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Paul PhilibertJanuary 03, 2011

Over the past 37 years, English-speaking Catholics became accustomed to hearing a particular translation of the Latin text for the eucharistic prayer: “Take this, all of you, and drink from it: this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all men so that sins may be forgiven.”

Since 1985, the word men has been omitted, but never the word all. Now, however, as many bishops are mandating liturgy workshops to prepare their clergy to use the new third typical edition of the Roman Missal, formerly referred to as the Sacramentary, priests are being commanded to replace the word all. Among the many infelicities that the new English text, slated to become normative in Advent 2011, holds in store for Catholics is the replacement of the translation of the Latin “pro vobis et pro multis” that we have known since 1973 as “for you and for all [men]” with the newly proposed “for you and for many.”

Why is this happening?

I recently returned from an international meeting (the general chapter of the Order of Preachers) in Rome, where the Eucharist was celebrated in the many languages of the participants. I was particularly interested to note how the phrase “pro multis” was rendered. What I discovered, in brief, is that in German, the Eucharistic prayer says “for you and for all” (“für euch und für alle”); in Spanish the text is “for you and for all men” (“por vosotros y por todos los hombres”); in Italian the text is “for you and for all” (“per voi e per tutti”); and in French the text is “for you and for the multitude” (“pour vous et pour la multitude”), which evokes the great multitude of the apocalypse in Rv 7:9 and 19:6. In none of these translations of the Latin “pro multis” is there the implication, unmistakable in the proposed English translation “for many,” of a less-than-universal divine will for salvation in the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection. These translations, of course, were all made before the instruction Liturgiam Authenticam was issued in 2001 by the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship.

Still, as recently as September 2010, the German bishops’ conference rejected the Roman request for a new translation. The conference explained that the present sacramentary was widely accepted by both priests and faithful—a fact of great merit—and that this reception must not be jeopardized by replacing “good German texts” with “unfamiliar new interpretations.”

Because the Latin language does not have articles, the phrase “pro multis” can be translated either as “for the many” or “for many.” In English, without the article, many is restrictive rather than universal, suggesting some—perhaps a handful, perhaps thousands, but certainly not a majority nor the totality of human beings.

In talking about the new Missal, many U.S. bishops have expressed the opinion that a literally exact translation of the Latin text will restore the depth of meaning of the Mass text. Really? In this case, a slavishly literal translation of the Latin looks very much like the kind of mistake that a Latin teacher would correct in the work of a high school student learning the ancient language. “Don’t be afraid to add the definite article if the words don’t make sense otherwise,” the teacher might well say.

Making Sense?

The words do not make sense. They run contrary to the church’s constant tradition of the universal salvific will of Christ. This has been expressed with perfect clarity in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (No. 605), which reads:

[Jesus] affirms that he came to “give his life as a ransom for many”; this last term is not restrictive, but contrasts the whole of humanity with the unique person of the redeemer who hands himself over to save us. The Church, following the apostles, teaches that Christ died for all men [sic] without exception: “There is not, never has been, and never will be a single human being for whom Christ did not suffer.”

There is no ambiguity in this explanation (and several similar texts might be cited from the Catechism). On the contrary, the need for such an explanation raises the alarm that the new Missal’s translation of “pro multis” as “for many” is simply too narrow theologically and would require a similar explanation.

Without one, the ecclesiological overtones of “for many” mirror a growing tendency among “restorationists” to reinvent the church as a faithful remnant of those untouched by the ravages of secularization and cultural change—those, in other words, who are perfectly comfortable in a pre-Vatican II world, preoccupied with its own sanctity and well-being. This runs counter, however, to the ecclesiology of the “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church” of Vatican II as expressed in its first statement of principle: “Christ is the light of the nations...and desires to bring to all humanity the light of Christ.... since the Church...is a sacrament—a sign and instrument of communion with God and of the unity of the entire human race...” (No. 1).

In the May 1970 issue of Notitiae, the official periodical of the Vatican’s Congregation for Worship, the eminent Jesuit biblical scholar Max Zerwick gave an exegetical explanation for translating a Hebrew text that underlies Jesus’ words as “for all”:

Pro multis seems to have been used by Jesus himself. This is so because calling to mind the Suffering Servant who sacrifices himself, as in Isaiah, it is suggested that Jesus himself would fulfill what was foretold about the Servant of the Lord. The principal text in question is Isaiah 53:11b-12: “Through his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear.”...

Therefore the formula pro multis [for many] instead of pro omnibus [for all] in our texts (Mk 10:45; Mt 20:28; Mk 14:24; Mt 26:28) seems to be due to the intended allusion to the Suffering Servant whose work Jesus carried out by his death....

The Semitic mind of the Bible could see that universality connoted in the phrase “for many.” In fact that connotation was certainly there because of the theological context. Yet, however eloquent it was for ancient peoples, today that allusion to the Suffering Servant of Isaiah is clear only to experts.

Stilted English

The new English translation of the liturgical texts, which some claim to be more accurate and more faithful, is in fact expressed in English that is stilted, verbose and (as in the present case) theologically inadequate. What is lost especially is the matter of evangelization. The celebration of Sunday Mass is the most effective vehicle of evangelization for the greatest number of people. In many people’s lives, it is the one chance the church has to reach them and to awaken their faith. Do church leaders want to signal that the grace of Christ is available only to the regular, traditional churchgoer? Is their intention to leave out the rest? More and more it looks as if the covert message beneath the written text is one of effective exclusion rather than antecedent inclusion of all humanity in God’s will for salvation.

In general, the new Missal’s language is of no help here. At a conference held in Raleigh, N.C., last October, the St. Mary of the Lake workshop presenters offered as an example of a supposedly significant improvement in the translation of the Mass the following Collect (for Dec. 17):

Filled with the divine gift, Almighty God, we beg you to grant our desire that, enkindled by your Spirit, we may blaze like bright torches before the face of your Christ when he comes.

The Latin teacher mentioned above might well say to the translator, “Come on now, you can do better than that. Who talks like that?” Well, it appears we all will have to in a matter of months. Unless…

Examples of the coming changes to the Roman Missal are available from the U.S. bishops' conference. For more on America's coverage of the controversy click here. To read this article in Spanish click here.

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12 years 11 months ago
it gives me a headache thinking about having to go through all this.
12 years 11 months ago
I find the tone of this article rather insulting to our bishops.  Thanks for teaching me that any Latin teacher is more trust-worthy and knowledgible than our bishops.  You fill my New Year with Joy and humility.  That is what I have come to expect from America Magazine.
David Haschka
12 years 11 months ago
Hmmm, I don't know what my Latin teacher would say, but I'm pretty sure my English teacher would correct the title: "For You and Whom else?"
Jim McCrea
12 years 11 months ago
Joe Kash:  when it comes to translating from Latin to English, I'll trust Latin teachers over bishops in a New York minute.  Reggie Foster vs Any American Bishop?  No contest.
William McGeveran
12 years 11 months ago

I agree with the article. In general, it seems to me that most of the changes being imposed are either needlessly stilted or just plain needless. More important, the whole project seems to be part of a slightly devious effort aimed at mildly deflating the spirit of Vatican II. It is a small step in the wrong direction.

12 years 11 months ago
Fr. Philibert's comment about the "restorationist" sense of being for those who were safe in the culture of pre-Vatican II brought me back to a comment from a person in a parish, in another diocese, which had Latin Mass.  After Mass at which I had preached on Missions and the Propagation of the Faith one of the faithful complained to me that the people out there in Mission lands would dilute the faith. I guess it has been being diluted since all were sent out by Jesus...
12 years 11 months ago
Isn't it interesting that the German bishops' conference in September rejected the Roman call for the new translation, and for good reason, yet the U.S. conference of bishops did no such thing even though it must have been aware of such flaws in the new wording?  Is it too late now? 
Father Superior
12 years 11 months ago
Max Zerwick could also have noted that the Hebrew text uses the word rabbîm in the Isaiah text quoted. It means "many" but it has an inclusive sense which includes all and signifies "a totality which is composed of many." "The many" is probably the closest we can get to a literal translation, but the meaning in English is "all". 1 Tim 2:5 is equivalent to Mk 10:45 but it is written in the western mentality whereas Mk is written in the Hebrew mentality. See the parallel:
Mk 10:45:   "the Son of man ... came ... to give his soul as a ransom for the many";
1 Tim 2:5: "the man Christ Jesus        who gave himself as a ransom for all." Jesus words in Mk 14:24 say "for the many" but they mean "all."
Bill Mazzella
12 years 11 months ago
The American Bishops wonder why they have little credibility. Kudos to the German bishops who are using their God-given intelligence. American bishops believe they can get away with anything as long as they claim loyalty forgetting that God helps those who help themselves. Can they blame their lawyers for this one too?
Mary OBrien
12 years 11 months ago
Look around as people pray at Sunday liturgies.  We know these prayers by heart and they have become a part of us.  Now we'll have to go back to reading instead of praying.
Paul Feeley
12 years 11 months ago
One supposes we come together to celebrate our faith in the Lord of Life. We don't come to repeat an ancient text in an ancient language. We feel comfortable in our own language. Our faith is a fundamental experience of our life. It can and certainly should be  expressed in our language.

A much broader expression, not just about the language, should be available.

James Caruso
12 years 11 months ago
Really, this seems like much ado about nothing.  I did not see any statement that there are hundreds of such problems in the new texts.  If there are, let's make a list and let us all see them. 

I really don't have any problem at all with the new translation.  I recall somewhere it used to be said "for the many who would be sorry for their sins."  Where that memory comes from, I don't know, but isn't it a fact that Jesus died for all those who in His Divine foresight would be sorry for their sins?  Isn't that the same as saying He died for all, but some would not take advantage of His redemptive sacrifice?  We all know that Catholicism is not an elitist organization; it is not exclusive, but inclusive.  I knew that when the Mass was in Latin; I knew that when the Novus Ordo was introduced; I know that now with the new translation about to replace the old; and I will know it long after the new translation goes into effect. 

Stilted language?  Maybe, "churchy" language would be a better description, and in what better place than a church.  No, the translation does not reflect how we talk today, nor should it, in my humble opinion.  It should try to faithfully reproduce what was said historically, even if that sometimes needs amplification. 

I attended a Yom Kippur service with the Jewish side of my family this year and the Rabbi spoke of the efficacy of the rite continuing to be in Hebrew and so difficult to learn.  It should be hard, he said, and not something that is easily attained. The Mass, like the Hebrew service, is not something that is necessarily better because it is easy to learn.  It is something that we should have to work at and grow into day after day in our spiritual journey.  It reflects realities which themselves are so awesome and incomprehensible that we are lucky to get more than a glimmer of their real meaning in a lifetime of spiritual growth. 

I could live with the Latin side-by-side with the English, and in fact, prefer it to a language that is so commonplace that it fails to punctuate the enormity of the action that is taking place.  The Mass is mystical, mysterious, awesome, mind-boggling, numbing, frightening, inspirational, comforting, nourishing, compelling, exciting, calming, uplifting, humbling - all things to all people!  It is not an ordinary event that can properly be described in ordinary language.  It is an event that begs superlatives, differences from the ordinary, amazement!  Anything that helps this is all right by me.  Latin, incense, singing, candles, a crucifix prominently placed, sprinkling of the people, genuflection, bowing, kneeling, stained glass windows, stilted language - bring it on. 

Give me something to grow into.  Give me something that is a bit difficult at first but yields to constant practice and devotion.  Give me something that is different than my everyday life.  Give me something that tries to bridge the visual, physical world to the invisible, spiritual world.  Give me something that says there's more here than meets the eye.  Forgive me if I don't mind saying, "Lord I am not worthy that Thou shouldst enter under my roof, but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed."  I know what it means.  You may call it stilted; I call it poetic.  It's the language of prayer. Just maybe what we have done in making the Mass so easy, so simple, so ordinary, is to despiritualize it, dare I say, secularize it, to some degree - and that is the wrong direction.
12 years 11 months ago
Thank you so much for covering the story of the new translation of the Roman Missal.  Please keep shining light on the anticipated changes.
Lynn Thomas
12 years 11 months ago
Mr. Caruso,

According to some sources over on the Pray Tell blog, the number of problems is not hundreds, but thousands, in fact ten thousand, instances of poor translation, deviation from the Latin [i.e. a violation of the principles of Liturgicam Authenticam], and similar.

In other words, your proposed list is a very long one.

Elevated language is fine, obscure, absurd language is not.  Reasonable people may disagree on exactly where to draw the line, but I suspect most folks will draw it shorter than your taste.  Difficult for difficulty's sake is silly and will drive away many folks, particularly the ones less well educated or intellectualy gifted.  How Christian is that?
Jim McCrea
12 years 11 months ago
Mr. Caruso:

Thou wouldst love the Anglican service language and shouldst consider partaking of it on a regular basis.  Yea, verily, sayest I to thee.
12 years 11 months ago

If people don't go to Mass because they don't like the translation then they have a much bigger issue than a difference of opinion about the translation.  If he understands, how can a Catholic not want to go to Mass?

Judging by the poor attendance at my liberal parish that has good music and liturgical innovation, there is something greater missing.

I think the ordinary Sunday evening Latin Mass at the local "orthodox" Catholic parish has better attendance than our beautiful music and innovative Easter Vigil Mass.  Why?
John Hess
12 years 11 months ago
I am not a learned man in the nuances of doctrine, but try to follow the Way with a prayerful conscience, so forgive me if I am over my head here.  But our Bishops seem to be missing the point on this particular matter. 

Jesus taught us in very simple words expressing truths of bottomless depth.  If simple words were good enough for Jesus, shouldn't they be good enough for us?  What is more important, fidelity to His teaching, or fidelity to the grammer of Latin, a language he didn't even use?  
Mike Evans
12 years 11 months ago
Jesus wept! Suprised they didn't substantially alter the Lord's Prayer, too.

Will any of these newly translated prayers bring in more believers? Will they lead to more people understanding or just slice off another esoteric segment from all the rest.

Jesus wept!
James Caruso
12 years 11 months ago
Ten thousand instances of poor translation! Ha!  I wonder if that has anything to do with the "eye of the beholder?"  I also wonder if there are even ten thousand words in the entire Novus Ordo, as abbreviated as it is from the original Mass that served us fine for so many centuries.  I do hope someone publishes this great list of "poor" translations so we can all see what all the brouhaha is about.  If it's the language in general, I'd call that one, not thousands. 

I guess one man's obscure and absurd is another man's easily understood and sensible.  For me, the quote I gave about "not worthy to come under my roof" is even richer than the Novus Ordo version, since it comes directly out of the Douay-Rheims Bible alluding to the faith and humility of the centurion wanting Jesus to cure His servant. 

Most folks will indeed differ with me as to where to draw the line.  I am happy that Jesus did not put the care, direction and maintenance of His Church in the hands of "most folks."  He could have, but He didn't.

Difficulty for difficulty's sake?  Is that what people think of the deliberations of our bishops and priests?  The more "difficult" wordings may drive many away, but I think not the less educated and intellectually gifted - just the opposite, I think it will drive away the well educated and intellectually gifted in their pride and arrogance to believe that they know better than those entrusted by Jesus with the care and direction of His Church.

I would find great value in the Anglican Church, I am sure, but have decided to remain in the one, true church established by Jesus Christ, the Church that alone is kept free from error by the Holy Spirit, the Church that has the authentic sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist and Reconciliation, and the Church that so honors the great Mother of God and promotes the recitation of the Holy Rosary, among other reasons too numerous to mention.

I do find the Novus Ordo a lot easier than the old Latin Mass, but I also find it has less of everything else save easiness.  You'd think that being so easy, attendance at Mass would have grown tremendously since Vatican II, but instead we find it has dropped from 74% of Catholics attending Sunday Mass in pre-Vatican II 1958 to 25% in 2000.

Personally, I believe the Holy Spirit through Vatican II allowed a desperate attempt to draw in and/or, keep in, more souls by casting a wider net that would appeal mainly to the less spiritually-minded person.  Did it work?  Who know how many fewer souls would be Catholic today had this not happened.  I'm willing to call it a success.  But I do not think that all of the changes represent a better framework for spiritual development - just that God in His Infinite Mercy lowered the bar, not in matters of faith and morals, but in matters of ritual and trappings, that the greater number might be saved. I am all for a number of different Masses, if this serves to save souls, but I do believe that the original Mass should remain with us forever, the model from which none can differ in their essence.
12 years 11 months ago
This whole discussion is SO sad, as is the amount of time our Bishops are spending on words.  My own understanding of Vatican II was that we attempt to find the message that Jesus left us-to follow the way He showed.  The message was not originally given to us in Latin and even Church Latin is not classic Latin.  How much more important that we each try to live  the spirit of the message than involve ourselves in the minutia of words.
Melody Evans
12 years 11 months ago
The changing of that one word from "all" to "many" bothers me a great deal.  I left a Protestant church where predestination was pushed hard and the pastor prayed "for those who are chosen" in the pews.  I caught on to the term "all" quite quickly upon attending a Catholic church for the first time (and it brought me a sense of peace).  Now, as a member of the Catholic church this change in words does not sit well with me.  It has a predestination (pre-chosen) bite to it.  I'm sure I am just more sensitive, but for me it will be a problem.

"... God our Savior, who desires ALL men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Jesus Christ, who gave Himself as a ransom for ALL..."  1 Timothy 2:3-6
12 years 11 months ago
Fr Philibert has pointed out one of the more serious missteps in the new translation. Some similar ones appear in the new Creed, where some phrases are prissy and inane. As a translation from the Latin, the whole effort merits at most a C-. Letting it stand for for the American Church's worship seems spineless.
C Walter Mattingly
12 years 11 months ago
If the translator of the Mass has in mind both fidelity to the text and coherence to the faith tradition within the limitation of that fidelity, then neither "all" nor "many" are distinguished choices. As noted, the primary meaning for multis is the word "many," and the author seems correct to me to note that it could just as easily be translated for "the many," which would more clearly connote a more inclusive sense. "All," however, seems simply inaccurate: some variation of "omni" would have been used had that been intended.
The French have it right, it seems, as "multitude" is another common meaning of the word in question. It could connote both aspects: that Christ died for every man, but that those who reject Christ have voided that act by not following His teachings (at least for those Catholics who continue to believe in the Last Judgement and the possibility of separation from God.) It also has the advantage that it does not change the word to another the translator wishes had been used in its place.
David Smith
12 years 11 months ago
Father Tetlow writes:

"Fr Philibert has pointed out one of the more serious missteps in the new translation. Some similar ones appear in the new Creed, where some phrases are prissy and inane. As a translation from the Latin, the whole effort merits at most a C-. Letting it stand for for the American Church's worship seems spineless."

The author refers, in the second and fourth paragraphs, to "the proposed translation".  On the other hand, he speaks, in the second paragraph, of "the new English text, slated to become normative in Advent 2011".  That's confusing.  If it's only "proposed", what's standing in the way of implementation?

The language of the liturgy that's used now is flat as a pancake.  So it's proposed that we go from flat to stilted?  I wonder whether there aren't far too many theologians in the Church and far too few poets.
William Bagley
12 years 11 months ago
Thank goodness (and I mean good-ness) for Father Philbert's article.  Too many priests are afraid to speak up, sisters who do speak up are roundly silenced or ostracized, lay people are simply ignored.  The translation is stilted, full of archaic usages and simply out of touch.  Wonder why parishes are being consolidated, vocations continue to slide and the young abandon the pews?  It's not because we fail to use precise translations... we ignore matters that really count in favor of exercises in false piety.  It's time for the Church's leadership to lead, but to do so seeking consenus... as worthy as are the US Marines, ours is a Church, not the Marine Corps.  A twist on an old rhyme might now read...

Here's to the Church Roman Catholic
Where the poor come looking for God
Whose Pope speaks only to bishops
And bishops speak only to God
12 years 11 months ago
Is it "many" or "all?" In the Church approved private revelations to St. Faustina Kowalska, we discover that Jesus told Faustina, at the hour of death he personally comes to  souls offering "all" the final chance to say "yes" to God, obviously if needed. Liturgists seem to question this but those of simple Faith, including Pope John Paul the Great,  benefit from Mt. 11, vs. 25 where Jesus says, "I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned, you have revealed them to little ones (children."

Childlike Faith should be enough even for learned liturgists for them to understand that Jesus died for all, not just many. But they seem to say, "Baloney!" And Bishops follow along, confusing simple Faith. If its not broken, why try to fix it? All of which brings to mind the well-know quip, "What's the difference between liturgists and terrorists? You can TALK to terrorists!"  That's not good news for the Church, which hopefully, will not end up forcing ever more Believers somewhere else.

However, those of us who choose to remain will humbly obey, trusting that in God's own way and in God's own time liturgists and Bishops will get things right!
David Smith
12 years 11 months ago
Bruce Snowden writes:

"However, those of us who choose to remain will humbly obey, trusting that in God's own way and in God's own time liturgists and Bishops will get things right!"

But what does that matter if we never experience the change?  Why stick around and suffer?  Should attending church services be painful?  Is that sort of penance healthy?
12 years 11 months ago
Hi Dave, the simple answer is, it's all rooted in Faith, Faith in Jesus who said, "Come to me all you who labor and are burdened and I will refresh you. Learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart and you shall find rest for your soul. For my burden is sweet and my yoke is light." Mystery here, as "burdens" are not "sweet" and "yokes" are not "light." And Faith is from start to finish,  a dark light, casting shadows of fright on the jagged walls of the tunnel of life. But fortunately, Faith is, nonetheless, a LIGHT.

If this is not true, then as Paul says in one of his letters. "We are the most miserable of men!"
David Smith
12 years 11 months ago
I see your point, Bruce.  Thanks.

Happy New Year!

Not very tangentially, I came across this article on one of the "opposition" web sites:


Sounds lovely.  I suppose from the point of view of many people here, it's not, but I confess I don't understand why not.
12 years 11 months ago
As a practicing Roman Catholic who was a child during the implementation of Vatican II changes, I really wish your generation would stop spending your time at meetings in Rome and writing articles and just reach out to the basic parishioner by a friendly gesture, good homily and welcoming spirit.  Maybe my generation would start coming back and stay.    I don't think we in the pews really care about the perspicacity that you church elite purport to have regarding the impact of translations on our spiritual growth.

Margi Sirovatka
12 years 11 months ago
Paul Philibert's compelling piece does raise the question why the change from "all" to "many?"   I still do not see why "all" cannot be an appropriate translation for "pro multis" since it does address clearly God's universal salvific will.

12 years 11 months ago

If the so-called inclusive language "for all" has been used for the past 37 years, why did church attendance continue to decline after its introduction? (See following article by William J. Byron)

I find it amusing that the same group of liturgists/theologians who pressed the faithful to be open to change 40 years ago are now whining that they are too accustomed to the "old" translation to learn a new one.

12 years 11 months ago

Our Lady of the footnotes, ora pro nobis

in addendum in re post by Mel Evans - the best part of RCIA is when a well-trained Protestant "gets it" during a presentation and begins quoting scripture beyond the text and the presenter. I tried to remember to have pad and pencil to take notes at that point.

in addendum in re post by Wm Bagley, proper usage would have an Amen Alleluia appended to the poem

in addendum in re post by Barbara Sirovatka:  If the so-called inclusive language "for all" had not been used for the past 37 years, perhaps church attendance would have declines even more.  (See following article by William J. Byron)  We won't know if we don't ask.

To quote the famous theologian Wayne Gretsky, "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take."

12 years 11 months ago

Paul Philibert’s article, “Lost in Translation,” reminds me of a conversation I had with my sister, a mother of thirteen who teaches Faith Formation to 2nd graders and volunteers at a Catholic Pregnancy Crisis Center in her spare time.  I was explaining the new translation of the Roman Missal (“Sacramentary” for the past 40 years) and presented, among others things, the change from “for all” to “for many.”  I explained that the previous translation was a dynamic translation, but the Church is preparing a more literal, closer-to-the-Latin translation; and so, the change from the “for all” to the “for many.”  “You know, Jackie,” I told her, “that the “for many” is a Semitic idiom that means ‘for all.’”  She looked at me and said, “Don’t you guys have better things to do? Like peace and justice and doing something for all “the many” leaving the church?”  There may be more than words ""lost in translation."

Fr. John Itzaina, SDB, San Francisco, Saints Peter and Paul Church

James Sheehan
12 years 11 months ago
After the holidays, I am more certain of the wisdom contained in the quote, "the straw that broke the camel's back."   There is an exodus of people leaving the church, even among my own family and friends.   It is due to many issues and all it takes is one more grievance and they say, "that's it, I've had it, that's the straw that broke the camel's back."   My sister and her family had it with the decision of Bishop Olmstead in Phoenix and went to the Episcopal Church for Christmas Mass.  Others have left for different reasons, usually for a combination of reasons.  The sex abuse scandal did not provoke an immediate exodus, but it provided enough "straws" that small decisions or events can bring people to the point of "that's it."  Everyone in pastoral leadership, particularly the bishops, should know this.
In light of this situation, why would we risk gambling with those who stay by introducing a new translation for the mass?    On the surface, it may not be so dramatic (except that "for all" vs. "for many" is major), but it will be that last straw for many. (And I mean many and not all.)  The German Bishops have the pastoral sense to say no to these changes.   Why can't the American Bishops?
12 years 11 months ago
Kudos to Fr. Philibert!!  How I wish our bishops had the guts of the German bishops.
And how wonderful that Fr. Philibert said it like it should be said.

With all the problems facing the church and its people today, years are spent on
the minituae of revising Missal words instead of trying to reach out to the faithful, those who stayed and those who strayed.  Words....words....words....to quote the song from "My Fair Lady" are wasted when our church is in such deep trouble with sexual abuse and the Vatican powers would love nothing better than turning the altar around again!

"Pro multis".....for all......that's the way Jesus meant for it to be said. And, it is clear that "for all men" is still consistently used by the clergy.  Would that the American bishops would face reality and encourage their faithful to pray by uplifting them, not chastising them like children.

Rock on, Fr. Philibert!
Joseph Mahon
12 years 11 months ago
Amen, Father Philiburt. Well said. Given the interest in the Latin Mass, I really htink the restorationits who want to live in a pre-Vatican II "me-and-Jesus world" would have made us revert to Latin if they thought they could get away with it. Few people even realize that Latin was not the language of the church until the fourth or fifth century. Aramaic and Greek preceded it. So what is so sacred about a literal translation of the Latin?
The closest the restorationists could come to imposing their imperial will on us was a stilted transliteration, NOT translation, of the Latin. The New Missal is being imposed top-down by Curial hierarchs who have taken the liberty of making numerous changes to the text approved by the American bishops. Would that they had had the courage to say "No!" like the German bishops. I have not seen where they have had the intestinal fortitude to challenge the Curia on the changes!
This cradle Catholic will no longer worship in a Church where he has to pray in a alien language.
12 years 11 months ago
Paul Philibert is probably right in saying that we will have to accept the New Roman Missal with its stilted English and less than universal conept of salvation, unless...there is an indult to use the 1985 approved Sacramentary, like the indult to say the Tridentine Mass of 1570.  Since the bishops are sensitive and campassionate for those who find it difficult to accept newer liturgical modalities, we coulld easily have an indult to use the 1985 Sacramentrary. This could happen, unless a significant number of Catholics, both clerical and laty, just ignore the New Roman Missal and continue to use the 1985 Sacramentary.  This could happen, unless we have an effective and expensive 'catechesis' clearly explaining the New Roman Missal.  Then, of course, everyone will accept the New Roman Missal with its stilted English and less than universal concept of salvation. 
Stephen Wilson
12 years 11 months ago

So next we will be asked to make a special contribution to purchase new missals that contain all this magic new enlightenment.  Which charity will then have to go without: the local foodshelf? Habitat for Humanity? pregnancy crisis center? the victims of the next earthquake?

Apparently there isn't enough of a priest shortage if we have time on our hands to tweak the liturgy like this.  Has the institutional Church lost its focus?

Lawrence McGauley
12 years 11 months ago
"Filled with the divine gift, Almighty God, we beg you to grant our desire that, enkindled by your Spirit, we may blaze like bright torches before the face of your Christ when he comes." The author uses this as an example of a poor translation, with the comment: "Who talks like that?" Well, very rarely do we write the way we talk, and vice-versa. Nor do our public prayers reflect the ordindary venacular. And thank God for that! I think the example above, far from a poor translation, reflects a much better, and more poetic, liturgical language. We are certainly headed in the right direction. This is much closer to the beautiful language of the Anglican liturgies...a church which has many hundreds of years more experience with liturgical English than we have in the last 40 years in the U.S.
Lawrence McGauley
12 years 11 months ago
By the way, after reading through all the other readers' comments, it seems everyone is forgetting how truly atrocious the translation that we have been using since Vatican II is. It really is appalling. Nothing could be worse than our current translation. And it is about time! We're way behind in our translations, and we've got some catching up to do!
Lynn Thomas
12 years 11 months ago
Mr. McGauley, 

You say that "nothing could be worse than our current translation."  I deeply disagree.  It's not great, but it's workable and met the requirements placed upon it at the time it was created.  This new one is, on the whole, awful.  Parts of it are indeed great improvements on the current material, but there are countless places where the language is awkward, stilted, ungrammatical, or just plain ugly.  Those may it its good points, since none of them so much as mentions the places that it isn't a good translation of the Latin.  In some places it's not a translation at all, but something added.

Then there is the matter of the way assorted entities abused their authority and the individuals working on the project.  A visit to the Pray Tell blog is enlightening in this regard.
12 years 10 months ago
As one who earns his bread by translating, I have to agree with Fr Philibert's assessment. There is simply no such thing as an accurate 'literal' translation; languages don't work that way.

This translation has 'epic fail' written all over it. That's not to say the one we use is much better; as has been noted, it is flat, even sketchy in its accuracy. Too many beautiful images in the Latin get swept aside for the sake of some ideal of 'straightforward language.' Indeed, too much theology is eviscerated by the flat, dull language. I'm grateful for Fr Philibert's highlighting the article by Max Zerwick. That's the kind of theological detail that I can use in a homily, or in teaching about the liturgy.

To my mind, David Smith has more accurately diagnosed the problem: though I don't believe we have too many theologians, it's certainly not for lack of them that we have the problems we do. Rather, it's a lack of poets that afflicts us, and translation by committee...
12 years 10 months ago
A statement in an article on the "New Evangelization" in the January 21, 2011 edition of L'Osservatore romano (in Italian) gives one pause regarding the stilted language in the new English translation of the Roman Missal: "The need for a new language, one that people of today will be able to understand, is a need that we must not ignore, especially for a religious language that is so couched in technical terms that it often becomes incomprehensible.  We have an obligation to 'open the linguist cage' in order to promote a more efficacious commiunication so that evangealization might really be new."
Joseph O'Leary
12 years 10 months ago
Amazing how conservative Catholics rush to the defense of the new translation without having made any effort to read it! They are ensuring that the translation will arrive on schedule - and I predict that they will be the first to walk away in disgust - to a Latin Mass perhaps.

"Filled with the divine gift, Almighty God, we beg you to grant our desire that, enkindled by your Spirit, we may blaze like bright torches before the face of your Christ when he comes."

This "reflects a much better, and more poetic, liturgical language... closer to the beautiful language of the Anglican liturgies...a church which has many hundreds of years more experience with liturgical English than we have in the last 40 years in the U.S."?????

If the translators had had the humility to consult the Anglican experience, we would have been spared this mess. No cultured Anglican and no lover of the English language would acclaim such dreck as poetic!

12 years 9 months ago
This issue is resolved by translating "pro multis" as "for the many".  As Rene Girard makes clear, human history is the history of victimization of the "one" by the "many", i.e., the scapegoat who becomes the unifying focus of the community.  Every community on the planet constitutes a "many" in need of a scapegoat to keep it unified.  These are the "manies" for whom Christ died to create a new "many" which, unified in the Paschal Victim, would reject the need for a community scapegoat. 

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