If the trumpet give forth an uncertain sound, who will prepare for battle? The following text from the Archdiocese of Boston's website (and in its diocesan newspaper http://www.thebostonpilot.com/article2.asp?ID=12745) indicates the very uncertain nature of the propaganda being put forward for the new translation of the Missal. There is no joy or enthusiasm at all in the air, and I cannot see the faithful being galvanized by such low-key, apologetic, sheepish efforts at persuasion. I am reminded of another Pauline adage: Whatever does not proceed from conviction, is sin.
How fitting that a lukewarm and half-hearted effort at translation should find only lukewarm and half-hearted defenders and implementers. The whole thing is bound to fizzle out, but the faithful may be forced to live with the fizzle for years.
(I see that this lukewarm text is also found on other diocesan websites: http://catholicdioceseofwichita.org/feature-articles/12919-new-missal-translation-is-a-plus-for-catholics
which is rather pathetic.
"New translation is a plus for Catholics
"By James Breig*
"Microsoft Vista and “New Coke” have proven that not every change is for the better.
What a way to begin! It is too close to the bone.
"Furthermore, when change comes to important elements of life, it is often resisted with the cry of “we never did it that way before.” However, experts who are enthusiastic about the changes to the Roman Missal – the book that contains the prayers for the Mass – think the alterations are improvements that will lead to a deeper spiritual experience."
It seems that such experts are a small minority.
"“Because a new edition of the Latin Roman Missal was issued in 2002, it is necessary for all the countries of the world to translate this missal into the vernacular,” says Msgr. Anthony Sherman, executive director of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat of Divine Worship, in explaining why the changes are being made."
A rather minimalist explanation -- sounds rather like an exculpation. In fact the current version of the Mass in English has been due for revision for a long time, with the view to creating more beautiful and communicative liturgy. This was achieved in the 1998 translations, which the Vatican suppressed.
"But translation is not something easy to accomplish, concedes Msgr. Kevin Irwin, dean of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at The Catholic University of America in Washington. “We all bring our own prejudices and ideas to translation,” he says. “It is hoped that the new texts will be more accurate so that our faith and our statements of faith are reliable.”"
"Concedes..." "It is hoped..." The language of a deep crisis.
"Msgr. Irwin says changes to the Roman Missal are rare. “The previous Roman Missal (in Latin) was published in 1570, with minor adjustments [being made] in editions through 1962,” he says. “After the Second Vatican Council, the new [Roman Missal] was published in 1970, followed by a 1975 edition with minor adjustments and then the third edition in 2002 with additional prayers for new saints’ feasts etc.” Father Paul Turner of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph in Missouri elaborated on the latter point, saying that the missal “includes additional saints’ days that are now on the calendar, as well as some Masses for other circumstances. In addition, the rubrics in Holy Week have many small emendations.”"
Surely these considerations are relatively insignificant.
"What makes the translation of the 2002 edition of the Roman Missal different is that this translation is carried out under the latest Vatican guidelines for translating the Mass into vernacular languages. This new guideline, Liturgiam Authenticam, published in 2001, urges a stronger adherence to Latin wording and structure than earlier directives.
"The results have led to some concern, voiced even by bishops, that the new English translations of the missal are not user-friendly. In the words of one critic, the language “tends to be elitist and remote from everyday speech and frequently not understandable. The vast majority of God’s people in the assembly are not familiar with words ‘ineffable,’ ‘consubstantial’ and ‘inviolate.’”"
The voice of Bp Trautman is heard, but it is set up as the sole classic objection to be answered. In fact, Bp Trautman is only one tiny voice in an avalanche of objections.
"Msgr. Sherman counters that “in the United States today, people are almost daily learning new vocabulary, and sometimes it is quite technical. The words in our liturgical prayers can afford celebrants the opportunity to reflect on the broader context of those words and so lead the faithful in a deeper understanding of the beliefs being explained.”"
People gladly learn useful new vocabulary, but not rancid and uncommunicative rehashes.
"He grants that “the new translation is not perfect because, in a certain sense, no translation can be perfect. The differences of opinion on the translation will be wide. At some future date, the Holy See may substitute a different prayer for what we now have. On the other hand, some have already expressed the opinion that this translation sometimes captures with a greater eloquence the content of the particular prayers.”"
Some? Clearly a minority. All defenders of the new translation ritually intone that "it's not perfect, no translation is" -- but this is lamentably lame. And then to say, "no translation can be perfect" is to let oneself off the hook. All of this is a confession of conscious mediocrity. If you cannot produce an acceptable translation, get someone who can to do it for you. Or go back to the worthy effort of 1998.
And what are we to make of this: "At some future date, the Holy See may substitute a different prayer for what we now have." Does it not mean: Yes, the new translation is a mess, but don't worry, if it turns out to be intolerable the Holy See will solve the problem, at some future date. Unfortunately, if the Vatican blow this opportunity to introduce an elevated and elevating liturgical language, they won't get another chance. The saddest irony is that the work on producing such a beautiful liturgy was already largely accomplished in 1998.
"Msgr. Irwin says that the Church uses technical words in its vocabulary sometimes because those words capture concepts of the faith that would not be easy to understand without using a lot of other words. “For example, since the 13th century, we have used the term ‘transubstantiation’ to describe the change that occurs in the bread and wine at Mass. Before the change, it is bread and wine. After the change, it looks like, smells like and tastes like bread and wine, but now it is something totally different.”"
Sounds like magic. And the new wording of the liturgy only sporadically reflects a competent engagement with theological accuracy; it is usually so myopically atomistic that the effect is simply one of clumsy bumbling.
"In Father Turner’s view, vocabulary is not a major problem. “People will readily understand the texts,” he says. “The reason the missal includes such words is that the vocabulary in the Latin originals is so broad. Latin uses a variety of synonyms for words like ‘sacrifice,’ ‘love,’ ‘mercy’ and ‘wonderful.’ In order to represent that diversity and to provide variety among the prayers in English, a broad vocabulary is being used in the translation.”"
But wasn't one of the rules of Liturgiam Authenticam that the same English word should invariably be used to translate the same Latin word? (LA #57. "The same manner of rendering a given expression is to be maintained throughout the translation, insofar as feasible.") It would not be surprising if the 1973 texts (preces excepted) had the broader vocabulary. At least these texts give the impression that their authors know what they want to communicate, rather than carrying out some atomistic operation on an uninterpreted Latin original.
"In recognition of the disturbance change can bring, he adds that bishops' conferences around the world have repeatedly stressed that these translations should not be used without prior and significant explanation. “One of the things we did not do 40 years ago, when the liturgy was first put into the vernacular, was to explain the changes fully,” he says. “We need several layers of education and instruction about the translations, but even more importantly about the Mass itself.”"
He knows they will bring disturbance and he tries to ward this off by "prior and significant explanation". He insinuates that the 1973 texts caused disturbance; my impression is that they were greeted by most without angst; the new translations are already causing huge angst. And the reason is obvious: because they are so bad.
* James Breig, a long-time diocesan newspaper editor and freelance writer, has written hundreds of articles for Catholic magazines. For 25 years, he also authored an award-winning column on the media for Catholic newspapers. Now retired, he continues to write and is working on a book about World War II.