Friday, September 30, 2011

Last Straw?

Hello all. Sitting here at Houston Intercontinental, waiting for the flight to Albuquerque for vacation.

I gave two presentations in parishes this week focused on the new translation. For the most part, I am finding that the vast majority of Catholics are anxious to see the implementation begin. Others have expressed concern about Catholics they know who are "on the fence" with respect to their engagement with the Church. These people have expressed a deep concern that these on-the-fencers will see this new translation as a "last straw," a decision made by Church officials who show little concern for the real needs of the world or of Church members. These have not been isolated comments and they should not be dismissed. One of my own family members, who has recently returned to active participation in the Catholic Church (after decades of having been away), says simply that this whole thing seems ridiculous to him and that it will drive people away.

My hope, of course, is that nothing would ever drive people away from active participation in parish life. But this has happened before and will happen again. What I said to those Catholics with whom I spoke this week is to encourage them to try their best to answer the questions of others regarding the new translation.

Have you heard people say that the new translation might be the "last straw" for some Catholics?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


Anonymous said...

Haven't heard anyone call the new translation the last straw in a carefully considered decision to leave the Church, but someone who goes to Mass once or twice a year told me it might undermine the already weak connection he has with the Catholic Church. He was raised as a Catholic and went to Catholic schools, and he feels welcome at Mass because he knows the prayers and responses by heart.

Anonymous said...

This was a last straw for me. I'm not leaving yet, but starting November 27th I will substantially reduce the thousands of dollars I contribute annually to the Church.

Luke said...

It's a last straw for me, for certain. My issue, as I am sure is the case for many others who feel this way, is the process which produced the translation rather than the translation per se.

Vatican II allowed the celebration of Mass and other liturgies in the vernacular. Its documents further decreed (quite appropriately, IMO) that the bishops have ultimate say in how the Latin should best be translated into the languages they--and those they shepherd--speak natively.

I thought the directives of a council, by definition, trumped the mere fiat of a single pope, particularly when said pope essentially wants to completely overturn a process agreed to by that council. Therefore, I believe the new translation is canonically suspect, if not canonically illegal. Not good. I cannot be a member of a Church whose leaders abuse their authority so blatantly.

It seems like at least some of those responsible for initiating the process that led to the new translation believed that its adoption would be an ingredient in a panacea that would draw attention away from more pressing issues facing the Church.

Rismi said...

Hi Luke and others,

For what I understand, it seems you have been wrongly informed by someone else about this and so I could understand your feeling.

It is not that we are going to celebrate the Mass in Latin! No way! The emphasis IS on a GOOD vernacular translation from the Latin, the same as stated as in CV II... and by the bishops, as it was done now. Once you compare the original Latin to the translation used until now and the new one, you can understand why it was necessary to revise it. Keeping it's own particular vernacular, you can still go to any part of the world and still know that there is that unity. You can notice it when you go to Germany or any Spanish speaking country, to put an example. United as a big family, yet with our own language.

Luke said...


I totally understand that the current translation is not without its issues--even many of them. I support an effort to make it "better"/more accurate.

However, my issue with the process which produced the translation we will be asked to use beginning next month is this: Vatican II's documents gave general responsibility for translating liturgical texts into the vernacular to the bishops. Rome had a supervisory role, as I understand it (I was born after Vatican II closed). Now, Rome is demanding complete editorial oversight at every step.

It seems to me that Liturgiam Authenticam is an almost total, point-for-point reversal of the process which produced all post-Vatican II liturgical translations up to now. The new process was much less transparent than that which produced the current translation and the (in my mind superior) 1998 revision.

I also deeply lament the abandonment of the principles of dynamic equivalence. In my mind, the coming translation would be much more poetic--and less confusing--if DE were allowed to a moderate extent. Consider the Gloria's first line:

Gloria in excelsis Deo, et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis.

"...[A]nd on earth peace to people of good will," at initial hearing, seems to mean "And on earth peace to the good-willed," i.e. people who are kind. That's not what it means, and no matter how many times a homily can be preached explaining that fact, many in the pews may subsequently wonder, "If that's not what it means, why can't we say what it does mean?"

The current Spanish translation, on the other hand, employs a paraphrase, but it is an accurate one, and conveys the meaning more directly than does a literal rendering of the Latin:

Gloria a Dios en el cielo, y en la tierra paz a los hombres que ama el SeƱor. ("Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace to people whom the Lord loves.")

An English equivalent could be something like: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people on whom his favor rests."

Paraphrases are not bad, despite the fact that LA strongly implies they are. Particularly in cases where the meaning could be obscure to modern hearers, they seem preferable to literal renderings; take the "for all/for many" controversy which Jerry wrote about recently, for instance: "all" may not be literal, but it is not misleading the way "many" can be.

LA's intent is good, but it strikes me as a short-sighted, reactionary set of directives that don't take the modern human condition into strong enough account. That's the root of my dislike of the new translation in a nutshell. The fact that John Paul II issued the new norms by fiat instead of in the context of a council (the way the old translation norms were espoused) leads me to believe that the old guidelines trump the new. It probably would have been entirely possible to develop a much more accurate "new "translation while still adhering to the spirit of the "old" guidelines.