The Washington Post on the new translation

This morning’s Washington Post has a story on the new translation.

As many know, I’m not exactly an enthusiast with regard to the new translation, but  his article’s attempt at a critical perspective on the changes struck me as somewhat lame (as the Post‘s coverage of the Church often is). It is as if the reported didn’t quite understand the issues involved, and so cast the whole matter in terms of the rather tired tropes of the conservative Pope reigning in the liberal modernity that Vatican II called for. The mention of the Pope’s “declining. . . to pray with Hindus, Jews and others at an interreligious event” is not only a red herring, but makes it sound as if Benedict boycotted the Assissi gathering, rather than being the one who called it. The statement that “the thinking that came out of Vatican II was that the Mass script should be contemporary and paraphrased” gets so many things wrong that I don’t know where to begin.

The article translates everything into the categories of secular politics, maybe because Church politics are just too bizarre and byzantine for someone outside the Church to grasp.

I do however concur heartily with the last statement in the article: “‘There are other things more important to focus on,’ said the Rev. Gerry Creedon of Holy Family in Dale City, ‘like drone bombings.'”


      1. Might I suggest, perhaps it’s a “Freudian Slip”?:)

        (Although, I think “reigning in” is also an appropriate description Fritz)

  1. One priest asks us to focus on drone bombings instead. Is he suggesting that this is the catholic equivalent of drone bombings?

    I love this surrealistic touch: “What becomes of the old books? The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops recommends burying them on church grounds or in a parish cemetery.”

    1. Trying to change the subject or asking people to “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain”, or perhaps I should say “that man beneath the mitre”?

    2. Burying old holy books in a cemetery goes a long way back to Jewish tradition of doing exactly this. Especially any writing containing the Holy Name of God (the Tetragrammaton) is to be treated with great reverence. It led to a rediscovery of about 180,000 pieces of ancient Jewish manuscripts in the Ben Ezra cemetery in Cairo, including Hebrew original text of the Book of Wisdom (Sirach). The Hebrew term for this is “genizah”. See

      1. As it happens, I’ve visited the Genizah in Cairo. To clarify, it’s a small room on the gallery level of the Ben Ezra synagogue. It’s not a cemetery, although there is one outside the synagogue. The reason why these manuscripts survived was that the room’s contents had not been culled for centuries. It is only when manuscripts were taken out of the genizah that they would have been buried.

        I couldn’t open your link, Padraig. But if there is an analogy to Christian practice, it seems it would be to the Bible (or for Muslims the Qu’ran), but not, I think, to the Sacramentary. Why bury a Missal but not a Bible or Lectionary?

      2. The Book of Wisdom is a different book to Sirach. Sirach is otherwise known as Ecclesiasticus – not to be confused with Ecclesiastes, nor, for that matter, with the Book of Wisdom. True, in the Greek, Sirach is titled “The Wisdom of Jesus Ben Sirach”; yes, it is confusing, but it is not the Book of Wisdom.

  2. I think the worst thing anyone could do is to bury the old books. Keep them! Don’t throw them away. You’ll need to refer to them — and eventually, I think, reuse them.

    1. Possibly…

      Just like some churches re-installing communion rails, the return of beautiful vestments, and sisters putting on habits. What goes around comes around?

      1. John, I do not support any of that.
        Anyone who prefers altar rails, vestments and habits may register at any parish where the EF of the Mass is said w/ altar rails, etc already in place. Those things are out there and are available for those who prefer them.

        However, the rest of us like things the way they are.

      2. Hey John, while you’re at it, why don’t you suggest the return of the torture racks from the Spanish inquisition and the washboards from the Magdalene Laundries — all the precious trappings of your pre-Reform world?

      3. We traditional Catholics pray with the one voice of 1500 years of heritage. St. Gregory the Great, Bede, Charlemagne, Aquinas, even Martin Luther prayed the same venerable Canon prayed by our traditional priests today.

        I learned how to drive on a car that predates your beloved reformed liturgy by seven years! I am still in my thirties, so I am not a contemporary of the car. The reformed liturgy, however, is no more venerable than a half-ton of 1960s British steel.

      4. And notice that we progressive Catholics, in general, do not have a problem with traditional Catholics following a more traditional liturgy, while still staying under the umbrella of the church, if that is what they wish to do.

        On the other hand, progressive Catholics have had our liturgy stolen from us, under the guise of being told that something we don’t want is better, and that we’ll get used to it.

        Now, I agree that the same thing happened to traditionalists when Vatican II took place, but the mistake was acknowledged and the Latin mass is available for those who want it. But using that as a justification for doing the same thing a second time is no justification. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

        Just allow us to continue to use the translation that we’ve been using for the last 40 years, and those that want a more literal English translation can have that at the parishes where the demand for it exists.

      5. Yes Sean, I should not reflexively snap back at other peoples’ comments. North America is but a month away from a very significant liturgical turning point that will affect both traditional and progressive Catholics. My comment about learning to drive was made out of exasperation. Every time I think I’m trying to be a conciliatory traditional Catholic, the barbs still pop out from all sides and the recriminations renew afresh.

        Many traditionalists, including myself, wanted an annulment in the form of a sui juris “Tridentine rite” rather than the continued dysfunctional marriage with progressive Catholicism that Pope Benedict decided to maintain. Only the Holy Spirit knows why the broken Roman family must live under the same rite no matter how strained and painful the union. We have no appeal to this highest tribunal. We must coexist and even pray for a Christmas truce, perhaps.

  3. “There are many more things to focus in on” is quite true, not only drone bombings but on the parish level, Christian Education, Christian Service, visiting the sick (which contrary to what some think occupies a great deal of my time), burying the dead, comforting the grieving, promoting Catholic Stewardship of time, talent and treasure, forming community, having receptions, weekly dinners and planning interfaith Thanksgiving service, and having Faure’s Requiem in the EF Form on All Souls.
    Jeffrey Tucker at the Chant Cafe has a good article: “Why the Crazy Caution on this Missal?” Having implemented the new translation and new music, I wonder now if I needed three years of prep time to get ready for this. Within two months my congregation is quite comfortable with it. I can only imagine that a year from now all the hysterics concerning this implementation and the authority issues involved as well, will be but a fuzzy memory. It is nice now to have the worry of how people will adjust to the new translation behind us. There will be no turning back to the equivalent translation at least I hope in my lifetime! 🙂

    1. I dunno….
      Pope Benedict is 84, will be 85 in April.
      There’s lots of discontent out there, everywhere.
      Things may change faster than any of us know. I see it everyday.

      Hopefully though, I wish you will live a very long time padre! (and everyone else here on this blog)

      1. Actually, Bill, I started reminding my previous parish as far back as 1995 when I thought we were going to get the 1998 translation. God fooled me as he usually does. You’d be surprised at the types of ministry I do when away from the computer! And my poor parochial vicar, that foreign guy is really good and a hard worker for Christ to boot!

    2. So, why did you need three years, father? It did keep you in the center of things but really does seem a bit over the top.

      Visiting the sick – happy to see that you don’t delegate this to your foreign assistant.

    3. I cannot bring myself to log on the to Café Chant. The title of that article is enough to confirm me in my crazy caution towards the café.

  4. Well, the article had the usual inaccuracies that we find in the secular media but these seemed to get the general sense of the situation pretty well.

  5. I think referring to Dionne’s article as “mutterings” only reinforces his point.

    My favorite quote from the article:
    “It is always entertaining for those of us who are liberal Catholics to watch our conservative Catholic friends try to wriggle around the fact that, on the matters of social justice and the economy, Catholic social teaching is, by any measure, ‘progressive.’ Conservatives regularly condemn liberal ‘Cafeteria Catholics’ who pick and choose among the church’s teachings. But the conservatives often skip the parts of the moral buffet involving peace, social justice and what Pope John Paul II called the ‘idolatry of the market.’”

  6. Learning how the church addresses God in prayer reminds me of learning the formal language for addressing secular dignitaries. I’ve done both, in the latter case as a human rights advocate holding my nose often as I wrote my appeals. In both cases there is a long and rich tradition that is worth the learning because it teaches us civility in all our dealings with others. It has its drawback in the case of prayer, because it associates the Lord with secular dignitaries, the “benefactors” mentioned by Jesus.

    Then we ask whether the formal language of diplomacy is appropriate for addressing the God who is “closer to me than I am to myself,” who is father to all of us children. The prophets were not of one mind on this. Jesus certainly preferred direct address: Abba! The apostles preferred to say: “I am part of the human race as you are.”

    The more that the authorities insist on the priestly language that Jesus abhorred, the more our public prayer will retreat to the museums once again. I just finished reading the letters of Mother Teresa, and it is clear that she and others of her time expressed themselves not in the imagery of scripture or the liturgy but with that of apparitions and popular devotions where at least there was dynamism and development. I would not be surprised to see a growth in popular movements because of the restoration mentality.

    1. I am not an expert on Mother Teresa’s writings, by any measure. BUT — in some of what I *have* read, her language is often richly eucharistic and scriptural. She says of the Sisters’ work: “We are not social workers. We are contemplatives who are 24 hours a day in the presence of the Body of Christ” — referring to their work among the poor, not just the time they spend in prayer and adoration. She also remarks that Jesus has made it possible for us to love him as he loved us; he comes to us as the poor one, the lonely one, etc. He sense of Real Presence was Really Real in the people she served.

    2. Whether or not Mother Teresa spoke in the language of the liturgy is really beside the point. Paul has made a good observation about “the priestly language that Jesus abhored” and the transfer of attitudes that go along with currying favor with human authorities. The relationship conveyed by this style of speaking is not at all the model for our dealings with God. Jesus gave us the model.

    1. I’m not nit-picking. Paul wrote about “the priestly language that Jesus abhorred”, and Rita called that “a good observation”. I’d like to know what he was talking about, giving examples. You’ve given examples, so thank you! (I don’t know how your examples deal with “priestly language”, but I thank you for the examples nonetheless.)

      1. How could anyone provide examples of Jesus’ speech?

        Sounds as if you think that the words placed in the mouth of Jesus by the evangelists were actually spoken by the historical Jesus.

      2. Gerard, that’s not the rabbit-hole I wish to go down.

        My request was simply for examples (evidence, if you will) of Jesus expressing his abhorrence of priestly language. That was all.

      3. It sounds as if you equate examples of the Jesus of the Gospels speaking something with evidence that Jesus said it.

        That’s not just a diversionary burrow. That’s an abyss.

      4. Gerard, I just wanted to know what gave Paul the impression that Jesus abhors priestly language.

        (Paul seems to think Jesus called God “Abba”. I assume he got that idea from the Gospels. Perhaps it would have been more accurate to say that Jesus is portrayed in the Gospel attributed to the four canonical evangelists as addressing God as “Abba”, and in some letters alleged to have been written by Paul. But this is not where I intended to go… I just wanted to know what Paul’s source was for his comment.)

  7. JP – both/and.

    The words of Jesus – you must be aware of the effort in biblical studies to identify using multiple linguistic tools those words that experts can be relatively assured were the “actual” words of Jesus (example of tools – word, phrases, stories used by multiple evangelists, Paul, others over the 50 years after the death of Jesus).

    Abba – is the primary word from various expert sources. The prayer – Father or Our Father.

    These are prime examples used by most experts to develop what Rita was alluding to in her earlier comments – that Jesus taught, used, and experienced prayer in a radically different way from the “Temple” and the “Priests”.

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