Colin Campbell, Bishop of Dunedin, New Zealand, writing in the September 17th issue of the Tablet, has shared a report on the response of the people of his diocese to the new translation of the Roman Missal. The new liturgical texts spoken by the congregation were implemented there beginning in Advent 2010, so the New Zealanders have had a chance to give them a good try.
No use keeping you in suspense. Here are the results. While the minority said it “deepens the meaning” of the Mass and is “more reverent,” most characterized the changes as “unnecessary,” “confusing and meaningless,” and “a backward step and pre-Vatican II in language style.” The negative responses topped the charts by a wide margin. Out of 180 replies to his survey, 17% were positive and 83% were negative. The article listed specific phrases that came in for the most criticism and concern. These included: “and with your spirit,” “under my roof,” “consubstantial,” the wording of the Confiteor, and the use of the word “men” in the Nicene Creed.
Bishop Campbell noted at the beginning of the article that “in the Vatican II document Presbyterorum ordinis, clergy are exhorted to
…listen to the laity willingly, consider their wishes in a fraternal spirit and recognize their experience and competence in the different areas of human activity, so that together with them they will be able to read the signs of the times.
He also commented at the end that “We need to take heed of what Pope Benedict has been saying. It is encouraging to see him quoting with approval the principles for translation proposed by the Pontifical Biblical Commission in Verbum Domini:
A translation of course is always more than a simple transcription of the original texts. The passage from one language to another necessarily involves a change of cultural context: concepts are not identical and symbols have a different meaning, for they come up against other traditions of thought and other ways of life.”
The article concludes with a call to “consult with the people of God and hear them.” This is the first time in the translation saga, of which I am aware, that a bishop has actually proposed listening to the people on this subject. Well done, Bishop Campbell.
Many of the people who have told bishops their concerns (in Ireland, Scotland, Australia, South Africa, and the United States) have, to date, been met with either contradiction or silence. I have interpreted silence to mean a refusal to listen. I now begin to wonder if a different interpretation might be placed on the silence: namely, “Wait and see.”
The article is subscriber-only content. I would encourage those who can get a copy to read the article in full.