No, Msgr. Moroney, I don’t think so

Wow. I don’t think I’ve ever seen, through the whole missal translation saga, the truth stretched this far. I can’t let this one pass without comment.

The speaker is Msgr. James Moroney, Executive Secretary of Vox Clara, widely suspected of being the ringleader for the 10,000 changes made to the missal text after the English-speaking bishops’ conferences approved it and send it to Rome for final approval.

The topic is changes in translation theory in academia.

The claim (get ready to support your lower jaw) is that Liturgiam authenticam was issued in 2001 in response to calls from the academy for a better translation theory, after consultation with academicians. Liturgiam authenticam and the forthcoming missal translation, then, reflect changed views in the academy about translation.

The occasion is a talk Msgr. Moroney gave in Providence, RI on May 2nd. An audio recording of the Q & A got to me by a circuitous route. Here is a transcript of the relevant part, naturally in the style of spontaneous response:

This whole shebang, what happened? What triggered it was the change in the academy of translation theory… One of the things that occurred to translators in the late eighties and the early nineties is, “Oh my God, a lot of these dynamic equivalent translations are just way off the mark,” and we never, we’re not really in contact with what the original text is. And if we really mean (inaudible) that the identity of the Church is what’s at stake, and real good theology is what’s at stake when translating these texts, then one translates them the best way that one possibly can.  But we didn’t want to go off and do it in such a way that we’d have to redo it every ten years…

The consultation on these translations in the last ten years (inaudible) involved over seven thousand people who reviewed it… We’ve never consulted 7000 people on anything before! Now you’ll hear people say, “Well, we need more consultation,” [and] that usually means, “You haven’t consulted me yet.”  [laughter] But the reality is that this has been the most intensive thing I’ve ever witnessed in my day (inaudible)  … Because translation theory all across the board is changing, and when the academy was changing it, pressure began to be brought the area and maybe we should take another look at the translations here.

I’ll give you concrete details… ICEL had redone the 1970 translation in 1991, and presented it to the conference, because even they said, looking back at the ’70 translation, this needs to be improved. But there was grave discomfort over the revised translations and the original translations, and there were very strong and heated feelings that were seeking after light, and what happened after those mid-1990s meetings is there were a series of initiatives in all of the English-speaking world, including the report on the vernacular, and all kinds of consultations, trying to bring together scholars and saying “Look, we’re killing each other over this translation stuff, what’s really going on?”  And when they were able to say, “In the larger scope of things, there is a move by secular translators from dynamic to formal equivalency  for this, this, and this, we’re able to identify,” and after about six years of consultation, that’s when the Holy See came out with Liturgiam Authenticam.

“Grave discomfort over the revised translations”? I don’t think so. ICEL worked with the eleven English-speaking bishops’ conferences from 1982 to 1997 creating a very fine translation of the sacramentary (= missal), and all of it was approved by wide margins, unanimously in some cases, by every conference of English-speaking bishops. The one possible exception is one section of the missal in one conference – but even in this case, and it concerns the U.S. conferences, the section of the missal was approved by over 2/3 of the bishops.

Liturgical scholars were highly supportive of the 1997 ICEL sacramentary and enthusiastic about its implementation. The critics were mostly a small group of U.S. bishops, inspired by a small but very loud group of clergy and laity, and both of these small groups found receptive ears in the Vatican.

“After about six years of consultation, the Holy See came out with Liturgiam Authenticam” ? I don’t think so. If there was a consultation with, say, members of the North American Academy of Liturgy, or Societas Liturgica, or the Society for Catholic Liturgy, or the Catholic Theological Society of America, or the faculty at Sant’ Anselmo or any other theological faculty, I missed it. No one was more surprised than Cardinal George the day Liturgiam authenticam appeared on the Vatican website – though the Cardinal was then a member of the Congregation for Divine Worship, no one had even told him the document was forthcoming, much less consulted him in its production.

Widespread consultation, wider than ever before, in the production of the new translation? Perhaps in terms of numbers of people involved – but it would be interesting to tally up how many were involved in the sixteen years of work on the 1997 sacramentary. Consultation with mainstream scholars? No. If there had been consultation with the academy, and if their input had been taken seriously, neither Liturgiam authenticam nor the 2011 English missal would have happened.

The fact is that both Liturgiam authenticam and the forthcoming translation have met with widespread rejection in the academy. Consider:

  • The Executive Board of the Catholic Biblical Association said this in its statement on LA:

Having studied this document in detail and having discussed our reactions to it, we conclude that although it contains much that is positive and beneficial to true liturgy, some of its provisions are sufficiently ill-advised as to be the likely occasion of embarrassment to the Church. And it is our considered opinion that the document can have a seriously detrimental impact on the reverence and love for as well as study and knowledge of the Bible in the Church.

  • Fr. Joseph Jensen, OSB, Executive Secretary of the Catholic Biblical Association, said this of LA:

If implemented, it would have serious impact in at least three areas: ecclesiology, inculturation and biblical scholarship. Gravest would be the ecclesial impact. What does such an arbitrary exercise of authority by a Roman office over conferences of bishops implies for collegiality? The earlier move of the Congregation for Divine Worship to impose its authority over the International Commission for English in the Liturgy would reduce conferences’ control over their own liturgies; thin new document lays the foundation for Vatican micromanagement of almost every aspect of liturgical texts.

  • Fr. Edward Foley, co-founder of the Academy for Catholic Liturgy, stated at the most recent NAAL meeting:

[LA] suggests a kind of cultural hierarchicalism, that the “genius of the Roman Rite” is smarter or better than indigenous cultures or languages. Is God adequately revealed only in a liturgy that conforms to Latin thought patterns, syntax and language? … What happens to collegiality … when the text the U.S. bishops approve and send to Rome for recognition comes back non-recognitio? The U.S. bishops’ process has been superseded by Vox Clara in this retranslation process and the bishops have received back a text they never approved. … [H]ow hospitable are these texts to young adults, to longsuffering women worshippers who admittedly constitute well over 65% not only of worshippers, but of church volunteers and lay ecclesial ministers? How hospitable are these texts that do not accept inclusivity as a prevailing or determinative standard?

  • No one in the last five years has stood up at a meeting the Catholic Academy for Liturgy or the North American Academy of Liturgy, as I recall, to defend LA or the forthcoming translation. I have heard, year after year, critique, anguish, frustration, outrage, sadness, disappointment, and at best, a willingness to try to make the new translation work despite its flaws.
  • Chant scholar Peter Jeffery, self-described liturgical conservative, wrote this about LA:

[W]hat it lacks in factuality it makes up with naked aggression. It speaks words of power and control rather than cooperation and consultation, much less charity. … It is particularly embarrassing that all this muscular Christianity comes to us vested and mitred in the most ignorant statement on liturgy ever issued by a modern Vatican congregation. But in a millennium when a Pope can apologize to the Jews, it is not too much to hope that the Dicastery, too, will find the courage to lead by example, and practice what it preaches on the matter of accepting correction. … Liturgiam authenticam should be summarily withdrawn, on the grounds that it was released prematurely, before proper consultation with a sufficient number of experts had been completed. Then only the hard part will remain: what to do about the issues and tensions that produced it.

  • On December 11, 2003, a conference at Sant’ Anselmo on the 40th anniversary of the Vatican II liturgy constitution brought hundreds of scholars to Rome, along with Vatican officials such as then-prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship, Cardinal Arinze. John Allen gives us Fr. Robert Taft’s report on an extraordinary occurrence at the conference that says much about scholars’ attitudes toward LA.

Towards the end [of his talk, Fr. Ignacio Calabuig OSM] turned to Arinze, who was seated there, and, in a trembling voice, departed from his written text, saying (in Italian of course) something like this (I am paraphrasing what I recall, not translating literally):

“I feel I must tell the prefect that the devastating impression the congregation seems to be spreading throughout the church, that men of great culture in their own lands are not capable of translating liturgical texts into their own mother tongue, is causing great discontent and concern in the church.”

At this point the entire audience, some 600 strong in the basilica, spontaneously exploded into prolonged, enthusiastic applause that thundered on for about three minutes. It was an historic moment, the message was crystal clear, and even His Eminence himself felt finally constrained to join — albeit timidly — in the applause that went on and on and just would not stop. I hope the reporters were there to record that one for posterity! This is my 39th year in Rome and I never saw anything like it before. I could not have been more delighted, and have told the story to anyone willing to listen.

So much for the academy calling for LA and supporting the translations done according to LA.

Be honest, Jim. Most scholars in the academy did not and do not support Liturgiam authenticam. Most scholars in the academy do not support the forthcoming translations. Do not claim, then, that the efforts you’re involved in are carried out in response to changed views in the academy.

Church officials and those who produced the forthcoming translations have decided to go forward despite the resounding opposition of the academy. Church officials, in a major change of course, are no longer guided by the work of leading liturgical scholars, as had been the case since at least the middle of the twentieth century.

Maybe church officials are right about the direction of liturgical reform. Maybe most of the academy is wrong. (The current pope seems to think so.) Maybe there is good reason to ignore the academy.

But if that’s what you’re doing, at least be honest about it. 



  1. What a splendid post.

    Maybe the fact that Mgr Moroney is saying something so crass is evidence that at some level the pressure is being felt. In which case that’s a good thing.

  2. A friend directed me to your site. I think you are off base. Why do you assume that “academia” means only the Catholic academia? Translation — and translation theory — does occur outside of the Catholic world.

    For a truly scholarly article on the changing theories of translation, see Fr. Bruce Harbert’s excellent contribution: “The Roman Rite and the English Language” in the vol. 9 of Antiphon. Read this article, then I suggest that you rethink this post.

    I believe you can find the article here:

    1. I know the article and its author very well. I’m a charter member of the Society for Catholic Liturgy and I receive Antiphon.

      A quick glance at the proceedings of the North American Academy for Liturgy shows that the scholars in NAAL’s seminar are highly engaged with the world of secular scholarship. There is no reason to think that the area of translation theory is an exception, especially since this has become such a hot topic in recent years.

      In any case, Pray Tell is already in touch with scholars from secular translation organizations, so stay tuned for some contributions here from them.


      1. >>In any case, Pray Tell is already in touch with scholars from secular translation organizations, so stay tuned for some contributions here from them.

        …and we’re still waiting, apparently.

    2. Here’s some very recent writing (book came out 2 months ago) on translation theory from secular academia:

      “To my mind, a translator’s fidelity is not to lexical pairings but to context — the implications and echoes of the first author’s tone, intention, and level of discourse. Good translations are good because they are faithful to this contextual significance. They are not necessarily faithful to words or syntax, … because words do not `mean’ in isolation. Words `mean’ as indispensable parts of a contextual whole that includes the emotional tone and impact, the literary antecedents, the connotative nimbus as well as the denotations of each statement.” (Edith Grossman, Why Translation Matters, Yale University Press, March 2011).

      Doesn’t sound at all like the professor is on the same page as Msgr. Moroney.


  3. This posting is a classic. You have nailed minor lies before, but here you reach the jugular.

    I buttonholed Cardinal Brady on the new translation and he gave as his opinion that literal translation from the Latin was not such a good idea. I tackled Archbishop Nichols and got the response that dynamic equivalence was a discredited translation theory. I was quite gobsmacked by this, as one who teaches a class on translation from Japanese to English, and wondered if I had been out of touch with wondrous recent developments. I tackled Fr Thomas Weinandy in 2007, who told me it was not his area, but that the Vatican were very determined on pushing it through.

    Keep calling for accountability.

    1. How about accountability to dogmatic teachings? If I recall correctly, you, Fr. O’Leary, have challenged dogmatic teaching on many matters.

      1. Yes. Dogmatic teaching changes. It has to. It’s a human construct, albeit with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

        The activity of the Spirit is ongoing. One of the ways of co-operating with that activity, is to point out inadequate aspect of dogmatic formulations, as they occur. No formula, however sacred, including the creeds, encapsulates fully, or exhausts the mystery it seeks to articulate.

        Or what theory of the development of doctrine are you advocating?

  4. A Sisyphan task, Anthony. With the wheels of liturgical commerce grinding, even “the best lack all conviction,” or so it seems sometimes. I hope you are not discouraged. Many of us are grateful for your knowledge and faith at the service of this issue. It may count ultimately not count for much when the juggernaut is rolled out, but… A Philistine is a Philistine, and some days it just takes one good stone.

  5. There are occasions when it is appropriate just to say a heartfelt “thank you”
    This is one of them.
    Chris McDonnell UK

  6. Thanks for this: a masterful demolition. The Church is harmed whenever someone on high rates authority above truth, or unity above truth, or tradition above truth. That’s roughly where we are now.

  7. Thank you, Fr. Anthony. It is one thing to educate ourselves about how we receive God’s great works among us. Precious little of that is going on in my diocese; nothing beyond a sheet with the changes in the responses. But it is another to fabricate versions of the process, though it wouldn’t be the first time our institution engaged in tall tales.

  8. Thanks for a lucid analysis. It puts the “lie” to our bishop’s statement that we don’t need preparation because the people’s part is only changing about 30 words – what is the big deal about?

    It supports starkly a feeling that this is a work conceived behind closed doors reinforcing the personal opinion of a solitary pope and his hand-picked curia aided and abetted by an outspoken but uneducated minority (to borrow from Australia – Temple Police). They continue to search for a justification and interpretation that they think can mollify the PIPs.

    Truly reminds me of “Animal Farm”.

    1. The growing disgust at how this translation came about and it’s cast of characters, along with the seemingly endless reports of clerical crimes, may be a portent of even greater events unfolding aboard Peter’s barque.

  9. The congregations will follow the council members and musicians, because they’re the ones putting in the leg work. The council member or musician will do as the parish priest says, because he’s the boss. The parish priest will do as the bishop says, because he’s the boss. The bishop will do as the Pope says, because he’s the boss. The Pope will do as the CDW says, because they agree with his ideology, he picked them and trusts them. The CDW will do as the Vox Clara says, because they picked them and trust them. The Vox Clara will do as Fr Moroney says, because he’s the one investing the most time in this endeavor.

    Now, once Fr Ruff’s exposes Fr Moroney’s lies, will the whole house of cards fall down, or does nobody along the chain of command care?

    1. Claire;

      You beat me to the punch! My response to Veronica at 5:40pm was that, at least for msuicians, if you want to do what is “right”, then do what you’re told, because that’s what you’re PAID to do. Not a very “pastoral” answer of course, and not one that acdemics care to hear, but Music Directors get fired all the time for not carrying out the vision of the Pastor. Priests are in much the same position. Ironically, the same dynamic that keeps many younger priests from celebrating the 1962 Missal (fear of their Pastor or Bishop) is the same dynamic that will make those who have doubts about the new translation just keep quiet.

      1. So, it’s because those in authority in the church can pay, that their wishes should be carried out? This is capitalist imperialist theology at its worst.

        What a sick and cynical conclusion! And what a travesty!

        It’s one more reason for withholding contributions.

  10. Thank you indeed. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and is something the hierarchy severely lacks.

  11. ‘Now you’ll hear people say, “Well, we need more consultation,” [and] that usually means, “You haven’t consulted me yet.”’ [laughter]

    These words bear repeating.

    1. Not sure I get your meaning. Are you saying it’s just as well that the hierarchy ignore or not consult with the academy?

      1. Uhm, I think we all use that term to mean people in academic societies, people who teach in academia, people with advanced degrees in the field, people who publish scholarly works in the field, and the like. Were you needing a more exact definition? Or what point are you working toward?

  12. Claire Mathieu :
    <img alt=""

    Now, once Fr Ruff’s exposes Fr Moroney’s lies, will the whole house of cards fall down, or does nobody along the chain of command care?

    Is this a rhetorical question?

  13. Rev. Anthony, Sincerest thanks for your thorough and cogent response to Rev. Moroney’s article. This is such a gift to those of us who have been so discounted by the LA process and its end-product. Thanks also to Rev. Ed Foley for acknowleging in his post, the very real pain this great leap backward has inflicted on women.

    1. Although I am not a woman, I feel the pain when sexist language is blithely used in sacred texts, as in “for us men and for our salvation” or “peace on earth to men of good will”. I think one would have to be quite insensitive not to feel it.

      1. “peace on earth to men of good will” is NOT in the new translation.

        What it actually says is:

        ”Glory to God in the highest,
        and on earth peace to people of good will.”

        The ”For us men and for our salvation…” is in the present translation and will be retained in the new translation.

    2. “what possible pain” Mr Drake asks

      not the words, “man” per se, since women have long been subjected to this.

      It is more the fact that when the English speaking bishops requested changes for the sake of gender inclusivity, Rome rejected these requests.

      Now I ask you Mr Drake “what possible pain” could a gender inclusive translation have on the Roman hierarchs??

      For what good reason other than the arbitrary exercise of power do they have, to deny such a request??

  14. I was thrilled to see this post as this talk was given to the clergy of our diocese. I know some of them will be “snowed” by this “dazzling” and fictitious presentation and it is discouraging. But I will direct some of them here to read this post. A sincere “thank you”, Fr. Anthony!

  15. What a shabby and dishonest attempt at spin-doctoring…. Well done on highlighting it. I really want this new Missal to be a time of opportunity, but so much about it stinks.

  16. Dear John Drake,
    What possible pain has the new ‘translation’ inflicted on women? Are you kidding? Do you really not know?

  17. Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, I asked my dentist this week about some sort of mouthguard to protect my teeth and tongue from jaw clenching and grinding.
    Thank you again Anthony. Keep up the good work.

      1. Whoa, Father. Are you saying that NO persons who qualify as academics were consulted? Seriously?

      2. No. If you read my post, you’ll see that I precisely do not say that. I speak about the vast majority of the vast mainstream of academia. Note words like “most” in my post.

        If your point involves the truth that there is not 100% agreement among academics, we already know that. That’s why you can generally find a few academics on the fringes to support just about anything.


  18. Thank you for the clarity and honesty shown in your post. I am really struggling in prayer about this; I say that as a faithful Catholic and as one involved with liturgy.

    Where are we headed and why? Those are my questions.

  19. Glad to hear it. So, the problem is which academics were consulted and which were not. Which brings us back to my original post.

    By the way, how do we know who is ‘on the fringes’?

    1. OK, look: the point of the post was to state clearly that nearly everyone in the broad mainstream of academia – represented, for example, by respected scholarly societies – is skeptical of LA and the coming texts. If you want to haggle endlessly about ideology and who counts as a scholar… do it without me.

      I have accurately represented the vast majority within academia. I already know (and I knew when I put up the post) that someone like you would be able to haggle about what counts as academia.

      My post was limited to the broad mainstream of academia, and I’ve represented it accurately. You may have an interesting point about those not in the mainstream, but that’s a different topic.


  20. LOL. Sorry, Father. I was about to ask you to justify the ‘vast majority’ bit with statistics, but I think we understand each other. I do enjoy your blog.

    1. @Stephen Beall. Can’t tell if you’re being obtuse or naughty, or both, questioning Fr. Anthony’s reference to mainstream academe. Obviously you wouldn’t find unanimity of agreement in most groups of humans, academics included. So, you look at the thinking of the majority, typically represented by the leading societies in each field of learning. In this case, the Catholic Biblical Association, Catholic Academy for Liturgy or the North American Academy of Liturgy, etc. If your point is that indeed one or several or a few academics were consulted in the preparation of LA, and your goal is to render false the assertion that the majority of academics in the field of translation theory were not consulted (as represented by the leading societies in the field), I’m afraid you missed your goal. Were you really going to ask for statistics?

  21. Does anyone know where the figure of “7000” comes from? Who are these 7000 people? How was the count done?

    I’m not asking rhetorically, or expressing doubt; I’m genuinely curious.

    1. I suspect that number includes those who were consulted by the bishops at various (Green, Grey and White Book) stages of review.

      Some of those folks submitted comments for more than one bishop — does that mean they were double counted?

      Some of those individuals were non-Catholics with advanced degrees in liturgy, liturgical history and/or classical languages — perhaps contrary to the wishes of some (and likely to their horror). Were they counted at all? (I submitted comments at Grey and White book stages for two bishops: if I was counted, was I counted twice?)

  22. Fran Rossi Szpylczyn :
    Where are we headed and why?

    We are headed in reverse from SC because it is the most visible element of V2 at which the bishops rejected the Curial texts and spoke for themselves in favor of collegiality and subsidiarity within the RCC.

    We are headed back in the same direction once called ultramontanism, the centralization of church power and authority in the clerical structures of Rome.

    Because liturgy is merely a portion of the overall ecclesiological struggle, the liturgy must be controlled by the clerical monarchists in opposition to seeing a royal, priestly, prophetic community of all the baptized as the meaning of ecclesia instead of seeing the feudal hier [sacrificial priest] -archical [ruling] class as the top down and only speakers for Catholic Christianity.

    For the curialists, there can be nothing horizontal in the liturgy, nothing feminine about God, nothing nourishing rather than adoring, because all those things imply a very different image of church from the one in which they are invested which is monarchical, patronal, secretive, clerical, male, and celibate.

    They cannot accept that academic, even theological, expertise, can ever be more applicable than legal jurisdiction, for it undermines their power base.

    Their treatment of translations demonstrates that they do not really care about liturgy, or they would have insisted on a better product. What they care about is who is in and who is out as a papal courtier and the power that carries.

  23. As Xavier Rindfleisch pointed out on this blog a while back, even those who DID accept the principles of LA (the ICEL 2008 translation team) were astonished at the errors in translation and errors in English style/grammar with which the translation was rife when it came back, vastly rewritten, from Vox Clara. A document close to 40 pages detailing these errors (diplomatically called “difficulties”) was sent to CDW. No response, as previously Cardinal George received no response to his query about the mistakes in the Revised Grail Psalter.

    Laziness? Incompetence? Arrogance? All of the above?

    Meanwhile Msgr Moroney travels diocese to diocese spinning. When asked about grammatical errors at a recent presentation, he said: “When you have 7000 people working on a project this big, there are bound to be mistakes.” None of the dutiful Fathers asked, “Yes, but why didn’t you guys correct them last summer when they were pointed out?”

    Indeed, instead of correcting their errors, CDW (one imagines Vox Clara cheering) fired Fr Ruff and Canon Alan Griffiths for making the errors public!

    Check the USA Lectionary of 1998, for example, the Pentecost Sequence: “O immortal Light DIVINE, / Shine within these hearts of YOURS.” The same “scholarly” hand (see the “concordat”) seems to be at least in the background of the new translation as well.

    God bless you, Father Anthony, for calling him out on this duplicity.

    Now, Your Eminences and Excellencies, who do read this blog: what are you going to do about correcting the more outrageous errors in the Pell-Moroney-Ward Missal?

    Or are you too frightened of those men to do anything?

    Or is it true that, as some have said, you just don’t care?

  24. As a member of a few of the professional organizations and some of the persons named by Fr Anthony, I would add my support to his assessment that there is a strong consensus among mainstream theological and liturgical scholars that LA and the coming translation do NOT represent the prevailing “state of the question” on translation or what it means to have a dignified, yet duly inculturated, language for public worship. And probably an even stronger consensus on the ecclesiastical issues involved: how is it that Vatican officials know more about what makes for good liturgical vernacular texts, than do the bishops who govern, teach, and sanctify with them?

  25. Moroney’s (and others’) ambitions make it very difficult for them to speak the truth about the ICEL2010. I don’t know if Ward is also seeking the elevation to the episcopacy, but it seems like both of them met the devil at the crossroads.

  26. They do not care about liturgy or about anything but copperfastening clericalist power. It is incredible, unthinkable, but it seems to be the case. The lies that their mentality has produced must be exposed and they must be called to account, before this corruption rots away the entire church.

      1. Truth that “They do not care about liturgy or about anything but copperfastening clericalist power.” It seems unknowable whether they care about other things. I bet they’d insist that they do. You have the gift of reading souls and can know otherwise Sean?

      2. Some of us know these people, Samuel, and have known them for a LONG, LONG time . . .

  27. My sense is that the process leading to the 2008 text was as collegial as one could wish–provided LA was left unquestioned. It’s the foisting of this document on us–seemingly the work of one official at CDW and without the involvement of the CDW bishops–that is at the heart of the problem.

    1. Philip, I would have to disagree. The process leading to the 2008 text was carried out in an atmosphere of coercion (at least here in the United States; I don’t know what it was like in England). First of all, the rejection of the 1998 text after it had been approved set the tone. The bishops knew very well they were being censured in the most public manner, and expected either to do an about-face or to be regarded as disobedient. That’s not collegiality. Second, objections on the floor of the bishops’ meetings were not really entertained seriously. It was emphasized again and again that the bishops had to move forward and that this was what Rome wanted. Third, don’t you recall the episode in which Cardinal George gave away the conference’s option to review certain texts and didn’t even tell the conference? When called on this by Bishop Trautman, he couldn’t remember doing it! But nonetheless, that is what he did. This is NOT as collegial as one could wish, not by a long chalk.

      I do agree that Liturgiam authenticam was foisted on us, and is at the root of the problem. But the same mentality that produced that document, and that deemed it necessary to reconstitute ICEL so that it answered to Rome rather than the conferences, has been at work in the so-called “collegial” process, turning it into an empty shell. The final indignity of having 10,000 changes introduced to the text by anonymous revisers in 2010 is of one piece with the rest — the total emasculation of the bishops’ conferences.

      1. First of all, the rejection of the 1998 text after it had been approved set the tone.

        Approval by the bishops is not “approval”. If the president vetoes the budget, we don’t say it was rejected after it was approved, we say it was rejected after it was approved by the Congress. To speak of it as being “approved” is to spin the facts.

      2. I disagree, Samuel. Approval by the bishops is… approval by the bishops. Back in the days of more collegiality, the Vatican didn’t undo bishops’ approval.

        As we’ve been through many times – according to Vatican II, SC 22 and 36, bishops need Vatican approval to do the translation – i.e., permission for a part of the liturgy to be translated from Latin to vernacular, but the translations themselves are approved by bishops.

        But as we all know, the Vatican very quickly (within 6 weeks of approval of SC, in fact) changed the procedure to give themselves the right of approving what the bishops approved. Then, by 2001, this had become permission to re-do bishops’ translations and even to impose translations on bishops.

        Since the current rules are well known, I don’t think there was anything unclear in Rita’s comment. The bishops approved the 1998 (or some call it 1997) sacramentary, and we all know that it then required final approval from Rome.


      3. I disagree, Samuel. Approval by the bishops is… approval by the bishops.

        That’s precisely what I wrote. Approval by the bishops is approval by the bishops. But it’s not “approval”, which requires another level of review, at which level the translation was rejected.

        The bishops approved the 1998 (or some call it 1997) sacramentary, and we all know that it then required final approval from Rome.

        You know that, I know that, and Rita knows that, so why not write that? That way it won’t be ambigious to the many many people who don’t know that and are becoming immersed in these questions for the first time because of the new translation.

        And the Vatican can change the disciplinary laws of a council, this is why the impediment to marriage of spirtual relationship set down by the Council of Trent has been overturned by the 1983 Code of Canon Law.

      4. Well said, Rita! Succinctly and precisely you set forth the context.

        Well said, Father Ruff! You know first hand how solid scholarship and honest critique are “appreciated” by the current chair-holders.

        Cardinal George’s shenanigans are not to be marveled at. In his two books has he yet presented his “intervention” at Cardinal Medina’s behest during that fateful ICEL meeting years ago? The episode is recalled in the Monsignor McManus tribute book: The response of Archbishop Denis Hurley, his OMI senior (and intellectual superior) was a classic trip to the woodshed relished by the other bishops in attendance (as a bishop-friend of mine who was present loves to remind people even today). His dispatching of the layman, Gabe Huck, from LTP while tolerating the antics of the cleric, Michael Pfleger, speaks volumes as to leadership – and character.

        Samuel: the issue now is not 1997/98, but 2008/10. You’re a long-time reader-commentator here on the issue. What’s your hypothesis – not verdict, mind you, just educated guess – regarding how we got the error-riddled translation we’re getting? Laziness, incompetence, arrogance? All of the above? None of the above? The work of the Holy Spirit or the machinations of men (all men, by the way, unlike both 1970 and 1998).*

        * with the exception of the late Dame Maria Boulding’s Exsultet.

      5. I wasn’t aware that there could only be one issue.

        Many of the problems that others see don’t concern me. I’m not worried that we’re rolling back S.C. I’m not worried that the triple mea culpa will overemphasize our sinfulness, etc. Many of the complaints about style and grammar I find to be overblown.

        Once the new translation is implemented, hopefully these distractions will be laid on the table and straightforward discussion can be had about the relatively minor (though apparently widespread) translation issues that remain towards a corrected version.

      6. “Many of the complaints about style and grammar I find to be overblown.”

        You would have been wonderful as an English-composition teacher back in high school: fancy being allowed to misplace adverbs, antecedents, modifying clauses, etc., with the teacher thinking that such violations of the accepted rules of English usage were just “overblown.”

        Mistranslations of the Latin, errors in grammar (and the contested, at least on this blog, violations of LA and RT), just “distractions”?

        Samuel: do you like that translation of the Pentecost Sequence: “O immortal Light DIVINE, / Shine within these hearts of YOURS” ? Would you change “yours” back to the original “thine” to restore the rhyme? Or is that another “overblown” concern?

    1. Say it ain’t so, Joe. Your comment really makes no sense. Vatican II was 40 years ago. Benedict XVI is now. Summorum Pontificum appears to be the way to move liturgy forward.

  28. That many in the academy disapprove of the translation seems to me to be a good mark. There is a reason for the use of the phrase “it’s academic” and the disparaging term academese. The committee color is mud brown.

    A reading of A.E. Housman’s THE NAME AND NATURE OF POETRY would be helpful to understand the origin of the phrase. And the unreliability of professorial editions of classics and translations.

    The bishops’ attitude towards their flocks [echoed in many of the comments posted here] is that the flock is too stupid to understand.

    I would no more trust bishops’ conferences in this matter than I would trust them to handle reports of sexual misbehavior among priests.

    1. Look up
      Most of the translators appear to be academics. Translation is their trade.

      These academics are people who have dedicated their professional life to the pursuit of expertise in a single area in which they could excel. How does that render their opinion worthless, on the specific topic of translation, the very topic on which they are experts? That makes no sense.

  29. Thank you, Fr. Anthony, for this posting. I understand that this must have been personally difficult for you.

    Together with other pastors who are dreading this new translation, I thank you for speaking truth to the powerful forces driving this. Let us continue to pray for each other.

  30. After reading the article I am reminded of a comparison between Catholic and Non-Catholic denominations. In non-Catholic churches when two bishops disagree they go to a theologian (academia). In the Catholic church when two theologians disagree they are supposed to go to the bishop. Having read the new missal, I find the prayers more uplifting. I believe academia underestimate the ability of the people in the pew to understand and appreciate the new missal.

    1. That must have been quite the experience, “reading the new missal,” Brad. Did you start with all the preliminary material in the front and go right through the Commons and into the musical supplements at the back? Where did you find the entire book – is all of it on line now? By the way, some of us aren’t questioning the ability of the people in the pew to understand and appreciate anything . . . we’re questioning the ability of some of the people running Vox Clara to translate Latin and to construct English sentences.

      1. There is a semi-serious point here, which is that many of the people who look at the Order of Mass, or maybe just at the parts that the people will say, come away saying “well that’as not as bad as I’ve heard” or maybe even, “a lot of this is an improvement.” To my mind, at least, the really problematic parts (i.e. the orations and, to a lesser extent, the Eucharistic Prayers) are things than many people do not look at.

  31. Anthony Ruff, OSB :

    Uhm, I think we all use that term to mean people in academic societies, people who teach in academia, people with advanced degrees in the field, people who publish scholarly works in the field, and the like. Were you needing a more exact definition? Or what point are you working toward?

    Would these be the ‘professional Catholics’ Pope Benedict wrote about in his book, ‘Light of the World’?

    ” ‘ These are all phenomena that one can only observe with sadness. It is sad that there are what you might call professional Catholics who make a living on their Catholicism, but in whom the spring of faith flows only faintly, in a few scattered drops.”

    1. DOR,

      Is that the accusation you now wish to make, by applying the Pope’s words to liturgists in academia? If so, please say so.


      1. Yes Father it is, not to all of course, but to too many. You know, I only come on this blog occasionally, but all I too often see snide comments, scorn for the Holy Father, dissent about faith and morals, and rejection of the new translation which is going ahead so all the dissent and sowing of dissatisfaction is only doing damage to the Church. It’s really bad and very sad and I wish it would cease.

      2. David, do you think any damage has been done to the Church by those who, whilst entrusted by the Holy See with authority to review and critique the translation approved in 2008 by the bishops’ conferences, proceeded to mistranslate Latin, violate the norms of both Liturgiam authenticam and the Ratio translationis, and produce a rewrite that is rife with English grammatical and stylistic errors? Or by the Congregation, entrusted by the Holy See with oversight, that, despite close to forty pages of detailed information regarding not mere “opinion” but actual, verifiable errors, resulting in now fully seven sets of “Errata” and a request from ICEL that publishers “keep an eye out for mistakes”? Have the Church been well served by these people? Or are THEY in fact the ones who have opened the door to dissent and dissatisfaction by their laziness, incompetence, arrogance or all of the above? When it comes to “scorn for the Holy Father,” I think you could look very close to the Holy Father, in a commission he was told would make the translation better and in a Dicastery that both in the matter of this translation and of the Revised Grail Psalms hasn’t done its job at all.

    2. In context:

      Peter Seewald: ‘A “culture of doubt” is very much “in” these days, and it has found a comfortable nest even in media outlets associated with the Church. In many cases, editors simply take over uncritically the slogans circulating among the usual critics of the Church. Bishops follow the lead of their media consultants,who recommend a soft line in order to avoid any damage to the bishops’ liberal image. And when, on top of that, huge media concerns belonging to the Church remove religious books from their main sales lists—doesn’t this raise doubts as to whether we can still speak credibly about new evangelization?

      Pope Benedict: ‘ These are all phenomena that one can only observe with sadness. It is sad that there are what you might call professional Catholics who make a living on their Catholicism, but in whom the spring of faith flows only faintly, in a few scattered drops. We must really make an effort to change this. In Italy—where there are far fewer enterprises run by the Church as an institution—I observe that initiatives arise, not because they are set up by the Church as institution, but because the people themselves believe. Spontaneous new beginnings arise not from institutions, but out of an authentic faith.

      I’m not sure who he is talking about, but from the question, it seems to be chanceries, Catholic editors, liberal Catholic media, and maybe bureaucratic clergy. Not academics.

  32. For a full account of the developments from Vatican II to the third edition of the Roman Missal, I recommend reading “It’s the Eucharist, Thank God” by Bishop Maurice Taylor, who was on the episcopal board of the ICEL for 10 years until 2002. The booklet clearly describes how the translation process was hijacked by the Vatican and taken out of the hands of episcopal conferences. It was published by Redemptorist Publications in England in 2009, but it seems to have disappeared from their bookstore. A summary of the booklet will be posted on the website of the Louisville Liturgy Forum ( after it is edited and approved at the next meeting of the Forum.

  33. I sometimes suspect that the disconnect between Rome and academia is, in some part, two-way.

    After reading Dr. Jeffery’s articles critiquing LA, I wrote to him and asked him why he had made no mention of the Vatican’s response to questions about the intended role of the Nova Vulgata translation in vernacular translations. To my surprise, the answer was…

    He was unaware of it.

    This is pretty astounding, if you think about it. That means that neither the editors at Worship, nor anyone with whom Jeffery had corresponded about the articles, had brought this up to him. These scholars, communally, apparently were unaware of the Vatican’s direct response to the reservations that many scholars were expressing. This being said, the book really is a fascinating read, and, though I still think he fails to make his case in many instances, I commend it to anyone here for the historical perspective one gains from reading it.

    There are many parts of the vision of Sacrosanctum Concilium that lack fulfillment. Insofar as that the new texts will heighten folks’ awareness of the continuing role of Latin in the Roman Rite, the new translation could be seen actually as a step *toward* SC’s vision, even if the process by which it came into being evinces an ecclesiastical reality that appears to be at odds with it.

    It is worth remembering that the Council explicitly commended the continued use of Latin and the people’s involvement therewith. From that perspective, having English texts that vary substantially from their Latin counterparts, beyond simply what is needed for context and dynamic equivalence (“We believe” simply is not, by any standard, an accurate translation of “Credo”.), is a situation that merits correction. The Latin texts should not be seen merely as “originals” in light of SC’s vision that Latin and vernacular texts would exist side-by-side.

    1. Mark Hornbacher,
      I have seen no comments come in from you. Is there a computer problem on your end?

      1. I have another suggestion for moderation: instead of removing comments, the moderator can strike them out (using the html command “strike”). In this way the comment is still visible.

  34. I do wonder if the translation would have come out to the liking of the moderators and majority of posters on this blog would there be such a vicious attack on the authenticity of LA. Or that they might reject their own likable translations simply because the process was not transparent enough or included enough opinion and debate from across the board, or the world of Academia. Or would it then have been sufficient consulting? I visit here often but do not post often. I like to see what goes on in all camps. But there is often a bitterness splashed all over its’ content here. Leads me to rethink my postion that it was only Traditionalist persons often accused, who may or may not have a reason for their anger, that it is indeed just a human reaction, whether progressive, or conservative, that left unchecked is just poisonous to a healthy exchange of viewpoints.

    1. Come now, your own bitterness is showing. Of course the new translation is consubstantial with Liturgiam Authenticam, which explains its extreme badness. The 1998 translation was produced by a normal and decent process and would have been received with joy — how often to I have to repeat this? The new translation is bad in principle, process and product, and that is why we are so negative about it. Ain’t got nuttin’ to do with bitterness.

  35. David O’Reilly :
    Yes Father it is, not to all of course, but to too many. You know, I only come on this blog occasionally, but all I too often see snide comments, scorn for the Holy Father, dissent about faith and morals, and rejection of the new translation which is going ahead so all the dissent and sowing of dissatisfaction is only doing damage to the Church. It’s really bad and very sad and I wish it would cease.

    Only comments with a full name will be approved.

    My sentiments too.

  36. Having returned from a wonderful vacation….with my boyfriend of course, I note this renewed interest in Msgr’s sleeper of a presentation (don’t tell anyone, but over half the participants did not return after the break) on the new Missal at a lovely location. The man simply makes it up as he goes along..

    However, NEVER FORGET the portly man who brought you this WELL COMPENSATED presentation in the first place…..

  37. Fritz Bauerschmidt :
    I’d translate it so that it rhymed:
    “O light that is divine (of course),Shine within these hearts of ours.”

    Fritz: to make it rhyme, would you pronounce “course” to sound like “ours” (therefore “cows” or perhaps “cowers”) or would you, instead, pronounce “ours” to sound like “course” (therefore “[h]orse”)?!

  38. G. Michael McGuire :
    Some of us know these people, Samuel, and have known them for a LONG, LONG time . . .

    Yes indeed, Samuel – some of us do know, not just these people, and their works, pomps, empty promises and detestable enormities, but also the bodies of which they disposed along the way, and where they buried them!

  39. Chris, (I nearly called you Christ!) when will the book be coming out? It’ll hardly cost the price of the new missal, but it will be better.

    1. Brilliant!

      It’s The LITURGICAL Press; they publish LITURGICAL books; the Missal is a mandatory LITURGICAL book.

      Have you seen ANY OTHER liturgical publisher DARE speak the truth, even after Fr Ruff’s vindictive termination per order of the Roman Congregation that was too 1) lazy, 2) incompetent, 3) arrogant (or all of the above) to correct the errors (two of them doctrinal) that were pointed out to them now almost a year ago?

      Brilliant reasoning, Will!

      Say, you don’t work for Vox Clara, do you?

      1. It is not mandatory to advertise on this blog. Is this Liturgical Press’ blog, or Father Ruff’s? Do I work for vox clara? You need to get a grip. The promotion of this missal is unethical. Ruff knows it- thus the open letter. If there is confusion, then let him say outright who’s blog it is.

  40. Yet another gem of Liturgical English is provided by the Pell-Moroney-Ward Missal in yesterday’s (Thursday, Fifth Week of Easter) Collect:

    Deus, cuius gratia
    iusti ex impiis et beati efficiamur ex miseris,
    adesto operibus tuis,
    adesto muneribus,

    The 2008 version, prepared by the new ICEL and approved by all the English-speaking bishops’ conferences, was straightforwardly accurate and pleasing in vocabulary and rhythm:

    O God, by whose grace
    we sinners are made just
    and from our misery made blessed,
    stand by your works,
    stand by your gifts,

    But, the Pell-Moroney-Ward fix it machine, to Vox Clara’s learned delight, then sprang into action!

    Here’s what we’re getting:
    O God, by whose grace
    though sinners, we are made just
    and, though pitiable, made blessed,
    stand, we pray, by your works,
    stand by your gifts,

    “we pray”? No, it isn’t in the Latin. Yes, Liturgiam authenticam says (n. 51) that the Latin is to be translated “in the most exact manner.” But hey, when you’ve got 7,000 experts, “scholars of the English language,” you’re bound to end up with some mistakes! So Monsignor Moroney tells us. I guess none of them thought that “we, though sinners, are made just” would more accurately establish the referent of sinners. And none of them picked up on the splitting of the complete verb form, stand by, by the gratuitous insertion of the “we pray” which isn’t even in the Latin!

    Well done! Again ….

    The forthcoming Manual, will present these prayers day-by-day with the original Latin, the errors in Pell-Moroney-Ward, and simple adjustments by which priest’s can pencil in corrections on the pages of their $300-500 Pell-Moroney-Ward Missals.

  41. Having devoted 25 years to training future priests, I always thought that it was demeaning for the celebrant “to read prayers” during the Eucharist. Prayers worth their salt were to be “proclaimed from the heart.”

    Furthermore, for over a millennium, any celebrant worth his salt was capable of spontaneously adapting memorized Eucharistic prayers so as to accommodate each specific congregation and each particular celebration. In the 70s, this spontaneous adaption of prayers was written into the very rubrics (cf. dozens of instances in The Rites), and the power of this modality was felt by their congregations.

    Beginning in the 80s, however, priests were increasingly expected to adhere woodenly to what was written. This regimentation demeaned the intelligence and charism of priestly orders and facilitated boredom for many in the congregation.

    All of this humbug regarding faithful English translations of the ancient texts would disappear as soon as we recognized that the words given were only meant to serve as templates to guide the spontaneous adaptations of the celebrant.

    The Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus of Rome, c. 250 CE, says: When the bishop gives thanks . . . , it is not absolutely incumbent on him that he recite the identical words which we stated above. . . . Let each pray according to his ability [to improvise] . . . (9.3).

    Would that the traditionalists in Rome today would return to the much older tradition of expecting spontaneity in the canonical prayers!

    Allen Bouley, O.S.B., From Freedom to Formula, The Evolution of the Eucharistic Prayer from Oral Improvisation to Written Texts (Catholic University of America Studies in Christian Antiquity 21, Washington DC 1981).

  42. Dear friends in Christ, I was ‘gently’ directed to several of these blogs (bickering) on the New Translation by a priest friend of mine responding to a post i shared on FB. I was tempted to wonder, if at all this bickering will make a dent on my belief (or unbelief for that matter). I’d like to think that in my ministry as daughter, wife, mother, sister, friend, co-worker, stranger, catechist, God managed to help me grow in faith and wisdom in spite of (or is it despite of) the ‘inaccurate’ translations of the Roman Missal i prayed & celebrated in liturgy for more than 40 years – what difference would yet another ‘inaccurate’ translation of the Roman Missal contribute or remove from my faith? I end with this prayer for all of us, the Body of Christ:

    1Peter 4: 10-13 Be hospitable to one another without complaining. As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace. Whoever preaches, let it be with the words of God; whoever serves, let it be with the strength that God supplies, so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

  43. Dear Fr. Anthony,
    Thanks so much for the ability to read these discussions. I am a lay person involved in parish liturgy and music. I am on the parish team that is helping to introduce the new missal to the parish. While I am required to conform to the hierarchical expectations of positive support (and I WILL do a good job) it is difficult for me to appear sincere. Even a non-scholarly person like me has recognized the retro agenda being applied against the Second Vatican Council at many levels.

    I feel badly for our priests who have to struggle through the awkwardly constructed sentences that are as long as paragraphs. My pastor said he needs to spend significant time studying them in order to proclaim the texts effectively. I feel even more badly for the assemblies whose priests will not be studying the texts.

    Aaron Milavec said:
    Prayers worth their salt were to be “proclaimed from the heart.”

    How many of these in the new missal will be salt? How many will simply be salted words?

    Nevertheless, we persevere. Please keep teaching me (all of you)! God’s blessings always!

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