Making the best of the coming translation II

I wasn’t going to post this, but after the immediately previous post to this, from Fr. Anthony Ruff, OSB, it might be worth sharing.

From an e-mail I received earlier this week, from a Roman Catholic priest whom I’ve known for some time:

At our pre-Lent Priest’s Conference the hot topic was the implementation of the missal. I thought you might get a kick out of these words from our bishop:

“Make the most of it. Study it. Practice it — I can’t stress that enough. Some of the phrases are, as many of you have pointed out, difficult to read on paper and even more difficult to proclaim out loud. And when you find something that’s just, well, miserable; something that just can’t be made sense of aloud, do what you’ve always done, what priests have always done from the beginning: Change it. Just, please, be judicious about that — and don’t tell me about it!”


  1. Miserable, shifty, surreptitious, shame-faced, sheepish, we sell the new translation like two-bit vendors of snake oil sidling along the wall.

    Fr Ryan’s petition stalled in the 21000 range. The petition against diluting Summorum Pontificium is already in the 5000 range.

    The conservatives are masters of vociferous protest. The rest of us are just sheep.

    1. My impression from this priest is that both the bishop and most of the priests in the diocese are in support of the translation on the whole; they recognize, however, that there are problematic spots.

      I find it interesting that this bishop trusts the judgment of his priests sufficiently to acknowledge that they might be intelligent enough to address the difficult phrases by themselves. And I have to wonder how many other bishops have said similar things off-the-record.

      1. Oh, I think quite a few bishops have and will continue to give
        similar admonitions to their priests. There are so many glaring
        defects, one has to be blind, deaf, or brain dead to miss them.

    2. The conservatives are masters of vociferous protest. The rest of us are just sheep

      And there sure are a lot of sheep up there in Madison these days… union sheep, DNC Sheep, OFA Sheep, SEIU Sheep….perhaps all the conservatives are in Egypt and Bahrain and Syria and Libya … hey wait a minute…well they MUST be conservatives since they’re vociferously protesting! I recall growing up in the era of the radical conservative protests here in the 60’s, of course I always thought those were leftists, but maybe I was wrong 🙂

  2. Joe O’Leary :
    The conservatives are masters of vociferous protest. The rest of us are just sheep.

    Doesn’t this comment sort of disprove itself? The perennial problem is that the most vociferous voices from the right and the left are simply yelling past each other. Please, let’s not feed the polemic.

  3. There is nothing wrong with polemic if it is intelligent and respectful. The trouble is that a long diet of liturgical mediocrity has made both priests and laity so enervated that — apart for tiny enclaves like this one — we have lost our voice and any confidence in our ability of do anything about the situation. Long experience of powerlessness, of disappointed hopes for a more creative and inspiring liturgy has consigned us to quiet despair. Many Catholics quietly worship at Anglcan churches just in order to find truly prayerful and communal liturgy. Everyone knows that we have been in deep liturgical crisis for a long time, the routinization of the Mass aiding. That is what makes it so heart-breaking that when a new effort is made, using millions of dollars and involving all the bishops of the English-speaking world, the result should be more of the same helpless mediocrity, or indeed a further slump into incompetence. Fr Ruff and Fr Ryan adn Bp Trautman are making a protest now, but Fr Zuhlsdorf has a much bigger following. People are misidentifying the roots of the problem and the Vatican are following this misdiagnosis.

    1. Every seminarian and former priest, with one exception, I’ve known from the 60s to today either attends an Anglican, Lutheran, or Orthodox Church regularly. Something is seriously wrong when a pope who has made the hallmark of his papacy the beautification of the liturgy has, at the same time, permitted this disappointing product to go to press and be imposed on the Anglophone church.

      Some clergy I know will just insert their own translation of the parts they find offensive.


  4. “Change it. Just, please, be judicious about that — and don’t tell me about it!”

    Catholic-minded Anglican priests have been doing that since the beginning of the Reformation. They’d add bits of scripture (introit,gradual…) and parts or all of a patristic prayer (The Roman Canon) to the sober prayer book service. Yes, my Lord, we are quite scriptural at Walsingham.

    A possible updated approach for concerned priests is to paste either the 1998 or the 2008 translation of the mass prayers into the new missal & in the spirit of a rather brilliant eBay advertisement understand that they’re for study purposes. There’s no reason why they can’t be studied on the altar itself.

    1. Didn’t the liturgy start out by the celebrant pretty much adding and deleting as he went along the transmitted “holy tradition”?

  5. It is an urgent requirement now that the 1998 translations be put in the hands of all priests. We should have used them since 1998 to replace our wretched preces. Some churches do.

      1. Because a pastoral council of the church wisely made changes in both liturgical principles and directives to balance our history of worship. 1998 was the already established and working process that was started by the pastoral council. That pastoral council laid out these liturgical principles and supported conferences in taking their collegial responsibilities to implement these principles by a vote that was just short of being unanimous. Subsequently, most conferences made implementation decisions that were also overwhelmingly positive votes. The changes by Rome since the mid-1990’s have not been true to the pastoral council; and have laid the groundwork for a liturgical hodge-podge. As others have commented, ICEL 1998 was based on solid, documented, expert research – even ICEL 2008 with new translation rules was still to a degree based on expert work. VC2010 – sorry, has created an environement in which clerics will basically say to themselves – bad law results in no law. It turns our “lex orandi, lex credendi” upside down so that it is now “lex credendi (or are told), lex orandi”.

      2. Billl,

        You seem to prefer the 1998 version. I see no reason to
        expect it would have been
        received well by the people. It strayed too far from the
        Latin RM, it made changes to the rubrics, something our
        new translation does not do. I think 1998 would have
        divided the bishops and the people in a significant way. It also
        would have failed to bring English speaking Catholics and
        other language groups of Catholics closer together while
        the new translation does. Now Polish speakers, Spanish speakers, and French speaking Catholics are praying the
        same words in their different languages.

      1. Daniel – 1998 was the culmination of 25 years of expertise, liturgical/translation efforts via thousands of linguists, musicians, writers, composers, pastoral experts. It was an open/honest/transparent process that was overwhelmingly approved by the english speaking conferences. It fulfilled and completed the commission given it to use dynamic translation techniques; compose alternative settings/sacramental situations; and continued to strengthen the VII directive that included inculturation, ecumenical interface (ICET), and improving the 1969 translation.

        Despite all of this, a small group in Rome refused to move forward; fired the ICEL experts; wrote new rules; and then devised new ways to force approval from conferences, etc. They justified this by stating that 1998 did not adhere to the MR2 (never really spelled out how, where, why); they attacked the inculturation aspects of this version (esp. language that was sensitive to women); and said that it did not connect to scripture. These were the opinions of a few folks (most, not even native english speakers). Rubrics – sorry, they change all of the time; and the VC2010 will change rubrics again.

        Your last point – tieing language groups together? Not sure that 2010 does this? Other language groups have yet to do their translations? And is that really a core principle of ritual, of liturgy? It definitely strays completely from the VII SC principles of inculturation; attention to vernacular aspects of liturgy, etc. These principles are of higher value than what you cite.

        So, guess I miss your points?

  6. When you consider the number of excursions that are made on-the-fly by presiders using the current ICEL1974 product it is logical to expect that there will be even more excursions from the VC2010 “revision.”

    I for one will be replacing “for many” with either “for the many” or “for all;” and I will certainly be retaining “cup.”

    The gender-exclusive language will have to be corrected also; and the obsequiousness of the language will have to be corrected as well.

    The reformed ICEL and VC have unwittingly extended an open invitation to presiders to make necessary changes on the fly by producing such a terrible translation.

    However, since almost no English speaking presiders are Latinists, and few of them are liturgical theologians, it is doubtful than many on-the-fly excursions will be the fruit of serious, scholarly work. Thus an ugly patchwork will result in most places.

    The responsibility for this will lie at the feet of ICEL#2, VC, and the “leaders” who pull their strings.

    1. It is one thing to criticize the new translation in a forum like this. It It is something altogether different to plan to vary from an approved text of the Church simply because you don’t like it. I agree that some of the new texts will be difficult to proclaim, and that mistakes will result. The “ugly patchwork” you speak of, however, will only come to pass if willful priests abuse their authority.

      The People of God are entitled to the Mass of the Catholic Church, not to Fr. Jim’s mass.

      1. The people are entitled to Fr Jim’s mass. His ordination means that his mass is the Catholic Church’s mass.

        If Fr Jim is as unnecessary as you say, what was the point of his ordination?

      2. Jim, you’re over-simplifying George’s remark. He did not say Fr. Jim is not needed. I would think the phrase “Fr. Jim’s mass” in the context of George’s remark (and the flow of the comments) would not be misunderstood.

      3. Jim McKay: Nowhere did I say Fr. Jim is unnecessary. Priests are vital, and by virtue of their ordination are empowered to do amazing things. Trust me, I realize this every time I receive the Eucharist or absolution. Other than writing homilies, however, they are not called to create liturgy. Rather, they are instruments of the sacraments.

        On your death bed, do you want a priest who improvises the absolution formula because he feels like it? If not, why should priests be able to improvise the Mass?

      4. I do not think I have misunderstood GJ’s remark. I disagree with it, and ask the question from that disagreement.

        The priest ‘creates’ a liturgy, putting the whole of himself into it. He is not simply a replacement part who repeats words, but a living person whose breath gives life to whatever words he reads. If he is not doing that, what is the point of all those years of seminary?

        This is really the theme of this thread. Some people just wants the words read, by an authorized person, and do not really care what they mean or how they sound, or even if they can be heard. Others care about the sound of the words, the ability to convey meaning, and if they can express the faith of the priest and of the people.

        On my deathbed, I want a priest who will express, on the Church’s behalf, that God will welcome despite my sins. I want him to offer a blessing that will comfort my wife and support her during our physical separation. If he does it with the wrong words, I doubt that it will bother me. I might think it humorous. But if he gets all the right words, and leaves everyone feeling alienated, damned and irrelevant, I would rather he not come.

  7. The best corrections come from a comunity of sisters I say mass for.

    “May the Lord receive the sacrifice… to the praise and glory of GOD’s name.” is one example.

    Let the official text be a reference but let the celebrant and the congregation embroider creatively is what I would recommend.

    1. Does not work for our Church Joe. Groups who “correct” the liturgy to suit their own ends risk turning into a self-selecting community. Our parishes are for all Catholics of the Roman rite (and visitors). Employing one approved translation is the only just response or the parishes become self-selecting closed communities that exclude others. Our unity is visible in our communion with our bishop and we use the ordo that he approves via his conference and with Rome’s blessing. In my mind there is little less catholic than a self-selecting community.

      1. The official text of the liturgy is safely enshrined in the books. Creative liturgy will make necessary a certain amount of free variation. Even Fr Zuhlsdorf has told the world he will creatively tweak the new translations. Living unity always entails variety. We are not zombies.

  8. “Why have an official translation at all?”

    Actually, Mr. Herbert, the Anglo-phone Orthodox really don’t have an official translation but manage to muddle through. They use anything from New Skete to Isabel Hapgood. You have an excellent point.

  9. “…And when you find something that’s just, well, miserable; something that just can’t be made sense of aloud, . . . ”

    What would be an example of that?

  10. This is a genuine question. Is the author of this post an Anglican clergyman?
    If so, why the massive interest in what emanates from Rome?

    1. Ecumenism? Hello??
      I would hope that any Roman Catholic working in the area of liturgy since Vatican II cultivate a lively interest in the liturgical life of our separated brothers and sisters.


  11. Well I don t work in the area of liurgy, I work in healthcare. I am just a pew dweller, and I am astonished that someone from a reformed Church should be so interested.
    The main Church where I live ( Church of Scotland) sure is not.

    1. Hi Kenny,

      My academic work in liturgy is primarily historical, and as an historian, I’m pretty keen on history-in-the-making. Further, I am very conscious of what comes out of Rome, as it has and does continue to impact the development of my own Church’s liturgy. I can’t speak to the experience of those in either the (Presbyterian/Reformed) Church of Scotland or the Scottish Episcopal Church, but from a textual standpoint, both churches’ liturgies were quite evidently influenced by the Second Vatican Council and the liturgical reforms following it — as was the American Episcopal Book of Common Prayer.

      Within academe, I know a couple of very fine experts on Lutheran theology who are Catholic priests, and one of the world’s leading experts on Roman Catholic initiation rites is a Lutheran pastor. I think that in the academy we gravitate to what holds our interest, wherever it is found.

      And there is the ecumenical aspect: on all sides, many of us are committed to advancing the cause of Christian unity, and are concerned about the long-term ecumenical impact of what’s going on in other churches — this holds true even when one does not necessarily subscribe to a model of “ecumenism-by-return” such as is preferred in certain circles today.

      I’m sorry I didn’t get to this comment sooner, and I do hope that clarifies things a bit!

    1. “Ugly”, “Vulgar”…To refer to someone’s intimacy with God in such terms is so sad. No, it’s not a great essay. It pretends humility, while making sure you know that thank God we’re not like that poor woman in the back of the church.

      1. Is it supposed to be some sort of preemptive strike against those who will find the new translations ugly? It most or less tells them that they must be humble and shut up.

  12. ” Change it. Just, please, be judicious about that — and don’t tell me about it!” While I am pleased that this bishop empowers the priests to make decisions appropriate for their parishioners, I would like to know what the bishop himself has done or will do to “change it.” His final instruction of “don’t tell me about it” is disturbing. We know all too well the harm brought about from the veil of secrecy.

  13. Daniel McKernan, criticising the 1998 translation: It strayed too far from the
    Latin RM, it made changes to the rubrics, something our
    new translation does not do.

    Daniel, I wonder how you would describe an organic development from a tradition? Tweaking the rite, making detail changes to rubrics, expanding the spectrum of texts, adding illustrative rituals, inculturating the rite (think Zaire Entrance Rite) — all of these are part of what the Church has done for 2000 years and will, it is to be hoped, continue to do.

    Trying to put the liturgy of the Church into a glass case and mount it on a pedestal is to ignore the fact that the Church is a living, dynamic organism that itself grows and changes over time.

  14. Many people have commented that this new translation is not perfect, and that the current translation is not perfect either.
    The real problem is the foolishness of trying to make one translation for the entire English-speaking world. I understand the Vatican Congregation’s desire to make this new English translation as technically accurate and “faithful” to the original Latin as possible, especially since there are some languages which use the English translation as the source for translating into their own language. That makes sense. They need an accurate text.
    With that precedent having been set, I would suggest that the United States Bishops use this new translation as the source document for a translation into more easily intelligible United States English.
    I’ve been a priest for 16 years, and I have tried reading some of the texts of this new translation aloud (behind closed doors, of course). I’m considering asking for a sabbatical so I can return to the seminary for a semester to learn how to say Mass all over again with these new texts. I can’t imagine how awful the end of November is going to be when one week I’ll be using my familiar Sacramentary, and the next the new Roman Missal which is as proclaimable as a set of stereo instructions.

  15. I read some time ago that the bishops of Germany simply informed the Vatican (or, the relevant office at the Vatican) that they don’t intend to use the new translation they received, that they preferred the one they had been using and intend to continue using it. Is it not possible for the U.S. bishops to do the same? Of course, that calls for agreement on the issue, which may not be possible here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *