Tuesday, October 26, 2010

New Translation Tuesday: A Sense of Demoralization

Welcome to this installment of "New Translation Tuesday." Well, as you can see by the continuing comments on last Monday's post, things have really heated up.

Not being a Latin scholar, it is difficult for me to meander through the various comments, but I have come away sensing once again that what has been going on with the so-called "2008 text" and the revised so-called "2010 text" has caused more and more people to get more and more disenchanted.

Folks, I am perhaps still too wide-eyed and naive a churchman, but I find myself caught in the midst of a sense of demoralization over all of this. I remember when the rejected 1997 ICEL translation was in process; I was in the midst of my doctoral studies. One particular professor of mine was part of the translation process and had spent a good deal of his life dedicated to producing a new English translation. I remember the days when the bishops were voting on the new translation and the joy and sparkle that I saw in his eyes as the process moved to its conclusion. When the Vatican rejected the ICEL translation, I saw that joy and sparkle dim, not only in his eyes, but in the eyes of so many others who had spent so much of their time and energy on a good translation. The shake-up at ICEL itself I saw as having an evil tinge to it. Bishop Maurice Taylor's widely circulated chapter has confirmed that sentiment for me. When Liturgiam Authenticam was released, it was obvious that the Vatican was reining in more control over the translation process itself. All of this was completely consistent with the erosion of the principle of subsidiarity, which had marked the pontificate of John Paul II. Yet, I still held out hope. If there were, indeed, errors and omissions in the our current English translation, then a new translation could help us pray better and more fully; I held out hope that this was the case.

Then we all watched the nearly decade-long process of translation and approval and corrections; we watched the amendments and arguments and counter-arguments and conversation and some liberal-bashing and some conservative-bashing. Those of us who love the liturgy so much struggled through all of this, forming and reforming our opinions.

Finally, we received the recognitio for the Order of Mass a little over two years ago. And what we thought was the final text of the new translation of the Missale Romanum was given its recognitio several months ago. I found myself—now that it was all finalized—finally able to move forward; to make the best of what is clearly a more challenging text for bishops and priests to proclaim. I have been inviting people into a stance of hope as the new translation looms. I have not sugar-coated any of this. I have just invited Catholics to be Catholic; to be honest and humble in the face of new texts that have been approved by our English-speaking bishops around the world. I have urged Catholics, when they have had an extended period of experience singing, praying, and listening to the new texts, to talk to their pastors about whether or not the new texts are helping them to pray better and more fully. I believe this is a right and duty we have by reason of our baptism (as echoed in Sacrosanctum Concilium).

Now, the 2008 text approved by our bishops has been altered. Some have used the terms "derailed" and "hijacked" to describe this development. Highjackings and derailments often end in catastrophe. The Vatican has every right to do what it wants with the text. How are English-speaking bishops feeling right now? All those hours of meetings; all those hours of reading draft after draft; all those hours of consulting with people in their dioceses; all those hours of agonizing over words. Have they just thrown their hands up in the air over all of this?

I still hold out a glimmer of hope that this will not end in catastrophe but I must be honest and say that I believe that this is within the realm of possibility.

Please feel free to comment.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


Anonymous said...

I have one question. First, let me say that I understand the explanation about the rules of translation having changed from Comme Le Prevoit to Liturgicam Authenticam. My question is, why was the change made in the first place? I have yet to see an adequate explanation as to why it was necessary to change the rules.

Diezba said...

How can a Mass approved by the Church of Jesus Christ become a catastrophe?

I think you've got to calm down, Jerry. The Church isn't a human organization.

I don't like the 1974 Missal, but it's not a catastrophe (as much as the TLM folks would like to believe it is). Neither would the 1997 Missal have been a catastrophe. And neither will the 2010 Missal be one.

The Mass is the Mass. The Father sends the Holy Spirit to change the bread and wine into Jesus, and then Jesus offers himself to the Father by his own hand, in the eternal Sacrifice of Calvary, as both priest and victim. The faithful are united to Christ and one another, being changed into the the Food which they are eating.

Arguments over syntax and grammar are ultimately irrelevant. No one will care in 200 years. At all.

The Mass is the Mass. God is God. We are not. Alleluia, and thanks be to God!

Jeffery BeBeau said...

Jerry, that you for putting into words what I have been feeling for a long time, especially when I started hearing about the 10,000 changes. It has gotten to the point where I just ignore anything other than the 2008 text, since it is the basis, and since so many changes have happened who knows what final text will be.

I will disagree with the point of the Vatican having the "right" to do what it did. That is certainly not the ecclesiology of the Church articulated in the documents of Vatican II and the revised Roman Rite. The patrimony belongs to the entire Church, and the Vatican is not the Church, it is part of it.

Joan Grabowski said...

Amen Diezba.

Jerry...Peace to you Spirit. Be still and know...All shall be well.

FJH 3rd said...


Isn't the "pedestrian" quality of the 1974 translation reason enough for Liturgiam Authenticam?

Tim said...

What this is all about is a return to the Roman Rite as was originally intended.May I suggest that everyone read Keith Peckler's book The Genius of the Roman Rite: On the Reception and Implementation of the New Missal, Liturgical Press, 2009. Even though I am early in the book, I realize this translation did not just happen in a vacuum, and there are actually historical considerations that took place when considering this translation.

What must be realized is the ICEL translation was just a recommendation and that recommendation was never meant to be the final translation.

As a music minister and as a liturgist, I can say that music ministers need to understand that we are NOT the chief liturgists and that we SERVE the church, the church does not serve us.

As for anonymous's comment, the change was made because of the Vatican instruction Liturgiam Authenticam which was promulgated by Pope John Paul II in 2001.

Tim said...

Jefferey said:
will disagree with the point of the Vatican having the "right" to do what it did. That is certainly not the ecclesiology of the Church articulated in the documents of Vatican II and the revised Roman Rite. The patrimony belongs to the entire Church, and the Vatican is not the Church, it is part of it.

While part of what he said is true that the Vatican is PART of the Church, he needs to read USCCA Chapter 3:Proclaim the Gospel to Every Creature where the bishops remind us of the two traditions of the Church, the Sacred Scripture and the Apostolic Tradition, that is, the Apostolic Succession, Particularly, he should read the document Lumen Gentium paragraphs 12 and 25 where it discusses the authority of the pope, and the bishops. CCC 92 and USCCA Chapter 3quotes p.12 We the faithful are guided by the sacred teaching authority, the magisterium(the pope together with the cardinals and bishops)and we obey it, when we do this, we not merely receive the the word of men but the word of God.

Anonymous said...

Tim, I know that. My question is WHY was LA promulgated in the first place.

Anonymous said...

You did not answer Anonymous' question, which was: Why was it necessary to change the rules in the first place?

To answer: because a new document was promulgated saying so, isn't really an answer.

Here's the reason, "other" Anonymous: the instruction governing liturgical translations prior to Liturgiam authenticam was Comme le prevoit, issued in 1969. It espoused the translation principle known as "dynamic equivalence," a translation of meaning rather than an exact translation of words. The late Monsignor Ronald Knox, whose 1940s translation of the Bible is about to be republished by Baronius Press, describes this approach in some detail in his "Trials of a Translator" (Sheed and Ward, 1950s): "You may have a literal translation or a literary translation: you cannot have both. Words are not coins: there is not always an exact equivalence between languages as there is between currencies."

In revising the hastily prepared translation published in 1973-74, ICEL followed Comme le prevoit, but strove for a greater fidelity to the Latin base text. At the same time, responding to requests from bishops around the English-speaking world, ICEL followed the examples of the Italian, Spanish, French, German, and even the famously conservative Polish hierarchies in providing "original texts," i.e., texts for which there was no Latin in the editio typica (standard edition) of the Missale Romanum, but for which the Bishops' Conferences wanted to make provision (e.g. a three-year cycle of Opening Prayers based on the Sunday scriptures of the three-year Lectionary, seasonal greetings for Advent, Christmas, Lent and Eastertide, etc.). This work was completed in 1998 and approved by almost all the conferences.

By then, however, new people had "come to power" in Rome. Ironically - and to at least some of us amusingly - some of these people had prepared "original texts" for ICEL and had them rejected for one reason or another. Anyhow, along came Liturgiam authenticam. The rest, as they say, is history. The "new ICEL" did their best to follow the new guidelines and 2008 came out. As in 1998, the conferences approved. As in 1998, some "people in power," with obviously more power than knowledge of either Latin or English have "revised" 2008 and produced the mistranslated, grammatical mess of 2010. Ironically, and to some of us amusingly, some of those people are the same ones involved in the dumping of 1998 and the production of Liturgiam authenticam. Power and ambition are always unpleasant - in the Church, they are deadly.

Anonymous said...

Dear 'other' anonymous....that still does not answer the question as to WHY those in power felt it was necessary to return to a principle of 'literal translation' as opposed to a translation that would adhere to the original intent in a fashion consistent with the thought processes and language structure of the target audience?

FJH 3rd said...

Anonymous the first: As I said above, the banal and pedestrian translation of 1973 is reason enough for the promulgation of LA. As my Bishop explained it the other night, Pope John Paul II, fluent at many languages, noticed that the Mass prayers he was saying, as he celebrated Masses all over the world, were not communicating the same thing in the different languages. At his direction, LA was developed to bring the translations into conformity with the Latin base text. English was, evidently, the most out of whack, and has required the greatest time and effort to correct. Additionally, many secondary languages translate from the English missal, not the Latin, thus the great need to get the English "right".

Anonymous said...

FJH3rd: Thank you. That, at least, is an explanation I can understand. It has been very difficult to accept the change in theory about translation principles because I have not heard an adequate reason why that was necessary. What you have said is a beginning.