Tuesday, December 8, 2009

New Translation Tuesday: It's Heating Up Out There!

Welcome to another edition of "New Translation Tuesday."

You have probably heard about the article in the current issue of America magazine by Fr. Michael G. Ryan. Here is the link. If you have the time, please read Fr. Ryan's article about the new translation. Reading the comments to the article on America's web site will also give you insight into what a hot button this issue is and will continue to be. Personally, I didn't find Fr. Ryan's article to be a launch of dissent, as some of the commenters argued. This is a seasoned pastor speaking from the perspective of a pastor. He is not arguing for a wholesale rejection of the new translation. He is inviting people to consider more pastoral experimentation, testing, and evaluation before the text is finally mandated. Frankly, I don't think there is much chance of this happening. However, as of right now, nearly 1200 people have signed the statement of concern on the web site "whatifwejustsaidwait.org" that Fr. Ryan has begun. You can find that site here.

There has also been at least one person (a fellow blogger) who has created his own survey. You can find that here. Clearly you will see the marked differences in tone. Folks, why all this argument? We are talking about the heart of Catholic life here. You can't do something that touches that heart without all kinds of emotions being stirred. It saddens me that this will inevitably continue to escalate further polarization within the English-speaking Catholic world. The texts of the Mass draw us into a real live experience of the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ. If the new translation thwarts that movement toward Christ, then it will need further revision down the road. We will have no choice.

Thanks for your comments over the past week. Please feel free to comment here as well.

As more snow approaches Chicago, I hope that, wherever you are, you stay warm and safe.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


jdonliturgy said...

Thanks for keeping us up to speed on this Jerry. I had seen Fr. Ryan's website, but not the article.

I am convinced that the two "sides" to this argument are involved in a total mis-match of the logic of their motivations. Those who say "wait" or "no" because they perceive problems with the quality and even the underlying philosphy of the new translation are doing so because they honestly believe that the quality of the people's worship experience is at issue.

In contrast, those who say "full spead ahead" or "what took you so long?" seem motivated not only by an attachment to the Latin Mass, but a desire to be obedient to the hierarchy that apparently eclipses the issue of the people's experience of worship entirely. For them it is not even a question of how well the translation is done. The primary issue is one of obedience.

It's a case of apples and orange... and perhaps an argument that no one can win.

Gregg said...

Wow, that is very well said! Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps it was Fr. Ryans methodology that was in question, not his objectives. It may be admirable to object to the implementation of the new translation for the reasons he gives...but it is not admirable to stage some kind of "civil disobedience" and openly defy the Church's authority publicly.

those who say "full spead ahead" or "what took you so long?" seem motivated not only by an attachment to the Latin Mass, but a desire to be obedient to the hierarchy that apparently eclipses the issue of the people's experience of worship entirely

Jerry...seriously! Is it that difficult to believe that there are those who believe in obedience? You clothe this statement in such a way as to make it seem as though advocates of the Latin Mass are unconcerned about worship (they're more concerned if anything) and are stupid for doing what they're told. And it is a question of how well the translation is done. We believe that the new translation is better than the old translation. Really...it is better... a lot better.

And yes, arguments between those who accept authority and those who advocate dissent cannot be "won", but that doesn't mean that one side isn't right.


Anonymous said...

I agree. However, I do not think that it is an attachment to the Latin Mass as much as it is people being 'uncatechized' in Vatican II theology (for lack of a better phrase). Maybe they have been in a parish that grudgingly made the change to English without properly preparing their community at THAT time, and now they see this new translation as a 'vindication' of their resistence to all the growth of the church since Vatican II.--Margie G.

Todd said...

"Really ... it is better ... a lot better."

That really would be a matter of faith. I've seen the translation. I don't thin it's better. The English is awkward and poorer.

The truth of it is that many of us liturgists have advocated for a better translation for decades. I was certainly expecting to see it by the mid-90's.

As long as we're talking about advocates of the Latin Mass, my suggestion is to stick with Latin. You do it better and assess it better than bureaucrats do with English.

I actually think Jerry is being charitable about the motivations of some. For many Catholics, this translation is more about sticking it to their sisters and brothers. Then they can go back to frilly vestments and gild.

Anonymous said...

Todd said:

That really would be a matter of faith. I've seen the translation. I don't thin (sic)it's better.

Not so much "faith" as it is a matter of what one believes to be the purpose of the texts at Mass. There is a reason that newspapers are written in a simplified and "plain language" English...it's all about communication and comprehension. There are those who believe that the texts at Mass should be for the same purpose. But there are also those who believe that Sacred texts are something more than just communication, and that they should be in language distinct from the common vernacular. Perhaps the new translation is not perfect... perhaps it is a "pendulum swing" in the opposite direction from "Comme le prévoit" and it will take time for the pendulum to settle in the middle.

It has to be easily recognized though... And also with you is not a "translation" of et cum spiritu tuo... it is the insertion of a new idea in place of what is in the Missal. And that is probably the least eggregious example of the dilution of liturgical theology as a result of Comme le prevoit in the old translation.

While some advocates of the new translation may indeed be desiring to "stick it to their brothers and sisters", those same advocates have had to endure having it "stuck to them" for some 40 years now...whincing whilst saying the Gloria or Creed, knowing that what they're saying is not even close to the actual prayer, all for the sake of advancing an agenda that has turned out, for the greatest measure, to be seriously in error.

Anonymous said...

For my part I look forward to much of the new translation, after all it is in many ways a more exact rendering. (Some time during public high school Latin I started to realize there were problems with the current versions, and that was just depressing, since I was a first year Latin student and finding clear errors.) However, I do have some reservations. Some of these new texts sacrificed beauty and intelligibility in English for matching the Latin more exactly. In other cases, there is still a problem of the English not quite capturing the full meaning of what the Latin contains when in fact it was possible to do so.

I am afraid that for four decades the church has endured some rather poor translations. Sadly, while for the most part the translations are now correct, they are not all artful. What makes the entire thing more tragic, is the fact that many good translations were available all those years ago and were not used, and good renderings are available now and are not being used. Perhaps it should be noted that ICEL's English translations are probably the most tightly controlled and copyrighted of all the liturgical texts in the entire Church. So obviously they had to create a new independent version so that ICEL could claim to have the sole rights to it.

There is also a theory going around, which I think may be plausible, that the Holy See wanted a very exact translation of the Latin into English, for the purpose of having minor languages be able to translate from the English, due to lack of Latin scholarship and translation traditions in some parts of the world. In essence this theory would indicate an unofficial recognition that English is now the de facto universal language.