What if We Just Said 'Yes'?

The America community (readers, viewers, etc.) will remember the Rev. Michael Ryan's article "What if We Just Said 'Wait'?" which proposed delaying the roll-out of the new English translation of the Roman Missal, scheduled for this Advent.  The article drew 239 online comments, was linked to and quoted all over Catholicland and spawned a website and Facebook page under the same rubric (pun intended), as well as a petition that garnered some 22,000 signatories, many of them prominent Catholic scholars, thinkers, liturgists, etc.   (By way of identification, Fr. Ryan has been pastor of St. James Cathedral in Seattle since 1988.)  Now with the changes upon us, he has published a new piece in The Tablet, entitled "Time to Say Yes," in which he argues against those who feel that in those places where the translation is poor, they will opt to "modify" the text for their parishioneres.  (The most commonly cited passage is the translation of Christ dying pro multis, which is being rendered not as the familiar "for all," but "for many," a topic covered in this America article "For You and Who Else?") 

Fr. Ryan writes: "To be sure, it is a rare priest who declares he will not implement the new Missal. When it comes to the people’s parts, there is really very little choice unless he wants to risk suspension. But when it comes to the celebrant’s parts, the reaction I am hearing more and more is: 'I’ll use the new Missal but I will feel free to modify texts whenever I consider them to contain questionable theology, awkward grammar, inaccessible vocabulary, or offensively gender-exclusive language.'"

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Ryan's response is, in essence, to let the full translation stand on its own.  "Since most of my priest friends and ­colleagues are aware of my America article, they ask me what I intend to do. I surprise them by saying that I intend to implement the new Missal and not change a word, no matter how questionable or offensive I may personally find it. Why? Not because I am a legalist or a purist. No, I will make no changes because I am convinced that, after all the years of wrangling and behind-the-scenes manoeuvring (including the shelving of the elegant and accessible 1998 ICEL translation), the only way the new Missal will have its full impact is if the People of God can judge it for themselves without edits of any kind.  

"This is another way of saying that the new Missal should be allowed to stand on its own and be judged for what it is, not for what we priests decide to make of it. I am of the opinion that the Missal will in time – I’m guessing not a long time – be judged deficient, but an informed judgement will never be made if we priests, even for the best of motives, give our people not the new Missal but our version of it. So we should do whatever is necessary to prepare our people for the new Missal but not take on the responsibility for making it work by doctoring or diluting it."

Read the full article at The Tablet.

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6 years 2 months ago
“CONSUBSTANTIAL.” So, we’re back to that? Please permit the following  playful flight of fancy relative to that strange word. A school of Catholic higher education offered an “open to the public” discussion on the up-and-coming liturgical revisions, Jesus  was the main speaker. From the packed audience came the question, “Please explain what the word “consubstantial” means.” Jesus seemed befuddled and turned to his Father invisible nearby and said, “Father, what does that word mean?” The Father too looked bewildered and whispered back, “Son, I don’t know!” Jesus then turned to the invisible Holy Spirit and said softly, “Help me out!” The Third Person scratching his Divine head said, “Beats me!”  At which point Jesus looked at the questioner and  assertively with a wink of his eye responded, “Ask the current crop of liturgical revisionists. They seem to know everything!”
Continuing in this ecclesial word definition kick, allow me to add the following. A friend passed on to me her copy of NCR and a cartoon caught my attention. It showed a group of people dressed in modern clothing seated around a table that looked like the Last Supper scene. At a blackboard against the wall Jesus was pointing at the word “TRANSUBSTANTIATION”  and the caption above had Jesus say, “Let me explain THAT word to you!” It made me roll in laughter! Two fancy words, trying to explain the unexplainable!
Now to the serious stuff. Respectfully, I don’t like the revisionist spirit sweeping the Church, which effectually will dismantle the reforms of Vatican Council II. The liturgical revision is part of it. Gone is the “Do not be afraid!”  buoyancy of  Blessed John Paul II, replaced it seems to be by the maniple mentality of Tridentine rigidity with its Latin words and structures favored by Pope Benedict XVI. Its enough to give one “spiritual vertigo!”
So, what’s my plan? Simply put, because I don’t want to give into to rebellious feelings  giving the Mystical Body of Christ, our Church, additional “spiritual acid reflux” - God knows our Church is convulsed enough! My plan is to accept the liturgical revisions quietly, trying to make the best of it and prayerfully imagining that Jesus is actually  saying, “Just say ‘Yes’.” As Jesuit priest James Martin knows, paradoxically, OBEDIENCE liberates. However it is interesting to speculate as follows.  Just as Catherine of Sienna revised the face of the Church of her day by convincing  Pope Gregory XI to return to Rome, could it be that Angelica of Canton has revised the face of the Church of our day, by helping convince Pope Benedict XVI Tridentine was the way to go.  Hmmmm!
Leo Zanchettin
6 years 2 months ago
Brett (#16) wrote: Do you think this attitude to negativity and defiance goes unnoticed?

I don't know how Fr. Ryan will celebrate the Mass on November 27. If it's with a grumpy face and snarky tone of voice, then by all means it will not go unnoticed. But come on; do you really think that's going to happen?

His "attitude" is irrelevant if he keeps it to himself while he celebrates the liturgy. That is, if the teaching of St. Augustine against the Donatists has any merit. 

Most Catholics don't even know that a new translation is coming down the pike, so I would guess that only a few are as informed (and opinionated) about it as many commenters here. So yes, I do think that the translation will have a fair chance to stand or fall on its own merits. We'll just have to wait and see. 
Anne Chapman
6 years 2 months ago
Priests who are willing to risk censure for refusing to go along with language that both excludes and insults women (among other problems with the translations) are the kind of men the church desparately needs right now.

 Many priests are standing up now - in Austria, in Germany, in Ireland, in Australia - risking their priesthoods in some cases in order to speak out for what is morally right on this issue and on others unrelated to the new missal.  The church needs more men (priests) of courage rather than so many who are afraid to risk their own personal interests for the sake of justice and truth. 

The church may be at a crossroads. The voices of the laity are not heard in Rome - we are simply dust to be flicked off their pristine black garments and checkbooks to fill their coffers.  But the growing dissatisfaction of priests all over the world, and their courage in expressing it, might, just might have a tiny chance of forcing the men in Rome to remember that THEY are not the church - they are only a tiny part of the billion or so human beings who are THE church.  They have clearly forgotten that.

I do hope that even those priests who are unwilling to recognize the full equality of women in their prayers on the altar will at least not oppose those is in the pews who make the necessary changes.

Some comments in the Tablet related to Fr. Ryan's op ed.

http://www.thetablet.co.uk/letters-extra.php


http://www.thetablet.co.uk/pdf/5165
Stanley Kopacz
6 years 2 months ago
I, for one, am looking forward to saying "consubstantial with the Father".  It means they're both made out of aluminum or molybdenum or something, right?
Leo Zanchettin
6 years 2 months ago
Brett Joyce wrote: "This does not sound like a remotely professional, open-minded or faithful approach to the new missal. It sounds like a petulant child being forced to his vegetables."

Well, maybe if the author were an uneducated pew-sitter getting all his news from tabloids and water-cooler gossip. But this is coming from an ordained priest who has been entrusted with the care of a cathedral. Not your average fellow, I would suggest. Not even your everyday cleric.

It's easy to pass harsh judgment on people who disagree with us. But doing so tends to reveal more about us than about the people we are criticizing.
C Walter Mattingly
6 years 2 months ago
Well, when "seen and unseen" becomes "visible and invisible," at least we won't have some kid peeking behind the confessional veil 3730 to determine if he can see it there. 
Mary Nolan
6 years 2 months ago
Enjoying the article and varied comments as I usually do...
then came to #7 by Stanley B and I burst into laughter.
A bit of humor now and again is good indeed!
Mary Nolan
6 years 2 months ago
Enjoying the article and varied comments as I usually do...
then came to #7 by Stanley B and I burst into laughter.
A bit of humor now and again is good indeed!
Anne Chapman
6 years 2 months ago
Brett, my mind and heart will never be lifted to God when I'm sitting in a pew fuming because the official translations of these old men in Rome are so dismissive of the female half of the human race.  I know that is not of any more importance to you than it is to the men in Rome, but it is important to thousands, maybe millions of women.  They are tired of being treated as nothing more than ''handmaidens'' to men, ''honored'' only when keeping to their ''place'' - as defined by men. 
Bill Taylor
6 years 2 months ago
I was in the seminary with Fr. Ryan and he is a good man.  And I think his responsibility in the cathedral means he has to be more of a company man.   But I cannot agree that the faithful use of a clumsy translation will finally convince those in the stratosphere who engineered this whole thing that it was an ill advised experiment that needs rewriting forthwith.  They do not exactly listen to the masses, unless they are conservatives who send their advice to Rome along with a little gift for "the cardinal's favorite charity."   Talk about pushing a string uphill.  I guess I will put up with most of the nonsense, but I will definitely use the word "all."  If I get into trouble, I will have the perfect reply:  You mean I am being suspended or whatever because I said that Jesus shed his blood for us all?

Part of my reaction is the fact that so many Pius X Society members live in my diocese.  They do not believe Jesus died for us all, and their proof is that same quote from St. Mark that will be used in the revised/distorted/contorted liturgy.   Rome says we can handle this with a sermon.  Oh come on..."Lex orandi, lex credendi."  The way we pray decides what we believe.  After our people hear several hundred repetitions of the word "many" and an occasional awkward reminder that "many actually means all," a lot of them are going to believe in many. 
Anne Chapman
6 years 2 months ago
Brett, I have no problem being a ''handmaiden'' to God.  Again, you have totally missed the point.  The liturgy uses language that excludes women and treats women as though second class to human men. Rather a large difference.  You and your gender are not demeaned by the men in Rome - nor does Rome attempt to define you and your ''proper'' roles in life in limited and narrow terms.  Perhaps you don't see sexism even when it is out there in screaming neon because you don't want to?  It's far more comfortable to simply brush it aside and ignore it.  I did so for more than 50 years, so I believe that there is hope that someday your eyes will be opened because you are still young. If the young women of your acquaintance in the neo-orthodox movement are happy being second-class citizens, that is their choice.  However, the church gives women who have a stronger understanding of themselves as made in the image of God -and due the same respect as men - no choice - accept your ''place'' and be quiet.
6 years 2 months ago
Sigh. The underlying problem jolted me again this morning on the feast of the ''Most Holy Name of Mary'' Most? Holier than ''Jesus''? In Latin ''most'' seems to be just an intensifier, but in English it means there is nothing more so. Church talk is full of ''most-holy''s that make nice, tight translations from Latin but are at least borderline heresy in English.  Is the most holy rosary more holy than the most holy Eucharist? Or are they equally holiest?
 In little more than ''not a long time,'' we may have a nation of a few happy bilingualists and a lot of innocent heretics.
6 years 2 months ago
I like your decision, Fr. Jim.  Sometimes it is much better to obey for the sake of unity and harmony.   There is so much divisiveness to go around already, and for what.....just so one can say,  I am right and you are wrong?  Humility, humility, humility is what we need today to keep the peace that Jesus left us.  Sometimes I feel and think that we Catholics are our own worst enemies!  If we can just shut up for a bit, and instead keep silence so we can discern and hear what the Holy Spirit is saying.
I agree with you...."the only way the new Missal will have its full impact is if the People of God can judge it for themselves without edits of any kind."  If it is meant to be,  it will be!  
Gabriel McAuliffe
6 years 2 months ago
God bless Norma!
Vince Killoran
6 years 2 months ago
"This does not sound like a remotely professional, open-minded or faithful approach to the new missal."

The lack of professionalism lies wholly with the translation team (translation specialists agree that they did a horrible job); ditto for the open-minded aspect-they refused to budge or engage in any substantial dialogue with critics. As for "faithful," well, sometimes the most faithful way to live out the Gospel involves speaking one's mind.

I suppose we will muddle along with the new translation.  But this is no joyous occasion.  
Leo Zanchettin
6 years 2 months ago
It's pretty clear that Fr. Ryan is no fan of the new translation. But even if we were to set that aside for a moment, I think his proposal has merit. This translation has been opined upon by countless idealogues-as well as linguists and liturgists-from both ends of the spectrum. But for all these expert analyses, the real question is how effective the new translation will be in helping everyday Catholics to lift up their hearts and minds to the Lord. And we won't really know the answer to that until after the translation is implemented.

So yes, what if we just said "yes"? But what if we also followed this up with "how"? What if we asked parishioners for their reactions in as objective a way as possible? I wonder if CARA is contemplating such a survey? 
John Swanson
6 years 2 months ago
"I am of the opinion that the Missal will in time – I’m guessing not a long time – be judged deficient," THe world may judge it deficient, but that doesn't mean it will be changed. Sorry, Fr. Jim, I may not be around for "a long time." I need something better now.
Bill Mazzella
6 years 2 months ago
What is encouraging is that Catholics are finally growing up. Let the bishops be on notice that they have to be into service not domination.
Jack Barry
6 years 2 months ago
If priests who are responsible for speaking each Sunday to the residue claim that they cannot judge what it takes to move people's hearts and minds, they should be promptly removed for self-declared incapacity to carry out one of the primary duties for which they are there.    
 
The laity is to have imposed on it a translation theoretically intended to increase devotion, guide worship of God, and reinforce faith, a missal which has already been widely criticized in detail in multiple countries for its misuse of the English language, questionable theological changes (pro multis, etc.), and flagrant sexist commitment.   
 
The proposal to put out the missal as it is so the laity can appreciate it for themselves sounds as if the proposer imagines some kind of relevant voting power to follow for the laity.   There is none whatsoever now or foreseeable, as far as I know.   Implying otherwise is misleading at best.   Declaring that the ''People of God can judge it for themselves without edits of any kind'' is an inconsequential diversion.    Not long ago, most of the People of God attended Mass most of the time.   That has changed.   It is surprising that this fact of life seems to play no role in discussions of the imposition of the new translation.   
David Mottram
6 years 2 months ago
Seems to me people are glossing over the main issue. That this new ''translation'' directly contradicts two decisions of the Second Vatican Council. Firstly, that the Mass could be translated into the vernacular (lingua vernacula). Vernacular means the language of the people, the language as it is spoken by ordinary people. Secondly that the Mass should be ''within the people’s powers of comprehension, and normally should not require much explanation''.

It is obvious that the new version is not in vernacular English - it is in a peculiar latinate form with many obscure words, much non-standard grammar and a very formal (i.e, non-vernacular) style. Because of this it will, as many bishops have admitted, require “extensive catechesis”, i.e. much explanation.

Some of the words of the consecration illustrate this. The word cup has been replaced by chalice. Priests are now being asked to say that Christ said ''This is the chalice...'' He did not. The gospels use the straightforward Greek word for cup. The word chalice is hardly vernacular English at all, still less is it the vernacular word for an ordinary cup, as in the actual words of the Gospel. How will this absurdity, if not a straightforward lie, be explained?

Thomas Rowan
6 years 2 months ago
I am one of those who signed the ''why not wait'' petition. I feel that the new translation will be embraced by some and have others scratching their heads as they leave the Church and pray about what to do next. I agree that priests celebrating the Mass ought not edit the missal; that is not their job. Some people who attend Mass may not even notice a change. Those that do notice it and have a question ought to be able to take the question to their pastor. One major irritant with this whole thing is the way it was done and the lack of an honest dialogue with the people.

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