Tuesday, July 27, 2010

New Translation Tuesday: Where Is the Text?

Welcome to this edition of "New Translation Tuesday." Where is the text?

So, what is the "state of the union" with respect to the new English translation of The Roman Missal? Frankly, it surely is anybody's guess at this point. I have been speaking with several people who are always "in the know." And, it seems, right now, there is no "in the know." At a conversation at a meeting at the NPM convention a few weeks ago, a highly placed Church official said—of the purported 10,000 changes to the text—that these were mostly issues of punctuation and capitalization. Then, someone else who had more direct knowledge about what is going on assured the official that these changes were much more substantial. Most people wonder openly about who is actually doing the work on theses changes. Where is the text?

This behavior is a marked departure from the processes that our own bishops have set up with the Vatican and which have been in use since the Second Vatican Council. When statements (which appear to be completely true) such as, "The English-speaking bishops conferences and ICEL are in the dark" begin to appear, I can only start to think that there is much more going on here than meets the eye. Why, for instance, after such a long process of translation and debate, has the text itself disappeared like a submerging submarine? All of a sudden, after what appeared to be a transparent process (for the most part), the doors have been closed and those who should know what's going on are left in the dark. Where is the text?

As a Roman Catholic publisher, we rely on a steady stream of information from ICEL and from the Bishops Committee on Divine Worship in Washington. We have a good relationship with both organizations and I believe there is a level of mutual respect. There is absolutely nothing of substance coming from either of these two bodies. We are more than ready and willing to serve the needs of the singing and praying Church, but our best efforts at trying to approach all of this in as organized a fashion as possible are eroding as each day passes. I have no doubt that the talented and dedicated staff here at WLP will do everything we can to serve our peoples' needs. But, it is beginning to get a bit scary.

Where is the text?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


Chironomo said...

I again would point to LA 104 - a passage of that document that I have cited several times before in relation to this issue:

104. For the good of the faithful, the Holy See reserves to itself the right to prepare translations in any language, and to approve them for liturgical use.[74] Nevertheless, even if the Apostolic See, by means of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, may intervene from time to time out of necessity in the preparation of translations, it still belongs to the competent Conference of Bishops to approve their assumption into liturgical use within the boundaries of a given ecclesiastical territory, unless otherwise explicitly indicated in the decree of approbation of the translation promulgated by the Apostolic See

In other words, the process of translation belongs to the Bishops committees...unless the Holy See decides to undertake the translation itself. But even then, the Bishops have to approve the translation...unless the Holy See specifically says they don't. Either way, the Holy See can produce a translation and promulgate it with no input from the Bishops under the directives in LA. Of course, that is when it is "for the good of the faithful".

Now what would prompt the Holy See to act "for the good of the faithful" in this instance? Hmm...

I don't think there's much of a mystery about who is working on this text...

Jerry Galipeau, D. Min. said...

Chironomo, I really would like you to elucidate here. What do you think is prompting the Holy See to act here? I am being serious, because there are rumors floating around that their work is to try to deconstruct some of the very awkward wording and phrasing due to ICEL's strict adherence to the dictates of LA. Others say that their work is to bring the current translation into even closer conformity to the Latin. What posit you?

Anonymous said...

A broad comment, having read this and several previous entries: I find all this gossip and innuendo, including the "10,000 supposed changes", the "What if we just said wait" and the "We've waited long enough", the threats of abandoning the Church, perpetual navel-gazing, and the CONSTANT WHINING... all of it, incredibly unbecoming of ministers of Holy Mother Church, not to mention extremely unprofessional in strictly secular terms.

What is it about this new translation that seems to bring out the overwhelmingly juvenile in everybody?! It's excruciating. Everybody, please man up, wait ever-more-patiently for the text, and when it gets here, accept it like the grownups we all claim to be.

In union with Our Lord's unthinkable and brutal execution, our forebears in faith had to deal with issues like, I don't know... the New Implementation of Even-More-Ferocious-Lions-in-the-Roman-Coliseum... and the Second Typical Edition of Slaughter-all-Priests-and-Religious-in-the-name-of-the-French-Revolution... perhaps we can dignify their sacrifices by exercising some calm maturity, and expecting the same from those we serve in the pews.

Jerry Galipeau, D. Min. said...

Ah, anonymous, thanks for your comment. Yours seems to be a perfect world. Your characterizations of peoples' behavior as "juvenile" are way off the mark, at least in my imperfect world. When dealing with issues surrounding the source and summit of my life as a Roman Catholic, you can count on me being engaged, ferocious, calm, patient, impatient, incredulous, trusting, and—above all—"becoming" of a holy minister of the Church. And I ask you to remember that much of what I say here is from a publisher's perspective; which means that broken promises (which have occurred) continue to frustrate at least this publisher dedicated to serving the needs of God's Church. Your last paragraph, in which you attempt to contextualize this historically is, in a word, unhelpful.

Paul said...

"all of it, incredibly unbecoming of ministers of Holy Mother Church, not to mention extremely unprofessional in strictly secular terms."

Wow - what a coincidence. I find the Rome and the Bishops (our "leaders" and "shepherds") guilty of the same thing. I guess it's OK for them to force an unpopular translation on the english speaking world, and dangle the carrot in front of the people responsible for implementing it. And then, go silent. This is truly an organization that is out of touch with the people they claim to serve.

Anonymous said...

I apologize, Jerry, if you feel personally attacked by my comment, which was aimed more at Comboxes than at your posts (and even more, to the broader cyber-discourse of which they form just one small part).

I stand by my assertion that a good portion of this discourse is rather juvenile, given what our Church has endured, liturgically or otherwise, over her history. Perhaps in light of that opinion, it is best for me to refrain from engaging in this discussion.

Arlene Oost-Zinner put it best, in my option.

But apologies if my post struck you as a personal affront to your work, which as a whole I don't intend to criticize.

jdonliturgy said...

Well said, Jerry! Making fun of the legitimate concern (not by any means whining) of those who will have to prepare the liturgical books to make the use of the news translation possible - on a deadline - is not helpful.

As a diocesan staff member and chair of a catechetical formation committee for our current diocesan Year of the Eucharist, which was timed in part to lead into the preparations for the new tranlation, I, too have concerns.

How can we calmly make logistical arrangements for workshops and learning experiences to prepare people in ministry, while not having the assurance that the timetable is what we were originally led to believe? If we are working under the original supposition that Advent 2011 will be the beginning of the implementation period, it is unsettling to hear the rumors that it now might be pushed back to Pentecost in 2012.

When parish leaders call and ask how to prepare for implementation, all I can do is give them the current picture of the resources, with the caveat not to commit to purchasing any program resource for education of the faithful until we have the final translation, as it appears that some already-published items may need to be revised.

This is not whining. This is a healthy concern for a reality that seems set not like the house on the rock, but the one on shifting sand. Faithful uneasiness, while we attempt to do our best to get in front of this and prepare, is not just a virture, it's sanity!

Chironomo said...


Of course, I have my own theory about what's going on...could be right or could be totally off the mark, but here goes...

What are the ultimate goals of the Holy See (I mean specifically Pope Benedict in this instance) as concerns the texts of the Mass? We can look at SC 36 (1-2) and SC 54. Both of them prescribe a much greater use of Latin in the texts of the Mass, with the use of the vernacular being extended to specific parts of the Mass. The Ordinary of the Mass is specifically designated to be said or sung in Latin by the assembly(SC 54-par.2). This particular idea was re-iterated and reinforced most recently in Sacramentum Caritatis (62), and even in Sing To The Lord! This is clearly an important issue to the Holy Father and one which I'm not inclined to think he will simply drop.

Then look at the Masses actually said by the Holy Father...since 2006 they are increasingly more in line with this particular principle. Rumor has it that the Masses to be celebrated in the UK this coming Fall are to be celebrated strictly according to such provisions. Coincidence?

Then again, there were the rumors that newly published Missals would contain the Mass texts in both Latin and in English, side by side in the older Latin/ English Translation format. In such a case, a more literal translation of the Latin would be desirable since the intention is to SAY the Latin text with the vernacular there to provide a literal translation to be read. A bit far fetched? Consider again the Holy Father's instruction in Sacramentum Caritatis 62 that Priests, from this point forward be instructed more thoroughly in Latin, then consider how those two might fit together down the road.

You mentioned that one theory is that the translations are being brought into an even closer, literal conformity with the Latin texts. This would be more like the kind of translation given in a side-by-side Latin/ English Missale. I wouldn't discount such a theory too heavily.

So the question is, how can a translation better serve a liturgy that would be in conformity with Sacrosanctum Concilium 36? If that's the goal, is the "proclaimability" of the text more important, or is literal meaning more important?

In a nutshell, that's my theory.

Jerry Galipeau, D. Min. said...

Hello again, my anonymous friend. I appreciate your response, which helps keep the conversation civil. And please do not refrain from placing your comments here. I am usually quite restrained in this comment area. Yesterday, your comment struck me as another example of the extremes that the issue of the new translation has wrought. Dialogue is always good; it helps shape me and I hope you, as well. Again, thanks for your comments. And keep visiting and keep talking; I promise to keep listening.

Jerry Galipeau, D. Min. said...

jdonliturgy, thanks for your post. "Faithful Uneasiness"
Sounds like a great title for an article!

Jerry Galipeau, D. Min. said...

Chironomo, thanks for taking the time to elucidate. I don't believe that any theories are "far-fetched" at this point. It's all clouded in mystery!

Chironomo said...


I would also add that this coming September 14th is the 3 year anniversay of Summorum Pontificum. The Holy Father, in the letter accompanying that document indicated that "three years hence" there would be a look at how the document had been accepted and how it's objectives could be met going forward. One of those objectives was the "mutual enrichment" between the two forms. The most obvious such "mutual enrichment" would be the role of Latin in the OF liturgy.