America, March 1, 2010, has published a defense of the new liturgical translations by Bishop Serratelli. Whispers in the Loggia headlines it, "Beseeching a 'Welcome'". Indeed, bishops everywhere are beginning to realize that the new translations are going to be a hard sell. To see their main US proponent "beseeching" on their behalf is telling. It is a reaction to the outrage expressed at forums such as the following: http://www.whatifwejustsaidwait.org/signatures.aspx
The Bishop drapes the bad new translations in the mantle of change: "To change indicates that one is alive. This applies to people, institutions and even language." Of course disease and decomposition are forms of change too. Not every change "is a natural development" and "when it meets resistance" that is not necessarily "because we can become comfortable in old and familiar ways." The whole way Bp Serratelli sets up the debate shows a lack of reflection.
" Many have asked questions, expressed concerns, or simply wondered about the reasons for the new translation and the goals of its implementation."
Those who have read the new translation carefully have done more than that. They have expressed outrage. In South Africa the bad new translations have brought reactions ranging from rebellion to despair. There has been NO enthuiasm for them.
"In his popular rhetorical guide, De duplici copia verborum ac rerum, the 16th century Dutch humanist and theologian Erasmus showed students 150 different styles they could use when phrasing the Latin sentence, Tuae literae me magnopere delectarunt (“Your letter has delighted me very much”). He amply demonstrated that no single translation will ever completely satisfy everyone."
Erasmus, what distinguished reading! Allow me to doubt if any American bishop reads Erasmus.
"Our words in the liturgy are not simply expressions of one individual in one particular place at one time in history. Rather, they pass on the faith of the church from one generation to the next. For this reason, we bishops take seriously our responsibility to provide translations of liturgical texts that are at the same time accurate and inspiring, hence, the sometimes rather passionate discussion of words, syntax and phrases. "
I watched and/or read the transcripts of the two major discussions of this among the bishops last year. I know very well the culture of clerical get-togethers. The little boys keep their heads down and let the boss get on with it, unless they are very heavily encouraged to speak up. In fact only 5 of the bishops had any comments to make on the translations at the November meeting. THEY HAD NOT EVEN READ THEM. So it is chutzpah for Bp Serratelli to claim that the bishops took their responsibility seriously and engaged in passionate debate. They didn't. And they were not encouraged to. They are guilty of a huge failure in pastoral vigilance.
"The new translation provides us with prayers that are theologically accurate, in a language with dignity and beauty that can be understood."
On the contrary, the new translation has theological inaccuracies, and its langauge is generally clumsy, rhytmless and ignorant of the expressive resources of the English tongue. See the comments on Fr Ryan's website for ample testimony to this: http://www.whatifwejustsaidwait.org/readcomments.htm
"The process of translation of the new edition of the Roman Missal has involved linguistic, biblical, and liturgical scholars from each of the eleven English-speaking countries which ICEL serves."
Who are they? Why do we not hear them speaking up in defense of the lousy translation? They may have been consulted, but they do not appear to be happy with the result.
"This process has been thorough and it has been collaborative on an international level, because this text will be used by the church throughout the English-speaking world."
Again, this seems to be untrue. Certainly the vast armies of the clergy and laity have not been consulted in any significant degree. Even bishops and even heads of episcopal conferences express, at least in private, a sense of powerlessness. All Rome asked them to offer were "observations" on the translation, not an assessment of its overall worth. And more often than not Rome ignored the observations.
" It is important for us to remember that we Americans are but one part of a larger English–speaking community. The preparation of this translation has been an international effort to produce an international text. The result is a text that draws us together and situates us as Americans within a much larger ecclesial communion."
This sort of argument has been trotted out ad nauseam. It is utterly specious. It bespeaks an uneasy sense among the US Bishops that they are doing the wrong thing. But again just like little boys they look to what bishops are doing elsewhere and say to themselves, "Well, the others are doing it, so I suppose that lets us off the hook."
"Proponents of the new text sometimes argue, perhaps unfairly, that the texts currently in use in our liturgy (in the present Sacramentary), the product of great efforts by translators from 1969 to 1973, are marked by a style of English that is flat and uninspiring. That text, however, has served the church in the English-speaking world well for more than thirty years, and has enabled us to take great strides in working toward the Council’s goal of “full, conscious, and active participation” in the liturgy. We should be careful not judge too hastily what has been the language of our worship. Our present texts are familiar and comfortable."
Note the careful omission of any reference to the 1998 text approved by the English speaking bishops, which was far superior to the dreck now being offered by the jumped-up group who call themselves ICEL but have little in common with the ICEL who produced the 1973 and 1998 translations.
"Those who have already been critical of the new text, often without having seen more than a few examples out of context, express concern about unfamiliar vocabulary and unnecessarily complicated sentence structures."
What a pathetic account of the massive criticism the texts have received from liturgists, Latinists, professors of literature and theologians, not to mention the subtle and articulate feedback from laity, lay ministers, religious and priests! How condescending and dismissive!
" Having been involved in the work of translation with ICEL and with the bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship, I can attest that the new translation is good and worthy of our use."
Bishop Serratelli, what are your qualifications as a liturgist, theologian, and handler of the English and Latin tongues?
" It is not perfect, but perfection will come only when the liturgy on earth gives way to that of heaven, where all the saints praise God with one voice. "
This comes close to taking the Lord's name in vain. If a student handed me a bad, sloppy essay, and said "It's not perfect, but I am not Shakespeare" I would be unimpressed.
"It is natural to resist such changes simply to remain grounded in the familiar because it is comfortable."
Bishops Serratelli seems to be stuck in this groove. The implicit dismissiveness toward the laity and toward qualified critics is redolent of abuse.
"First, get to know the text."
Only the Ordo Missae is published on the Bishops' website (when I last looked). There does not seem to be any haste to let us see the rest of this horrible production.
"Many have pointed out that the vocabulary, syntax and sentence structure will be markedly different from the current text. The guiding principles of translation call for the preservation of biblical imagery and poetic language (and structure). The new texts contain many beautiful examples of language drawn directly from the Scriptures, especially the Gospels and the Psalms: “from the rising of the sun to its setting” (Psalm 113, Eucharistic Prayer III ), “sending down your Spirit… like the dewfall” (Psalm 133, Eucharistic Prayer II), “blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb” (See Rev. 19, Communion Rite), and “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof…” (Mt. 8, Communion Rite). These are but a few examples."
This refers to local items of diction, not to the total impact of the nerveless texts.
"Of particular note in the new texts are expressions of reverence for God, articulated not only by the vocabulary but by the style of expression in addressing God. Some may find the use of such self-deprecatory language uncomfortable at first, but it effectively acknowledges the primacy of God’s grace and our dependence on it for salvation."
Well, calling God "eternal majesty" is wrong not because it is reverent but because is it unidiomatic and untraditional.
"The texts may be unfamiliar now, but the more one understands their meaning, the more meaningful their use will be in the liturgy. We are invited to undergo a process of theological reflection or even the practice lectio divina with the texts of the new Roman Missal. To pray with and reflect on these words will help us all to open our hearts to the mysteries the texts express."
Again, I think most people understand the meaning, but the expression of that meaning is far too often labored, opaque, inexpressive, unidiomatic, turgid, and insipid.
"The implementation of the new Roman Missal ought to be an opportunity to recommit ourselves to prayerful, faithful and vibrant celebration of the liturgy."
Yet it is those most committed to this who have been loudest in their criticisms. Is the Bishop trying to insinuate that the critics are lacking in spirituality?
"A wide range of resources is being developed by the USCCB, the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions, and many catechetical and liturgical publishers."
At enormous expense, no doubt. But as one who has to buy textbooks for students, I know that textbook publishers often produce rubbish (sometimes letting desire of financial gain override pedagogics or concern for students' convenience). If the bishop thinks that a publishing flurry can change a sow's ear into a silken purse, he underestimates the difficulties.
I urge Bishop Serratelli to come to his senses and disassociate himself from this embarrassing farce. Many people are already very angry with him at the moment. But if the incompetent translations are thrust on the faithful the good bishop will find himself facing a tsunami of rage from the People of God.