Archbishop Gregory: The time is right to review Mass translations

Retired Bishop David B. Thompson of Charleston, S.C., Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta, and Bishop Gregory J. Hartmayer of Savannah, Ga., concelebrate Mass with bishops from Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina at the Altar of the Tomb in the crypt of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican May 7. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) (May 7, 2012)

The archbishop who heads the U.S. bishops’ liturgy committee says that controversial changes to liturgical translations that have been fully implemented in Catholic parishes since 2011 may need to be revisited to fix “problematic” sections that fail to “bring the entire church together.”

In an April 26 interview with America, Archbishop Wilton Gregory said that when U.S. bishops voted to adopt the final translations in 2009, it was with the understanding that after a period of time, they would consider if the texts were working well.

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Archbishop Wilton Gregory says that controversial translations may need to be revisited to fix “problematic” sections that fail to “bring the entire church together.”

“Let’s have a review,” he said, adding that while he does not think U.S. bishops “have the stomach to start from ground zero,” he thinks a consultation with priests and laity “would be helpful.”

Last fall, Pope Francis gave hope to Catholics who wish to reconsider the most recent translations when he released a document called “Magnum Principium, in which he shifted control over liturgical translations back to national bishops conferences, with the Vatican maintaining veto power.

Several changes to the English-language Mass—which included responding to the priest’s “Peace be with you” with “and with your spirit” rather than “and also with you”—were described by bishops as being more faithful to the Roman Missal, the Latin text that serves as the blueprint for the Roman Catholic Mass. But critics described the translations as clunky and overly formal.

“Let’s have a review,” Archbishop Gregory said, adding that consulting priests and laity “would be helpful.”

Below is a transcript of the interview with Archbishop Gregory, which has been edited for clarity.

MJO: You have been interested in liturgical translations, and the pope came out with this document saying maybe we can take another look at changing these texts.

Archbishop Wilton Gregory: What the document basically said was that going forward, episcopal conferences have much greater leeway. The document didn’t say, “You’ve got to go back and start from ground zero.” But going forward, there’s a new capacity on the part of the conferences of bishops to determine language and idiom, etc. In some respects, he’s restored the authority over liturgical translations to episcopal conferences and said, “Rome has a role, a very important role. But the prior role, and the first role on the local level should be the bishops who are serving in a given country and a given language group.”

MJO: Do you think we’ll see any—I know you said going forward—but do you think we’ll see any looking back at the current translation?

WG: When the bishops of the United States approved the most recent English translation, one of the recommendations, and I think one of the reasons that it won approbation, was something that Cardinal George said. [Editor’s note: Cardinal Francis George, the now-deceased former archbishop of Chicago, was president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops when the full body voted to adopt to adopt the new translation of the Roman Missal in 2009.] He said, “Well, let’s live with it for awhile and then review it after we’ve had it in possession to see what things work, what things don’t work, what modifications can be made.” And I think that’s an appropriate way to look at it.

Let’s have a review. I don’t believe that the American bishops have the stomach to start from ground zero. But I do believe that given the right structures, which would include the pastors, the guys on the firing line, a review of how these texts are being received, what’s problematic, what’s working, what’s better, what’s not better, would be helpful.

MJO: Do you think there are some issues with the translation, some “problematic” things that could be reviewed?

WG: Well, I do. Some of the [presider’s] prayers are difficult to proclaim because they are very long. The original Latin is dense and it has multiple layers of meanings and allusions, and to try to unpack the Latin into the English, sometimes creates these long, convoluted sentences. I like to use this example. There are certain things in a given language that don’t translate well in another. How do you translate Shakespeare into Japanese? Each language has its own poetic, prosaic structure, and it’s hard to just flip it and catch everything. How does Japanese haiku come into English? You have to respect the linguistic structure of each language.

We also have to look for a text that unifies. It’s not going to be perfect, but does this text bring the entire church together in a way that all of us can understand it and be moved by it?

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Mike Theman
2 months 3 weeks ago

The Archbishop said, "The original Latin is dense and it has multiple layers of meanings and allusions, and to try to unpack the Latin into the English, sometimes creates these long, convoluted sentences. There are certain things in a given language that don’t translate well in another....We also have to look for a text that unifies."

The Church had it right all along: Leave it all in Latin, or as we say in my family, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Dominic Deus
2 months 3 weeks ago

Dominic Deus here.

Mike, I was going to make a comment but thought I would fact check myself rather than sounding like a fool. (I can actually manage both at the same time.) I know that's not popular these days but .... Anyway, I did not remember things as well as I thought. This is quite a complex area and it's not as simple as Latin or local language. I think I am safe in saying this: the idea of having the Mass in Latin only is probably unwise and not in the spirit of bringing Catholics together. On the other hand, a combination of Latin and local language could be very helpful, poetic and spiritual. I'm referring, of course to translation and more generally, expanding the concept of canon to include music, imagery, and even poetry. Actually, the Church has been doing this for centuries. This leads naturally to the question, not of language, but form and function. What does the Mass look like, feel like and how does it inspire the mind and spirit as well as infuse the flesh with...with...well, the mystery of the Eucharist? And what about communion, which is not really the Eucharist at all but the communion of all with each other and all believers, past, present and to come.

Anyway, there is a great deal to be explored and what I wonder is will the bishops allow for any authority in the faithful as to what the Mass should or could be? I was specifically thinking of Taize services, which are not the Mass at all but are very moving and I have to add the Native American ceremonies which are, likewise, not the Mass but very spiritual. One is the Wiping Away the Tears ceremony which could teach us much. Should their not be a Mass for that or "movable feast" Mass which can be used for the expression of any human sentiment, desire or longing?

I suggest the Catholic Bishops turn the whole thing over to a group of Catholic millennial women and let them decide.

Mike Theman
2 months 2 weeks ago

Dominick, please see my reply to Mike Bayer, below.

Genevieve Burns
2 months 2 weeks ago

Latin is a UNIVERSAL language which used to unify the Church across the globe. It should be restored. I don't trust those who's obvious agenda is to return to the false translations of the Seventies. For instance, at the consecration (and in the NT words of Jesus) the words "pro multis" are Vulgate translation of the Aramaic used by God at the Last Supper. The Vulgate is our baseline. This means "for many" unambiguously. The sneaks and dishonest folks want to return to "for all" which is per omnibus. Jesus did not say for all, look it up in Holy Scripture.

For those who really know this topic, it's well known that the Seventies' translations falsified many of the Collect prayers.

Jaroslav Lunda
2 months 3 weeks ago

I don't think it is possible. It tooks 1-3 months to learn Latin and remember: English translation of the blue catechism took nearly 5 years to complete because of the harsh resistance of various groups of people trying to subvert it by introducing some sort of newspeak.
Instead, more realistic for American catholics should be praying for not to evolve into pseudo-catholic sect with women priests celebrating "sessions" with chips and wine.

Genevieve Burns
2 months 2 weeks ago

You mean women celebrating and quaffing multiple bottles of Chardonnay at their Catholic feminist social events, LOL.

James O'Connell
2 months 3 weeks ago

I certainly hope the translation is changed; someday, even our English-speaking homeless families might be welcome at Mass, again. Worthy or not, they have no roofs under which to welcome anyone.

Karen Olson
2 months 2 weeks ago

Agreed.

Justin Ramza
2 months 2 weeks ago

Agreed!

Mike Bayer
2 months 3 weeks ago

Mr Theman,

When I attend Mass I want to be part of the celebration and not a spectator or observer. I don't speak Latin or understand its density and multiple layers. If I attended a Mass conducted in any language that I did not speak I would feel like an outsider.

I think something was broken. People were not actively participating in the Mass. The vernacular Mass permits interaction. If you have taken the time and put in the effort to learn Latin, I applaud you. However, the mission the of Church is to save souls which is better accomplished when its priests are talking to people and not at them.

Carol Goodson
2 months 3 weeks ago

Thank you, MIke Bayer: I completely agree.

Mike Theman
2 months 2 weeks ago

Mr. Bayer -

One need not learn the entire Latin language to understand the mass. I personally think that people are far too much into analyzing everything nowadays. While I'm sure that most people who read "America" pay close attention to each word of the mass, I'd wager to say that the vast majority of parishioners just say the words on the card or in the missal with little thought for their meaning. Given that, at least Latin adds an element of mysticism and reverence to the ceremony, characteristics that make our religion seem like something special and not just another business conference.

Jewish parents send their kids to Hebrew school; Judaism is a 5,000 year-old religion that has the strongest cultural ties between people that I have ever witnessed. Catholicism started to breakdown around the time that Latin was replaced. Not merely a coincidence, as I see it.

Genevieve Burns
2 months 2 weeks ago

Mike Bayer: Get a missal, it has the translation. You participate best by following the prayers of the priest to God. You do not get to participate at the altar because you are not consecrated with Holy Orders. The priest celebrates the holy rite and you participate from the pew. Let's be honest here everyone, today in many parishes they don't even have missals with the English version of Eucharistic prayers in them, and most people don't use them if they are provided. So, most people completely space out, esp. the young people who we are letting down by not teaching the True Faith. They get bored with "Seventies mass". They actually hate it, and the true mass is diabolically hidden from them.

When the Priest says: "Pray brothers and sisters that my SACRIFICE and yours is acceptable to God...", the vast majority of Catholics today do not understand that the mass is about the reenactment of the crucifixion of Jesus on Good Friday, his SACRIFICE. The modernist liberal church has hidden the meaning of the mass and promotes instead a Protestant idea of a "celebration" and a "meal" and focus on the Last Supper alone.

Mätt Lintzenich
2 months 2 weeks ago

"The modernist liberal church has hidden the meaning of the mass and promotes instead a Protestant idea of a "celebration" and a "meal" and focus on the Last Supper alone."

That's not at all true.

Gregory Ryan
2 months 3 weeks ago

A picture is still worth a thousand words. No women in that beautiful photo. They have a rightful place. I realize that's not what the piece was about, but... Just sayin'. :-)

Dominic Deus
2 months 3 weeks ago

Dominic Deus here. Greg--see my suggestion above. Just let a group of young women write the whole thing and see what we get. I'm for it.

Dominic Deus
2 months 3 weeks ago

Dominic Deus here. Greg--see my suggestion above. Just let a group of young women write the whole thing and see what we get. I'm for it.

Atom Taylor
2 months 3 weeks ago

Bruh, you don't need to say your name in every comment. We can see your name just fine. So much for doing away with useless repetition....

Genevieve Burns
2 months 2 weeks ago

Sure Greg. How about you personally force your views and change the events of the Last Supper. Create some new Last Supper artwork while you're at it which changes the history. Be a revisionist historian!

If you don't like the fact that Jesus did not include women at the Last Supper (aka institution of the sacrament of Holy Orders), then kindly take it up with Jesus. Ask him to reveal to everyone that he was wrong! Good luck. God doesn't make mistakes.

Lucie Johnson
2 months 3 weeks ago

It is discouraging to see liturgists fight about things like "and also with you" vs "and with your spirit". I prefer the first language, but, like many people, got used to the second. It does not matter that much in my opinion. Praying together is what matters, and these are small differences. And now that the fighting is over, the congregations are used to the new protocol, the new words have become the usual ones, and finally feel like prayer, why re-start the battle?
Is the argument about literal vs dynamic translation worth it?

Carol Goodson
2 months 3 weeks ago

This is what I hate most: "... I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof..." The older words, "...I am not worthy to receive you..." was SO much better, and truly expressed the sentiment that is (at least) in my heart at that moment in the Mass. I wish they would change back to that.

Karen Olson
2 months 2 weeks ago

Agreed.

Justin Ramza
2 months 2 weeks ago

Not to sound repetitive, but also agreed.

Mätt Lintzenich
2 months 2 weeks ago

"enter under my roof," has a mystical symbolism that draws from Scripture and reflects a truer theological understanding of what is happening. You are receiving Jesus into your body, which is your temple, and bringing him into your home, under your roof.

Justin Ramza
2 months 2 weeks ago

And if ANY of the proceeding prayers had made this metaphor, setting or giving it context, it would be great. But as symbolic and metaphorically charged as it is, it's out of place and awkward as it so sits.

Bill Niermeyer
2 months 3 weeks ago

Much could be done. Terms that Benedict came up with while flowery need be revisited since they are not used in today's terminology. And please get rid of the use of Latin within an English language Mass. If a single Church in a parish has permission to have a Latin Mass then fine but in the USA our primary language is English. Room should also be included to have parishes with a majority of population being Spanish or Vietnamese etc should then offer a Mass in their language. My parish does that on Sunday three individual Masses. English, Spanish and Vietnamese. Don't mix them I do not want to hear it.

Atom Taylor
2 months 3 weeks ago

....and that, folks, is how the vernacular turns into Nationalism. Now Trump supporters are infiltrating our liturgy. Fan-freakin-tastic.

Justin Ramza
2 months 2 weeks ago

Funny! Thank you ;-)

Genevieve Burns
2 months 2 weeks ago

"Room should also be included to have parishes with a majority of population being Spanish or Vietnamese etc should then offer a Mass in their language."

This is very disunifying. If the mass was in Latin, then all races and cultures could be together. People could simply get their own Spanish-Latin or English-Latin missals and follow along. It's not rocket math to do it. Duh. Instead, the vernacular promotes balkanization and segregation.

Ken Stammerman
2 months 3 weeks ago

Here's a suggestion, let's NOT let the bishops review the liturgy and tweek a few 'consubstantials' and so on. Better to recruit the best people the Church has in linguistics, Scripture, liturgical theology and related fields, some of whom may be clergy and some laity to overhaul the entire liturgy. Again, and this time, do it right, without some grad student at the Vatican whispering in some aged non-English speaking cardinal's ear about being true to the 'original' Latin (and the original was really Greek or Aramaic, wasn't it?) . Their excellencies among the American bishops may have no stomachs for a full new translation, but that's not the real issue, is it? The real issue is how well the liturgy brings the People of God (that's us) to participate most fully in the Eucharist, the 'source and summit' of the Christian life. The current vernacular Mass texts are indeed clunky, loaded with obscure theological references which not only have zero import to the ordinary parishioner, but grate on the ear. A liturgy should sing, not plod.

Atom Taylor
2 months 3 weeks ago

....so let's sing it...in Latin!!!!

Samuel Pence
2 months 3 weeks ago

Christ died for all, not for "you and for many". I pray that we return to the original wording.

Atom Taylor
2 months 3 weeks ago

I, too, pray that Matthew 26:28 would be changed for the better.

Genevieve Burns
2 months 2 weeks ago

Samuel Pence: That is FALSE. It's revisionist history. Review the words of Jesus himself in the Gospel. Are you a denier of Hell?

Atom Taylor: What else of God's very words do you personally want to change? Come on....

Atom Taylor
2 months 2 weeks ago

Genevieve: That's me being facetious vis-a-vis Samuel Pence.

Karen Olson
2 months 2 weeks ago

Agreed, as to what Samuel said above.

mike lynett
2 months 3 weeks ago

Repeating an "already-made" entry: 'Christ died for all, not for "you and for many".' I agree 200%: how do I know if I'm one of "many" or one of "unmany". A linguistly-learned friend explained to me that the words should be properly translated "you and THE many", meaning all of us. In fact, I've heard a few "liberated" presiders use the words "the many". Hallelujah!!!

Genevieve Burns
2 months 2 weeks ago

Whatever. Latin for "for ALL" is "pro omnibus", not pro multis. The people who are instructing you are lying. Example: "Omnipotente et sempiterne Deus" means "All powerful and ever living God". Catholic 101. OMNI is ALL.

The Gospel says "pro multis". Not sure what the difference is between many and "the many". In both cases it means that ALL are not who Jesus shed his blood for. Jesus wants people to radically conform to God, not "hang out where you are, and God will meet us on our imperfect level". To not be an atheist and profane God by denying His 1st Commandment. Etc. God called the Apostles to RADICALLY change their lives.

The story in the Gospel about the rich man, who Christ asked to follow him is instructive. The rich man refused to radically follow the call of Jesus and went away instead never to be heard from again (in the Gospel). He rejected apostleship.

I am a Jesuit school graduate, so I understand the poor education and formation that many of received in the past 4 decades, but this is BASIC Catholic stuff I'm talking about here.

Henry George
2 months 3 weeks ago

James O'Connell - you are fully correct, after all is said and done, whatever translation the Bishop's come up means far less than providing shelter for those who have no place call home.

Carol Goodson - well the "new translation" goes back to the Pre-Vatican II translation which goes back to the Centurion speaking to Jesus about healing his servant - I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof.
Though "receive" has a similar meaning.

Bill Niermeyer - I am not an "American Catholic" I am a Catholic,
a little Latin here and there, along with some Greek - may well be good
for your soul.

Ken Stammerman - clunky the translation may be here and there but far more faithful to the prayers in Latin.

Samuel Pence - That is a disputed translation - "for you and many"
seems to have the longer history.

Can't we take a look at the Anglican Translation of the Mass and
its history and use some of their memorable and moving phrases ?

Genevieve Burns
2 months 2 weeks ago

Henry George: you wrote: "after all is said and done, whatever translation the Bishop's come up means far less than providing shelter for those who have no place call home."

I think this is short-sighted. You could perhaps take a longer view. 1) Words matter and we must be ever-vigilant that heretics do not change the Word of God or the meaning of the Mass. Look at the damage that many protestant heretics have done, taking souls away from our true Catholic Faith started by Jesus.

2) If it's inconsequential why do the liberals and modernists care so much? Why are they so adamant about pushing THEIR translation? Please tell them to stop and leave it. They should be out helping the poor instead of wasting time on this. Why is America magazine even writing about it? Waste of time? hmmmmm.

3) The poor will always be with us. Jesus said this. I personally know a black pastor (protestant) in South Carolina who says; "WE DON'T GIVE HANDOUTS, WE GIVE THEM JESUS CHRIST first". He believes that handing out a sandwich pales in comparison to giving someone the gift of God and the salvation of the soul. I think we're seeing this viewpoint coming out of Kanye West.

4) Forgetting the first-half of the Great Commandment: LOVE GOD, and instead focusing on Socialism as exemplified through hand-outs and redistribution etc. is an error that the SJW crowd routinely makes. I believe that many SJWs simply cherry-pick the Gospel to push socialist ideology. It has a veneer of the faith, but a very thin one. GOD COMES FIRST, not the ham sandwich.

Henry George
2 months 2 weeks ago

Genevieve,

If we have to worry about Protestant Heresies in a "Revised" Translation of the Missal being approved by the Bishops
then we are a Church being led by hired shepherds who do not love their sheep.

2) I agree with you that "Progressives" want their translation so as to push the Church, or what they call the
American Church farther and farther away from Rome and our traditions. Visit the offices of America Magazine
and you will see why they are more concerned about the Progressive desire to change the Missal than the Poor.

3) Preach both the Gospel and live the Gospel.

4) God does come first but putting God first also means taking care of those who need our help.

Franklin Uroda
2 months 3 weeks ago

Looks like-to me-the texts we're using now are more transliterations than translations.

Genevieve Burns
2 months 2 weeks ago

Not sure what you mean. Et cum spiritu tu means "and with your spirit". How is that not not clear.

And also with you, would simply be: "Et cum tu". Why dilute the original meaning -- for something less? Why eliminate words?

Linda Gatter
2 months 2 weeks ago

How are the Bishops going to decide what's working and what's not? I hope they would take the time to ask the priests of every parish for written comments from their parishioners -- about what's working for the parishioners and what's not. Otherwise, it'll just be another top-down exercise that appears to be addressing a possible problem without actually doing so. With respect, the opinions of Bishops do not necessarily reflect the opinions of their congregations.

Genevieve Burns
2 months 2 weeks ago

The main revisionist target of the liberals, SJWs, and the homosexual lobby is the "PRO MULTIS" translation at the consecration. It means "for many", which implies clearly that not all are saved. It means that Hell exists. These are the direct words of Jesus in the Gospel, that the lobby is trying to falsify!

The lobby does not want to change their immoral lifestyles and instead is seeking all ways possible to justify it, obscure the truth, including pushing the heresy that "all are saved" and that Hell doesn't exist. Again: Jesus contradicts them explicitly on both in the NT.

These people literally have no fear of the Lord, some of them in the lobby who might scandalize a young person to embrace the sin/lifestyle are heading into millstone-around-the-neck territory. Hubris in the extreme. It's incredible actually.

JOHN GRONDELSKI
2 months 2 weeks ago

The average Catholic in the pews seems to have made his peace with the reforms that are now 7 years old. Liturgical language needs to be established and retained, not revised every so many years. I do not have issues with the "density" of the language: I have issues with the "see Dick run; run, run, run" prose that ICEL foisted on us 50 years ago, from which we have been finally liberated. Liturgical language should not read like a Tweet, and we should not make Tweet-like style the norm for what English should be.

Gino Dalpiaz
2 months 2 weeks ago

WE NEED A TRANSLATION — NOT A PARAPHRASE

The time is right to review Mass translations, says Archbishop Wilton Gregory. Indeed . . . ! Here are some suggestions, off the cuff:

1) Like the translation of the Bible, the translation of liturgical texts must be an exact and literal translation, not an expository or interpretative version of the original (like the wildly popular Living Bible (TLB), which is an English paraphrase of the Bible created by Kenneth N. Taylor and first published in 1971). In the past, we’ve had too many of those funny “dynamic” translations of the liturgy. We need a translation, not a paraphrase.

2. People don’t want political correctness—with its ideological and theological biases—to infect the translation of liturgical texts through choice of words, grammar, pronouns, style, etc.

3.Ancient and venerable terms like consubstantial, Incarnation, Annunciation, Assumption, etc., must remain in the English text untouched in their utter chasteness. Ditto for “And with your spirit,” and “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof,” and “supper of the Lamb.” We don’t change hard words in Shakespeare’s works when our children or teenagers don’t yet understand the meaning and beauty hidden in those words. We just sit down and explain them to the kids, as we do with a lot of other words they don’t understand.

4. I don’t think the English text of the Anglican liturgies or the King James Bible—which we all admire— took the liberties that some of our Cathodic translators took with the venerable text of the Catholic Mass. Why can’t we emulate them? Let’s ask our friends in the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter for some help. Or even St. Jerome, who faithfully and brilliantly translated the whole Bible with such consummate skill.

Genevieve Burns
2 months 2 weeks ago

Thank you. A voice of sanity.

Joris Heise
2 months 2 weeks ago

Possum in lingua Latina ecclesiastica cogitare-etiam orarre, si necesse sit. Similiter, possum in linguam anglicam verba graeca transferre. I think the Latin Mass needs to be available for older folks., but I have two suggestions--and they are suggestions from a prayerful points of view. I think the English-speaking bishops should offer (as they do in the Canon) a true variety of translations--not merely the NAB (based ultimateLY on Wycliffe and the resonate out-loud versions of the late sixteenth century--a true necessity at the time), but also "the Way" or some much more contemporary version. (I get so tired of people worshiping the Vulgate as though it is the Quran--we need contemporary, less cliched language in our Biblical readings). There is a great chasm between current scholarship and the nostalgic traditionalism that is hindering the bridging of that chasm. Ninety-nine percent of modern translations are "accurate" as possible, and every one is a theological interpretation. 2nd, it is time to TRANSLATE into English. "Amen, Amen I say to you," IS NOT ENGLISH, BUT HEBREW/ARAMAIC. Mechanical translations do not convey the Word of God from the Person to persons.

Joris Heise
2 months 2 weeks ago

Here is what some people (not everyone!) might understand more of what Jesus is saying if the language of the bible looks like this: Jesus says to people inspired by him: "Peace I am leaving with you; my peace I am giving you. It is not the kind of peace the world gives that I am giving you. Don’t let your heart get upset or live in fear. You have heard me tell you, 'I am going away but I will come back to you.' If you loved me, you would feel good that I am going to the Father—the Father is greater than I am—but I have told you this now, before it happens, so that when it does happen, you may have the faith you need.

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