Our Net Contribution

It is worth reflecting on the role that the Net has played in the discussions relating to the new translation of the Missal, for it has been significant.

For the first time in the history of the Church, we have had an uninvited, worldwide, participatory discussion on a significant change that will affect all in the English-speaking world. Rather than wait for a text to be offered via the usual channels, we have been able to voice an opinion and offer comment on the way through. It has been immediate and has not been dependent on the postal service, the press, or the reserve of an elitist group. That expression of opinion has come from a varied background, from scholars, laity, priests, religious, and the humble Joe Soap anxious that his or her small voice is heard.

The Seattle initiative in the months following the article by Fr. Michael Ryan in America led to the establishment of the website “What If We Just Said Wait?” Currently that web site has over 22,000 signatures. Further, there have been significant contributions and informed comment on Pray Tell over many months.

Many of those comments have been searching and thought-provoking, reflecting the real anxiety felt by the contributors for the good of the Church. Others have been somewhat trivial, and at times lacking in charity. And some have been very funny, which is good, for an ability to laugh as we go through difficult times is a healthy condition. See here and here for two fine examples.

On the Net we have explored not only the nuance of language and the problems associated with translation but also the background argument and tensions that have arisen since the work of ICEL was rejected. The consequences of this procedural shift and the establishment of Vox Clara  has led to real concern over the issue of collegiality and the future direction of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.

And where has it gotten us? It would seem that all of this will now be brushed aside. Whether we like it on not, it is too late. Many feel a deep sense of disappointment, of frustration and, not to put it too strongly, anxiety for the future.

When will the Chair of An English Speaking Bishops Conference publicly acknowledge the concern of the laity, and of many of our priests, with the change that is about to be foisted on us?

Courteous requests have been met with platitudinous language that has only served to sidestep the issue.

The Net has offered an opportunity for reflective comment that is new in our experience. We all need to learn from the events and postings of recent months and appreciate the considered opinion all can make. It deserves a response.

Chris McDonnell, UK
July, 2011


  1. Don’t worry, Chris. Round 2 is going to begin soon, when the faithful and their ministers are exposed to the dreck. It could spark a revolution in the Church.

    1. There will be no revolution, Father (despite your ongoing efforts to encourage one). It is more likely that a minority of people will be quite upset, another minority will be quite pleased, and the majority won’t particularly mind one way or the other.

      1. In other words, a golden opportunity squandered, at considerable expense.

        I suspect that people will continue to say ‘And also with you.’ etc. long into the future. I suspect priests will encourage people to, or at most, they won’t discourage people from using the words with which they are familiar. I also suspect that presiders at the eucharist will continue to use the current missal, until the 1998 version is taken down from the shelves.

      2. Gerard I was told last night about a priest in Australia (where they’re already using the people’s new responses) last weekend who during Mass when he said “The Lord be with you” got the accustomed resounding response “And also with you” so he stopped and gave them a little “now kids, we’re going to do that one again and this time we’re going to get it right” pep talk, after which he said again “The Lord be with you” and got a mediocre “And with your spirit” reply . . . but the sound he didn’t hear was that of the people who, especially after everything that’s happened, don’t like being talked down to, and won’t be back again.

    2. Revolution – overwhelmingly welcomed and enthusiams. You are rewriting history again. Tiny minority objected – usually from an emotional standpoint.


    3. I attend one church, direct a choir at another, and have been talking to a priest at yet another two parishes. There isn’t ONE priest I have talked to who is even suggesting not fully implementing the new translation. One priest, in particular, who I assumed would have thought ill of the translation actually announced last week that the upcoming changes are the most beautiful changes to the mass in 500 years (much to my astonishment). He is starting to rehearse the new translation with the congregation each week in his homilies. This talk of a major “revolution” is nonsense. The times have changed.

      1. He obviously prefers English spoken and read, using the syntax of a foreign language, to English words with the syntax of the English language

        An interlinear translation has its uses. Beauty would not be a word that would spring to mind, either spontaneously or by conscious effort, to describe such an edition.

    4. Reform (“revolution in the Church” as Fr. O’Leary calls it) is one possibility; dissolution is another, if people stop trying to speak the responses and liturgical renewal falls apart. This week, it looked as though reform would be foisted upon the Church from outside: witness recent events in Ireland, with sharp criticism from the Taoiseach and demand that the papal nuncio respond to the Cloyne report, for example. It’s certainly making its demands heard in the ‘net blogs. But reform won’t last long if people in the pews keep walking out or insiders retort with cynicism to the suggestion that the Church needs reform or will suffer reform. I had the notion that reform should be an ongoing task of all Christian communities.

      Last Sunday, I surmised that another “refugee from RCC” had joined the local Episcopal congregation when I heard a lone voice add the filioque clause, “Who proceeds from the Father and the Son,” to the people’s recitation of the Creed. That’s alright, Anglicans are tolerant of mystery and don’t quarrel over whether the Spirit proceeds from the Father alone or both Father and Son. These days they’re preoccupied with more practical controversies; reform is alive and turbulent in the AC. On the ‘net I see Catholic bloggers pointing to “divisive quarrels,” “utter chaos,” and “loss of authority” in the Anglican Communion as their own conflicts with Rome heat up. “Yes,” I reply, “that’s what reform always looks like– chaos and collapse of traditional authority. Get ready for it! It beats your other alternative.”

  2. “Doomsday” say they who, in apparent vane, in an effort to save the world, spoke with more than 22K voices to save the liturgy, as interest waned. Some of “they” condescended to declare the object of ire to be “Moron-ic.” How ironic. So very, very mad; so very, very sad. Too, too bad. Look at the breadth of their latitude, their noble deeds met but by platitudes. Doom and despair fuels much, much hot air.
    There is certainly not much else “happening” on the planet to distract us away from our keyboards evidently, save for the mutterings of Rupert Murdoch and Irish bishops apparently. But that aside, we have a natural right, an entitlement (among many that the Creator, and more to the point, our governments’ social agencies have endowed us) to our outrage! And we’re all outraged!
    Someone needs to be pilloried, some need to be exhibited upon the gibbet for their indiscriminate, ineffable indiscretions.
    Doom. Doom, they say.

  3. There is an echo-chamber effect in every Catholic blog–whether liberal or conservative–but the most powerful at both extremes. Of course, the more confined the echoes, the more oblivious are participants to the outside real world of Catholic parish life.

    I worship regularly in real parishes that are culturally and intellectually undistinguished, but include lots of ordinary Catholics. In each of these parishes, there have been some introductions to the new translation. The most regular worshipers have a lively interest and a constructive curiosity, an openness to positive change. It will go well, though the pace and degree of acclimation and familiarization remains to be seen.

    From ground level in parish life, in contrast with the rarefied atmosphere of blogdom, it seems possible, perhaps likely, though not certain that the enrichment in the liturgy some expect will result from the upcoming introduction of the new translation. However, any expectation of some sort of great upheaval is surely quite delusional. (If only because most ordinary “Sunday Catholics” are not and will never be sufficiently engaged with liturgical details to react with such vigor.)

    1. What we “see” is what we assume others are “seeing”. I don’t know of anyone on this blog who is only casually or incidentally interested in the Liturgy. The people in my parish and yours, I presume, participate in the Liturgy and thus have the interests of ordinary participants. So, you report that everything is going well and people are looking forward and that sort of thing. And another reports that things are not going well at all and expects things to go worse following the actual introduction. From your perspective, the latter is a disgruntled dissenter and naysayer who is out of touch with what is really going on. To him you are some kind of neo-tridentine troglodyte who holds that all faithful Catholics will surely embrace well all that The Church proposes for the good of souls. That kind of exchange leads to characterizations, name calling, but little communication.

  4. “When will the Chair of An English Speaking Bishops Conference publicly acknowledge the concern of the laity, and of many of our priests, with the change that is about to be foisted on us?”

    It’s a lot worse than that, Chris. It’s not just laity and priests, but bishops themselves. I know of bishops from four of the eleven major English-speaking conferences who are (privately) extremely concerned.

    But as it’s a done deal, and there’s no one to whom the bishops can complain (and don’t forget external but not unrelated things like Cardinal Napier’s appeal to blind obedience and Bishop Morris’ sacking for not holding the party line), they’re all just waiting like the rest of the world to see what happens.

    I’ve related before the true story of a group of bishops who got together a few months ago for their conference’s liturgy committee meeting and, as they gathered, all the talk was of the ridiculous changes Vox Clara had made to the translation they (the Bishops) had submitted. Each and every one of those bishops (many who follow this blog) were horrified, disgusted, outraged, indignant etc etc etc and when the meeting formally opened, it wasn’t even raised as an agenda item.

  5. Chris, of course–in addition to various nuts, liturgy wonks, chancery denizens, and various categories of liturgists, theologians and self-appointed experts–there are bishops on the far side, indeed (I’m sure) in more than “four of the eleven major English-speaking conferences”. What else is new?

    Of course, I do not mean to suggest that all those harboring (or even expressing publicly) reservations about the new translation fall into the afore-mentioned categories. Some few may even be ordinary worshiping Catholics like your humble servant.

  6. The result of the new translations cannot be foretold. Revolution is not impossible. Terminal decline is also on the cards.

    1. And I get the distinct impression that neither would be entirely unwelcome from your point of view. Fortunately you neither think with the Church nor (DG) speak for her.

  7. Rest assured, John, that—like you—when not posting at this blog, I doubtless am doing something better.

    Like (guided by Jeffrey) taking a look at The Christian Century and an article by one Carol Zaleski, a professor of world religions at Smith College:

    “If reception of this new translation is as generous as it should be, the period of adjustment will be a chance to rediscover the shape of the liturgy and the essentials of Christian belief and hope. The biblical concreteness of the liturgy and its humbling, exultant, awe-inspiring notes, muted in the old translation, are about to be restored. . . . . . Change can be unsettling, but in this case the change is right and just. The postconciliar Catholic mass has found its English voice. The best response I can imagine is a Hebrew word that survives intact in all tongues, the final word of the New Testament—Amen.”

    I suspect that Prof. Zaleski is not an accredited (or even a self-designated) liturgist. But I hesitate to suggest that this deficiency provides a surer feel for this situation.

    1. To quote from you earlier – if Pastoral Review doesn’t meet your standards, then Christian Century is even lower on the totem pole.

      Fr. Sanchez – since you can’t spell, where did you go to seminary?

    2. Fr Steve Sanchez, how can you pronounce so confidently on an English text when your own command of English is evidently very low?

    3. Fr Sanchez, your support for the interlinear translation is not surprising.

      If you can’t take the trouble to check the spelling in a posting of six words, it’s unlikely you’ll be offended by English with Latin syntax.

      I weep for your parishoners.

    4. Hum, I wonder where my inital response went? Well, anyway, the charity here is just overwhelming. You guys just need to stop being sore loosers.

  8. John Nolan :
    Henry, I don’t know why you bother posting on this blog –…”.

    I can’t speak for Henry, but I find it enjoyable, fun, perplexing, condescending and yet, for my dread ego, quite amending. You guys are, well,…. a hoot!

  9. Thanks, Deacon. I happen to be in a sort of Mr. Rogers Modality (chant pun alert)-“It’s a lovely day in the neighborhood, a lovely day for a neighbor, would you be mine, would you be mine?”
    Not quite a proper Proper, but my wife finds this Charles a lot more enchanting (oops, another one, m’bad!) than “Prophet of Doom” Charles!
    See, y’all make all things new!
    Besides, I just came from a strategy session with our pastor regarding MR3 implementation strategies that was very positive and collegial! And before that, the vacation bible school kids were simply “en fuego” with their songs! What’s not to enjoy?

  10. ” … the people who, especially after everything that’s happened, don’t like being talked down to, and won’t be back again.”

    Indeed. Two things come to mind.

    Good sense rules the day in Acts 15, leading to billions of Gentiles embracing Christ over the centuries.

    Missionaries getting hamstrung by Rome in 16th century China, missing an opportunity to evangelize Asian civilizations.

    The my-way-or-the-highway brand of Christianity didn’t really work for Mrs Zebedee or her sons, and it has been a hallmark of the antigospel ever since.

  11. Once again a posting about the New Translation has given rise to pettiness and a tone of discussion that is not worthy of the seriousness of the subject.
    Stick to the issue fellas and have your squabbles somewhere else. It is not about them and us, the good guys and bad guys, it is about the pilgrim church and our mission to people in the 21st Century. The central theme of my posting related to the use of the Web in this discussion over recent months. I see very little reflection on that matter
    Chris McDonnell UK

    1. It is not about them and us, the good guys and bad guys, it is about the pilgrim church and our mission to people in the 21st Century.

      It’s far easier and more sensational to split people into “us/good” and “them/bad” and then pit them against each other. We’re too busy doing that to consider any possibility of working together in this pilgrim Church.

      It might be that the Web, while it has made it easier to voice one’s opinion about (or lay bare the facts of) the new translation, it is not easy to use this medium to carry on charitable, focused, and productive discussions / dialogues / debates.

  12. Perhaps we have to just have to acknowledge that the opportunity the discuss these things online is a start and nothing more. I agree it will no effect on the implementation of a flawed translation – I live in Australia and I think we are getting worse each week at getting the responses correct – but it is another step in the transformation of the Church as it demonstrates the ability of an educated laity to realise that there are things that they actually know more about than the curia and the Pope.

    This relates at least to the expression of Catholicism as enculturated in their community, which may be for example an isolated bush town in Western Queensland where the aged priest drives huge distances every weekend to do masses prompting their Bishop to make suggestions at obvious solutions.

    It may even be parishioners educated enough in English literature to understand it is capable of elevated modes of its own without slavish reliance on Latin structures.

    Even those who are expressing their support for the changes are demonstrating that they have their own voice separate from the central authorities.

    If enhanced communication has allowed the centralisation of power in Rome to become a functional reality, it may also contain the seeds of it becoming less so, as the myriad voices interact. We may see, even if within the messy workings of blogs, a glimpse of the movement of the Spirit.

    1. Richie is a treasure.

      My problem is the new responses are on the screen and I’m fussing around getting music ready for the next song and facing a different direction and so say what I’ve said for the last umpteen years. I’ll need to have my little mass guide in front of me I suppose.

      The first couple of weeks we reminded everyone to pay attention and have ceased doing so now, and I have noticed that the responses are getting somewhat garbled. Our priest bravely ploughs on and I’m sure they will become second nature eventually.

      I have no idea how you managed in the 70s, I was a devout Presbyterian then, but I’m sure it will all come right after a few thousand repetitions.

      I wish you well when the tide hits your shores.

  13. I am from Sydney and would like to offer some comments – strictly my own impressions – based on my experience thus far of having given several catechesis sessions in varied places and attending both the Cathedral and a large parish church where the people’s parts have been implemented. First, the depth of concern I read on the liturgy blogs has not been reflected in any reaction I have had from the people in the pews. The anecdotal response has largely been the new translations -while hard in one or two places – are better and more beautiful, including when they have heard some of the priest’s prayers. Second, while the net is a great forum, its very democracy makes it hard for the church (or any institution) to respond to i.e. while everyone is entitled to express their view, the breadth of opinion expressed and the lack of information about the qualifications and experience of the writer make any meaningful institutional consideration difficult (I should disclose, fwiw, that I serve on our Liturgical Commission). Third, the tone of many of the blogs has devalued the coinage: one of the most liturgically interested of the Australian bishops freely admits he has given up reading them because he can’t get past the vitriol. I feel pretty much the same way but still keep reading. Finally, people seem to be getting the hang of the new words. The musical side is proving more difficult. Efforts to encourage use of the chant seem to be faltering at the parish level (a frequent complaint is the lack of published accompaniments for the chant) and getting people to sing the new mass settings (as opposed to the rewrites of known settings) is taking longer than I expected. These are just some thoughts from “along the track” as we say down under. There is still a long way to go.

    1. “lack of information about the qualifications and experience of the writer make any meaningful institutional consideration difficult”

      There is a problem with this attitude which people at both ends of the spectrum may share. The traditionalist may baulk at the implied recognition given to qualified liturgists and others, while the liberal may be unhappy with your concern to differentiate at all between people you designate as qualified and unqualified.

      I would take issue with your characterisation of the interlinear translation as more beautiful. English syntax has its own beauty, in prose or poetry. It doesn’t need Latin syntax to make it beautiful and, in fact, its pseudoliterary character is anything but literary English. For example,

      Almighty, ever-living God,
      surpass for the honour of your name
      what you pledged to the patriarchs by reason of their faith
      and through sacred adoption increase the children of your promise
      so that what the saints of old never doubted would come to pass
      your Church may now see in great part fulfilled.

      A quote from Lamentations springs to mind by way of response.

  14. If anything, my PTB odyssey has taught me that the Roman Rite is now a cobbled-together dysfunctional squabbling family united by a microstate mail-drop on a hill in Rome.

    Dogma, doctrine, orthodoxy, and heterodoxy have ceased to exist in a Church torn apart not by the questions of theology and nation-building engendered by a first Reformation still convinced of the existence of a god. Rather, the third (counter)reformation reflects a certain agnosticism. Does piety matter if no God exists to support liturgy? Without a god, liturgy is little more than a psycho-social therapy. The use of crusty bread rather than wafers, or a certain translation, carries much less importance if the very existence of a god is debatable.

    I have often wondered if modern Popes should cease styling themselves PONT MAX. The pontifices of the Republic and Empire, even when the title pontifex maximus became synonymous with imperator, nevertheless maintained a notion that the state cult should style itself on a religious heritage. The notion of a high-priest who maintains a standard of cult is perhaps useless in a Church in which many wish for a fresh liturgical and theological revision every forty years.

    1. Dogma, doctrine, orthodoxy, and heterodoxy have ceased to exist in a Church torn apart not by the questions of theology and nation-building engendered by a first Reformation still convinced of the existence of a god.

      should read instead

      Dogma, doctrine, orthodoxy, and heterodoxy have ceased to exist in a Church torn apart not by the questions of theology and nation-building engendered by a second Reformation still convinced of the existence of a god.

      I count the 4th-5th century CE institutionalization of Christianity as the first reformation in Christian thought.

      1. CE is the usual abbreviation of the Church of England, which is why I had to do a double-take when reading your post. If you mean AD, why not say so? Most (British) historians are happy with it.

      2. North American humanities now usually uses BCE/CE. I used this convention out of reflex. On a Catholic board I should remember to switch to BC/AD.

      3. BCE/CE is the designation of the eras preferred by contemporary Anglophone Roman Catholic biblical scholarship.

        CofE is the usual acronym for the Church of England.

    2. I must give credit where credit is due … I should plan my posts better to allot for better editing and citation.

      Arturo Vasquez, at his blog Reditus, argues for the death of propitiatory Catholic liturgy during his review of Geoffrey Hull’s The Banished Heart. The last two paragraphs of Vasquez’s review ties together secularism and liturgical reform. Vasquez’s insight have convinced me that the current arguments over liturgy center around a death or near-death of belief in the formal doctrinal and dogmatic pillars of Catholic liturgical understanding.

      “Third Reformation” arguments have been advanced notably by John Shelby Spong and Phyllis Tickle (whose work The Great Emergence I wish to read soon). I do not agree with Spong that a new Christianity must necessarily reject swaths of established post-Nicaean theology. Nevertheless, as Vasquez notes, perhaps we (post)post-moderns cannot live Christianity without a certain studied agnosticism.

      The heart of our liturgical arguments rests on the uncertainty of a god or any gods, let alone the Triune God and the God-Man.

    3. “a cobbled-together dysfunctional squabbling family united by a microstate mail-drop on a hill in Rome.”

      Sounds like a good description of the Church after the Council of Nicea.

  15. Jordan – great link to Vasquez’s review of Hull. High point that reminds me of some comments at PTB:

    “The last part of the book is the most problematic, in that, perhaps unknowingly, he stumbles back into the same tired traditionalist narrative about the emergence of the Liturgical Movement and Vatican II, without any doctrinal precision. The same cast of characters, Cardinal Bea, Bugnini, Lefebvre, John XXIII, etc., all make their appearances. The same conspiracy theories, the same portrayals of political maneuvering, are explained in paranoid detail. What is always missing is a sympathetic look at why people could not have cared less about liturgy by 1965; why the “liturgical revolution” wasn’t resisted by anyone of note, and why everyone seems to think, even today, that it was a good idea. The end of the book felt like I was reading print-outs of various traditionalist Catholic websites with some information on the Eastern Churches thrown in to make it seem that the same old tired arguments weren’t just being presented over again. Hull’s breakthrough, if there is one, is that the “Latinization” of the Catholic Uniate churches was a dry-run for Vatican II. That might be compelling if the Eastern Catholic Churches had any real presence other than being ecclesiological trinkets that have little to do with Catholic theology or history in any vital sense.”

  16. GF (no.39) – The example you quote does, indeed, lack the pace and grace of the BDW, but it is a far cry better than the gossamer which we now have.

    It seems, perhaps, that the current and new usages are both imperfect efforts: neither is an achievement.
    The goal of the former was merely to paraphrase and to say as little as possible as plainly as possible in as few words as possible, which resulted in literary and theological bankruptcy.
    The goal of the new was faithfulness to the Latin and its rich content and imagery: which would seem to have resulted, in the hands of literary amateurs, in a somewhat clumsy and at times awkward language.

    Of the two, I prefer the latter.

    1. Faithfulness to the Latin, which uses appropriate Latin syntax is better expressed by faithfulness to the syntax of the language of destination of a particular translation.

      In other words, Latin syntax is required to make sense of Latin. Conversely, English is adulterated by the importation of a syntax from another language.

      Good Latin deserves to be translated into good English.

      What we have in this new ‘translation’ is interlinear dreck.

  17. Is the numbering of comments subject to being altered now and then? No. 39, to which I referred just above, is now no. 40. This is not the first time this seems to have happened.

    1. The comments run in order down the page, but not in the order they were made. If I were to directly reply to comment #20, mine would become comment # 21 and would bump all the comments below it up one number.

    2. For this reason, it is a wise idea to copy and paste the “by” line when making reference to another comment, rather than just the number and author. E.g.:

      M. Jackson Osborn on July 28, 2011 – 5:50 pm

  18. J.N.

    All cuckoos are birds. Therefore all birds are cuckoos.

    The ‘affectation’ BCE/CE is preferred by the RC biblical scholarly community and the international Society of Biblical Literature.

    1. What is “the RC biblical scholarly community”? What I mean is, is there an organized RC biblical scholarly community, or are you referring to large numbers of individual RC biblical scholars?

      I ask this for two reasons:

      1. Is it a distinguishing mark of an authentic RC biblical scholar to prefer BCE/CE to BC/AD?

      2. Why is BCE/CE preferred over BC/AD in RC biblical scholarship?

    2. The Society of Biblical Literature is the professional body favoured by many RC biblical scholars.


      Since the Society is composed of Christian and Jewish scholars and others, BCE/CE are acronyms which are acceptable to an inclusive constituency. It shouldn’t be difficult for Christians to use these, except for those who want Latin derivatives for everything. We heard here recently that someone would like Latin to be the common European spoken language under a Hapsburg descendent. Yes, such types exist. I kid you not. It makes sense since the dividing line between the periods before and after the Common era coincides with the approximate date of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, who, is recognised as Lord by Christians, but, of course, not by our Jewish sisters and brothers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *