XI International Liturgical Conference at Bose

Robert Mickens, writing in the Tablet this week, reported on the ongoing resistence of Italian- and German-speaking bishops to translating the words of the Eucharistic prayer to say that Christ died “for many.” He also noted that there was some discussion of Liturgiam authenticam at a recent International Conference at the monastery of Bose: 

Bose’s prior, Br Enzo Bianchi, opened the conference. He said there was generally a “willing reception” of the liturgical reform up until about 1990. At that point, he said, church authorities began applying a “restrictive reinterpretation and even a correction” of what had taken place.

Frà Enzo said that Liturgiam Authenticam was “perhaps the culmination of this new path of reception”. Anglican scholar, Paul Bradshaw, also took aim at the CDW instruction. He said it damaged a long process of mutual enrichment between Catholics and other Christian Churches in the liturgical renewal because it insisted that the Catholic prayers be clearly distinguishable from Protestant prayers. This, he said, hurt the common texts project that had done so much for ecumenical understanding.

The article is unfortunately not available to non-subscribers.


  1. The Vatican’s current rules for liturgical translations are found in the 2001 instruction, Liturgiam Authenticam. That CDW document, which insists on the strictly literal translation of Latin into all other languages, was criticised recently at the XI International Liturgical Conference at the Monastery of Bose near Turin.

    The 30 May-1 June assembly – “Vatican Council II: Liturgy, Architecture and Art” – brought together some 180 participants from all over the world to take a comprehensive look at the liturgy since the council. Among those attending were several Vatican officials, including a CDW representative, and a few bishops from Italy. Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels gave the conference’s final address and got a special round of applause for his eightieth birthday, which he marked last Tuesday. The cardinal spoke of reviving an appreciation of beauty and did not wade into polemical topics.

    But other speakers were more critical, looking at how the liturgical reform has been implemented. Bose’s prior, Br Enzo Bianchi, opened the conference. He said there was generally a “willing reception” of the liturgical reform up until about 1990. At that point, he said, church authorities began applying a “restrictive reinterpretation and even a correction” of what had taken place.

    Frà Enzo said that Liturgiam Authenticam was “perhaps the culmination of this new path of reception”. Anglican scholar, Paul Bradshaw, also took aim at the CDW instruction. He said it damaged a long process of mutual enrichment between Catholics and other Christian Churches in the liturgical renewal because it insisted that the Catholic prayers be clearly distinguishable from Protestant prayers.

    This, he said, hurt the common texts project that had done so much for ecumenical understanding. Generally not great fans of the Tridentine Rite, conference participants clearly seemed pleased (or maybe relieved) by the recent change of pontificates.

    Letter from Rome
    Robert Mickens
    26 |…

  2. A relatively complete record of the conference can be found here. It is slightly tricky to navigate and mostly in Italian, but there is a English language page labelled “Daily program” that lists the speakers and the schedule. There are printed records (in Italian) of each of the speeches and messages.

    Robert Mickens was there and I was not. But I get the impression from reading the speeches that the tone of the conference was generally not polemical. Prior Enzo Bianchi, of the host monastery, did regret the liturgical conflict that grips the Church today and the “aporia” in which we seem to be caught. But he was looking for solutions: for “a renewal of evangelization, a new grammar for communicating the Gospel to today’s men and women.” There were positive messages from CDW officials, and an indication of support from Antonio Cardinal Cañizares Llovera, the CDW prefect.

    That same cardinal will celebrate Mass and preach at the “traditionalist” Sacra Liturgia conference later this month. Presumably the participants there are also looking for solutions to the unfortunate conflict.

    What would it take to bring the two groups together, to engage in something more than a “dialogue of the deaf”?

  3. It seems to me that the notion of a “literal interpretation” is such a murky one that is it not really useful. In the first place, it seems to advise word by word, in sequence translations of each word in a sentence according to their dictionary definitions. But that does not do justice to the mini-influence which individual words can have on each other within a particular sentence. For instance, if I say, “I love peanuts” the meaning of “love” is determined by the word “peanuts” and it is quite different from the meaning of “love” in “Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds”. The latter context requires a thoroughly different meaning of the word.

    Worse, sometimes literal translation makes accurate translation impossible. For instance, all double entendres and all puns defy literal translation because they convey not one but two meanings. Consider Mae West’s infamous, “Peel me a grape”, which should be easily translatable into other languages, but isn’t. On a less erotic note, consider the puns, “The more I think of you, the less I think of you” (per Henny Youngman:-) or the linguistically extremely complex pun, “I eat fish just for the halibut”.

    In other words, context sometimes forbids literal translation. How this problem is to be solved, I have no idea.

  4. On the matter of ‘literal translation’ I happened today to come across Fr. Zuhlsdorf (forgive me if I am misspelling his name) in last weeks Catholic Herald (I think) translating a prayer over the offerings for the week.

    His ‘literal’ version rendered ‘caritas’ as ‘sacrificial love’ – a contextual interpretation which he justified as, more or less, ‘I like it like this.’ Is that ‘literal translation?’

    I could not resist a smile at this interpretative stance. I guess those of us who understand that no translation is not interpretation might share my amusement.

    Alan Griffiths.

    1. @Alan Griffiths – comment #4:

      All translation is political from at least one angle. When I translate Latin I write in North American English. I also try to not use words which (in my opinion) are not in the common lexicon here. Differences between N. Amer. English and other world Englishes can be quite significant. For example, the subjunctive is practically obsolete in N. American English — here, we use modals + indicative instead of an inflected subjunctive which has (barely) survived in Britain. This creates a translation which some might consider “incorrect”, as the Latin subjunctive mood is not strongly evident in the translation. We Americans and anglophone Canadians can’t translate Latin subjunctive literally without appearing somewhat snobbish.

      Does my choice to translate “in American” render a literal translation? Maybe, but only for those whom the N. American English is native. Native speakers of other world Englishes might find my translation slightly paraphrased since the translation does not follow their grammatical conventions.

      I, Fr. Z, or any other translation must be accountable for his or her work. This accountability extends not just to register, or dialect, but also as you note Fr. Griffiths, theological liberties.

  5. I wish people would explain what they mean when using terms like “willing reception” within the context of the liturgical reform implemented after the council. Do they refer to a small group of self-selecting experts? Their own religious community? The bishops? Or do they refer to conflicting surveys that rarely distinguish between limited vernacular, wholesale vernacular, or the different editions of the post V2 missals with their varying translations released at different times in different places. Just one recent example, the CARA survey, suggests that most people who attend Mass regularly prefer the new translation over the “73 by a wide margin but the experts here including Br. Enzo have a different view they’ve extended to the Church at large. Curious…..

  6. Again, without questioning Robert Mickens’s report, I find it interesting that the conference website relates Paul Bradshaw’s speech in more positive terms. Here is their description of his talk — my nonLitAuth translation:

    In the final speech, Prof Paul Bradshaw of the Department of Theology in the University of Notre Dame examined other churches’ views on Catholic liturgical reform. The speaker demonstrated that the reforms of Sacrosanctum Concilium were

    a major force in shaping liturgical revision in other churches during the second half of the twentieth century. This helped strengthen a sense of unity between Churches and let to a deeper shared understanding of sacramental and liturgical theology. The other churches followed the Catholic model, not only out of respect for the Catholic Church but also because they sensed the wisdom that lay behind the Catholic reforms. It is too much to hope that, in years to come, the process of liturgical renewal could become even more mutual between these churches and the Roman Catholic Church? Is it too much to dream that the priestly prayer of Jesus, ut unum sint, that all may be one, could become a reality, at least in our worship?

  7. But wouldn’t it be better for us to be one in our doctrine and dogma and less so in our words. After all we are completely united with the Eastern Rite and the Eastern Orthodox whose liturgy is quite different, but there is substantial unity in doctrine and dogma but not in form or even spirituality. Why can’t Roman Catholics have a unique language and the Anglicans, Lutherans and Calvinists have their own? Why should we be the same in this regard and fail to address the core issues of what actually separates us in terms of the ordained priesthood and the dogma of the Eucharist?

      1. @Fritz Bauerschmidt – comment #8:
        I don’t know of any other words in the Liturgy apart for the Filioque that would be as dramatic as this one and yet from the Catholic perspective we still have substantial unity with the Orthodox in terms of the Sacrament of Holy Orders and in terms of the dogma of the Holy Eucharist. I don’t know if the Orthodox would use the philosophical hermeneutic of transubstantiation as we do, but nonetheless we believe in common what occurs at the consecration or at least during the “Eucharistic Prayer” and what is needed for this to occur in terms of the ordained priesthood.

      2. @Fritz Bauerschmidt – comment #8:
        But we know that the Italian bishops and German bishops retain unity with us, the Holy See & the Spanish bishops despite their seeming reluctance to accept the changes proposed at the consecration of the chalice.

        But there too we have to admit to ourselves that their seeming conservativeness of the Italian and German bishops who oppose change is really grounded in theology isn’t it? Our unity is weaker when we cannot recite the same words with the joy that shared orthopraxy brings to our liturgies. To me this reflects the fact that resistance to LA and the new translation is usually more about discomfort with the traditional theology expressed in the official prayers of the Latin post V2 RM, that is its continuity with the EF, than anything else.

  8. If we have “(a) deeper shared understanding of sacramental and liturgical theology” renewal might lead some of the ecclesiastical communities referenced above to modify their own translations to mirror our new corrected translations. Once again the Christian west could express a common understanding of the priesthood, Eucharist, Mass as sacrifice for the living & the dead.

  9. Allan – you assume *core issues* separate us. But is this true? And how do you think core issues begin to be resolved. You might want to educate yourself on this:


    Key points from the USCCB:

    “In addition to the growing harmony in ways of thinking about the eucharistic sacrifice, there is a significant convergence in the actual practice of eucharistic worship. Doctrine is inevitably interpreted in the light of practice, as well as vice versa, and consequently oppositions on this level can negate apparent doctrinal agreement. For example, the Reformers and later Lutherans have believed that the multiplication of private masses and the associated systems of mass intentions and mass stipends are evidence that Roman Catholics do not take seriously the all-sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice, and this suspicion has been reinforced by such statements of Catholic theologians as “the sacrificial worth of two Masses is just double the sacrificial worth of one Mass.” Now, however, the Second Vatican Council in its Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy has declared that the nature of the mass is such that the communal way of celebrating is to be preferred to individual and quasi-private celebrations. As the liturgical renewal progresses in this and other respects, each group in these discussions finds it increasingly easy to understand and approve what the other says about the eucharist in general and its sacrificial aspects in particular.”

    Note and to repeat – “…doctrine is inevitably interpreted in the light of practice” Thus, it is helpful to have shared language.

    On the second point:

    “Today, however, when Lutheran theologians read contemporary Catholic expositions, it becomes clear to them that the dogma of transubstantiation intends to affirm the fact of Christ’s presence and of the change which takes place, and is not an attempt to explain how Christ becomes present. When the dogma is understood in this way, Lutherans find that they also must acknowledge that it is a legitimate way of attempting to express the mystery, even though they continue to believe that the conceptuality associated with “transubstantiation” is misleading and therefore prefer to avoid the term.

    Our conversations have persuaded us of both the legitimacy and the limits of theological efforts to explore the mystery of Christ’s presence in the sacrament. We are also persuaded that no single vocabulary or conceptual framework can be adequate, exclusive or final in this theological enterprise. We are convinced that current theological trends in both traditions give great promise for increasing convergence and deepened understanding of the eucharistic mystery.”

    Finally – you might want to take this directive to heart (“…root out many ways of speaking, acting, thinking that obscured unity….”):

    “Despite all remaining differences in the ways we speak and think of the eucharistic sacrifice and our Lord’s presence in his supper, we are no longer able to regard ourselves as divided in the one holy catholic and apostolic faith on these two points. We therefore prayerfully ask our fellow Lutherans and Catholics to examine their consciences and root out many ways of thinking, speaking and acting, both individually and as churches, which have obscured their unity in Christ on these as on many other matters.”

    This joint USCCB statement also indicates numerous ways that VII has reformed Trentan understandings. (point – it isn’t the dogma so much as the language used, practice, how, etc.)

    1. @Bill deHaas – comment #11:
      A 1967 document from a committee of the USCCB? Really? That has as much authority at Pope Francis’ off the cuff remarks, in fact I suspect the off the cuff remarks have more authority. In other words, I think there is room for development and even disagreement with that 1968 statement.

      1. @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #13:

        There have been numerous documents reaffirming the substance expressed by the bishops in 1967. Pope John Pail II solemnly affirmed the agreement reached with the Anglicans in a ceremony with the Abp of Canterbury in 1996. I’ll leave it to others to determine the degree of authority of that affirmation, but it should be greater than that of off the cuff papal remarks.

        The relationship between the words of prayer and the faith expressed in doctrine is complex, but harmonious. It is not a matter of agreeing first and then praying, but of being led into all truth by the Holy Spirit.

  10. Fr Allan, I (for one) don’t particularly buy the claim that we should have kept the 1973 language because the Anglicans and Lutherans use it.

    If the Catholic Church had come up with a truly superior translation, it would have been better to start using that, whether or not the other churches were doing so. They would ultimately have caught up.

    Unfortunately, the new translation is anything but superior. But that is another debate.

    Equally, I see no value whatsoever in changing the translation purely so that we are using language different to other communities. Surely it cannot have been a goal of Lit Auth to make our liturgy sound “less Protestant”. LA §91 even says that coordination with non-Catholic groups in preparing translation is OK, provided that the Catholic Church “retain full liberty of action in such agreements.”

    I wonder how Prof Bradshaw concluded that the CDW, in Lit Auth, “insisted that the Catholic prayers be clearly distinguishable from Protestant prayers.” Or is this in the Ratio Translationis?

    1. @Jonathan Day – comment #14:

      The issue is not the retention of the 1973 text. It is more about isolating the Catholic translators, a theme that pervades LA. The requirement that Catholic bishops should remain free to decide on translation on their own authority should be sufficient. Unfortunately LA also mandates using unusual and peculiarly Catholic language.

      Of course, LA will be interpreted in different ways by different people. Express instructions in LA were ignored by translators while other parts were followed scrupulously. So implementation has a lot to do with meaning, something translators know well.

    2. Jonathan Day : I wonder how Prof Bradshaw concluded that the CDW, in Lit Auth, “insisted that the Catholic prayers be clearly distinguishable from Protestant prayers.”

      I thought it was probably part of paragraph 40 of Lit Auth as seen at http://www.vatican.va:

      “On the other hand, great caution is to be taken to avoid a wording or style that the Catholic faithful would confuse with the manner of speech of non-Catholic ecclesial communities or of other religions, so that such a factor will not cause them confusion or discomfort.”

      Alhamdu lillah.

      I am also a bit bemused by this hopeful side effect of some weird turns of phrase (paragraph 43):

      “It should be borne in mind that a literal translation of terms which may initially sound odd in a vernacular language may for this very reason provoke inquisitiveness in the hearer and provide an occasion for catechesis.”

      1. @Cathy Wattebot – comment #19:

        I can’t help but laugh,
        the three most common excuses used by the vatican: confusion, discomfort and scandal. Are we THAT stupid that we need their protection?

        They state concerning prayers:” … so that such a factor will not cause them confusion or discomfort.”
        And yet they created greater discomfort and confusion themselves w/ the new translation.
        Same thing with the sex abuse scandal. They didn’t want to create scandal so they transferred and hid pedophile priests in order to not create scandal among the faithful. In doing so they created much greater scandal themselves.

        Interestingly, is the Lord’s Prayer a catholic prayer or a protestant prayer?

        What a bunch of dunderheads.

        No wonder Pope Francis stays away from them for his own sanity.

      2. @Dale Rodrigue – comment #20:
        “Interestingly, is the Lord’s Prayer a catholic prayer or a protestant prayer?”

        Of course, the Lord’s Prayer is a Protestant prayer, and the Our Father is a Catholic Prayer….

  11. Allan – you have a *strange* way of defining *development*

    Here you go – latest comments from Pope Francis about your approach:

    “Francis then added a variation of his oft-used phrase that “I prefer a church that messes up for doing something than one that’s sick for remaining closed inside itself.”

    “I’ll share two worries of mine. One is a pelagian current that’s in the church at this time. There are certain restorationist groups. I know them as I took to receiving them in Buenos Aires. And you feel like you’ve gone back 60 years! Before the Council… you feel like it’s 1940 again… One anecdote, only to illustrate this – not to make you laugh – I took it with respect, but it bothered me; when they [the cardinals] elected me, I received a letter from one of these groups, and they told me; ‘Holiness, we offer you this spiritual treasure: 3,525 rosaries.’ Why they didn’t say ‘we’re praying for you,’ let’s wonder… but this [thing] of taking account [of prayers]… and these groups return to practices and disciplines I lived – not you, none of you are old – to things that were lived in that moment, but not now, they aren’t today…. ”

    “The Gospel is not the ancien regime”

  12. Thank you, Cathy — I think that is clearly the relevant paragraph. Sounding “Protestant” would clearly unnerve timid members of the faithful.

    Idiotic, in my view, but so is the rest of Lit Auth.

    And Jim, I take your point that once you insist on both a single definitive Latin ur-text and a literal rendering of that text, and you isolate the translators (I get the impression that some of the translators of the English Mass are native Italian speakers…), any ecumenical rendition will be difficult to achieve.

  13. May I add one other historical legacy that no one seems to consider here:
    – from VII onwards, the liturgical project involved in revising and translating into the vernacular was a coordinated partnership that included not just catholic experts but also other Christian groups. This paralleled other initiatives around biblical and scriptural committees that were joint projects on the lectionary (3 year), etc.
    – thus, Comme Le Prevoit was a tool that enhanced and reinforced the ecumenical decisions and direction of Vatican II and the committees that the council set up. To an earlier point, these shared teams were trying to provide the *best* translations possible (notice that no one has mentioned 1998 for the English speaking conferences – again, these translations were developed with other Christian denominations to achieve the best, most poetic translation without any intent to insert denominational specific defensive words, phrases, etc.).

    LA/RT, in effect, violated or significantly limited one of the primary directions and accomplishments of VII. So, in addition to PrayTell’s excellent analysis of both the deficient process that produced LA/RT but also the incompetent results of LA/RT/VC, we are left with a deficient translation (that violates LA/RT – surprise, surprise) and a significant roadblock to ecumenism.

  14. And just this evening we’re treated to a report confirming the “gay lobby” at work in the Vatican from remarks by Pope Francis.

    The report confirms that there is in the Holy See “… a “gay lobby” influencing papal decision-making and Vatican policy through blackmail…”

    Wonder if member(s) in the Congregation for Divine Worship were blackmailed or blackmailing members(s) on the Vox Clara committee?

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