UPDATE Nov 17, 2009: Cardinal George and Bishop Serratelli scored a great Pyrrhic victory at the November meeting of the US Bishops; it will come back to haunt them in the months ahead. Bishop Trautman at least exposed the Roman bullying behind the current debacle, and Cardinal George's collusion with it ('If the letter has my signature, I suppose I must have signed it'). Only THREE bishops bothered to send in comments on the final batch of translations; obviously they know that you can't win against city hall, and that the days when liturgy was in the hands of bishops (rather than of dictator-loving Cardinals in the Vatican) are a thing of the past. But wait until they hear the voice of the laity and the lower clergy!
There are even Cardinals who are deeply at odds with the translation principles of Liturgiam Authenticam (signed Medina Estevez), but who find themselves powerless to resist the Vatican juggernaut. The Vatican gives no hearing to anyone who disagrees with LA, regarded as a Magisterial document (though it contradicts all previous documents, and is inconsistent with the spirit and arguably with the letter of Vatican II's Constitution on the Liturgy). The sphere of cooperation with Rome is strictly limited to offering observations and proposed amendments, as if the bishops were mere schoolboys, and the Vatican rejects many of these. The forgers of the new translation talk about the hundreds of emendations made, all of which they see as improvements. But you do not write a beautiful and uplifting text by such atomistic techniques. The flow and rhythm of the whole has to be apprehended. The current French translations are beautiful because such factors were weighed by its authors including the poet Patrice de la Tour du Pin. Now the Vatican, as Cardinal George informed us, want to replace these texts too with misguided literalistic versions.
The ideological underbelly of this debacle was on display when Cardinal George reminded us that the Roman Missal is what the Elizabethan martyrs died for! Like his Vox Clara colleague George Pell he is living in a world of reactionary fantasy and vainly imagines that the People of God will be simply delighted to follow him there.
I note that the cheerleaders for the new translations have not read them very carefully and are plugging them for purely ideological reasons (e.g. 'Lord God of Hosts' is a blow against pacifism). The commenters in Damian Thompson's and Fr Zuhlsdorf's comboxes hardly shine for literacy or pastoral sensibility. See:
Bp Trautman, the foremost critic of the shoddy new translations, is constantly caricatured as a flaky liberal, a falsification that would not be necessary if these ideologists had solid ground under their feet. In the transcript of the Bishops' June meeting, excerpted from below, Bp Trautman's voice is that of a good pastor, grounded in Scripture and in the outlook of the Council; the other voices seem to be those of harried bureaucrats.
Bp Trautman may have made tactical errors in denouncing diction (ineffable etc.) and sacral language, instead of focusing solely on the real problem: that the new translations are bad English, and in some places correspond to no known variety of English, as in 'we make humble prayer and petition that you accept'. The mockery of Fr Zuhlsdorf and others has, however, no justifications; it is very immature and disedifying, and the USBBC should be very uneasy to find themselves attracting such bedfellows.
In light of this eye-opening account of Cardinal George's behavior
I now understand why the US bishops have goofed off (only 5 of them bothered to comment on the new translations at the June meeting, only 3 at the November meeting!). They have said to themselves: 'Well, we sweated over this in the past, and fat thanks we got; just let them have their way; the faithful will recognize shoddy goods when they see them; and if they don't, well, that lets us all off the hook!'
(Nov 12): The text of the Roman Canon that makes Mary the mother of Joseph: 'In communion with those whose memory we venerate, especially the glorious ever-Virgin Mary, Mother of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ, and of blessed Joseph, Spouse of the same Virgin'
has now been corrected on the USCCB website. The version now displayed is still not the same as the other text of the Roman Canon also printed on the same USCCB website, for it does not have the phrase 'we make humble prayer and petition... that you accept' (corresponding to 'supplices rogamus ac petimus, uti accepta habeas'), but rather 'we make humble prayer and petition... We ask you to accept'. http://www.usccb.org/romanmissal.
Like the gaffes of Sarah Palin, the presence of a blasphemous expression on the Catechetical Resources version of the Roman Canon published by the US Bishops and corrected only when I pointed it out is something that should be reflected on in depth. Perhaps the bishops will say it is only a minor issue and doesn't matter very much. That is as good a saying that words no longer mean what they say.
What this howler reflects is the peril of the atomistic translation policy of the bishops, the Vatican, ICEL and Vox Clara -- the committees discuss one word at a time and ignore the macro-context, the big picture. They are unaware of the holistic nature of texts. Myopic discussions of a word here, a word there, are conducted without any ongoing assessment of the entire text and its impact.
How did the bishops succeed in making Mary the new Jocasta and Joseph the new Oedipus? Well, this text is the corrected version of an earlier draft, which read: ‘In communion with the whole Church, they venerate above all others the memory of the glorious ever-virgin Mary, Mother of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ, then of blessed Joseph, husband of the Virgin.’ When the first ‘of’ was omitted, the ‘of’ before ‘blessed Joseph’ had no antecedent except the ‘of’ before Jesus. NOBODY NOTICED that the new text thus makes Mary the mother of Jesus and of Joseph. One does not know whether to laugh or to cry at such pathetic incompetence. Given what is at stake, one is tempted to speak of criminal illiteracy.
Correcting this one obvious and undeniable error is only a small step. The translation itself is full of less obvious errors, including errors in taste and style, and is based on an erroneous theory of translation. Moreover, it does not follow the theory consistently, since it forgoes elegant syntax such as 'to whose merits and prayers may you grant that' (quorum meritis precibusque concedas ut), which must have been thought too quaint. The result is a jerky to-and-fro between Latinate syntax and English simplification, wherein neither language is allowed to display its native genius. There is also a loss of meaning and clarity. A straightforward Latin crib would be preferable to this simulated literalism.
For my critique of the new translation of the Roman Canon see:
It may be asked how bishops, one of whose primary responsibilities is care for the worship of their churches, could allow such howlers to escape their notice. Perhaps they have just not done their homework. They should have studied the text carefully in the quiet of their studies, with experts at their side. Instead the matter is handled at hurried and confused meetings. Here is a glimpse of the proceedings of the June 2009 meeting:
Bishop Donald Trautman: My question deals with the timetable. Four hundred and six pages were given to us of English texts, four hundred and six pages of Latin texts: a total of eight hundred and twelve pages to review. The material was given out around Holy Week, Easter Week, Confirmation season. In reality I judge we had two and a half weeks to review eight hundred and twelve pages.
Only five bishops out of this body have submitted amendments. In truth, I believe most bishops have not had the opportunity to review these translated texts. We should give our best consideration to what will become a new Missal, and be the prayer of our Church for decades and decades. We owe our people and the Vatican our best review of these texts. To follow an imposed timetable that does not allow adequate review is counterproductive. I cite only three examples why these texts are really not ready to move forward.
Cardinal George: Bishop, could you bring this into the discussion tomorrow, early? It’s not a clarification.
Bishop Trautman: Well, it deals with the timetable for each one of these ICEL texts. When is the best time to do that?
Cardinal George: This is a reason not to vote for the texts, I believe — because it’s not mature, if I understood. This is not a clarification, and this is the time for clarification.
Bishop Trautman: Well, I guess my question was: Is there a possibility of adjusting the timetable? That’s my question.
Bishop Serratelli: My understanding is the Holy See wants all our comments in by November, and that’s the timetable they’ve given us. Also the texts did go out in March. So we had them.
Bishop Serratelli: The present text has undergone thorough study and revision and the committee has accepted a number of modifications to the text. Any additional serious concerns you may have can be submitted as amendments, which are due at 5 p.m. this afternoon. This section again requires 2/3 of the Latin Church members of the USCCB with subsequent confirmation by the Holy See. Are there any questions of clarification at this time?
Cardinal George: Are there other questions of clarification? [More laughter] Thank you for being so clear. It seems as if there is nothing else to be clarified. The amendments are due by 5 p.m. this evening. And Bishop Serratelli do you have anything else?
Bishop Serratelli: No, that’s fine.
Cardinal George: OK, thank you very much. [Applause]
Helen Hull Hitchcock: Do you think that the new translations will make the message more transparent, A; and B, as far as preparing people to receive the new texts and new approaches, is that something that we ought to be looking at catechetically and if so how and what can guys like us do to help?
Bishop Serratelli: …
I think the texts are more accurate in the sense — [that] the texts are certainly very well-suited for passing on the Faith. And with the proper catechesis people can deepen their understanding of the Catholic Faith, claiming some words in liturgy that we haven’t used, but will make the passing on of the Faith much easier: words like Incarnation.
Bishop Gerald Kicanas: If I may just add to Bishop Serratelli’s fine response, Helen. Among the priorities of the Conference are faith formation and sacramental practice, and one of the major activities under that goal and objective is the preparation and catechesis for the revised Roman Missal. So it’s very much on the minds of the bishops.
Archbishop George Niederauer: I think, too, it’s good to reflect where the basis of all of this work lies. The challenge is in working with living languages in terms of being true to the editio typica of the Latin text. We are working under the aegis of ICEL, the International Commission on English in the Liturgy. We’re working with many different English-language groups around the entire world.
And I would imagine the people who work on the Portuguese text find that the Brazilians have some misgivings about what the Portuguese — how they may express it, and vice versa. I think it’s true from our own Latino bishops saying that Spanish is not exactly the same in every land. So that it has taken a long time, but you can get back to that saying, “Do you want it right, or do you want it Thursday?” And I think we have pretty much gone for wanting it right.
Archbishop Joseph Kurtz: Helen, I would also like to add from the perspective of your question about its being in readiness to receive the text. I can speak only for the Archdiocese of Louisville. I think we’ve looked very carefully, and I think well, at the General Instruction of the Roman Missal.
And I’ve tried to use the example of my golf game and taking golf instructions. And that even though I don’t often like to take instructions, I should take them more frequently. When I do, it not only improves my game, but it makes me enjoy the game more. And I think in this sense, I believe there is the potential for people being readied by saying this is not just a burden to be received, but actually the possibility for us to please God more, first of all, which is the intent of liturgy. And so to be more engaged and inspired.
Pat Zapor (CNS): This kind of follows up on Archbishop Neiderauer’s point about “Do you want it right, or do you want it Thursday?” Bishop Trautman raised the point of 812 pages that not many people have commented on. Is there really a chance that there might be an opportunity to just delay a little longer so they can comment?
Archbishop Niederauer: Didn’t Bishop Serratelli add that it was made available electronically in March?
Bishop Serratelli: It was made available electronically in March, and there was more than enough time to review it. In fact, with these books that have recently come out, more time was given to these books than to previous Gray Books.
Bishop Trautman: I say “yes” to a more accurate Latin translation, “yes” to a more transcendent tone, “yes” to a more elevated tone.
But a resounding “no” to incomplete sentences, to two and three clauses in one sentence. “No” to thirteen lines in one sentence as found in this Action Item. “No” to archaic phrases. “No” to texts that are not proclaimable, intelligible or pastorally sensitive to our people.
I believe the text before us is not ready for approval, not ready for the liturgical prayer life of our Church in the United States.
Cardinal George: Thank you, Bishop. Are there other comments to be made at this time? Then if you’re ready we will —
Bishop Serratelli: There being no further discussion or amendments —
Cardinal George: Do you want to say something to that at all?
Bishop Serratelli: No, that’s his personal opinion, I think.
Cardinal George: No, no. I mean it’s clear; it’s well thought out. So, then —
Bishop Serratelli: There being no further discussion or amendments, I now move that the Latin Church members of the USCCB approve the ICEL Gray Book translation of the Masses and Prayers for Various Needs and Intentions for use in the dioceses of the United States of America.
Bishop Wester: I realize it was very brief, but Bishop Trautman made an intervention. Will that be included in the mail? [mail vote, since the live vote was inconclusive]…
Archbishop John Vlazny: One of the problems is that last year, for example, people did receive in the mail an explanation of why you should vote “no”, and there was no explanation of why you should vote “yes”. So when you’re not at the meeting, you’re not present for the dynamic…
Bishop Victor Galeone: My question is for Bishop Art Serratelli. Some six months or so ago, maybe seven, an article appeared in the London Tablet that pointed out that through a misunderstanding of a letter that was sent by then still-functioning Cardinal Arinze as head of the Congregation of Worship, that the archbishop there in South Africa actually thought that they were supposed to inaugurate, initiate the texts that had been approved up to that point. Which they did.
And the first Sunday that those texts were proclaimed in the churches of that archdiocese the priests, the people went up in arms, and said: “This is unintelligible. This is unacceptable.”
They called Rome; Rome said: “Oh, no, no, you misunderstood it. This is not to be initiated until the whole series of translations has been approved.”
My question, Bishop, were you aware of that article in the London Tablet?
Bishop Serratelli: I was aware of the fact. I didn’t read the article.
Bishop Galeone: I see. I have a copy. I left it home unfortunately. But it’s very interesting, very enlightening. Because I fear that what occurred there in South Africa could well happen in 2010, ’11 or ’12, whenever we initiate these new texts here in the United States. Our people are going to say: “What happened? This doesn’t sound like proper English.”
Archbishop Oscar Lipscomb (emeritus Mobile, Vox Clara member):I think we’re to a point now where Rome has tired of our hunting for reasons to delay this. And it is doing its best to insist on catechesis. We cannot do the proper catechesis until the texts are in place. Once the catechesis happens, there should probably not be the kind of exercise that took place in South Africa. Wherever those erupt — that’s our problem…
Bishop Serratelli: And it’s also important to keep in mind that if we reject these texts now they will come back to us in November along with three other texts, and if we reject them then, then we will have no say after that. So considering all the tremendous work that has gone into it, the many, many, many, many, many modifications that have been reviewed and accepted not only by our committee, but by ICEL, and the fact that other episcopal conferences have already accepted this, and considering the fact that Rome is open to the amendments that we offer now, to me it seems best to pass these, or we lose our opportunity to in any way influence the translations.
Bishop Kicanas: Bishop Serratelli, if this vote were deferred to November, would that be a problem, or not?
Bishop Serratelli: Well, I’d like to address that, and I’m glad you asked the question. Any of the — the vote on the —If it’s negative, it’s the work you mean, correct? Any of the texts that we do not accept, then, will go to November and will be added to the other three texts we have to look at, so the work will get greater.
And secondly, if we reject it then, then our chance to have anything to say about it will end. Because Cardinal Cañizares’s letter clearly indicated that the Holy See would like us to have our input in by the end of this year. All the other episcopal conferences — I think mostly all of them — have already given their approbation to the text. And considering the tremendous amount of work that has gone in, and the fact that the modifications or amendments that have been given now are not that substantial in terms of number or in terms of their style, I would suggest that rejecting these texts would eventually mean that we would have little say in what will be given to us as a final product.****
Bishop Trautman: “May the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, Lord, cleanse our hearts, and make them fruitful within by the sprinkling of His dew.”
I do not believe that is an intelligible or proclaimable translation. So I’m speaking against the very motion that I had submitted. I appreciate what the committee has done, but I think that’s a good illustration of why this text, this whole segment, is not worthy to go forward. That is not a text to be prayed by our people. Can you tell me what it means? “By the sprinkling of His dew”. What does that mean?
Cardinal George: What are we discussing now? [Laughter]
Bishop Serratelli: The committee partially accepted Bishop Trautman’s amendment, but now he’s spoken against the whole prayer, even with the amendment.
Cardinal George: But we can only, at this point, admit for discussion by everyone amendments. Are we — ? There’s only one amendment, so let’s — go ahead.
Monsignor Malloy: I think if I understand it correctly, the body would have to decide whether we accept the fact that — Bishop Trautman’s suggestion was that this phrase be struck from the text. The committee did not strike it from the text, they just modified it. So I think we’d have to accept consideration of this amendment by the body. And then decide whether Bishop Trautman’s modification is acceptable or not. I think we’d first have to decide whether his amendment should be considered.
Cardinal George: Do you move that?
Bishop Serratelli: I so move that.
Cardinal George: All those in favor please signify — Does everybody understand what we’re voting on now?
[Many voices: No]
Monsignor Malloy: I think what we’re voting on is whether to discuss and vote against the committee on striking the phrase “inner sprinkling of His dew”, which was the modification. So we have to decide whether or not to accept Bishop Trautman’s bringing this back to the body because the committee did not change it in the way he is suggesting.
Cardinal George: Cardinal Rigali.
Cardinal Rigali: If we are back to discussing this terminology, “the inner sprinkling of His dew”, I would like to speak against that, in favor of what the committee did. The committee says: “May the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, Lord, cleanse our hearts, and make them fruitful within by the sprinkling of His dew.” Well, I would suggest that this is quite acceptable for our people. It can be read very nicely.
But the real question is the biblical image of dew. And just because we think that “dew” might not be the ordinary word, we have to be careful about eliminating biblical concepts and restricting our liturgical usage. And this is not only biblical, I think it’s also mystical. It’s been held in the tradition of the Church. And I believe it is something that reads very, very well, and that our people can meditate on. And these two petitions: “cleanse our hearts and make them fruitful by” the dew of the Spirit. That word is in Canon II, and it had difficulty there, but it’s part of our terminology, it’s part of our Scripture, it’s part of our tradition. So I think we should be very careful in eliminating it.
Cardinal George: May I first have — Thank you, Cardinal Rigali. Do we want to open up this discussion or not? That is, should we consider this phrase? And then it would seem to me, if you want to consider it, then there would be people who — This is what’s not clear, Bishop Trautman. You don’t have a suggestion; you just want to reject the committee’s suggestion. We can debate the committee’s suggestion because they have given us something positive to discuss. But —
Bishop Trautman: I think the committee was trying to be helpful. It really has not solved the issue. I would suggest we reject what the committee has recommended, and we reject this entire text. Reject the entire segment.
Cardinal George: Yes but we have to — There’s nothing to vote on if we reject the committee’s work.
Bishop William Murphy: I apologize if I confuse, which I suspect I probably will. But if I’m not mistaken, what has happened here is that the committee has presented a change that they have accepted as a committee. And so the question now is: Does the body agree with the committee? And say “yes” or “no” to that. And Bishop Trautman says “no”, and he has every right to say that. But it seems to me that the first question is: Does the body accept what the committee recommends? And then if that were to be rejected, the second thing would be for Bishop Trautman to present his suggestion of a better way to handle that particular piece of translation. [Applause]
Archbishop Hughes: But in light of the discussions that we’ve had and the votes that we’ve experienced, I would just like to acknowledge, first of all, every translation is imperfect and can be continually improved. If we contrast what is being presented to us with what we had before, it’s immensely improved.
We’re guided now by new norms presented to us in Liturgiam authenticam. We are to be not just faithful to the Latin text, but to the doctrinal meaning, the Scriptural references and even patristic references that are present in that text.
And we’re to use sacral language that stretches us. It’s not always the language that we hear in ordinary conversation, but language that is poetic sometimes, and elevates the spirit…
Cardinal George: Please vote. [Pause for voting] All right, we’ve closed the vote. Would you please tabulate it, and publish it. [The vote:] Yes–155; No–25; abstain–2.
So we have not the 163 necessary in order to accept the text, and so the text has not passed.
Cardinal Rigali: I would just like to mention the origin of the collaborative effort to turn out a translation in English. Going back to Vatican II, it was the Constitution on Divine Liturgy that foresaw the possibility of having different countries get together and try and put out a common translation. This then became the origin of ICEL. Obviously this is a very difficult job because there are many differences, etc. However, it was judged that the unity involved was still better than having multiple translations of these sacred texts. So that was the origin of it.
Actually, as it’s worked out, it’s gone through a tremendous amount of revision. Different people have looked at the text, the different conferences of bishops, and it’s going to be an international text, which does have a practical consequence. And that practical consequence is it’s really impossible — if we’re going to turn out, according to the thought of Vatican II, a common text — it’s impossible for any particular conference to have everything exactly the way you would want it. However, there’s been an awful lot of collaboration. We’ve been working to make sure it’s acceptable, it’s acceptable to ourselves, the other conferences. And that’s where we are right now. So we can’t have everything — and an individual bishop can’t have everything — that you want.
For example, I’m happy to be on the Vox Clara with Archbishop Lipscomb, Cardinal George and with Archbishop Hughes, and we make suggestions also, and nobody can have his way completely. But I recommend it as the best possible thing that we have, and without this we don’t have anything. And on further examination we’ll see that so many of these things that are presented, when you read them out loud they really do make a great deal of sense.
So I encourage the acceptance of this text. Thank you.
Archbishop Mansell: But I just want to be sure because, while it’s going over, that we can have some confidence that they will look at this matter of the subordinate clauses that are not complete sentences. It’s a pervasive fundamental flaw. It runs through virtually every one. When you take the personal pronouns, the relative pronouns and the question of “for” it’s in virtually every preface that’s suggested. The matter is corrected, as I mentioned yesterday, on page 153 with the formula for Consecration and the subsequent formulas.
We’re talking about the canons of basic English syntax. And for this to go forward could be truly embarrassing. If this comes back with all of these prefaces so fundamentally flawed, it’s a major embarrassment. I would hope that, you know, the bishops from the Conference who are on Vox Clara give a lot of confidence by their very experience and their outlook that this can be done. But I hope that there will be people sitting there on these issues to make sure that we don’t come back with a major problem.
Bishop Serratelli: I’d just like to reiterate what we’ve said, but say it again more clearly, that we’re at the end of the process.
The Holy See has clearly indicated by this November — all the work that we need to hand in to have an influence on the translations should be done by this November. If we uselessly delay the process then we will limit our ability to influence the final translations that are finally received…
Having said that, the present text that has been proposed to us is a very, very good text. And I know on ICEL and I also know in the Committee on Divine Worship that when we go over the texts we actually pray them out loud. And with the proper breathing, with the proper attention to the words, these texts — even in their present forms, even those that still may have to be changed — can easily and readily be understood and be proclaimed.
So we do not have a perfect text, but we have a text that certainly represents the end result of a long, healthy process that has made some very positive contributions to the sacral language of the liturgy.
Helen Hull Hitchcock: We know, at least as I understand it, these new texts are inevitable, whatever they look like in the end, that it’s not a case of the Americans having a different text from the rest of the world…
Archbishop Niederauer: …We’re already in conversation with the publishers. They want to know what they’re going to set in type — what are the actual words. And that’s what we’re going to have after we get back the recognitio from the Holy See, including the recognitio for the items that are going to be voted on in November.
Then what we’re told is that the publishers, from the moment we have that for them, they need a year — a year in which to advertise it, to publish it, to bind it, to distribute it so that it’s off their shelves onto the shelf of the sacristy where it’s going to be used…
Pat Zapor: And if there is not a 2/3 vote supporting the translations, then it comes back for November? What is the expectation?
Bishop Serratelli: I hope we don’t face that possibility. The votes seemed to indicate that most of the bishops were in favor of the translations. So I was kind of glad that the votes were revealed. The translations do have the support of the majority of bishops, it’s just getting the exact number. And I think part of the difficulty is that our numbers are down in the spring meeting. Having said that, if it does not get the proper number of bishops voting to pass it, then it would go to the bishops again in November.