Informed of multiple errors, Congregation for Divine Worship did little or nothing

You still remember the Gray Book and the Received Text and the number 10,000 and the internal report “Areas of Difficulty,” right? How’s that? You want a refresher? OK, here we go.

The Gray Book is the final version of the missal translation ICEL sends to the national bishops’ conferences, after having worked for many years with the conferences in developing it. Then the conferences approve the Gray Book, sometimes as is, sometimes with a few amendments, and send it to Rome for recognitio (= approval).

Last summer the story leaked that Rome allowed a few people on Vox Clara to redo the final text. They made over 10,000 changes – introducing all sorts of mistranslations, contorted English, and even theological errors. Since Vox Clara had received every draft translation over the previous years with opportunity to give feedback, it was especially puzzling that they held back all the way through, and then at the last stage undid and redid whatever they wanted.

Perhaps we’ll never know who was responsible for this mischief, but in some circles they speak of the Missale Moronicum. Its other name is the “Received Text” – the text received by Pope Benedict at a luncheon on April 28, 2010 with Msgr. James Moroney and everyone else from Vox Clara.

Xavier Rindfleisch wrote four articles for Pray Tell (part one, part two, part three, and part four) comparing the ICEL 2008 Gray Book text to the 2010 Received Text.

Enter the internal report, “Areas of Difficulty in the Received Text of the Roman Missal,” reported on by Pray Tell and later leaked by someone on WikiSpooks. Whoever wrote it – we’re sure it’s someone within the translation machinery – knows his stuff. The internal report is a devastating critique of the problems in the Received Text.

The final text which will appear in our missals next November has been leaked at WikiSpooks.

Put these three things together:
* the Received Text,
* the internal report showing the problems in the Received Text,
* and the final text,
and you have a rare opportunity to examine how Rome responds to highly competent critique of its work. Does the final text correct the problems? Does it address the grave concerns of the report?

Pray Tell is happy to report that Xavier Rindfleisch is back! And he has done exactly this work. He lays out in summary form each problem identified in the internal report, noting whether or not the problem is corrected in the final text. See Xavier’s full report here:

The 2010 Received Text, the Internal Report, and the Final Text” by Xavier Rindfleisch.

According to our math, the internal report identifies some 208 examples of problems in the Received Text. Of these, the Congregation for Divine Worship of the Holy See has corrected 49 in the final text. That is to say, most of the constructive assistance has been ignored.

Further examination reveals some patterns in the 49 corrections made: they tend to be rather minor. Six of them involve changing a semicolon to a comma. Eight of them concern capitalization of “Lord.” One of them involves changing a pronoun back to exclusive language – “him” instead of “them” – to be consistent with the rest of the final text. Thirteen of the changes in the prefaces are doubtfully an improvement. The Received text had
…as we sing the hymn of your glory,
without end we acclaim:
– which confuses what is modified by “without end.” That has been made clearer in the final text, but the word order of the last line is still clumsy:
…we sing the hymn of your glory,
as without end we acclaim:

Readers can examine the other 28 changes for themselves.



  1. Actually most of the changes Rindfleisch complains about make the 2010 text better than the 2008 one. I am disappointed by the myopic focus of his report. But since he thinks the 2008 text was fine, I think he is missing the wider problems with this entire new translation.

    1. Wow Joe! The report was posted at 7:31 and you had all 18 pages analyzed and evaluated and your opinion posted 23 minutes later. Whew! You da man! Grant graciously that the rest of us time through to read it can take. (A little 2010 lingo there for ya!)

  2. As it happens, Professor Rindfleisch went over his paper with me at Da Roberto’s in the Borgo Pio: neither of us would have missed THIS Divine Mercy Sunday in the Eternal City . . . for obvious reasons. I was much looking forward to its publication, but my favorite example of a misplaced adverb seems to have been misplaced in the transcription to Pray Tell.

    Here’s the Prayer Over the Offerings for Saturday of the Fourth Week in Lent:

    Oblationibus nostris, quaesumus, Domine,
    placare susceptis,
    et ad te nostras etiam rebelles compelle propitius voluntates.

    Be pleased with our offerings and accept them,
    we pray, O Lord,
    and in mercy compel even our defiant wills
    to turn to you.

    Look at the mess Vox Clara has made (and to which the Holy See has granted the confirmatio):

    Be pleased, O Lord, we pray,
    with these oblations you receive FROM OUR HANDS,
    and EVEN when our wills are defiant

    Not only is the text UNCORRECTED, despite the “Areas of Difficulty” alerting the Congregation to the grammatical error, but:

    1) FROM OUR HANDS is not found in the Latin
    2) there is no subordinate clause in the Latin, but instead a direct petition
    4) “even when” makes no sense in the context of this prayer: perhaps “especially when.” But, as noted, there is no such construction in the Latin.

    Speaking of “even”, not even our resident curmudgeon, Joe O’Leary, can possibly think the 2010 version of this prayer better than 2008. And since he’s in favor of 1998, or of the priest simply adapting as he goes along, no wonder he thinks the Professor’s focus as “myopic” as his own.

    The Professor tells me at least SEVEN compiled “ERRATA” notices have been sent to the publishers . . . can’t an EIGHTH be sent out to correct AT LEAST the ridiculous grammatical errors?

    And can someone find out WHY the Congregation, knowing of these errors, simply chose to ignore them?

  3. The Professor gave me this summary of his thinking on the whole situation, that I think worth sharing with Pray Tell’s readership:

    What could be the explanation for the Congregation for Divine Worship’s lack of response?

    Were the mistranslations pointed out to them NOT mistranslations?

    Were the violations of Liturigam authenticam/Ratio translationis NOT important: was Bishop Serratelli speaking on his own or on behalf of the Congregation when (November 18, 2010) he made the claim, astonishing in light of the Holy See’s constant invocation of LA, that “the Congregation followed the principles of LA faithfully but not slavishly”?

    Were the errors in English usage NOT errors?

    If the concerns WERE valid, and STILL nothing was done, is one not bound to consider less flattering explanations:

    1) Lack of interest: i.e., laziness?

    2) An intellectual inability to make the necessary corrections, i.e., incompetence?

    3) Lack of the humility necessary to admit errors, i.e., arrogance?

    “Well, at least it’s better than what we’ve got,” many say; others, “Too late now; but maybe once everyone sees how many problems this translation has . . . ” Still others DO reach the unflattering conclusions: laziness, incompetence, arrogance, and sight the saga of the Revised Grail Psalms from Conception Abbey and GIA – even Cardinal George couldn’t get a reply! – as confirmation of this negative judgement.

    But is this the quality of workmanship/character expected of the Holy See’s officials regarding liturgy, especially the Mass?

    Is the process that produced the forthcoming Missal worthy of the trust put into the hands of the Holy See’s collaborators by the Vicar of Christ, not to mention (indeed, we mention them too infrequently) the holy People of God?

    Questions worth pondering, Your Eminences and Your Excellencies?

    Errors worth correcting before everything goes to press?

      1. Hey, Vic, great eye for that mistake!

        But what’s the matter? No thoughts on Rome’s screw up?

        You must have SOME opinion of an office in the Roman Curia that would betray the Holy Father’s trust as bad as CDW did!

        Let’s hear what you think about the issues …. and I’d you’re that good at catching grammatical mistakes, would you be willing to do some work for Vox Clara??!

  4. I think we may be making a strategic error by focusing so much on the 2010 changes from 2008. I was surprised that the capitalization of LORD becomes an issue (most people do not even notice this in Bible translations). Also complaining that the 2010 text does not follow Liturgiam Authenticam is a rather ironic mode of critique of which the point will be missed. Indeed I am not even sure it is meant to be ironic. Rindfleisch may be a fan of LA.

    Gerard, my address is

    Unless we can agree that LA is at the root of the problem our critique of the ghastly new translations is not going very deep.

    One of the problems of this website is that the range of topics and criticisms is so wide that no concrete, focused message is coming across.

    1. Joe O’Leary :

      Unless we can agree that LA is at the root of the problem our critique of the ghastly new translations is not going very deep.


      To me, LA represents the nadir of Catholic liturgical imagination, aptitude and genius. It should be withdrawn and replaced.

  5. In some cases 2010’s slighting of Liturgiam Authenticam results in a more prayable text than 2008 — it is rather perverse to complain about that.

    Of course what is needed is to dump Liturgiam Authenticam altogether, for the reasons set out by Bp Maurice Taylor.

    The proponents of the new translatison now regularly say that of course there will be further changes down the line. But as long as such future tinkerings are guided by LA they will be useless.

    Surely we should all be able to afree that a return to the 1998 texts is the soundest course — making to them whatever improvements are required.

    I really wonder how bishops, clergy and faithful are going to be able to bear the messy tinkerings and chopping and changing that seem to lie ahead. If we had been presented with a sensible, prayable, fully prepared text, none of that would be needed.

  6. “Unless we can agree that LA is at the root of the problem our critique of the ghastly new translations is not going very deep.”

    Amen! Even before any of the translations were produced, it was apparent that a good translation couldn’t be expected, as long as LA was being followed. Of course, LA isn’t being followed consistently, but strangely, the deviations are sometimes even worse!

    1. Good God, a Catholic who thinks for himself? Sorry, obviously you have no placed either at Vox Clara or in Benny’s Barque of the Elect.

  7. Overall I think that the Professor’s opinions are well founded. This is especially true where an ablative absolute or adverbial agreement has been botched. However, some of his opinions are merely stylistic.

    Take for example Prof. Rindfleisch’s criticism of the introit for Monday of the 2nd week of Lent. This introit is taken from Psalm 25(26). The Vulgate directo is familiar to any celebrant of the Tridentine Mass since Psalm 25 is recited at the Lavabo. The reversion to the Neo-Vulgate for this introit is reasonable, as the recitation pes meus stetit in directo … was an invariable part of the Tridentine Mass. For this reason, I don’t understand Rindfleisch’s contention that in via recta “is more suitable in the context of Lent.” If anything, directo demonstrates a better continuity with Roman liturgical history.

    I am not entirely concerned with the mistranslation of discrete verbs. Relative clauses, ablative absolutes, and imperative statements should retain their grammatical integrity as much as possible when transposed into English. Still, some of the individual verb mistranslations here are not egregious.

    Aren’t we being a bit hard on the translators? After all, the creators of the Sacramentary took much greater liberties with the Latin text. Let’s not forget the way in which the ICEL Roman Canon translators almost completely paraphrased the te igitur. Something tells me that many are willing to overlook ICEL’s equally great foibles simply because ICEL’s translation model better fits their ideological aspirations.

    1. Jordan,
      While it is (generally speaking) against my author’s principles to get involved in an online debate about my own material, I really do need to remind you and everyone else looking at this piece – and perhaps Father Ruff would care to weigh in – that I am simply “tallying up the score,” so to speak: I went through the ICEL report and compared 2008 and 2010 (and sometimes the Latin).

      So your “quoting” of something as my “contention,” is, in fact, ICEL’s contention, not mine. Go and look at the report I am comparing with the final product:

      Then ask yourself: if the ICEL team that produced the 2008 translation worked all those years in order to come up with something both accurate and literate (not to say, in conformity with LA and RT), which the world’s English-speaking bishops approved, and a group of anonymous persons IN THE HOLY SEE (or in the Holy See’s employ or at least at the Holy See’s invitation) then produced a revision that, along with violating a number of LA’s and RT’s directives, violated some basic rules of English grammar (“constrain them mercifully to convert to you”), whilst also producing lines that are not only mistranslations but apt for ridicule (“to the immensity of your majesty”), and then these errors are pointed out to the Holy See in an urgent communique . . . should not the bishops of the world be asking why the CDW ignored the report?

      Was it laziness? incompetence? arrogance? or all of the above? And are the bishops happy with that kind of work? Is the Holy Father? Are you? Should we be?

      And please, can we once and for all stop falling back on that old saw: “Well, but look what the PREVIOUS translators did!”

      Sister Mary Xaverine did not accept that as an excuse for poor scholarship – let alone disobedience – in fourth grade! Let’s all wise up!

      1. Chris, I have suspected for a long time that you perceive me to be an idiot. You’re not far off the mark, actually. I’ll readily confess that I’m not a bright man. I do read the Latin language, however. While I might not have been intimately involved with every step of the translation odyssey, I am able to observe the way in which certain translations might not be that inappropriate after all.

        Let me address my errors and posit some observations even if they are simplistic and rather obvious from your perspective.

  8. Jordan Zarembo :
    Chris, I have suspected for a long time that you perceive me to be an idiot. You’re not far off the mark, actually. I’ll readily confess that I’m not a bright man. I do read the Latin language, however. While I might not have been intimately involved with every step of the translation odyssey, I am able to observe the way in which certain translations might not be that inappropriate after all.
    Let me address my errors and posit some observations even if they are simplistic and rather obvious from your perspective.

    Jordan: you need to address one thing only before you start getting too ‘erudite’ and it is this: the rules for the translation of the current ICEL texts were different from those of the coming texts.

    Don’t be too hard on yourself about not being bright while being able to read Latin: Vox Clara is full (and when I say full, I mean full – 7,000 of them, so Monsignor Moroney told the priests in Providence RI last weekend!!!) of not-so-bright people who think they know Latin, and, indeed, English, despite the travesty they’ve given us in the form of the coming Pell-Moroney-Ward Missal.

    Attendance at the Old Mass, just like membership of (or being an advisor to) Vox Clara, surprisingly, does not grant one infallibility.

    Despite what you say, I don’t perceive you to be anything at all, but your (unsought) admission that you’re ‘not far off’ being an idiot is noted.

    1. #16 by Xavier Rindfleisch on May 3, 2011 – 4:46 pm

      Yes, falling back on “look what ICEL did!” is childish. Still, I am confused by your characterization of the final introit translations as “non-Christological” simply because the translators have resorted to modern Bible editions. Are there previous studies on the Christology of the Sacramentary Lenten propers that are applicable to the current translation question? I am not able to follow your assessment of the final revisers’ introit translation decisions without recourse to secondary research.

      Prof. Rindfleisch, your observations on Christology in the new propers might align well with recent scholarship in the area. Liturgical Studies is not my field. Even so, perhaps you might explain your observations on the final Lenten propers at a more basic level so that those who are unacquainted with the nuances of these prayers can better understand your argument.

      #19 by Chris Grady on May 3, 2011 – 5:21 pm

      Every Mass, EF or OF, is just another opportunity to kneel at the side of the Cross. Perhaps it might profit us all to disengage from the text every once in a while and attend Mass in adoration and thankfulness for Eucharistic grace. Actually, I’m convinced that those who have the least academic knowledge of the Mass benefit the most intellectually.

  9. The 2010 texts are bad and the 2008 texts are bad. Disputing about which are worse is an idle game, of interest only to those who are caught up in the most arcane aspects of the translation saga.

    The 2010 texts are what priests are expected to dish out on November 27, so their badness is a matter of gave pastoral concern. The point that they are still worse than the 2008 texts is one of value only in secondary polemic. The essential point is that these texts short-change the People of God in an incredible and unacceptable way.

    The next point is: what are we supposed to do about it?

    1. Continued and detailed criticism of the 2010 texts is useful precisely because on the divisive topic of the liturgy, the 2010 text manages to unite most people against it, and in a bipartisan manner, from both sides of the divide.

      Why is it good to work towards a clear and irrefutable case against the 2010 text? Because it serves to shine the light on the incompetence and power abuse happening at the Vatican. Xavier Rindfleisch can do his part by exposing the inconsistencies with the LA directives, others can do their part by exposing weaknesses from another angle, and all lovers of the English language can do their part by exposing the faulty English style.

  10. Claire, that was my view too. But now when I look at the changes listed in the post, I see a problem.

    The problem is that the case of 2008 against 2010 is not really all that clear and irrefutable. Yes, a goodly number of the “corrections” are clear disimprovements. Some are improvements. Some can be faulted for not being as literal as LA prescribes; but if the text is better than a literal translation would have produced, why should we complain about that? Some again, such as the decapitalization of LORD, are insignificant.

    So I feel we should be wary of wasting valuable energy on mounting the case about the superiority of 2008 to 2010.

    The more general case, against the new translations, has been made, and it is clear and convincing. But the bishops have closed ranks and refuse to listen to that case.

    As the Osama Bin Laden story shows, the factor of “saving face” plays a big role in human affairs. The bishops do not want to “lose face”. How should we deal with that reality — diplomatically, charitably, prophetically or whatever?

  11. I think that the case is clear to those who believe in LA as if it were a matter of faith. Xavier Rindfleisch took LA as defining the rules of the game and followed them scrupulously. I do not remember that he explained what’s so great about LA in any of his writings. LA is simply a given for him. It would not occur to him to criticize it. He is “a simple, humble labourer in the vineyard of the Lord”, and trusts that all specific instructions from the Holy See are true and good.

    So, here we are. The Vatican promulgates two texts — LA on the one hand, the 2010 missal on the other hand — that contradict each other. What’s the dutiful Catholic supposed to do? Cognitive dissonance happens. Rindfleisch’s solution: stick to his faith in LA, declare that the 2010 missal is the product of some irresponsible anonymous moron, and carefully prove it by facts — but mostly facts that rely on LA. Compelling, if you share his belief in LA’s soundness. But how many share that simple belief, I wonder? If the numbers are small, then his statements becomes largely irrelevant. (Would that explain the paucity of comments?)

    (Now I should probably run for cover in case Redoubtable Rindfleisch reacts to this!)

    As to how to deal with the new missal: I only hope that most parishes opt for choices that are not too expensive to reverse or to adjust. Maybe, after the initial noise at its launch, once it is away from the lights of the media stage, the missal will be able to evolve quietly.

    1. Dear Claire:

      You have nothing to fear: “Redoubtable Rindfleisch” has learned his lesson well!

      My only purpose, at PT’s invitation, was to help: the old ICEL translation is dead; the much-beloved-by-many 1998 translation is dead; the prescriptions of LA and RT are law. Given those REALITIES (not necessarily Rindfleisch’s preferences), I thought a translation both accurate and literary was the most desirable outcome. In my previous articles I pointed out where the 2010 Vox Clara Missal (or, as one poster dubs it more accurately, the Pell-Moroney-Ward Missal) is neither accurate nor literary. You see, that’s the point Claire: not MY “beliefs in LA’s soundness” but REALITY: LA is now the governing document on liturgical translation.

      Trust me: it would have been far easier on my time and energy not to bother. In fact, one friend accused me of saving the CDW some of its forthcoming embarrassment by pointing out the more ridiculous errors/infelicities (“bending slightly” being our favorite). In retrospect, I must say I agree with him. It would have been less trouble – and far more fun – to see the Missal come out with even more errors than it’s going to have now. But, quod scripsi, scripsi.

      The “paucity of comments” I attribute to a various things: it’s hard to get engaged with what – stripped of commentary and context – is essentially just a score card. And the really obvious thing: no one cares anymore. Or, maybe I should say, no one cares yet . . . In either case, there’s nothing to be done now but enjoy the New Missal (and for those of us who are amused by such things, keep an eye on Vatican promotions and appointments).

      Fortunately, I say most of my prayers most of the time in Latin. Come to think of it, so do most of those who form Vox Clara’s committee and pool of consultants!

      Maybe that’s why they did such a bang up job revising 2008 and why, warned of multiple problems, the CDW did nothing.

      Nobody cared.

  12. Take it from Janet: There was an epidemic of scarlet fever in Providence yesterday! Our two liturgy priests wanna be Monsignors and the Monsignor who was giving the talk to us wants to be a Bishop – real bad! At one point he even
    asked our Bishop, “Now what year were you ordained a bishop, Bishop? Oh, so you were there for the liturgy wars!” Yup, it was Monsignor Moroney, the mastermind (hehe) behind Vox Clara spinning the mess that’s coming out in Advent. My favorite line was: “Well, with 7,000 people being consulted, you’re bound to have some grammatical mistakes!” There’s a whole new explanation for all the
    errors: not too LITTLE consultation, but too MUCH! Most of the guys were saying if it’s as bad as the samples make it out to be, we’ll just have to make it up even more as we go along than we’ve had to do with the current stuff. Actually
    most of the guys were nodding …. not in agreement, but nodding off. You best be believin’ Janet grabbed her packet of freebies (actually SEVERAL packets of freebies – can you say eBay?? ) and headed to Happy Hour at Twin Oaks!

  13. Jordan Zarembo :
    Every Mass, EF or OF, is just another opportunity to kneel at the side of the Cross. Perhaps it might profit us all to disengage from the text every once in a while and attend Mass in adoration and thankfulness for Eucharistic grace. Actually, I’m convinced that those who have the least academic knowledge of the Mass benefit the most intellectually.

    So, in a nutshell, Mass, on your planet, is a chance to kneel by the Cross and compete to see which kneeler can benefit the most intellectually.

    (And, just in passing, to “disengage from the text” is not to have the Mass at all, but maybe it works differently on your planet.)

    Talk about “thankfulness for Eucharistic grace” – I’m just thankful for interplanetary travel, and the fact you’ve left me out of it.

    1. Chris, after the translation dust settles, two eternal realities remain. Mass is the same sacrifice for sin as the Cross (albeit re-presented in an unbloody manner), and the Eucharist is the sustenance and strength for sinful humanity.

      In my view, “to kneel beside the Cross” represents a continual self-emptying of arrogance and pretension. The human intellect is properly pruned through humility and a personal recognition of “stupidity” or ignorance of a mystery we will never fully comprehend. Our Lady is the living tabernacle of the Lord. Did she require a degree in liturgical exegesis and philology to kneel beside St. John at the Cross and be beholden as Mother?

      Both PT and the EF high liturgical movement have only increased my pietist leanings (with a wary eye turned towards looming Jansenism). I am now convinced that both the progressive and new conservative/Tridentine liturgical hermeneutic have lost sight of Mass as the hospital for broken humanity.

      As I have said, I am quite convinced that our ancestors who prayed silently and received the Lord in trusting humility benefited much more from the Mass than those well-versed in the applied science of Catholic liturgy.

  14. The prescriptions of LA and RT are law.

    I think that the time is coming for people to engage in active criticism of LA and RT. Bad laws are to be criticized if they cannot be ignored, and resisted if they cannot be criticized. I propose that the PT editors have some posts on the theme: “What is wrong with LA and RT?”

  15. I just got the simple insight that the touchiness of the Vatican about the new translations is to do with the authority of LA. This is a legal, not a doctrinal document, but it was made with great deliberation by the Vatican authorities. If they had to admit they got that wrong it would hugely discredit their authority. Criticism of the new translations very quickly becomes criticism of LA and of the Vatican legislators themselves. The two issues cannot be separated. That is what if you criticize the style of a given prayer in the new translation you are seen as a dissenter out to discredit the Vatican.

    1. Fortunately, one principle that LA established beyond dispute is that principles of translation can be changed!

    2. LA 47. […]Liturgical prayer not only is formed by the genius of a culture, but itself contributes to the development of that culture. […] Liturgical translation that takes due account of the authority and integral content of the original texts will facilitate the development of a sacral vernacular, characterized by a vocabulary, syntax and grammar that are proper to divine worship, even though it is not to be excluded that it may exercise an influence even on everyday speech, as has occurred in the languages of peoples evangelized long ago.

      At first it seems a harmless historical reference. But in juxtaposition with the new missal and its errors in English usage and grammar, that paragraph takes on a new meaning. Does sacral vernacular get to redefine the rules for ordering “we” and “may”? Does the new translation not have to abide by the rules of English?

      Reading LA, knowing how it’s been applied to the new missal, is upsetting.

  16. On a weekly basis, at I offer:
    A. The 2011 illiterate English Missal
    B. The underlying Latin Missale
    C. The ICEL translation
    D. A revision
    Followed by Comments, such as, for as often as “O” appears in the 2011 illiterate Missal, “O” never appears in the Latin. “O” is a legitimate Latin word.

    Raymond J. Jirran

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