Media and Missal

Celebrate! a Novalis publication in Canada, published an online essay by editor Bernadette Gasslein about the new translation of the Roman Missal. She contrasts the Pope’s recent call to convey the Gospel message in clear modern language with the translation of the Missal that has been produced for the English-speaking Church.

Recalling the principles of Liturgiam Authenticam, Gasslein says “Taken together, these principles should have produced a reasonable translation.” The problem is, they didn’t.

You can read it all here.


  1. Thanks, Rita – excellent synopsis and echoes earlier posts from Ireland, England. Don’t want to repeat earlier comments but would like to add a US version of this Canadian essay.

    From July, 2010 to February, 2011, NCR Celebration – “A Knock at Midnight – Celebrating Christ in Ancient Times” by Gabe Huck. It is a four part series with the last part being very recent and citing Fr. Ruff and Bishop Dowling’s comments. The first three parts were presented in Chicago In July, 2010.

    First Part – “Words We Need To Hear!” –

    With Ms. Gasslein – points:

    – from A. Kavanaugh – “When it comes to liturgy, precision can be bought at too high a price, and some things can not be said”
    – liturgy is metaphor consisting of word and action e.g. bread is handled; wine is fragrant; processing together; kissing a book; holding silence together;
    – “we can understand the present sad situation regarding the words of our liturgy as a fear filled reaction flowing from a determination to control as well as to restore. To control, first of all, the words. Always the words. The words have to be controlled. In practice this seems to mean that words of our rituals are to be removed from any possiblity of a living and communcal beauty that might seep into our souls and our vocabulary.”

  2. Bill, thanks for the link to Gabe’s pieces. I get celebration for homily prep but don’t get to the other material often. Thanks.

  3. What is it about the Roman Curia that they can not even follow their own rules?

    VC2010 is obviously not up to the challenge of Liturgiam Authenticam.

    Completely re-translating the English vernacular of the RM is obviously way beyond giving or withholding a recognitio.

    Why is Vox Clara needed, why a secret translation process, even after re-organizing and re-staffing ICEL?

    Where is the internal logic?

    What are the actual ends justified by these means?

  4. Don’t know the answers, Tom, but I can say since ordination in the early ’80’s I have never been so dissillusioned nor have I ever felt quite so betrayed. I sincerely believe that the CDW is committing an abuse on a par with the sexual abuse crisis. Theirs is an outlandish, perverse abuse of power. They have sucked the soul out of what was once a meaningful and beautiful vocation.

    1. “Don’t confuse or upset the people: avoid words or styles that might be confused as Protestant (40)”
      What exactly are “protestant words”? This reads like a piece of SSPX propaganda, or an email to “Fr. Z”. It is so absurd
      as to be laughable.

      1. Dustan,
        Have you looked at the actual passage (40) in LA in context? The paraphrase offered in the linked post is far more invective than the actual passage in LA.

        Why shouldn’t the translators of Catholic liturgical texts actually be sensitive to the living piety of the Catholic faithful and their traditional sensibilities when preparing translations?

        It would be helpful if we avoid a hermeneutic of suspicion when reading Roman liturgical directives.

    2. I wish I had something to say in response to Fr Blue’s blues. But the least negative thing that comes to my mind when I think about CDW is: forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing…

  5. Why do so many Catholics on the Rigid Right seem so downright unhappy, nasty and creepy? It’s very unattractive and repulsive.

    1. I think on the loopy left and the rigid right everyone can see the speck in their brother and sisters’ eyes, but miss the log in their own eyes. For example, open discussion is touted but only if it is open and left leaning, but not if it is rigid and right. 🙂

      1. Not on this blog. The unhappy/nasty commentary seems to come from the left be the topic the translations or just about anything else.

    2. Question: Just what is a “rigid right winger”?

      Any man’s answer: Someone more conservative than me.

      Question: What is a religious fanatic (fundamentalist)?

      Any man’s answer: Someone more religious than I am.

  6. Well, yes. Voices like Thompson’s are valuable because they open up the can of worms that the censurers and silencers want to keep tightly closed. But his personalized attack on Msgr Ryan does not bespeak of any great love of open discussion on his own part. If the right subscribed equally with the left to the principle of open discussion we would have a very different Catholic culture. We would, to begin with, have an effective principle of profound agreement between the two sides. But Thompson has treated rational criticism of the new translations as flaky, unorthodox, a challenge to authority, etc.; hardly the reaction of someone who is relaxed with open discussion — discussion which has some chance of opening upon truth.

  7. I find it very ironic that on this liberal blog, which champions dissent against the new translation, there is also, on this same page, a little advert for Liturgical Press’ 3rd Edition of the Roman Missal and the words ‘Pre-order NOW!’ Commercial interests trump ‘principals’ every time, eh? (Collegeville Press and this blog both being run by the same Benedictines as Fr Ruff…)

    1. Matt, obviously you haven’t been following the blog with attention. We have run numerous stories in favor of the new translation as well as stories critical of it. We have been offering links to books, descriptions of training opportunities, videos promoting the translation, and more. We have been thanked by many different publishers, not only the house that co-sponsors this blog. Our editorial principles of fairness and telling the truth are not compromised by advertisements offering books for sale. It is you who are being unfair, and grossly unfair, if I may say so, in your mischaracterization of Pray Tell.

    2. Matt, may I suggest that you inform yourself about the theological concepts of sensus fidelium and reception history. That way you might be less inclined to adopt such a judgemental attitude and peevish tone, when referring to people’s willingness to express views, with which you are free to disagree, and which they have a right to hold and to express, without having their views being labelled dissent.

      Or would you have people prevented from critiquing a translation, an activity which is basically an exercise in literary criticism? It looks, on the face of it, that this is something you would like to control.

      1. Gerald, words mean things and “dissent” seems to be the appropriate word. Progressives frequently mention their “right to dissent” in the context of these discussions.
        Also, since you brought up reception, and if we are going to discuss it one of the disconcerting questions posed by reception history is the evidence that the post-V2 liturgical changes have not been well received. The liturgical changes put forward by Pope Paul seem to have led to serious division in the Church.

        It is difficult to ignore the evidence that those places where the post V2 liturgical changes were both anticipated & implemented most zealously were the same places where
        regular religious observance, popular piety, & young vocations have fallen most dramatically, compare the Netherlands to Poland, the diocese of Rochester, NY to
        Lincoln, NE., or the LCWR sisters to the CMSW sisters. Food for thought.

      2. Daniel, while we are talking about words (“words mean something”) please note that one cannot “dissent” from a translation. One dissents from a teaching.

        Those who are critical of the translation are not, ispo facto, dissenters. I refrained from pointing this out in my earlier comment because it was clear that Matt was using words loosely.

        If you wish to be precise, please do not continue using the word dissent when you mean critique.

  8. Daniel – your statements above are not supported by either facts or data. Any good overview of a complex subject such as attendance (which means what really) would show that it remained fairly high until the 1970’s in western lands and then dropped. That same decline is now happening in eastern lands e.g. Poland. Any number of experts and historians have shown that these declines have happened for multiple reasons (VII liturgical changes being a minor one). In fact, sociological evidence shows that pre-VII attendance did not necessarily mean much – lack of attention, participation, understanding; there out of fear, compulsion; once societies began to change in terms of authority structures, we began to see the same in terms of church participation. Comparing Lincoln, NE to Rochester, NY does not really tell us anything….soon leadership will change in Lincoln and that diocese will echo the same patterns as elsewhere. In fact, do we really know the complete Lincoln picture or just what they self-report? LCWR sisters make up 90% of all US sisters – CMSW is an anamoly that, IMO, will never expand beyond the narrow segment which it is; not unlike the narrow segment of SSPX or others.

  9. “Comparing Lincoln, NE to Rochester, NY does not really tell us anything….soon leadership will change in Lincoln and that diocese will echo the same patterns as elsewhere.”

    If I read this correctly, you are saying that it is because of Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz that Lincoln usually has the highest number of seminarians and highest ratio of priests to Catholics. Lincoln also has one of the highest, if not the highest, percentages of Catholics who attend Mass every Sunday. I never thought I would hear a compliment for a bishop of his “style” on this site!

  10. That is where we should begin to study why some places have a high level of Mass attendance compared to others. Lincoln has a very high level of Mass attendance and evidently commitment to the Faith, especially of its young, thus booming vocations. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what is going on there in terms of vocations. Wichita also has an unbelievably high rate of Sunday Mass attendance and booming vocations there. Stewardship on a diocesan level has lead to a Catholic School system that is funded not by tuition but by tithing! If you tithe to your parish, you pay no tuition for elementary or high school.
    One might also look at seminaries and the ones that are flourishing and the ones that are dying on the vine. That is very telling too. One of our deacon-seminarians was visiting me yesterday and told me that in the next academic year, Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland will have so many candidates that the lower classes will have to have two men to a room. I think I see causality in all of this and certain causality in the decline and fall in Mass attendance, vocations to the priesthood and religious life and good liturgical practices. That causality of decline can be attributed to the “spirit” of Vatican II and not to Vatican II itself. Reform of the reform in continuity with the pre-Vatican II Church is what is desperately needed today. In the dioceses where it is happening it works! The Holy Father is on to something.

  11. Booming? Hardly. The rhetorical flourishes are amusing. One wonders what the genre of the post is and who the intended readerership is.

    In 1970 Lincoln had 240 female religious and 135 diocesan priests. The latest figures available from the A.P. (2004) put those figures at 134 and 139, respectively. The corresponding figures for Wichita are 533 and 134 for 1970 and 314 and 123 for 2004.

    1. What you should be comparing are similarly sized dioceses with the numbers you indicate from 1970 and today. But more importantly, you should also compare the percentage of people attending Sunday Mass with similarly sized dioceses today.

  12. Right now I don’t have access to statistics on Sunday Mass attendance there. However, if your assertions are as reliable as those relating to vocations, copious amounts of grains of salt are at hand.

      1. I refer you to the article by Claire on Commonweal blog posed here by Joe O’ Leary on the thread ‘Statement expected from Ireland’s Bishops.’

        It helps to explain the pervasive demoralisation that lies behind the low levels of church participation whether in Lincoln or Leitrim, Wichita or Wicklow. The disordered relationship between national hierarchies and the Roman curia is nowhere as well illustrated as in the new missal debacle. It is an instance of the imbalance that exists between central and local authority, as articulated in the exchange of letters on this subject between Walter Kasper and Joseph Ratzinger almost a decade ago now. If anything, the imbalance has tipped even further in one direction in the intervening decade.

        The highest teaching of an ecumenical council, a sacred constitution, gave bishops conferences the responsibility and right to produce their own translations of liturgical texts. That has been reduced, in the current controversy, merely to national hierarchies’ being asked for their approval of texts produced by the curia.

  13. Comparing dioceses is like comparing apples and oranges.

    For example dioceses with lower percentages of Catholics in comparison to the population, e.g. Lincoln (16%) vs, Rochester (24%) have better statistics across the board for being more vibrant, e.g. number of priests per Catholic, etc. Sociologists look at this in terms of religious markets with those with less market share having more motivation to performed better.

    The demographics of the population could easily affect things; older people are more likely to be church goers. Have many of the older people in Lincoln stayed on the farm while the older people in Rochester have gone to Florida?

    I’m now reading a bunch of international comparisons on a completely different topic. It is amazing how strong differences among nations disappear when you adjust the demographics to make them all alike.

  14. I don’t get all this talk about secrecy when this translation process has been going on for years. Do you really think it possible for the 1 billion Catholics in the world to have a say in the translation? The new trans. is better than what we had. And I am just a lay person, no theology degree, no backround in liturgy, nothing. But it just sounds better and makes for a more complete thought. Let the millions of people who will support the translation just get on with it. We just trust in what the Pope says, that it is more faithful to the Latin and been in the works for years with substantial consultation. I for one believe it.

    1. “It just sounds better and makes for a more complete thought” — this is partly true of the preces, of which we should have been enjoying the spiritual benefits of a proper translation since 1998 — but do you really think it is true, for instance, of the Roman Canon? Sample:


      Remember, Lord, your people, especially those for whom we now pray, N. and N. Remember all of us gathered here before you. You know how firmly we believe in you and dedicate ourselves to you. We offer you this sacrifice of praise for ourselves and those who are dear to us. We pray to you, our living and true God, for our well being and redemption.

      NEW VERSION (20108)

      Remember, Lord, your servants N. and N. and all gathered here, whose faith and devotion are known to you. For them, we offer you this sacrifice of praise or they offer it for themselves and all who are dear to them, for the redemption of their souls, in hope of health and well-being, and paying their homage to you, the eternal God, living and true.

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