Review of Missal Translation Coming?

A post at the Irish Association of Catholic Priests suggests that the unpopular Missal translation may be up for review. Fr. Paddy Jones has just finished 21 years directing the national liturgy office in Ireland, and in the office’s bulletin New Liturgy he has an editorial on the topic in the current issue. He says in part:

The translation of the third edition of the Roman Missal was produced. Its merits and demerits are well known. It is a fuller and more literal translation but its style often has an awkwardness that in many cases can be overcome by careful preparation – a very good thing in itself. A review is promised, though the mechanism of such a review is not known. However, such a review is necessary if we are to listen to what is being said and what is happening, the scholarly and pastoral criticism of the translation and the instruction on translation but also including its non-acceptance by some, the use of a mixture of old and new translations by others and the disturbing quietness of congregations to the new responses and other parts …

One regrettable loss, including texts like ‘Christ has died,’ is the ecumenically accepted texts such as the Gloria and the Creeds.

Read Pádraig McCarthy’s fuller report, including a link to Pray Tell, here.


  1. [stuck record on]

    Unfortunately, I have very low expectations of any review. It will be perfunctory tinkering at best while that discredited wreck, Liturgiam Authenticam, remains in force.

    [stuck record off]

  2. My hope is that a new head of the CDW will rediscover the 1998 translation and authorize its use. Probably, to avoid more confusion, the people’s parts of RM3 should remain the same. I can dream, can’t I?

  3. We can only hope that Rome listens to its “sheep” and “pastors” in the english speaking world and review RM3. I personally like the 1998 revision/translation…the words flow smoothly and you don’t need to think about what was Father trying to read! Where i worship, both priests continue to use EP 2 for Sundays & weekdays..have never heard any other EP’s. If i hear “like the dewfall” one more time, i am going to scream. Perhaps it is because it is the simplest one and that the other EP’s are so complicated to read that EP2 is used by default. Either Rome trusts its Bishop conferences and folks like ICEL or they don’t. Some of RM3 prayers can be used by just re arranging the words so they flow like spoken English!!

  4. I don’t have a problem with continuing the people’s parts of MR3. I think the prayers at the chair need a total retrofit, possibly put on a fast track to a three-year cycle harmonious with the Lectionary.

    The think the mark II translations of the rites will suffice until we get the Roman Missal sorted out.

    This last point I suspect we’ll see something of, but I wouldn’t place a bet on it …

  5. Oh, I think we could junk a few of the revised people’s parts. I’m still thinking “peanut butter” with “under my roof”, but likely that’s just me. Still, I’m willing to live with that if we can junk the new Gloria and sort out the rest into comprehensible, fairly current spoken English. That Gloria bugs me so much that I’m now delighted to be sufficiently tardy to mass that I’ve missed it altogether, where I used to be quite disappointed. Singing it in choir is a chore, not a joy. I keep hoping that somewhere there’s a really wonderful setting of it, but so far the very best I’ve heard are just tolerable. Those words just don’t work in this language. At least, not for me, and likewise many of the folks I’ve discussed it with.

    “Like the dewfall” is one screamer, but far from the only.

    1. @Lynn Thomas – comment #5:
      Yes, Lynn, I agree about the Gloria. We do a simple chant setting (J. Lee) every week, but I feel that the feasts deserve a more festive gloria. The new insertions and repetitions make it so long that it is difficult to do a “festive” setting on a big feast without feeling like the gloria outshines the liturgy of the Word. Through composed settings are just endless and settings with refrains have such a long wait between refrains that the assembly begins to wonder if the verse will ever end!

  6. I find articles written in the passive to be troublesome. “A review is promised…” ???

    By whom? The same folks who provided it? The ones who’ve protested it? Bishops? Priests? PIPs? Yet another committee?

    To what end? Are we going back to the Second Missal? Latin? A new set of prayers? (I think quite a few folks may bolt in any of these cases. “The One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church can’t even figure its own Creed?”)

    When and for how long? This year? Next papacy? ‘You know not the day nor the hour?’

    Why? I’ve seen neither influx nor outflux of folks at the parish level. We’ve gamely picked up the laminated cards for two years and mumbled through just fine. What percentage must we satisfy to close this chapter in the book?

    And Lynn Thomas, as a longtime backpacker and camper, I find “like the dewfall” to be a beautiful and meaningful line. But if the priest doesn’t take a moment to explain it, I can see where it might fall into the “sorta goofy” column!

  7. “Review of Missal translation coming?”

    Quick answer: No.

    As much as a wishful-thinking minority would like things to be different, the current translation isn’t going away any time soon, and 1998 is a footnote in history.

  8. @Fr Ruff (#9): no more emphatic than others on here who feel differently than I about the current translation!

    I’m merely being realistic. There has been too much effort expended by ICEL and others in the last 25 years to even think about revising the Missal texts any time soon. It took more than 30 years for Comme le prevoit to be superceded; what makes anyone think Liturgiam authenticam will be replaced before 2030? There is no realistic reason to think that a supposedly promised “review” is going to result in any changes, let alone even happen. Who promised a review? What would it entail? The entire article on the ACP site is just hearsay and wishful thinking.

    Then again, a bizarre, unrealistic optimism seems to be a hallmark of much post-conciliar thought and attitude. So perhaps I shouldn’t be too surprised.

    1. @Matthew Hazell – comment #10:
      People expended a lot of effort on MR2 also. Probably more work, as the end product was better than either thing 1 or thing 3, plus all the consultation from parishes that went into it.

      As for the English rendition of MR3, at least the VC bishops got to spend a lot of time in airports. And sipping vino on terraces overlooking the Tiber. It wasn’t a total waste of time.

      As for the discernment about good liturgy, I think the Biblical model is to look at fruits, not time spent laboring, dithering, or both.

      1. @Todd Flowerday (#16):

        People expended a lot of effort on MR2 also.

        That did factor into my point. It took ICEL about 25 years to get to the stage where we got a new translation of the Missal – which includes the debacle of 1998. After all that time, does anyone really think there’s either the will or energy among Bishops’ Conferences for a revision in the next 10-20 years? A minor revision of the 2011 text within the next few years might be a good thing for publishers, but not so much for those parishes already stretched financially.

        As for the discernment about good liturgy, I think the Biblical model is to look at fruits, not time spent laboring, dithering, or both.

        I’m not too sure the post-conciliar reformed liturgy comes off very well at all, in that case!

      2. On the last point, I’d say zero since 1998. Getting there with MR2.

        I don’t have a problem with bishops delegating the task to poets, musicians, and theologians. Then approving the good results.

        As for your first point, what have the Germans done? Do they get to keep MR1 now that they’ve given the thumbs-down to ICEL? It’s a mess. We may be heading back to a time when the internet savvy clergy and liturgists just produce the best of what they can find on a given Sunday.

        I visited a good liturgical parish last year in which they were doing the revised Mass of Creation with “Keep in Mind” for the Mem Acclamation. I certainly sang along–with the whole assembly. I have no energy for telling people there they shouldn’t be doing it. And if my music committee suggested it, I might find myself opposed to opposing it.

    2. @Matthew Hazell – comment #10:


      You’re not being realistic at all. For a start, the many priests (and even bishops) who routinely edit and adapt the 2010 Vox Clara Missal to make it comprehensible for themselves, let alone their people.

      What the Missal is supposed to contain is a language for prayer, not a bad schoolboy exercise in construing Latin. There is a great difference between the two. As long as the Missal continues to be an obstacle for prayer (which it is for many), and as long as priests and people see a continuous need to edit it, then it needs reviewing. The number of bishops who are prepared to admit this privately, if not yet in public, is burgeoning. I think you will be surprised in the future.

      In the meantime, I find it fascinating that clergy find it quite normal to edit and adapt this version of the Missal when they would never have dreamed of doing the same with the (admittedly unsatisfactory but at least pray-able) 1973 version. Something has changed, and I believe that the root of it is a recognition that what we had before was at least in our language, whereas what we have now is largely alienspeak or Google-ese.

      I’m also fascinated by the small enclaves of rebellion. I keep hearing about more and more parishes around the country where they are still singing the same settings that they used before, without adaptation or revision. And two out of the 90-something parishes in the diocese in which I live have not even changed the spoken texts, let alone the sung texts. I don’t believe these are quite as isolated instances as some would like to think.

      I am also aware of far more priests who now use the 1988 collects than the handful who were using elements of the 2008 translation (i.e. the version passed by the bishops before Vox Clara wrecked it) ahead of its promulgation. (In the end, those priests were caught with their pants down when the 2010 text came back with changes into five figures.)

      As long as this absurd situation continues, pastoral common sense dictates that something needs to happen. An admission that all is not well is the least we can hope for; a review would seem to be a sensible further step; while a complete withdrawal of 2010 seems too much to hope for. A fresh look at the virtues of 1998, leaving aside some of those aspects which have drawn criticism, would be very welcome.

      1. @Paul Inwood (#18):

        I find it fascinating that clergy find it quite normal to edit and adapt this version of the Missal when they would never have dreamed of doing the same with [1973].

        Perhaps I know the wrong sort of clergy, then, but no priest I personally know does this. Since the introduction of the current translation I have attended Mass in the dioceses of Hallam, Clifton, Menevia, Nottingham, Westminster, Salford and Plymouth, and only once have I experienced a priest who changed the words (and he mentioned that he’d been doing that sort of thing for years!).

        I keep hearing about more and more parishes around the country where they are still singing the same settings that they used before, without adaptation or revision.

        In my experience, this is actually something that has improved in England and Wales. Before 2011, often settings of the Gloria would be sung that didn’t match the words of the previous translation either. It would not surprise me to hear that some parishes who weren’t concerned about fidelity to the text before are still singing the same old settings.

        [T]wo out of the 90-something parishes in the diocese in which I live have not even changed the spoken texts, let alone the sung texts.

        I find that incredibly difficult to believe without some sort of evidence. If this is true, have you brought it to the attention of your bishop?

      2. @Matthew Hazell – comment #20:

        I have attended Masses in many more dioceses than you, both in England and on the other side of the Pond, since the revised translation came in, and I can assure you that this sort of editing is rife. Perhaps as many as 10% of priests are doing this for what they think are valid pastoral reasons (and of course, as pastors, they are right).

        Mostly it is, I think, intentional, but I have also encountered large numbers of priests who think they are reading what’s in the Missal but who in fact are adding lots of connective words, mostly small ones, to make the language flow better. When asked did they realise they were adapting the text, nearly all of this latter group have consistently said No, they had no idea they were not scrupulously following every jot and tittle of the new text.

        Regarding that tiny number of places where they have not changed anything at all yet, why should I report them to my bishop (or indeed any bishop)? I do not work for him, and most bishops like to think they are extremely well-informed about what is going on in their dioceses (how wrong some of them are!) so they do not need me to disabuse them of this. Similarly, I never reported those priests who persisted in using pre-1962 versions of the Missale Romanum in the 80s and 90s, even though the indult stipulated that 1962 is what they should use (and some of them are still not using it). I am not comfortable with a Church in which people delate to their bishop or to Rome those that they do not agree with — it feels far too much like Gestapo informers to me.

      3. @Paul Inwood – comment #18:
        -a portion of territory within or surrounded by a larger territory whose inhabitants are culturally or ethnically distinct.
        I’m also fascinated by the small enclaves of rebellion

        Upon first blush, Paul, your quote might seem harmless enough. But I find the specific use of “fascinated” and “enclaves” to be quite a cavalier and capricious choice of terms in the larger perspective of “being (c)atholic” in the anglosphere.
        As is your perogative you may be quite right to suppose great change in the future of MR3, but how would that constitute anything newsworthy in the slow crawl of Latin Rite time?
        In the meanwhile, the whole lot of us who aren’t empowered (dumb concept) to keep the muck raked about the process and content of MR3 and have not self-imposed a prideful isolation from its usage are beyond fascination, beyond rebellion beyond puerile misassociations of terms like “roof” and have more than half a brain to get that scriputural allusion and those of the bugaboos (look that up) of “dewfall” and “gibbet” and according to my anecdotal observations are actually quite cognizant of other terms such as “and with your spirit” and “it is right and just.”
        Being supportive of the existence of “enclaves” seems pointedly protestant in my estimation. YMMV

      4. @Charles Culbreth – comment #35:

        Charles, I think you have misunderstood me (and yes, as a matter of fact, I do know what bugaboos are — we call them bugbears).

        My point was that we now have significant numbers of groups of priests who are deliberately or unconsciously editing a liturgical text. Previously, they would never have dreamed of doing that; they would never have seen the need for it. Now they are. That is what is fascinating, not the text itself. The aim behind the new translation was apparently a unitive one, to bring everyone into line, but the result has been quite different and divisive.

        I believe that if the revisers had used today’s translation praxis rather than the ostrich-like, head-in-the-sand transliteration technique actually imposed by LA — “the most ignorant document ever to emerge from a Roman congregation” according to one scholar — and if they had bothered about what is acceptable as good English rather than what sounds like computer-generated translation, and if they had been concerned with the communicability qualities of the revised texts rather than with following Latin syntax, and if they had understood that this is not a matter of Church discipline but of people’s prayer lives, priests as well as layfolk, we would not be having this discussion now. When I am in conversation with bishops and I hear them saying that pastorally it has been a disaster, I know that I am not alone in this, and it gives me hope that things may change.

      5. @Paul Inwood – comment #38:
        I agree with many of your criticisms of the new translation, but as far as a rise in ad-libbing, all I can say is that we must run in quite different circles. I went to Mass earlier today and the priest ad-libbed almost every line to some degree (e.g. “My brothers and sister, the Lord be with you” “Let us lift up our heart” “Let us together give thanks to the Lord our God”), but these are pretty much exactly the same ad-libs that he had used with the previous translation. The pastor at my parish actually ad-libsless with the new translation.

  9. While I am not a fan of the rendering of the collects in English RM3, I much prefer the Gloria and Sanctus, which I think were unnecessarily butchered in the previous English editions.

  10. Sean, Karl, and Elisabeth,

    I grant that ‘like the dewfall’ sounds pretty in isolation, but it just doesn’t work. I too have done a good bit of camping and backpacking, and it’s lovely to be out in nature, but dew doesn’t fall. It condenses directly on surfaces. The inner poet loses this round to the inner physicist, and that’s before we get into any discussion of what I believe to be excessively flowery language in the prayer as a whole. The older version was much more comprehensible.

    Still, if I can have the old Gloria and its musical settings back, I’ll sit down and hold my peace about this one. I won’t actually like it, and I’ll probably tune out during that stretch, but I will quit grousing.

    Well, I can dream, anyway. Sigh.

    1. @Lynn Thomas – comment #19:
      Sorry, dewfall is not intended as a scientific description of a physical process, nor does it need to be scientifically accurate as a word, so that objection fails. It is an English word, and not arcane. Used even in popular song: anyone remember Morning Has Broken? “Like the first dewfall”. The reference to dew in the canon has a specific scriptural referent to manna, which “fell” like dew (in English vernacular usage, people will say how something much needed, especially food or other items of sustenance, “fell like manna from heaven”). Hence, why it’s particularly apt (and those not hosts that don’t look like regular table bread are meant to evoke the idea of the hoarfrost – manna – imagine if our Lord had decided to use the quail instead….) , and the critiques of it misplaced, and the old version much poorer for lack of it. I too spend lots of time out working the garden while the is heavy on it.

      Now for the as-a predicate: I write this as a person who objects to the fetishization of Latinate syntax in the rendering of the collects and certain orations in the English RM3. Unlike other critics, though, my reservations are more targeted (text-wise at least; the process was abysmal, and Liturgicam Authenticam needs to be superseded in due course). I believe the texts that are repeated with some frequency bear a more complex style, because people can gradually deepen their engagement with such texts. I am not a fan of the English RM1 texts overall, but they were intended to be temporary from the start.

    2. @Lynn Thomas – comment #19:
      dew doesn’t fall. It condenses directly on surfaces. The inner poet loses this round to the inner physicist, and that’s before we get into any discussion of what I believe to be excessively flowery language in the prayer as a whole.

      Do you have similar feelings toward the phrase “from the rising of the sun to its setting” in EP III?

  11. Karl,

    It may not be intended as a scientific description – I really do get that idea – but at the moment I’m employed as a physics teacher, and that word is never going to work for me the way it’s employed here. It just won’t. It grates on my ear and I cringe every time I hear it. From my point of view, rewriting the entire passage is a wonderful idea, but that’s just me and I’ll live with it somehow if it stays.

    The horrible mangling of English by Latin is another matter altogether.

      1. @Fritz Bauerschmidt – comment #26:
        Bingo. And dewfall makes it past my spelling checkers online and in my writing programs (without my having added it).

        There are reasons to complain about RM3. But it would help immensely to focus on the most important ones. Dewfall strikes me as ground that is foolish to fight to defeat. Part of the problem with efforts to change RM3 was poor triage.

  12. I found myself looking up dewfall just to check that it was English. I see that the online spellchecker here doesn’t allow it.
    It would be lovely to to have a translation that was in good idiomatic English instead of this totally unworthy misbegotten construct that we find ourselves with.
    But I don’t see it happening. Too much humble pie would need to be eaten by those responsible for it, and there are considerable publishing vested interests who might well have a view on possibly having to pulp materials. And there is also the incredible amount of money that has been spent in the parishes, not all of which across the English speaking world are wealthy.
    I think we are stuck with it for at least a couple of decades, with maybe a little leeway allowed to pastors with collects, and for musicians with texts for the Gloria etc.

  13. @Paul Inwood (#24):

    [T]his sort of editing is rife. Perhaps as many as 10% of priests are doing this…

    You and I have different ideas of what the word “rife” means, then. “Perhaps as many as 10%” is not that many, really. And the number of priests who do this will decrease as time goes on.

    …for what they think are valid pastoral reasons (and of course, as pastors, they are right).

    This abuse of the word “pastoral” is why some of us roll our eyes and sign in exasperation whenever we hear the word. It is used to justify all sorts of liturgical abuses and deformations. Oh, and of course, the pastor is always right – don’t question your priests if they make up their own prayers at Mass, boys and girls, ’cause they’re doing it for your own good! It’s “pastoral”, don’cha know?

    Sorry, it is not “pastoral” to cheat people out of the liturgical prayer of the Church. It is not “pastoral” for a pastor to take it upon himself to alter the liturgy: no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority (SC 22.3; cf. GIRM 24).

    [W]hy should I report them to my bishop (or indeed any bishop)?

    “In an altogether particular manner, let everyone do all that is in their power to ensure that the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist will be protected from any and every irreverence or distortion and that all abuses be thoroughly corrected. This is a most serious duty incumbent upon each and every one, and all are bound to carry it out without any favouritism.” (Redemp. Sac. 183)

  14. Why does “dewfall” irritate so many people so very much? I’d never heard it before, but it’s meaning is very clear without a trip to a dictionary. Ok, so the first time you hear it, you’re distracted. But why the continuing irritation?

    1. @Ann Olivier – comment #30:
      For me, it’s because when I hear “dewfall”, there is cognitive confusion between the definition I’m familiar with (“that time of day when dew begins to fall”) and what I think is the intended (and also an appropriate) definition (“the falling of the dew”). I think of the dewfall first as a time of day, not an event per se.

  15. Jeffrey Pinyan (@JeffPinyan) : Do you have similar feelings toward the phrase “from the rising of the sun to its setting” in EP III?

    I have the same confusion here. The former translation was “from east to west” and I interpreted that to mean “in all places”. The current translation is “from the rising of the sun to its setting” (echoing Ps 113), which suggests to me a span of time.

  16. @Jeffrey,

    Yes, but that’s because I much prefer “from east to west” in the language, as language. From a physical point of view one can argue that the rising and setting model actually has validity for some purposes. Celestial navigation, for instance. Navigating by the stars uses a Ptolemaic view of the universe.

    Not to mention that rising and setting are observable events, while ‘dewfall’ fails the observational test. We see the sun appear to rise and set, but we also see that dew does not fall. During mass I’m not too worried about the ones that take some effort to falsify, but those that run directly counter to what I see distract me and grate on my ear.

    1. @Jay Taylor – comment #33:
      @Lynn Thomas – comment #34:

      “East to west” is more strictly geographical than “rising to setting of the sun” is strictly chronological. The phrase “from the rising of the sun to its setting” in Ps 113 may be interpreted simply in terms of time, but Mal 1:11 couples the phrase with one of geography: “For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the nations, and in every place incense is offered to my name.” This construct suggests a parallelism. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west, and so the phrase can be interpreted geographically too. I prefer the “new” phrase because I can see it work both ways, while “east to west” is less easy to interpret dually.

      “Dewfall” is, indeed, imperceptible: the dew just materializes. I think that is a reasonable analogy to the “descending” of the Holy Spirit “upon” some thing or person. We’re not fortunate enough to see the Spirit alight on the bread and wine like a dove.

  17. Re: dewfall and risings and settings — I was wondering if I was the only science person whose teeth are set on edge by these terms. The rising and setting of the sun is not as bad, but for me it means that we only worship God by day (and fear the night, I guess). Please note that traveling east or west never ends, so that creates a scientific conundrum as well.

    Jeffrey, you asked why this is important to me. A good question, because it seems like such a small detail. God’s creation is as much God’s Word as the Book, or the Church, or the Bread and Wine. And actually, the Spirit does come upon us like dew. Water vapor envelops us at all times, allows life and breath. Sometimes, in the still of morning, we get to be sure it is there. But it is always there.

    I find “dewfall” to evoke a false verticality, a dropping of heaven onto earth which Jesus does not embody. Eucharist means He stayed, not dropping in or out or up or down. God is present here and now and all around and within me, even when I don’t know it. I find dewfall to be bad theology, not just bad science.

    By the way, my discomfort includes the sexism of God as Father and Church as Mother. The analogy makes perfect sense if the father plants the seed of all life, while the mother is the enriching soil for growth. The problem comes from what we now know, that life is ensouled through cooperation, community if you will. We each must add part to create. Isn’t it wonderful that God has taught us that this is how God truly acts? But we don’t believe the science is God’s, so we cling to old images. If they comfort us, then others must be wrong to reinterpret them.

    Let me try to get back to the topic. For me, trying to get one prayer that is the “right way” is as silly as dewfall. It doesn’t reflect the diversity of our faith, of our lives. I wish our prayers could reflect the way we have learned God works around us. That includes science as well as church history and sacrament.

  18. The objection to editing texts to make them more prayable and comprehensible really galls me. It makes an idol of the missal, giving its texts a status of inviolable. The appeal to the proscription that denies to ANYONE, EVEN A PRIEST, the changing of a jot or tittle is authoritarian as opposed to authoratative. It is by this same logic that traditionalists claim the superiority of the Latin Missal. It’s in Latin, it’s been in use for God-knows-how-long, it’s precisely how Jesus wants us to worship even if no one–including the priest-barely knows what the words mean. Give me a break. If the process leading up to RM3 was not so flawed, perhaps a strong case could be made for no editing. I don’t edit anything that makes sense.

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