Thursday, June 10, 2010

New Translation Thursday: Lord Stanley Comes to Chicago and The Church May Lose a Young Adult

Welcome to this installment of "New Translation Thursday."

Allow me to begin this post with a big triple whistle for our Chicago Blackhawks, who won the Stanley Cup championship last night by beating the Philadelphia Flyers in overtime. I was watching the game at my home in Chicago's West Loop, where the United Center, and many Blackhawks "establishments" are located. It was just a wonderful celebration. Here's a photo taken a few minutes ago of yours truly here at the "home office."

As you know, WLP's survey about the new English translation of the Missale Romanum has been up for quite a few weeks now. If you haven't yet taken the survey, you can do so by clicking here.

There was a rather long comment left there, which I want to share with you for your reactions. It's from a twenty-eight year old Catholic from Texas. This is long, but worth reading:

I am a 28-year-old parishioner at a suburban parish in Texas, and a "cradle Catholic."

I have been aware of the impending changes in some way ever since Liturgiam Authenticam debuted 9 years ago. When I read its instructions I was filled with a mixture of surprise and dread, but those negative feelings were tempered by some degree of hope that LA's directives either would not be implemented, or, if they were, that the changes to the liturgy would not be too hard to deal with. Regrettably, neither has been the case.

I do not speak Latin, but I am a fluent speaker of Spanish, after having studied it as my second language in one way or another for over half my life. That said, I have a "reading knowledge" of the Latin language. While I can certainly appreciate that the new translation is indeed truer to the Latin, but I am a strong believer in the principle that liturgy must be accessible to the people in order to move their hearts. I realize that there are some who do not see things that way, instead believing that the sacral nature of the language befits the worship of God more than does common speech. However, in mandating the use of the new texts, I believe the Vatican is trying to "homogenize" the faith of all Catholics by forcing us to use precisely the same terminology the world over, with limited or no adaptations for the nuance of individual languages.

Further, this whole development seems to underscore what may be a Roman tendency to see the Latin texts as "perfect," something which they most certainly are not. Take, for example, the Nicene Creed. In its current English rendering, it is a series of sentences which clearly delineate each article of belief. "We believe in one God... We believe in... Jesus Christ...", etc. In the new translation, the "believe" is not repeated, forming the Creed into one jumbled run-on sentence. I am infuriated that Rome will not allow simple additions of verbs that are not in the original for the simple purpose of clarifying the meaning without changing the Creed's content at all. And why must "consubstantial" be rendered so literally? Why not say "of one substance with the Father"? That is what "consubstantial" MEANS, in the most precise way possible, so why can't we say it that way? One does not have to use exactly the same words to convey exactly the same meaning.

The same thing can be said for the institution narrative, specifically the verbiage referring to the cup. "This precious chalice"? First of all, the word in Greek clearly means "cup," drinking vessel," etc., without the connotation of "chalice." Just because Latin USES the word "chalice" does not mean Jesus used one. The same can be said for the word "this." The cup is, quite clearly, not the Holy Grail, so it makes perfect sense to replace "this" with the definite article, "the."

I recently obtained a copy of the rejected 1998 sacramentary, and almost cried in frustration when I began to look through it. The changes were tasteful and brought the prayers into closer harmony with the Latin than our current translation, but the language remained immediately accessible. If we want accuracy, by all means, do it. However, great care must be taken to ensure that the language employed at least respects the target tongue's grammar and structure. English is not Latin, and it should not sound as if it is.

I am also petrified to see the effects this will have on the ecumenical scene. When the Episcopal Church updated its liturgy in the 70's, it directly adapted ours. Lutheran, Methodist, and other Christian groups quickly followed suit. What will happen now? I think there is something to be said for allowing both translations to be used. The Episcopalians do it, and admittedly, their "old rite" is much more true to the Latin. Rome seems to want blind control and refuses to think about the interests of the people in the pews.

I hate to say it, but the new translation is the last straw for me. Once it takes effect, I will probably convert to Lutheranism, or at least attend Sunday liturgy at a Lutheran parish. However, I am also planning on pursuing the priesthood in the Old Catholic movement, a calling I have felt for many years. I would no doubt use the old translation--or a minor adaptation of it--exclusively. It must be kept alive, and part of me would not be surprised if there is some kind of schism on the Roman Church because of this whole Liturgy War. The Church seems to be obsessed with centralized, iron-handed control over liturgy and practice, and in insisting on such an approach, it is losing sight of its mission--to bring people to God through Christ. As one of your previous respondents said, many people will see the new translation efforts as a waste of time and energy when the Church is suffering worldwide because of the sex abuse scandals and other issues.

I am sharing these comments with all of you who read this blog so that you can get a sense of what a small sample of opinions is on the issues surrounding the new translation. I found one particular section of this young adult's comments to make much sense for me: "If we want accuracy, by all means, do it. However, great care must be taken to ensure that the language employed at least respects the target tongue's grammar and structure. English is not Latin, and it should not sound as if it is." There are those—closely associated with the current translation process that produced the new English translation—who argue strongly that this new translation does indeed respect the "target tongue's grammar and structure." However, I have not heard one of these people say that there are not places where the translation has some structural flaws in English. The translators were working with rules from Liturgiam Authenticam that needed to be strictly followed. This process was more painstaking because these rules needed to be followed. I have searched my brain for an analogy here, but I am coming up empty.

I respect the position of this young adult. I think this person is a solid critical thinker. This is the kind of person the Catholic Church needs. His last paragraph, however, greatly saddens me.

Please feel free to comment.

Blackhawks win!

Gotta sing! Gotta pray!


byte228 said...

I am only 30 myself and have found myself thinking along the same lines as the above commenter. I too fear the potential of splintering and even a true schism of the Roman Catholic Church over liturgy, especially in the United States. The Holy Spirit seems to be coursing through the congregations of the Church based on the emotion and debate going on even by your average person in the pew, but sometimes I wonder if the environment in which the new translations were made allowed much room for the Holy Spirit to work. Even God can't push through human free choice, maybe our free choice to set the guidelines of LA boxed the Holy Spirit out of the process.

Anonymous said...

These folks are too young to remember how, without any "say" in the matter, all of Catholicism was forced to endure or embrace it when the entire liturgy was overthrown from 1965 to 1970. Perhaps they don't know how truly dramatic and unsettling the change from the "Tridentine" Mass in Latin, to the Novus Ordo in English, was for millions in the pews.

This change from banal English to more uplifting English will be a comparative walk in the park. I certainly don't mean to say it won't present challenges, but the Church survived a much more abrupt and wholesale change just 40 short years ago. And still the Church grows!

Anonymous said...

I am going to "out" myself right now...I am the former Music and Liturgy Director at St. James, where Jerry worships. I can only say "AMEN!" to this reader's thoughts. When the GIRM was promulgated I was the Liturgy Director in a parish in the Archdiocese of Seattle. Although every staff member I worked with disagreed with the changes we were required to maked as a result of the GIRM, we also agreed that we would smile, figure out a way to make our peace with the new norms, and lead our parish through the process. Although I disagreed with much of what was asked of us at the time, I was able to find a way that I could come to terms with the GIRM and be a good pastoral leader.

Like the writer of the post Jerry mentions, I too was excited when I saw and heard about the first drafts of the Sacramentary. They were beautiful prayers. Truth be told, my parish was already using the ICEL Opening Prayers at that time. It was wonderful how they fit so nicely with the lectionary and expressed our thoughts in beautiful, contemporary English. When I found out that these had been discarded in favor of direct translations from Latin prayers, I wrote to my bishops (both here and in Seattle) to express my concern. I believe that the rules for translation actually conflict with our core doctrine of the incarnation. In the incarnation, God took on human flesh in a particular culture...God spoke Hebrew and Aramaic, because this was the language of the people. If God himself "stooped down" so that we might be lifted up, who is the Church to insist that our prayers (the very things meant to lift us to God) must be translated from a language that no one one speaks anymore? I am not a congregationalist when it comes to liturgy; I do not believe that just anyone should be allowed to write prayers for publish worship (although at times I question even that position since we are all the baptized People of God.) What I question is why Rome will not even allow the bishops that they themselves have appointed to compose prayers in the spoken language of the people they lead.

So...I told myself that if the Sacramentary were ever approved, this would be my signal that I can no longer with a faithful pastoral leader in the Roman Catholic Church. I take my role seriously I don't want to stand in the way of a community of faith as they seek to be faithful to the Church. As a result, I am now working in a Prebyterian church. At times, it pains me, because I love the Catholic liturgy (I am a convert to Catholicism) and there is much about the Church that is beautiful and life-giving to me. Having said that, it has been refreshing to be working in another Christian Church that allows the us the freedom to pray as 21st century Christians in prayers composed for this time and place (while still anchored in the greater historical Christian Tradition).

I continue to go to Mass on Saturday evenings, but do not know how long I will continue this once the new translations begin to be used. It saddens me to see that this is the direction our Church has taken.

Scelata said...

Does it sadden us that this young man is considering leaving the Church for some protestant denomination?
Should it sadden us?

I think the answer is "yes".

But doesn't the fact that the Liturgy, which should be the Source and Summit of his Faith, and should have catechized him to make such an abandonment unthinkable, hasn't done so, point to a deficiency in the way he has been worshiping? point to a liturgy that has failed to adequately convey the truths of the Faith?

And does that not make him not the best qualified person to judge whether or not the language of the new translation will do what it is meant to do?

And I'm not sure about the "solid critical thinking" of someone who pooh-poohs what he sees as an attempt to trying to "'homogenize' the faith of all Catholics by forcing us to use precisely the same terminology the world over," in other words, an attempt to connect us with other CATHOLICS while simultaneously mourning a potential deleterious effect on our connection with non-Catholics, (he is "petrified to see the effects this will have on the ecumenical scene.")

I am praying for all those who seem to be saying that their faith is not strong enough.

(Save the Liturgy, Save the World)

Scelata said...

"Although every staff member I worked with disagreed with the changes we were required to maked as a result of the GIRM, we also agreed that we would smile, figure out a way to make our peace with the new norms, and lead our parish through the process."

Anonymous 10:27, were the changes in the GIRM 2000 really so vast?

Weren't most of what people perceived as changes really matters emphasis, so as to call to people's attention what was already there, but hitherto ignored?

(Save the Liturgy, Save the World)

Brad said...

I am 24 and am an organist/music director at a catholic church. I can't wait for the new missal. I've been to the latin mass numerous times and I've been to novus ordos more often (for which I play). There is no comparison between the level of sacrility in the latin mass and the lack of respect/nonchalance in the novus ordo for the most part. I am for anything that gets people in the pews thinking about what they are actually doing at church. They should not be there for themselves but to give worship to God. The translation may not be perfect, but I think it is a necessary vehicle to catalyze self-assessment
of the pew-sitters.

If this young man's catholic faith is shallow enough to leave the church for Lutheranism because of "consubstanial" and other "big" words, then fare thee well. I personally would not want to receive the sacraments from such a priest. A person's faith should be stronger than that...especially for one who has contemplated the priesthood.

Remember, Jesus gave the keys of the kingdom to Peter. He did not make copies of these keys for everyone else.

Diezba said...

(continued from part 1)

The Catholic Faith is that which has been handed on to us by our shepherds the Bishops. It is not only our option, but our duty as laymembers of Christ's Flock to submit to their teaching with docility and humility.

To say, as some here seem to (not Jerry, but some of his commenters), that Byte228 and Anonymous know better than those who've received the Sacrament of Holy Orders and who have been set aside by our Lord Jesus himself, how his Bride, the Church, should render worthy praise to him in our language is to set one's own opinions and tastes over against the authority which was given to these same Bishops by our Lord himself!

This is why I have respect for the 28-year old young man of whom Jerry writes in his blog: at least he is being consistent with his principles and beliefs. Rather than pretend to hold to the fullness of the Catholic Faith (which includes a submission to lawful authority), he is seeking out an ecclesial community where he can worship according to the dictates of his conscience.

I respect him for this willingness. Despite his abandonment of God's holy Church, I will still call him brother by virtue of our common Baptism and by virtue of his confession of the Holy Trinity (just as I still call my family and Protestant friends brothers and sisters in Christ, if separated from the fullness of Christ's Church).

I hope that every one here who truly believes that this new translation of the one liturgy of the Roman Rite, given to us by the Successors of the Apostles and ratified by Peter himself, is wrong and unworthy or unspiritual, will follow the young man whom Jerry mentions in his sincerity.

For those who dislike the new translation as a matter of taste, I would respectfully disagree with their assessment, but I also offer them my respect for submitting to the authority of Christ's Church. In this category, I would seem to see FJH3rd and Jerry -- you have legitimate, good-faith doubts, but nonetheless, you are embracing that which the Church is calling us to use.

That, brothers and sisters, is the act of a true member of Christ's Catholic Church. That is the docility and humility to which I, still in formation as a Catholic for only 1.5 years, am still seeking to attain. And which I pray men and women like the young man described above will rediscover.

Luke said...

My name is Luke, and I am the young adult whose comments Jerry quoted today.

First, allow me to say that I am humbled that Jerry posted my comments and I am glad that they may serve as a springboard for dialogue and discussion. I was truly surprised to check the blog this morning and say, "Wait a minute, that's what I wrote!"

In response to Jerry's comments about the norms imposed by LA:

I know that the instruction stipulates that translations must be done in an "exact manner...without paraphrases...", and that therefore the translators did the best they could. But, there is NOTHING WRONG with a paraphrase, Rome. If LA stressed accuracy of meaning a little more than accuracy of vocabulary, I'd be much happier with the new translation, perhaps even accept it outright. Where is the middle ground? We're going from idiomatic, modern English to a much more literal rendering that cannot be understood by your average churchgoer without a decent amount of catechesis. There is a point somewhere, equidistant between the current translation and the new one, that we should strive for, and LA made that impossible.

Jerry, I'm sorry my comments about schisms and leaving the Church saddened you, but I have been wrestling with many issues other than the new translation--doctrinal, structural, political--for over a decade. The new translation's simply the straw that wil break this camel's back. Rome has left me no choice.

Anonymous said...

I don't want to be uncharitable here... But if this person leaves the communion of the Church because of the new translation, it only makes the argument more compelling that the same prevailing ideologies evident the old ICEL translation (clearly influenced by the WCC and similar movements) have done an astonishingly poor job of forming Catholics the content of the faith.

As to ecumenism with mainline denominations in the United States, judging by their precipitous demographic decline, this sadly will not be a consideration 20-30 years from now.

Jerry Galipeau, D. Min. said...

Thanks for your comments, everyone. Let me say that I appreciate your tone. I like the fact that, though there is disagreement here (to the core), we are respectful of one another.
And . . . on a lighter note, why hasn't anyone congratulated Chicago on the big win last night?

Luke said...


You are right that I am "seeking [a]... community where [I] can worship according to the dictates of [my] conscience."

However, I respectfully disagree with your assertion that I am "abandon[ing] God's holy Church." I am very serious about pursuing the priesthood in the Old Catholic tradition. Old Catholics did break with Rome in the 19th century, but the validity of their orders and other sacraments has never been questioned by Rome and is even acknowledged in the Roman catechism. The OC's are "separated," but only as much as the Orthodox are. Have they "abandoned the Church?" I don't think so at all.

I will always consider myself a faithful Catholic. I couldn't be anything else. I cannot, however, consider myself Roman for much longer.

Gregg said...

Congrats, Jerry! Maybe we should have a hockey tournament between the people who want to stick with the current translation vs. those who like the new. (Hey, just a little humor...)

Anonymous said...


For the record, I am 100% supportive of, and enthusiastic about, the new translation! I can hardly stand the wait! My point was that it's hard for me to understand those who think this change will somehow produce schism, when the Church came through a much more drastic change in 1965 - 1970. Sure, there were a few who ultimately broke with Rome (eg Society of Pius X) but overall the Church seems to have grown in numbers, and I am hopeful that this improved language of praying the Mass will bear even more fruit.

Anonymous said...

I have recently left Rome for the Episcopal Church. I will always be Catholic, but I can no longer stomach Rome's opinion of women.

I'm actually in favor of the new translation (with some caveats). But I thought some of you would be interested to know that I sat in a Diocesan meeting last night in which we talked about ways we can, to put it crudely, exploit the new translation in order to win over disgruntled Roman Catholics.
(It's like a two-for-one deal: Keep "And also with you," and add female ordination!)

If Episcopalians know what's good for them, similar meetings will be happening all over the U.S.

Luke said...


LOL! That sounds like an intriguing proposition.


While it is true that Jesus chose Peter and his successors to be the earthly heads of the Church, I am not sure the hierarchy as it exists now is what He had in mind. Peter and those who followed after him were long considered to be the "primus inter pares"--"first among equals"--among the bishops. As time went on the role of the Successor of Peter changed. Both the Orthodox churches and the Old Catholic churches retain this more ancient, collegial attitude toward church structure. But, all three of those communions--Roman, Old Catholic, and Orthodox Christian--are each as validly Catholic as the other two. They are simply different expressions of the same faith.

A close friend of mine is a member of the Antiochian Orthodox Church. Despite our differences of opinion with regard to liturgy and even doctrine, do I think he is any less Catholic than I or vice versa? Not at all. If I become an Old Catholic priest, will I be any less of a priest than his priest, or than the priests who've served my current parish through the years? Not at all. We're all Catholic. The "Roman" label is just a qualifier for a certain expression of Catholicism, but it is not the only one.

Liam said...

Regarding using old translations that are still under copyright: Good luck trying to get away with that for the long term, because the various organs of the Church that possess the copyrights have gotten increasingly savvy in policing illicit copying and use. (It's not like listening privately to bootleg recordings.) There's a reason you can't easily even find online copies of the 1998 translation.

Personally, I think making the translation a make or break issue is a warning sign that things are not being understood in their right relation. Translations are not totemic, and making them totemic is not faithful to the Gospel, however well intentioned.

Anonymous said...

I am a 26 year old Catholic.

I simply cannot wait for the new translation of the Roman Missal, which is a huge improvement.

I also totally agree with the folks (above) who have pointed out that someone who is about to leave the one, true Church has absolutely no business pontificating about the Catholic Church's Mass translations.

It is absolutely true that if this fellow has such issues with a more accurate translation of the Mass, which is the central Mystery of our Faith, then it doesn't make much sense for him to stay a member of the Catholic Church.

I am sad, however, that he believes that it is morally right (and acceptable in the view of Almighty God) to fight and criticize a more accurate translation of the Holy Mass.

Luke said...


I recognize that the current translation is not without its shortcomings, and I completely accept--and support--the effort to retranslate it and make it more accurate. That is not what I am "fight[ing] and criticiz[ing]."

However, I do have serious problems with the scope of Liturgiam Authenticam. I believe it overemphasizes vocabulary and underemphasizes meaning. Its norms are leaving us with a translation that, in places, contains obvious "structural flaws" (such as the run-on Creed) that could be easily rectified by modifying the text in subtle, tasteful ways that do not in any way alter the meaning of the original (such as repeating "I [or "we"] believe" several times, as we do now). Yet, the strict norms of LA prevent this from happening.

In my studies of the Spanish language, I have had to translate many a document--both ancient and modern--into or from English. In school, my instructors always told me and my classmates to translate accurately, but not so accurately that the resulting text sounded awkward or unnatural. In stipulating strict syntactical accuracy with LA, I think the Vatican is missing part of the point of what it means to translate something well: the resulting translation must sound like the language it was translated into, while still conveying the meaning of the original text as accurately as possible. Sometimes that may require adding verbs to clarify a meaning implied in the original, splitting a long sentence into two shorter ones to aid understanding, etc. The need to do this does not in any way "disrespect" the original version; it's done simply because the languages are different. I don't think LA recognizes this reality enough.

Jerry Galipeau, D. Min. said...

Thanks for your willingness to posit your opinions here. Looks like the creed will not look like what you have seen. Apparently at least three additional "I believe" statements will be included. A good improvement.

Chironomo said...


Certainly we all care that there are those who might "leave the Church", whatever that means, because of the new translation. There are those who have left the Church because of it's unwillingness to ordain women. Or admit divorced Catholics to Communion. Or Approve and condone the use of birth control. Or acknowledge the enlightened view of abortion.

People who disagree with the Church will leave the Church beacause, well, they disagree with the Church. If you disagree with what the prayers of the Church say, or even HOW we say them, then by all means, stop saying them and go find prayers that you believe reflect what you think. But also consider whether the Church is supposed to conform to what we believe, or are we supposed to conform to what the Church believes.

Yes, but....I know, lay persons need to have more input into the Church, etc, etc...but that isn't the case yet, so until it is (and I wouldn't hold my breath about that one) we are called by Christ to be sheep, and He appoints the Shepherds. Perhaps the New Translation is meant to be a test for all of us, but more so for the Shepherds. Perhaps the Shepherds who choose to lead their flock further from the green fields have more in common with the wolves and should go herd wolves.

The truth is, we don't know. And I don't doubt the sincerity of the young man quoted here. But it would seem to me, and it seems to at least some other commenters, that one would have to have already accepted the notion that leaving the Church is an option to even make such a comment. If leaving is an option, then the "reason"...Women, divorce, birth control, abortion, or even the new translation, doesn't really matter and the force of the argument rather collapses.
An individual who would leave the Church over such an issue at that moment loses their credibility to speak to the issue of the text'[s meaning because they have acknowledged that the words don't really matter after all since they are apparently willing to accept a TOTALLY different set of prayers with totally different meanings as a replacement.

Anonymous said...

And I just this past Friday night discovered a refuge for young adults worried about new translation overload... amazing, beautiful, warmly-celebrated Latin Mass for Sacred Heart, at a church of the Institute of Christ the King. No translation anxieties at all, when you use the original! Just a FULL church (amazing, not even a Holy Day of Obligation) packed with young adults, young families, and all other ages too. Benediction followed (I was almost weeping at that point) and even a noisy reception in the church hall, where I nearly tripped over the hordes of hyperactive kids who had just spent the last 90 minutes in awe-struck reverence.

So in short, you don't have to leave the Church to escape the translation woes! There's a lot of hope for us young people yet.

LynnTW said...

I wonder how many of the folks who are saying what amounts to 'good riddance' to Luke actually read where he said that the new translations are potentially the _last_ straw. As in, he finds other aspects of the Roman church governance/policy/practice also objectionable, and this is [perhaps] the issue that finally makes him say "Enough, already!" The difference between that and bailing simply over [what I think is really horrible, on the whole] translation is not trivial.

peregrinus_sg said...

Byte 228,

the Holy Spirit does move and speak through the people, yes, but he also moves and speaks through the Pope and his Bishops. Furthermore, the laity who have strong opinions about the incoming translations (or the out-going ones)are far from being united. Why not think that the Holy Spirit is working through the guidelines of LA? God sometimes (maybe quite often, for some of us) does work by bull-dozelling over his people's resistance to something that is good.

peregrinus_sg said...


Most of the people here seem to lament Luke's decision to leave the communion of the Catholic Church (whatever else he may think he is doing). But I think you're spot on for pointing out that Luke is leaving for another, serious reason: that is he cannot, in good conscience, accept what the Catholic Church teaches as revealed by God. Luke would therefore see the incoming translation as evidence of that which he cannot accept. The implementation of the new translation provided an excuse for him to leave the Church, perhaps honourably in some people's eyes, but the real reason for his departure is because he dissents from Catholic teaching.

And this is where I think he needs to be more honest in his comments for leaving the Catholic Church. Saying that the new translation is the "last straw" tugs at peoples' hearts and can, unfortunately, lead some people to develop ill-will against the new texts.

Interestingly, many of the people that I've heard who don't like the new translations have other axes to grind with the Church, and some, like those on this blog, have contemplated leaving the communion of the Catholic Church. Perhaps this is the work of the Holy Spirit too, who is making some people to take a stand, so that they no longer hooble on one foot and then on the other as the Isralites did in the time of Elijah the Prophet.