German-language Missal Translation Delayed: UPDATED

The newly-translated German-language missal was moving toward approval – this after much to-ing and fro-ing about problems with the translation theory forced on everyone with the 2001 Roman document Liturgiam authenticam. But it keeps getting delayed. The German episcopal conference reports:

Completion of the Translation of the Missale Romanum

The president of the liturgy commission, Cardinal Joachim Meisner (Cologne), presented the concluding report of the episcopal commission Ecclesia celebrans which was established in 2004. It had the task of translating the missal. In comparison to the current German-language missal, whose high textual quality stands without question, the translation of the commission is marked by a style that can be designated as tighter, more sober and concentrated. The collaborators in the commission have fulfilled their task of translation in accord with their understanding of the Latin text and their sense of the German language.

Despite the completion of the work of translation, in summer of this year there arose a need for greater clarification. This resulted from the reactions of members of the German bishops’ conference, the appeal of the Austrian bishops’ conference, and fundamental questions from the Swiss bishops’ conference. Against this background, the permanent council advised already in June 2013 against making a decision of approval at this Fall plenary session. The further process lies now in the competence of the bishops’ conferences responsible for the final publication. At the present time there is no further information on the timeframe.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the missal was scheduled for release in Advent 2013, and that the most recent delay was a change in plans. As clarified in the comments below, that is not the case.

Translation: awr.


    1. @Fritz Bauerschmidt – comment #1:
      Fritz, I hesitate speak to textual quality in a second language, but FWIW: My impression is that what they now have (since the 1970s) is quite good German, not as simplistic as ours was. It was mostly closer to the Latin – eg, “and with your spirit,” “under my roof,” but with some freedoms eg. in breaking up long sentences. Any German speakers out there can add to this and give a better impression.

  1. This is indeed a very hopeful sign. Maybe they will rethink LA prior to imposing the new breviary and other rites.

  2. I have read your literal translation from the Press Release of the Chair of the German Bishops Conference, Archbishop Zollitsch, with great interest.
    But, I fear, what you are writing is more a (wishful?) interpretation. 🙂
    The fact is, the commission “ecclesia celebrans” finished its work on the translation and delivered the new translation to the German Bishops Conference, as scheduled.

    It was, from what I know, not planned to have the approbation by the German Bishops Conference done at the meeting this fall (this has to do with the very complicated situation, that actually three Bishops Conferences from three countries (Germany, Austria, Switzerland) are involved in that process, and that the Austrian Bishops Conference was simply too late with making “modi” to the texts the Austrian bishops got.)

    The deadline which is mentioned here (Advent 2013?) was never an official deadline released by the German Bishops Conference.

    It is true that a new hymnal is being published in Advent 2013, but already some time ago it was decided by the bishops that the texts from the Missal, which are included into the hymnal, will be the “old” ones, from the current translation.

    As a matter of fact, there is some truth in saying that it is now the decision of the three Bishops Conferences involved in the project of new German texts, how to proceed.

    But as far as I know, no final decision has been made, neither to move on quickly (sending the texts, which have to be approved by the Bishops Conferences first, to Rome), nor to postpone the whole project of a new translation.

    The future of this project will also depend on who will become the next chair of the liturgy commission of the Bishops Conference (after Cardinal Meisner’s resignation in December 2013) and who will become the next chair of the Bishops Conference.

    Both decisions will take place at the spring meeting in March 2014… So, I would say: Let’s wait and see… 😉

    1. @Martin Stuflesser – comment #6:

      It is true that a new hymnal is being published in Advent 2013, but already some time ago it was decided by the bishops that the texts from the Missal, which are included into the hymnal, will be the “old” ones, from the current translation.

      It is also true that the new hymnal contains troped settings of the O Lamm Gottes, which CDW later decided it didn’t want (and the US Bishops immediately rolled over and said Yes, Father) but which many other countries are continuing to use (in many cases CDW has said nothing to those countries anyway). Since the hymnal contents were finalized and also approved (recognitio) by CDW before this change of heart, it will be interesting to see how all that plays out.

    2. @Martin Stuflesser – comment #6:
      Thanks for the additional information. I believe you’re correct that Advent 2013 was the date of release for the hymnal Gotteslob, not the missal. I will correct the post.
      The cited quotation is entirely the press release from the German bishops. You say “the fact is” that Ecclesia Dei gave its translation to the bishops, as I said in the post, ie what the German bishops said.
      It’s not entirely right that the decision was that the new Gotteslob would have the “old” (current) Mass texts – they are revised. Here is (in German) complete information on how the texts have been changed and altered:

      1. @Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #10:

        The article states that the French-speaking countries were not allowed to form a translation committee for the new Missal translation. This is not the case. In fact a committee exists, with personnel from France, Switzerland, Belgium and (I believe) Canada. It was formed by the French-speaking episcopal conferences in the face of a text that Rome threatened to impose and which the conferences rejected. The committee is taking the work very steadily and carefully and they do not expect to complete their task before 2015. There will then be a period during which the conferences have to approve (and of course they might ask for modifications), so it could be a number of years before this text reaches the CDW, if indeed the approval process has not itself been modified under new working rules for the Curia.

  3. I have heard, but not seen evidence of it, that the Spanish-speaking bishops have simply refused to do anything about Liturgiam Authenticam and its follow-on.

  4. This story is found on a number of sites. But I am confused now. Is the delay regarding a new edition of the Messbuch an indication of major episcopal dissatisfaction with the revision carried out by Ecclesia celebrans (the German-speaking equivalent of Vox Clara), or is it simply a procedural delay?

  5. What a splendid article! The central point:

    … we are now faced with an either/or choice. Either, we continue to celebrate in the vernacular which will require a very different translation strategy than that currently employed; or we should decide that the liturgy is really in Latin, and hence the vernacular is just there as a help. In the case of the first option we have to develop a liturgy that has fidelity of meaning as its chief driver; in the case of the second, we have to use Latin whenever possible, and have constant reminders that linguistic comprehension is simply a concession to our bad luck in not being born in a Latin-using culture or being sufficiently linguistically gifted to operate in Latin.

    If we opt for the latter option, then we must see, as some are prepared to argue, the whole trend away from Latin as a mistake. But if one is not prepared to accept that position, or finds the suggestion preposterous that a Eucharist is less a Eucharist because it is not celebrated in Latin, then one must seek a dynamically equivalent translation. Moreover, the notion that the liturgy is, intrinsically, in Latin was never the position of the advocates of Latin prior to Vatican II, and it is insulting to many languages in which the liturgy has been celebrated who never had contact with Latin.

    I doubt that even those of us who love Latin and celebrate Mass in Latin regularly – Jordan, for instance, and I count myself in this group – would claim that ‘the liturgy is intrinsically in Latin’.

    Hence, as O’Loughlin demonstrates, ‘fidelity of meaning’ (the language as direct communication rather than decoding) is what matters. English is my native tongue, and I can understand it without ‘translation’; same with French and, almost always, with Latin, though, unlike the other languages, I cannot produce fluent idiomatic Latin without some ‘encoding’. One reason the new translation is so frustrating is that, though the words are English, it requires ‘decoding’ – in some cases by thinking of the Latin that the translators had in mind.

    Thank you for the reference, Pádraig!

    1. @Jonathan Day – comment #14:

      Jonathan: I doubt that even those of us who love Latin and celebrate Mass in Latin regularly – Jordan, for instance, and I count myself in this group – would claim that ‘the liturgy is intrinsically in Latin’.

      Mass is a sacrament, not a language. This is one of the most difficult lessons I have learned on my continual conversion from Tridentine fundamentalism. Catholic traditionalism is largely built on the premise that the Latin of the sacraments and of Catholic social discourse is immutable. Indeed, some consider liturgical Latin with a reverence which should be reserved for the revealed truth of the Word.

      As I (hopefully, maybe?) will prove in my thesis, the notion of a “Christian Latin”, as proposed by Christine Mohrmann in particular, is not feasible. The supposedly “revealed” Christian Latin is linguistically in the mire with Plautus, Martial, and Petronius. The addition of vernacular translations in our day merely adds another flavor to the social discourse that is language. At no time, then, does any linguistic structure stand alone from the creation and perpetuation of human society in all its shades of conduct. This is a very painful truth for any person with an intransigent view of language and linguistics to contemplate and accept.

  6. “Translating is much more complicated than the ‘figuring out’ style of translation that we see appearing at the present time ”

    Now this gentleman is on the right path. As I’ve mentioned in the past the younger Latin teachers are trying to get away from ‘the figuring out’ method. Perhaps at this very moment new translators are being formed by these very teachers who will bring forth glorious translations. (Mutatis mutandis, the same goes for the younger teachers of Ancient Greek and their students.)

    The vernacular has only been in existence for fifty years. Relax! We have eons to get it right.

  7. Thanks, Jordan – powerful witness and statement. Your first paragraph sentence alone is simple but insightful.

  8. This thread has turned out to have some really excellent jewels in it. Many thanks to Pádraig, Jonathan and Jordan in particular.

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