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February 07, 2011

It’s “For All”

I fully endorse “For You and Who Else” (1/10), by Paul Philbert, O.P., on the translation of the words of eucharistic institution “for you and for all.” Our present translation expresses Christ’s universal salvific will in a clear, cogent catechetical way. In May 1970 the Congregation for Divine Worship published a scholarly biblical interpretation of the phrase pro multis in its official organ Notitiae. Pope Paul VI approved that interpretation, which said “for all” is preferable to “for many” since the original “for many” in its Aramaic context includes “all.” Max Zerwick, S.J., had authorized the original biblical study of the phrase. He argued that contemporary hearers of the phrase “ for many” will falsely interpret this as exclusive and that was not the intent of the original Aramaic.

It should also be noted here that there are four texts in the New Testament with the words of institution (Mk 14:24; Mt 26:28; Lk 22:20; 1 Cor 11:25). Only Mark and Matthew use the word “many.” The Rev. Toan Joseph Do has pointed out that “none of the Eucharistic prayers in the early apostolic tradition used the literal translation” (Commonweal, 12/19/08). He emphasizes: “No text from the early apostolic tradition, in Latin or any other language, was a literal translation of the Greek New Testament texts.”

No matter how extensive the catechesis may be to explain the new translation “for many,” the phrase is restrictive and marginalizing for most of the assembly. It clashes with Paul’s words: “We have come to the conviction that one died for all” (2 Cor 5:14).

An accurate translation must convey the meaning of the original text in the receptor language. If the translation fails to do this, as in the case of “for many,” it is not an accurate translation. The English “for many” does not mean “for all.”

May I make a modest proposal? Our new English Missal translation of “for many” should wait until the German, Spanish, Italian, etc. Missal texts are revised to say the equivalent. Should there not be near uniformity in the words of institution?

(Most Rev.) Donald W. Trautman

Bishop of Erie

Erie, Pa.

Enough Perspicacity

Re: the discussion about “all” and “many” (“For You and Who Else?” 1/3): As a practicing Catholic who was a child during the changes after the Second Vatican Council, I 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 Sirovalka

Riverside, Ill.

Who Blends Into What?

John J. DiIulio Jr., in “Blending In” (11/29), worries about the extent to which “American Catholics have been folded...into the nation’s political and cultural mainstream.” But the extent of one’s worries might well depend on which issues one had in mind. Is it possible that some of the seeds of the Gospels have found more fertile ground outside the church than within it? One hears Catholics, including the hierarchy, take pride that what they are saying is “countercultural,” as if that in itself were a sign of religious truth. To argue that way is to commit a fallacy so well known that logic books have a name for it.

We might consider a recent remark by Pope Benedict that has caused controversy among traditionalist Catholics. Some of them say the pope is wrong. If a “liberal” said that, one wonders if he could keep his job at a seminary or Catholic school. The pope seems to be saying that the use of a condom might be, in certain circumstances, an expression of concern for one’s sexual partner. That suggests this behavior is morally commendable. It is hard to imagine that any secularist would disagree. She would probably regard it as a moral truism.

Joseph L. Lombardi

Philadelphia, Pa.

Redistribute the Wealth

Thomas Massaro, S.J., is correct when he says that too many of us view “political and economic systems as mere mechanisms that operate without reference to values and morality” (“Bad Deal,” 1/3). This simplistic belief ignores hard realities.

In the last 30 years the real income of the working class has gone up about one-fifth; that of the top 2 percent has gone up 260 times. America’s top 1 percent now have more assets than the bottom 90 percent.

This is not because the working class is lazy and stupid and the rich smart and hard-working. Rather it is because government policies in the last three decades have strongly favored the rich and well-connected at the expense of the average American. This is indeed a situation that should be a moral concern to every Catholic. Morality is not only about sexual issues but also about the chance of every human being to have a decent life.

The morality of economic opportunity was of great interest to Pope Benedict in his social justice encyclical and to Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the permanent Vatican representative at the United Nations in Geneva, in his powerful statements before that body. We should follow their example.

Fred Rotondaro

Washington, D.C.

Forgiveness, Not Atonement

I was greatly encouraged to read the reflection on the Lamb of God by Barbara E. Reid, O.P. (The Word, 1/3), especially the final paragraph. She turns away from Jesus as an exemplary sacrificial lamb and understands him as “one who embodies a way of life that frees people from all sinfulness that holds them bound.” Several lines later she states, “Jesus bathes his followers with the Holy Spirit, enabling them to live as he did.” This appears to be a shift in the notion of salvation. For ages Jesus’ death has been interpreted as a sacrificial offering demanded by God that atones for mankind’s sins.

It is repugnant to me to think of God our Father, who created and loves me, demanding a sacrificial death before he can forgive my sins. Rather, I believe that what God requires for forgiveness is true and ongoing repentance, which is possible only in following Jesus and being empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Don Agostine

Marcus, Iowa

Dulles and Harnack

Thank you for the review by Jeffrey Gros, F.S.C., of Patrick W. Carey’s book Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J. (11/29). In my one-on-one seminar with Avery at Woodstock (1962–64), we read a book a week. Most memorable for me was Adolf von Harnack. Before entering the Society of Jesus, I had studied theology for two years at the Gregorian University in Rome, where Harnack was the real enemy. In Latin lectures he was always iste Harnack (“that Harnack,” like Cicero’s iste Catalina). But I found the man to be a devoted Christian trying to bring Christ to a community at the University of Berlin that was agnostic and somewhat hostile to religion. At the heart of his thinking was an intimate relationship with God the Father. Avery, in spite of his habitual bouts with migraine headaches, was always kind and patient with my reflections. He was both liberal and conservative in the best sense of those words.

Vincent F. McDonough, S.J.

Elmira, N.Y.

They Command, We Obey

In response to Nicolas Lash’s “Teaching or Commanding?” (12/13), perhaps our bishops so often command and don’t teach because of the model they have for teaching. Many received their theological education in the large lecture halls of the Roman universities. They diligently recorded the lectures and fed them back at exam time with no opportunity for disagreement or dialogue. The professor commanded and they obeyed. The problem is that we, the educated laity, don’t take to that style of “teaching.”

Hinsberg Thomas

Detroit, Mich.

A Positive, Creative Spirit

John Haught’s distinction in “Can Evolution Explain Morality?” (12/6) between the scientific and theological enterprises has science explain “how”; theology explains “what” and “why.” The meaning of the evolutionary drama must then include a rationale for its underlying forward thrust.

Why do populations “blindly” adapt so as to ensure gene survival? Why have they not instead developed alternate temperaments that would allow them to die off slowly as a forgotten species? What if the function of a tree were not to survive and reproduce, but instead to capture all the nutrients in the soil and grow to unlimited size? Must there not be some prerequisite ground that has oriented evolution to be creative, life-sustaining and increasingly diverse, rather than self-destructive or totally directionless? If anything, a unified theory of evolution supports the idea of a positive creative spirit that lives on in every new mutation and variation. Perhaps the Darwinian mechanisms describe the “how”; but the “why” and the “why not” go to theology.

(Rev.) Jim F. Chamberlain

Clemson, S.C.

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