The New Translation: An Interview with Cardinal George Pell

This interview comes from the Archdiocese of Sydney webpage. Pell is an articulate advocate of the forthcoming translation. The interviewer is Katrina Lee, official spokesperson for Pell and for the archdiocese.

As to be expected, the spokesperson is supportive of Pell and Vox Clara, and her questions allow Pell to make his desired points. Many of the cardinal’s clarifications are helpful – for example, that it is English-speakers through who have developed and approved this translation and not Vatican officials who don’t speak English, or that it’s not feasible to have 1.1 billion Catholics vote on liturgical issues.

Another interviewer might have wanted to ask questions such as these:

  • Since the overriding goal is accuracy, how come so many of Vox Clara’s changes to the text the bishops approved make the translation less accurate?
  • How come Vox Clara held back most of its suggestions when it was sent draft texts over the years, but then at the last stage made 10,000 changes which it hadn’t suggested earlier?
  • So much of the controversy, and the current skepticism of clergy and experts, goes back to the controversial 2001 translation document Liturgiam authenticam. Do you think the Congregation for Divine Worship should have consulted with ICEL, or bishops’ conferences, or even with cardinal members of CDW, before issuing that document? Would that have helped produce a unifying document enjoying broad support?

A few small points. The Moroney Principle – “Don’t change any of the people’s texts unless truly necessary” – predates Vox Clara or Moroney. It was used by the “old ICEL” all through the 80s and 90s, and in fact applied more fully then than now. The lectionary revision falls under ICPEL (“International Commission for the Preparation of an English Language Lectionary”), not ICEL. “Under my roof…”: It’s the centurion’s servant, not his daughter!    —  awr


  1. Would US readers have liked a Briton to head the project or vice versa? Having an Australian seems a good start. Things from Australia usually work even if the rest of us are surprised.
    Besides he will know the difference between Ash Wednesday ashes and The Ashes.
    I ‘d like to see a real Aussie version. “The Pharisee bowled Christ a googly and got hit for six.” What could be clearer and more succinct?

  2. “The translations were too dynamic and too little equivalent, hence it had to be redone” (speaking of the 1998 texts). But the new translatiom, whose flaccidity is evident, is too little equivalent as well. Latin texts that have elegance, eloquence, charm, become uncommunicative and rhythmless in the new translation. Even the collects, secrets and postcommunions, that are so vacuous in our present texts, are not improved at all — we are in for decades of spiritual sawdust.

  3. Then just use Latin allowing for Missals to publish whatever translation is appropriate to their regions. Let the Fatihful choose their editions from a foray of approved versions. Seems inclusive, and fosters active participation by encouraging the Faithful to peruse many versions of a translation they may prefer instead of waiting for the 1 and only approved translation and then blocking it out during Mass because they do not understand it or are drifting due to disinterest. Maybe reading and following along in the Missal of their choice will get people to pay a bit more attention during Mass and foster an era of greater silence and contemplation. Latin has its’ advantages.

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