The National Catholic Review

In July Fr. William Rowe, 73, pastor of the St. Mary Parish in southeast Illinois received an email from his bishop, Edward Braxton, telling him he had been removed as pastor and taking away his faculties to say Mass and offer the sacraments. Most likely Rowe had seen it coming. Braxton had complained for years that he didn’t like Rowe changing some of the prayers in the new liturgy, adapting them so they would correspond to themes in the gospel readings, homily or songs, and adding explanations. Apparently, Rowe, who has been doing this for 20 years along with other priests he knows, felt he should give priority to the quality of communication between priest and people and he was confident that these modest changes were within his rights. Following a canon lawyer’s advice he appealed to Rome.

He did not say this, but from my army experience, I suspect that Rowe picked up this practice while serving as a chaplain with the armed forces. A good chaplain looks out upon his men and loves them — Jesus loved the young rich man who decided against following him — and is determined to use every means available to make God’s word penetrate and console these young men and women facing death at any moment. Judging from the letters in the St, Louis Post Dispatch, the parishioners knew Rowe loved him.

Meanwhile a collection of literature has grown up around this issue— not necessarily responding to the Rowe case, but rather to public opinion in the church. Both priests and people who love the church but find their devotion stifled by the new texts have spoken. They deserve a hearing. First is an article in Worship (January 2012), Jan R. Larson’s “A Case for Changing Liturgical Words.” Worship is not a left-wing rag, but is published by the monks of Saint’s John's Abbey at Collegeville Minnesota, the most respected liturgical review in America.

On the same level is scripture scholar John R. Donohue, S.J.’s “Cup or Chalice” in Commonweal (May 21, 2012) in which he demonstrates conclusively that at the Last Supper, the word for the vessel from which Jesus drank is “cup.” To make the priest say “chalice” rather than “cup” at Mass, he says, evokes an image that distances Jesus from the disciples and from us today. Jesus was a Jewish laymen who used a cup to demonstrate what he was saying. A “chalice” today is often a gold plated vessel encrusted with jewels. That’s not Jesus.

Next is the special report in U. S. Catholic (December 2012) in which thousands of priests and laypersons responded to their survey on acceptance of the new Mass translation introduced a year ago. Seventy six percent of 1,200 priests polled prefer the old translations; 66 percent of laypersons agree. Seventeen percent like the new one as much as or more than the old; 25 percent know people who have left to worship in other churches. Three quarters of the priests say it interferes with their prayers, and 84 percent find themselves slipping into the old vocabulary as they celebrate. (The article runs over 20 pages of statistics and commentary).

The editors follow up with a canon law analysis “Language Barrier, by Fr. David M. Knight, Memphis Diocese, and author of best selling books on spirituality. Appropriately he opens with the same theme that inspired Father Larson’s Worship essay: church laws are not to be taken literally, but must be interpreted. They are not to be taken only at face value, and so are not necessarily absolute (Worship, p. 61). First consideration goes to the purpose of liturgical reform: “especially the goal of full, conscious and active participation by all the faithful.” To exemplify the effects of a too strict acceptance of church law, Fr. Knight recalls his philosophy studies in 1952 when the order arrived from Rome to teach the courses in Latin. Although neither priests nor students knew Latin they broke their backs to obey. At the Spokane campus, after six weeks struggling with Latin the logic professor had a nervous breakdown. The school went back to English and only three of the 65 seminarians left. In Mobile, they enforced the rule as they understood it; and a third of the class left. Studying theology in France, Knight was helped by a 1934 canon law textbook by Cardinal Amleto Cicognani, a conservative, who later became secretary of state, who cautioned that “some laws can lead to injustices that defeat the intention of the law itself.” In that case the law should be set aside to achieve justice and the common good. He concludes after 50 years as a priest and teaching in three languages, including time in Africa, and written 30 books, that to not devote every talent to achieve what the Constitution on the Liturgy calls “the wish of the church,” that the faithful take “full, conscious, and active part in liturgical celebrations,” would be a sin.

Knight lists some of his liberties, which he takes — changes that I suspect most or many priests make in their hearts even when they go along with the changes out of obedience. He says “cup” not chalice; Christ’s blood ”poured out for “all” rather than “many”; “offering” for “oblation” and several more. We put a presider rather than a robot behind the altar, he says, to allow for human judgments and adaptations.

As far as I know, neither Fr. Larson nor Father Knight has been silenced by authorities, who probably realize they are good and learned men making rational arguments, who love the church and might be right. Meanwhile, Rome has backed Father Rowe on one point, reversing his suspension, but it has supported the bishop’s right to remove him and withdraw his faculties (permission to say Mass). The Southern Illinois Association of Priests, in a statement signed by 16 priests, calls his punishment “irrationally disproportionate to the supposed crime.”

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Jim McCrea | 12/7/2012 - 6:38pm
Should the history books opine on Catholicism in the early 21st century:  it endured?

That used to be called damning with faint praise.
Vince Killoran | 12/6/2012 - 6:14pm
Do you think the translations are minor in nature?  The reason I ask is that many conservative Catholics thought them to be significant-not minor adjustments.

My sense is that we endure.  The language is clumsy; the translations are unprofessional.
Joshua DeCuir | 12/6/2012 - 2:39pm
"Among those who feel the language was changed to a great extent, a majority disagree that the new translation is a good thing (65 percent)."

Let's just be clear - that's 65% of the 6% of those who responded that they felt the language was changed to a great extent.  63% replied that they felt the language had been changed a "small" or "moderate" extent.

T BLACKBURN | 12/5/2012 - 5:43pm
Not to be a pest (I'll stop after this), Jeffrey Pinyan, since when has catechesis had to correct the errors put in people's minds by our liturgy?
Kathleen Messina | 12/5/2012 - 4:20pm
The good news of this discussion is that so many are attentively and reflectively engaged in the consideration of the new liturgy and our celebration of the Sacrament of Sacraments!  Despite the U.S. Catholic survey findings, what I hear is mixed, with priests and parishioners who question, object to, and love one or another of the changes they hear and proclaim.  In my ministry to the homebound elderly I haven’t even considered using the new language in the celebration of the Liturgy of the Word with Holy Communion.  I don’t understand why Bishop Braxton felt it was necessary to exert his authority to remove Fr. Rowe for reportedly modest changes that enhanced the liturgical experience and spirituality of his parishioners.  However it seems, as Rome, the bishops and all of us work our way through this, with the guiding grace of the Holy Spirit, the worthy goal of the Constitution on the Liturgy will be advanced where and when we are attentive to meeting people in love where they are, as Jesus did.
Jeffrey Pinyan | 12/5/2012 - 12:16pm
To Greg Corrigan:
If Jesus died for 'All' ... then let's proclaim that Jesus died for all

But we're not proclaiming that Jesus died for all in the words of consecration over the wine. (We express that belief elsewhere in our liturgy.) We're using a patch-work of Scriptural and traditional words, through which Jesus is expressing the effect of the pouring out of His blood. The context of those words is clear: not how Jesus is the savior of all (which entailed dying for all), but what the fruit of His sacrifice would be, the forgiveness of sins of many.

You might equally argue that the Creed should have the word "all" in it where wa say that "for us men and for our salvation". It should read "for all men and for their salvation", no? Otherwise it can sound like we're being exclusivist about why the Son of God became incarnate. But that's not what the prayer says in Greek, Latin or English. It says "for us" because we're speaking of all humanity.
WILLIAM GRANEY REV | 12/4/2012 - 6:28pm
Lex orandi statuat legem credendi: How we pray shapes what we believe.
So, if Jesus used a ''cup'' at the last supper and we call it a ''chalice,'' we change the simple meaning from what was expressed at a first century Hebrew passover meal into something akin to an Elizabethan royal banquet.
If Jesus died for ''All'' (and the Bishops even acknowledge that, ''though the text is now ''many'' it still means ''all'') then let's proclaim that Jesus died for all.
Cultures and institutions (including the church) have long refused to acknowledge the full dignity of women.   What does restocking the liturgy with masculine pronouns and images say to women (and to the men, also feminists) who stand by them?
The preponderant use of ''merit'' may complement our culture which considers meritocracy a virtue; but it swings the spiritual hearer away from any notion of God's full and unconditional love and becomes a throwback to a time when we could determine our own future through the accumulation of indulgences.
Liturgical theologian Nathan Mitchell reminds us that liturgy's principal aim is to ''know and name connections between God, world, and humankind'' (Meeting Mystery, Orbis, 2006, p. 201).  Such naming calls for language that is both available and poetic, words that inspire and edify.  Clearly, the poets and grammarians were not consulted as regards RMIII.  I prayed a Collect one day that contained eleven commas!  How is that possible???
james belna | 12/4/2012 - 6:15pm
I have a certain amount of sympathy for Fr Rowe. After many years of doing saying the Mass in his own unique way – and in a way that some (but not all) of his parishioners deeply valued – I can understand his resistance to change. Even so, it is not unreasonable for a bishop to ask a priest to pray the prayers of the Mass as they are translated in the new Roman Missal.

Unfortunately, Fr Rowe insists that he can’t change his ways. Of course, it seems ridiculous to say that he can’t, as if Fr Rowe is not capable of reading the words in the missal. The plain fact is that he won’t, despite repeated warnings and opportunities to stick to the prescribed liturgy. I won’t speculate as to why that is the case. In any event, if he truly lacks the ability to do so, then he is no longer capable of functioning as a priest. That does not make him a lesser man, nor does it make him a martyr. We should be grateful for Fr Rowe’s many years of service as an active priest, and pray for his success and happiness in his future endeavors.   
Melody Evans | 12/4/2012 - 4:36pm
To Jeffrey Pinyan:
1 Timothy 2:4-6 "...God our Saviour, who desires ALL men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for ALL..."

This is probably a bigger sticking point with me than with others.  I was was raised in a Baptist church that believed in (and preached on) pre-destination.  The idea that Jesus only died on the cross for a select few who were pre-destined, before they even took their first breath, to be saved.  For me, it makes a very big difference whether you say "all" or "many."  Thank you for replying to my post, though.  :)
Jeffrey Pinyan | 12/4/2012 - 3:16pm
To Tom Blackburn: the Greek creed uses "παθ?ντα κα? ταφ?ντα" [pathonta kai taphenta] (translated into Latin as "passus et sepultus est"). ICET in 1975 and ECCL in 1988 rendered these as "suffered death and was buried"; the "suffered, died, and was buried" that Americans are familiar with was from a 1973 ICET draft that was adopted in the US. (British Catholics have been saying "suffered death and was buried" for the past few decades.) Some (e.g. Lutheran) translations omit the word "death" altogether: "suffered and was buried."

The Greek word (and its Latin translation) can mean either "suffered" (in the sense of the Passion; we get the word "passion" from the Latin patior, passus, in turn coming from the Greek pathos) or "suffered unto death" (which removes a possible ambiguity about whether Jesus died or not... however, since the Creed also affirms that Jesus was crucified and buried, we can assume it expresses belief in His death). By saying Jesus "suffered death and was buried" we are indeed affirming His Passion which culminated in His death; just as if we were to say "suffered and was buried" we would still be affirming His death.

A possibly unintended side effect of the English translation "suffered death" is that we could (legitimately) read into the word "suffered" the sense of "endured, permitted, allowed" (e.g. "suffer the little children (to) come unto me"). This is also supported by the Latin patior ("suffer; allow; undergo, endure; permit"). Thus, Jesus not only suffered and died: He suffered death, He endured death, He permited Himself to die for us!
Jeffrey Pinyan | 12/4/2012 - 3:06pm
To Melody Evans: the scriptural accounts of the Last Supper (in Matthew and Mark) use the word "many": "poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins" (Mt 26:28; cf. Mk 14:24). It says "many" in the (original) Greek and in the Latin translation, and I know of no existing English translation that presumes to translate the Greek word "pollon" as "all". But it should not be a matter of "many" vs. "all"; rather, it's a matter of "many" vs. "you": "it will be poured out FOR YOU and FOR MANY". Jesus was expressing the efficacy of His sacrifice for more than the "you" He was addressing (His disciples), and that many more would benefit from the pouring out of His blood.
JOHN SULLIVAN | 12/4/2012 - 1:41pm
Excellent commentary! I cannot bring myself to say "many" when it should be ALL becuase Christ poured out his blood for all humankind. Doesn't it make sense to communicate this in english? Instead we are subjected tortuous explanations that many means all! Much like up is down. This might delight some of the pseudo intellectuals but it does not communicate the great mystery of the Mass to those in the pew. God forbid that that should matter. Weed out the pedophiles and their enablers and leave Father Rowe alone.
michael mcCue | 12/7/2012 - 6:02pm
I am will to bet that most Catholics have experienced Masses where the presider added things, adapted words and phrases, completely made up Eucharistic Prayers, did his own gestures-it a way that the priest no doubt thought was making the Mass better able to connect to the people.  However, so often these adaptations and ad libs come across as gimicky, amaturish, idionsyncratic, ecentric, and lacking connecting to our tradition-past or present.

That is one reason why this new translation of the Mass texts is tragic. Instead of giving us prayers and ritual that demonstrate a deep understanding of our common prayer, we got a mechanical, mindless translatino of the Latin.

I also think the use of ''many'' instead of ''all'' is very misleading about what Catholics believe.   I do not know what to make of all the ''merit'' language.  ''winning and meriting salvation -instead of being gifted with it, graced by God.

Lawrence McGauley | 12/7/2012 - 3:08pm
I might agree with some of changes that individual priests make, or I might not. But I don't agree that each and every priest can decide which words to use, which words to translate differently, and which rules to follow, and which ones to ignore. I look to John Courtney Murray, who was silenced and then came to see his thought enshrined in Vatican II. And any translation, including our current one, is better than that horrible approximation of English that we've been using since Vatican II! Eventually, we'll get it right. Regarding ''cup'' versus ''chalice'' doesn't seem to cause a problem in Spanish, French, or Portugese. Not sure why it is a problem in the U.S., other than most church leaders, priests, and the translators of previous versions assume that Americans are just plain stupid and can't understand big words and complicated sentences.
Barbara Pellegrini | 12/7/2012 - 1:41pm
For a long time,I have been thinkig about the words we use when referring to our sacred theological beliefs, the wording of the New Roman Liturgy being a current example. But there is more than just the Missal that needs a wording ''tune-up''. Our Catholic scholars need to take a hard look at all of Catholic terminology and do some heavy editing, including, perhaps, the renaming of schools.The teachings are beautiful, but the way we express them often invites ridicule. Tomorrow we celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Think about that wording. Football broadcasters parody it by talking about an ''immaculate reception.''  Political pundits refer to Todd Akins (R-MO) comments as the 'immaculate rejection.'' Joksters ask: What would you name the football team of Immaculate Conception High School? Ans: The trojens. Finally, ''conception'' is a biological not a theological term. So, strictly speaking, the term implies a biological event between Anna and Joachim. It says nothing about the innate holiness of Mary. Words do matter!
Kathleen Messina | 12/6/2012 - 8:57pm
To Vince Killoran
I think the translation differences are substantive and are theologically important.  Did you take a look at Fr. Donohue’s article Cup or Chalice?  In some cases however, I think we are hearing what we either feared or hoped for.  You are right, we do endure but at what cost. However, I still contend that Schroth’s larger point in the post concerns episcopal authority and relational ministry.   
Jim McCrea | 12/6/2012 - 5:44pm
If ever there was a reason to muse on rearranging the chairs on the deck of the Titanic, this is it.
Vince Killoran | 12/6/2012 - 2:24pm
I found the CARA survey to which Josh directed us to be interesting, not least for this results:

"Among those who feel the language was changed to a great extent, a majority disagree that the new translation is a good thing (65 percent)."

This is not good news for those who heralded the new translations as a susbtantial reform. 
Mike Brooks | 12/6/2012 - 12:56pm
I don't recall when the Church became a democracy.

In any case, polls schmolls; where are the follow up questions that ask why people don't like the new liturgy?  I suspect that for many of those who don't like the new liturgy, it's because they find it bothersome having to learn something new, or some other reason based on adversity to change.  I don't believe that many Church goers have given much thought to etymology and scripture.

For thousands of years people have been discussing, liking, disliking the liturgy and what the Church teaches.  No doubt that many thought that even Paul had it all wrong.  But the beauty of the Church, and for me one of the things that I love about the Church, is that Jesus gave the Church an authority who resolves all discussion: Peter, the Rock.  "Rock," as in strong, reliable, changing little over time.  Why are so many insistent upon these fruitless discussions as if there is ever going to be agreement across the board?  All you do by it is weaken the Church, to the extent that you are successful in raising doubt amongst the devoted.

Give it up to the Holy Spirit.  Jesus didn't come here to spur discussion; he came to tell it like it is, and he passed on his authority.  What a blessing it is to have all of our questions answered in a world in which there is so much uncertainty.

As for "many," I was taught that some of us are going to go to Heaven and some are not; has that changed?  Jesus knew that many would eat and drink his body and achieve salvation, but not everyone.  He surely offered himself for "all," but only "many" would partake.  In these days where anything goes as long as it doesn't hurt anybody, I can understand why the Holy Spirit had the Church remind us that although forgiveness of sins is there for us "all," we must act in order to attain that forgiveness.
Joshua DeCuir | 12/6/2012 - 11:07am
Interesting Fr. Schroth mentions a survey that supports his view, but fails to mention the recently-released CARA survey showing a strong majority favoring the new transaltion.
Jeffrey Pinyan | 12/6/2012 - 9:29am
To Tom Blackburn:

It's very easy to see a liturgical sign and have the wrong idea about it. Liturgical/mystagogical catechesis serves to teach the person what the signs, symbols, gestures, actions, and words of the liturgy mean. If a person has an erroneous pre-conceived notion about what those signs, etc., mean, or misunderstands a word (e.g. "suffers"), then catechesis will correct that error.

You don't need to stop - you're not pestering, at least it doesn't seem that way to me.
Craig McKee | 12/6/2012 - 4:34am
Novelist Annie Dillard in HOLY THE FIRM had absolutely no idea how right she would one day be in her description of liturgy and liturgical language:

The higher Christian churches–where, if anywhere, I belong–come at God with an unwarranted air of professionalism, with authority and pomp, as though they knew what they were doing, as though people in themselves were an appropriate set of creatures to have dealings with God. I often think of the set pieces of liturgy as certain words which people have successfully addressed to God without their getting killed. In the high churches they saunter through the liturgy like Mohawks along a strand of scaffolding who have long since forgotten their danger. If God were to blast such a service to bits, the congregation would be, I believe, genuinely shocked. But in the low churches you expect it any minute. This is the beginning of wisdom.

Memo to VOX CLARA:
I hope you don't get us all KILLED some Sunday morning!
Melody Evans | 12/5/2012 - 2:53pm
To Jeffrey Pinyan:
Thank you again for replying to my post.  I do see what you are saying about the words of Jesus.  I believe the words that are spoken in the Mass are spoken not just as historical references but also as a way to teach the faith.  And in our Catholic faith Jesus' death on the cross was for all and not just a select group.  What we then choose to do with that gift is up to us (At least this is my understanding of Catholic teaching.  Please correct me if I am wrong).   I think we will just have to agree to disagree on the appropriateness of inserting "many" to replace "all" in such an important teachable moment.  The first Mass I ever attended, I did not hear the "all" in other places throughout the service, but I heard it loud and clear while those words were being spoken over the cup and it played a large role in my choice to become a Catholic.  Once again, I hear what you are saying concerning Jesus' words, and I thank you for showing me the reasoning behind the decision to change the words, but... I still feel strongly that it communicates the wrong message and so was a wrong choice.  :)

To Greg Corrigan:
I love your reply.  I wish there was a way to give a little thumbs-up under comments on here.  Thank you.  :)
Jeffrey Pinyan | 12/5/2012 - 12:22pm
To Tom Blackburn:

what about people who grow up with ''suffered death.'' ... I'd think something to the effect of ''... He allowed himself to feel what we'd feel if we died, but he never died. Not really. It only looked like that.''

But this is why there is catechesis, whether from your parish or your family or by your own initiative, so that you can understand what the faith is and what our prayers mean. For starters, ''to suffer X'' doesn't mean ''to pretend to do X'', it means ''to undergo X''. Catechesis on the ''mysteries'' (sacraments) and on the liturgy in general has been a constant practice of the Church (perhaps better emphasized in her earliest centuries).
Jeffrey Pinyan | 12/5/2012 - 11:52am
To Melody Evans:
I don't deny that elsewhere in Scripture (such as 1 Tm 2:4-6) Christ is described as the savior of all. I just also have to acknowledge that Christ is said to have used ''many'' at the Last Supper, and that the liturgical texts of the Church have used the phrase ''for many'' in whatever languages they were written in for centuries, drawing up the Matthean-Marcan tradition. It's not a change in belief, because the belief has never changed.

While Jesus is the savior of all, there's the possibility (which Jesus Himself appears to espouse) that not all will accept salvation, and so while it is true He did shed His blood for all so that sins may be forgiven, it is also true that He poured out His blood for many for (i.e. effecting) the forgiveness of (their) sins.
T BLACKBURN | 12/4/2012 - 6:54pm
Jeffrey Pinyan: Thanks for taking a swing at my problem. Your final comment, that "suffered" could be understood as "allowed," is precisely what worries me long-term. Those of us who have long used the 1973 ICEL trio - siffered, died and was buried - are not too likely to make the mistake. But what about people who grow up with "suffered death." I know no Greek, and very little Latin, but I do know English, and I know if that's the way I said the Creed since childhood I would - what? - wonder, ponder, assume... I'd think something to the effect of "the Romans put Jesus on the cross, but He was God and couldn't die. So while he was up there, He allowed himself to feel what we'd feel if we died, but he never died. Not really. It only looked like that."

Of course, that is one of the original heresies, and I am wondering why, in the name of strict translation, we are opening the door for it to revive in the United States 40 or 50 years from now.

Meanwhile, I know what "died" means, and I can read about the agony in the garden, crowning with thorns, carrying the cross, etc.,, in the Gospels and see the whole story - part biblical, part traditional - on the Stations in church. I have to say, "suffered, died and was buried." Just like Father Rowe had to do what he did. We are not separating ourselves from the magisterium; we are uniting ourselves with what it taught us.

A lot of Catholics are doing the same thing, albeit with possibly less soul-searching.
Jim McCrea | 12/4/2012 - 3:45pm
Lex orandi, lex credenti.

I know what I believe and that is how I pray.
Marie Rehbein | 12/4/2012 - 3:28pm
I hear the following in the new liturgy:

many = a whole lot of people, not just a select few, maybe even everyone for all we know; we don't really know, but we hope it includes us

and with your spirit = same to you, and don't lose sight of the spiritual just in case you were not thinking of it, Father; everyone gets caught up in the everyday and it's our place as well as yours to set the right tone

chalice = Jesus was sitting at a formally set table for the last supper such that had this event taken place in the 20th century, he would have said "see this crystal wineglass, this a crystal wineglass of my blood"; hey you don't think cryst(al) and Christ have anything to do with eachother; wonder where crystal comes from, etc....(turns out they are not etymologically related)

I don't think this makes anything important more meaningful; it just makes me imagine irrelevant things.  What was the real reason they made these changes? Hmmm?
T BLACKBURN | 12/4/2012 - 1:55pm
To each his own particular annoyance. Mine is "suffered death" in the Creed. When we said "suffered, died and was buried," we heard three actions - suffering (the Passion), dying (death) and burial. Now we have two. The Passion is gone. Take down your Stations of the Cross! And whatever "suffered death" means, if it means something other than "died," I do NOT believe it,  so I still say the old formula, just to be sure.

That does not disrupt anyone because everyone else is consciously or unconsciously doing the same thing somewhere along the way. Listening to the non-responses and old responses still being given, I have to conclude that the new translations have yet to be received - from "And with your spirit" which is actually "and with spirit your" in Latin, to the responses to the newly denatured "goes," which range from "amen" through "whatever" to "thanks be to God" to mumble-mumble..
Melody Evans | 12/4/2012 - 1:22pm
At Mass, I still say in my mind as the priest is saying his new version, "...this is the CUP... it will be shed for you and for ALL so that sins may be forgiven."  I refuse to ever make the switch to "many," which, in my uneducated mind, changes doctrine.  "Chalice" is more of an annoyance.  When we use the word "consubstantial" I still use the words "one in being" because consubstantial means nothing to me.  The other changes I have made without complaint.
Good for these priests who look out on their congregation and decide what will communicate best to them.  I wish the Church hierarchy would revisit their changes after hearing from parishioners on what flies and what does not.  I really struggle with seeing why they chose to change something as small as "cup."  Is that really a hill worth dying for?

Recently by Raymond A. Schroth