces can and should be inserted in the old Missal. The “Ecclesia Dei” Commission, in contact with various bodies devoted to the usus antiquior, will study the practical possibilities in this regard. The celebration of the Mass according to the Missal of Paul VI will be able to demonstrate, more powerfully than has been the case hitherto, the sacrality which attracts many people to the former usage. The most sure guarantee that the Missal of Paul VI can unite parish communities and be loved by them consists in its being celebrated with great reverence in harmony with the liturgical directives. This will bring out the spiritual richness and the theological depth of this Missal.

        The pope says that the Ordinary Form can enrich the Extraordinary Form by way of saints and prefaces. It appears that, at first, the way the E.F. enriches the O.F. is by enabling the O.F. “to demonstrate, more powerfully than has been the case hitherto, the sacrality which attracts many people to the former usage.” Both forms — although he singles out the O.F. here — must be “celebrated with great reverence in harmony with the liturgical directives.”

      2. Jeffrey, I believe that the revised order of Introductory Rites was in an earlier proposal by ICEL but not in the version the bishops approved and sent to Rome.

        But even if it were – that, in and of itself, is no reason to reject the English translation of everything else. One would hope that the CDW is capable of making some basic distinctions.


      3. In my alternate history of the past 12 years, the CDW keeps the translation and throws out the changes in the Ordo Missae.

        Sometimes the actions of the Church encourage me to develop a rich fantasy life.

  4. Thanks, only had bits in hard copy of this.

    Another “thought experiment” based on a recent interview with B16’s inhouse moral theologian, Ronheimer. Titled: “B16 has changed discourse on condoms & AIDS”…

    Experiment – think of the same exercise but the subject shifts from condoms/AIDS to 2008/10 translations/liturgy. Revised excerpts:

    “… see things in this differentiated way, I think, is an important clarification, which is useful in defending the Vatican II’s badly understood liturgical document, SC, about liturgical history, purpose, goals, change, etc. against the charge that it leads to “watered” down liturgys involved in less worshipful behavior.”

    ” Pope Benedict, after what I assume careful consideration, has made a public statement that has changed the discourse on these liturgical issues, both inside and outside the Church. For the first time it has been said by the pope himself, though not in a formal teaching act of the Church’s Magisterium, that the Church does not unconditionally insist upon literal translation.”

    “The clear impression Rhonheimer gives is of the Pope wanting to introduce fresh thinking into an area rendered schlerotic by pre-VII diehards. The liturgy expert uses the image of “breaking the ice”:

    “It is obvious that the Holy Father wanted to bring this into the open. He certainly foresaw the uproar, misunderstandings, confusion and even scandal which it could cause……..What Benedict XVI’s remarks on the 2010 translation have brought to light is a general confusion already existing on all sides. Personally I am very grateful to the Holy Father that he had the courage to break the ice.”

    “It is not surprising that “ultras” have acted angrily; some members of the Pontifical Academy for Liturgy have been astonishingly offensive about the Pope, accusing him of acting “self-indulgently” while…

  5. Another sample of different approaches:

    Preface of the Immaculate Conception

    Vere dignum et iustum est, aequum et salutare,
    nos tibi semper et ubique gratias agere:
    Domine, sancte Pater, omnipotens aeterne Deus:

    Qui beatissiman Virginem Mariam
    ab omni originalis culpae labe praeservasti,
    ut in ea, gratiae tuae plenitudine ditata,
    dignam Filio tuo Genetricem praeparares,
    et Sponsae eius Ecclesiae,
    sine ruga vel macula formosae, signares exordium.
    Filium enim erat purissima Virgo datura,
    qui crimina nostra Agnus innocens aboleret;
    et ipsam prae omnibus tuo populo disponebas
    advocatam gratiae et sanctitatis exemplar.

    Et ideo, choris angelicis sociati,
    te laudamus in gaudio confitentes:

    It is truly right and just,
    our duty and our salvation,
    always and everywhere to give you thanks,
    Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God.

    For you preserved the Most Blessed Virgin Mary
    from all stain of original sin,
    so that in her, enriched with the fullness of your grace,
    you might prepare a worthy Mother for your Son,
    and signify the beginning of the Church,
    his beautiful Bride without spot or wrinkle.
    For she, the most pure Virgin, was to bring forth a Son,
    the innocent Lamb who would blot out our offenses;
    you placed her above all others
    to be for your people an advocate of grace
    and a model of holiness.

    And so, in company with the choirs of Angels,
    we praise you, proclaiming with joy:

    1. Behold the artistry of the 2010 revisers, doubtless responding, as Bishop Serratelli told us, to the suggestions of various conferences of bishops:

      It is truly right and just,
      our duty and our salvation,
      always and everywhere to give you thanks,
      Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God.

      For you preserved the Most Blessed Virgin Mary
      from all stain of original sin,
      so that in her, endowed with the rich fullness of your grace,
      you might prepare a worthy Mother for your Son,
      and signify the beginning of the Church,
      his beautiful Bride without spot or wrinkle.
      She, the most pure Virgin, was to bring forth a Son,
      the innocent Lamb who would wipe away our offenses;
      you placed her above all others
      to be for your people an advocate of grace
      and a model of holiness.

      And so, in company with the choirs of Angels,
      we praise you, and with joy we proclaim:

      1998 (for the avoidance of which “disaster” a previous poster offered a fervent Deo Gratias)
      It is truly right and just,
      our duty and our salvation,
      always and everywhere to give you thanks,
      holy Father, almighty and eternal God.

      You allowed no trace of original sin to touch the Virgin Mary.
      Full of grace, she was to be a worthy mother of your Son
      and prefigure the beginning of the Church,
      the fair Bride of Christ, without spot or wrinkle.

      Purest of virgins, she was to bring forth your Son,
      the innocent Lamb who takes away our sins.
      You chose Mary before all others
      to be our gracious advocate and our pattern of holiness.

      And so we join the multitude of angels
      in their joyful chorus of praise:

      1. +JMJ+

        Perhaps he means the choice of words. When we hear “blot” (and when do we, anymore?) we might think of an “ink blotter”, not a “lamb blotter”. (Ram’s bladder cup, anyone?)

        I think the choice of “blot” is good, although it may not be the best translation of aboleret; had the word been deleret (as used in Acts 3:19, and in the prayer after the Gospel, “Per evangélica dicta deleántur nostra delícta”), I think “blot” would have been a more reasonable choice.

        But “blot” is a good scriptural word, and “blot out our offense” is (transgressions) a sensible phrase. Our sins are blotted out, we are washed clean in the blood of the Lamb.

  6. Many thanks for making these documents available. They are very interesting. Here’s a particularly illuminating passage from the prefatory material:

    An essential standard for the translating work of ICEL is fidelity to the substance of the original. The translation is designed to convey the content that the Latin texts embody which … includes a definite tradition of teaching and worship. The purpose of a basic textual criticism is not to ensure a literal translation (a literal translation requires little more than a few years of school Latin).

    Rather this function is needed in order to achieve the richness and variety that is required to convey in English the true thought of the Latin text or to make explicit, in a way that English may demand, what is cryptic or allusive in the Latin; or to permit a precise reflection of the liturgical function, occasion or context of a text; or to retain the text’s theme, point of view, or strength. A basic textual criticism may also be a safeguard against taking Latin words for cognates when they really are not, or against simply presuming the meaning of what looks like a familiar term.

    Earlier the authors describe ‘textual criticism’:

    At least an elementary form of the textual criticism described by A. Dumas in his article on the vocabulary of the current Roman Missal must enter the creative process of revising (and of course translating) the text of the Roman Missal. A basic textual criticism must influence the primary conception of what the text is saying, in order to ensure that the translation conveys that central thought.

    It refers to the following article: A. Dumas, ‘Pour mieux comprendre les textes liturgiques du Missel Romain’, Notitiae 6 (1970) 194-213. — the article can be found here.

  7. Fr. Z did something really interesting: give translations of the 3rd Sunday of Advent collect without saying which translation was from where! So that people can have an unbiased opinion.

    O God, who see how your people
    faithfully await the feast of the Lord’s Nativity,
    enable us, we pray,
    to attain the joys of so great a salvation,
    and to celebrate them always
    solemn worship and glad rejoicing.

    Gracious God,
    your people look forward in hope
    to the festival of our Saviour’s birth.
    Give us the strength to reach that happy day of salvation
    and to celebrate it with hearts full of joy.

    O God, who look upon your people
    as they faithfully await the feast day of the Lord’s birth,
    strengthen us, we pray,
    to reach the joys of so great a salvation,
    and to celebrate them always
    with solemn worship and glad rejoicing.

    1. Of course the Latin text can help choose the more accurate shades of meaning (“between “enable” and “strengthen”, for example), but in terms of the quality of English, I can’t say that one text jumps at me as being superior to the others.

      – Christmas is a feast, not a “festival”
      – “Give us the strength to reach that happy day” seems to be a prayer that we do not die in the next two weeks!
      – “celebrate the joys of salvation”: isn’t the meaning ever so slightly off? Is it the joy that we are celebrating, or is it the salvation itself?
      – there’s something grammatically funny going on in the first text, with “solemn worship and glad rejoicing” tacked at the end, with no connection to the rest of the sentence. I don’t know how it fits in.
      – The “so” in “so great a salvation” is referring to something, but to what? The salvation of the feast of the Lord’s Nativity? The salvation of the Nativity? The salvation of the Lord? Are we saved by the feast, by the birth, or by the Lord? Grammatically, I think that “so” must be referring to the feast, but then the meaning is incorrect.

      Maybe it is the scientist in me wishing for clarity, but I really would prefer it if those prayers, awkward as they might be, could at least be deciphered by close scrutiny of the grammatical structure and vocabulary. When I read a mathematical proof, if I don’t understand it, I can go over it slowly and break it apart line by line, sometimes word by word, and each little piece makes sense, so that I can then put it back together. It’s just a matter of time and work. Here, it does not seem to be the case. The meaning is obfuscated in places, but when I try to break it apart, that does not make it clearer. I am not talking about complex theological notions but just about the straightforward meaning of which words refer to what. Even after study, we still do not know what we are saying. That imprecision is frustrating!

  8. Bah, lambs may be sin-offerings, and the Lamb of God takes away the sins of the world, and sins may be blotted out, but it is still bizarre to talk of the Lamb who blots out sin — it has the clumsiness of a mixed metaphor.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.