American Catholic parishes prepare for new Mass translation that sticks closer to Latin

Here’s an AP story on the missal – “American Catholic parishes prepare for new Mass translation that sticks closer to Latin.” Some names you know are in here – Hilgartner, Tucker, Ruff, Ryan. Pretty fair and balanced, but you’ll cringe at the misinformation in the first sentence.


  1. “We’re tinkering” – that about sums it up. Rome tinkers while the house burns. German catholic publishing house…Boston catholic editorial?

    So far I find I actually stop thinking during the new translation of Roman euchology so I don’t hear “chalice of salvation, precious chalice, chalice, cup”; “He himself,” which any editor would through a fit over – is there a you himself that I missed?; The priest constantly trying to audibly figure out who is in who’s presence and doing who’s will; And the right disaster of the doxology – haven’t heard that come off right once – alone or concelebrated. Here’s one who tunes out rather than tuning in – opposite of the claim (read, spin) of irresistible linguistic spiritualism fantasized by LA and those touting this translation of the sacramentary.

    Our we going to get back to business anytime soon? Before there’s no one left in the shop?

  2. Hey, AWR, you left out another name, “Sullivan.” Mark’s a good old friend who bravely took over a wealthy parish assignment from which I needed to bail, and was the DoM of the christening ceremonies of Oakland’s Christ Our Light Cathedral. A composer of great merit who also happens to be the sibling of another great composer of sacred/liturgical music, Janet Sullivan Whitaker of Oakland. Mark and Janet are both lifelong, dedicated church musicians who also defy categorization and transcend genre or stereotype with their works.
    Must be something in the turbulent waters of Oakland that make for some very hardy souls.

  3. What continues to intrigue me about the whole thing is, as Latin is no longer the mother tongue of any person, why is the Latin not cast in a more contemporary style – without duplications and strings of honorifics? Why do the Latinists not question the Latin? The Latin is not a sacred text, it is also a human work. The Latin should reflect the style of the age from which the text emerged since it is a reference point not a source – the sources are translated back into Latin, from which the versions are translated.

    Why do we regard the Latin as a sacred fiat, while it is not more or less of a human text than any of the translations?

    1. Fr. Martin, your point is well taken. The entire discussion of the translation of the Mass relies too much on what English speakers want not only in terms of word order or style of English, but more importantly on “devotional” or “spiritual” or “theological” qualities these words convey. An accurate translation of the Latin Mass which was reformed after Vatican II gives us what Vatican II desired if we are to believe that the Latin reform is the template of theology, spirituality and devotion for all the all languages of the Mass. So if one thinks that the devotional or spiritual/biblical aspects of the reformed Latin Mass needs further reform, should not the discussion then be on the nature of the reformed Latin Mass and its wording, spirituality and biblical references? In other words, if the Church collectively thinks that the 1973 English translation of the Mass is more faithful in style, devotion, spirituality and theology than its Latin counterpart, then shouldn’t we translate the 1973 English into a verbatim Latin and then have the perfect template for translations? I’m trying to make a point, for I would not wish that, but I am grateful that our revised English translation even with some “howlers” or clunkiness is actually giving us the reformed Latin Mass of post Vatican II, meaning its theology, spirituality and devotional qualities. And since the Latin reformed Mass is obviously in continuity with the 1962 missal as it concerns theology, spirituality and devotional qualities of its words, should not we then presume that those who gave us the reformed Latin Mass understood the hermeneutic of continuity quite well and implemented it in the revised Mass? Why should another language group break that continuity?

  4. Thank you Fr Allan. My concern is also that so many other languages rely on the English for their formative text, rather than the Latin, especially in mission countries the English is the normative text for translation, supplanting the Latin. I was on the translation team for the Afrikaans Missal in the 1980’s, so my liturgical Latin can hold its own.

    I remember doing most of the primary work on Marriage and being disturbed by how every relationship word pertaining to marriage was lumped under the ubiquitous “love” in English – very 60’s. These and many other real weaknesses of English 1973 are indications of haste and looming deadlines. They were not present in the late 90’s ICEL translation and jettisoning those decades of research, editing, prayer, care and love cries to heaven.

    The Dutch had a great solution, there are sixteen Eucharistic Prayers in some editions, four translations of each of the Latin canons to choose from, each reflecting a different nuance of the rich Latin inferences.

    To my understanding the Latin missal, and the recasting of the texts which happened, was in continuity not only with the 1962 Roman Missal but with various other ancient liturgical traditions which were restored to the wider church at the recommendation of the Council, Mozarabaic and Gallican formulations were included. Witness the four canons, three drawing on tradition and one of them being an innovation. We were opened to the fact that the Catholic Tradition embraces more than the Roman Tradition.

    Wider continuity is not discontinuity. Granted canon one is Roman in form and formal court language, two, three and four are not, the receiving language should also reflect the variation of the Latin.

    The Roman Missal is already rich in a variety of voices. There are spiritualities present, a new Latin formulation could include further canons, such as Addi and Mari pointing to even deeper continuities within the Catholic Traditions.

    1. The difference between the restoration of elements from the Mozarabic and Gallican traditions, and the adaptation of the anaphora of St. Basil (or a possible inclusion of Addai and Mari), is that the Mozarabic and Gallican are Latin traditions, whereas Basil and Addai and Mari are not. The Roman Rite is traditionally a Latin Rite.

      Are there Latin elements in the Eastern Rites of the Church (that were not forced upon them)?

  5. Interesting stuff…

    We are two months in to the revised translation in the UK and people are starting to get the hang of it. I was at Mass this morning and almost nobody said ‘and also with you.’ It’s taken a few months to get there, but we’re doing well!!

    Interestingly, we have this sort of transition period between September and Advent in the UK in which the prayers of the Mass have to be in the revised translation, but not much else does. Se we have a lot of old glorias and mass settings. Priests are also not allowed to use the new missal yet, even though they have mostly been delivered now. Odd.

    I’m not 100% behind the revised translation, but a large part of me thinks we should just get on with it. I don’t know if you’re having this transition period in the US, but it’s been a bit odd here!!

  6. Jack, I’m not so sure we are doing that well. The UK is not one parish.
    But then change is never straight forward.
    Our allegiance to the Church is central. Small groups here and there, using their own words, only adds to confusion. This is the family to which we belong and just going off in a huff, solves little.
    Because it is our family we reserve the right to express sincerely held views, even though they may not meet the current norms.
    That said, this translation from the vernacular Latin that replaced the original Greek will take not months but years to become accepted. In the meantime, given the history that lies behind it, how many will struggle with words that are at the very centre of our Christian lives, but do not speak for them?
    I am intrigued as to how the US will respond come the end of this month.
    Chris McDonnell UK

    1. Small groups here and there, using their own words, only adds to confusion.
      Ah yes, you mean those “confusing” years in the first and second centuries AD when the celebrant often spoke an extemporaneous eucharistic prayer in Aramaic and Greek? Where not only the words were freely composed, but the theology of the eucharist may have been too.

      1. But that approach is confusing today when we have a written liturgy.

        Imagine the outrage if the 1998 translation had been approved but some conservative priest decided to tweak its language to add back in “man” and what-not. Or if a translation more like 2008’s was one of the drafts on the way to the 1998 text, and conservative priests decided to use the earlier draft instead of the approved final version. There would be no peace on PTB.

        And imagine if the priest decided to have the people’s responses correspond to the translation he chose. The people’s responses in the 1998 translation were hardly modified at all, but they are changed in the coming translation.

        Yes, this creates confusion, and outrage, rightly so, I think.

        While I think retaining use (for priest and people) of the 1973 translation is reasonable in certain situations, I do not think it is reasonable for a priest to decide to use the 1998 text, and I think if he were to discourage his parishioners from using the new responses, that would be even worse.

      2. JP – don’t want to write a dissertation on your response but would suggest that you are mixing apples and oranges in your examples, again.

        It would be one thing for a “presider” to take any approved liturgy and reinsert language, words, etc. that met his ideological biases, his own internal bigotry, etc. Your examples of “man” in place of any translation that moved the church towards expressing itself so that there is “no difference between man and woman, Gentile or Jew, etc.” That to me is imposing your own opinion on the people of God.

        It is actually a liturgical principle in SC and the Vatican II documents that does lay down a directive that the presider with careful study, in collarboration with parish ministers/experts makes “limited” pastoral changes to meet a specific pastoral need (this may be a one time event). Liturgy is not meant to be rigid or a place to “score keep” the presider or other ministers who may not perfectly read the black and do the red. In fact, that principle describes the black/red as guidelines that carry significant weight but are not set in concrete.

        Also, 1998 is NOT a draft – it was an official and formally approved liturgical translation that was developed over 20 years with wide consultation. It is not being used because of a power play that violated numerous council directives and it was allowed because the english speaking conferences of bishops failed in their episcopal duties. (you will also note that 1998 did not change the peoples’ parts for good pastoral reasons unlike 2010)

        Guess I agree with your final point – there are much bigger issues we confront even in liturgy than whether we use 1973, 1998, 2008, or 2010. (note – to implement and introduce this new translation without being honest in terms of process and deficiences is to me a lack of respect for the people of God and continues the current clerical behaviors of silence in the face of episcopal and papal shenanigans. Catholics are adults – treat them as such)

      3. It would be one thing for a “presider” to take any approved liturgy and reinsert language that met his ideological biases, internal bigotry

        And some priests do this from time to time.

        Your examples of “man” in place of any translation that moved the church towards expressing itself so that there is “no difference between man and woman, Gentile or Jew, etc.”

        We could get into a discussion of the meaning of Gal 3:28 in context, but I’ll grant your point.

        That to me is imposing your own opinion on the people of God.

        Would another example would be omitting “save us from final damnation” in EP I?

        Also, 1998 is NOT a draft

        I did not say it was.

        (you will also note that 1998 did not change the peoples’ parts for good pastoral reasons unlike 2010)

        Well, the people’s parts were tweaked a little bit here and there, mostly to reduce uses of “him” and “his”. I think if you’re going to make those changes, you might as well adjust the translation to be a little more accurate anyway.

        (I’m reminded, looking through the 1998 translation right now that the Nicene Creed shares some phrases with 2011: “incarnate” (!), “(made) man”, “suffered death”, “in accordance with the scriptures”.)

        to implement and introduce this new translation without being honest in terms of process and deficiencies is to me a lack of respect for the people of God […] Catholics are adults – treat them as such

        Fair enough. Same goes for swapping in a different translation for the one we’re supposed to use in secret?

  7. Well this story is now out in the popular media, including TV. The results could be devastating from what my very bright 88 year old aunt told me last night.

    Because of a health problem, she has not been able to attend church regularly for about a decade. But until recently she watched the diocesan TV Mass every Sunday and faithfully sent her contributions not only to her parish but to the diocese for the televised Mass.

    About a year ago she moved to another state and diocese and was unable to find a TV Mass. A neighbor does take her to church on Christmas and Easter. The neighboring parish does not have much outreach to the retirement community (mostly 50 year olds) where she lives.

    Her strong impressions after watching the TV, which included bishops and cardinals speaking, were: 1) the Mass is going to be totally and completely changed and that it would not even be worthwhile for her to ever try to attend Mass again (that she might as well get rid of her missal), and 2) this was a sudden decision in the last few months coming from the Vatican!

    The majority of Catholics do not attend Mass weekly or even near weekly. The most recent survey of Catholics in America (2011), in response to the question “aside from weddings and funerals, how often do you attend Mass?” 47% said less than monthly.

    So about half the Catholics in America over the next month or two will get their initial information from the mass media. Many of those Catholics like my aunt will probably ask a family member, friend or neighbor about what is going on.

    Most parishes need to consider that half the people who come to Mass on Christmas and Easter will get their information from the media or second hand from someone in the pews. If fewer people show up for Christmas and Easter do not be surprised. If there are fewer weddings and funerals (because people think the Mass has radically changed) do not be surprised.

    Popular media stories are usually about bad news.

  8. I think this AP story has been syndicated widely. Was slightly surprised to find it in the Des Moines Register this morning.

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