Full, conscious and active, or …?

The most common translation of that oh-so-familiar first paragraph of Sacrosanctum Concilium 14 runs as follows:

Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that full, conscious and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy. Such participation by the Christian people as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people (1 Pet. 2:9; cf. 2:4-5), is their right and duty by reason of their baptism.

I wonder how many have noticed that the version which has been on the Vatican website in recent years has a subtle difference:

Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy. Such participation by the Christian people as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people (1 Pet. 2:9; cf. 2:4-5), is their right and duty by reason of their baptism.

The bold type indicates the change, from “full, conscious and” to “fully conscious and”.

A glance at the Latin shows that this change is an egregious mistranslation:

Valde cupit Mater Ecclesia ut fideles universi ad plenam illam, consciam atque actuosam liturgicarum celebrationum participationem ducantur, quae ab ipsius Liturgiae natura postulatur et ad quam populus christianus, “genus electum, regale sacerdotium, gens sancta, populus adquisitionis” (1 Petr 2,9; cf. 2,4-5), vi Baptismatis ius habet et officium.

This clearly differentiates between “that full” (plena illa), “conscious” (conscia) and “active” (actuosa) “participation” (participatio) [putting the Latin into the nominative case]. If there were any doubt, the presence of a comma after illam would remove it.

Why, then, has the text been altered? It has been suggested that this is a wilful mistranslation, and that the reason is that those working for CDW at the time the change was made (they have now either died or left) had a clericalist agenda.

To be blunt, they did not want the Council to be seen to say that the lay faithful should have full participation in liturgical celebrations. Presumably they thought that only the priest had that full participation. The revision essentially weakens the kind of lay participation that the Council Fathers envisaged. “Fully conscious” is certainly not the same as “full and conscious”.

Those who perpetrated the change have now departed, but the result of their amendment lives on. Does anyone know how to persuade those who maintain the Vatican’s website to correct this error? In the meantime, let us all resolve to use the unaltered original.

12 comments

  1. You know, I noticed this wording change when writing my article on the lex orandi. I had written full, active, conscious participation from memory, then thought I’d better look it up to see if the translation on the Vatican website matched. It did not, so I changed it to “fully conscious” etc. without looking to see the Latin. You are quite right, Paul!

  2. Thanks Paul. I’d wondered whether a typo had crept into Rita’s excellent article. Fully conscious would have been plene … consciam, indeed the expression plene actuosam can be found in Gaudium et Spes: “Quam ordinationem ad Deum libertas hominis, a peccato vulnerata, nonnisi gratia Dei adiuvante, plene actuosam efficere potest.” – “Since human freedom has been damaged by sin, only by the aid of God’s grace can such a relationship with God be made fully real.”

  3. I’ve asked my editor at Sapientia to make the correction in my article. But who is going to correct the Vatican website? Should someone write to Archbishop Roche? I nominate Paul Inwood!

    FYI, Andrea Grillo has called attention to another error, mysterious in origin, in article 48 of Sacrosanctum Concilium, and explains why it is important to correct it. This one occurs in both English and Italian. Very interesting!

    https://www.cittadellaeditrice.com/munera/la-actuosa-participatio-abroga-summorum-pontificum-ma-perche-sc-48-viene-citato-in-modo-errato/

    1. Excellent article by Grillo, and also his earlier blog that he references. Thank you for drawing attention to these, Rita!

  4. Thanks Paul – I love things like this…my personal favourite was a translation of Innocent’s letter to Decentius about baptized lay people anointing others – the English translation simply cuts out and remains blank until we get back to the clerical stuff!! (with a nod to the Jesuits “there’s nothing like the facts to ruin a good conversation…”)

  5. Did I read this correct, that probably many of the same people who gave us the current English Translation for the mass as being more direct, had no issue with doctoring a translation to fit their desires?

    1. The translators here were not necessarily the same group/time. This is the translation of conciliar documents, not the Missal.

      1. No, no, there is a link.

        After all, it was a staffer at the CDWDS who wrote Liturgiam authenticam. And the CDWDS was the enforcer. And they were the ones who evaluated the results. So when Thomas writes “the same people who gave us” I don’t think this should be understood as the translators who merely carried out the work on this or that text. It’s the people who ran the show. And yes, they did.

      2. I have not been able to establish the exact date when this change was made. It is certainly pre-2010. My suspicion is that it happened around the same time as Liturgiam Authenticam.

      3. I have a printout of the Vatican’s text dated 2005 that has it in “new” way.
        My copy of LTP’s volume one of The Liturgy Documents, copyright 2004, has it in the “old” way.

    2. Interestingly, the current English translation of GIRM has this as its para 18:

      This will fittingly come about if, with due regard for the nature and other circumstances of each liturgical assembly, the entire celebration is arranged in such a way that it leads to a conscious, active, and full participation of the faithful, namely in body and in mind, a participation fervent with faith, hope, and charity, of the sort which is desired by the Church and which is required by the very nature of the celebration and to which the Christian people have a right and duty in virtue of their Baptism. (28)

      citing SC 14. The Latin original IGMR has a similar Latin text to the one I cited above: ut consciam illam, actuosam atque plenam participationem fidelium inducat

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