Translating the Roman Canon: 1967 and 2010 (part III)

The following table presents a 1967 ICEL commentary on an early translation of the Roman canon alongside the full text of the Canon in both the 1967 translation and the upcoming translation. For more about this commentary, please see the first part of this series.

Translating the Roman Canon: 1967 and 2010 (part III)

This is the final installment of a three-part series. You can read the first part here, and the second part here.


  1. A reminder that the complete 44-page booklet is available online for everyone who wants to study it.

    The Roman Canon in English Translation (ICEL, 1967)

    Link (PDF 4.1MB)

  2. After reviewing all three of these, certainly the committee that put the initial translation together was striving to follow Comme Le Prevoit and took many liberties presuming what would be good English and what won’t be, thus shortening and modifying much of the post-Vatican II Latin when translated into English. If my memory serves me correctly, what people liked most about the new translation at the time was that it made the Mass shorter; not a very lofty compliment.
    Certainly my opinion would be that Comme Le Prevoit was a flawed document mercifully put to rest by LA. What this three part series shows is that the commentary that explains the first English translation certainly puts lip stick on this “pig” of a translation motivated by Comme Le Prevoit. But of course what else could they do? It needed so much lipstick and pancake makeup to boot.

      1. Sean – echo your cry!! Here is a cogent response to Fr. Allan published in The Tablet today:


        “A further, and perhaps more serious effect in the long term, is the implication of using language removed from everyday experience in our worship. The Incarnation has torn down the veil of the Holy of Holies, and we meet God in the nuts and bolts of everyday living. The writings of the New Testament are almost exclusively in the Koine Greek of the people, not in Classical Greek. When Pope Damasus asked St Jerome in the fourth century to translate the Scriptures into Latin, by then the lingua franca of Rome, Jerome did not use the Classical Latin with which he was very familiar, but the Vulgate Latin of the people. We are in danger of re-erecting, not a veil, but a wall of separation, which Jesus came to abolish. A faulty theology seems to underpin the application of Liturgiam Authenticam.

        We could have a pastoral opportunity here, rather than a self-inflicted wound. With six to nine months before planned implementation, it is not too late for the conferences of bishops of the various English-speaking countries to have a conference call, and to agree to postpone all implementation for two years. I suspect that a number of those bishops already have their own reservations about the new translation, which they do not express publicly out of a sense of loyalty. In the newly-gained interval, the very real difficulties, including those mentioned above, can be addressed, this time in consultation with the people, including their priests in parishes. This would be a significant renewal of the Church, rather than a further depletion.”

        Not sure whose pig is getting lip stick but someone’s ox is being gored.

    1. Yes Allan, instead of insults, can you add anything to the discussion by using sacrosanctum concilium to explain why comme le prévoit is flawed?

      1. Read the translation of 1967 and the reasons for “dumbing down”the Vatican II Latin edition of the missal in the translation into English. It is self-evident. I prefer the 2010 translation for accuracy. 2008 I suspect was better. Certainly there are many ways to translate Latin into English. 1967 was an infantile product motivated by a flawed document. You also presume that a more literal translation of the Latin into English would not fulfill SC. That’s a bit of a stretch and an insult to English speaking Catholics. The post Vatican II Missal in Latin followed SC and a literal translation of the Latin into English would have done exactly the same thing, followed SC as the Latin Missal of 1970 did in noble simplicity, and comprehensibility. And maybe I’m missing something, but SC only spoke of translating some parts of the Mass into the vernacular, not into English specifically. CLP is a low level post Vatican II directive that nonetheless guided this English translation, but don’t blame it on SC.

      2. Fr. Allan,

        The translation theory put forward by CLP, dynamic equivalence, is a perfectly respectable one. Whether the current translation is the best possible example of dynamic equivalence is a separate question (as you may know, I think 1998 is a better example). But I see nothing produced thus far that resembles an argument against the fundamental approach to translation put forward by CLP.

      3. Deacon Fritz, that well may be the case. I can’t comment on the 1998 version that followed CLP since I haven’t read enough of it. Perhaps it would have been better, but it certainly raised eyebrows somewhere, why else did LA come about?
        I find the four relatively new Eucharistic prayers for special occasions which I presume are written in the 1998 style somewhat better, but far from perfect. I haven’t seen what 2010’s version of these look like though.
        But we’re really writing about the 1967 translation which was tweaked further for 1970 and 73.

      4. Fr Allan

        It depends on the eyebrows. Curial eyebrows get raised for all sorts of reasons, some better than others. Fr Ruff has not been uncritical of the 1998 translation, for that matter, but it’s flaws don’t made the flaws of the 2020 translation one iota better.

      5. Fr. McDonald,

        I just read the following last night. It might help explain why I am not completely persuaded by your “self-evident” argument.

        “What goes without saying goes without saying. If you feel the need to mention that something goes without saying it probably doesn’t. You should be similarly suspicious when someone tells you that his opinion is self-evident or obvious. If it is obvious, why would he feel the need to point out that it is? Just say it. Its obviousness will do its own work. And if it is not really obvious, then his claiming it is probably means he is trying to obscure the fact that he has no evidence at all – like those poor men who, unable to think of anything witty to write in their self-portrait for the personal ad, simply inform us that they have a good sense of humor (GSOH). Evidence, like a GSOH, is always more convincing displayed than merely claimed.”

        Whyte, Jamie., 2005. Crimes Against Logic: Exposing the Bogus Arguments of Politicians, Priests, Journalists, and Other Serial Offenders (McGraw-Hill: New York), pp. 47-48.

        P.S. Please don’t take offense at the title of the book, I don’t. I’m probably one of the worst of the other serial offenders. I’m an attorney.

    2. Actually, Father, to trade anecdotal non-data, the only complaint about the reformed liturgy I remember being common was that it made Mass *longer* than the mumbled Low Mass.

      1. Just for historical references (and this is for the United States, because each country introduced varying amounts of English into the Mass at different times):

        In 1964, the Roman Missal which was published (Benziger and Catholic Book) had the “people’s parts” from the dialogue Mass days in English: ORDINARY: Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Agnus Dei, Domine non sum dignus were prepared by the National Conference of Bishops. The PROPERS: Introit, Gradual/Tract, Offertory and Communion verses were from the Confraternity Psalms. The Epistle and Gospel readings were from the as-yet-unpublished NAB draft; and when the NAB came out in 1970, some of the very colloquial renderings were toned down considerably (e.g., Second Sunday of Advent: “Then why did you go out – to see a prophet? Of course it was!”). The Collect, Secret (as it was still called), Preface, Canon and Postcommunion oration were still in Latin (in the United States – see below at *).

        In February of 1966, to go into effect in Lent, the “English-Latin Sacramentary” was published to supplement the Roman Missal (there was no Lectionary yet, although a one year cycle Sunday Lectionary for use at the pulpit was soon available, and an optional experimental weekday Lectionary available soon after). The Ordinary of the Mass stayed the same as it had been in 1964, but now the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar (Psalm 42 omitted) could be in English. The Collect (called Prayer), Prayer over the Gifts and Prayer after Communion were lifted right out of one of the handmissals of the day, “The Maryknoll Missal,” as evidenced by the copyright of PJ Kenedy & Sons inside the title page of this “Sacramentary.” The Exsultet was adapted (somewhat simplified) from a version done in 1963 by Dennis Fitzpatrick of Friends of the English Liturgy.

      2. Although the Collects, Prayers over the Gifts and Prayers after Communion of that 1966 English-Latin “Sacramentary” were more formal than the style of English that later came out under ICEL (Sacramentary 1974-75), they were much simplified compared to the new translation that will come into effect Advent 2011. Some “qui” clauses are kept in the Collects and more subjunctives than in ICEL. But you’ll find the translators of the Maryknoll Missal opted for far more declarative sentences than will be coming in Advent.

        Interestingly, many of us old timers felt back then (1964) that the Australians (and Canadians?) had “lucked out”, since THEIR 1964 edition of the Benziger Roman Missal (produced in New York and IN EVERY OTHER WAY just like the USA edition!) had the Collect, Secret and Postcommunion in English from the beginning (Advent, 1964), and the Collects, at least, were done by none other than the world-renowned Christian Latinist, Dr. Christine Mohrmann. Her translation also appears in the one volume Benziger ROMAN BREVIARY published in 1964. I defer to anyone who may know more than I, but I think you’ll find that the Secrets and Postcommunions are NOT Dr. Mohrmann’s but rather adaptations from Father Lasance’s New Roman Missal (under Benziger copyright) with Thee and Thou modernized.

        I don’t know what happened in the UK. When everyone got permission for the Prefaces in English (Lent 1966), several versions appeared. The US, as I say, had the Maryknoll Missal. Some place (Canada?) had a very nice (I thought) version. The people’s response for “Dignum et iustum est” was “It is worthy and right so to do.” And the Preface began: “Right and worthy it is, our duty and our salvation”

        The first specifically ICEL production was that 1967 Canon. I can remember the day the insert arrived in the mail from the local church goods store. What we were told would never happen, had.

      3. Thanks G. Michael McGuire for that history. I was a teenager when things began to change and I have recollections but time lines are sketchy in my mind. I have a mint 1965 Roman Altar Missal but in my previous parish we also had a 1967 insert for the new order of the Mass and the Roman Canon and three new Eucharistic prayers in English which are basically what we have today. Things were moving so fast between 1965 to 1970 it is almost like a blur, but I do remember how frustrated we were when we had learned the parts of the Mass in English that the 1965 missal had only to have to relearn the “dumbed down” versions of the Gloria and Creed around 1967 and the change from “The Lord be with” And with your Spirit, to And also with you. Those five years between 1965 and 70 were very exciting to me as a young teenager but even then it seem things were becoming too simplified and losing their dignity.

      4. 1967: insert: Canon of the Mass

        ???: insert: Eucharistic Prayers and some Prefaces: this fascicle can be identified because in Eucharistic Prayer I, “the mystery of faith” is still in the institution narrative (words of consecration, if you prefer), and in Eucharistic Prayers II, III and IV there is the rubric, “he bows deeply and with hands joined on the altar says” during the post-consecration epiclesis (in other words, imitating the “Supplices et rogamus” posture from Eucharistic Prayer I).

        1970: c. 1969 but title page publication 1970 [the new] Order of Mass (by now the beginning of EP I has changed from “We come to you, Father, in this spirit of thanksgiving” to “We come to you, Father, with praise and thanksgiving,” the consecratory formulae are identical (i.e., “the mystery of faith” is out of EP I and becomes the acclamation), and the post-consecratory epiclesis rubric requiring the bow has been removed from EP II, III and IV.

        1975: Sacramentary

        (I think. It’s late, and I’m old!)

  3. One of the changes they had to make was kind of funny. The current text says “Look with favor on these offerings” and the new one says “look with a serene and kindly countenance.” They first had “a serene and kindly gaze.” But someone, from Australia I think, posted a picture on the Internet of a celebrant, deacon and subdeacon dressed up in pink vestments for Gaudete Sunday holding their birettas and smiling for the camera and put the caption under it “This vocal group is available to sing for parish and diocesan functions. Introducing “The Serene and Kindly Gays.” The line was changed soon after that went viral.

      1. Oh it “went viral” alright – despite what you might THINK, Mark – the FACT is, it went viral where it matters (not online, but remember this process, at least in those days, didn’t take place online), and when it had been laughed out of everywhere that matters, the gaze/gays thing is the ONLY reason why we now have “countenance” and not “gaze” (but the men will still wear pink at least twice a year, and sometimes even liturgically) in that prayer.

  4. I am inclined to think that these translation commentaries and debates about CLP vs LA vs 1998 cause us to miss something. For those of us who are blessed with a degree of Latin reading ability, one look at the Latin followed by a look at the current or 1967 translations leaves one astonished by the undeniable fact that the current/1967 translation was astoundingly disappointing in light of what it attempted to translate. All of the painstaking rationale for why they used this phrase instead of that phrase causes one to lose sight of the fact that the translation itself is so terribly lackluster.

    1. Now that we have the literal translation of the Latin, it’s quite clear to me the current EP I is far from lackluster.

  5. Fr Allan,
    your metaphor is offensive and its use unworthy of a conversation such as this, just like the translation your are attempting to defend.

    1. Gerard, the translation I’m attempting to defend, as you say, you imply is offensive, meaning the new translation. Certainly both of us are entitled to our opinions. My metaphor might be offense to you but funny or true to others, but it was for a translation that is soon to be passe and by 1970’s parts of it were already revised. However it really was the belabored written justification of the translation that I was bemoaning. It seemed awfully self-serving to me, but perhaps not to you. I think I’ve been clear that I’m writing an editorial opinion.

  6. It is your editorial opinion – from above as quoted:

    “….but SC only spoke of translating some parts of the Mass into the vernacular, not into English specifically. CLP is a low level post Vatican II directive that nonetheless guided this English translation, but don’t blame it on SC.”

    If you spent the time reading the various documents that have been posted about the developments from SC, you would discover:
    – SC posited liturgical principles
    – SC did not legislate actual regulations, rules, implementations
    – SC (like many of the VII documents) reveal directions but also the “both/and” dimensions that one would expect in a pastoral council of over 2,000 bishops
    – SC declared that translation powers are with conferences
    – thus, from SC, conferences organized committees that were approved by them to begin vernacular translations (your statement – “…translating parts into vernacular but not into english specifically” makes no sense”)
    – Paul VI with conferences’ approvals, appointed a liturgical committee to work with all conferences to begin the translation projects, rituals and sacraments were also involved – one example was the ICEL and later ICET and the dynamic translation approach outlined in CLP which captured what the conferences were asking for

    (again, your statement – “….CLP is a low level post VII directive” means what – as opposed to LA which is a result of what??

    CLP – a pastoral council’s principles with directives; actual conferences organizing a committee to develop and use translation techniques; approved by Paul VI. Which is the real low level directive?

    LA – written by a small group with 1998 in place and approved; never approved by conferences; and acted upon only after JPII did nothing and the required time passed?

    – as Fr. Ruff has documented, within a few years the english speaking conferences and then others asked for Paul VI’s approval to expand the use of the vernacular – acting on VII’s SC principles

    Your history or your mythology?

    1. Bill, you would win me over and perhaps others if you weren’t so presumptuous and condescending. Nothing you’ve written negates anything I wrote. The Latin Order of the Missal was first revised and then based on it the translations into the vernacular were devised after Vatican II and by those in Rome who allowed the various methods and translations to come about. Obviously those who translated the Mass into the 1965 English missal were using a method that isn’t exactly CLP because that document came out later and the complete new order of the Latin Mass had not been issued at that point.
      In the post-conciliar period, if fate had been different; if some perspectives hadn’t won out over other perspectives and yes amongst a small group of curial prelates, we might well still have the 1965 Order of the Mass with all its rubrics even though we could have still had the new calendar, additional Masses, prefaces, lectionary and more lay involvement in the liturgy. But one pressure group in Rome won out over another and the one that lost went home licking his wounds and another went home to begin what would become The Society of St. Pius X.
      My former bishop was at Vatican II and very well versed in Lumen Gentium and conciliar/collaborative approaches to decision making in the Church and more decentralization in certain areas of church life. But all of that is subsequent theologizing and formulating of principles and policies. Again even here, there were those who won and lost. And as Walter Conkrite use to say, “and that’s the way it is.”

      1. So let’s just ram this translation down people’s throats, because no matter what we do, “we’re bound to lose a few…” Good pastoral practice.

  7. Okay, Fr. Allan – but you did not respond to any of the documented items I responded to.

    – you “correct” me
    – you outline an alternative scenario that cites the 1965 missal… us understand who, how this missal came about and how it fits into VII, Communio, CLP, ICEL, english speaking bishops’ conferences. You suggest that it was a good alternative – long list of what it could have been?
    – you again slide over history describing vernacular translations as “revised and then based on it the translations into the vernacular were devised after Vatican II and by those in Rome who allowed the various methods and translations to come about.” Let’s see – you leave out essential events…..actually the committees began to be organized during VII by various conferences of bishops; you make it seem that Rome “allowed” different methods…actually, following VII, conferences took the lead on this.

    (contrast the post VII process with the post 1997 process as documented:

    which one was more transparent; collegial; access to experts, etc.)

    – then, you write as if there were different camps and the minority lost out…..most histories have documented the fact that the majority was overwhelming. There might have been a very small minority…you make no reference to the fact that Communio, ICEL, etc. tried to engage all facets/sides to this project
    – then, you support your “history” by referring to your former bishop who was at VII, LG, approaches to decision making as “subsequent theologizing and formulating policies”…..leaving us with the statement that there were those who won and lost. Again, most documented histories indicate that policies were overwhelmingly supported; reviewed & approved by conferences’ voting; etc. Excellent history comparing the two processess:


  8. cont…… (sorry, change Communio to Consilium)

    The complete link –


    Thus, one might categorise the documents in question as follows:

    Document Nature of Document

    Constitution on the Scared Liturgy Highest document of an ecumenical council
    motu proprio Sacram Liturgiam papal universal law
    Inter Oecumenici, papal approval curial text with the force of universal law
    Code of Canon Law papal universal law
    Comme le prévoit curial administrative text
    Liturgiam authenticam curial executive text

    Other notes:

    “Liturgiam authenticam is an instruction, an act of executive power. The pope approved it only in general form (in forma communi), which does not give it the force of law (lex). The congregations of the Roman
    Curia are executive authorities. Only the pope and the college of bishops have legislative power for the universal Church. The congregations of the Roman Curia do not have legislative power unless this has been delegated by the pope, which was not done in this case.”

    Final note:

    “The norms of Liturgiam authenticam should not be interpreted in such a way as to restrict the authority of the conferences of bishops to prepare and approve the vernacular editions of the liturgical rites for their countries. The instruction, technically, is not telling the conferences of bishops how they must do translations, but setting out the criteria and rules that will guide the Apostolic See itself in determining whether to grant its recognitio.”

    1. Dear Bill:

      You’ve obviously missed a very important point, which the rest of us have observed over the past few months.

      It is this: whatever else he has done in that time (and, given the amount of time he spends on this blog, not to mention elsewhere on the web, it’s anything but parish work or the “cura animarum” as one such as he, so fond of Latin, might call it) Allan has become an unquestioned and unquestionable expert on everything about which he writes.

      Please just acknoweldge his expertise and the fact that he cannot be told anything, and knows it all (even unto declaring that the Maryknoll Missal was a gem of English translation, up there with Cranmer or even, dare we say it, Harbert’s “My translation will last as long as Cranmer’s”) and move on.

      Buona Domenica.

  9. The Bishop of Savannah who was present at the Second Vatican Council was Thomas J. McDonough, who died in 1998 as emeritus Archbishop of Louisville (1967-1981). (He was Bishop of Savannah from 1957 -1967.) Is this the bishop that Father McDonald (ordained for Savannah in 1980) refers to as “his former bishop” who was present at the Council? Or is the former bishop referred to Bishop Raymond Lessard, who was ordained a bishop in 1973? Monsignor Lessard was not a Father of the Council, though he was a peritus. This should be made clear. I have read no history of the Council in which Father Lessard is mentioned as having had a major role as a peritus.

    In all charity, if one is going to make absolute assertions about what happened before, during, and immediately after the Council, I think a better grasp of the actual history rather than anecdotes and parti pris urban legend would be a more valuable contribution to these important discussions.

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