Tuesday, June 29, 2010

New Translation Tuesday: What If We Just Say "No"?

This "New Translation Tuesday" has dawned bright, sunny, and dry here in Chicago; just a beautiful day.

I had a rather interesting call from one of our J. S. Paluch Parish Consultants last Friday. These consultants spend lots of their time visiting parishes, making sure that the parish bulletin service is of the highest quality. As you can imagine, these consultants get to know the pastoral staff quite well over the years.

This particular consultant was calling from California. He told me that he had a question for me, a question that had been asked by the leaders in two of the parishes he visits. I may be paraphrasing here, but this is pretty close to what he said: "Jerry, I have two parishes who are not happy about the new translation. They said that it has not gone over well in Europe and they don't want to use it when it comes out. They were wondering if WLP was going to continue to publish our worship resources in an edition that uses the current translation for parishes that don't want to make the switch to the new translation."

Of course, my answer was "no." First of all, I am sure that the "Europe" to which these parishes referred was the mess that occurred in South Africa when the new translation was implemented without any catechesis. But beyond that, I was kind of floored by the question. This is moving beyond the "What if we just said wait" posture. This is the "What if we just say no" posture. Added to that, I was named a "conservative" yesterday by a dear old retired priest friend of mine who simply stated that he would never succumb to "and with your spirit" at any of the Masses he celebrates. He implied somehow that I was the super-advocate for the new translation. He said, "Doesn't the Church have enough to deal with without having to throw something so silly out there right now?"

I am ready to throw my hands up in the air about all of this. I have been saying over and over again that the central issues raised by the implementation of the new translation will not be liturgical issues; they will be ecclesiological issues. What theology of the Church, what ecclesiology is being expressed by the two parishes cited above? The very fact that a parish would believe that it has the choice to wholeheartedly reject the new translation says so much about the understanding of Church espoused by those who lead these parishes. Perhaps I am way off here. Perhaps these people have taken a good long look at the new translation (which I have yet to see) and made the decision that these new texts will cause the faith lives of their parishioners to suffer deep harm. If this is the case, then these leaders have the responsibility to complain to their bishop. And I believe this is a very legitimate course of action.

On the other hand, perhaps the sense of congregationalism that many have talked about in the past has really taken root in some parishes here in the United States. The erosion of the credibility of the Vatican and the bishops in general may have inadvertently led to this growing sense of congregationalism: "The bishops and Rome aren't going to tell us what to do!"

Folks, as a Catholic publisher, owned by a dedicated Catholic family, today I am inclined to look out at someone and cry, "This is a fine mess you've gotten us into." Only I don't know toward whom my frustration should be directed. Frankly, there is that hesitant part of me—the brutally honest part, really—that  believes that this frustration should be directed beyond the grave to the one that many are trying to call "the great." For all that Pope John Paul II did for the Church, I wonder if his lasting legacy will be a more divided, more polarized Church. Only time will tell.

A few days ago, my friend Father Anthony Ruff, OSB, over on Pray Tell, asked us to pray for our bishops during the implementation of the new translation. You can find that post here. I had expressed a similar sentiment about our priests last year on this post. I, for one, am redoubling my prayers for our leaders. They have some very tough landscape to maneuver in the next few years. As I have said in the past, I love being a Catholic; I love my parish; I love the liturgy. I just don't know what awaits us on the other side of the "implementation."

Feel free, especially today, to comment.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


FJH 3rd said...

Interesting, Jerry, that you should consider that much of the blame for our current plight be attributed to Venerable John Paul II. I tend to agree. Coincidentally, just yesterday I finished reading Malachi Martin's "Windswept House". While it is a work of (thinly veiled) fiction, it sure seems to present a plausible explanation for the turmoil we Catholics have experienced over the last fifty years, and much fault is found in the actions (or lack thereof) of the "Slavic Pope".

I recently had the opportunity to attend an Ordination of priests for the first time, and one of the most striking parts was where the Bishop asked his ordinands if they promised obedience to him and his successors. That keeps ringing in my ears as I read about priests who threaten to not use the new translation when implemented. Blatant disobedience. It is all very troubling, but I remain stubbornly optimistic that the new translation will lead to great fruits in our worship and thus strengthen our belief and ultimately our unity.

Todd said...

A few things:

We certainly have seen the Order of Mass, and interested people can read it, download it, and share it with their friends. And now, thanks to Facebook, we can "like" it, too.

I wish I were as optimistic that MR3 is about ecclesiology. If only it were about liturgy. But it's about politics--the relationship of people in social groups where power is wielded or resisted.

We've gotten to the point where people will cheer or boo raiding the Belgian bishops. A word of support for one side or the other of the sex abuse crisis gets a post-communion standing-o. Consider it wouldn't take much to deep-six MR3 in a parish: a few conservatives crowing over the "end" of Vatican II, and before you know it you have stubborn folks insisting, "I'm not going to let the b******s get me down!"

Ten years after GIRM and my diocese still hasn't implemented in many parishes. I don't think these priests are stubborn--they just don't want to be bothered.

Maybe it looks like congregationalism, but in actuality it's not theological at all. Just people being stubborn.

Speaking for myself, I'm enjoying writing a musical and composing music in the Taize style. Writing a new Mass has little appeal, and it's wait-and-see on the psalms, for that matter.

I'm curious about published composers. Are they excited about MR3? Really?

Paul said...

The Bishops are the ones who voted this in. In a sense, they've "thrown us under the bus." They should have spoken up, but were probably too worried about their "careers". So, they will have to deal with it. I can only imagine the first Sunday of Advent as the Bishop presides over mass at the Cathedral thinking "I voted this in?"

Stephen M. Collins said...

Well, what if any of us could "just said no" when we were told, from the pulpit, that this Mass was the last one in Latin? The next week we were basically reading the English from the right-hand page, ignoring the Latin on the left-hand page. But that wasn't good enough! In 1970 we had to have it all "modernized". I was college age at the time, and still involved with Catholic music (since 4th grade back in 1960 to the present), and I had no more say in those changes than I did when I was in 8th grade at the close of Vat. II.

I never liked the modern translation, but I worked with it. Then I had a chance to be involved with an Anglican Use parish, which was my liturgical salvation for 16+ years. Now I am blessed to be involved in a weekly EF Mass. With the coming proper implementation of the Sumorum Pontificum, I will look forward to more and more of these Masses.

I think many things about the new translation were very necessary. But most could have been accomplished by reverting to the right-hand page of the old Missals. What is the problem with that? All those dead composers' works, many in the public domain now, would be able to come back. And there would be less need of new compositions. Can anyone say "ecclesiastical works program"?

Anonymous said...

The Paluch bulletin consultants know that they are not as much into liturgical matters as the worship aid editors. Unlike in South Africa, we will have catechesis here. There will be others, like the retired priest, who will blame editors as conservative and a super advocate. Remember, Jerry, these trials are hard. But the first 3 century Catholics had to suffer much more persecution at the hands of the Romans. Those in the Roman Curia, under Paul VI, during those first ten years after Vatican II, are the ones who implemented the current, flawed (dynamic equivalency) translation. John Paul II realized that many things in the Catholic Church had gotten out of hand after Vatican II.

Charles said...

Honestly, is having an accurate, more poetical and Biblical translation of Latin of the Vatican II liturgy, which is what we should have had from the beginning, such a horrible thing as to be considered "blameworthy"? And I am sure those who are wailing and gnashing teeth and who are preaching and practicing disobedience on this matter had no problem with the imposition of the novus ordo in the vernacular and the tossing out with the trash of millenia-old liturgical tradition without so much as a by your leave in the early 70s. If John Paul II is to "blame" for getting us better and more accurate translations for the liturgy, then that is another thing for which I am grateful to that holy and beloved successor of Peter. Yes, I think this is all about politics -- this disobedience campaign has nothing to do with translation and has everything to do with politics, i.e., the politics of those who hate the Catholic liturgical tradition of two thousand years, who hate Catholic teaching, who hate the fact that Catholic truth is founded on the teaching authority of the rock of Peter and the successors of the apostles in communion with the successor of Peter, and who want to "sing a new church into being" based on a left-wing this worldly political reconceiving of the Church.

Todd said...

"Honestly, is having an accurate, more poetical and Biblical translation of Latin of the Vatican II liturgy ... such a horrible thing as to be considered "blameworthy"?"

Some of us think this translation is not poetical. Personally, I prefer beauty to accuracy. This translation is fine for rendering MR3 into other languages. Not so good for prayer.

Liam said...

I would imagine that any publisher who tried to continue to publish the current translation without license to do so would be quickly gobsmacked by the owners of the text, and the owners would penalize them by denying or delaying them the license to publish even the newer text.

Jerry Galipeau, D. Min. said...

Hence the reason why my first word to our consultant was "no."

Charles said...


I don't see why it has to be a choice of accuracy or beauty, as both are desirable, and although we don't yet know what the final version will look like, based on what I have seen, I believe that the new translation is far better on both counts than the current flat translation, and also is more prayerful. And accuracy can bring beauty -- rich biblical imagery like "enter under my roof" or "from the rising of the sun to its setting", and beautiful semitic parallelism from the very earliest days of the liturgy like "and with your spirit," were all deliberately obscured by prosaic translators who had not an ounce of appreciation for Scripture, poetry, tradition or the supernatural dimension of faith, and who believed, with Bishop Trautmann, that Catholics are dumber than a bag of rocks. They systematically eliminated concepts such as "spirit," "soul," "grace" and "holy" from the English translation of the Missal. They systematically replaced language of petition with language of peremtory bossiness toward the Almighty. I have even read a convincing article arguing that the current translation tends to encourage Pelagianism, i.e., the idea that we can save ourselves by our own efforts without the help of God's grace.

Todd said...

Thanks for replying, Charles. I happen to think, from what I've seen of the Ordo Missae, that beauty has been sacrificed for accuracy, which I see as a questionable value to place ahead of other factors.

So I would agree with you that I think many aspects can and should be balanced with this translation. I just get the sense this was a very lazy and uninspired work.

That said, it might also be that the Latin edition of the Roman Missal itself has serious problems: a lack of harmony with the Lectionary cycle, a poverty of the best prayers from the English, German, Spanish, and other languages offered for the fruitfulness of Catholics worldwide, an inattention to the needs of singing, just to name a few.

I've seen the memes on incompetence and pelagianism, too. They're just not convincing. On the first, the world's bishops wanted vernacular, and they wanted it quick. There was also a recognition from very early on in the vernacular era that second editions would be more carefully translated.

As for the suggestion of heresy, well, if I poked around the Tridentine Mass, I'm sure I could find connections there: the emphasis on clergy, the focus on candles, altar crosses, and vestments: all things of the human plane, and not of the vertical. I don't buy it in either place, truth be told.

I think we have a big sell to make on a poor result that could have been much, much better. Morale sinks as a result, and the various delays to fine tune don't really help. The whole thing has the whiff not of heresy, but incompetence.

Mike said...

No one has yet managed to actually define what an "accurate translation" means! In fact, I'm not sure such a thing exists. When you are dealing with the work of translation you are given a number of variables: grammar, syntax, punctuation, actual word-meanings, conveying of concepts, flow... and on and on. One simply cannot maximize these seemingly infinite number of variables when it comes to translating anything. So, this begs the question: "How is the new translation accurate?"

On a lighter note, I had a priest tell me in regards to this situation, "Well, the Italians have a saying about women that would apply here. 'If they're beautiful, they're not faithful. If they're faithful, they're not beautiful!'"

Diezba said...


You've heard me harp and harp and harp in your comboxes about his issue. I think you have nailed this on the head: being Catholic—certainly on this Solemnity of St. Peter & St. Paul, when the Pope bestows the Pallium as a symbol of unity and communion between him and the Archbishops!—is all about humble submission in love.

Being Catholic is about giving up my own opinion and submitting in humility to the Magisterium.

As someone who had to give up my own theological, liturgical, and ecclesiological opinions upon my conversion to the Church, I recognize in you, Jerry, someone who (despite reservations about the translation itself) has a deeply Catholic understanding of what it means to be a Catholic Christian.

And I reiterate my question: if people want weekly communion, liturgy of their own design, and no strictures on how they conduct their Masses, why not become Episcopalians? I guarantee that—in the same way the Episcopal Bishop of Miami welcome Fr. CutiĆ© after he violated his vows—that their local Episcopalian ordinary will welcome them with open arms and allow them to continue to use the current translation of the "Sacramentary."

Isn't that something that these folks—who apparently don't want to submit to the Pope and the Curia and the US Bishops in the first place—really want?

c-squared said...

I always find that comparisons between the 1973 translation and the 2008 (or 2010?) are misleading for giving an incomplete history of what went between—namely, the rejected 1998 translation.

The '98 translation, IMO, achieved a fidelity to the original Latin source text without sacrificing poetic flow or English grammar.

*Translations compared
*The new translation under the microscope

As a faithful Catholic and parish music director, I am throwing my weight behind implementing this change well and thoroughly. And yet I despair when I think about other music directors who, even now, still don't know this is coming. I despair when I think about the neighboring parishes that don't have a strategy in place for this, or whose liturgy committees are burying their heads in the sand and are refusing to even address the issue.

Those who are saying that this is going to be some kind of liturgical panacea seem to be disconnected from pastoral reality.

Jeffrey said...

I still feel that a great deal of the problem comes from the initial beleif when this project began that it was not already a "done deal". Somebody, somewhere, began encouraging "the people" to take a stand and oppose it, argue against it and convinced them that if they werre loud enough and persistent enough they could get their way.

What absolute nonsense. The new translation was dictated by fiat, and those who carried it out must work within that confine. As I have said before... if for some reason the Bishops dragged their feet or refused, Rome would simply have developed the transaltion on it's own and mandated it's use. The idea that this is somehow an issue that is subject to popular input is, again, NONSENSE.

Sorry to be so blunt, but it is about time that people understand the requirements of their faith.

Barry said...

Yes, there will be a lot of conflict in the American Church over this new translation, but most of it will be because a lot of priests from a certain generation have already decided they just won't have it, no way no how (insert pout and stomping here), and they're going to make sure they present it in the worst light possible to their people.

Blame John Paul II because there are priests who refuse to cooperate with the Vatican on this new translation? Seriously?

That's like blaming the doctor when the sick person refuses the medicine he's been prescribed because a prescription they got one other time didn't taste good.

Anonymous said...

Hello all, writing to you from the disobedient land of California!

Two comments I found interesting from @Diezba that really struck a chord (minor) with me:

"Being Catholic is about giving up my own opinion and submitting in humility to the Magisterium."

As our younger generation becomes more enlightened, we will have more difficulty giving up our own opinions. This new generation is less likely to simply 'submit to the man' (aka, in this case, the leadership which brought us the Sex Abuse scandal and several horrific statements about homosexuality) Our church leadership has a terrible PR problem right now with the everyday Catholic, and rightfully so.

It's all about perception, folks. And right now, the perception is that our leaders in Rome are disconnected with the many harsh realities facing our Church today, especially in the American Catholic church. If you polled the average Catholic (you know, the ones paying the bills week after week), I wonder what is higher on the priority list, in terms of their personal concerns about our Mother Church: Sex Abuse, the failing global PR image of the Catholic church, the real reasons for lack of young men entering the seminary, or the ever-pressing need to change the text of the Roman Missal.

Can we please stop burying our heads in the sand?

@Diezba: "...if people want weekly communion, liturgy of their own design, and no structures on how they conduct their Masses, why not become Episcopalians?"

Careful what you wish for my friend...the current research from Notre Dame Univ tells us that for every 1 new Catholic who enters the church, we lose 10. Obviously something is broken, and I find it irritating that we are spending so much time and energy on this RM3 issue, in the name of the Magisterium, when what we really need to do is focus on the real issues at hand!

At the end of the day, will this new RM bring more people in the doors and ultimately bring folks back to church? Will it aid in our evangelization or ultimately hurt our efforts?

And yes, I may sound a little young and disobedient, but I beg that you accept my concerns as valid. There are many my age who think this way as well...I'm a 30yo gay Catholic that contributes an awful lot of time, talent and treasure to our Church. I love it dearly. But I fear we are starting the slippery slope down the mountain instead of climbing higher toward a more Universal Church that indeed celebrates tradition, but also has the courage to remain relevant.

With love and respect,