Austrian Bishops’ Conference on “pro multis”

Not sure how significant this is, but the Austrian Bishops’ Conference recently issued a clarification on “pro multis,” the words of the supper narrative of the Eucharistic Prayer over the cup (“…for you and for all/many…”). The Latin words “pro multis” could be translated literally as “for many,” as Pope Emeritus Benedict called for, but many have argued that it is an idiom which in effect means “for all,” the translation approved by Pope Paul VI.

The Austrian bishops have clarified that priests are to continue using “for all” (“für alle” in German), the older translation still in effect, because the process for changing it to “for many” (“für viele”) is “not yet concluded.”

On April 14, 2012, Pope Emeritus Benedict wrote to the bishops of German-speaking lands informing them that “für viele” must be used in the forthcoming translation of the Roman Missal in German. But there is resistance among the German-speaking bishops. As Cardinal Meisner of Cologne, Germany stated, “I have always said that the Congregation for Divine Worship should go through our texts critically and see if we have translated the theological context correctly. But how we express ourselves in German is up to us German bishops.”

Perhaps the bishops’ statement simply means that priests must not use the new translation until it officially goes into effect. Or does it mean that the German-speaking bishops are still working behind the scenes to keep “für alle” in the forthcoming translation?

32 comments

  1. Of course it should be up to the Austrian and German bishops to determine what the text shall read. Since Pope Paul VI established “for all” we know that it is doctrinally sound. But the bottom line is that countless priests and bishops around the world will continue to say “for all” even if the Missal says “for many”. For many is an idiom which point to the universal salvific mission of Christ.

  2. In Italian it is “per tutti”, in Spanish and Portuguese “por todos”, in German “für alle”. It seems that the bishops of countries which use those languages are exercising their right to resist a change to the equivalent of “for many”. Unfortunately the English-language bishops showed a lack of courage when put to the test.

    I hope that Francis will call a halt to all new translations until this issue is addressed, and then take a hatchet to the recent English translation.

    1. @Rom Kiul – comment #2:
      Well, it’s not only a lack of courage that the English-speaking bishops demonstrated, but also an inadequate theology.

  3. I suspect that “many” would welcome a return to “for all.” The tortuous explanations of how “for many” really means “for all” just didn’t go down well.

    Followed closely by, “and with your spirit.”

    1. @john Robert Francis – comment #3:

      Followed closely by, “and with your spirit.”

      And then by “It is right and just”. I have been observing over many months how this phrase seems to be completely devoid of meaning for those who are using it. And yes, I have been asking them.

      What does “It is right and just” mean? That someone has proved that it is, after all, OK? That it is equable? That you can justify doing it? Or simply that “It is the right thing to do” ? Why would anyone need to debate that it is all right to give thanks to the Lord our God? is what people are wondering.

      One cannot help thinking that dynamic equivalence was a gift to the People of God in this instance, as in many others. “To give him thanks and praise” was a cause for lifting up hearts. “Just” is not.

      1. @Paul Inwood – comment #10:
        I am not at all confused by the dialogue: “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.” “It is right and just.” “It is truly right and just [to give you thanks]…”

        I don’t see how your question “Why would anyone need to debate that it is all right to give thanks to the Lord our God?” would not apply just as much to the old translation of “It is right to give him thanks and praise.” Who would say it wasn’t right to?

      2. @Paul Inwood – comment #10:

        I have some sympathy with Paul’s point. ‘Dignum et iustum est’ is excellent and typically terse Latin, but ‘It is right and just’ is poor and thin English. It turns out to be not that easy to chant, either, in my (daily) experience.

        I didn’t much like ‘It is right to give him thanks and praise’ but that at least was better linguistically, and a bit more fulsome, unless of course you have problems with ‘him.’

        Some tried dropping ‘him’ which renders the phrase somewhat directionless. Substituting ‘our’ for ‘him’ changes the focus to the worshippers, which is hardly the point here.

        The Book of Common Prayer caught it better with its version: ‘It is meet and right so to do.’

        Cardinal Meisner’s point about Rome checking that the theological content is correct and leaving it up to the German bishops to decide on matters of German style is surely sound common sense. It makes me wish that the Anglophone bishops of the world had been given the same strength of mind.

        Incidentally, we are now in the holy season of the approx. 51 times repeated paschal preface conclusion with its appeal for the smelling salts: ‘Therefore, overcome with paschal joy …’ What nonsense.

        For those who want to get it right, and in hope of an eventual revision of the Missal, here is a better rendering:

        And so, with boundless paschal joy,
        every land, every people exults in your praise.
        The powers of heaven together with the angelic hosts
        sing together the unending hymn of your glory
        as they acclaim:
        Holy …’

  4. I have noticed in translations of Plato, etc., ‘the many’ is commonly (and quite obviously) used to refer to the populace or ‘everyone’. Assuming this is faithful to the Greek, its sense is immediately apparent. Ditto ‘pro multis’ = ‘ for many’. It seems to me that one or the other of the translations under discussion makes no difference at all – except that one is the chosen language of the ritual text and the other isn’t. This is a tempest in a teapot. As far as substituting one’s preferred choice of words for those in the missal, this is an act of highly presumptuous arrogance and pride. No one, priest or prelate, has authority to deviate from the ritual text or alter it in any fashion… or to impose his delusions of superior genius upon the many.

    1. @M. Jackson Osborn – comment #4:
      “No one, priest or prelate, has authority to deviate from the ritual text or alter it in any fashion… or to impose his delusions of superior genius upon the many.”

      No? Sounds like a good description of what happens at the homily to me.

      1. @Gerard Flynn – comment #5:
        Well, here I’ve been using “for all” for about 18 months and the liturgical police have not cited me yet.

    2. @M. Jackson Osborn – comment #4:
      MJO, I am undoubtedly the least learned person on here, but I too was aware of the sense of “the many” in the classic sources. You seem to contradict yourself, though. If the translation had been “given for the many”, that would in fact be better, but “given for all” would be even clearer. But, we didn’t get “for the many”, we got “for many”. There is the tempest.

      1. @Jim Waldo – comment #13:
        You are, of course, right; and, in fact, I was waiting for someone to make that point. ‘The many’ would really be the preferable option. The self-willed disobedience on the part of those who have no truck with it themselves is, however, particularly rankling and a very bad example – not to mention that it introduces a triumphalist and adversarial sourness into the liturgy.

      2. @M. Jackson Osborn – comment #15:
        Well, what-evs. This seems a case where the lack of the definite article is all the difference. “Self-willed disobedience” — well, again, what-evs. I have absolutely no idea about the triumphalism.

  5. M. Jackson Osborn : As far as substituting one’s preferred choice of words for those in the missal, this is an act of highly presumptuous arrogance and pride. .

    I know that the writers of this blog do not like it when there is name calling in the comments, so maybe I shall just suggest that it is the relatively small number of enthusiasts who have imposed their will upon the rest of the English speaking world by giving us a translation not wanted by most bishops, priests or people, who really display those characteristics.

    If those who have taken it upon themselves to produce a translation do not listen to the respectful and proper concerns expressed by the national hierarchies, they should not be surprised when there is some civil disobedience.

    If a priest says “for all” he is not arrogantly substituting his own invented text out of personal pride, but using the preferred translation of his nation’s bishops and theologians.

  6. Make no mistake: the ‘for many’ versus ‘for all’ debate was and remains central to the College of Internet Cardinals. Why so central? Because they read ‘for all’ as sneaking universalism into the liturgy. If Christ died ‘for all’, then perhaps might be are saved.

    And if that is even remotely possible, then hell, damnation and the devil are no longer the heart of the faith, as they are for many (not ‘all’) members of the College. If universal salvation is even possible, then you can no longer frame the faith as being entirely about ‘getting to heaven’ – heaven, which, in theology of the Internet Cardinals, is populated by a handful of souls.

    Go listen to Michael Voris flame on about how almost everyone goes to hell (and yes, I am aware that saints have said the same thing, I am aware of the Fatima apparitions, etc.). Go listen to the podcast where, in the course of denouncing Ted Kennedy, Fr Zuhlsdorf repeats, in sardonic tones, “Christ’s blood was poured out for many”. Certainly not for Ted!

    No, MJO, this is not a tempest in a teapot. Getting the liturgy right is utterly essential. In this regard I agree with Fr Z.

    The problem is that, more or less for a decade, it has been going wrong. Now, perhaps there is a chance to put things right again. Three cheers for the German bishops!

    1. @Jonathan Day – comment #9:
      Jonathan – careful or you will be cited by the Temple Police. Don’t you know that it is all about *sacrifice* (unbloody of course) because we don’t believe the incarnation (wasn’t for love but atonement – we had to be bought back, ransomed) or that creation was *good* and the literal translation of Genesis means that Adam/Eve sinned and so did we (even before we were born and that was passed down to us – just like genetics – ignore that councils have repeatedly rejected this approach). And yes, what would happen to limbo (oh yeah, that is already gone even in the concept of Benedict XVI); and would that mean the purgatory, heaven, hell are not geographical places? Why, you don’t want to interfere with the emphasis on the *cross*, *suffering*, Good Friday and reducing the Triduum to one day with a pre/post afterthought – always wondered why it was called *Good* Friday? Our theology really did come from Mel Gibson’s Passion of Christ – correct? And thus the Eucharist isn’t a meal or a remembering – it is an unbloody sacrifice, pure and simple. (this is as literal as they can get and thus the recourse to the word, unbloody – can’t push the envelope too far)

      The streaks of Pelagianism, Calvinism, Manicheism, Jansenism, etc. when a *rigid literal* translation is utilized only reinforces what experts cite – you have to focus on the meaning and how this is accomplished in every culture changes.

  7. MJO, you speak with such vitriole! Like Fr. Blue and countless others I have continued to use the words of institution which were found in the sacramentary. Not a single person has commented about this. That’s because the purpose of words is to convey comprehensible meanings. In the run up to the new translation I carefully explained that those responsible made clear that while “for many” means “for all”, that since the Latin text says “pro multis” it should be translated “for many”. Kabuki theater anyone? The company men may say for many because they know it means for all. They may not become monsignors or get nicer parishes, after all. Wonder if they’ve noticed yet that this construct is falling down?

  8. “I have always said that the Congregation for Divine Worship should go through our texts critically and see if we have translated the theological context correctly. But how we express ourselves in German is up to us German bishops.”

    John Allen has posted his thoughts on the G8
    http://ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/five-thoughts-popes-new-g8

    1 A cabinet, not a blue-ribbon commission
    2. Not ‘yes’ men
    3. Collegial on multiple levels

    by placing a group of leaders from dioceses around the world at the top of the food chain, it’s a way of saying that the Vatican must be accountable to the local churches

    This group is clearly designed to be geographically representative, including at least one cardinal from each continent… some were explicitly told they were being asked to serve as the representative of their geographic region.

    They suggest a revitalization of the role of bishops’ conferences, both nationally and regionally, under Francis.

    4. Clipped wings for the Secretariat of State: Rather than being the über-dicastery where all the important decisions about church governance are made, it may function more like a support staff to the pope and his body of eight advisors.

    5. Role reversals for Rodriguez Maradiaga and O’Malley

    Now, however, Maradiage widely perceived as one of the kingmakers behind the election of Pope Francis, and has been asked to serve as the coordinator of this new group of eight cardinals. It’s possible that before long, the 70-year-old Rodriguez Maradiaga will be seen as the second most powerful figure in the church after the pope himself.

    O’Malley seems poised to become under this pope what Cardinal John O’Connor was under John Paul II, and what Cardinal Timothy Dolan was under Benedict: the pontiff’s go-to guy not just in the United States, but North America and much of the English-speaking world.

    My conclusion is the Curia is going to become the daily support bureaucracy with little policy making ability. That will be done by the Cabinet, Consistories’ and Synods were there are real debates, with much delegation to regional and national bishops conferences.

    The Vatican will become a pilgrimage center and hotel for visiting church officials who will have the real policy making power. Note that the only Curia member of the Cabinet is the head of Vatican City, and the Pope is spending a lot of his time with the lower level Vatican people. I think he wants them all to be very happy with their new support roles as hotel staff even if their bosses are not. He is modeling being a hotel guest himself.

  9. The English-speaking Church, many other vernaculars, our own normative Latin Mass and the Eastern Churches all are in error because, according to some posters here, “for many” is theologically wrong?
    Don’t think so.
    Perhaps a corrected translation along the lines the German-speaking Benedict proposed could help usher in some needed renewal in the Austrian Church.

  10. Daniel the question is, “What does ‘pro multis’ mean?” Since there is no definite article in Latin we cannot tell just by looking at it whether it means: “for many people” and therefore not all people; or “for the many” which can mean “for everyone”.

    The French translation is not “pour beaucoup”, but “pour la multitude” and if for some perverse reason we had to get rid of “for all” then a phrase like “for the multitude” would have been acceptable.

    It is a grave theological error to say that Jesus did not shed his blood for all people and it is a disgrace that some priests use a phrase that implies that when celebrating mass.

    1. @Rom Kiul – comment #18:
      But both translations are valid and orthodox.

      “For many” recalls the Suffering Servant language of the Old Testament, where that is generally how the term appears. But it requires people to understand “many” to mean “all,” which requires a level of nuanced understanding that many our people probably don’t have. Pope Benedict has his reasons for “for many” but I think is misreading the common people, from whom he was always rather isolated.

      “For all” expresses better the faith of the Church, and is within the realm of accurate translations when you’re dealing with idioms and the inevitable shifts from one language to another. But it is not the only correct translation. The argument for it is that in general the liturgy doesn’t use Scripture only literally, but appropriates it for spiritual/liturgical purpose.

      awr

    2. @Rom Kiul – comment #18:
      It is a grave theological error to say that Jesus did not shed his blood for all people…

      Every time this argument is brought up, I will respond by pointing out that the prayer does not say (nor even imply) that Jesus did not shed his blood for all people. What the prayer says is that Jesus poured out his blood for many unto the remission of sins (or for the forgiveness of sins). As the old Roman Catechism pointed out, this language (cf. Mt 26:28) refers to the actual fruits of the Passion, as opposed to the potential fruits.

      Furthermore, the phrase “for many” in the anaphora is not properly contrasted with “for all” (which does not appear in the text) but with “for you” — thus, Jesus is/was speaking of the wider application of the fruits of His Passion than just those present: “poured out, not only for you, but indeed for many!”

      … and it is a disgrace that some priests use a phrase that implies that when celebrating mass.

      Is it a disgrace to read “for many” in the Gospel passages on Palm Sunday?

      1. @Jeffrey Pinyan – comment #25:

        As the old Roman Catechism pointed out, this language (cf. Mt 26:28) refers to the actual fruits of the Passion, as opposed to the potential fruits.

        Every time this argument is brought up, I wonder if “for you” includes Judas as a recipient of the actual fruits of the Passion. I am not trying to dispute, just to understand.

        As to biblical texts in the liturgy, I would ask why we say “my soul” when the Centurion said “my servant shall be healed.” This is a far more significant alteration than saying all in place of many.

        Many questions. Where answers abound, questions are even more abundant.

      2. @Jim McKay – comment #29:

        But it’s more scriptural!!! At least that’s how they sold it when they foisted it upon us.

        Of course, if you want the people to understand well the meaning, just use Roman Missal 2. Pretty sad, eh?

    3. @Rom Kiul – comment #18:

      Since there is no definite article in Latin we cannot tell just by looking at it whether it means

      New Testament Greek has definite articles, and the use of the definite article is not the issue in the Greek, as the article relates to an antecedent noun not within the prepositional phrase περὶ πολλῶν.

      Latin has a way to cope without definite articles. Latin uses demonstrative pronouns instead. Latin demonstratives are not relevant for the prepositional phrase pro multis, in a way similar to the Greek.

      Romance languages adapted the Latin demonstrative ille in order to create a definite pronoun. This cannot be retroactively attributed to Latin.

      The beloved and greatly esteemed Decessor Noster likely pointed this out much quicker than I can type.

      It’s inexplicable that Unsafe at Any Speed didn’t address padding for desks.

  11. I still find it very interesting that this whole debate goes round and round. After all, no English Bible translations I know of – including English lectionaries – render Mt. 26:28 (Gk. peri pollōn) or Mk. 14:24 (Gk. huper pollōn) as “for all”. They all (!) have “for many”. Why have one translation of pro multis for the Bible and one for the Missal?

    I wonder how the German/Austrian lectionary reads on Palm Sunday, years A and B? “Für viele”? As far as I can tell, yes – the relevant biblical texts can be searched on the Katholisches Bibelwerk Stuttgart website here. So, if Cardinal Meisner is happy expressing himself in German in this way in the scriptural institution narratives, why would he need to express himself in a different way in the Missal institution narrative?

    1. @Matthew Hazell – comment #21:
      Matthew,
      Surely you know that the liturgy doesn’t always quote the Bible literally. An obvious example is “he took the precious chalice” – would you also object to that in EP 1?
      awr

      1. @Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #22:
        You have avoided the question, Fr. Anthony. Matthew did not say the liturgy always quotes the Bible literally; he is addressing an instance where the liturgy does quote the Bible.

        So, when it is quoting the Bible — granted, in this case, drawing from numerous accounts at once — why not translate it the way our biblical translations render it?

      2. @Jeffrey Pinyan – comment #24:
        Hi Jeffrey,

        I thought I did address the question. What I meant to say is that when the liturgy does quote the Bible, it doesn’t always do so literally.

        Here is what ICEL said in 2006 in the footnotes to its proposed translation;

        The translation of pro multis as ‘for all’ has been retained in the proposed text as a rendering of the original biblical text, even though it does not appear to be a literal translation. An equivalent translation of pro multis is offered in the eucharistic words of institution in Spanish (por todos los hombres), Italian (per tutti), German (für alle), , and Portuguese (por todos homens).

        A rationale for this translation is given in Notitiae, volume VI (1970, pp. 39-40, 138-140, which states:

        …secundum exegetas verbum aramaicum, quod lingua latina versum est pro multis, significationem habet pro omnibus: multitudo pro qua Christus mortuus est, sine ulla limitation est, quod idem valet ac dicere: Christus pro omnibus mortuus est… in adprobatione data huic vernaculari variationi in textu liturgico nihil minus rectum irrepsit, quod correctionem seu emendationem expostulet.

        Pope John Paul II in his Letter to Priests for Holy Thursday 2005 said, ‘the Lord’s blood is ”shed for you and for all”, as some translations legitimately make explicit’. [end of ICEL footnote]

        awr

  12. Certain parts of the Mass are opaque. I do not have an objective knowledge of what/who the “sabaoth” is/are, other than that the company of heaven attend to Christ during the anaphora of Mass. I need know nothing else about the sabaoth to fruitfully attend Mass. Indeed, if I had no knowledge of sabaoth, I would still receive all the benefits of the sacrament.

    Because heartfelt piety and absolute trust in Christ has been almost completely destroyed by nominally Christian cultures who now openly reject the faith, we, with myself at the forefront, now question every aspect of Holy Mass from two ultimately fallible and futile perspectives: emotional subjectivity and “comprehension”. Both concepts are of negligible value because our intelligence and rational capabilities must be finite by definition. The question of pro multis or περὶ πολλῶν is insignificant from this viewpoint. Why should two perfectly orthodox prepositional phrases which perfectly describe the mystery of the Sacrifice change human trust in the Mass and its awesome grace? Let Mass be as it is, and let people rise to trust in it. It is futile to make all that is opaque transparent.

  13. I wonder if “for you” includes Judas as a recipient of the actual fruits of the Passion.

    I suppose it depends on what Jesus meant when He said that “none of them is lost but the son of perdition”.

    I would ask why we say “my soul” when the Centurion said “my servant shall be healed.”

    I would prefer our translations (and the Latin behind them) said “only say the word and your servant shall be healed.”

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