Priests’ opinions on new translation sought

No, this isn’t the Roman Curia asking. It’s U.S. Catholic. They’re calling on Catholic priests to give their opinion on the revised Missal translation. The survey is here. You have to give your name and location, but you can ask that your name not be published with your comments. There is a second survey laity can take too.


  1. I will be very interested in the results of this survey, especially since there is a “do not use my name” option. As a loyal follower of this blog, I suspect that two fairly polarized camps will emerge. The Body of Christ has been divided before, and has survived. But as a retired liturgist who devoted many years of my life the public prayer of the People of God, I am deeply saddened.

  2. 1. Which of the following responses best describes your current attitude as a priest toward the new Mass translations:
    *I personally enjoy the new translation as much as, if not more than, the old version.
    *I was unsure about it at first, but I’ve grown accustomed to the new translation.
    *I don’t particularly like the new translations, but I’ve come to accept them, and they’re not that big of a deal to me.
    *I dislike the new translations and still can’t believe I’ll have to use them for the foreseeable future.

    Well that’s not exactly a balanced set of answers!

  3. The wording of the first question is great. The temptation is to force the respondent to caterer to the interests of the researcher. Most priests and people are more interested in their Mass going experience rather than the Missal per se. If you focus on the Missal text rather than their experience, you will over sample the small number of people that care about translations themselves rather than getting the views of a great number of people who might share their Mass experience with the text.

    Option 1 I personally enjoy the new translation as much as, if not more than, the old version. This tells me that the person had no problems with the Missal, and that its success was likely because of the text of the missal, not any adaptation process. They liked it from the beginning.

    Option 2 I was unsure about it at first, but I’ve grown accustomed to the new translation. This is the experience that most people would have to any novel situation. The New Missal is still successful but mainly because people are adaptable.

    Option 3 I don’t particularly like the new translations, but I’ve come to accept them, and they’re not that big of a deal to me. The person has adapted despite the text because the person is a good priest or PIP. Perhaps after more time these may like the text, too.

    Option 4 I dislike the new translations and still can’t believe I’ll have to use them for the foreseeable future. This is resistance due to the translation itself not simply the change process.

    Let us suppose the data come out 1(10%) 2(40%) 3(40%) 4 (10%). I would conclude that the Missal had little effect positive or negative (20%), priests and people are just going through an adaptation process (80%), some are likely further along in that process than others.

    Let us suppose the data come out 1(25%) 2(25%) 3(25%) 4(25%). This says the Missal had a big effect (50%) equal to any change process (50%) and that people are evenly divided on it.

    A well crafted and respondent friendly survey.

  4. Guys, have you missed the fact that there’s no unmixed positive option? “I was excited about the new translation and it’s implementation has exceeded my expectations.”

    There’s no option more positive than “enjoy … as much as, if not more than, the old version” combining neutral and possibly positive responses. Meanwhile, there is an additional neutral and two negative response possibilities. “How much do you like your new car? a) it’s ok, or even kind of good b) it’s about the same as my old one c) I’m not a fan d) It’s terrible”

    Also that positive option (unlike the negative ones) limits the reason for the reaction “enjoyment”. Why not something broader, mirroring the cause neutral language of option 3: “I particularly like…” What if the priest doesn’t “enjoy” it… e.g. finds it difficult, but thinks the new langauge is useful for catechesis and therefore prefers it.

    1. @Samuel J. Howard – comment #6:
      Do you really believe that more than the smallest percentage of Catholics-lay or clerical- were eager for a new translation? There wasn’t even the slightest hint of involving them along the way. That had been the case for the 1998 translation and everyone got their hand slapped by a cabal by non-English speaking officials at the Vatican. Oh, yes, JPII spoke English but he as already seriously hobbled by age and Parkinson’s.

    2. @Samuel J. Howard – comment #6:

      The complex situation that you describe would be an obvious candidate for “other”. However, a positive response along the lines of “I personally prefer the new translation to the older one” would have been necessary to make this a balanced question.

      To be fair, the rest of the survey seems to be more balanced — but the first question betrays US Catholic’s biases.

      I doubt the data from this survey will be particularly useful, not so much because of the bias of the questioners, but because of self-selection bias amongst the respondents. Those who are happy with or neutral toward the present situation aren’t going to take the time to fill out the survey.

  5. I hope that there will be a similar survey for other pastoral/liturgical parish professionals, volunteer lay ecclesial ministers, and the laity in the pews. There needs to be a broader ecclesial understanding of the Church at prayer, not clergy-only.

  6. “I was excited about the new translation and it’s implementation has exceeded my expectations.”

    There is also not an option in this question for those priests who have decided to not use the New Missal or have decided to modify its text.

    Also in the general form of the survey, there is not an option for laity to indicate that they no longer go to Mass or they go to Mass less frequently because of the New Missal.

    A four fold response with two levels of positive and negative is very common. Once one gets to more levels their interpretation and use becomes problematic.

    Simply put the questionnaire is not geared toward giving people extreme response options. However it makes up for that by giving people a lot of places to write in their own responses.

    Introducing another variable “expectations” into this question is not a good idea.

    Why go there? To disturb the people who don’t want us to go there.

    1. @Jack Rakosky – comment #11:
      A four fold response with two levels of positive and negative is very common. Once one gets to more levels their interpretation and use becomes problematic.

      True! But that’s not what we’ve got here. My “proposed” response was rhetorically heightened, but we don’t have two positive and two negative options. We have a first option that captures both positive and neutral responses, a second option that captures neutral responses, and then two negative responses.

    2. @Jack Rakosky – comment #11:
      Also in the general form of the survey, there is not an option for laity to indicate that they no longer go to Mass or they go to Mass less frequently because of the New Missal.

      I understand that even ONE such person is too many, but how large a group is this, realistically? Ou pews were full before the new translation, during the implementation, and now are essentially the same. Are there parishes where more than one or two have actually left FOR THIS REASON exclusively (i.e, not because of arguments with the pastor regarding the process, feeling slighted by not having input, but actually because of the translation itself). I don’t see it here, and FL parishes are pretty much a cross-section of the East Coast of the US.

  7. “I was excited about the new translation and it’s [sic] implementation has exceeded my expectations.” Oh, the irony!

  8. In my view, U.S. Catholic‘s survey provides a needed stigma-free forum for the expression of displeasure over the new missal. The promulgation of a new liturgical book should no longer require silent consent from the clergy and the laity as in the past. Also, I do not see much of a difference between U.S. Catholic‘s survey and the pre-Summorum Pontificum proliferation of websites designed for the fellowship of Catholics attracted to the (now)-EF. A website devoted solely to a not strident but firmly critical view of the new missal would not be out of place given historical precedent. Perhaps such a site would even be cathartic for many clergy and laity.

    An indult or motu propio for the “re-legalization” of the Sacramentary would not obviate the need for such a website. Just as pre-SP websites transitioned from advocacy for a re-implementation of the 1962 Missal to the practical aspects of liturgical life after SP, so a website that advocates for the resumed use of the Sacramentary or even a re-investigation of the 1998 proposed missal could shift to the support of these liturgical books should their use be permitted in the future.

    1. @Jordan Zarembo – comment #15:

      A “stigma-free” forum? That’s what I thought PrayTell was for! 😉

      In all seriousness, though, I just see US Catholic’s survey as meaningless sabre-rattling. I suppose if, after less than a year, you ask US Catholic’s readers what they think of the new translation, you might get the sort of headlines US Catholic are probably looking for, but I don’t think the data is particularly useful. Come back in 5-10 years time when the new has had a decent amount of time to bed in, then do a survey. (And in 20 years time, will anyone really want to go back to either 1973 or 1998?)

      In any case, it doesn’t matter how many people in their survey say that they want to go back to the old translation (q. 5), it’s not going to happen. The old translation (and 1998) are not in conformity with Liturgiam authenticam. (The new translation may not be in its entirety, but it’s a lot closer to being so!) So unless/until LA is replaced, there will be no “re-legalisation” of the old translation. Many of the critics’ targets are, as they are so often, pointed at the wrong thing.

      Had we kept the missal in Latin, with people able to take along whatever English translation they wanted, I doubt the English-speaking Catholic world would be as divided as we are currently. It might be convenient to have the whole Mass in the vernacular, but if it results in this sort of (seemingly permanent) bickering, perhaps the post-Conciliar consensus about the vernacular needs re-examining. I suppose that’s a different conversation, though…

      1. In response to Matthew Hazell’s comment at #16: Liturgiam authenticam is not de fide. A different papal “administration” could well modify or even fully overturn this legislation. The question of LA is quite different than that of the constitution Missale Romanum 1969. In my opinion Paul VI clearly intended for his constitution to supersede Quo Primum. Even then, Pope Benedict issued a fully licit motu proprio. If a future pope wishes to re-open the investigation of a contemporary English translation of the Mass, he would be able to do so with a minimum of red tape.

        The need for another licit contemporary English translation of the Missale along the lines of the Sacramentary and the 1998 missal is clear, even if only to assist in the creation of other translations (i.e. Japanese). Even the Latins of the Republic could not agree to the meaning of Latin ritual language. Then, why should we be so concerned that there be a sole English translation of a sacral textual tradition that has been and still incites contention in its “original” context?

      2. @Jordan Zarembo – comment #17:

        Of course, LA isn’t de fide. That wasn’t really my point. My point was that, as long as LA is in force as a set of guidelines for translation, there is no chance of going back to 1973 or adopting 1998. (Not that I think there would be anyway.) For those who would like to be rid of the new translation, it is LA they first need to set their sights on, not the translation.

  9. I agree with Matthew that Liturgiam Authenticam is the core issue. As long as it is in force, the 1973 translation can’t easily be used; even the 1998 would cause problems, though it is more in compliance than the 1973.

    Given that the Vatican issued a sort of “oops” about Comme Le Prévoit and replaced it with the wretched Lit Auth, it could do the same thing again, three times:

    “Oops, Liturgiam Authenticam was a shoddy piece of work. It is hereby withdrawn.”

    “Oops, the new translation is sufficiently problematic that the 1973 can be used again, at the celebrant’s option. The same principle that applied in Summorum Pontificum applies here.”

    “Oops, we were wrong about the 1998 translation. We’re going to examine it again, to see whether it could be improved and eventually form the basis for a single authorised English translation.”

    Yes, well, it could happen.

    1. @Jonathan Day – comment #20:
      “the 1973 can be used again, at the celebrant’s option” I presume this could only refer to private Masses or would you grant the celebrant the authority to choose whatever translation he prefers for the congregation.

  10. The last thing we need is translation & liturgy by survey, consultation with every conceivable group, or committee. This guarantees an artless and pedestrian result. With such a procedure we would never have had Cranmer’ s masterpiece. Give the Latin to the greatest poet of our age and be thankful for what we get.

  11. Although the blessed Cranmer did dominate the early BCPs his was not the only hand involved. 1662 made many happy alterations to Cranmer. Of course the Scottish and American books to mention only two were produced by many hands. I do believe that folks were consulted about the 1928; I do know that more were involved in the 1979.

    Although I am not enamored by the 1979 book I do recognize that it has brought stability to liturgy in the Episcopal Church. Not bad for being a product of so much consultation!

    1. @Brian Duffy – comment #22:
      And –
      the 1979 BCP was/is one among numerous factors that caused/causes the Episcopal Church a significant drain of its membership to various ‘true Anglican’ splinter groups, and others who go to Orthodoxy or cross the Tiber in a continuing stream. Something like half-or-more, I believe, in the last quarter century or so? This could hardly be called bringing ‘stability to liturgy’. Although there were some positive features (such as putting Gloria where it belongs, restoring the Easter Vigil, giving us one of the best modern-language psalters, and reflecting advances in liturgical scholarship) it continues, with its two rites, to be an instrument of institutionalised discord and disaffection stuck with a very dated ‘and also with you’ style and some rather fuzzy theology. Stability indeed!

      1. @M. Jackson Osborn – comment #26:
        In my case, however, the 1979 BCP (including both Rite I and Rite II) was one of the major things that attracted me to the Episcopal Church. I’m in a parish that uses more of the book than anyone, and that’s fine with me.

    2. @Brian Duffy – comment #22:
      And when the 1979 BCP was finally approved, Anglo-Catholics declared victory: no longer were the “illegal” missals necessary; the BCP now allowed for most of what had been sought for catholic worship.

      I’m one Episcopalian who, if there’s ever a 1979 Prayer Book Society, would like to be a charter member. Its Psalter is a particular triumph.

      1. @Scott Knitter – comment #27:
        Yes, Anglo-Catholics had a moment of hubris over the ’79 BCP. I remember it well! But it was brief. The battle was won and the war was lost when what everyone knew was coming came: priestesses, and the concomitant thumbing of the nose at apostolic authority and the steadfast example of the other two ‘branches’ of Catholicism. What leg they had to stand on they chopped off. And, having lost more than half their membership to this escapade, they are yet staying the course to theological irrelavance.

        This is partially an example of religion-by-survey: when some survey answers count more than others because they reflect the attitudes preferred and sought by the surveyors; when we are very careful to ‘consult’ everyone but have friendlier ears for those who reflect the philosophy du jour.

  12. True, true; but: whatever hands were involved were working with a paradigm of unsurpassed literary and spiritual value, and whatever alterations they made they made with utmost respect and deference to that paradigm. I don’t think the people who are so bent on being surveyed and ‘consulted’ today would deliver to us anything near that paradigm. I say again that we should give the Latin to the greatest poet of our age and be thankful for what we get. He should have but one stipulation: leave no loopholes for extemporaneous commentary, ‘similar words’, and cute chatter.

  13. I’ve been thinking two things reading these comments.

    First, there does need to be some means devised to facilitate a conversation about the strengths and weaknesses of the new translation. Such a conversation might yield some improvements to the Missal. Occasionally I have had conversations with friends which have highlighted this need.

    A friend of mine told me that last month, on the Feast of the Transfiguration, he got to the end of the Preface and found himself at sea. He had simply lost the thread of it. The imprecise nature of the second half did not help him to find the thread again. I suggested a simple addition to the text which makes the sense clear.

    Even in the context of Liturgiam Authenticam, I would judge that such improvements are noit to be ruled out. There are, of course, cases where the new text is simply incorrect, as in the Annunciation Preface where an important phrase of the Latin is missed out in the English text. We should take it upon ourselves to make such corrections.

    Second, as a daily user of the US Episcopal Psalter for well over twenty years, I want to endorse the positive remarks that have been made about it above. I find that both rhythmically and expressively it compares favourably overall with the Grail Psalter.

    Alan Griffiths.

  14. Shane, I would apply the principle of Summorum Pontificum here. If a group of the faithful prefer the 1973 translation, then let this request be received with generosity. Ultimately it’s the celebrant’s choice.

    If by “private Masses” you mean occasions on which a priest says Mass on his own, or with a single server, I have to admit that I see these as a Tridentine relic, something perhaps for priests devoted to the EF, but not something for ordinary use. Or perhaps you are using “private Masses” to refer to the situation I sketched above — a group approaches a priest, asking for the 1973.

    What if the congregation prefers the new translation but the priest (perhaps a new parish priest) prefers the 1973? I don’t know what would be done in that case.

    In any event, I think the “triple oops” I described is entirely unlikely to happen. So the discussion may be academic.

    1. Private masses are part of the post V2 reform and remain a part of the liturgical life of the contemporary Church. In contrast to the missal of John XXIII I think the 1973 translation may well be abrogated because LA abrogated CLP.

      @Jonathan Day – comment #33:

  15. This is fascinating, and I look forward, when I have time, to look this through. That said, while I certainly don’t argue with and see the benefit of having an option to remain anonymous, I think it speaks volumes about the state of the church today and our internal freedom. Open dialog, healthy criticism, and openness to opposing viewpoints, often aren’t welcome very regrettably.

  16. I believe the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) has been commissioned to do a thorough survey on this topic.

  17. What a pity that instead of the US Catholic conducting a survey of opinion that a Bishop did not see this issue as a matter for leadership by instigating a diocesan wide inquiry.
    The courage to listen is in short supply. No wonder that Cardinal Martini asked why are we so afraid.

  18. Private masses were certainly not encouraged by the reforms initiated by VII. The widespread practice of con celebration is one testimony to that. Permitted, yes. Often done, no. And the 1973 translation has certainly not been abrogated as was the 1962.

  19. Almost a year after it was rolled out, I consider the new translation to be an distinct improvement. There have been few problems, except I still stumble over the wording of the Creed, since I still have the old one in my head. Sometimes I here a parishioner or two forgot and say “and also with you”, or one of the old responses.

    The newly translated prayers have much more depth, and considerable more specificity, than the 1973 translation. The Roman Canon is glorious in the restored version. Deo Gratias!

Leave a Reply

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