Musings on the New Missal

Early next week, Pray Tell will release the results of the study commissioned by the Diekmann Center at St. John’s University, “Attitudes of Clergy and Lay Leaders toward the New Translation of the Roman Missal: Findings from CARA’s National Survey of Catholic Parishes.”

Here’s hoping (and praying) for a constructive and charitable reception of the survey results. It’s time to move beyond the feelings of demoralization some have had, to move beyond any remaining resentments about the product and the process that brought it about. It’s time to look at the 2011 missal with new eyes, to appreciate its strengths and to find the right way to critique its limitations.

I’ve been on quite a journey with this missal, as you all know. At the outset, I was excited to be brought on to ICEL’s music committee charged with writing the English chant for the missal. I was excited to be part of a “reform of the reform” that would make Catholic liturgy more beautiful. I found all of my work with ICEL to be thoroughly rewarding, and I treasure the friendly relationships I have still with my ICEL friends.

Early on in the process, I became concerned about the texts being produced. I would forward a few howlers to fellow monks confidentially (and illegally), “Do you believe what they’re doing with this collect?” I gradually learned that some of those involved in the translation work were also skeptical, including one key player who told me he thought it was sufficiently problematic that the best result would be that the Church would learn from the mistakes when the thing was released and didn’t work. My enthusiasm started deflating.

Fast forward several years: the national bishops’ conferences approved ICEL’s texts (sometimes with a few modifications), and they were sent to Rome for recognitio (approval). And then Vox Clara…. nah, let’s not go there. Does it matter anymore? Is there any reason to rip open those wounds again? Rather, let’s look forward.

When the new missal came out, at first I thought I’d correct its biggest problems when I celebrated Mass. “For you and for the many,” which I thought sounded more like a collective mass of people than a limitation. “This sacrifice which is mine and yours,” since the Latin doesn’t say “my sacrifice and yours” which could imply two sacrifices. And so on.

Then I came around to realizing that there’s no way, given my history, that I could “correct” the missal from the altar without calling attention to myself. And the last thing the Sacrifice of the Mass is about is the celebrant! I also realized that it brought about inner turmoil rather than inner peace when I focused on the translation problems instead of the spiritual content of the texts as given.

Then I admitted to myself what I had known at some level right from that First Sunday of Advent 2011: there are things I rather like in the new missal. “And with your spirit,” for example. And “under my roof” – never had I bought the narrow rationalism of those who don’t get how the liturgy uses texts poetically and allegorically (and even fancifully). And “It is right and just” – my Latin students were unanimous last week that they love the short, punchy rhythm of this, and then the transition to “It is truly right and just…”

Have we turned the corner on this missal thing? Are we ready to build up the church with a constructive discussion of its strengths and weaknesses?

I think so. I see two reasons for hope. First, Pope Francis. I trust nothing needs be said to explain that. Second, the candid remarks of Archbishop Wilton Gregory, former president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, during a Q&A last week. If his remarks are representative at all of episcopal thought, we can take confidence that our leaders really do want what is best for their people.

Oh, before the survey results come out next week, you might want to take another look at the previous study from the Diekmann Center on the attitudes of U.S. priests toward the missal. That study didn’t have a scientifically representative sample, but it is a good rough indicator of the landscape, and it will be interesting to compare it with the more scientific study coming next week.

I recommend especially the comments made by priests in the first study. The comments exude a loving concern for the liturgy and for the people these priests obviously love serving. The attitude of priests such as these is the attitude that will prove helpful in future discussions of the missal.


Editor’s note: Pray Tell is publishing several posts on translation and the new missal in coming days, including the eventual release of the final results of a national study of the attitudes of clergy and lay leaders on the new missal commissioned from the CARA research center.


  1. I used the Missal, as is, for the first year, and of course confirmed that the translation is a disaster. Since then I have made pastoral adjustments in the texts for the benefit of the assembly. In this sense, I too am a translator, for it is my responsibility to communicate the meaning of the source-text to the assembly. I feel it is my moral obligation to lead the celebration in a way that fosters full, conscious and intelligible participation. This may require “fixing” the text now and then, but neither I nor the folks with whom I celebrate would ever judge that I am “calling attention to myself.” I certainly hope the translation will be formally adjusted soon, but I don’t think one can afford to wait around. Too much is at stake. One shouldn’t drive around on a flat tire, for things will only get worse.

  2. The Credo makes me all confused. I usually give up half way and am reduced to silence. I feel alienated.

    Except for the Credo, I have developed a routine of saying the old responses, timed so as to be in sync with the rest of the congregation, and it sort of works.

    I am usually a bit tense at the time of consecration, when I am about to hear “for you and for many”, but that’s actually not that common any more. I’ve heard “for you and for all”, “for you and for the many”, “for you [blank]”. It seems that the majority of celebrants have adapted the words to avoid the most offensive bit. It does make things easier.

    I use some of the time during the collects etc. re-reading and reflecting on the day’s readings. Often I do it in my head, discreetly. That, too, sort of works.

  3. I have come to the conclusion that the Missal represents an old paradigm. Many priests are already making adjustments. Many have downloaded the 1998 translation. The 2011 missal has had the opposite of its intended purpose.

    With bilingual liturgies, the rites of Christian Initiation, infant baptisms at mass I am not juggling many books. Rather all the different elements are put together in a binder. It would be better if all these rites were available as PDF’s. It all cannot be contained in one book. The book form is a cumbersome technology.
    In the age of information technology it seems naive to think that a book is going to be able to impose uniformity and hold all the various possible legitimate options. It seems we are asking too much of a book.

    In his article “The Liturgical Reform of Vatican II (March 2014 Worship) Paul De Clerck points to the new paradigm “one shape, many forms.” He writes “Roman Catholic liturgies should be presented no longer in a Missal or full blown ritual books that are sent to the universal church but in models that belong to the Catholic Church, that are as faithful as possible to the New Testament .” This common canvas would become background for many forms of a liturgy that gets inculturated in the world’s many cultures.

    This approach also dovetails with Pope Francis’ instinct to decentralize. This means that we must also trust that the Spirit is present in all parts of the Church, not just in the center. It is not rigid uniformity to which we are called but unity amidst our rich God-given diversity.

    The idea of the book may be limiting our thinking.

  4. It is fine that individual priests exercise their pastoral responsibility and make adjustments for the benefit of their community. Wouldn’t it be better if the national conference of bishops in various countries took on board collegiality, that un-opened gift of the Council and in doing so supported priests alongside the parish community? Didn’t Cardinal Karl Lehmann recently comment on our lack of courage? “We need to be more courageous in dialogue within the Church. We complain that Rome is over-powerful, but the reason why Rome is so strong is because we are too weak.” That is a significant remark.

  5. ” … we are too weak.”

    Bishops could look at the bright side. When retirement age hits, worst case scenario for not cooperating with Rome is a fast-track to that “little cottage in the country” at age 75 and a day. Look at Cardinal George. What’s his reward for brown-nosing with Rome? He’s still on duty with a cancer diagnosis two years after the mandatory letter. That’s the thanks he gets? He might be incompetent as a liturgical theologian, but he doesn’t deserve that kind of treatment for sitting in airports.

  6. ” It’s time to move beyond the feelings of demoralization some have had, to move beyond any remaining resentments about the product and the process that brought it about.” I don’t think I agree–at least not until someone in authority admits that both the process and the content were seriously at fault.

    Living as I now do in a France so far untouched by Liturgiam allegedly authenticam, I become more rather than less angry at the vandalism perpetrated on the English texts.

    When one corrects them in the process of delivery, the issue is one about damage limitation, and minimizing the scandal and confusion arising both from a change and from the bad translation. I think it’s a mistake to get too hung up on ‘the presider calling attention to himself’.

  7. It’s hard to just forget what’s gone before and move on because the past continues to affect the present and future. Example: Cardinal Pell, who chaired Vox Clara, has recently been shown to have made ethical errors in the handling of sex abuse and has now been appointed to high positions in Rome by the pope.

  8. A substantial and informative new review:

    Liturgical Translations and Two Instructions in Perspective
    Cardinal George Pell

    “The instruction [LA] acknowledged that the text must be accessible to the listener, but must not be dumbed down. The theological and linguistic richness of the original texts must be uncovered and retained. Not just concepts, but words and expressions are to be translated faithfully to respect the wealth contained in the original text. Some may find such exactness a bit discomfiting, but it is a price worth paying to preserve the purity of the liturgical and theological traditions embodied in the rites.

    It seems to me that this last sentence makes a key point that has not been understood sufficiently. That the strictures of LA were arguably necessary at the present time to recapture the rich doctrinal and scriptural heritage of the Roman rite. In regard to accuracy and content, this goal was accomplished wonderfully, but perhaps (and certainly, in the eyes of some) at the expense of some rigidity of syntax. No doubt, when the time for a new revised translation comes–maybe in another biblical forty years–faithfulness in accuracy and content will no longer be an issue, and due attention can be then be paid to smoothness and felicity of expression.

  9. It is easy to say “let’s move on” but far harder to do when there is the continual presence of a ball and chain holding you back. Both priests and people have experienced great discomfort since Advent 2011. That discomfort is not diminishing with time but if anything is increasing with the passing months, as Philip Endean rightly says.
    But no-one listens, no Bishop seems willing to come out in public and accept that there is a problem. How can we move on until that at least happens? The attitude seems to be that if the issue is left long enough, then our difficulties will subside and the noise will go away. And who then is going to pick up the pieces?
    Vox Clara created a problem where there wasn’t one just at the time when the Church was facing a range of serious troubles that urgently demand our attention. A pity but there it is.

  10. When Abp. Pell says, “Not just concepts, but words and expressions are to be translated faithfully ,” I am at something of a loss as to what he means. St. Thomas says, “words relate to the meaning of things signified through the medium of the intellectual conception” (Summa theologiae 1.13.1). So presumably a meaningful translation would normally have to be a translation of concepts, not of words. I’m not even sure what a “translation of words” would be, unless it would be taking the word from the source language and turning it into a word in the receptor language — for example, “consubstantial.” But clearly this is something extremely rare in translations (indeed, consubstantialem itself is clearly not that sort of word-to-word translation of homoousious. Whatever the Archbishop is trying to say, he’s not saying it very clearly.

    1. @Fritz Bauerschmidt – comment #10:
      Be that as it may, after carefully comparing the Latin and English of every oration in the current RM 3e English translation, it seems to me to an admirable job of preserving accurately the meaning and sense of the concepts and words of the Latin typical edition. The complaints, I take it, regard mainly questions of elegance and felicity of expression, which given the previous situation, may not have seemed the most urgent corrective required for this edition.

      1. @Henry Edwards – comment #11:
        But elegance and felicity of expression are directly related to the simplicity, nobility, and clarity commanded by the Council Fathers in “Sacrosanctum Concilium,” in which they said nothing about word-for-word adherence of a vernacular translation to a Latin original. I daresay this consideration is the main reason many of us view the production of the new English Missal as defiance of Church authority and as an appropriate object of outrage.

    2. @Fritz Bauerschmidt – comment #10:
      “Words and expressions are to be translated faithfully”

      Perhaps he means translating words like “sabaoth” in the Sanctus, “salva nos” in one of the Memorial Acclamations, and “ecce” and “cenam agni” in the Ecce Agnus Dei, rather than just translating concepts.

  11. I don’t understand the virtue of making an idol of Latin orations that go back centuries to cultural contexts that have faded or disappeared. These texts were composed with an eye to Scripture. It is certainly possible to compose new texts to draw upon both Scriptural images as well as modern metaphors and to do so in a way that incorporates lyricism, style, and sound theology.

    The complaint is not at all about heterodoxy, dumbing down, or even intelligibility. It is about the imposition of uniformity when what we are truly seeking is unity.

    As for the matter of hushing up about something we can’t control, I can tell y’all I have no hesitation about criticizing the MR3 texts whenever or wherever the moment is right. The texts are an impoverishment disguised as political correctness. They deserve to be prayed as best we can, but vilified at every good opportunity.

    Cardinal Pell’s piece (originally in L’O) was pretty shabby, theologically and historically speaking.

    1. @Todd Flowerday – comment #12:
      The composition of new texts may be appropriate for some future edition of the Roman missal– just as a number of new Latin compositions were prepared for the first typical edition of 1970–and this possibility surely is open to discussion and groundwork in the meantime. But this possibility does not seem pertinent to that of the implementation of an accurate translation of the existing (Latin) typical edition.

      1. @Henry Edwards – comment #13:
        An accurate translation is irrelevant to the faith of the Church. Period. Not that we have an accurate translation, mind you.

        With respect to Fr Anthony’s position, I think we can criticize MR3 with abandon, but keep in mind that charity is extended to people. Not things. And that things are tools to spread the Gospel. Not idols to indulge.

  12. I am not qualified to comment on the detailed accuracy of the present translation, but I do feel that this fractured and latinised version of my language is totally unworthy to be used for the worship of God. Who are the translators trying to impress?
    And since when did Catholics become bookolators, treating texts as though they had overriding value in themselves quite apart from their intended use?

  13. We the church are looking for liturgy that evokes God’s presence among us, and our reverence and joyful response. There is no prescription that can be offered for guaranteeing its achievement always and everywhere. We as church are made of living stones. Those who worship with Fr. Anthony do so because he cares deeply about all this, and that he challenges them to care deeply also. They will care less whether he says the redundant “right and just,” the simplified “right,” the archaic “meet and just,” or the accurate “fitting and right” that is a translation from the Byzantine and which I say under my breath.

    By the way, the Roman liturgy (and the Byzantine and the Syrian, etc.) are structured in such a way that the presider will stand out regardless of what he says and does. Who wears the gaudy colors? Who swings the thurible? Who recites most of the prayers? We can’t escape this. So for me it comes to this: Does he seek authenticity? Then he must seek to communicate as if he is in God’s presence, whether in the contortions of Vox Clara, his considered emendations, or the unutterable groans of the Spirit. The assembly in the end defines authenticity and witnesses whether or not it happened here. And a lot of self-defined celebrants whom I know couldn’t care less.

    To modify a Gospel text: What do worshippers go to St. John’s Abbey to see? A re-enactment of a Vatican-approved text? They can get that in their neighborhood parish. How about “Christ in you, your hope of glory”?

  14. I guess I’m more hopeful than other commenters that the bishops will look at improving the current text, that it is (alas) bad enough that it won’t last that long. This is why I think we can be a bit more generous and charitable and move beyond the old battles.

    I really want to believe that the position of Archbishop Wilton Gregory is not an outlier. I continue to hear of bishops who say privately that they feel the same way.

    I have to believe that this will work out OK, and that we’ll all learn good lessons from all the nonsense we’ve been through.


  15. Claire Mathieu : Except for the Credo, I have developed a routine of saying the old responses, timed so as to be in sync with the rest of the congregation, and it sort of works.

    It’s funny Claire, because I used to do the same thing with old translation prior to Advent 2011, sometimes in English, sometimes in Latin, and sometimes silently to myself.

  16. “Have we turned the corner on this missal thing? Are we ready to build up the church with a constructive discussion of its strengths and weaknesses?”

    Dear Anthony, I wish I could share your affirmative response to this question but I in conscience cannot. How can we turn the corner from a monster that has spurred an ever greater exodus from the weekend assembly?

    I would encourage you to correct the texts while praying and proclaiming them. Indeed, the principle focus during liturgy is Christ whose prayer it is and who leads us in prayer; however remember that ours is an incarnational faith. While indeed everyone who is called to stand in the role of presider should do so with a healthy dose of fear and trembling. But unity should not be confused with uniformity. The personality of the presider is not the enemy of liturgy, which is, after all, the work of the people.

    I have found it fairly easy to repair the orations on the fly, especially now that we’ve been through the book a couple times. I recommend the following:

    Omit almost every instance of “we pray” since quaesumus is a latinism that becomes a redundancy in the receiving language.

    Omit the word “O” because it is not found in the latin and renders the English in the presidential prayers overly obsequious. We didn’t have it or need it in the 1973 or 1998 sacramentaries and we certainly don’t need it now.

    Put the words back into a normal English order so that they do not sound like they are being spoken by Yoda.

    These and a few other techniques become second nature after a while.

  17. Todd Flowerday : I don’t understand the virtue of making an idol of Latin orations that go back centuries to cultural contexts that have faded or disappeared. …The texts are an impoverishment disguised as political correctness. They deserve to be prayed as best we can, but vilified at every good opportunity. Cardinal Pell’s piece (originally in L’O) was pretty shabby, theologically and historically speaking

    Brother Todd, it seems to me that should one self-identify as “Roman Catholic” that it tacitly means all the contexts that are commonly inferred by same: the firm establishment of the ecclesial lingua franca extant from the Constantinian era which edified both the Lexes of orandi/credendi which is maintained to this very moment; which does not necessarily denigrate the purpose and intent of all who are commissioned to render authoritative translations, even if prosaicly flawed, for the vernacular purposes the Church endorses both in wisdom and in truth; and lastly that such a Roman Catholic ought to consider well the words by which they affirm or condemn the licit decisions of the magisterial Church.
    Such utterances as “I feel…..thus and so” do not advance the reconciliation that is not only much needed, but reflect a theology of discipleship which is to what I believe Fr. Anthony was assenting.
    The Church IS being tested as we type and speak. And that is occuring not in arena of words, but as Christ Himself endured, in flesh, muscle, blood and will.
    Thank you, AWR, for re-examining this aspect of being “Catholic.”

    1. @Charles Culbreth – comment #22:
      Sometimes Roman and Catholic are at odds. Rome has always been at its best when it was adaptable, creative, and open to absorbing the best of other cultures. Rome has been at its worst when it has mistaken uniformity for unity, and when it has allowed self-preservation to overcome its graceful instinct for the Gospel.

      I don’t believe the English MR3 translation is wholly licit. It shows at best a mixed loyalty to the document which supposedly went into its creation. It was fabricated by bishops of questionable theological acumen. It lacks artistic depth. It is poor English. As a tool through which the Church hopes to spread the Gospel it is substantially flawed.

      As a Roman Catholic, I will use MR3. I taught and catechized and implemented and promoted. I did as I was called to do. I reject your suggestion that questions my loyalty and faithfulness. You might do better to question others who have shown less faith, even if they are bishops or your reform2 friends.

      1. @Todd Flowerday – comment #24:

        Dear Todd, forgive me as questioning your loyalty and faithfulness, for that was not in my heart or remotely on my radar. Mea culpa.
        I’m still not sure about the dichotomy (as I perceive one) between accepting MR3 as a licit vehicle for worship, BUT “vilifying” it at every opportunity, though. As Ricky Ricardo said to Lucy, “Please splain.” 😉

      2. @Charles Culbreth – comment #35:
        I can conduct a dichotomy in the commentariat here because I do not serve it as a liturgist. I can write things I would not write in a parish context where I serve. But if it is of any help, I was also a critic of MR1, pretty much since grad school. If one of my parishioners asked me what I really thought of MR3, and pressed me, I might say we’ve been handed a sack of spit. And give the theological and linguistic reasons why. But I would also say it’s a sack of spit God can work with, and we can, too.

        I would think that, if anything, my support for the Church’s liturgy, as constituted, is rather a sign of faithfulness to the greater aim of unity in Christ. We are united despite being different, of different minds and opinions, and we can come together Sunday after Sunday and realize the grace of God.

        That said, we can do better. And if I can make a few people in ICEL, Vox Clara, and the liturgy circles in Rome discomfited in any way, and encourage others to do likewise, then I think this is a good thing. I try to remember to show charity and honor to people and to criticize things, rather than idolize things and trample people, as has been the more usual example too often from Rome.

  18. Are the RotR folks in other countries similar to those in the US? Were some folk in Germany calling their second edition of the Missal a kindergarden translation? What sort of support did the more “reverent, beautiful, and correct” 3rd edition have before the bishops said no?

    1. @Sean Whelan – comment #25:

      The German bishops simply said “This is not German as we speak it. We will not promulgate it.” End of story. Everyone agreed with them, because it was self-evident. The German bishops showed leadership.

      It could have been the same with us. Their second edition translation shares many characteristics with our 1998 one that got squelched by Cardinal Medina for political reasons.

  19. ‘This is not German as we speak it …’

    ‘Put the words back into normal English order so that they do not sound as if they are being spoken by Yoda.’

    Good comments. I think Yoda is fantastic, but in ‘Star Wars,’ and UK TV advertisements, not at the altar of God.

    I got to Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent and saw this, fortunately the evening before I was at Mass: ‘May the venerable exercises of holy devotion shape the hearts of your faithful, O Lord ..’

    I recall hearing language like this in pantomime when I was small. It reminds me of some of JM Neale’s translations of Latin hymns. I have also seen this style of language in Tennyson’s ‘In Memoriam’ – though his use of English is of a higher quality than that of the Missal.

    Am I alone in hearing constantly this Victorian shading of English in the Missal?

    I’m trying to remember what I did actually say, though I didn’t make a note of it lest the thought police should see/hear it!

    I think it might have been something like ‘Let this holy work of Lenten observance shape the hearts of your people …’


  20. Are we forgetting what is the point of translation of liturgical prayers?

    It is to COMMUNICATE the text to the people taking part in the liturgical celebration – and in such a way that they can make the prayers their own and PRAY them. Or is the liturgical requirement (how you define that?) satisfied by the mere utterance of the priest, whether or not that utterance is intelligible? If the latter, then he might just as well say the prayers in Latin and we’ll read what it really means in our missals – or say our own prayers. (I now regularly take a missal to Mass because I can make better sense of the prayers reading them myself – or reading the parallel Latin – than trying to listen to a fumbling mumbling priest.) Some pre-Vatican II people’s missals did a better job of conveying the sense of the prayers in their own English translations than do some of the ‘pure’ but unintelligible renderings by Vox Clara.

  21. Henry, thanks for bringing Cardinal Pell’s address into the discussion.

    The speech is a shoddy piece of work, and for the most part it relies on guilt by association and thuggish rhetoric rather than clear thinking. Nonetheless the Cardinal is dead right about one thing: the central issue is not the new Missal translation, but Liturgiam Authenticam. It is, as he says, “a game changer” – though it has changed the game in the wrong direction.

    Cardinal Pell was “surprised to find that there is so little academic examination of Liturgiam Authenticam. I wonder whether he has read Peter Jeffery’s Translating Tradition (Pueblo, 2005), a book-length examination of the instruction from historical, biblical and liturgical perspectives. Jeffery, a distinguished scholar and historian of chant and liturgy, held a professorial chair at Princeton University. His own leanings are “traditional” rather than “progressive”. Here is his view of Cardinal Pell’s “game changer”:

    … I cannot speak with authority on theological or juridical issues – but surely no one would argue that theological or juridical decisions can be uninformed by sound historical knowledge. Since LA is full of misstatements about the Roman liturgical tradition, those who wrote and approved it are simply in no position to judge whether a practice or text is Roman or not, and as a faithful Catholic it is my religious duty under Canon 212 Section 3 to respectfully point out the problems.

    He notes that LA is

    … the most ignorant statement on liturgy ever issued by a modern Vatican congregation. But in a millennium when a Pope can apologize to the Jews, it is not too much to hope that the [CDW], too, will find the courage to lead by example, and practice what it preaches on the matter of accepting correction … [LA] should be summarily withdrawn….

    Unless and until this happens, I cannot share Anthony’s optimism. Yes, we can fix the botched translation of the Roman Missal; perhaps a new edition can be promulgated, as a book or electronically. But as long as LA stands, as long as we remain in Cardinal Pell’s “new era”, these efforts will be of limited value. As long as we are building on deeply flawed principles, the results will be shaky.

  22. I have heard that research shows that three elements of the liturgy keep bringing people back week after week: great homilies, great music, great hospitality. Not a mention of the language of prayer texts. I have many problems with the RM3 texts, and am a big proponent of the 1998 ICEL sacramentary, and am trying to pour more energy into those big three whenever and however I can. Full disclosure, I do make some adjustments in the texts of the prayers.

  23. Another thing about these impoverished prayers. We had and lost a marvelous opportunity to harmonize this content with the revised Lectionary. The texts of Liturgy of the Word are far more important than these orations. The point of these prayers is to point, to point to the Scriptures, rather than call attention to human fabrication. There is a way to allow for quiet, humble, and artistic support of the Church’s kerygmatic mission on the day and in the season. These prayers fail.

    One great need in the Church, where the liturgy is concerned, is to quietly and insistently develop formation in the Word. The orations could have contributed greatly to this. Instead, they have become an indulgent distraction.

    It would be one thing if preaching were consistently high, and a broad swath of the laity were well-formed in the Scriptures. In that instance, ignoring the prayers of the Mass wouldn’t be such a missed opportunity. What we’ve done is to isolate the clergy further from the laity in the context of the celebration of Mass. It’s a small thing, but a nuisance nonetheless.

  24. Two (slightly peripheral) thoughts:
    Firstly, that a lot of the indignation at the new translation is actually motivated by a sense of outrage that we should have to cope with an action as awkward as translation in the first place, perhaps because this reminds of something that we find unsettling – that there is no such thing as unmediated access to the Divine. We want to grab hold of Jesus Christ directly in our own everyday language – but this is not possible.
    Secondly, there really does seem to be a divergence in the reception of new translation between the UK and the US – time to admit that that ‘international English’ is a chimera, and that different translations are required for different varieties of English?

    1. @Ian Coleman – comment #33:

      there really does seem to be a divergence in the reception of new translation between the UK and the US – time to admit that that ‘international English’ is a chimera, and that different translations are required for different varieties of English?

      Don’t you believe it, Ian. If you had talked to as many people in the pew, musicians, clergy and bishops on both sides of the Atlantic as I have, you would know beyond any shadow of doubt that there is still considerable anger, dismay, irritation, frustration, disappointment, and whatever else among vast swathes of the Church on both sides of the Pond. And it shows no sign of diminishing. Something which, if you believe the proponents of it, was intended to be unitive, has in fact been utterly divisive. The bishops, if they are at all on the ball, need to grasp this and do something about it, rather than pretending that all we need is to get used to it. That ain’t going to happen.

      While I think there may well be a case for having different translations in different cultures that nominally use the same language, the fact is that the new translation is not English in anyone‘s language. That is the root of the problem.

  25. Lee Bacchi : I have heard that research shows that three elements of the liturgy keep bringing people back week after week: great homilies, great music, great hospitality. Not a mention of the language of prayer texts.reply-1999481″>

    Perhaps the reason the people aren’t attracted by the new language is because the language is not of very high quality. Consider, by contrast, the place in the hearts of the Anglicans of the texts of the Book of Common Prayer. They love it in spite of the “ye”s and “thous” and other archaic terms. (That vocabulary is easily learnable so it’s accepted.) But also note that the grammatical structuring of the words for the most part isn’t different from the contemporary grammatical structures — something which isn’t true of many of the new Roman Mass texts. For instance, when our new Missal puts an object *before* a subject, the whole sentence creaks. One becomes distracted trying to figure it out, and then one becomes angry at the translators. The translators seem to have no conception of the importance of grammatical structure in conveying meaning. Structure IS meaning: “Dog Bites Man” is totally different in meaning from “Man Bites Dog”!

    1. @Ann Olivier – comment #37:

      Speaking as an Anglican, many of us don’t like it “in spite of the ye’s and thou’s,” but in no small part because of them. It has that timeless quality to it, now that it is some five hundred sixty or so years old, not unlike Latin. It’s not going anywhere, unlike contemporary language, which is an inherently temporary, moving target. It’s a difference in perspective, I suppose. Do you forever adapt the text to a constantly changing audience, or should each age adapt to the text, read, mark, and inwardly digest it?

      Put another way, would Shakespeare redacted into contemporary English really be Shakespeare? How could you alter and yet preserve it? “Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?”

      Much of the commentary I see above reminds me eerily of the (gasp) Protestant Reformer Martin Bucer; he preferred to redact, eschew, water down, and otherwise be rid of anything in the liturgy whose meaning might not be immediately obvious, rather than wrestle with something challenging or teach it.

      1. @Shaughn Casey – comment #40:

        Such a ridiculous argument!! The prayers at Mass are NOT Shakespeare. Nor should they be inherently complex so some high brows can look down at the majority who favor a simpler, coherent text.

        A few texts here and there might have a message that is not immediately obvious, which could be then taught. When the whole blasted book is so poorly put together you have to explain just about everything (or – as 3 years have proven, recite/sing them best you can and then never touch on them) …. forget it.

        The VAST majority of church goers were happy with RM2. All they see with RM3 is people TINKERING with text – and poorly at that. Good Lord, we are constantly revising Sacred Scripture and as such, the Lectionary.

        Shakespeare and RM3 – two things I can only stomach in small quantities.

      2. @Sean Whelan – comment #41:

        Hi Sean,

        I don’t find uplifting language that challenges and elevates to be ridiculous. As a teacher also, I find literal translations to be more helpful because they actually communicate what the original prayer meant, unlike most of the collects in RM2. If you’ll indulge a tangent, it’s a bit like translations of The Odyssey. Sure, Fitzgerald is pretty, but it’s borderline an adaptation because it strays so wildly from the Greek. Lattimore is painfully literal. The Collects I heard in RM2 hardly resembled their forebears, and indeed did not, especially, resemble collects. It wasn’t until RM3 that I could say, “Ah-hah! There are the equivalents of the Introit, the Gradual, the Offertory Sentence, the Communion Sentence,” and so on.

        If it’s purely a question of style, I hear you. The BCP, for example, says “being of one substance with the Father,” rather than “consubstantial.” More words, but less clunky — I believe the Ordinariates preserve the “being of one substance.”

        As Fr. Anthony notes, there’s good to be had. “And with your spirit” is helpful because a) it’s, again, what the Latin actually says, and b) it brings to light that the response is actually a quotation from Scripture. On the whole, I find that RM3 “looks” in its form and structure much more like the form and structure of the Extraordinary Form. For that alone, it should be praised for the more explicit continuity.

      3. @Sean Whelan – comment #41:
        “The VAST majority of church goers were happy with RM2.”

        No they weren’t. It was not vastly available on a regular basis to church goers.

        There were problems with RM2:

        1. The decision to leave most of the people’s parts alone. I am not a fan of RM1’s Ordo for the people. Interestingly, however, the principle employed to justify that was undercut by the urge to offer – even as an option (which a priest could on his own decide to force usage of – even RM2 could be imposed in an RM3 way) – for a modernized Our Father. I understand the scriptural arguments, but such a scholastically addled approach to one of the few bits of continuos popular prayer in liturgy smacks of some of the in-groupness dynamic that bedevils so many projects of this sort regardless of placement on the spectrum.

        2. The use of liturgy to promote inclusive usage prescriptively rather than waiting for actual common usage to settle turned out to be very costly. I served for years in those trenches on behalf of inclusive usage, and I say this with deep regret. Liturgical language will always be on a lag from settled common usage. As things stand today, common usage is mixed, and not settled where inclusive prescriptivists would want to settle.

        * * *

        I would leave much of the Ordo of RM3 alone, with some tweaks, because regularly repeated texts need not be immediately comprehended on a lowest-common-denominator basis but bear greater complexity, and focus most effort on the proper orations, which do not benefit from such repetition and which are were the more egregious Latinate fetishes flourish.

        And I would highly encourage the supersession of Liturgicam Authenticam with translation principles that place a high value on euphony as expressive of liturgical beauty and truth.

      4. @Karl Liam Saur – comment #62:
        On the other hand, your #2 was working against the pushback for an intentional exclusivity. People’s exhibit #1: the catechism, which even your archbishop was dismayed about at the time of its promulgation. It’s fine, perhaps, for you and I as men, to suggest “Too far, too fast.” But the decisions were made in a climate where hope was fast shutting down for women’s aspirations. The fussing about the ICEL Psalter struck me as particularly weak.

        I think I’d also say that the use of inclusive language in MR2 was not a promotional effort at all–that’s a significant claim you’re making and one I don’t think you can prove. What we have today is seriously deficient from the view of accuracy. It should be enough to translate men to men, women to women, and people to people.

        Clearly, after years of struggle and compromise, sixteen sets of bishops were happy with the final result. MR2 wasn’t perfect. I’d give it a B, but mainly because it left too many pieces of the Latin original alone.

      5. @Shaughn Casey – comment #40:
        Shaughn, this weary old dog won’t hunt.

        Cranmer was a master of English prose. It’s no accident that his style continues to influence the language. He worked wonders with rhythm, vowel harmony and the like. The magic of the old Prayer Book is not in the “thees and thous” but in the brilliance of Cranmer’s and Coverdale’s language.

        Much of the language of RM3 isn’t good English, or traditional English, or contemporary elevated English. It’s broken, tortured English, perhaps the work of translators and revisers whose first language wasn’t English at all.

        President Obama was right about lipstick on a pig: you cannot take a botched translation and doll it up with fancy words and a few scriptural allusions. A botch with fancy words is still a botch.

        Nor does a bad translation lead to deeper meaning, or greater profundity. Yes, it’s important to wrestle with the depths of scripture and of our liturgical tradition. But the work of decoding a bad translation is no more elevating than solving a crossword puzzle. I have more than once had to mentally render bits of a tortured collect back into Latin, in order to recall the original and recapture the meaning. Nobody should have to do that.

        Producing a good translation is not a matter of “dumbing down”. People have demonstrated, over the centuries, that it can be done. There is a tension between mirroring the style of the original and rendering the meaning clearly. St Jerome saw that and wrote about it. But he managed to produce good Latin. Anglicans have produced good English over the years — both traditional and contemporary.

        Handicapped by Liturgiam Authenticam, the translators of the new Missal chose to pretend the tension wasn’t there. They have produced an extraordinarily poor translation — neither more accurate nor more beautiful than what went before.

        Finally, “Protestant” may be an inherent negative, a slur, in some liturgy forums — it should not be so here.

      6. @Jonathan Day – comment #42:

        It’s broken, tortured English, perhaps the work of translators and revisers whose first language wasn’t English at all.

        The scandalous thing is that this supposition isn’t true. All the translators and revisers had English as their first language, but the revisers (especially) had little or no sense of style and were clearly incompetent in Latin. Their work was “co-ordinated” by someone without any professional editorial experience or expertise. It may make people feel better to blame the new translation on non-native English speakers, but the unpalatable fact is that they were indeed all native speakers of at least a form of English, whether English English or American English.

        That is why the whole affair is so disgraceful. It was perpetrated by our own compatriots, and they should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. I am prepared to believe in charity that some of them were sufficiently incompetent that they did not actually realize what they were producing, but I suspect that others were simply sticking it to the English-speaking bishops, clergy and faithful because they could (or thought they could). It is difficult otherwise to understand how a translation that is so wilfully perverse could have come about if it were not a deliberately provocative exercise in obfuscation.

      7. @Jonathan Day – comment #42:

        Hi Jonathan,

        A dismissal is not, of course, a refutation, and so I won’t do that to you.

        Part of the genius of Cranmer and Tyndale, part of what was good and true and therefore free to be appropriated by the Church, was the self-consciously archaic nature of the text, which included rehabilitation of thee and thou (and thy and thine and so on). Especially by 1611, when the Authorized Version came about, the language was already 70 years and more “out of style,” most of it being derived from the Coverdale Bible of the 1530, which even in 1530 was full of archaisms. It captured what was (I am told, for I’m more into Greek and Latin) the old fashioned character of the Hebrew and froze English liturgical language in amber.

        What you are seeing in action in RM2, RM3, the 1998 translation, and so on is the problem of “liturgy by committee.” It’s something that Catholics haven’t really had to deal with until the 20th and beyond. People, for better or worse, get over it, and there is nothing new under the sun. You might look again to the BCP tradition, if only for a point of reference. In America, people wailed and gnashed their teeth when the 1928 BCP was released, and it was a fairly mild revision. (A similar effort in the UK failed even to pass Parliament.)

        Coupled with that tension, I see a cultural difference, too, which probably contributes somehow. Perhaps you can help me? I am used to having a prayer book, a pew missal, a something or another which I keep with me so that I can read them because I’m more of a visual learner. I see various yearly editions in Catholic services, but the anecdotal evidence I find suggests that they aren’t really used the same way. It’s telling (to me, anyway) that they’re thrown out and replaced every year, rather than having one set text that abides in the pews.

        As far as Jerome’s Latin goes…Eh. Better than the Latin translations that Augustine had, but far from Cicero or Ovid. He gave…

      8. @Jonathan Day – comment #42:
        Mr. Casey – you might want to read this recent book:
        God’s Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible

        Based upon only recently discovered historical records, this narrative history would correct your description of the Cranmer project – it was not archaic language and the fact that the King James Bible was by committee.

        About fifty scholars from Cambridge, Oxford, and London did the work, drawing on many previous versions, and created a text which, for all its failings, has never been equaled. That is the central question of this book: How did this group of near-anonymous divines, muddled, drunk, self-serving, ambitious, ruthless, obsequious, pedantic, and flawed as they were, manage to bring off this astonishing translation? How did such ordinary men make such extraordinary prose? In God’s Secretaries, Adam Nicolson gives a fascinating and dramatic account of the accession and ambitions of the first Stuart king; of the scholars who labored for seven years to create his Bible; of the influences that shaped their work and of the beliefs that colored their world, immersing us in an age whose greatest monument is not a painting or a building, but a book.

  26. The Germans and Americans generally are not satisfied with the new translations. Is the same thing true of all the translations in all the different countries? Which complaints, if any, are common to all of them? If there are common ones that surely should count with the DCW. And Pope.

    (I’ve read that the Japanese translation was overseen in Rome by a person who didn’t even know the Japanese language! What a farce.)

  27. “No doubt, when the time for a new revised translation comes–maybe in another biblical forty years–faithfulness in accuracy and content will no longer be an issue, and due attention can be then be paid to smoothness and felicity of expression.”
    This is irresponsible, at best. Who will there be left in forty years? We’re shouting the “re-evangelization” message incessantly, but uncaring about those hemorrhaging out of the church. I understand the anger.

  28. BROKEN AND TORTURED, yes, suitable for Passiontide…

    Today’s Preface:

    “Quia per Fílii tui salutíferam passiónem sensum
    confiténdae tuae maiestátis totus mundus accépit,
    dum ineffábili crucis poténtia iudícium mundi
    et potéstas émicat Crucifíxi.”

    Previous trans.:

    “The suffering and death of Your Son brought life to the whole world,
    moving our hearts to praise Your glory.
    The power of the cross reveals Your judgement on this world
    and the kingship of Christ crucified.”

    New trans.:

    “For through the saving Passion of your Son
    the whole world has received a heart
    to confess the infinite POWER of your majesty,
    since by the wondrous POWER of the Cross
    your judgment on the world is now revealed
    and the authority of Christ crucified.”

    The words “the infinite power of” have no equivalent in the Latin and introduce the ugly, grating repetition of “power” which any literate English speaker would wince at. The word “now” is also not in the Latin. “By the ineffable power of the Cross judgment on the world and the authority of the Crucified shines forth” — the singular rather than emicant is I suppose tolerable in this kind of rhythmic Latin.

    1. @Joe O’Leary – comment #44:
      Joe, I am moved to disagree with your interpretation of this text. It is a well-established construct to present a circumstance and list consequences. Clearly this prayer is telling us that God’s judgement has been revealed and Christ’s authority has been crucified.

      I’m not sure that is strictly what the translators had in mind when they came up with this, but such is life…

  29. Also note the twisted grammar of “your judgement is now revealed and the authority of Christ” — instead of “reveals your judgement and the authority of Christ”. It is odd to use passive constructions in this way –and gives the impression of broken English or at least broken-backed syntax.

    Consider other possible examples:
    “the first semester course is taught by Prof. Higgins and the weekly seminar”
    “the local audience was deeply moved and the foreign visitors”
    “the ceremony was speedily conducted and the further proceedings”
    “the fabrication is now exposed and the dishonesty of its perpetrator”

  30. “The whole world has received a heart
    to confess”

    I thought of Dr Christiaan Barnard. Committees are no good at inventing graceful poetic locutions. Indeed, very few poets today would dare to try to invent a new phrase about the heart. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

  31. The English language never got frozen in amber. The words may not have changed, but their meanings did and do. That is why we have translations of Latin into Italian, French, Spanish, Portugese… Thy and thine are a significant example of this in English, moving from a familiar form, used within the family, to a more formal usage.

    Latin liturgy originated as a vernacular liturgy, not as archaic. Modern vernacular is true to that tradition in a way that self consciously archaic language is not.

    1. @Jim McKay – comment #49:

      Hi Jim,

      “The Latin liturgy originated as a vernacular liturgy.” Possibly true, for a very short time. And then within two generations, particularly among a largely subliterate (I mean that descriptively, not pejoratively) people, it was no longer /quite/ the vernacular. And Latin persisted until the mid 20th century, just as Old Church Slavonic does for the Russian Orthodox and koine Greek does for the Greek Orthodox, or even Hebrew among many synagogues. Again, there is nothing new under the sun. The idea that Latin was monolithic and uniform until the early Medieval period is very simplistic, especially in a setting as cosmopolitan as Rome. Augustus, for example, fought tooth and nail to “fix” Latin that had become non-standard by reverting to more ancient forms. To give but one example, you’ll see fun things like “consul” written as “cosul” because the n was hardly pronounced. Augustus insisted it be put back in. If anything, archaism against the tide of rapidly changing vernacular is the clearer standard of liturgical tradition, rather than vernacular that regularly evolves.

      There’s a funny story about when the “vernacular” BCP was first releasted in the 1500s. Ireland, Wales, Scotland, and most of England outside of London protested vigorously because they could not understand that dialect of English. They could, however, understand and follow Latin. Go figure.

      But ultimately I must agree with Scott in #50 that these are minor concerns compared to a parish’s culture concerning very basic things.

    2. @Jim McKay – comment #49:
      Latin liturgy originated as a vernacular liturgy

      The thesis of Christine Mohrmann (“Liturgical Latin: Its Origins and Character”) is that the Latin employed in the liturgy was, from the beginning, removed in tone and vocabulary from the vernacular.

  32. I am always interested in my wife’s perspective, a cradle Catholic with no specialized training or experience in liturgy. She continues to be annoyed with the new translation, particularly the creed and the congregational responses. She occasionally mentions the new text as one of the reasons why attending Mass is more often a chore than a meaningful experience.

    Yet to put it in perspective, this is a minor annoyance compared to rambling preaching, strange mannerisms of presiders, unsingable music, and total lack of hospitality that she often finds in area parishes. The wording of the collect hardly matters when she’s having to stand in the aisle holding our youngest for an hour and fifteen minutes because no one would slide down in the pew to make room and there are no ushers to be found (until it’s time to pass out pledge cards for the bishop’s appeal, they manage to do that.)

    Given that many, many parishes can’t even get the basics right, the words of the missal may be the least of worries for my family.

  33. Jeffrey Pinyan : @Jim McKay – comment #49: Latin liturgy originated as a vernacular liturgy The thesis of Christine Mohrmann (“Liturgical Latin: Its Origins and Character”) is that the Latin employed in the liturgy was, from the beginning, removed in tone and vocabulary from the vernacular.

    I wonder how many examples there are of liturgical latin from the first century or so of the church’s existence. I guess there must a large number to base such a thesis on.

  34. I think Jeffrey Pinyan is on the mark on Christine Mohrmann’s position.

    But I want to add that precedent is not obligation. We’d have to look at how far the liturgical Latin realy was from what the people spoke, and also how they received/heard it then. But even this wouldn’t solve our question. We’re in a different time and place. We all live in democratic and egalitarian cultures. We relate very differently to authority figures than people in antiquity and the early Middle Ages did, with their very stratified societal structures. So if the authority figure uses language somewhat removed from our daily lives, we will relate to it differently than a slave or servant or peasant would have related to Latin that they pretty much but didn’t quite understand entirely. They probably thought it was their lowly place not to understand – we don’t think that way.

    The call of Vatican II is for both ressourcement and aggiornamento – going back to sources and adapting to the conditions of today. Pope Francis spaces about the latter very strongly in his apostolic constitution Evangelii Gaudium.


    1. @Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #54:

      I think Jeffrey Pinyan is on the mark on Christine Mohrmann’s position.

      Yes, he is; but there are a lot of people who do not agree with her. Those who do will include the author of Liturgiam Authenticam 27 and 47.

      Translation is about communication. It’s very difficult to imagine St Jerome, for example, using deliberately stilted language in order to “heighten” the status of the inspired word of God.

      1. @Paul Inwood – comment #55:
        Paul – am thinking of Reginald Foster’s classes in Rome – he described the early latin in the liturgy as the *latin used by prostitutes* – He would not agree with Mohrmann.

  35. That there are many infelicities in the new translation of the Mass is obvious and I don’t think needs any further comment. At the same time, the previous translation of the Mass, while closer to contemporary English, banalised the Latin. I am a native English speaker and I must profess-despite all the bashing that the new translation receives on this website-that I much prefer it to what was out before. I hope that a future edition of the translation might iron out its deficiencies. To be honest, I am quite puzzled why the translators were unable to do a better job: liturgical Latin is not that complex (and often quite repetitive in its formulae) and the Roman rite has been translated many times before both by Catholics and Anglicans. Surely it would not have been difficult to base the new translation upon these previous attempts, updating their language with something more appropriate for our time rather than start afresh, making many mistakes in the process?

    1. @Daniel Canaris – comment #56:
      The first English translation was only intended to be an interim effort. The English MR2 was the last translation, and it was superior to both.

      MR1 was faithful to the written guidelines that preceded it. MR3 was not. Even if one gives MR1 a failing grade, and even if one concedes that a D-plus (MR3) is preferable to an F (which would be a controversial grade, to be sure), both pale in comparison to a B.

      I continue to be puzzled as to the comparison between 1 and 3. It was inevitable that 1 was going to be replaced.

  36. Come on, Todd – if they have to compare to 1998; their task and search for justifications becomes difficult by a significant factor. (not just 2+2 = 4 but exponentially)

  37. @Bill deHaas (#60): I’m wondering if you read the same book I did! A couple of citations may explain my surprise:

    “This English [of the KJV] is there to serve the original, not replace it. It speaks in its master’s voice and is not the English you would have heard on the street, then or ever… The words of the King James Bible are just as much English pushed towards the condition of a foreign language as a foreign language translated into English. It was more important to make English godly than to make the words of God into the sort of prose that any Englishmen would have written…” (A. Nicolson, God’s Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible [HarperCollins: 2003], pp. 210-11)

    “Some critics thought its [i.e. the KJV’s] dependence on a kind of English which seemed sixty or seventy years out of date (although its English was in fact a form no one had ever spoken) made it ridiculous and bogus.” (Ibid., p. 227)

    Shades of Liturgiam authenticam 47 in the early 17th century, perhaps?

    1. @Matthew Hazell – comment #61:
      Actually, it is clear that you never read the book and your quotes are taken out of context (trying for a *gotcha moment again*?) Your first quote leaves out the context and certain lines – the context was that some small groups of writers went back to the original latin or greek words; met as many as 30X per day to reach an elevated and poetic meaning in an english that the commoner would understand. You also missed Nicolson’s point that his comparison of this specific point in the book (pg. 211) was about the fact that this final product would be different from what you would expect a commoner to write in prose. He then goes on to give examples of what he means (and, in no way, does he imply that the chosen words/prose were embellished – in fact, just the opposite.) They tried for simple, clear language that conveyed a beautiful, poetic meaning.
      Your second quote (like your first) is out of context; skips over certain key sentences. Allow me to quote the complete Nicolson paragraph – he, in fact, describes a noted critic of the bible’s finished product (a scholar who was not included in the committees because of his incivility, obnoxiousness, etc.) This scholar criticized the KJV finding fault with certain Hebrew word translations (N.B. note the similarity to the critics of CLP – focus on single words while missing the poetry and meaning of the original story, phrase, even words). This specific scholar was Hugh Broughton – read the complete page 227-228 – Broughton could probably best be compared to certain individuals who wrote LA e.g. certain monsignor in Boston)

      From the prologue:

      “…that it should be the creation of a committee of men no one has ever heard of is the key to its granduer. It is the child of an entire culture stretching back to the great Jewish storytellers and poets of the Near Eastern Bronze Age. The sense of an entirely embraced and reimagined past is what fuels this book.
      Their translation is driven by that idea of a constant present; the feeling that the riches, beauties, failings, and sufferings of Jacobean England were part of the same world as Job, David, or the Evangelists walked. Their subject was neither ancient nor modern; rather it was both/and.
      The bible they created was consciously poised in its rhetoric between vigour and elegance; plainness and power. It is NOT framed in the language, as one Puritan preacher described it, of *fat and strutting bishops, pomp-fed prelates; nor of Puritan controversy or intellectual display. As a result, it does NOT suffer from one of the defining faults of the age: a form of anxious and egotistical self-promotion.
      In fact, better than 75% of their work was taken from Tyndale (who worked alone to achieve a stripped down and simple but direct translation). Tyndale was not perfect; at times missed the richness of language; but overall had a clarity that these writers shared.”

      Let’s just say that you have completely missed the thesis of this book and its research. In fact, would suggest that the current missal translation mimics most closely what Adam Nicolson describes as the language of *fat and strutting bishops or pomp-fed prelates* rather than the clarity and poetry of great language.

      1. @Bill deHaas (#63): Not wishing to get into an argument about whether I have read the book or not… but, I have read the book, thank you, and I don’t think my quotes were out of context.

        I think the evidence Nicolson uses in his book shows that the translators of the KJV did embellish their prose, and erred on the side of beauty rather than simplicity (though they did a good job of keeping both in mind). And I think it is clear from the concluding chapter that Nicolson’s opinions on why the KJV is a successful translation do not dovetail particularly well with the opinions (re. translation) of some of the more prolific contributors to the comments on this site, yourself included.

        In any case, the book is available secondhand for a few pounds/dollars/euros/other for anyone who is interested in not having the contents mediated to them by you or me.

      2. @Matthew Hazell – comment #64:
        Fair enough – but still disagree about Nicolson. He doesn’t set *beauty* and *simple* in competition. His thesis is that translation involves capturing the meaning and telling this in a poetic way that sticks in the mind of the reader.
        In that sense, I DO think that LA is the opposite of what the translation committees did in the KJV project and that LA and Vox Clara sacrificed meaning and beauty in an effort of rigidly translating what they think is the *original latin* (which makes little sense if you know the history). In fact, the KJV committees strove to find, understand, and translate not just the latin but the Hebrew and Greek upon which the latin came from. Again, something LA completely skips over.

      3. @Bill deHaas – comment #66:

        Hi Bill,

        I must dispute your characterization of the AV, given the overwhelming influence of Tyndale’s Bible, which was a sole effort that in turn drew largely on the Textus Criticus of Erasmus, also largely a sole effort. At least a third of the AV is a verbatim transfer of Tyndale, and huge swathes of the rest are but minor tweaks to his text. Where the AV isn’t quite sure what to do with the Greek or the Hebrew, it very clearly favors the Vulgate, which is clear from its use of Latin derivatives vs Greek ones, among other clues.

        The AV project, therefore, owes far more debt than you’re letting on in your (somewhat romanticized) account to the work of Tyndale and by extension Erasmus than to the circle of folks who reverently handled and tweaked it. The bulk of the work was already done, and had been done for 60-70 years. The committee, in other words, came after the sole effort of Tyndale, not unlike later Prayer Book revisions that followed Cranmer’s initial sole effort. It’s far less miraculous than the Septuagint’s traditional origin.

      4. @Shaughn Casey – comment #67:

        If you read Bill’s comment (#63) carefully, you’ll notice that he does include the quotation about 75% of the work deriving from Tyndale.

      5. @Bill deHaas – comment #63:

        certain individuals who wrote LA e.g. certain monsignor in Boston)

        Just for the record, it is generally held that Tony Ward was the (sole) author of LA. I don’t think the monsignor in Boston would have been capable of that piece of work.

        But I agree with you about Nicolson.

  38. The AV committee, I have heard, were not ordinary men but scholars of an erudition that would be hard to equal today (the person who said this cited Sebastian Brock as a rare instance of that caliber of scholar).

    I wish people would stop pointing out the obvious — that the RM1 collects are weak — they were never intended as more than interim stopgaps — the relevant term of comparison, which everyone on this site should know by know, is the 1998 text, RM 2, which has far superior collects to the present dreck.

  39. The passiontide collect I deplored above was well translated in 1998:

    Through the saving passion of your Son
    the whole world is called to acknowledge your sacred majesty,
    for the power of the cross reveals the judgement that has come upon the world
    and the triumph of Christ crucified.

    Look on this picture and on that:

    For through the saving Passion of your Son
    the whole world has RECEIVED A HEART
    to confess the infinite POWER of your majesty,
    since by the wondrous POWER of the Cross
    your judgment on the world is now revealed
    AND THE AUTHORITY of Christ crucified.”

    1. @Joe O’Leary – comment #69:
      It’s shockingly bad.

      I thought I was beyond being shocked, but this is scandalous. The final line hangs in the air like an absurdity. The whole thing is shamefully poor, but the last line is breathtaking.

      1. @Rita Ferrone – comment #75:

        Hi Rita, though I’m not an exegete nor do I play one on TV, I wonder if the fuller meaning of “authority” as in the “Logos,” or “Author of all” would mitigate the shock and scandal you assign the passage’s end? I do acknowledge that, on paper, the sentence structure (especially for us who spent endless, but fun hours diagramming sentences in JrHi!) seems awkward, as do the myriad selected portions of MR3 offered up here for consideration. But unlike many, the more I consciously engage my ear and heart while listening to an equally interested celebrant “pass through” such orations, the more edifying nature of the collects (etc.) becomes apparent.
        Just my take.

      2. @Charles Culbreth – comment #77:
        Hi Charles,

        I do appreciate your take, but to clarify, my issue was not with the word authority in any way. What stunned me was the extreme awkwardness of the structure of the sentence. It actually ends up saying that the authority of Christ is crucified, just as Paul Robertson points out with a touch of irony at # 74.

        Not to belabor this, but, “Christ crucified” placed where it is in that sentence, is parallel with “is now revealed.” It is, as Paul R. says, a circumstance and its consequences in a list. Just as I might say (to use a musical example) “Through the music, God is glorified and the Church edified”, this sentence is saying that God’s judgment is revealed and the authority of Christ crucified.

        “Christ crucified” at the beginning of a sentence (“Christ crucified was Paul’s only boast”) or in a sentence that did not use the passive voice (“I put my faith in Christ crucified”) would be to use it as an adverbial phrase. As it is placed in this sentence, however, it becomes something different. The translator (I think) wanted to say that the authority of the crucified Christ was revealed. But that’s not what the text says.

  40. Liturgists love to dissect, analyze, weigh and measure every aspect of the church’s rituals. Much (dare I say nearly all) of their musings are of little or no interest to the people in the pews. They come to Mass either weekly, occasionally, or seasonally to give expression to their religious sensibilities. But they certainly noticed the inconvenience of having to learn new responses and new Mass settings especially, methinks, where priests attempted to sell them on the idea that the new was better than the old. They are compliant but not gullible. I certainly concede a subset of assembly members who do take a keen interest in these matters and who line up for and against–including those who belong to this forum.
    I do not subscribe to the strict canonical approach to liturgy which infers that the liceity of the Mass is dependent on reading the black and adhering to the red. Those who do are fond of pointing out that people may not hold hands during the Lord’s prayer because there is no rubric directing it. But there is also no rubric directing the ringing of bells. I do subscribe to the conviction that bishops and priests have a responsibility to celebrate the Rites in a manner that acknowledges all present as subjects of worship who are asked to pray and give assent to texts that are readily accessible and intelligible to them.

  41. Hi! First time here. I’m a priest for 25 years, and have lived with the various translations since I was a little boy. My first communion in 1968 was with the interim missal, I began serving mass the next year with the ‘novus ordo’. It did have problems, but it was comprehensible.
    I was really hoping for better things. I gave RM3 my best effort. I am noted for my good diction; I prepared the congregation carefully for its introduction, and it came off rather well. But it is a trial for me to get through mass. It’s just awful. I will leave the dissection of its problems to the more learned. However, out of neccesity, my missal has become a mish-mosh of of prayers and prefaces taped in from the former version, the book of common prayer, and the ELCA service book just to put it into something resembling standard English. I have left the words of institution alone.The congregation , except for a handful who follow the missalette meticulously, have not said anything either positive or negative. Have they just given up, or do they just not listen or care? I dunno.
    I’m surprised at myself, really. 10 years ago, I would never have dreamed that I would do this sort of thing. But the new missal is an unmitigated disaster. Much of it offends my sense of prayer, grammar, and aesthetcs. It’s just icky.
    In order to avoid confusion, my suggestion is that we leave the people’s parts alone (they’re not as awful as the rest), and authorise the use of thediscarded ’98 version for the priest’s part. Just some musings.

  42. Benedict XVI always emphasised “continuity”. It’s a sad fact that he left the Church’s liturgy in probably what is the worst state of disunity since the Reformation. In effect we now have: the EX Form, The Ordinariate and the Novus Ordo in various forms – some using the old, some using the new, some making a fusion of the two and others translating it so that it is comprehensible – if that’s possible. It’s a hash and, as a presider, I cannot help but be irritated by it often. The grovelling sentiments in many of the Collects would make one think that we also decided not to read the New Testament any more. What a terrible anthropology and image of God it promotes. Its terrible. I hope that there is an acknowledgement that what we have now is sub-standard. JPII and Benedict XVI really dis-unified the liturgy and left it in a mess. This is another example of how creeping centralisation in the Church has caused damage. Please God sanity will prevail sometime soon and we will get a translation that worthily expresses our prayer!

    1. @Russell Pollitt – comment #81:
      Why on earth must liturgical diversity be considered a bad thing for the church? Surely this is what is most in keeping with the spirit of the Second Vatican Council? Why should Anglicans who are attached to a particular form of worship be required to abandon it in order to join the Roman Church? The same can be said for Vetus Ordo Catholics – we should never let liturgical form divide people who substantially share the same faith (Anglo-Catholics, Trad Catholics, Novus Ordo Catholics etc.).

      The fact of the matter is that the Catholic Church is a very big Church and within this church there are people from very different cultural backgrounds. The insistence upon a single liturgy is a very modern development that grew in reaction to the Protestant reformation (facilitated of course with the invention of the printing press). The medieval church had a rich variety of rites and uses. I think Benedict XVI’s moves towards greater liturgical diversity has helped us move away from this Tridentine centralisation of liturgy to embrace the liturgical plurality advocated by the Second Vatican Council. It is ironic that it is the so-called liturgical progressives who are opposing this agenda!

      1. @Daniel Canaris – comment #82:

        Diversity on whose terms? That’s the point here. In Africa, where I come from, they pulled the plug on inculturation. African expression was not deemed worthy enough for “liturgical diversity”. So we have a completely foreign ritual being used in a culture far from the western mindset. Forcing every English speaker to use Latinate English does not speak to me of honouring diversity and plurality. We would disagree on your premise that Benedict was moving away from Tridentine centralisation. I would argue he was moving towards centralisation in many aspects of church life!

      2. @Daniel Canaris – comment #82:
        It depends on whose diversity we’re talking about. Inclusive language = bad diversity. Sexist language = good. Women religious serving in all walks of church life and ministry = bad diversity. Women in cloisters = good. MR2 = bad diversity. MR3 = good. B16’s diversity = good. Everybody else’s outside of the Vatican walls = bad.

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